Could Compression Therapy Make You a Better Dancer?
Have you ever felt like certain footwear gives you wings?
The makers of Apolla Shocks, a dancer-specific version of compression socks, say some dancers feel like they can jump higher when they're wearing them.
"What's happening is they're more aware of their feet," says co-founder Brianne Zborowski, "and the compression is helping activate intrinsic muscles that sometimes don't get found."
Dancers have long relied on compression, either as therapy to help support injured body parts and decrease inflammation, or just because they like the way it feels during or after dancing. Today, there seem to be more options than ever, from NormaTec Recovery Boots, to ice compression devices, to clothes that have compression in them, like Apolla Shocks.
But what are the benefits?
What Compression Actually Does
According to Alexis Sams, a dance medicine specialist at AZ Dance Med in Phoenix, compression works in two main ways:
- It provides targeted joint stability.
- It minimizes localized inflammation.
Sams says both of these effects can be incredibly powerful following an acute injury like an ankle sprain. She also sees professional dancers use compression wisely during challenging periods like when their bodies are acclimating to new theaters on tour, and she always brings backup compression garments when she follows dance teams on convention weekends.
Since the majority of dance injuries take place from the knee down, the areas most in need of compression among dancers are typically the feet and ankles, says Apolla Performance co-founder Kaycee Jones, who has a masters in kinesiology.
"Compression can help dancers combat overuse and strain from repetitive movement," says Jones. "Because the nature of dance is repetitious, no matter how much you're doing a tendu with proper technique, you're still doing the same motion over and over, and that is what creates inflammation, which is what causes 65 percent of dancer injuries. Compression can help prevent inflammation—and remove it."
What Your Need for Extra Stability Might Mean
Although some dancers rely on the stability offered by compression every time they enter the studio, Sams believes dancers should really be using it more strategically.
"If you're always craving that stability, that makes me ask, What can we do to make you feel more stable on your own?" In her experience, Sams says 99 percent of her patients who are addicted to compression have a core instability issue. "It's usually somewhere very specific within the core, and once we can tap into that and strengthen it, the foot pain goes away and your arch feels supported."
How Do You Use Compression?
Every dancer has their own habits and preferences. Share your favorite ways of taken advantage of compression in the comments.
- Harnessing Inflammation - Dance Magazine ›
- The Sprained Ankle That Won't Heal - Dance Magazine ›
- The Foot-Care Products Dancers Love - Dance Magazine ›
Yvonne Rainer's Parts of Some Sextets (AKA "the mattress dance") hasn't been revived since it premiered in 1965. Nor has Rainer had any wish to do it again, to ask performers to heave 10 mattresses around while carrying out 31 tasks that changed every 30 seconds. It was an unwieldy, difficult dance. (Even the title is unwieldy.) But Emily Coates, who has danced in Rainer's work for 20 years, became curious about this piece and was determined to see it again—and to dance in it. She will get her wish November 15–17, when the mattress dance will be performed as part of the Performa 19 Biennial.
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.