Health & Body

The Truth About Back Cracking

If you always feel like you need to crack your back, it may mean it's time to start strength training. Photo by Getty Images

There are few things more satisfying than a good back crack. But rumors say it can have negative effects on your body—and your dancing.

In truth, research has shown that spinal manipulation done by a practitioner can provide short-term pain relief and better recruitment of your deep spinal muscles. Jessica Davis, a physical therapist in Pennsylvania and lead faculty at the Institute of Clinical Excellence Performing Arts Division, says that it's reasonable to believe that self-manipulation can offer the same benefits.


Still, cracking your back shouldn't always be your go-to reaction. "When a patient feels the need to continuously self-manipulate, usually that means they're hypermobile," says Davis. "So they feel the need to crack their spine, but what they truly lack is that spinal stabilization."

Davis encourages dancers who find themselves cracking their backs repeatedly to incorporate cross-training exercises like planks, dead lifts and kettlebell swings to build up spinal strength. If back pain is persistent, seek out the help of a medical professional to get to the root of the problem.

The Conversation
Career Advice
Tony Testa leads a rehearsal during his USC New Movement Residency. Photo by Mary Mallaney/Courtesy USC

The massive scale of choreographing an Olympic opening ceremony really has no equivalent. The hundreds of performers, the deeply historic rituals and the worldwide audience and significance make it a project like no other.

Just consider the timeline: For most live TV events like award shows, choreographers usually take a month or two to put everything together. For the Olympics, the process can take up to four years.

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Cover Story
Photo by Jayme Thornton

In a studio high above Lincoln Center, Taylor Stanley is rehearsing a solo from Jerome Robbins' Opus 19/The Dreamer. As the pianist plays Prokofiev's plangent melody, Stanley begins to move, his arms forming crisp, clean lines while his upper body twists and melts from one position to the next.

All you see is intention and arrival, without a residue of superfluous movement. The ballet seems to depict a man searching for something, struggling against forces within himself. Stanley doesn't oversell the struggle—in fact he's quite low-key—but the clarity with which he executes the choreography draws you in.

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