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5 Things You're Doing Outside The Studio That Could Hurt Your Dancing
In the studio, dancers obsess over proper form to mitigate the risk of injury. In the rest of our lives, however, we rarely examine our alignment in the same way.
But our downtime habits can directly impact our bodies and, if left unchecked, could cause problems over time. A few simple adjustments might save you from an injury waiting to happen.
Bad Habit: Sitting Slumped Over a Screen
Many of us decompress after a long day by curling up with our phone or laptop. But staring down at a screen for extended periods of time is one of the worst things we do to our bodies, says Sean Gallagher, longtime physical therapist for Paul Taylor Dance Company.
"If you look at the foundational issues of most orthopedic problems, 9 times out of 10, it's because of how we sit." We tend to let go of our postural support and strength—maybe sitting on one hip and folding our legs under—and let our head drop forward. That can lead to a neck spasm or overstretching of the muscles around your shoulder blades, says Heather Southwick, director of physical therapy at Boston Ballet.
What you should do instead: Vary your seated positions, says Southwick. Minimize your time sitting in any one position.
Change up your positions when relaxing on the couch. Photo by Andrew Brand/StockSnap
Bad Habit: Stretching Cold Muscles at Home
Years ago, dancers were told to sit in the splits while watching TV. Even today, social media sometimes encourages it. But holding stretches when you're cold can damage muscle fibers.
"A lot of good scientific research says static stretching actually reduces the power and strength of a muscle," adds Southwick.
What you should do instead: If you're keen on putting TV time to use, try foam rolling or dynamic stretches. Save static stretching for after dancing. Before class, continuously move through your range of motion for a dynamic warm-up, suggests Southwick.
Using TV time to foam roll is healthier than stretching when you're cold. Photo by Thinkstock
Bad Habit: Walking Turned out
Ballet dancers work tirelessly in turnout. But too often, they maintain that rotation in daily life, creating a dangerous imbalance of strength in the hips. Master ballet instructor Kat Wildish explains, "If you don't return to parallel, then all you have is the stretch across the joint."
Over time, the body may try to compensate for that instability by overworking other muscles, while faulty hip alignment will create additional stress on the knees and ankles.
What you should do instead: Actively practice muscle engagement while standing in parallel, waking up the insides of your legs. Wildish suggests exercises, like yoga, that emphasize parallel position, so your muscles develop equally.
Yoga can strengthen your internal rotator muscles. Photo by Matthew Henry/StockSnap
Bad Habit: Wearing Flip-Flops
When we leave the studio in flip-flops, we naturally grip our toes in an effort to keep the shoes on—a problem that can lead to shin splints. And without arch support, we're likely to roll in, putting pressure on the tendons along the inside of the ankle, says Southwick. This can change the alignment of our knees and hips, and even affect the spine.
What you should do instead: Choose footwear that provides arch support and room for the toes to stay long and wide. "And remember," says Southwick, "if your Achilles tendon is tight, wearing heels will help keep it tight."
When shopping for shoes, try Wildish's trick: Put them on and go into a deep grand plié. If you can keep your toes wide and long—and maintain the length of your Achilles tendon—you're on the right track.
Choose sandals with arch support. Photo by Brodie Vissers/StockSnap
Bad Habit: Lugging Around a Heavy Dance Bag
Carrying excessive weight on one side of the body can give you what therapists call functional scoliosis. "The muscle and joint imbalances, over the years, can cause alignment and skeletal injuries," says Gallagher. A heavy bag can also adversely affect your gait, which could contribute to having a "weaker side" when dancing.
What you should do instead: Clean out your bag! Only keep what you really need. Invest in a fanny pack, or a rolling suitcase or a backpack with both straps evenly adjusted to distribute the weight.
If you're intent on using a single-strap bag, Gallagher says you should at least alternate shoulders.
Don't let a heavy dance bag weigh you down on one side. Photo by Matthew Murphy for Pointe.
Season 2 of World of Dance is almost here! The new season officially kicks off on Tuesday on NBC, and it's bringing a whole new crew of talented dancers with it (plus, some old favorites). Dance pro judges Jennifer Lopez, Derek Hough and Ne-Yo are back, too, with Jenna Dewan serving as the show's host.
Obviously we'll be watching, but just in case you're not completely sold, here's why you're not going to want to miss out:
JLo Might Be Performing
Earlier this week, JLo (who serves as the show's executive producer) posted this insane promo clip to her Instagram. Dancing to a mashup of Cardi B's "Bodak Yellow" and her new single "Dinero," JLo reminded us all of her dance skills while also leading us to believe she might just hit the stage herself for a performance.
Travis Wall draws inspiration from dancers Tate McCrae, Timmy Blankenship and more.
One often-overlooked relationship that exists in dance is the relationship between choreographer and muse. Recently two-time Emmy Award Winner Travis Wall opened up about his experience working with dancers he considers to be his muses.
"My muses in choreography have evolved over the years," says Wall. "When I'm creating on Shaping Sound, our company members, my friends, are my muses. But at this current stage of my career, I'm definitely inspired by new, fresh talent."
Wall adds, "I'm so inspired by this new generation of dancers. Their teachers have done such incredible jobs, and I've seen these kids grown up. For many of them, I've had a hand in their exposure to choreography."
A few weeks ago, American Ballet Theatre announced the A.B.T. Women's Movement, a new program that will support three women choreographers per season, one of whom will make work on the main company.
"The ABT Women's Movement takes inspiration from the groundbreaking female choreographers who have left a lasting impact on ABT's legacy, including Agnes de Mille and Twyla Tharp," said artistic director Kevin McKenzie in a press release.
Hypothetically, this is a great idea. We're all for more ballet commissions for women. But the way ABT has promoted the initiative is problematic.
On the occasion of its 70th anniversary, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba tours the U.S. this spring with the resolute Cuban prima ballerina assoluta Alicia Alonso a the helm. Named a National Hero of Labor in Cuba, Alonso, 97, has weathered strained international relations and devastating fiscal challenges to have BNC emerge as a world-class dance company. Her dancers are some of ballet's best. On offer this time are Alonso's Giselle and Don Quixote. The profoundly Cuban company performs in Chicago May 18–20, Tampa May 23, Washington, D.C., May 29–June 3 and Saratoga, New York June 6–8.
Considering we practically live in our dance clothes, there's really no such thing as having too many leotards, tights or leggings (no matter what our mom or friends say!). That's why we treat every sale as an opportunity to stock up. And thanks to the holiday weekend, you can shop all of your dancewear go-tos or try something totally new for as much as 50% less than the usual price.
Here are the eight sales we're most excited about—from online options to in-store retailers that will help you find the perfect fit. Happy Memorial Day (and shopping)!
Now through Monday, Danskin's site will automatically take 25% off your entire purchase at checkout. Even new items like their Pintuck Detail Floral Print Sports Bra and Pintuck Detail Legging (pictured here) are fair game.
"The sun may be shining brightly, but we are not in a very sunny mood today!" said New York State assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal during yesterday's rally for the Artists of Ailey.
The dancers and stage crew are demanding increased wages and more comprehensive benefits, what they have termed "reaching for the standard" and "fair wages."
Pain is an inevitable part of a dancing life and dancers have a high tolerance for it, according to Sean Gallagher, a New York physical therapist whose practice includes many professional performers. "So when dancers complain, it really means something," he says.
But women and men experience pain differently, and tend to be treated for it differently as well. Female dancers need to understand those differences before they go to a doctor, so they can make sure they get treated promptly and effectively.
Rebecca Warthen was on a year-long assignment with the Peace Corps in Dominica last fall when a storm started brewing. A former dancer with North Carolina Dance Theatre (now Charlotte Ballet) and Columbia City Ballet, she'd been sent to the Caribbean island nation to teach ballet at the Dominica Institute of the Arts and in outreach classes at public schools.
But nine and a half months into her assignment, a tropical storm grew into what would become Hurricane Maria—the worst national disaster in Dominica's history.
Sidra Bell is one of those choreographers whose movement dancers are drawn to. Exploring the juxtaposition of fierce athleticism and pure honesty in something as simple as stillness, her work brings her dancers to the depths of their abilities and the audience to the edge of their seats.