The good news? Every cheat can be beat. (Lucas Chilczuk)

Beat the Cheat: Combat Incorrect Jump Landings With These Targeted Fitness Exercises

As dancers, we all have our vices—those little technique cheats that we know are incorrect, and we try our best to fix whenever we can remember...but at the end of the day, we just can't seem to banish them for good. After all, these cheats usually appear to help us: They can get our legs higher and our petit allégro a little faster, not to mention help us crank out that one extra rotation in a turn we dream about. Unfortunately, cheating proper technique also sets dancers up for a myriad injuries caused by improper alignment and undue stress on the body.


The good news: Every cheat can be beat. That is, when you know exactly what muscles and mobility pathways you need to strengthen in order to execute the step correctly. To help on that front, Amber Tacy, personal trainer and founder of the dancer-focused fitness community Dancers Who Lift, is here to guide you through a series of exercises designed to help you overcome the most common dancer cheats.

The Cheat: Jumping without fully landing your heels on the floor

Equipment You'll Need: Step or yoga block, mini loop, TheraBand

Extended Position Single-Leg Relevé
  1. Stand barefoot on the balls of your feet with your heels hanging off a step or yoga block. Hold on to a wall, doorframe or barre for balance, if necessary, but don't use your arms to help you.
  2. Lifting one leg off the ground, perform single-leg relevés with the other.
  3. Move through a complete range of motion, from as low as you can go hanging off the step to your highest relevé. Try to do as many as you can with a full range of motion.
  4. Perform 8–10 relevés, then repeat on the other leg.

Amber's Note: If one leg is too challenging, complete the exercise with both legs simultaneously performing the relevés.

Split Squat Jump + Pause at Bottom

  1. Step one foot back and sink into a deep lunge, bending both knees as if you're going to half-kneel down on the ground. Make sure your front heel doesn't pop up as you lunge back.
  2. Explode up and jump into the air, using your arms to propel yourself upward.
  3. As you land, assume your same starting position, and sink down into a deep lunge.
  4. Pause, without wobbling.
  5. Repeat 5–6 times per side.

Amber's Note: Practice rolling through your feet as you take off and land.

Ankle-Joint Mobilization

  • Assume a kneeling position with the front foot elevated on a book or yoga block.
  • Wrap 2-inch wide band around the front ankle joint, and have it anchored behind you so it's applying a backwards pull.
  • Gently lean forward, pushing the front knee over the toes, hold for 2–3 seconds, and return to the kneeling position.
  • Keep the heel completely glued to the floor, and avoid popping it up throughout the exercise.
  • Perform for 30–60 seconds per side.

Amber's Note: This mobilization should be a priority for any dancers who spend a majority of their time in "plantar flexion" (pointed feet, like on pointe or dancing in heels), as it gives your Achilles tendon the opportunity to safely go into a fully lengthened position.

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For the young child, it was love at first sight.

"I saw a beautiful, black Clara," Ashton says, "and I wanted to be just like her."

Ashton has dedicated 14 years of ballet training in pursuit of that childhood dream. But all the technical prowess in the world can't help Ashton surmount the biggest hurdle—this aspiring dancer was assigned male at birth, and for the vast majority of boys and men, performing in pointe shoes hasn't been a career option. But Ashton Edwards, who uses the pronouns "he" and "they," says it's high time to break down ballet's gender barrier, and their teachers and mentors believe this passionate dancer is just the person to lead the charge.

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Don't worry—you won't have to shoulder the load alone. Dance Spirit spoke with two physical therapists who specialize in working with dancers to find out what dance bag is best.

What should dancers look for in a dance bag?

Dr. Meghan Gearhart, physical therapist and owner of Head2Toe Physical Therapy in Charlotte, NC, recommends dancers opt for a backpack-style dance bag rather than a duffel or cross-body bag.

"A bag that pulls the weight all to one side creates a side bend and rotation in the trunk," Gearhart says. "That is going to lead to muscle imbalances that will affect dancers while they're dancing, as well as just in regular everyday life." Muscle imbalances can mean limited mobility on one side of your body, as the muscles on one side are overly contracted and the other side is overly extended to compensate.

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Dr. Bridget Kelly Sinha, physical therapist and founder of Balanced Physical Therapy and Dance Wellness in Matthews, NC, emphasizes the importance of finding an even weight distribution when choosing a dance bag.

"If a dancer has a lot to bring, like when heading to the theater for a full day of rehearsals and performances, then I recommend a rolling suitcase to offset the load," Sinha says.

How should dancers wear their bags?

Even if you've selected the perfect dance bag, it's important to be mindful of how you wear it.

Gearhart advocates wearing both straps when carrying your backpack. She also suggests placing heavier items towards the back of the bag, where they will sit closer to your body. A bag with straps that are too loose (or a bag that is too heavy) can create an increased arch in the lower back or cause a dancer to compensate for the weight by leaning forward. Ideally, Gearhart recommends a dancer's dance bag weighing no more than 10 to 15 percent of their body weight.

"I usually tell dancers to use their common sense. If you don't have tap today, you don't need to bring the tap shoes," she says. "If your water bottle makes the bag too heavy, just carry it." If your studio offers lockers, take advantage of that storage space to lessen the number of clothes, shoes, and dance accessories that live in your dance bag.

And if you think your bad dance-bag habits have given you alignment issues, seek out a dance physical therapist to prevent further injuries.

"As a dancer, your body is working so hard all day," Sinha says. "It does not need excess strain from your bag."

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