Safe Dance Report
By Grace Field
Warmups are an essential part of any form of exercise or sport. It’s essential as it reduces the risk of injury and it prepares and eases your body into the exercise. Some incredible benefits include: making the muscles limber and increasing the range of motion at the joints, allows the nerve fibres to work well and efficiently, it makes the heart beat faster and stronger meaning it can redistribute blood to where it is needed much more efficiently, it causes you're breathing to become deeper and faster — increasing your oxygen intake which lowers the amount of lactic acid in your muscles —, and it increases your internal body temperature. However warming up does not just physically prepare your body for a warmup, it mentally prepares you. It gives time to focus and allows the your mind to run over choreography or specific things you need to focus and work on in the up and coming class.
There are a number of activities a dancer needs to include in their warmups for them to be truly prepared for the hard workout ahead, four activities to be exact. These include a mental warmup, a light cardiovascular exercise, mobilisation of the joints and stretching. There are all vital components of the warmup and should not be taken lightly.
Mental Warmup - as mentioned before, prepares your mind and makes you mentally ready for the long task ahead. It allows time to think over choreography and envision your movements and technique.
Static Stretching in a Warm-up
The head should be held high, as if it was floating like a balloon, by lengthening the spine and neck so you can feel that balloon like feeling. The chin should be relaxed so there is no tension in the jaw,
The shoulders should be back with the shoulder blades flat but pulled apart, as if a string was attached to either shoulder and was pulling them apart.
Keep the chest high and open and the abdominals should be lengthening to get as much space between your ribs and hips as possible. This also assists in helping the back to lengthen and straighten.
The pelvis is the centre of gravity in maintaining good posture. It should be pulled through with the weight towards the floor. Don't tilt forwards or backwards as the pelvis needs to be right in the centre.
The legs should be straight and the muscles should be working and pulled up in order to maintain a good balance.
The feet should be spread evenly on the floor with the toes spread so the weight can be evenly distributed.
These are just a few components of maintaining correct alignment. It is wise to undergo a posture check for about five minutes before starting a dance class so the body is ready and is able to maintain that good posture.
Alignment Principles - Elevation
Alignment is essential for the foundation of a jump, it allows you to gain height and it allows you to travel, it also makes the jump look smooth and helps you land softly and not like an awkward elephant!
What allows the jump to work smoothly is the core strength. Maintaining that core strength allows the body to stay strong and connected as you take off and land.
Before a jump, a plié is often undergone, the is allows a more spring and height in the jump. In a plié, the knees need to be turned out, and the feet should also be turned out and supporting the weight. The ankle should not roll in or sickle, instead the should be strengthening through the feet and toes. This allows the feet be used for excellent leverage. While you are preparing make sure your shoulders are in line with each other, and open, so they are not tense. The spine should also be straight with the pelvis pulled through, allowing for a much smoother lift off. The hips should also be inline with the rips and each other. One rib shouldn't be higher than the other as this makes the lower half of the body go out of alignment.
In the lift off, you should push through your heels before jumping, this ensures your feet don't slip and slide on the floor, it also allows more height in the jump. Then lengthen your legs and push off the ground, in order to gain that height, the feet should peel of the ground, lengthening from the heels of the feet to the tips of the toes. The legs should also be beneath the pelvis. The spine should stay straight and the pelvis pulled through. The shoulders need to be open along with the ribs and the hips and rips need to be aligned with each other making a sort of box shape.
When landing a jump, articulating the feet is essential. As many of us may have heard from our teachers 'Toe, Ball, Heel!' However our legs are also very important when landing a jump. The legs should be extended and release on the landing. However the body SHOULD NOT collapse. This would completely make the alignment go out of place, and if you had to do a number of jumps in quick succession, to would take too much time to collapse then have to fix your posture before taking off again. It is important to maintain your posture. The Back should remain straight and not collapse. The feet should remain turned out, the knees also turned out and straight, the ribs and hips in line, pelvis pulled through and shoulders relaxed and open.
Safe Execution of Physical Skills
Balance can also be used in any of the body actions, mostly stillness, in maintaining that balance for an extended period of time; and turning, being able to stay on the one or two feet in the turns. A specific form of a balance could be involved in a turn such as a pirouette, which is a turn on one foot. Balance is essential for this movement, as the core needs to be activated, the pelvis pulled through, the legs to be pulled up and working hard in order to maintain the balance.
Control - Control is also an essential part of dance and is closely tied with balance. It is the ability to maintain muscular strength while partaking in a specific activity or holding a position, most commonly in stillness. It is also used when slowly moving from one position to another. It helps you to be very clear about the specific dance movements you are doing.
In order to maintain control, you, once again, need a strong core stability and good strength in all your muscles.
Stamina - Stamina is related to your physical fitness, it is shown through repeating an exercise or a number of exercise continually without showing that you are tired. It could be a number of jumps like grand jetés or maybe some relevés performed a number of times. This is shown quite commonly through elevation and sometimes locomotion.
It takes a lot of strength and control to be able to maintain your stamina, and it is important to work on it. This could be through daily runs, or physical exercises, or just practising your dances and sequences a number of times. However it is important to ensure that you do not over work all your muscles and make y=sure you take care of your body.
Accurate Execution of Body Actions
Use of Alignment: Using alignment in you dance is probably one of the most important aspects of dance as it makes your dancing so much safer and gives you more control and a sense of elegance and smoothness about you. It makes your movements flow and it feels more comfortable and less awkward and jerky. Alignments helps a dancer perform pretty much any of the Body actions, Gesture, Locomotion, Elevation, Turning, Falling and Stillness. For example in a pirouette, alignment is essential so the turn is performed correctly and safely. It includes a straight plum line through the body so the turn looks straight and the dancer is ably to balance and not turn wildly.
Spotting: Spotting is used most commonly in Turning body actions, as it gives you a focus point which lessens the chances of falling out of a turn and hurting yourself. It also enhances your control and lessens the chances of you getting dizzy. It also helps you control the direction of your more traveling turns, e.g. in chaînés turns.
Spotting is used in turns such as a pirouette, it's good to focus on a solid object on continue to look at it throughout the turn. This allows more focus and control throughout the turn.
Warm up: Warm ups are absolutely essential in any kinds of activity. It allows the body to move from a resting to active state and it increases you blood pressure and the oxygen intake. It also redistributes blood through the muscles in the body. It also allows the nerve fibres to work more effectively, it makes the muscles more pliable, it allows time for the mind to focus and it increases the internal body temperature. This all prepares your body for the hard workout ahead.
Warmups are important for all body actions so they can be performed safely and technically, with a sense of ease. In performing an elevated jump, such as a Grand Jeté, warmup is important as it works the muscles and makes them pliable so the jump is more extended and you can gain more elevation.
Rest: Rest is very important and you need to make sure the injured part is rested immediately to reduce the swelling and prevent the injury from getting worse.
Ice: Ice helps in limiting the swelling and reduces the pain, however do not apply this method to any open wounds or place the ice directly on the skin.
Compression: Compression assists in reducing the swelling even more. A good way to do so is to wrap the injured part with some tape or a bandage.
Elevation: Raise the injured part above the heart so it reduces the blood flow to the injured part.
Diagnosis: Seek some medical attentional and get some professional help.
There are a number of factors, however, that need to be avoided in this situation.
This is also another acronym that spells out H.A.R.M, Heat, Alcohol, Running or any exercises and Massage.
Heat: Applying heat will make the blood vessels in the injury swell causing the swelling of the injured part to swell even more.
Alcohol: Alcohol dehydrates your body and makes the blood rush to the injured part, once again increasing swelling.
Running or any exercise: It is important not to do any exercise until the injury is fully healed. Doing exercise before it is healed will only make it worse and could induce permanent damage.
Massage: Massage also increases the blood flow to the area with also includes the swelling.
Ballistic Stretching: This type of stretching is considered dangerous and potentially harmful and is definitely not advised to perform as a warm up as it includes fast movements through the full range of motion. However it specifically includes going to the end of the range and then bouncing. This type of stretching most likely will lead to an injury as it doesn't allow your muscles to adjust and relax into the stretch. Under these conditions, the muscle could tighten under the sudden stretch, causing it to spasm end then tear. An example of a ballistic stretch is a Grand Battement, throwing the leg into the air and then bringing it back to the ground again. Ensuring you maintain good alignment and keep the action controlled. This stretches the hamstrings. This type of stretching can only be performed after the dancer is well and truly warmed up, perhaps in the middle of the class.
A great way to start the graduated training is with soft and easy movements. Some light exercises. You could even use a pool as the buoyancy in the water allows you to do weight exercises without actually using your full weight. It's best to start with some slow walking and circling your ankle.
If it was a knee injury like a meniscus knee tear it is good to begin with some easy going pool exercises. Just gently walk around building a little bit of strength. It is also a good idea to start with some mobility exercises. These could include heel slides, flexion and extension exercises like bending and stretching your knee. These movements will increase the range of movement in the knee and build, little by little, strength into the knee.
The second stage would be strengthening exercises. These could include half squats and calf raises. These should be performed witting the first or second week of the injury. To continue to build strength you could add weights however do not do it if it causes more pain.
There are more ways to increase agility and strength in the knee by doing agility drills which could include agility ladders and small hurdles, or you could do plyometric exercises, which are strengthening exercises involving jumping and hopping movements. However this is advised to do after the knee is healed and you aim to bring it back to it's previous state as doing this while still injured could result in only worsening your injury.
Move with Awareness of Others
Staggering: This allows more space for each dancer to move in. It is done by moving every second dancer forward or back. This limits the danger of collisions and is also simply etiquette and shows good spacial awareness.
Forward and Around*: This technique is used mostly in forward traveling exercises. One group will perform the choreography, walk towards the front split on either side and walk along the edges of the room so the next group can begin the choreography and not be disturbed. It is a much better alternative than just turning around and walking back through the lines as this will disrupt the class.