As a performing artist, you know that dance is so much more than an exercise routine. It is, first and foremost, something that ignites your soul, makes your heart sing, and gives your brain perspective on the world around you. This makes it extremely disheartening when you are stuck sitting in the front of the dance studio watching your colleagues dance their hearts out in rehearsal as you press an ice pack against your aching ankle. Not only are you losing an outlet for physical activity, but also a way to support your mental and emotional well-being.
Unfortunately, this scenario is all too familiar as injuries are very common among performing artists. Studies looking at professional ballet and modern dancers have demonstrated an injury rate of 67 to 95% per year (Dick et al 2013). The dancers studied had between 1.7 to 6.7 injuries per year on average. With that being said, there are things that you can do to help protect your instrument and keep you prancing across the floor. Our mission at Balance Chicago is to help educate you on proper techniques to help prevent injuries.
An excellent place to start is to explore what commonly leads to injuries for dancers. Various factors have been identified (Liederbach). These include environmental factors such as dancing on a hard or raked stage and anatomical factors such as having a high arch or flat foot. Training errors also have been found to play a role. This includes insufficient warm-up or inadequate rest breaks. The factor that the dancer has the most control over addressing, however, is faulty technique. Spending time analyzing and addressing your faulty technique can help prevent injury and keep you on your toes.
When checking your technique, it is easiest to start with the basics. Start in first position parallel and look at your posture from the front and then from the side. Do a scan from head to toe. What do you see? Identifying all of the subtle variations from normal takes a skilled eye, but there are a few big picture items that you can see. Perform a demi plie in this position. Again, look from the front and from the side. There are a few common errors that if addressed have a large impact on protecting your body from injury.
One common error that can be seen when checking your posture from the side is poor pelvic position. Is your pelvis in a neutral position? Does it remain in this neutral position as you plie? It is common to see dancers either “tuck” their pelvis or stick their bottom out.
If you find that you are unsure of what a neutral pelvic position is or that you have a difficult time maintaining this position, try the following:
Working off of a neutral pelvic position will help to protect your low back from injury.
Another common technical error is allowing your knees to fall inward when you plie. Try the following steps to check if you are making this mistake:
Sometimes your form is incorrect due to weakness in your hip muscles. To address this weakness, a good place to start is with an exercise called clamshells. See an example below:
Strengthening your hips can help make it easier to maintain a proper technique with plie.
With the countless hours you as a dancer spend in the studio, it is essential to take the time to make sure you are using good form. Because you repeat similar motions throughout class and rehearsal, if your form is off even the slightest, it opens up the opportunity for injury. Analyzing your form is no small feat. If you have questions or concerns, we are here at Balance Chicago to help evaluate your form and provide you with tools to help reduce the chance of getting injured. We want to keep you dancing for a long time.