Doctors Often Get These 6 Things Wrong in Dancers
Taking time off from dance is often inevitable when injury strikes. But receiving a misdiagnosis—and the wrong type of treatment—can prolong your recovery.
"A lot of doctors practice where they'll only see one or two dancers a year," says Dr. William Hamilton, a New York–based orthopedic surgeon specializing in dance medicine. Since most medical professionals aren't familiar with the art form's demands, we asked three doctors in the know about the most common missed or misdiagnosed conditions you should watch out for.
What Non-Dance Docs See: A clean X-ray
What You Might Have: A stress fracture
Stress fractures can be difficult to catch for two reasons: The injury happens over time, and it rarely shows up on a regular X-ray. "You have to do an MRI or a bone scan to confirm it," says Dr. Steven Anderson, a sports medicine practitioner who works with Pacific Northwest Ballet.
Watch for pain that is persistent, localized and doesn't go away with simple measures, like taking a day off, icing or taking ibuprofen. If you continue dancing with this injury, you may eventually require surgery.
The Diagnosis: Dancer's fracture
What's More Likely: Another foot injury
Anderson warns of the generic "dancer's fracture" diagnosis—doctors may use it as a catch-all term for a variety of foot injuries. A Jones fracture (a break in the fifth metatarsal, near the mid-foot), avulsion fracture (a problem associated with the peroneal tendon), Iselin's disease (when a tendon attaches to a growth plate) and stress fractures can occur in the same general area, but they are distinct issues. Depending on the injury, you may require surgery, a cast, physical therapy or just a little rest and taping to stabilize the foot.
What It Looks Like: Back strain or hip alignment issues
What It Might Be: Spondylolysis
Spondylolysis, a weakening of the bone that causes pain in the small of the back, usually affects Caucasians and Asians with a genetic predisposition, during a period of rapid bone growth that occurs sometime between ages 12 and 16. "It's worse with arching—things like doing jumps or arabesque," says Anderson. It's often mistaken for a back strain or hip alignment issue, and chiropractic manipulations can make it worse.
Catching spondylolysis right away is critical, because treatment is more effective if it's started shortly after the onset of symptoms. "If you push through the pain, you end up with a permanent weak spot in your back," Anderson says. Further complications, such as a slippage of the spine, could end your career.
What It's Mistaken For: A piece of bone has broken off your ankle
What You Might Have: Os trigonum syndrome
About 25 percent of the population has an os trigonum, an extra bone in the back of the ankle. "It's not a fracture, it's not a bone shift and you don't have to treat it in a cast," says Anderson. But, says Hamilton, "depending on its size, an os trigonum can limit your relevé on demi-pointe." If it becomes painful, try physical therapy or taping. Severe cases may require a cortisone injection or surgery.
The Issue: Hip impingement
What Makes It Tricky: It's hard to determine the cause
Hip impingements, when the ball of the femur compresses against the front rim of the socket, are a common cause of pain in dancers due to their extreme range of motion. The tricky part is identifying—and correctly treating—the cause. You may have pain due to a soft-tissue impingement (like a torn labrum or inflammation in the joint capsule) or a bony impingement (caused by thickening of the neck of the femur or a bone spur off the joint). "It's a can-of-worms diagnosis," says Anderson.
If you have sharp pain in the front of your hip or restricted motion in développés or battements, you likely have some form of hip impingement. But don't rush into surgery. Even if you have a torn labrum, it might not be the cause of your pain, says Anderson. He recommends conservative treatment first, which might involve physical therapy to retrain your movement patterns and work on flexibility.
What Doctors See: A slim dancer, possibly one with female athlete triad
What Gets Missed: Polycystic ovary syndrome
In slender female dancers, polycystic ovary syndrome may go undiagnosed or overlap with a diagnosis of the female athlete triad, cautions Dr. Dorothy Fink, a New York–based endocrinologist. Signs of PCOS may include irregular periods, extra follicles in the ovaries, high levels of androgens or testosterone (shown through excessive hair and acne) and being overweight.
But you don't need all those characteristics to have PCOS, says Fink. Doctors might dismiss the possibility in dancers because they tend to be slim, whereas the typical textbook case of PCOS presents itself in overweight women. And, it's also possible to have both PCOS and the female athlete triad.
PCOS can have a domino effect: Irregular periods mean your hormone levels are off, which can affect bone health, making you more susceptible to injuries like fractures. Fink ultimately advocates for nutrition-based solutions to regulate your hormone levels and optimize ovary function. Energy balance is key to getting your menstruation back on track. For dancers, this might mean eating more calories and assessing if your diet has enough variety to fuel your active lifestyle.
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Summer is almost upon us, and whether you're a student about to go on break or a pro counting the days till layoff, don't forget that with warm weather comes a very serious responsibility: To maintain your cross-training routine on your own.
Those of us who've tried to craft our own cross-training routine know it's easier said than done. So we consulted the stars, and rounded up the best options for every zodiac sign. (TBH, you should probably consult an expert, too—we'd recommend a physical therapist, a personal trainer or your teacher.)
The way we create and consume dance is changing every day. Now more than ever, the field demands that dancers not only be able to perform at the highest level, but also collaborate with choreographers to bring their artistic visions to life. Dancers who miss out on choreographic training may very well find themselves at a disadvantage as they try to launch their careers.
It's become second nature in dance studios: The instant anyone gets hurt, our immediate reaction is to run to the freezer to grab some ice (or, more realistically, a package of frozen peas).
But as routine as icing our injuries might be, the benefits are not actually backed up by scientific studies. And some experts now believe icing could even disrupt the healing process.
I'm a contemporary dancer, and I'm nervous about trying to get pregnant since I can't predict if it might happen during the middle of the season. We have a union contract that is supposed to protect us. But I'm scared because several of my colleagues' contracts weren't renewed for no particular reason. Having a big belly could be a big reason to get rid of me!
—Andrea, New York, NY
It's not often that a promising choreographer gets to stage work in a world-class theater, on a skillfully-curated program with professional dancers, and with the possibility of winning a substantial cash prize. But at the McCallum Theatre's Palm Desert Choreography Festival, that's been the status quo for over twenty years.
Since Shea New, the festival's artistic director, founded the festival in 1998, she's worked tirelessly with McCallum's director of education and festival producer, Kajsa Thuresson-Frary, and stage manager and festival production manager Joanna Fookes to build a festival that nurtures choreographers, highlights high quality work, powerfully engages the local community and cultivates an audience base for dance in the Coachella Valley. The trio is backed by a strong team of professionals at McCallum and the brilliant volunteers from the local and national level who serve as adjudicators.
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When the going gets tough, the tough start dancing: That's the premise behind "Dance of Urgency," a recently opened exhibit at MuseumsQuartier Vienna that features photos, video and other documentary material relating to the use of dance as political protest or social uprising.
The groups featured in the show, largely based around clubs and electronic dance music scenes, span the globe and respond to a variety of issues—from inequality and social stratification to racial divides to crackdowns on club culture itself.
Last night, longtime theater legends (including Chita Rivera herself!) as well as rising stars gathered to celebrate one of Broadway's danciest events: the third annual Chita Rivera Awards.
The evening paid tribute to this season's dancer standouts, fabulous ensembles, and jaw-dropping choreography—on- and off-Broadway and on film.
As usual, several of our faves made it into the mix. (With such a fabulous talent pool of nominees to choose from, we're glad that ties were allowed.) Here are the highlights from the winner's list:
When you're a foreign dancer, gaining legal rights to work in the U.S. is a challenging process. It's especially difficult if you're petitioning to work as a freelance dancer without an agent or company sponsorship.
The process requires professional muscle along with plenty of resources and heart. "There's a real misnomer that it's super easy," says Neena Dutta, immigration attorney and president of Dutta Law Firm. "People need to educate themselves and talk to a professional."
Here are four things every foreign dancer who wants to work in the U.S. needs to know to build a freelance dance career here.
What does it take to "make it" in dance? It's no secret that turning this passion into a profession can be a struggle. In such a competitive field, talent alone isn't enough to get you where you want to be.
So what kinds of steps can you take to become successful? Dance Magazine spoke to 33 people from all corners of the industry to get their advice on the lessons that could help us all, no matter where we are in our careers.
On May 18, 1919, Margot "Peggy" Hookham was born. She would grow up to become Dame Margot Fonteyn, England's first homegrown prima ballerina. She joined the Sadler's Wells School in 1934 and was performing principal roles with the precursor to The Royal Ballet the next year. Fonteyn was a company-defining figure, dancing Aurora for the re-opening of the Royal Opera House after World War II, creating numerous roles with Sir Frederick Ashton and forging a legendary partnership with Rudolf Nureyev.
Memorial Day is notoriously one of Chicago's bloodiest weekends. Last year, 36 people were shot and seven died that weekend. In 2017 and 2016, the number of shootings was even higher.
When Garley "GiGi Tonyé" Briggs, a dance teacher and Chicago native, started noticing this pattern, she was preparing her second annual Memorial Day workshop for local youth.
The event's original aim was simple: "I wanted the youth of Chicago to have somewhere they could come and learn from different dancers and be off the streets on the South Side on this hot holiday," she says.
A recent trip I took to Nashville coincided with the NFL draft. As we drove into town, my Uber driver was a fount of information on the subject.
I learned that there are 32 NFL teams and that the draft takes place over seven rounds. That the team that did the poorest during the previous season gets first pick. That during an earlier event called the scouting combine, the teams assess college football players and figure out who they want.
There is also the veteran combine for "free agents"—players who have been released from their contracts or whose contracts have expired. They might be very good players, but their team needs younger members or ones with a certain skill set. All year round, experienced NFL scouts scan games across the country, checking out players and feeding that information back to the teams. Players' agents keep their eyes on opportunities for their clients which might be more rewarding.
While I sat in the traffic of 600,000 NFL fans I got thinking, is there something ballet could learn from football? Could a draft system improve young dancers' prospects and overall company caliber and contentment?
Despite what you might think, there's no reason for dancers to be afraid of bread.
"It's looked at as this evil food," says New York State–certified dietitian and former dancer Tiffany Mendell. But the truth is, unless you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, bread can be a healthy source of carbohydrates—our body's preferred fuel—plus fiber and vitamins.
The key is choosing your loaf wisely.