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 Creative Process
A Ladies of Hip-Hop battle. Photo by Loreto Jamlig, Courtesy Ladies of Hip-Hop

Michele Byrd-McPhee's uncle was a DJ for the local black radio station in Philadelphia, where she was born. As a kid she was always dancing to the latest music, including a new form of powerful poetry laid over pulsing beats that was the beginning of what we now call hip hop.

Byrd-McPhee became enamored of the form and went on to a career as a hip-hop dancer and choreographer, eventually founding the Ladies of Hip-Hop Festival and directing the New York City chapter of Everybody Dance Now!. Over the decades, she has experienced hip hop's growth from its roots in the black community into a global phenomenon—a trajectory she views with both pride and caution.

On one hand, the popularity of hip hop has "made a global impact," says Byrd-McPhee. "It's provided a voice for so many people around the world." The downside is "it's used globally in ways that the people who made the culture don't benefit from it."

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Now, the first graduating class is entering the dance field. Here, six of the 33 graduates share what they're doing post-grad, what made their experience at USC Kaufman so meaningful and how it prepared them for their next steps:

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What's better on your morning commute than listening to a podcast, you ask? We'd say, listening to a dance podcast!

Lucky for us, there are more dance podcasts than ever. We're here to provide a guide to our current top dance podcast picks.

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The Creative Process
Rena Most at work backstage. Photo courtesy ABT

Every dancer knows there's as much magic taking place backstage as there is in what the audience sees onstage. Behind the scenes, it takes a village, says American Ballet Theatre's wig and makeup supervisor, Rena Most. With wig and makeup preparations happening in a studio of their own as the dancers rehearse, Most and her team work to make sure not a single detail is lost.

Dance Magazine recently spoke to Most to find out what actually goes into the hair and makeup looks audiences see on the ABT stage.

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