Your Body: Balancing Act

Speed injury recovery with gadgets that improve body awareness.

Above: Bosu Balance Trainer

Liz Walker has her physical therapist and several balance-building gadgets to thank for getting her through The Nutcracker this past holiday season. A year ago she tore a crucial ligament in her midfoot while rehearsing Swan Lake. After surgery, the Los Angeles Ballet dancer used a Bosu Balance Trainer and rotation discs to get back onstage. “All the muscles in my right leg had atrophied from months of not being able to bear weight,” says Walker. “Balancing exercises enabled me to integrate core strength toning with strength building in my entire body, especially my leg.”

 

These days, wobbly devices such as a Bosu, rotating discs, spiked half-ball domes, foam squares, and a wobble board are the mainstays of any gym. They have also become go-to devices for dancers recovering from injury. Unstable surfaces are widely used in recovery from ankle, foot, hip, and spine injuries. Trying to balance wakes the body up as all the core muscles kick in. To prevent the dancer from leaning or falling over, the nervous system goes into hyperdrive, often improving the body’s efficiency. Instead of sliding into its usual bad habits, the body instinctively seeks new and more efficient patterns to keep the dancer upright.

 

Balance devices help dancers cultivate a better sense of their bodies, according to Los Angeles freelance physical therapist Natalie Imrisek. “I use various unstable surfaces to bring awareness to inefficient or compensatory patterns,” says Imrisek, who works with several L.A. Ballet dancers. “It is always beneficial for the person to feel an unhealthy pattern in her body so she can correct it.” Increased joint stability and improved motor control skills are added benefits.

 

Once a doctor or physical therapist has determined that a dancer’s recovery is far enough along to permit retraining, Imrisek recommends these simple exercises:

 

•Step up and down on an unstable surface, like a Bosu, with both injured and non-injured leg. Stand with both legs and balance on an unstable surface. Gradually progress to single-leg balances. Work up to holding for 30–60 seconds, with 3–5 repetitions.

 

•As the injured leg improves, use a rotating disc to reinforce turning out from the hips, then stand in second position doing pliés and relevés. The goal is to be able to control the movement enough so the discs do not move.

 

•Gradually add pliés, relevés, dévelopées, passés, and arabesques on a Bosu or wobble board; do each set in parallel and turned out.

 

Nancy Wozny writes about health and the arts from Houston.

 

Nancy Wozny writes about health and the arts from Houston. - See more at: http://dancemagazine.com/issues/june-2013/Your-Body-Water-Works#sthash.W8W44kBD.dpuf

 

What's Wobbling?

Basic gear for balance building

Bosu Balance Trainer: This gadget has a curved, bouncy dome and a flat side. Each offers a different kind of unstable surface, allowing the dancer to work up to more challenging situations. It’s versatile and can be used to develop upper-body strength as well. ($85.95, www.bosu.com)

 

Rotating Discs: Physical therapists often start leg-injury recovery by having dancers work on a pair of rotating discs. The 11-inch circles rotate, and are used in developing both upper and lower body strength and stability. ($77.95, www.optp.com)

 

 

Go Green

Who knew that guacamole was a health food? New research from Ohio State University suggests that eating avocados helps you to absorb nutrients better. The tasty green fruit (yes, it’s a fruit) has been linked to lower cancer rates and better eye health. It also offers 23 percent of your recommended daily folate. If you are not impressed yet, avocados also pack a wallop of vitamin E, an antioxidant that improves your immunity. So add a few slices to your salad or eat half an avocado as a snack.

 

Day in the Life

Most people may know Derek Dunn for his impeccable turns and alluring onstage charisma. But the Boston Ballet principal dancer is just as charming offstage, whether he's playing with his 3-year-old miniature labradoodle or working in the studio. Dance Magazine recently spent the day with Dunn as he prepared for his debut as Albrecht in the company's upcoming run of Giselle.

Dance Training
Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy Mark Morris Dance Group

You know compelling musicality when you see it. But how do you cultivate it? It's not as elusive as it might seem. Musicality, like any facet of dance, can be developed and honed over time—with dedicated, detailed practice. At its most fundamental, it's "respect for the music, that this is your partner," says Kate Linsley, academy principal of the School of Nashville Ballet.

Keep reading... Show less
The USC Kaufman graduating class with Mikhail Baryshnikov. Gus Ruelas/USC

Just four years ago, the University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance welcomed its first class of BFA students. The program—which boasts world-class faculty and a revolutionary approach to training focused on collaboration and hybridity—immediately established itself as one of the country's most prestigious and most innovative.

Now, the first graduating class is entering the dance field. Here, six of the 33 graduates share what they're doing post-grad, what made their experience at USC Kaufman so meaningful and how it prepared them for their next steps:

Keep reading... Show less
In Memoriam
Ross Parkes, right, teaching in Shanghai in 1983. Lan-Lan Wang is at left. Courtesy Lan-Lan Wang.

Notable dancer and beloved teacher, Ross Parkes, 79, passed away on August 5, 2019 in New York City. He was a founding faculty member at Taipei National University of the Arts in Taiwan, where he taught from 1984 to 2006. Lin Hwai-min, artistic director of Cloud Gate Dance Theater, said: "He nurtured two generations of dancers in Taiwan, and his legacy will continue."

About his dancing, Tonia Shimin, professor emerita at UC Santa Barbara and producer of Mary Anthony: A Life in Modern Dance, said this: "He was an exquisite, eloquent dancer who inhabited his roles completely."

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get Dance Magazine in your inbox