Health & Body
Dancers wearing Apolla Shocks. Photo by Brooke Trisolini, Courtesy Apolla

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."

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Health & Body
Cristian Newman/Unsplash

Have you ever consciously danced through pain? Or watched colleagues do it? The answer is most likely, "yes." Dancers are notorious for forcing themselves to keep dancing, no matter what.

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Health & Body
Getty Images

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.

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Dance Training
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?

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Health & Body
10 minutes of midday sun could keep you out of the PT's office. Photo by Unsplash

File this under news that sounds too good to be true: A study published in last month's International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance found that one little nutrient—vitamin D—could improve dancers' strength and decrease their risk of injury.

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.

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Health & Body
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."

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Health & Body
Make an active recovery plan for your time off from dance. Photo by Unsplash

Have two or more months off from dance this summer?

With a little planning, your body can reap the full benefits of your layoff—and transition back into the studio with ease.

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Health & Body
Time away from dance lets your body and brain reset. Photo by Thinkstock

It's the end of a long season: Your body is exhausted, you're emotionally drained from back-to-back performances and you're feeling ready for some serious time on the couch.

But as soon as you start to relax, the doubts creep in. What will happen to my physique if I'm not in class? Will I lose muscle, flexibility or stamina if I'm not dancing?

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Health & Body

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.

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Health & Body
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?

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Dance Training
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.

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Health & Body
How do you warmup? Photo by Jim Lafferty

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.

According to the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science, a smart warmup has four parts: "a gentle pulse-raising section, a joint mobilization section, a muscle lengthening section and a strength/balance building section."

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Health & Body
Are you slumping over a screen too often? Photo by StockSnap

In the studio, dancers obsess over proper form to mitigate the risk of injury. In the rest of our lives, however, we rarely examine our alignment in the same way.

But our downtime habits can directly impact our bodies and, if left unchecked, could cause problems over time. A few simple adjustments might save you from an injury waiting to happen.

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Dance Magazine Awards
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."

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Health & Body
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.

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Health & Body
Quinn Wharton

Have you ever felt like your relationship to dance is something of an addiction? Not to worry, that's completely normal—it's simply the way our brains are wired.

This week, The Washington Post published an intriguing feature that looks at the science of what actually goes on upstairs when we're watching a live performance. The insight comes from the emerging field of neuroaesthetics, which uses tools like brain imaging to study the relationship between art and the brain.

Here are some of the most fascinating takeaways:

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Health & Body
LINES dancer Courtney Henry. Photo by Quinn Wharton

We always figured that stretching made us more flexible by loosening up our muscles and joints. Some of us, ahem, might have even tried to fall asleep in our middle splits to get our stubbornly stiff inner thighs to let go.

But it turns out that might not actually be how stretching works.

A new review published in the Scandinavian Journal of Science & Medicine in Sports suggests that increased flexibility actually comes from your brain growing more used to the tension.

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Health & Body
Matthew Murphy

When I shared my story of leaving dance because of untreated depression a few weeks ago, I had no idea what the response would be. In truth, it took me several days just to hit "send" and give the words to my editor. I was overwhelmed by your response—the kind words, the calls for action and the sharing of your own stories. I read every comment and share that I could see.

But as much as the camaraderie of other dancers served to validate my experience, they also shook me to the bone. How tragic that this is common and so widely felt.

Your voices are undeniably being heard, and Dance Magazine wants to hear more. If you are a current dancer, please take three minutes to fill out this survey. Share it widely and encourage others to do the same. In order to make this a movement that elicits real change, we must demonstrate the need with as many participants as possible. You will see the outcome of your responses in a future article of Dance Magazine, where I will continue to join you in this conversation. We can change this together.


Popular
Thinkstock

At some point in your dance career, friends might have used the word "obsessed" to describe you. Perhaps you smiled in response. Priding ourselves on how hard and tirelessly we work seems locked in our dancer DNA.

That's partly because dancers need a certain amount of laser focus to make it in the competitive professional world. But when you spend "one extra hour" in the studio too often, the scales can tip. Dancers can rehearse themselves into an injury, or try a combination so many times that the result is simply frustration.

"Sometimes your body and mind need a break—a day, afternoon or weekend," says Dr. Nadine Kaslow, resident psychologist at Atlanta Ballet. "But dancers feel bad about these things. They don't feel entitled. It feels like you might lose all your training or your spot in a company in that little time off."

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Health & Body
Quinn Wharton

Is the dance world doing enough for dancers' mental health? Judging from the incredible reaction to Kathleen McGuire's recent story on the topic, it seems that the answer is a resounding "no."

Not only did the piece quickly become one of our most-read, readers shared it hundreds of times, and many reached out to us directly with their own stories. On Facebook, Twitter and through email, several people offered up suggestions for how the dance field could improve. We wanted to share some of the top comments we got—because it's obviously a conversation we all need to have.

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Health & Body
Jim Lafferty

"So why did you quit?"

It's a question I've been asked hundreds of times since I stopped dancing over a decade ago. My answer has changed over the years as my own understanding of what lead me to walk away from greatest love of my life has become clearer.

"I had some injures," I would mutter nervously for the first few years. This seemed like the answer people understood most. Then it became, "I was just not very happy." Finally, as I passed into my 30s, I began telling the uncomfortable truth: "I quit dancing because of untreated depression."

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