Does Ballet Increase Your Risk of Scoliosis?
As a dancer, you probably know someone with scoliosis or, if you're like me, you might even have it yourself.
What you may not know is that certain lifestyle factors can increase your likelihood of developing the condition, and according to a recent study published in The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, classical ballet training is one of them. When ballet is combined with a low body mass index, that risk increases even more.
"Scoliosis develops amongst females at precisely the time that girls begin seriously training in ballet," says Dr. Leon Scott, an assistant professor of Clinical Orthopedics & Rehabilitation for Vanderbilt University Medical Center and a former team physician for Boston Ballet. "In my experience, how ballet students are taught to hold their spines in class is opposite of the spine's natural curves. Starting ballet at a younger age, increased frequency of ballet training and increased duration of ballet are associated with an increased risk for developing the abnormal curvature seen in scoliosis."
I was classically trained in ballet when I was I was young, and diagnosed with scoliosis when I was a teenager. I went on to dance with the Radio City Rockettes until the pain caused by my scoliosis became too much to bear, and am now a certified Pilates teacher who specializes in working with scoliotic clients. Dr. Scott and I came up with five tips to help decrease your risk:
1. Proactively monitor any changes in your body, especially if you're between 10 to 18 years old. Is one shoulder higher than the other? Does one side of your ribcage protrude forward? Does one hip stick out more to the side than the other? These misalignments could indicate scoliosis, so make an appointment with your doctor ASAP if you notice them. Ballet teachers: Make note of consistent body misalignments that students have trouble correcting.
2. Ask for a scoliosis screening during your annual medical exams.
3. Build up the core strength to support the spinal positions needed for ballet. Exercises with props, such as an overball or a foam roller, work well because they force you to find a neutral balance point for your spine and pelvis.
4. Watch your body mass index (BMI). Dancers with a low BMI, particularly pre-teens and teenagers, can inadvertently delay their first menstruation. This makes the body more susceptible to scoliosis, which is a hormonal and neurological condition.
5. If a family member has scoliosis, be diligent about looking for changes in your body. Scoliosis can often be passed down genetically.
And if you are diagnosed with scoliosis, don't panic! It doesn't have to mean the end of your dancing career. There are many ways to successfully manage scoliosis that don't involve surgery.
If "Fosse/Verdon" whet your appetite for the impeccable Gwen Verdon, then Merely Marvelous: The Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon is the three-course meal you've been craving. The new documentary—available now on Amazon for rental or purchase—dives into the life of the Tony-winning performer and silver-screen star lauded for her charismatic dancing.
Though she's perhaps most well-known today as Bob Fosse's wife and muse, that's not even half of her story. For starters, she'd already won four Tonys before they wed, making her far more famous in the public eye than he was at that point in his career. That's just one of many surprising details we learned during last night's U.S. premiere of Merely Marvelous. Believe us: You're gonna love her even more once you get to know her. Here are eight lesser-known tidbits to get you started.
Every dancer knows that how you fuel your body affects how you feel in the studio. Of course, while breakfast is no more magical than any other meal (despite the enduring myth that it's the most important one of the day), showing up to class hangry is a recipe for unproductive studio time.
So what do your favorite dancers eat in the morning to set themselves up for a busy rehearsal or performance day?
When it comes to dance in the U.S., companies in the South often find themselves overlooked—sometimes even by the presenters in their own backyard. That's where South Arts comes in. This year, the regional nonprofit launched Momentum, an initiative that will provide professional development, mentorship, touring grants and residencies to five Southern dance companies.
You ever just wish that Kenneth MacMillan's iconic production of Romeo and Juliet could have a beautiful love child with the 1968 film starring Olivia Hussey? (No, not Baz Luhrmann's version. We are purists here.)
Wish granted: Today, the trailer for a new film called Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words was released, featuring MacMillan's choreography and with what looks like all the cinematic glamour we could ever dream of: