The Best Way to Avoid Muscle Cramps

Cramps can be debilitating, and seem to come on when you're least expecting them. Common knowledge attributes cramps to hydration levels, so many dancers carefully consider how much to drink and eat before moving. I've of heard other measures that haven't worked in my experience, from drinking pickle juice to vigorously rubbing the cramped area. It turns out, none of these are quite right—cramps are caused by fatigued muscles.

Don't let muscle cramps sideline you.

A new series of studies on runners shows that cramps emerge if runners over-exert themselves at the beginning of their run. The key to avoiding cramps? Rest up, pace yourself and stretch thoroughly before and after dancing. If you are plagued by cramps, The New York Times even suggests keeping a cramp diary, where you record what you were doing when the cramp came on, how much you were exerting yourself, how tired you were, etc. Look for patterns and try to avoid them so that you're not caught off guard mid-petite allegro!

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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.

December 2020