Are You Foam Rolling Wrong?
Dancers lover their foam rollers. But that doesn't mean they always know how to use it correctly. To get the most out of your time on the roller, avoid these nine all-too-common mistakes.
Mistake: Waiting Until It Hurts
Too often, dancers don't get out the roller until they're in pain. But rolling a few minutes every day will make you less prone to injury in the first place. "The roller is best as a preventative tool," says Alicia Ferriere of Finish Line Physical Therapy. "Use it before or after rehearsal if you are feeling tight."
Mistake: Rolling Injured Tissues
Rolling while injured is often not a good idea until fairly late in the recovery process. "Don't roll when there is swelling or a traumatic injury such as a tear," says physical therapist Julie Green, who works with Pennsylvania Ballet dancers. Rolling could make an injury worse, since it's a tool for mobilization and tissues sometimes need to be immobilized to heal. Green recommends seeing your doctor or physical therapist first. "Allow some healing to occur before returning to your roller."
Mistake: Moving Too Quickly
Part of a roller's magic is how it increases blood flow by creating compression when gravity draws your body weight into the foam. "Rolling quickly stays too superficial on your tissues," says Ferriere. "Allow your muscles to relax on the roller, which will create greater compression for the deeper tissue. Think of it as a massage."
Mistake: Staying Too Still
Rollers are certainly great for relaxation, so it's fine to luxuriate over it sometimes and be completely still. But movement is what helps increase blood flow and activates hard-to-get-to areas. So think about moving from side to side, forward and back as you roll. "You need to wiggle more, because the movement is what makes the difference," adds Ferriere.
Mistake: Ignoring the Lats
Dancers spend a good deal of time pulling up, which can lead to chronic tightness in the latissimi dorsi, or "the lats," the large, winglike muscles of the back which wrap around our sides. Ferriere recommends lying on your side with your bottom arm outstretched and the roller perpendicular to your torso. In this position, roll forward and back and side to side along the rib cage to help release the lats.
Mistake: Hitting Bones, Nerves or Kidneys
According to Ferriere, rolling over a bone does nothing for you other than cause pain. It's especially problematic to roll over ankles, knees and the greater trochanter. "And stay away from superficial nerves, like in front of the hip joints and behind the knees," says Green. "You could damage or irritate your nerves. If you feel numbness or tingling, stop immediately." Also avoid rolling along the sides of your lower back—you can bruise your kidneys.
Mistake: Overdoing the IT Bands
The IT bands are the most over-rolled parts of dancers' bodies. Ferriere reminds us that they are not muscles; they're made of fascia and connective tissue. "It's better to roll the soft tissue around the IT band, like the outer quads and the tensor fasciae latae, a thigh muscle on the front and outer side of the hip." If your IT band is chronically tight, consider why. "Often, that means there's a weakness in the hip stabilizers and rotators," says Green.
Mistake: Grabbing the Wrong Roller
Rollers come in varying degrees of hardness these days. Generally speaking, the harder the roller, the more good it can do, unless you are injured or it hurts too much. "If you are avoiding using the roller because of the pain, then try a softer roller," says Ferriere. Or cover a hard roller with a blanket to make it less painful. Green likes ridged rollers that look a bit like tire treads: "It's a way to address adhesions, as those nubs can get in between muscle fibers."
Mistake: Getting Aggressive
Dancers have killer work ethics, but applying them to the roller can backfire. "Rolling out too vigorously or for too long can end up damaging tissue," says Green. "Generally, five minutes per body part should do it."
From coast to coast, choreographers have spent the first year of Donald Trump's presidency responding to the impact of his election and what it means for them as artists.
New York City's Dante Brown used rubber Trump masks in his work Package (revamped), which examines the monstrosities of power.
A video titled "Dancers vs. Trump Quotes" went viral last summer, showing dancers taking Trump's "locker-room" talk to task.
Alexis Convento, lead curator of the New York City–based Current Sessions, dedicated a whole program to the concept of resistance, while educator and interdisciplinary artist Jill Sigman has initiated a workshop called "Body Politic, Somatic Selves," as a space for movement research around questions of support, activism and solidarity.
In San Francisco, choreographer Margaret Jenkins facilitated a panel of artists about the role of activism within their work.
When London-based perfume company The Beautiful Mind Series was looking for a collaborator for their next scent, they skipped the usual celebrity set and brought in prima ballerina Polina Semionova instead. "I was fascinated by what goes on in the mind of a great dancer," perfumer Geza Schoen said in a press release. Semionova's ballet-inspired scent, Precision & Grace, celebrates the intelligence and beauty behind her craft.
Courtesy of The Beautiful Mind Series
Growing up in inner city Rochester, NY, Aesha Ash was just one of the neighborhood kids. She'd imagine people driving by, judging her by her black skin.
"They'd never know that I was dreaming of becoming a professional ballet dancer. No one would think, Some day she's going to make it into New York City Ballet," says Ash.
After an inspiring career at NYCB, Béjart's Ballet Lausanne and LINES, the January 2006 Dance Magazine cover star—one of our 25 to Watch that year—is no longer performing. But she's determined to use her dance background to change the stereotypes and misconceptions that people—including black people—have about women of color. "I want to show it's okay to embrace our softer side, and let the world know we're multidimensional," says Ash.
Aesha Ash in Richmond, CA. PC Renee Scott via swandreamsproject.org
In 2011, she launched the Swan Dreams Project to inspire kids in the community she grew up in. The original idea was to post images of herself in a tutu all over Rochester. "I remember growing up and in the bodega you'd see images of girls in bikinis on motorbikes," says Ash. "I wanted to replace those with photos that show women of color in a different light."
She knew the power imagery can have: She still remembers what it felt like as a student at the School of American Ballet to see a photo of black ballet dancer Andrea Long. "That image was everything on days when I was feeling disenchanted. I'd see that picture of her, and know that the struggles I was going through, she went through them, too."
Ash soon realized she didn't have the budget to fund her original plan ("I never realized how expensive a bus stop advertisement is!"). But she's made the images available through an online store, and often simply gives away prints at her own expense to schools and students in need of some inspiration.
Any proceeds she makes from the sales go directly to other organizations that are working to expand ballet in diverse communities. One large donation even led to a pointe shoe fund at dancer Robyn Gardenhire's City Ballet of Los Angeles school—and it helped one dancer who had quit ballet because of the expense come back to class.
Now a mother of two in San Jose, CA, Ash will also start teaching a free after-school ballet class at her daughter's public school next month. "I recently taught at Girls Inc. in Oakland, and one of the little black girls said, 'Are you the ballet teacher?' She just stood there, staring at me with her mouth open, like a unicorn had just walked into the room," Ash says. "You never know the impact you can have just by being a presence."
Ever find yourself lusting after that six o'clock penché, or a développé that will reach your nose? You're not alone. The eye is naturally drawn to the end points of a movement, and, in dance, that often translates to the highest extension.
But what if you're born without extreme, Instagram-worthy lines? It's a matter of developing a laser focus on alignment as well as strengthening and stretching with better body mechanics in mind.
The ever-so-busy Kyle Abraham is back in New York City for a brief visit with his company Abraham.In.Motion as they prepare for an exciting spring season of new endeavors with some surprising guests. The company will be debuting a new program at The Joyce Theater on May 1, that will include two new pieces from Abraham, restaged works by Doug Varone and Bebe Miller, and a world premiere from Andrea Miller. Talk about an exciting line-up!
We caught up with Abraham during a recent rehearsal where he revealed what he is tired of hearing in the dance community.
Choreographer Tero Saarinen has a proclivity for the peculiar—and for epic orchestral music. That he should be commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic to create a new dance work to accompany the U.S. premiere of Bernd Alois Zimmermann's Cello Concerto en forme de pas de trois only makes sense. Zimmermann's eerie, difficult-to-classify composition falls squarely in Saarinen's wheelhouse. Walt Disney Concert Hall, Jan. 19–21. laphil.com.
Two competition routines are equal in technical proficiency, artistry and choreography. One consists of all girls, the other includes a boy. Guess which takes home first prize?
If you guessed the one with the boy, you may be privy to an unspoken and much-debated phenomenon in the competition dance world: The Boy Factor. According to The Boy Factor, a competitive piece is more likely to win if there's a boy in it.
"If it's all technically equal and one group is all girls and the other group has a boy, the one with the boy will win," says Rysa Childress, owner of All Star Studios in Forest Hills, New York. "Boy soloists are sometimes scored higher than more technically proficient girls because if a boy has good stage presence, we let him slide," says an anonymous competition judge. "And most of the feedback will be for the boy."
I'll never forget something Roberto Bolle once told me when I was interviewing him about his workout regimen: Talking about how much he loved to swim, he said, "I would love to go in the Italian sea, but I am too well-known there to show up in my suit."
It always amused and kinda shocked me that a ballet dancer could reach that level of fame. But it's true: In his native Italy, Bolle is a bonafide celerity.
Everyone knows that community college is an affordable option if a four-year school isn't in the cards. But it can also be a solid foundation for a career in the dance field. Whether students want an associate in arts degree as a precursor to obtaining a bachelor's, or to go straight into the performing world, the right two-year dance program can be a uniquely supportive place to train. Don't let negative stereotypes prevent you from attending a program that could be right for you:
Conscientious theatergoers may be familiar with The School for Scandal, The School for Wives and School of Rock. But how many are also aware of the school of Fosse?
The 1999 musical, a posthumous exploration of the choreographic career of Bob Fosse, ran for 1,093 performances, winning four Tonys and 10 nominations; employing 32 dancers; and, completely unintentionally, nurturing a generation of Broadway choreographers. You may have heard of them: Andy Blankenbuehler and Sergio Trujillo danced in the original cast, Josh Rhodes was a swing, and Christopher Gattelli replaced Trujillo when he landed choreography jobs in Massachusetts and Canada. Blankenbuehler remembers that when Trujillo left, "It was as if he was graduating."