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.
A pointe class at Youth America Grand Prix, where performing on pointe before age 11 is now prohibited. Photo by VAM Productions, courtesy YAGP
In 2018, the Youth America Grand Prix added a rule: For participants under age 12, performing on pointe became strongly discouraged. For those under 11, it became prohibited.
The competition organizers made these changes after jury members, teachers and others raised concerns about students being pushed to perform on pointe too early. Larissa Saveliev, YAGP co-founder and director, says, "Ten years ago we didn't have to have these rules because nobody was progressing that fast."
As ballet prodigies get younger and their abilities more extraordinary, many are asking, How young is too young to let their bodies dance on the tips of their toes?
Known as "the sunshine vitamin" because of our body's ability to produce it when exposed to sun, vitamin D has long been a sore point for dancers. Many have chronically low levels, most likely because of their restrictive diets and all the time they spend indoors in studios and theaters.
That's a serious risk: Our bodies need this vitamin to absorb calcium and keep our bones strong. Other studies have shown that a lack of D also correlates with a lack of muscle strength.
Give your partner space to process their own emotions about the injury. Photo via Thinkstock
Dance Theatre of Harlem dancers Christopher McDaniel and Crystal Serrano were working on Nacho Duato's Coming Together in rehearsal when McDaniel's foot hit a slippery spot on the marley. As they attempted a swinging lift, both dancers went tumbling, injuring Serrano as they fell.She ended up being out for a week with a badly bruised knee.
"I immediately felt, This is my fault," says McDaniel. "I broke my friend."
Sore arches may be one of the peskiest pain spots dancers deal with. This small area on the bottom of your feet may seem minor, but it actually does a lot of work: Your arches are what allow your feet to support the weight of your entire body.
While any sharp, unbearable pain should always be checked out by a doctor, a dull ache after a particularly long rehearsal can usually be alleviated by giving your feet the extra care they need. Here, two podiatrists weigh in on what causes arch pain and how you can manage it.
Your mindset can make all the difference. Photo via Unsplash
You're standing backstage, and your mind won't stop racing.
What if, after weeks of rehearsal, you suddenly forget the choreography? What if that terrible critic gives you yet another embarrassing review? Did you remember to sew your pointe shoes correctly? Why won't your partner stop cracking his darn hip joint? Why can't you stop freaking out?
IADMS is looking to honor someone who's made a substantial impact through teaching dance. Photo via Thinkstock
Great dance educators with smart, scientific teaching practices are invaluable to the dance field. How else could we create healthy, beautiful dancers?
The International Association of Dance Medicine and Science is looking to honor someone who's made a substantial impact through teaching with its annual Dance Educators Award—and the committee is asking for nominations.
For many dancers, a "warmup" consists of sitting on the floor stretching their legs in various positions. But this strategy only reduces your muscles' ability to work properly—it negatively affects your strength, endurance, balance and speed for up to an hour.
Save your flexibility training for the end of the day. Instead, follow a warmup that will actually help prevent injury and improve your body's performance.
Marika Molnar working with Ana Sophia Scheller. Photo by Rachel Papo for Dance Teacher
Since George Balanchine first asked her to care for his dancers in the 1980s, Marika Molnar has helped heal icons as varied as Merce Cunningham, Trisha Brown, Natalia Makarova, Judith Jamison, Twyla Tharp, Chita Rivera and Mikhail Baryshnikov. Some patients call her their guardian angel.
"Marika has always answered all my (sometimes ridiculous) questions with the patience and respect that can only come from a deep love of us patients and what we do," says New York City Ballet principal Ashley Bouder. "Without her help during and after my pregnancy, I would never have been able to come back to the stage at full capacity."
Ashley Ellis, photo by Albert Ayzenberg, courtesy of Ashley Ellis
Every dancer has learned—probably the hard way—that healthy feet are the foundation of a productive and happy day in the studio. As dancers, our most important asset has to carry the weight (literally) of everything we do. So it's not surprising that most professional dancers have foot care down to an art.
Three dancers shared their foot-care products they can't live without.