Thursday, July 12, 2012
"Static stretching before classes decreases strength, speed, agility, and useful range of motion.
I find dancers doing static stretching between the barre and center work, and again before rehearsal, where often speed, power, and agility may be in demand.” says Jennifer Gamboa, president of Body Dynamics, Inc., in Arlington, Virginia.
It’s not that static stretching is bad in and of itself, but it puts you at risk. “You are more likely to land incorrectly, and are more susceptible to injury,”
Gamboa prefers dynamic stretching, which involves movement that is of low intensity and uses a broad range of motion. Leg brushes, arm circles, trunk rotations, lunges across the floor, and other large movements constitute dynamic stretching. “Even walking or biking to class is an ideal way to get the blood moving and raise the body’s temperature. Simply put, the body needs movement to get ready to dance.”
You don’t have to stop having those long, luxurious stretch experiences. “Static stretching should be done at the end of class, the end of rehearsal, and the end of the day,” Gamboa says.
“Walking with the hips and the feet turned out on a daily basis creates too much stress, especially on the feet and ankles,” says Marika Molnar, president and founder of Westside Dance Physical Therapy.
“The gait pattern is a bad habit, a sort of identity,” she says. “The 180-degree first position happens because that’s what they were taught early on. We need to bring awareness to the importance of walking correctly. Dancers should get to class earlier and warm up their bodies before assuming the strict ballet position. Teaching good walking skills nurtures the spine, hips, and feet.”
The Turnout and Bones; Cross-training
“Forcing turnout is the source of lordosis, increased strain on the sacroiliac joint, and torque on the kneecap—which can lead to patella and anterior knee pain,” says Bridget Quinn, MD, who works with Boston Ballet’s dancers. “It affects the whole kinetic chain.”
There are safe ways for dancers to improve their turnout. First they need to remember that turnout starts at the hip. “You can build deep external rotation strength,” says Quinn, “and improve the flexibility of the iliofemoral ligaments.” She suggests the classic clamshell exercise to improve the hip’s external rotators. Lie on your side with your knees bent. Without moving your hip back and forth, open and close the top leg. You can increase the tension by using a Thera-Band as resistance.
Quinn would like to dispel the myth that all great ballet dancers had perfect turnout. Many did not have 180-degree turnout, and went on to highly successful careers. “They danced,” Quinn says, “and we never noticed their turnout.”
Another trouble spot is the belief that you can get all you need within technique class. “Dance is an art form, not a whole-body conditioning regime,” says Quinn. “There are still too many dancers who do not do any cross-training. Class alone leads to imbalances and weaknesses, and there are not enough aerobic challenges.”
“Movement should be approached like life - with enthusiasm, joy and gratitude – for movement is life and life is movement, and we get out of it what we put into it.”
~ Ron Fletcher