Dancer Wellness Resources in the Philadelphia Area – A discussion, Part II

ManWoman

by Janine Bryant for The Dance Journal

Given that performing dance itself elicits only limited stimuli for positive fitness adaptations, it is not surprising that professional dancers often demonstrate values similar to those obtained from healthy sedentary individuals of comparable age in key fitness-related parameters. In contrast, recent data on male and female dancers revealed that supplementary exercise training can lead to improvements of such fitness parameters and reduce incidents of dance injuries without interfering with key artistic and aesthetic requirements. It seems, however, that strict selection and training regimens have succeeded in transforming dance to an activity practiced by individuals who have selectively developed different flexibility characteristics compared to athletes. Body weight targets are normally met by low energy intakes, with female dance students and professional ballerinas reported to consume below 70% and 80% of the recommended daily allowance of energy intake, respectively, while the “female athlete triad” of disordered eating, amenorrhea, and osteoporosis is now well recognized and is seen just as commonly in dancers. An awareness of these factors will help dancers and their teachers to improve training techniques, to employ effective injury prevention strategies, and to determine better physical conditioning.{1}

The above abstract is from a 2004 paper addressing dancers as performing athletes.  When considering dancers as athletes, there are key categories that we should address such as training regimens, strength, flexibility, body weight, anatomical limitations, energy intake (i.e. diet), and injury prevention strategies. The ultimate goal for dancers is to be able to deliver an excellent, injury-free performance.  In this second installment of a two-part article, we will take a further look into dancer wellness resources in the Philadelphia area that may help dancers reach their performance goals.

Dancers know what works for their bodies. Many dancers utilize cross-training regimens in order to address anatomical limitations, flexibility and strength deficits and to prevent injury.  In a study from 2008, dancers’ training characteristics were studied.  Through a survey, the study found that the most common techniques that dancers used to cross-train were Pilates (private, mat, or group classes), followed by yoga, and then upper body weightlifting.{2}  There are other techniques that dancers also use in order to stay on top of their game. The following is a short list of resources that dancers in our area can access in order to address their cross-training needs. Special thanks to those who wrote in with suggestions!

Yoga: Yoga is helpful for increasing flexibility. Flexibility is an important element of physical fitness. It is crucial in complimenting muscular strength, building efficiency in movement, coordination, and preventing injuries. Holding muscles in a stretched position for a prolonged amount of time causes the muscle fibers to become accustomed to the new length, therefore increasing flexibility. {3} The following link to yelp.com provides additional links to three top Yoga studios in our area, Amrita Yoga and Wellness, Philly Power Yoga and Studio 34.  Reviews of each studio are provided here: http://www.yelp.com/c/philadelphia/yoga.

Pilates:  Many dancers utilize Pilates to cross-train for conditioning, flexibility and strength. The 2013 award winner of Best Pilates Studio in Philadelphia was Star Pilates: http://www.starpilatesphilly.com/.  There are other Pilates studios in our area as well:  Urban Front Pilates (www.urbanfrontpilates.com), Center Point Pilates (www.cpointpilates.com) and Thrive Pilates (www.thrivepilatesphiladelphia.com)

The Alexander Technique:   This technique can be employed to maintain good physical health and is a great method for improving awareness of tension, alignment and movement habits that can cause excess wear and tear, lead to injuries or interfere with optimal movement and performance.  It is taught with a gentle touch that instantly invites a dancer to feel where there is tension, tightness or holding in the body so it can be released.  The body realigns naturally without effort.  A student learns to articulate joints properly and support movement from the center and the ground.  Breathing becomes freer and fuller.  A constructive rest position is taught to practice daily to let the body rest as well as release deeply held tension.  A great local resource for this technique is Jano Cohen: http://www.alexandertechnique-teacher.com/.

The Feldenkrais Method:  Learning to move with less effort makes daily life easier. Because the Feldenkrais Method focuses on the relationship between movement and thought, increased mental awareness and creativity accompany physical improvements. Everyone, from athletes and artists to administrators and attorneys, can benefit from the Feldenkrais Method. Follow this link to a listing of Feldendrais practitioners in the Philadelphia area:  http://www.feldenkrais.com/practitioners/find/browse/USA/PA/Philadelphia/.

Myofascial Release: Myofascial Release is a very effective hands-on technique that provides sustained pressure into myofascial restrictions to eliminate pain and restore motion. The theory of Myofascial Release requires an understanding of the fascial system (or connective tissue). Follow this link to a listing of Myofascial Release practitioners in Pennsylvania: http://mfrtherapists.com/listings/?state=PA&country=US.

Dancers can also utilize the techniques of Gyrokinesis and Gyrotonics to build strength or increase range of motion. While Gyrotonics uses equipment to build strength and flexibility, Gyrokinesis focuses on the articulation of the spine, and all you need is a stool and a mat. Both are conditioning systems that start with tiny movements designed to wake the body up and progress to larger, more energetic exercises, delivering a thorough warm-up over 60 to 90 minutes. – See more at: http://www.dancemagazine.com/issues/June-2012/Your-Body-Sit-Down.

There is also a book I highly recommend as an excellent addition to every dancer’s library: Hamilton, Linda, PhD, The Dancer’s Way, The New York City Ballet’s Guide to Mind, Body and Nutrition, St. Martin’s Griffin, 2008.  This link to The Dancer’s Way also provides information and links to Dr. Hamilton’s other two books, which address the emotional and psychological needs of dancers: http://www.drlindahamilton.com/books.html.

The above listing is by no means complete, but will hopefully aid dancers who are looking for resources in the Philadelphia area find the support they need or at least get a running start in the right direction!  Next month, we will take a look at the subject of nutrition and the female athlete triad of disordered eating, amenorrhea and osteoporosis and its effects on strength and recovery.

Until next time, dance healthy and strong, friends!

Janine Bryant
Co-Director of Dance
Faculty of Biokinetics, Education
and the Campolo College for Graduate and Professional Studies
Eastern University, St. David’s Pa.

jbryant3@eastern.edu

IADMS

 

1. Koutedakis, Y, Fitness for Dance, Journal of Dance Medicine and Science, Vol. 9, (1), 2005.

2. Weiss, DS MD, et al, A Profile of the Demographics and Training Characteristics of Professional Modern Dancers,  Journal of Dance Medicine and Science, Vol. 12, (2), 2008.

3. Irvine, S, et al, Dance Fitness, Journal of Dance Medicine and Science, ©2011 IADMS and Sarah Irvine, M.Sc., Emma Redding, Ph.D., and Sonia Rafferty, M.Sc.

 

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