Mark Wickens

How This Dancer with Cerebral Palsy Stays Performance-Ready

As a dancer with hemiplegia cerebral palsy, Jerron Herman has never been far from the physical therapy room—or an occupational therapist or some kind of medical interventionist. "I'm almost always in deep conversation with that kind of practitioner," says Herman, who performs with Heidi Latsky Dance.

It's part of keeping his body ready to dance—and to move throughout his daily life. Herman shared his routine with Dance Magazine.


What his cross-training looks like:

Hemiplegia cerebral palsy affects motor control and muscle tone on one side of the body. For Herman, it's his left side. Much of his conditioning practice includes one-sided or one-legged activities to strengthen that side.

"I'll really focus on alignment, making sure that I'm tall and long in my torso and in my back," he says. "I'll do a lot of planks, a lot of lifting through my pelvis. It's always a conversation with my left side." Swimming—freestyle and butterfly—is an occasional part of his routine, too. "That loosens up my joints," he says.

How he integrates breath:

He is also a big fan of breathing techniques, which he first learned about from Latsky. "Breathing correctly is essential to executing her movement," says Herman.

While working out, he likes to practice box breathing. In this technique, you hold and release breath for extended periods of time, says Herman. For example, you might inhale for five seconds, hold that breath for five seconds, and then release it over five seconds. The interval lengths increase over time.

While warming up, he'll practice sipping breath. Breath is drawn up into the body with what Herman calls "extreme intention." With eyes closed, imagine that air is filling up your body through a straw. Take long, deep breaths, tightening the back of the throat to send air to the head cavity and the belly. Exhale audibly, restraining the air as it exits. "It's so intense," Herman says. "I could levitate."

Why dancing is integral to his daily life:

Herman's cerebral palsy hasn't stopped his dancing by any means—in fact, it's fostered a constant interplay between his professional and daily life. "Dance is integral," he says. "There isn't a sense of boundary or separation from my personal physical life and my professional life. The physicality that I employ as a regular person is because of dance. I'm preparing for the next performance, and I also need to buy groceries and walk to appointments."


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Stark Photo Productions, Courtesy Harlequin

Why Your Barre Can Make or Break Your At-Home Dance Training

Throughout the pandemic, Shelby Williams, of Royal Ballet of Flanders (aka "Biscuit Ballerina"), has been sharing videos that capture the pitfalls of dancers working from home: slipping on linoleum, kicking over lamps and even taking windows apart at the "barre." "Dancers aren't known to be graceful all of the time," says Mandy Blackmon, PT, DPT, OSC, CMTPT, head physical therapist/medical director for Atlanta Ballet. "They tend to fall and trip."

Many dancers have tried to make their home spaces as safe as possible for class and rehearsal by setting up a piece of marley, like Harlequin's Dance Mat, to work on. But there's another element needed for taking thorough ballet classes at home: a portable barre.

"Using a barre is kinda Ballet 101," says 16-year-old Haley Dale, a student in her second year at American Ballet Theatre's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. She'd bought a portable barre from Harlequin to use at her parents' home in Northern Virginia even before the pandemic hit. "Before I got it, honestly I would stay away from doing barre work at home. Now I'm able to do it all the time."

Blackmon bought her 15-year-old stepdaughter a freestanding Professional Series Ballet Barre from Harlequin early on in quarantine. "I was worried about her injuring herself without one," she admits.

What exactly makes Harlequin's barres an at-home must-have, and hanging on to a chair or countertop so risky? Here are five major differences dancers will notice right away.

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December 2020