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Balance:The ever sought after skill requiring stability and strength.

This blog looks at the stability part of the equation.

Stability – Static or dynamic?

“Maintaining standing balance, be it waiting for the bus or performing a pirouette, involves body sway, where the body is in a continual state of flux, adjusting in relation to the foot on the ground” (1)

Stability in dance could be said to be the illusion that a movement is static – like holding an arabesque or lift. However, in reality are these movements really static? Or are they more dynamic in nature?

Consider standing on demi pointe (or pointe) in retiré for a few counts. To the viewer, you look like you are still, but underneath that façade, you are actually making minute muscular changes the whole time. Your intrinsic toe and foot muscles are adjusting to any slight balance change, likewise your ankle and calf muscles up the chain of the supporting leg. Your glute muscles are firing and adjusting to the resistance caused by the working leg, and your core and back muscles are working to keep the movement or position of the arms and torso from throwing you off balance. (And with all this going on, is it any wonder we find it hard to perform multiple pirouettes?!) With all these adjustments at work, stability could hardly be seen as static!

“Stable movement is achieved within the state of flux associated with the individual, task and environmental interactions.” (2)

So what does this mean? Well, at a cellular level, we are asking our nervous and muscular systems to constantly adjust to the task and environment (also known as a ‘movement strategy’) in order to perform a particular movement. Very rarely do dancers actually get to perform the same movement in exactly the same conditions. These conditions can vary from the change in the step before or after, the proximity to the dancers around us, the condition of our body (e.g. fatigue), the soreness of one’s feet, being ‘late’ in the music, the type of surface being danced on etc. (Nerve cell picture from http://www.abc.net.au/reslib/201406/r1287418_17487241.jpg)

In other words, there are so many factors contributing to the effort of making one single move appear stable, that it is impossible to practice and perfect every different variable. This is what makes stability dynamic in nature as opposed to static.

“ In order to accommodate the dynamics of the [movement] performance, the ballet dancer must continually adapt the movement strategy…” (2)

Does that mean we are all doomed to instability? Well, luckily yes and luckily no!

Yes, because with so many variables, you need to train your body for this dynamic form of stability (or instability). Give up the notion that you must get yourself ‘stuck’ in the one position in order to feel ‘on’. Accept that you will always making little adjustments to your positioning both consciously and subconsciously.

Dance classes provide many of the variations that your nervous system needs to learn and adapt, but there is more that can be done. Strength and conditioning training can help by providing other forms of non-specific movement adaptation that is translatable to the dance classroom or stage. Some of the exercises offered in such environments include:

  • the use of unstable surfaces (such as a balance board or pods)

  • the use of resistance to increase strength in particular muscles for particular movements (such as Theraband resisted rises)

  • holding weights during dynamic movements that challenge the ‘core’ in different ways (such as lifting a weighted ball above your head, while maintaining proper posture)

So luckily no! You are equally not doomed to instability because by training for dynamic stability, you are training for the illusion of static stability. In other words, static stability is the illusion that dynamic stability provides :)

If you would like more information about any of the information or ideas presented here, I suggest looking at the articles below (use the doi numbers to search for the articles). Alternatively, what are your thoughts? Feel free to ask questions on my Facebook page within the blog post comments.

Happy Balancing! x Julie

(1) Winter, D. A. 1995. “Human Balance and Posture Control during Standing and Walking.” Gait & Posture 3 (4): 193–214. doi:10.1016/0966-6362(96)82849-9

(2 & 3) Hopper, L. S., Weidemann, A. L., Karin, J., 2018, p. 3., “ The inherent movement variability underlying classical ballet technique and the expertise of a dancer” Research in Dance Education, https://doi.org/10.1080/14647893.2017.1420156


So you’ve been injured…. What now? The initial treatment for an acute injury is widely know (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation and Referral), but not all injuries are chronic. Some can creep up on you if you ignore the warning signs. These warning signs can be an unusual pulling, pain or tightness and are harder to recognise than the pain of an acute injury. Dancers often delay being assessed by a qualified health professional (like a physiotherapist) due to fear or a hope that it will just go away, but is a very important step. Despite being important, many dancers put off getting professional help after they’ve been injured. So, the first step to increasing your chances of fully recovering from this type of injury is to get that niggle checked out!

Once you’ve seen someone, and received a diagnosis, you should also receive a treatment plan. This might include therapies such as ice, interferential, massage, dry needling etc. A good treatment plan should also include strengthening or flexibility exercises in the form of a home program or a referral / recommendation to see an exercise specialist. The second step – sometimes the hardest! - Is actually sticking to this treatment plan. Recent research into dancers returning to full function after injury, found that only 60% completed their physical therapy program and was a contributing factor to not returning to full pre-injury level dancing (1).

Along with this treatment plan, a health professional may also tell you to stop dancing for a period of time. (please note that this should not be the ONLY treatment offered). Dancers are notoriously bad at following this advice, we hate to stop dancing! We worry that we’ll miss that competition or get replaced by someone, but It’s REALLY important to follow this step and rest. But that doesn’t mean your dancing has to go ‘backwards’. In fact, you can use this time to strengthen your weaker muscles, stretch those tight ones and improve other weaknesses or imbalances you’ve been wanting to work on. So, the third step is: to rest up when recommended.

Step four: Getting back into full dancing needs to be done by degrees, obviously depending on how bad your injury was. Take your time to get back into a full class or rehearsals, and continue your home program to strengthen your injured part and get back your range of motion. Again, follow the advice of your health professional and check in regularly so that you stay on track.

*As a side note, sometimes fear can get in the way to full recovery (37% of dancers who didn’t return to full, pre-injury level dancing in the study mentioned above indicated they were moderately limited by fear). If this is the case, talk to your health professional or someone else you trust. Help IS available and is something that can be overcome.

So, to summarise, four steps to getting back to full capacity post injury include:

  1. Seek qualified professional assessment. Dance or sport specific if you can and apply R.I.C.E for acute injuries as soon as possible.

  1. Stick to your treatment plan including ‘hands on’ treatment and your home exercise program.

  1. Rest as recommended by your health professional. Use this time to strengthen other areas and improve other aspects of your dancing.

  1. Return to full dancing slowly and keep going with your treatment program.

Of course it is better to work at preventing injuries before they occur. There have been many studies that have looked at how strength and conditioning helps in both dancers and athletes prevent injuries. For more information look out for my next blog :)

Source:

(1) Junk, E., Richardson, M., Dilgen, F., Liederbach, M. (2017) A retrospective Assessment of Return to Function in Dance After Physical Therapy for Common Dance Injuries, Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 21 (4), 156 - 167, doi: 10.12678/1089-313X.21.4.156


Dance has often been described as an athletic art form. Its physical demands and training culture are unique compared to other sports and as such, elicit a high injury rate. Despite this, dancers (particularly recreational) do not participate in regular strength and conditioning classes. This BLOG article will look at some of the main reasons dancers should seek out specialised strength and conditioning training as an addition to their dance classes.

INJURY

The prevalence of injury in dance is quite high. A recent analysis of studies related to dance injury (1), found that for every 1,000 amateur dance hours undertaken, there is approximately 1 injury. For professional dancers, this rate was higher at 1 to 1.5 injuries per 1,000 dance hours. The majority of these injuries were due to overuse, surprisingly with a higher rate (75%) in amateur dancers than professional dancers (50 – 64 %).

Further research has identified a number of predictors of dance injuries (such as faulty technique and biomechanical/muscle imbalances). Targeted and individualised strength and conditioning training can correct these issues, reducing risk of injury.

It has been suggested that, in addition to screening for potential injury predictors, dancers need supplementary assistance with physical training, proper nutrition and rest, specialised health care services and health care practitioners acquainted with both the physical and psychological intricacies of dance.(2) Physical training, for the purpose of increasing strength or conditioning, is not embedded in the culture of dance as it is for athletes.

CARDIOVASCULAR FITNESS

Similar to the strength and conditioning side of training, dance lessons are not designed to elicit cardiovascular fitness or adaptation. For example, a Pettit Allegro or even Grand Allegro exercise may go for between 10 and 40 seconds, performed once, then the dancer may ‘rest’ for a minute or two whilst the next group performs the exercise or corrections are given. This type of activity pattern utilises the glycolytic pathway for energy.

However, dance performance has been found to use the lactate and aerobic systems. Whilst the intensity may remain the same as the centre work in class, the duration in performance is longer, with one to four-minute intervals of activity. From this, we can see that the class does not train the dancer for performance.

But won’t going to the gym make me bulky?

No! Not if it is done correctly. One of these misconceptions is that strength / conditioning training will build muscle bulk. Understanding why this is not the case, however, requires education. Dancers should understand how their body works, especially with relation to muscles, motor control and adaptation. (Not just be given a series of ‘magical’ exercises).

This type of information is not usually provided in a dance class, so aspiring dancers that don’t have the resources offered by full time / pre-professional dance schools, need to have access to education and strength and conditioning services suited to their needs.

So what can Dancewright do, that my local gym, PT or online program can’t?

After assessing each dancer individually, Dancewright’s small group or individual sessions offer a personalised strength and conditioning program, rather than a one size fits all approach. In addition, Dancewright offers educational sessions that incorporate anatomy and physiology information as it relates to dance movements.

Being an ex-dancer, I speak the language and understand many of the struggles, both physical and psychological, dancers face. This is something not all Personal Trainers or gyms understand. Because sessions are small, dancers can be corrected for correct technique and re-assessed if an exercise is too easy or too hard – something an online program generally can’t do.

So what Dancewright program is right for me / my dancer?

Starting off by attending the SUMMER PROGRAM (Jan 2018) is a great way to get back into the year, gain a whole heap of information and practical sessions about muscles, posture, feet/ ankles etc. Also, you will get an initial 20 min individual session to help you get started on your strength and conditioning journey.

Alternatively, book your Opening Special Pack now and reserve your place for 2018. The pack offers all the components you need to get started with Dancewright including a screening session, discounted small group sessions and more.

Specific Quotes:

  1. Smith, P. J., Gerrie, B. J., Varner, K. E., McCulloch, P. C., Lintner, D. M., & Harris, J. D. (2015). Incidence and prevalence of musculoskeletal injury in ballet: a systematic review. (7), 1-9. doi:10.1177/2325967115592621

  2. Russell, J. A. (2013). Preventing dance injuries:current perspectives. , 199-210. doi:10.2147/OAJSM.S36529

Other Resources Used:

Davenport, K. l., Air, M., Grierson, M., & Krabak, B. (2016). Examination of static and dynamic core strength and rates of reported dance related injury in collegiate dancers: a cross-sectional study. Journal of Dance Medicine and Science, 20(4), 151-161. Retrieved from http://www.ingentaconnect.com/contentone/jmrp/jdms/2016/00000020/00000004/art00002

IADMS. (2011). Resource Paper: Dance Fitness. Retrieved June 14, 2017, from IADMS: http://www.iadms.org/?303

Kotler, D. H., Lynch, M., Cushman, D., Hu, J., & Garner, J. (2017). Dacers' percieved and actual knowledge of anatomy. Journal of Dance Medicine and Science, 21(2), 76-81. Retrieved from http://www.ingentaconnect.com/contentone/jmrp/jdms/2017/00000021/00000002/art00005

Koutedakis, Y., Owolabi, E. O., & Apostolos, M. (2008). Dance Biomechanics: a tool for controlling health, fitness and training. Journal of Dance Medicine and Science, 12(3), 83-90. Retrieved from http://www.ingentaconnect.com/contentone/jmrp/jdms/2008/00000012/00000003/art00003

Rodrigues-Krause, J., Krause, M., & Reischak-Oliveira, A. (2015). Cardiorespiratory considerations in dance: from classes to performance. Journal of Dance Medicine and Science, 19(3), 91-102. Retrieved from http://www.ingentaconnect.com/contentone/jmrp/jdms/2015/00000019/00000003/art0000

Stracciolini, A., Hanson, E., Kiefer, A. W., Myer, G. D., & Faigenbaum, A. D. (2016). Resistance training for pediatric female dancers. Journal of Dance Medicine and Science, 20(1), 11-22. Retrieved from http://www.ingentaconnect.com/contentone/jmrp/jdms/2016/00000020/00000001/art00002

Wyon, M. (2005). Cardiorespiratory training for dancers. Journal of Dance Medicine and Science, 9(1), 7-12. Retrieved from http://www.ingentaconnect.com/contentone/jmrp/jdms/2005/00000009/00000001/art00002


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