Let's be real—as much as we love dance, there are days where the pain and discouragement that come from perfecting our craft can make us question why we do what we do. Well, five principal dancers of the Czech National Ballet got on our level and revealed that pain and pressure are as much a part of the process of dance as joy.
Scrolling your feeds endlessly can have a serious impact on your posture and alignment. "Since 2008 or so, I've seen a lot of heads and shoulders hunched forward," says Kim Fielding, a former dancer who created a Pilates class specifically to counteract the effects of technology. "Some dancers will overcompensate for this, leading to splayed rib cages and too much curvature in the lower spine."
Medical pros are now calling this set of symptoms "tech neck" or "text neck," and they can ultimately lead to neck herniations, rotator cuff injuries, and even foot and ankle problems. Here's how to keep your tech from hurting your technique.
Physical discomfort is inevitable when you're spending tons of hours in the studio every day, but some pain shouldn't be suffered through. "Dancing through pain can make an injury worse and lead to more time away from dance," says Dr. Joel Brenner, medical director of dance medicine at Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters in Norfolk, VA. "Failing to rest and recover when you're in serious pain could even lead to the point where you're unable to dance in the future."
That may sound scary, but there's good news: If you take precautions and listen to your body, many injuries can be stopped in their tracks. The first step? Knowing what's normal—and what's not.
Are stiff, swollen Achilles tendons making pointe class painful? You could be suffering from Achilles tendinitis. James Gallegro—MSPT, CMPT with the Manhattan Physio Group, who works with many professional dancers and companies—spoke to Dance Spirit about how to handle the all-too-common problem.
Back to school means back to dance full-time. But while you might be excited to spend every evening in the studio, your body likely isn't—and it'll let you know with some killer soreness the next morning. When should you push through the achiness and when should you take it easy? Dance Spirit looked to Natalie Imrisek, MSPT, CSCS, for advice.
We've all felt nagging pains in our lower backs, necks and shins—and we've all ignored them. It's easy for dancers to chalk these seemingly minor afflictions up to nothing more than #dancerprobz. But there comes a point when it's time to stop pretending everything's fine. “Most bigger dance injuries occur because of overuse, so dancers need to be diligent about the little problems," says Sean Gallagher, PT, founder of Performing Arts Physical Therapy in NYC. Dance Spirit spoke with Gallagher and Laura Hohm, PT, DPT, CFMT, of PhysioArts in NYC, about how to care for these unloved body parts.
You're at a checkup with your doctor, and she asks you to roll down and touch your toes. When you straighten up, she tells you there's a curve in your spine—she thinks you have scoliosis.
Don't panic! Having a curvy spine, or even wearing a brace, is rarely a reason to stop dancing. Case in point: Former New York City Ballet principal Wendy Whelan, whose scoliosis didn't prevent her from having an extraordinary career. Dance Spirit spoke with health care pros and dancers to find out what “curvy girls" need to do to stay healthy and keep dancing.
You spend your days jumping, leaping, bending, twisting and generally putting a ton of stress on your knees. But be kind to them—they’re two of your most important body parts! One of the best ways to avoid knee pain is to strengthen the muscles surrounding your kneecaps. “These exercises will help improve your alignment, which is essential for knee health,” says DS fitness consultant Michelle Rodriguez, who is the founder of Manhattan Physio Group in NYC. “Many knee injuries can be avoided if you pay careful attention to always keeping the knee over the middle of the foot, regardless of whether you’re in parallel or turned out.”
Bridge with Pillow Squeeze
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground, hip-width apart. Place a folded pillow between your knees.
Press into your heels to lift your pelvis off the ground until it’s level with your knees. Don’t let the pillow drop! Keep the sides of your pelvis level and your belly button pulled into your spine as you lower your hips to the ground. Repeat 10 times.
With your hips lifted in the bridge position, straighten one knee. Keep the rest of your body level and stable.
Keeping your hips elevated, bend your knee, and slowly lower your foot to the floor. Repeat on the other side. Repeat five times on each side.
Double Leg Squat (that’s “chair pose” for you yoga buffs!)
Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
Begin to squat by reaching your sit bones back past your heels and bending your knees to 100 degrees. Keep your weight in your heels and reach your arms forward to counter-balance your weight. Make sure your kneecaps don’t pass beyond your second and third toes. Press into your heels and activate your glute muscles to return to standing, bringing your hips in line with your shoulders and lowering your arms to your sides. Repeat 10–15 times.
Parallel Pliés with Heel Taps
Stand on your right leg with your left leg extended in front of you, a few inches off the ground. Hold your left arm out to the side for balance.
Bend your right knee—be sure to align your kneecap directly over your second and third toes—as you reach your left foot to the ground in front of you, lightly tapping your heel to the floor.
Straighten your right knee as you lift your left leg, reaching your left foot out to the side.
Plié your right leg as you tap your left heel to the floor. Your right leg should be doing all the work.
Repeat to the front and side, completing 10 reps each and then switching to the opposite side. Pay attention to proper alignment throughout the exercise. Your working knee should bend directly over your toes.
Michelle Rodriguez, MPT, OCS, CMPT, is the founder and director of Manhattan Physio Group. She is a physical therapist specializing in orthopedic manual therapy and dance rehabilitation.
Photography by Sibté Hassan. Hair and makeup by Chuck Jensen for Mark Edward Inc. modeled by nikeva stapleton.
Nikeva Stapleton is a graduate of the Ailey/Fordham BFA Program. She is currently a freelance dancer and model in NYC.