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The Dos and Don'ts of Self-Massage
When you're dancing for what feels like eight days a week, it takes more than just stretching to put your body back in order. You need a good rub down. Unfortunately, most of us don't exactly have the money to afford an on-call personal masseuse.
The solution: Self-massage, with foam rollers, lacrosse balls, elbows and anything else that can help loosen up your muscles. We dug into Dance Magazine's archives to find the best pieces of advice we've published on the topic. Follow these rules to get what you, ahem, knead out of self-massage.
DO luxuriate—and wiggle.
Many dancers just roll up and down a muscle mindlessly. To get the most out of self-massage, let gravity draw your muscles into a roller or ball. "Rolling quickly stays too superficial on your tissues," Alicia Ferriere of Finish Line Physical Therapy tells Nancy Wozny in "Are You Foam Rolling Wrong?". "Allow your muscles to relax on the roller, which will create greater compression for the deeper tissue."
But also move in multiple directions. Aim for cross-friction—think about moving from side to side as well as forward and back. "You need to wiggle more, because the movement is what makes the difference," says Ferriere.
DON'T roll over an injury.
Massage usually isn't helpful—or safe—until fairly late in the recovery process. "Don't roll when there is swelling or a traumatic injury such as a tear," physical therapist Julie Green, who works with Pennsylvania Ballet dancers, tells Wozny. Rolling could make an injury worse, since it's a tool for mobilization and tissues sometimes need to be immobilized to heal. "Allow some healing to occur before returning to your roller."
DO mimic the pros.
Remember what your therapist does and try to re-create that, writes Hannah Maria Hayes in "The Rubdown." Think about what body parts they focus on, the length and types of strokes and speed. But make sure what you're doing is never so painful that you feel like you have to hold your breath.
DON'T knead into bones or nerves.
Rolling over a bone does nothing for you other than cause pain, writes Wozny. It's especially problematic to roll over ankles, knees and the greater trochanter. "And stay away from superficial nerves, like in front of the hip joints and behind the knees," says Green. "You could damage or irritate your nerves. If you feel numbness or tingling, stop immediately." Also avoid rolling along the sides of your lower back—you can bruise your kidneys.
DO take your tools on tour.
You don't have to lug around a 22-inch roller to stay loose on the road. Lacrosse balls are great for rolling out smaller muscles in your feet or calves. For larger muscle groups like your quads, portable rollers like The Morph or The Rove Roller collapse into a flat shape that's easier to stash in your carry-on.
DON'T get aggressive.
Remember: A harder massage does not mean more relief. "I am surprised at how many dancers bruise themselves from rolling!" Erika Kalkan of Harkness Center for Dance Injuries at NYU Langone Medical Center tells Jen Peters in "Tools of the Trade." Using too much pressure or spending too much time on one spot can lead to inflammation and swelling. Dance medicine experts say that, generally, five minutes per body part should do it.
DON'T go too deep before dancing.
If you've got a performance or rehearsal later in the day, go easy. Consider working out any knots by using a lighter option like The Stick. Digging too deep can leave your muscles feeling too relaxed, loose, a bit sore and unresponsive. A 2006 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found a decrease in muscle-force production immediately following a lower-limb massage. "I always ask a dancer what's on their plate that day," Green tells Wozny in "The Magic Touch." "When you make a muscle longer, it can temporarily weaken it and make it cramp. I want to know if dancers will be jumping a lot. If so, then I stay away from the power muscles."
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Growing up in a family-owned dance studio in Missouri had its perks for tap dancer Anthony Russo. But it also earned him constant taunting, especially in high school.
"There was a junior in my sophomore year health class who was absolutely relentless," he says. "I'd get tripped on my way to the front of the classroom and he'd say, 'Watch out, twinkle toes.' If I raised my hand and answered a question incorrectly, I'd hear a patronizing 'Nice one, Bojangles.' "
When I wrote about my struggle with depression, and eventual departure from dance because of it, I expected criticism. I was prepared to be challenged. But much to my relief, and horror, dancers from all over the world responded with support and stories of solidarity. The most critical response I saw was this one:
"Dance isn't for everyone."
This may as well be a mantra in the dance world. We have become entrenched in the Darwinian notion that the emotionally weak will be weeded out. There is no room for them anyway.
Choreographer Sergio Trujillo asked the women auditioning for ensemble roles in his newest musical to arrive in guys' clothing—"men's suits, or blazers and ties," he says. He wasn't being kinky or whimsical. The entire ensemble of Summer: The Donna Summer Musical is female, playing men and women interchangeably as they unfold the history of the chart-busting, Grammy-winning, indisputable Queen of Disco.
Have a scroll through Agnes Muljadi's Instagram feed (@artsyagnes), and you'll notice that in between her ballet shots is a curated mix of lifestyle pics. So what exactly sets her apart from the other influencers you follow? Muljadi has made a conscious effort to only feature natural beauty products, sustainable fashion and vegan foods. With over 500k followers, her social strategy (and commitment to making ethical choices) is clearly a hit. Ahead, learn why Muljadi switched to a vegan lifestyle, and the surprising way it's helped her dance career.
He may not be a household name, but you probably know Brandon Stirling Baker's work. The 30-year-old has designed the lighting for most of Justin Peck's ballets—including Heatscape for Miami City Ballet, and the edgy The Times Are Racing for New York City Ballet—but also Jamar Roberts' new Members Don't Get Weary at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and a trio of Martha Graham duets for L.A. Dance Project.
He's been fascinated by lighting ever since he attended a public performing arts middle school in Sherman Oaks, California, where he had his first experiences lighting shows. He also has a background in music (he plays guitar and bass) and in drawing. Both, he says, are central to the way he approaches lighting dance.
Update: Due to an overwhelming response, the in-person audition has been moved to a larger location to accommodate more dancers. See details below.
For the first time in more than 10 years, Janet Jackson is holding an open audition for dancers.
Even better? You could land a spot in her #JTribe simply by posting a video on social media.
What does it take to become an international superstar? Carlos Acosta might have a few ideas.
At the Oxford Literary Festival earlier this month, the BBC sat down with Acosta to ask for his life lessons. His answers—which he says he will pass on to his kids one day—give incredible insight into how he's become such a beloved worldwide success.
The ballet world will converge on San Francisco this month for San Francisco Ballet's Unbound: A Festival of New Works, a 17-day event featuring 12 world premieres, a symposium, original dance films and pop-up events.
"Ballet is going through changes," says artistic director Helgi Tomasson. "I thought, What would it be like to bring all these choreographers together in one place? Would I discover some trends in movement, or in how they are thinking?"