10 Rights I Wish I Knew I Had as a Dancer

If I’d grown a pair when I was 13, I may have avoided some serious set-backs in my dance career. Fortunately, I’ve grown up, and learned some things, and consider myself an expert in dance career mistakes.

Some lessons, I suppose, are best learned the hard way, and I hope that you’ll be able to learn from my mistakes.

The biggest mistake? Not knowing my rights as a dancer.

Knowing my rights, that I had the power to make my own decisions and stand up for them, could have kept me dancing for longer.

Some of these ideas may ruffle some dance-parent and dance teacher feathers, but I think it’s important for dancers to be empowered and know that every part of their career is a choice, and THEY need to make those choices.

10 things you are entitled to choose as a dancer:

1. You  have the right to choose your dance studio/teacher. If you have a teacher that makes you feel bad about your body or your abilities, you should voice your concerns and find a new teacher.

2. You have the right to rest when you’re in pain, and not to feel guilty about it. No teacher should allow you to feel bad about sitting out because of an injury.

3. You have the right to do what you want with your summer and off-seasons. Dance teachers and parents may push summer intensives onto you, but if you know you need rest, or have something else in mind that you feel to be more productive and enjoyable, do that thing!

4. You have the right to ignore negative body talk. If teachers, peers, or parents suggest that you don’t have the “right body” for dance, give yourself permission to disregard it.

5. You have the right to a good performance therapist or rehabilitation specialist. One who understands dancers- Their bodies, their needs, and their mindset. Find someone who knows that dance is not the problem, but that a lack of education is. Allow that practitioner educate you on how to keep your body performing pain-free. You have the right to more than just a passive therapy, adjustment, or massage, but to be taught how to integrate this correction into your movement.

6. You have the right to filter the nay-sayers who tell you that dance isn’t a viable career choice, or that a dance degree won’t get you anywhere in life. Whether you get a career in dance or not, dance is a wonderful holistic form of education.

7. You have the right to tell a dance teacher when to not touch you. Dance teachers mean well, and most of the time it is totally OK when they use touch to correct you, but some teachers take it over the top- Forcing you into stretches that are beyond your limit can sometimes harm you, and you must learn to tell them politely to please not do that because it hurts.

8. You have the right to choose how much and how seriously you dance. This may sound silly, but I know there are some dancers out there who are pressured by their parents or teachers to dance more or compete more, when they might only want to pursue dance for fun. Speak up!

9. You have the right not to let the fears of others affect your decisions.  You don’t have to let anyone-teachers, parents, peers- make choices for you. Accept advice and constructive criticism, but if you are making choices to please someone else, it isn’t going to help you.

10. You have the right to drop out of a dance program, change careers, or take 17 years off from dance and not feel bad. Life is crazy and unpredictable- You don’t know where it’s going to take you. Your best dancing days might be in your 40s. If taking a break from dance now means you’ll be able to enjoy dance as an adult, that’s an acceptable choice to make.

Did I miss anything? What other rights do we dancers need to stand up for?

Pronation Isn’t Bad

Pronation Isn’t Bad

Very quick post today, and it’s about ankles and feet.

First, check out these two videos. In particular, check out her front (left) foot/ankle as she performs a split squat. What do you see in the before vs. after?

Well?

I hope you saw what I saw: A big change in the control of her pronation. Rather, an improvement in her ability to limit excessive pronation on the descent, and then successfully re-supinate as she came up.

Just FYI, pronation isn’t bad. You need it for shock absorption. You need it when you dance as a part of turn-out.

In fact, to extend your hips and activate your glutes you need to be able to pronate so that you can then re-supinate, driving hip extension from the ground up.

Much like you need sadness to perceive happiness, darkness to perceive light, you need pronation to perceive re-supination and to extend your hips. Yin and yang baby.

You don’t need orthotics to prevent your foot from pronating (well, sometimes, maybe. But it’s not a long-term solution).

You’re better off working on motor control and training yourself to become an orthotic.

Pronation can become problematic when it happens at the wrong time, in excess, and gets stuck there at rest.

By the same token, anterior tilt isn’t bad. Lumbar hyper-extension isn’t bad. They are  necessary movements for dance and for life.

But they can be troublesome if you’re stuck in one of those positions, or they happen at the inappropriate time. Does your lower back hyperextend doing a sit up? That’s not supposed to happen… But it might if you’re like me, and some other dancers who are stuck in ineffective extension patterns.

Thank you, back-bends and chest breathing.

The time between the first and second videos was about 5-10 minutes. What did we do in that time?

An Anatomy in Motion inspired exercise that looked something (but not exactly) like this:

And we used an AiM wedge under the lateral part of her left foot to coax it to re-supinate at the appropriate time.

How can this help her dancing?

Proper control of pronation and re-supination means glute activation and hip extension will happen at the right times.

For this particular dancer, it means that she’ll be able to save her back by extending at the hip instead of her spine in excess.

It means she’ll have better arch strength and probably be able to point her feet better.

Being able to activate her glutes at the right time means her sore, tight hamstring will be able to relax and feel better.

And one of her main goals for working with me, improving ankle stability for better balance, is likely to become more solid too.

We have a lot of work to do yet, but not bad for a 10 minute experiment, eh?

I’m not an AiM practitoner, but I’ve been playing around with Gary Ward’s concepts, and having some pretty cool results. What happens at the foot is kind of a big deal. If you can find an AiM person near you, I highly recommend it.

The main take-away?

Be aware that pronation isn’t bad. If someone recommends you get orthotics to limit pronation, get a second opinion. Find someone who does AiM and they will teach you how to become your own orthotic.

What do you think?