Sometimes it’s Reassuring to See that Other People Agree With You

There’s a nice article online at Dance Magazine floating around on the social media today about common mistakes we are making in the dance world.  Author Nancy Wozny gathered information from Physical Therapists, and I’m relieved and excited to report that all three bullet points are things I’ve already said.

In a nutshell:

Mistake #1: Static Stretching at the beginning of the day is not helpful.

In 2010, I wrote a post at Dance Advantage about types of stretching and noted the idea that static stretching is not as useful or necessary pre-class as we might believe it to be. The Dance Magazine article cites a well-known set of studies that appear to indicate a loss in power or strength in performance when using static stretching before a workout, but it should be noted that this research was not a dance-based application, and the decrease in power was minuscule to the point that it may only matter to athletes who’s performance rely on hundredths of seconds (not us).

Mistake #2: Dancers should walk like normal people, rather than walking in turnout.

The following year, I wrote Knees, Please: Why a Dancer Should Walk Like a Man, and discussed this important point alongside other tips for optimal knee health.

Mistake #3: Dancers should cross-train

I’m not going to argue with this! Here are my reasons for cross-training, and some suggestions for back-to-dance bootcamp after periods of layoff

Apart from making me feel good about myself, I’m pointing out these previous articles in reference to Nancy Wozny’s wonderful post in Dance Magazine to remind you that, well, this stuff is important!

Though Art Intercepts is now largely consumed by critical reviews and previews of dance performances, I’m still passionate about dancer health and it’s extremely reassuring to see others invested in evidence-based writing to try and improve the training environment for dancers.



Author: Lauren Warnecke

Lauren Warnecke is a reporter for NPR affiliate station WGLT and freelance arts and culture critic, primarily reviewing dance for the Chicago Tribune. Lauren enjoys cooking, cycling and attempting to grow things in her backyard. She lives in central Illinois.

4 thoughts on “Sometimes it’s Reassuring to See that Other People Agree With You

  1. In terms of walking, I think it’s more complicated than just the kinesiological organization of proper walking. You have to take into account the conditioning/history of a person that produces compulsive muscular contractions. This contributes to why people are generally so different, even though it may be obvious what efficient walking should look like. In order for someone to walk properly (if they have already developed compulsive holding habits that create turned out legs), they would have to add the action of turning their legs in, which would create an additional layer of muscular tension that would make walking that way uncomfortable and would require constant conscious attention to maintain it, which would slow down their minds. What is efficient movement is what requires the least amount of effort, which is different for any given person, because of their movement history. It is not enough to tell people that they should move a certain way, because you are telling them that they should overpower their own developmental history. Rather we should tell people to move in the way that is comfortable to them, and therefore the best possible for them today, and also pay attention to what feels better and what feels worse, and over time their movement will improve. This way everyone converges on the most efficient way, although you can’t guarantee that anyone actually gets there. To say that people should just move a certain way ignores how the nervous system functions to produce the movement in the first place – this is the major problem of focusing on analysis (how action is viewed) rather than on how action is produced. Studying the production of action and how it happens is where the work needs to be done.

    1. Hi Ben! Absolutely. The issue is, the conditioning and movement history of ballet dancers is no longer complimenting their choreography as it once did. Increasingly, ballet and contemporary (whatever that means) in performance is turned in, hyperextended, and recruits movement patterns that aren’t replicated in the daily ballet class. As a result, we are seeing increased incidence of ACL tear and other knee injuries that haven’t, historically, been common among dancers. If a movement pattern is contributing to injury, it should be changed regardless of how comfortable it is.

      In a sense, I think dancers should walk “normally” as a form of cross-training to better meet the demands of today’s choreography. I think there is a fear that by walking in parallel and training the ab/adductors rather than the lateral rotators that the dancer will lose his/her turnout, which really isn’t the case unless s/he stops turning out altogether.

  2. Thank you for the helpful and interesting tips. As a dance educator, I love reading about methods to steer students in a healthy direction. I especially like the idea of cross-training.

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