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Op-Ed: It's Time To Re-Evaluate the Term "Overuse"
Injuries occur in dance frequently. Numerous studies show that at any given time, 40 to 95 percent of the dancers in a given studio or company are injured. This is not news to anyone. But how many times have you been told your injury is because of "overuse"? Doctors use this term often when dancers have pain that comes without any specific injury.
I think It's time to re-evaluate this word, especially in the dance world. Calling injuries "overuse" may actually be harmful.
The term "overuse" in verb form literally means excessive use—to utilize a body part so often that it breaks down. Dancers practice for hours a week from early ages of life to perfect movements large and small. So this seems to make sense: a dancer is dancing many hours a day, a dancer hurts in a specific location, this means overuse.
But compared to other dancers, the amount of use may be ordinary. If 20 high school dancers are all dancing six hours a day, five days a week, and only one develops lingering knee pain, is that really an "overuse" injury? Why doesn't anyone else have pain?
Natalie Cantalino, photo by Steven Karageanes
In these situations, the injury is due to "repetitive use" of an area of the body that has mechanical flaws. The flaw causes inefficiency in movement, putting excessive load and stress in the affected area, which leads to pain, tissue breakdown and injury. These flaws may be rooted in dance technique or human biomechanics. Perhaps it's a lack of intrinsic strength to stabilize the body, which causes other muscles to compensate. Or maybe it's a pelvic malalignment or a functionally shorter leg on one side.
By comparison, most "overuse" injuries are related to training errors, like a sudden large increase in hours dancing, change to a new dance surface, doing extra work outside of normal training, dancing for a new choreographer with a different style or jumping back into classes after a prolonged injury.
Why care about "repetitive use" versus "overuse"? Because each term implies a different treatment. Most overuse injuries are treated by rest and adjustment to training levels and environment. But many times, a dancer is told to take off two weeks, four weeks, wear a walking boot, go on crutches, and then when they go back to class, the pain is still there! That does not sound like overuse if the body part had time to heal and still hurts.
In repetitive use injuries, the flaw needs to be corrected, while treating the pain source as well. So that may mean a full history and physical exam, physical therapy, manual medicine, icing, KT taping, medication and a lot of other things.
So if you are told that you have an overuse injury, think about your situation and see if that makes sense, or whether it's more likely a repetitive use injury. Most of the time, you will be right.
Sarah Haarmann stands out without trying to. There is a precision and lack of affectation in her dancing that is very Merce Cunningham. Her movement quality is sharp and clear; her stage presence utterly focused. It's no wonder she caught Mark Morris' eye. Even though she still considers herself "very much the new girl" at Mark Morris Dance Group (she became a full-time member in August 2017), in a recent performance of Layla and Majnun, Haarmann seemed completely in her element.
Company: Mark Morris Dance Group
Hometown: Macungie, Pennsylvania
Training: Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Performing Arts and Marymount Manhattan College
In 2012, freelance contemporary dancer Adrianne Chu made a major career change: She decided to try out for A Chorus Line. "Even though I didn't get the job, I felt like I was meant to do this," says Chu. So she started going to at least one musical theater audition every weekday, treating each as a learning experience. After several years of building up her resumé, Chu's practice paid off: She booked a starring role as Wendy in the first national tour of Finding Neverland.
Approaching auditions as learning opportunities, especially when you're trying to break into a different style or are new to the profession, can sharpen your skills while helping you avoid burnout. It also builds confidence for the auditions that matter most.
For many dancers, a "warmup" consists of sitting on the floor stretching their legs in various positions. But this strategy only reduces your muscles' ability to work properly—it negatively affects your strength, endurance, balance and speed for up to an hour.
Save your flexibility training for the end of the day. Instead, follow a warmup that will actually help prevent injury and improve your body's performance.
According to the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science, a smart warmup has four parts: "a gentle pulse-raising section, a joint mobilization section, a muscle lengthening section and a strength/balance building section."
It's easy to feel whiplashed thinking about everything Emma Portner has achieved in such a short amount of time. Last fall, the 23-year-old was the youngest woman ever to choreograph a West End production (it was based on Meat Loaf's greatest hits). This was, of course, after she already choreographed and starred in Justin Bieber's viral hit "Life is Worth Living," and before she charmed major media outlets when she secretly married actress Ellen Page. Now, she's L.A. Dance Project's first-ever artist in residence, and she's working on a commission for Toronto's Fall for Dance North Festival.
We caught up with her for our "Spotlight" series:
Last month, the International Association of Blacks in Dance's third annual ballet audition for women of color was expanded to include a separate audition for men.
The brainchild of Joan Myers Brown (founder of both Philadanco and IABD), the women's audition was created to specifically address the lack of black females in ballet. However, the success and attention that audition drew made the men feel left out, so IABD decided to give the men equal time this year.
Pina Bausch's unique form of German Tanztheater is known for raising questions. Amid water and soil, barstools and balloons, the late choreographer's work contains a distinct tinge of mystery and confrontation. Today, Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch's dancers use questions as fuel for creativity. The company's most recent project introduced a new group of performers to the stage: local high school ninth-graders from the Gesamtschule Barmen in Wuppertal, Germany, in an original work-in-progress performance called Veränderung (Change).
Before she became the 20th century's most revered ballet pedagogue, Agrippina Vaganova was a frustrated ballerina. "I was not progressing and that was a terrible thing to realize," she wrote in a rough draft of her memoirs.
She retired from the Imperial Ballet stage in 1916, and for the next 30-plus years, devoted herself to creating a "science of ballet." Her new, dynamic teaching method produced stars like Rudolf Nureyev, Alla Osipenko, and Galina Ulanova and later Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov. And her approach continues to influence how we think about ballet training to this day.
But is the ballet class due for an update? Demands and aesthetics have changed. So should the way dancers train change too?
I love being transgender. It's an important part of the story of why I choreograph. Although I loved dance from a very young age, I grew up never seeing a single person like me in dance. So how could I imagine a future for myself there?
The enormous barriers I had to overcome weren't internal: I didn't struggle with feelings of dysphoria, and I wasn't locked down by shame.
The dance community is heartbroken to learn that 14-year-olds Jaime Guttenberg and Cara Loughran were among the 17 people killed during the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.
Guttenberg was a talented competition dancer at Dance Theatre in Coconut Creek, FL, according to a report from Sun Sentinel. Dance Theatre owner Michelle McGrath Gerlick shared the below message on her Facebook page, encouraging dancers across the country to wear orange ribbons this weekend in honor of Guttenberg, whose favorite color was orange.
A statement released yesterday by New York City Ballet and School of American Ballet reported that an independent investigation was unable to corroborate allegations of harassment and abuse against former ballet master in chief Peter Martins, according to The New York Times. This marks the end of a two-month inquiry jointly launched by the two organizations in December following an anonymous letter detailing instances of harassment and violence.
The statement also included new policies for both the company and school to create safer, more respectful environments for the dancers, including hiring an independent vendor to handle employee complaints anonymously. These changes are being made despite the independent investigation, handled by outside counsel Barbara Hoey, purportedly finding no evidence of abuse.