So I know some may be thinking why is this Athletic Trainer discussing dance? I have learned in my profession that there are so many different types and levels of recreational athletes. Dancers are often overlooked when it comes to being an athlete. A dancer style may be different but their training is beyond challenging and strenuous. So let me start off by telling you how I came about the art of dance. As many of you may have experience when you were younger the feeling of just playing around and dancing; whether you were dancing to a music video, dancing with your friends or dancing in front of your own mirror. I really didn’t grasp the art of dancing and the level of dancing until I met a great friend who teaches African Dance. Her class tremendously changed my life and my way of thinking. Who knew that the art of African Dance means so much more than just dancing. This particular style of dance is all about being you, being free, describing your story through dance. So many of you may be saying what is African Dance? “African dance incorporates movement from everyday life. In African Dance, gestures are used to tell a story or to celebrate life. Traditional dances often do not appear in isolation but are parts of broader cultural activities and embodies athleticism and graceful beauty flowing with rhythm. In Africa, dance is a means of marking the experiences of life, encouraging abundant crops, celebrating life changes, and healing the sick soul and body. It is also done purely for enjoyment.” (www.shaemovement.org) After I was invigorated by this form of dance I began to introduce my daughter to not only African Dance but also other levels of dance: Tap, Ballet, Jazz and Hip Hop. In watching my close friend and my daughter dance I began to really find a love in dancing. I also began to realize as we all may run, cycle, swim or do other activities dance is a lifestyle not only as a recreational athlete but for these dancers it is their life. What would this world be like without the art of dancing? In my mind we would be without the true feeling life, rhythm of the heartbeat and love. In addition, in studying dance I realize the importance of a healthy and strong body. Many dancers do not have the luxury that we have of the ability to stop dancing because for them it is a lifestyle. Therefore, many dancers perform multiply times in a week. So it is imperative that they to stay healthy and fully trained. As you all know the wonderful news of Misty Copeland, and her acceptance in American Ballet Theatre; it took dedication, years of training to get where she is today. Through this discovery I began to realize the stress that is placed on many dancers and how they have fitness demands and stress placed on their bodies. So this blog is specifically dedicated to my “DANCERS”
African Dance, Jazz, Ballet, Tap and Hip Hop
While all of these dances are unique in their own special way that each have several things in common:
- Strong Core
- Strong Hips/Stabilization
- Strong legs
- Strong Ankles/Stability
- Strong Upper body
The core is the base of support for many dancers without a strong core then dancers would experience inability of staying upright (such as ballet) and increase stress would be placed on other muscles which results in muscle strains.
*Core is important as it helps regulate and support other muscles in your body*
The hips in dancers plays an important role as well. Your hips are the base of your core. It is your stability, that helps hold you upright and maintain equilibrium. Without strong hips then more pressure is placed on your back resulting in back strains.
*As females we typically have weaker hips due to our increase Q angle (wider hips); strong hips helps to support the body and helps to take stress off of other areas*
Dancers require strong legs and many types of dance require the legs to be the powerhouse of the dance. Injuries occur when one side is stronger than the other side and therefore causes the dancer to compensate by overusing the strong side. The focus for a dancer should be on building strong legs not only with two leg exercises such as squats but also incorporate single leg exercises (building strength in each leg)
*Incorporate exercises like: Single Leg Squats, Single leg deadlifts, Air squats, Barbell Squats*
Ankle joint and stability is essential in many dance forms. Specifically in African Dance where you dance barefoot it is very important for the ankle joint to be strong. As runners we have shoes that help in stabilizing our ankle to prevent injuries but in African Dance, Ballet and Jazz specifically where you have no or little support on the ankle it is imperative that the muscles are strong to help prevent ligament sprains and muscle strains.
*Practicing balance on an uneven surface helps to build strong ankles*
Flexibility is important no matter what type or style of dancing that you are doing. Flexibility allows your muscles to get stretched out therefore allowing the dancer to utilize the muscles through its full capacity. Flexibility also helps in decreasing the chance of muscle strains.
*Muscles that are lengthen out allows your body to utilize that muscle at its full capacity*
Strong Upper Body
Many people look at dancers and say why would they need upper body strength typically they only use their legs? In some types of dances the upper body alignment and posture is very important specifically ballet. In order to keep that posture your muscles have to be strong to help hold your body upright. Some dances may utilize the upper body in the dance move which incorporates muscle movement. Lack of strength in your upper body will cause compensation to occur in others areas resulting in muscle strains and pulls.
*So I had to show you a funny picture showing off my biceps:)*
*Incorporate upper body exercises such as: push ups, bicep curls, shoulder exercises and more*
To all my runners, swimmers, triathletes, cyclists…..want a good crosstraining workout try Dancing!