Injuries: Shin Splints

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket (From the Mayo Clinic.)

Shin splints are a drag. Plain and simple. Irish dance is all about being on the toes and jumping/hopping almost continually, all of which is just asking for shin splints. I wonder if there is a higher incidence of shin splints in ID since the technique requires that the heels never contact the floor?

As usual, there are many things that can contribute to a dancer getting shin splints, but along with the rehabilitation and treatment options, there is really only one cure when you get them…rest. No dancer wants to hear that, but it is a fact. And then once the pain is gone, besides starting activity again slowly and carefully, there are things that need to be evaluated and addressed so that the shin splints do not return, and that requires a professional. See an orthopedic doctor to make sure all is well…spill your guts about your shoes and the floors you dance on. And then head off to a sports therapist or trainer. Shin splints do not have to be a chronic problem.

I found this great definition at HealthCareClinic.org: “Splints (Periostitis) – The term shin splints is a common misnomer in sports medicine. It does not imply a specific diagnosis, rather it is the symptom of pain over the front of the tibia bone. The pain from shin splints can be due to either problems of the muscles, the bone, or the attachment of the muscle to the bone. Therefore, ‘shin splints’ is simply the name given to pain over the front of the lower leg.”

The more common technical phrase for shin splints is “medial tibial stress syndrome.” Other problems such as posterior compartment syndrome and stress fractures can also cause shin pain.

Shin splints are very often caused by an overload on the tendons and connective tissues that attach the muscles of the lower leg to the shin bone, the tibia, causing inflammation and pain. For dancers, this overload can be caused by jumping back into vigorous exercise after there has been a lay off and dancing as if one is still in peak form. It can be caused by dancing on concrete floors. It can be caused by bad posture that contributes to leg misalignment. It can be caused by medially rotated hip joints, knock-knees, flat feet, feet with really high arches, and loose ligaments in the foot and ankle that allow hyper-pronation. It can be caused by not rotating from the hip sockets as this encourages hyper-pronation. It can be caused by tight calf muscles and an imbalance of the relative strength between the muscles of the lower leg. In this same vein, a rapidly growing dancer in peak form might develop some symptoms because of the difference in growth rates of the bones and muscles…bones grow first, muscles catch up.

In my experience as a dancer and teacher, I have found that one huge contributor to shin splints is over- or hyper-pronation of the foot. Pronation happens when you roll your foot inward, dropping your arch closer to the floor. Hyper-pronation is very common in dancers who force their turn-out from their knees and ankles. Forced turn-out results in habitual hyper-pronation which sets a dancer up for shin splints (as well as big toe joint pain, bunions, fallen arches/plantar fascia pain, knee problems, etc, etc, etc). Landing from jumps does involve some pronation as it is part of the landing mechanism of the foot, but over-pronation, loose ligaments, flat feet, or even arches that are too high all mess with the landing mechanism (the sequence of events in the foot) which puts tremendous strain on the lower leg muscles and all the connective tissues which then pull on the tibia. And once again, because we women have wider hips, the angles of the applied forces used to jump and land are more acute which exacerbates the problem…translation, women and girls are more prone to shin splints just as they are to knee and hip problems.

Obviously, the sheer pain of shin splints can and will stop a dancer in her tracks. So, taking care of them is paramount. But there are those who want to be brave, who want to dance through the pain. Please don’t. Stress fractures can result if shin splints do not heal and the underlying causes are not addressed, and then you are on to a whole new set of problems that take even longer to heal. The Mayo Clinic advises that you should “[c]onsult your doctor if rest, ice and over-the-counter pain relievers don’t ease your shin pain. Seek prompt medical care if:

*Severe pain in your shin follows a fall or accident
*Your shin is hot and inflamed
*Swelling in your shin seems to be getting worse
*Shin pain persists during rest

So, how do we prevent shin splints?

1) If you are coming back after a break, start slowly. We like to go at it gang busters as if we never stopped, and your body will oblige you because of the sheer excitement of being back in class. But you will pay by being very sore and by perhaps setting the shin splint train in motion.

2) Make sure there is an adequate calcium intake, especially for growing children and girls going through puberty. I am a firm believer in calcium supplements (unless there are kidney issues).

3) Warm up well and correctly, add more strengthening exercises for the lower leg such as slow releves (click here for more info) and this one with a partner:

Sitting on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, pull your toes back so they are pointing up to the ceiling.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Partner, put your hands on the top of the feet and try to make the feet move to a pointed position while your sitting partner resists you. You are pulling your hands towards you while your partner’s feet are pulling against your hands, pulling towards them. Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

This helps strengthen the muscles at the front of the leg. Do this 10 times, holding for a count of 10, and then relax in between. (My wimpy model, Maggie, started whining that this was hard…guess we should be doing these regularly.)

4) STRETCH!!! Go here for pics of the 3 most effective stretches. I always did these with my students before class gently, and then again at the end, though we did the stretch for the front of the leg differently than it shows in the link. The third stretch in the series that stretches the front of the lower leg is a great one. And I like the fact that it is shown being done while sitting. This puts you totally in charge of the stretch. Just make sure your foot is aligned correctly with your lower leg…see pic #3 below.

That same lower front leg stretch can be done GENTLY with your partner after the exercise I illustrated above.

First, for both of you, identify the straight point position.

#1 – This is an inverted/sickled pointed position. This is incorrect.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

When you are stretching make sure the foot is not sickled as in #1 above and as it is in this pic below.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

#2 – This is an everted/winged position. While this can be a desirable position (in ballet in particular), I feel it trains the foot to habituate a hyper-pronated position. To me, this is incorrect.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

No matter your feeling on winging, when you are stretching make sure the foot is not everted as in #2 above and as it is in this pic below.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

#3- This is a wonderfully aligned foot. Good point, nice straight line down the shin through the foot.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

That is the position in which I GENTLY stretch the foot through its point. Notice in the pic below that I am using two hands. I grasp the foot and gently pull it towards me as I slowly stretch the foot out and then down. Do not simply press down as that will compress the ankle and heel. You will know you are doing it correctly when your dancer sighs and says, “Oh Mama, that feels so good…aahhh.”
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

They will feel a nice gentle stretch above and below where I am indicating here on Maggie’s shin.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

5) If you do pronate, you should consider arch supports. you can buy them at the drugstore, but I personally would talk to a professional about getting orthotics that are built just for you. It is SO worth the time and expense to safeguard your dancing body.

Something to think about if your pronate your feet is that if your shoes are stretched out they are offering no real support for your feet, even if you do have arch supports. Loose shoes and dancing should not go together.

6) If you do dance on concrete floors, please get some thick insoles for your shoes, soft and hard alike. I personally love the gel insoles. More padding in the shoe means more safety for the dancer.

Ok. So…you have been the model of responsible dancer health, but you have been hit with shin pain. It is the first night after your first class after a long vacation. Or you have been growing. Or you have been working on a new floor. Or you are working harder on your turn-out. Or you are just plain working as hard as you can for the coming Oireachtas. Damn. Now what?

R.I.C.E.R. This is rest (R), ice(I), compression(C), elevation(E), and getting that referral (R) for the necessary medical treatment. This is ALL so important. In my book, REST (meaning, NO DANCING!) is most important whether we like it or not. ICE alleviates pain as well as inflammation. COMPRESSION (ace bandage or taping) and ELEVATION (above the hip joint) both help to alleviate inflammation as fluids are directed out of the affected area. Anti-inflammatory over-the-counter medications like Ibuprofen (Tylenol is not an anti-inflammatory medication even though it is a pain killer) help this process as it alleviates the swelling as well as the pain. And then, to stop the shin splints train, REFER this problem to an expert: an orthopedic doctor, a sports medicine doctor, a sports therapist. There must be an analysis of any misalignment and pronation, and then professional direction for correction through strengthening, stretching, taping, and adding orthotics if needed. If dancing is important to you, take shin pain seriously.

More resources: I have to say here that the best information I found came from sports or running sites. The dance sites, except for Harkness, were incomplete, derivative, and frustratingly crunchy-granola. Please feel free to send more links to me.

Wikipedia: Shin Splints – excellent, though very technical, explanation of the causes of shin splints, how misalignment of the foot causes the muscles to work in an imbalanced way which puts excess stress on the tissue connecting to the tibia.

Harkness

The Stretching Handbook

The Runner’s Web

Google it…there is so much on the web it makes my head spin.

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"Dear An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha…"

There have been interesting conversations happening about what Irish dance teachers should know in terms of body mechanics and kinesiology. There are strong feelings on both sides of that fence. Links to this blog have been posted a couple of times on the TCRG exam board…but they were removed because dance kinesiology and even the discussion of whether or not ID teachers should know this information is not currently relevant to taking the ID teaching exam. Fair enough.

I was interested in what is required to pass the TCRG (teaching) exam. This is from the syllabus at http://www.tcrgexam.9k.com/:

The examination consists of six sections as follows:-
(a) practical test in stepdancing
(b) written ceili dancing test
(c) practical test in teaching ceili dancing
(d) practical test in teaching stepdancing
(e) written music test
(f) oral Irish language test (optional if candidate lives outside Ireland).

The syllabus also includes detailed information on each section of the exam: TCRG Exam components

Very, very thorough and intense examination process. When certified, TCRGs are rather incredible resources for Irish dance history…by the very act of certification, the Irish dance historical survival is ensured. Fantastic.

So what about addressing the current situation in which contemporary ID teachers are leading ID forward by continuing to introduce innovative steps into Irish dance which is making it more athletic and changing it from being simply a folk dance form, as many folks call Irish dance?

That being said, I looked up the definition of folk dance. Wikipedia says this:

Folk dance is a term used to describe a large number of dances, mostly of European origin, that tend to share the following attributes:

1) They were originally danced in about the 19th century or earlier (or are, in any case, not currently
copyrighted);

2) Their performance is dominated by an inherited tradition rather than by innovation;
3) They were danced by common people and not exclusively by aristocracy;

4) They have been developed spontaneously and there is no governing body that has final say over what “the dance” is or who is authorized to teach it. This also means that no one has the final say over the definition of folk dance or the minimum age for such dances.
 

Some other definitions also state clearly that folk dance forms have evolved without the benefit of a choreographer… I think this is another way of saying that folk dances “develop spontaneously.”(For more great definitions and resources, click here.)

 

So does Irish dance qualify as a folk dance?

Of course it does. Irish dance encompasses ceili dancing, set dancing, and sean nós as well as step dancing. The first three forms definitely satisfy the criteria above…except for the “governing body” part, but I will get to that in a moment. Irish dance does have a rather long history of dancing masters who developed their own steps…I read somewhere that these dancing masters had their “territories,” areas where only they taught dance and others were not welcome. I have also read that sometimes dancing masters were kidnapped to teach in new areas…gotta love the Irish! So, although there is this idea that folk dance “develops spontaneously” (sounds like the myth of the fruit fly!), except for the improvisational forms (i.e. sean nós) someone, somewhere “choreographed” the dances, even if it was by committee over a long period of time or, as with the Irish, the dancing masters who helped spread the tradition.

Now, this “governing body” idea… I looked up a few things to see if other folk dance forms have programs to certify teachers. Yes they do exist, though I did not find any that were as big and organized as the CLRG (An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha). But it does seem as if folk dance certifying bodies are all interested in preserving their own dance form’s history, just as CLRG is.

This is a wonderful thing, of course, but it makes me smile because of its irony. There is a peculiar characteristic of the Irish (not that it does not exist in other cultures, but being Irish meself, this has familial implications as well)…if I had to describe ONE trait that seems to be genetic in the Irish, it is our contentious individual independence. “You wanna tell me what to do? Go suck a lemon!!!” When was the one time that Ireland was unified under one leader? The early 11th century under Brian Boru, and that only lasted about 12 years! But, threaten me, challenge me, and then my brothers and sisters will stand right behind me…we’ll unify!! My father always talked about how my siblings and I would fight and tease each other mercilessly, but as soon as one of us was in need, the wagons would circle, no questions asked. Being fractious is an Irish trait, for better and for worse.

And yet, we have had CLRG since 1930. It was established by the Conradh na Gaeilge (the Gaelic League) which itself was created in 1893 to preserve the Irish language. And I am guessing that the motivation behind this was to unite against those who would deprive the Irish of their culture… circle the wagons as the oppressed are wont to do. And Irish dance has flourished.

So, the folk dance angle…yes, I see most of ID as fitting into the folk dance category, even if we do have a “governing body” (can’t do EVERYTHING like everyone else!). But, is Irish step-dancing still classified as folk dance? Is step dancing “dominated by an inherited tradition rather than by innovation,” as stated above? No, innovation now seems to be the order of the day.

I have not been able to find that the CLRG states that Irish dance is a folk art, yet folks argue that CLRG is only there to certify the teachers on their historical knowledge of this folk dance form. One cannot compete at feiseanna unless one’s teacher is certified by the CLRG. (I know there are other ID organizations…)

But Irish step dancing is no longer folk dance. Innovations are happening at an ever-increasing rate. Fantastic. No problem. But, as any dance form evolves, so should the teachers. The first section of the TCRG exam is a “practical test in stepdancing” followed later by a “practical test in teaching stepdancing.” If what is being tested is the historical knowledge of what are considered to be the traditional steps, why are teachers not restricted to using only traditional steps in their choreography for competitions? If having the teacher certification is so important, and they are not restricted in this manner, then who is governing the step innovations, making sure that teachers know how to teach them? In order to get the certification, don’t teachers have to demonstrate that they themselves know and can perform the traditional steps? So why do they not have to know and be able to perform all of the new steps that are now being used in solo Irish dancing? Is that not within the purview of the CLRG?

I do not fault the CLRG for the state of things, but since it is such a strong presence in ID, is it not now time to step up to the plate and address the very serious issue of their certified teachers knowing how to safely and correctly teach students how to perform the new steps, the tricks that have been borrowed from other dance forms? There are many ID teachers who have taken it upon themselves to be educated in anatomy and kinesiology, but what about those who haven’t, those who say that since the CLRG does not require it they do not need to know it?

This is from the exam syllabus:

14. Rince Aonair: Stepdancing Teaching Test

…Amongst the qualities taken into account in assessing a candidate’s capabilities in this section are:-
(1) Instruction (should be clear, concise and suitable for those under instruction);
(2) Clarity and audibility of instructions;
(3) Ability to demonstrate and break down steps;
(4) Selection of suitable steps;
(5) Manner of handling dancers;
(6) Identification and correction of faults.

The CLRG DOES want to know that a teacher can identify and correct faults…but since only certain traditional steps are identified on the syllabus, those are the only steps the exam candidates worry about.

Since the CLRG already has a teaching evaluation as part of the exam, can they not start to include some of the harder steps (toe stands, changement, entrechat, etc…) that have made their way into mainstream ID into this evaluation along with rocks, cross keys, trebles, etc? CLRG did make a ruling against toe stands for dancers under 12. To me, that means that the organization has acknowledged that toe stands have made it into mainstream ID. Is CLRG evaluating their teacher candidates on their ability to correctly evaluate whether or not their students are ready to execute toe stands and then how to teach them safely?

Now, this does not address the issue of dance teachers being fully educated in human movement, but it would be a start. Adding another component in this area would be quite an enterprise and one that CLRG may not want to take on. Perhaps in the future a class in kinesiology or injury prevention & rehabilitation will be required in order to take the exam. That is simple enough.

Here’s my plea:

Dear An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha,
Irish dance is changing, and you have a significant place in this growth as either a support for innovation or as a brake to keep ID traditional. Your certified teachers, the wonderful repositories of Irish dance history, are moving forward as many believe they should. They trust you. You have created an excellent exam…if innovation is to be encouraged, please think about including other elements to be tested in the step dancing portions. Please consider requiring a class in kinesiology, or anatomy, or injury prevention & rehabilitation before a candidate can take the TCRG exam. Please add your authoritative voice to this discussion.

Sincerely,

me

Click for more kinesiology info: Dance Kinesiology
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Morning Musings

I wear one of those magnetic copper bracelets from Sergio Lub. I first heard of them many years ago, but never had one until this past spring when I bought one while I was in Louisiana to teach at the stage combat workshop. Even though my hips were better at that point (meaning, I was not reduced to crutches at that point), I was still walking with a pronounced and embarrassing limp. When I cannot walk well I wish I had the nerve to carry around a squirt gun so that I could nail people in the chests with a cold stream of water when they look at me with such pity…irritates the hell out of me. And being around a bunch of athletic and sensitive stage combatants, some of whom knew me in my dancing heyday, makes my irritation worse because I have to keep answering concerned questions about what is wrong with me.

So, I had escaped and went exploring the little town. In a very cool pottery shop named Follette’s (very dangerous place for me), I found one of the Sergio bracelets and took a chance on the idea that a copper bracelet might help my joints.

Sometime in late July, Meave looked at me under her brow, as she does when she is thinking, and said, “You don’t limp anymore, Mama.” Holy cow, she was right. I was walking like a normal person…and there was no pain. The rest of the joints in my body were also pain-free and I had more range of motion. I had not been without pain since my illness in 2000… could it be the bracelet?

I have been thoroughly enjoying this these past couple of months…I have actually walked Meave to the bus stop. Our little neighbor looked at me and asked how come I did not drive like I did all last year, and Meave said (loudly) that I could walk now. It’s been great…until day before yesterday. Twinges. And this morning, walking Maggie to the bus was very hard.

So, starting to evaluate myself…again. Since I was ill, I have been obsessed with understanding what happened to my body and what I was left with. Interesting that I have had these past few months be so easy physically…could it really have been the bracelet? And why is it ending?

Thinking I will start with core strengthening and stretching…I will detail my studies and progress here. More later.

Ignorant Dance Teachers

(Someone has been irked by this post, so she ANONYMOUSLY accused me of making MANY assumptions in this post and insinuated that I did not understand the difference between ID and ballet training… obviously not a regular reader of this blog. As I state at the beginning of the post below, I was sent off on this rant by a post on dance.net, but day after day I receive emails from parents and dancers asking for help, recounting their stories and their injuries. Up until now my dance kinesiology posts have been about the body as a way to encourage dancers and parents to take responsibility for their own body knowledge. I have been thinking that I should also say clearly that it should be the professional responsibility of every dance teacher, no matter the discipline, to understand the human body and how it moves. So, I say it now.)

Ok, can’t take it anymore…got up this morning, perused the web a bit to wake up, and unhappily came upon this:

“im 19 and have been dancing since i was 4. I have beautifully turned out feet but recently i have been getting serious pains in my knees and ankles. i went to an orthopedic who was shocked at how bad my leg alignment had become, presumably from ID. I was always told to ‘push my ankles forward’ in order to turn out my feet. Nothing was ever mentioned about my hips. I have never heard anything about using my hips. This might be the underlying cause to my problems. can anyone please shed some light on what i’m supposed to be doing with my hips when turning out my feet and trebling etc??? Any advice is welcome.”

PUSH FORWARD IN THE ANKLES TO TURN OUT!!??!! NEVER HEARD ABOUT USING HER HIPS!!??!! This teaching stupidity is stunning. Poor thing!

Why is any ignorant moron allowed to mess with young developing bodies just because they call themselves a “dance teacher”???!!!

I have always had a problem with bad teaching, regardless of the subject matter. I have walked out of many lectures, workshops, studio classes and university courses…I make no bones about ill-prepared lecturers, lazy presenters, and ignorant “teachers” of all kinds, no matter the guru they profess themselves to be. As a university professor, I probably shocked many a student when I would take their former teachers’ ignorant and dangerous ideas and teaching methods to task. What inflamed me more than anything were the “chronic injuries” that dancers owned as if they were badges of honor…these injuries were a sign of bad teaching, of damage done to them by ignorant teachers… they were not good things!!

Dance teachers work with the human body, therefore they should know how it is put together, how it works. They should know the bones and their articulations. They should know how each and every joint is constructed and how it is meant to move. They should understand the role of bony formations and ligaments in supporting and restricting movement in the joints. They should know the difference between ligaments and tendons and muscles, and they should know what bursae are for. They should know how muscles work by acting as the forces that move the levers that we call bones. They should know how muscles create movement by working with or against gravity. They should know the physics of jumping, turning, kicking, leaping, etc, etc, etc. They should understand correct skeletal alignment and effective and safe dance posture inside and out!

They should know how turn-out is accomplished if they want their students to use it. They should know how to strengthen a dancer’s legs and feet, and that it takes a few years of concentrated, specific training before a dancer should be put en pointe. They should understand how much stronger an Irish dancer’s feet really should be to perform toe stands in shoes that are not supportive or designed for such a maneuver. Irish dance teachers should understand the particular demands that the very specific Irish dance technique places on the body…the fact that dancers’ heels are not to contact the floor and that their knees are always to appear straight is very stressful on the legs. The fact that they are required to jump with out the benefit of the full use of the foot lever OR the arms requires unbelievable strength. They should understand the stretching that should be a MATTER OF COURSE for any dancer. If Irish dance teachers are going to continue to borrow movements from other dance techniques (ballet, in particular), then they themselves should be taking classes so THEY are trained to perform these steps. What has ID taken from ballet? Changement, entrechat quatre & six, cabriole, pique, pas de bourree, gargouillade…don’t know what these are? Then why are you trying to teach them to your students!!!!??

It should be a GIVEN that dance teachers understand the human body completely! Period.

There are bad teachers in every dance form. The mind set that the art of dance and the science of dance are mutually exclusive was quaint 75 years ago when the dance star of the day was no better than the average intermediate-advanced student of today. But as the athleticism of dance advances, so should our understanding of movement, of motion. The dance training needs to be more specific, more careful, more focused as we try to defy gravity in more and more complex and innovative ways because the HUMAN BODY DOES NOT CHANGE AS THE DANCE FORMS EVOLVE!!! Our bodies are put together the same way they were 50, 100, 1000, 10,000 years ago. This is not new news…so why is knowledge of the human body not a given?

If your dance teacher will not take responsibility for your body, then you take it. And find a new teacher. Good ones do exist.

Click for more kinesiology info: Dance Kinesiology
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Dance Kinesiology and the Art of Dance

Kinesiology is the study of human movement. It is the study of how the human body is put together and its mechanics. It is the study of the bones and muscles and the physics of motion. (There is also something else called Applied Kinesiology…but that is a crunchy-granola, “dysfunctional energy pathways” approach that I do not believe in.) Kinesiology encompasses biomechanics which is “the field of study which makes use of the laws of physics and engineering concepts to describe motion of body segments, and the forces [both internal and external] which act upon them during activity.”AIMBE

Dance Kinesiology is the same study of factual human movement within the context of the complex art of dance movement.

My story: My first exposure to the fact that science might have a place in dance, was when Patrice Whiteside came to substitute for my ballet teacher Tricia Kaye (the founder of KD Dids) when I was about 15. In a few short days, I got more practical advice about how to use my body than I had in my entire life. Patrice was responsible for me becoming one of those students who asked why and how…drove some of my teachers nuts. But at 15 it occurred to me that if it can be DONE, there is an explanation for HOW. I wanted to know HOW and was usually very frustrated by the lack of information (and patience!) that my teachers could offer.

My first formal kinesiology class – sports kinesiology – was as an undergraduate dancer at The University of California at Riverside. Although I am sure that Sally Sevey Fitt was well on her way to becoming THE dance kinesiology guru (there is NO info on her specifically that I can find), the field of dance kinesiology had not been widely established when I went to college. Our department chair, though, felt there was value in her dancers learning about the science of movement, and we girly dancers had to join the shocked jocks in a physical education lecture course. My fellow students hated every minute of learning about swinging a bat, throwing a ball, running, moving in the various planes, but I was enthralled. I had the ability to translate this info into dance, and I was hooked. Here were the reasons, the whys and wherefores of human movement no matter the movement style or form. This was not about any specific movement technique, this was biomechanics. My dancing and my teaching changed immediately as I regarded movement as not a style but as manipulation of my bones by my muscles through space, with and against gravity. Sounds dry, I know….but I was in heaven! I finally had a framework for everything I was doing and teaching.

My kinesiology studies went on through the years as I studied everything I could get my hands on. I took a few more sports kinesiology courses because there were no dance kinesiology course being taught anywhere that I could find except at the University of Utah with Ms. Fitt. I was on my own. But, I did encounter so many other experts in other body therapies and techniques, all of whom became integral parts of my developing framework for understanding human movement: Alexander Technique, Feldenkreis, Neuro-muscular Re-alignment, Labanalysis, Labanotation, Dance Therapy, Body Mapping, Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation, Physical Therapy, etc. It all fit in. I had started collecting books on sports kinesiology, anatomy, biomechanics, stretching, injury prevention and rehabilitation, movement analysis, etc. And then I discovered Sally Sevey Fitt’s book, Dance Kinesiology. There it all was! In black and white! Everything I had discovered on my own was true!! It became my bible.

So, when I got my first university position when I was 25, I wanted to teach dance kinesiology. It complemented my studio dance courses. My students soared, and I was the happiest teacher on the planet.

What value does the study of dance kinesiology hold? It teaches dancers about their bodies: how they are constructed, how they are meant to move, how they are NOT meant to move, how movement is produced and/or restricted, how to use gravity. Is it a complex field of study? Yes and no. There are so many “things” to be learned, yes, but the basic concepts, once mastered, give a dancer a framework for evaluating and analyzing any and all movement challenges.

The body is the dancer’s instrument…how can it truly be used to its full potential if it is not understood? Over the years, I have encountered arguments that all resemble this one: one does not need to know how a car is constructed to drive it. Give me a break…does your driving teacher tell you that you can drive really fast by pushing on the brake? This is illogical, right? Well, the body functions in an extremely logical manner, and dance teachers should know the logic! Instead, dancers are routinely told to do things that essentially work against actual body mechanics, against the logic of body construction. A few of my favorites are: “Squeeze your butt muscles to turn out your legs!”, “Lift your arms using your (middle) back muscles!”, “Tuck your pelvis!”, “Lift your leg from underneath!”, and in Irish dance, “Knees forward, toes out!” Even if the students do not know dance kinesiology, it should be a GIVEN that a dance teacher does. Then, a dance student would be getting nothing but correct information.

Sometime in my graduate studies I encountered the discussion about the art of dance vs. the science of dance. I remember not understanding why there was a discussion at all. Understanding my body meant that I could dance my best which meant that the “art” of the dance was clearly illustrated. If a body is performing at its peak, would not the art be best served?

Rather than going off on my own rant about how science and art are not at odds, here is an excerpt from a wonderful article I found once:

‘“Science helps us to understand, to make sense, of the world in which we live. It helps us to understand ourselves. So does art,” Andrade says. “Scientists ask questions, design experiments, make observations, and try to develop answers or understanding of the questions asked. So do artists.”

It’s hard to break a stereotype, however. Scientists and artists, many believe, have as much in common as Dilbert and Salvador Dali.

Engineers, represented in the popular comic strip, are thought of as “left-brained,” meaning they are unemotional, mathematical, exact, and logical. Artists, such as the Spanish painter, have the reputation as being “right-brained,” or creative, spontaneous – even impractical.

“Not quite,” says Andrade, who is driven to debunk the myth. “Scientists and engineers are also very creative – generally the more creative, the more mathematical, logical, and highly experimental.”

Artists often begin a work with a creative vision, undoubtedly stemming from the right hemisphere of the brain, which governs creativity. But the act itself of drawing, painting or composing is a step-by-step process requiring memorizing patterns of logical thought processed by the left hemisphere, the side of physics. Conversely, just as artistry is augmented by input from the left-brain hemisphere sequence, scientific thought depends upon right-sided inspiration, says author Leonard Shlain.’

The rest of the article is well worth the read: What Leonardo Knew

There is another section that reads: McDermott’s own math professors chided him for taking art classes. And his sculpting instructors questioned his decision to spend less time honing his art to crack math texts.”

This was my experience in high school and college. My favorite encounter with a rare teacher in graduate school who got a kick out of my diverse studies went like this:

(This was a math class I took for fun with pre-med students, and the teacher said this loudly for the benefit of the class.) “So, Ann…I see you got ANOTHER A on this test…” Here I began blushing furiously and painfully.

“What’s your major again?”

“Dance,” I whispered, wanting to disappear.

“What? Say it louder!”

“DANCE!”

“Yep, that’s what I thought!” she said as she looked around the class and began a mini-lecture on how many students were failing this required class.

I was mortified…but got over it as she smiled and winked at me. I realized she was not making fun of me, and we had a great conversation after class. She was fascinated by my interests.

Over the years, I began to understand how my right and left brains complemented and supported each other. Fascinating stuff. I took the collaboration of the parts of my brain for granted. It has helped me understand my children and their learning styles.

And only solidified my standing on the art vs science argument…there isn’t one.

Click for more kinesiology info: Dance Kinesiology

Uh-oh…

I think I may have been dissed. The following was written in response to someone ranting a bit about the “sage” advice that is given on dance,net: “The anti dance.net poster has read taoknitter@blogspot.com. That makes her an expert. About the same as the rest of us who read stuff somewhere and take it as gospel.”

Not sure how I should read that…tried reading it from a couple of different head angles…did I get dissed? Having a good chuckle…

Do I look askance at most of what passes for “advice” on dance.net? Yes, I do. Lately, though, there are more posters who feel secure enough to offer carefully considered responses as opposed to the fairy tales involving clenched butt muscles and snake oil. These responders usually tell the dancer needing help to find a professional to TALK to. Karma to them.

I feel the need to re-iterate a statement from my last post:

“So where to go for help when it is needed? There is so much information on anatomy on the web. I will continue to write about the dancing body. There are books galore. But here’s the rub…this information needs to be READ and STUDIED to be understood. That means a reader must take responsibility for the information. A single reading of any source is not enough to understand it. But most importantly, finding someone to talk to IN PERSON is the only safe way to have a problem evaluated. Period. No amount of online advice is going to fully address any issue.”

In case I was not clear the first time, one reading of anything, my blog posts included, does not mean you understand it. I have been told that my kinesiology posts are dense and even overwhelming…I contemplated dumbing them down to make for easier reading, but for what purpose? As it is, there are things that I do not include, but I figure if someone is truly inspired to know more, she/he will start doing research, ask more questions, take a class, seek out a professional for a one-on-one consultation…study, study, study.

Does reading my blog make anyone an expert? No. But I am hoping you might feel inspired to become one.

Click for more kinesiology info: Dance Kinesiology

Asking for help

There have been so many posts lately on the various boards all asking for help with turn-out, foot strength and flexibility, pain of all kinds, etc. Links to the kinesiology posts on this blog are showing up all over…that is gratifying.

Posters keep asking the same questions…does no one check the archives, or simpler yet, read current postings to find exactly the same questions already asked and in some cases debated ad nauseum?

And what is it they are looking for? A quick fix? There are NONE!

And some of the answers! The silliest answers I have ever read! How about the one that advises that you wear your shoes on the wrong feet to enhance your turn-out!???!

“Try wearing your normal running shoes on the opposite feet for a few days. Don’t do it for long amounts of time, but it kinda helps if you just need that extra push.”

Why the hell would you wear your shoes on the wrong feet? I have read this before…explanations range from the eye-blinking bizarre (“it helps your feet know what turn-out feels like”) to the jaw-dropping ridiculous (“if you compete with your shoes on the wrong feet, it makes you look more turned-out and crossed”)!!!

I was asked about doing a post on evaluating turn-out by a few people. I have obviously not done one…how can I explain what to look for? I am more than happy to write about the anatomy, how we are put together, how we should move as opposed to how we WISH we could move…but I cannot in good conscience write about how to evaluate and correct specific problems that I cannot see.

For this very same reason, folks should stop asking for specific help for specific problems…and folks should stop offering cure-all quack opinions.

The bigger issue here, though, is the fact that folks are in the dark about their injuries, problems, physical challenges…TECHNIQUE! Who is to blame for this? The Irish dance teacher, the TCRG. Is it all ID teachers? No. And I will venture a guess that even some of the question posters have good teachers that they are NOT listening to. But the fact is that the teacher should have all of the information necessary for the student to dance long, strong, and correctly. Period. Irish dance is no longer simply a “folk art.” It has moved into being a high-powered, very athletic movement art that has borrowed many a “trick” from other dance forms. It should rightly be presumed that ID teachers know all the necessary information to train their students to perform this ever-changing technique, but that is not the case.

So where to go for help when it is needed? There is so much information on anatomy on the web. I will continue to write about the dancing body. There are books galore. But here’s the rub…this information needs to be READ and STUDIED to be understood. That means a reader must take responsibility for the information. A single reading of any source is not enough to understand it. But most importantly, finding someone to talk to IN PERSON is the only safe way to have a problem evaluated. Period. No amount of online advice is going to fully address any issue. Go to your teacher first…ask, ask, ask. If she/he does not know, perhaps she/he will find out if you persist. If your TC does not help solve the problem, perhaps it is time to find a new teacher. If enough folks stop treating TCs like demi-gods and start treating them like the responsible professionals they should be, perhaps a change will be effected.

If you cannot/will not change teachers, then seek out a sports doctor or physical therapist or trainer. These folks DO know what they are doing. While they may not understand Irish Dance per se, they know the body. Over the years, my best training came from medical professionals who were free from the blinders of a specific movement technique. The body has a “movement technique” all its own… and that should be understood fully by any movement professional.

Click here for some of my favorite resources.

Click for more kinesiology info: Dance Kinesiology

Dancing Children

As I have stated before, I did not spend much of my career teaching children, perhaps a total of 4 years out of 25. Not my forte as I did not have the patience or boundless energy required! And I wanted them to “UNDERSTAND” things they could not have cared less about!

But as a university professor, I completely appreciated the well-taught student…and sometimes cried over the pain of a poorly-taught one. Every student who crossed my path had something to work out, to understand. Some were easy to help, some took much time, some resisted and then relented, only 2 ever walked away because they felt what I was asking was too hard. If a student was willing to understand and work to make change, they were better dancers when they left.

My favorite success story was Megan. She came into our performing arts department as a graduate student in Arts Management. Her undergraduate degree was in dance from Point Park University in Pittsburgh. She showed up in my classes because she did not want to stop dancing, but the poor thing was a mess and had decided that pursuing dance as a career was not in the cards. She had already had knee surgery before she came to school and she was scheduled for another 3 weeks after I met her. When she was moving, she was gorgeous…when she was standing still, she scared the hell out of me. She was so determined to turn out her feet that her feet were rolling way over, collapsing her arch, her knees were never straight so she could use what rotation there is in the knee when it is bent, and her hips were flexed as her pelvis was tipped so she could try to get a bit more rotation out of them in that bent poition.

At the end of the first class, I asked her to stay so we could talk. I found out about her knee surgeries, how her teachers as a child had insisted on “Feet to the side!” no matter what, and how her teachers at Point Park had also demanded this of her. No one, NO ONE, had ever taken the time to evaluate her actual range of motion in the hip. So we did, right then.

I had her lie on her back, legs together, feet flexed/toes pointing to the ceiling. I asked her to rotate her legs in the hip socket, to only think about that rotation, not about where her toes were pointing. She did this by clenching her butt (which was very overdeveloped for so many reasons). Not much happened…the angle between her feet was not quite 45 degrees. I asked her to relax and let her feet just flop out. Her feet hit the floor as if she had 180 degree turn-out! Did she? No! She had developed rather amazing, albeit dangerous, flexibility in her knees and tarsus (foot) so her “rotation” was happening in those 2 places. Her thighs, however, were not rotating. So, from this relaxed position, I asked her to NOT clench her butt, but to just gently straighten her knees and flex her feet. The angle between her feet was 45 degrees. I explained to her that this was her range of motion in the hip socket when standing. Period. She was shocked.

Then, still laying on the ground, I asked her to draw her feet up so that she was in a frog position or a prone butterfly which is knees in this position but flat on your back:
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I fully expected Megan’s knees to end up way up off of the ground. Instead, her knees were flat on the floor!!! Now I was surprised! This dancer had the wackiest set of hip sockets I had ever run across! In an extended straight leg position, her hip rotation was extremely limited, but in a flexed position, this dancer had 180 degree turn-out! No wonder her teachers were confused!

Long story short, over the next 2 years, Megan finally learned how to deal with her own unique body…her pain disappeared and she went on to dance. Though her particular hip rotation issues were extreme, it was actually a rare student who came to me who correctly understood rotation.

Another rather common story were the dancers who showed up with chronic hip pain and/or chronic shin pain and/or chronic heel pain and/or chronic knee pain and/or chronic back pain. These dancers always told me about how, as children, dancing was easy and so fun! They were the stars at their schools…most went to some high powered dance camps. They were sure to go on to spectacular careers. At that time, each of these dancers was petite. And then they hit puberty and they grew…fast. Each story told of dancing that became very difficult as they could not make their bodies do what they had always done. Their teachers pushed them to stay on top of their game, but things became worse and the injuries started. They were no longer the stars.

So what happened? Simple…they GREW! Like they are supposed to! It is called the adolescent growth spurt. These poor dancers did not fail, their teachers failed. MISERABLY!!!

As human beings, we grow the most and the fastest as babies. Our second fastest growth spurt occurs when we hit puberty. The gawkiness, the uncoordination, the clumsiness are caused by the fact that bones grow first and then muscles catch up. Muscles that were once long and flexible are now short and tight as they are pulled taut by longer bones. This time of fast growth should be a time of understanding and care by teachers and coaches, not a time of pushing harder. Read this link: http://www.teengrowth.com/index.cfm?action=info_advice&ID_Advice=51791&category=health&catdesc=Health&subdesc=Pain

Training a growing adolescent body now needs to include more stretching so that the tendons that are pulling so hard on the bones do not do more damage. The pain that growing dancers and athletes feel at the site of tendon attachments can develop into apophysitis which is inflammation of the apophysis, the bony protuberance on the bones to which the tendons attach.

Potential growth related injuries

…Traction injuries are another type of injury associated with bone growth. They are caused by repetitive loading while the tendon is sensitive to stress as the bones and tendons are fusing. Traction injuries occur at different sites at different stages of growth.

10 to 13 years of age – at the heel (Sever’s disease)

12 to 16 years of age – at the knee (Osgood Schlatter’s disease)

late adolescence – lower back and iliac pain

The only cure for these traction injuries is rest.
http://www.brianmac.co.uk/children.htm

Our dancing girls are also at risk for knee injuries simply because of the width of the pelvis.

Potential growth related injuries
The change in female body shape during the growth spurt has its particular injury risks. The hips widen, placing the femur at a greater inward angle. During running or walking, this increased femur angle leads to greater inward rotation at the knee and foot. This rotation can result in an injury called chrondomalacia patella, which occurs when the knee-cap does not run smoothly over the knee joint and pain is caused at the front of the knee. Appropriate preventive training to avoid chrondomalacia patella would be to strengthen the vastus medialis muscle, the lower abdominals, obliques (side of stomach), hip abductor and hip external rotator muscles.
http://www.brianmac.co.uk/children.htm

Ali wrote left a comment telling another interesting story:
You know, I sincerely hope that any of my children, should they exist and choose to dance, not have my flexibility. I’m hypermobile and wasn’t noted as such until repeated injuries took me out of dance (probably permanently) at the ripe old age of 20. When getting my knees looked at (chondromalacia patella, both sides), the orthopedic surgeon was astounded by the range of motion I have. No one expects the slightly chubby kid to be hyperflexible.

Turning out has never been a problem for me. I did baby ballet as a small child (until I was 7 or so), and Irish from 16 to 20. When I was little, I do remember being corrected not to turn out so much (which is kind of reassuring in retrospect); in Irish my TC was so pleased I could dance turned out that she never checked to see I was doing it properly. Worse, I don’t hit any pain until I’m nearing 200+ degrees. My maximum safe turnout is the much-desired 170-185 degrees, depending on if I’ve stretched or not. Because of my very classic hypermobility, I can turn my knees, ankles, and feet without feeling pain, even though I know now how bad it is for me. So I often danced turned out only partially from the hip, and mostly with my lower legs, because it was easier for me to control my beats (in hardshoe) and have more powerful jumps (in soft). I knew it wasn’t stable after a couple spectacular falls (second feis ever, beginner jig, I sprained my ankle–and got a pity 4th place!) but wasn’t sure how to fix it until long after I was ordered to quit dancing.

I do find it interesting that my mother, an x-ray tech and everything-but-radiologist-because-she-didn’t-go-to-med-school failed to notice this tendency in me. I walk turned out and often crossed over and have as long as I can remember. My brother is also hypermobile (to a lesser extent, being male and a golfer–though he has the same strain issues in his arms that I did in my legs from overbending), and we’re pretty sure it comes from our dad. Remind me, if we ever meet, to show off my party tricks.

There’s a whole group of kids out there who are hypermobile and many TCs assume this is a good thing. Okay, so I can have great turnout and be very high on my toes, but if I’m not doing it in a way that is healthy for my body, it’s still going to be very bad in the long run–just as bad as forcing a child with less natural turnout into the same position I’m in. I’d love to see a post comparing extreme flexbibility and inflexibility.

Sorry this turned into a mini-essay! Can you tell I’m avoiding doing schoolwork?

Unfortunately, Ali was not taken care of either. Too much flexibility is just as much a liablity as too little. She should have been taught to strengthen her muscles to support and even limit her extreme range of motion. It is a matter of mechanics…the more mobile something is, the less stable it is; the more stable, the less mobile. Finding the balance between flexibility/mobility and stability is a never-ending quest!!!!

As I was researching sources for this post, I was astounded to find that there is very little information out there about the effects of a child’s growth rate on their movement performance. One article I finally found even stated: Unfortunately, there are few well-controlled studies concerning the prevention of injuries to children participating in sports.
http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0013-5984(199105)91%3A5%3C429%3ASIIC%3E2.0.CO%3B2-K

The info that there is is not always easily accessed, but here is what I found:
http://www.medical-library.org/journals5a/sports_and_overuse_inj.htm

http://www.acsm-msse.org/pt/re/msse/abstract.00005768-200110000-00014.htm;jsessionid=GJrGFQ7CBPyrJBMcbQt87x4F27gJDbxyNbwLd5VvnDm0bncQS38N!-79285651!181195629!8091!-1

http://orthodoc.aaos.org/davidsweiss/when_can_I_start_pointe.pdf

https://vic.pvhs.org/pls/portal/docs/PAGE/PVHS/PVHS_DOCUMENT_MGMT2/DOC_HEALTH_WELLNESS/FINDING%20THE%20BALANCE%20WITH%20KIDS%20AND%20SPORTS.PDF

http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=7460

http://www.polyphonic.org/article.php?id=49

Click for more kinesiology info: Dance Kinesiology

Hips and Turning out

My oldest daughter Molly started Irish dancing when she was about 6. She wanted to take dancing lessons as she considered it to be something that one simply did. She grew up in the dance studio, in the theatre. She was 1 month old when I went back to work with my dance company. She took her first independent steps in the theatre when she was 10 months old. When she was 5, my students and I all stole movement from her as we created a new collaborative piece…and when I re-set it on my company when she was 7, she not only gave the dancers corrections on steps, rhythm and timing, the dancers listened and sometimes sought her out for clarification!!!

So, when she asked to take some dance lessons, I could not refuse. I checked out the local non-ID dance schools and found the teachers sorely lacking. Those were out. People that I trusted, colleagues with the anatomical knowledge I wanted and the talent to teach children, either taught too far away or at times that did not work for us. I finally decided perhaps Irish dance might be the ticket because I mistakenly thought that it was like folk dancing in form and format which meant no true harm could come to my lovely daughter. I found a school nearby, and her first teacher was a good one for the most part.

But I will never forget the day I heard her say, ” Keep your knees facing forward and turn your feet out.” My jaw dropped. As soon as that class was over, I made sure to show Molly how to turn out her hips correctly. When she asked me about doing it differently than the teacher said, I told her I did not think her teacher would notice (she did not) and if she did to tell her to talk to me (she never did).

When I did some more research on this bizarre though widely held notion of only turning your feet out, I realized that somewhere the Irish dance style of keeping the knees close together had been corrupted. I have not discovered when or where having the feet turned out became desirable, but once again, there was not enough attention paid to how this was truly accomplished.

In order to turn your feet out, you must turn out from the hip. Period. Now, if you insist on turning out from the knees, ankle and tarsus, you will get the toes to face sideways…but I will guarantee you that the toes will never point as far side as you would like AND you will have knee problems and/or ankle problems and/or problems in your tarsus and foot. There may also be other problems that crop up in your hips and back. You will not dance for very long. Understanding how the body works is your ticket to a long and healthy dance career.

Last month, this post appeared on the main board. This is the post that got me going and actually writing about some dance kinesiology on my blog. Susan had been bugging me for a couple of years but, I was not interested. But something in this post gave me a push:

I need some help for my daughter (m) — mom, 17:28:07 07/29/07 Sun
My young DD has been dancing for over 4 years and has an aggressive schedule that involves Os and this was her first year at NANs. She has always had a hard time with turn out. She started complaining of ankle pain, and I took her in to her ped on Sat. Her ped talked to her about the amount of time she dances, we talked about flooring, I brought along dance shoes and had DD show her a bit of what she does, and my ped instantly yelled at her to stop. When I asked what was wrong, she asked why she is turned out that way–I explained that it is how she is supposed to turn out. She explained to me that DD is not turning from her hips, her knees point quite forward while her feet are pointing out to a reasonable irish dance stance–she is turning in her ankles. Ped is amazed that she hasn’t had a big problem before now. So ped (and I) are very invested in changing the way she is turning out, but I don’t know where to start. Obviously I am not thrilled with the TC, who sees her every week and knows she struggles with turnout, but has never said anything to her or me about the fact that she isn’t doing it right. So I am doubting my TCs ability to help with the turnout issues and am coming here with hopes that there will be suggestions with what to do. I know someone will suggest a change in schools, but it is not a possibility for us at this time, as the drive would be quite long and I have other children who do not dance, and a husband who works long hours.

I am throwing myself on the mercy of those who know more than I, before she is hurt, how do we go about fixing this?

Correct outward (lateral, external) rotation happens in the hip. Not the knees, not the ankle, not the feet. When the hips are rotated correctly, the knees, ankles, and feet are able to work in alignment and are safer. But remember, not everyone has the same range of motion in the hip socket so not everyone is capable of the same amount of rotation. Please do not waste your time comparing yourself to someone else.

I am a firm believer in dancers understanding how their bodies are put together…it is your instrument so know it!

The pelvis…identify on your body where you think your hips sockets are. Now look at this photo…what we feel on the side of our leg is not the hip socket. That bony protrusion is called the greater trochanter and it serves as a place for muscle attachments. Notice where the ball of the femur (thigh bone) articulates with the acetabulum (hip socket). Is your hip socket closer to your center than you thought?
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The basic placement of the hip socket and hence the head of the thigh bone is on the side of the pelvis. This is an outside view of the leg…notice the the relatively central placement of the thigh bone inside the leg.
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The head of the femur in the acetabulum (head of the thigh bone in the hip socket).
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Cross section of the hip socket/ the ball and socket joint…notice how deep it is. The shape, depth and existence or lack of bony restrictions help dictate your range of motion and how far you are able to actually rotate the femur. None of this can be changed.
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The head of the femur is held into the socket by ligaments. The angles of attachment of the ligaments allow certain movements and restrict others. Ligamentous fiber is flexible in that it allows motion but IT DOES NOT STRETCH! Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Can ligaments be stretched? If you are so weirdly determined, yes, to some degree, but you are then destabilizing your hip joint because they will not return to their original shape, and you will pay for that for the rest of your life.Your ligaments, along with the bony structure of your hip socket, dictate range of motion and degree of turn out. Click here for more bursa information.

Correct turn out happens when the femur is rotated in the hip socket. This is a pic from behind showing the direction of the rotation.
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Here is a nice drawing of the muscles responsible for outward/lateral/external rotation: the 6 deep rotators. Warning…the next few pics are more “real.”
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The 6 deep rotators attach on the back of our bodies, originating on the sacrum and the pelvis and then attaching onto the posterior (back) of the greater trochanter. When these muscles contract, they rotate the leg. It truly is that simple.
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The six deep rotators are the primary movers of the femur in the hip socket. This means that they do almost all of the work in rotation.
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I was told as a young ballerina to rotate my legs by squeezing my butt muscles…wrong. Squeezing the bum just gets to be a bad habit that actually limits rotation and gets you a bubble butt! The primary function of the posterior glutes (the bum) is to extend and stabilize the hip joint. The glutes are secondary rotators…they respond to the 6 deep rotators by stabilizing the femur in the hip socket. They help with rotation only in that they help the six deep rotators maintain the already rotated position. When the 6 deep rotators (the primary movers in outward hip rotation) are working, the glutes do kick in to help stabilize the extended hip joint…because we can SEE the glutes move, we incorrectly assume that they are the primary movers in hip rotation. They are not and in fact get in the way of full rotation when they are “squeezed.” The pic below is simply to illustrate how big and powerful our glutes actually are!
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So how do we get in touch with our lovely, magical 6 deep rotators?

These 3 videos are all of the same rotation exercise. The first 2 are short and to the point. The 3rd one is my favorite Australian PT Lisa Howell, and she again explains beautifully. There is a 4th video to show a stretch you may want to do after this exercise so that you won’t be too sore.


If you have not done this stretch before, you can also do it simply sitting cross-legged without crossing your legs over each other at all. This stretch keeps your 6 deep rotators long, and keeps you from walking like a duck!

Click for more kinesiology info: Dance Kinesiology

“Brainstorm alert – The Unified Quantum Theory of the Skirt Hang”

Susan and I had an interesting conversation this morning after she sent a very interesting email that was inspired by this paragraph from the end of the fitting post:

2)If your dancer likes to yank her shoulders back, your dress may very well start to bell and the hem will protrude forward. There may be as many ways of fixing this as there are dressmakers, but my approach so far has been to take the skirt a bit higher into the side bodice seam. This has alleviated the problem.

Susan wrote:

Reading the last paragraph of the fitting post just threw the light switch—

The Unified Quantum Theory of the Skirt Hang
1) I have never seen a top-rated dancer stand with that misaligned posture on the podium. Maybe, when they’re holding the trophy, jumping with excitement, they forget to stand that way. Or, more likely, Gavin’s dancers and other top winners have learned to NOT stand that way because it adversely affects their dancing…good alignment equals good dancing.

2) Dancers, moms and TCRGs judge the dresses and dress hang from podium pictures, and those dresses hang beautifully.3) Because some dancers still persist with the misaligned posture, dressmakers have discovered that causing the skirt to hang inward (toward the knees) when the dress is worn with straight posture counterbalances the misaligned posture when it occurs – so the dress still bells, but since it was leaning inward before, when the dancer sticks out her stomach in front and her butt in back, it looks straight. Dressmakers working for long distance clients don’t have a chance to evaluate how the dancer stands, so they opt for making this “correction” for all dresses – now it is prevalent. Dancers and DMs both assume it is mandatory for all ID dresses without considering the dancer inside them. The most common form of this “fix” is the straight waist seam.What does this mean?

Most likely, your DD will never have a dress made and fitted by a BN dressmaker. You acquire a dress made for you by a small dressmaker. What does your DD hear soon after zipping up? “Come on, Honey, stand like you’re in front of a judge.” Then what happens? She yanks her shoulders backwards, her stomach bulges out (even if she is stick-thin), and her butt jumps up toward those shoulder blades. The front of the skirt pops out, the back pops out and the dreaded “LAMPSHADE” curse is bestowed. Verdict? The local dressmaker is just not as good as the big name DM who makes those dresses in your podium pictures.

This brings us to corollary 4:

4) The quick fix for the lampshade, bell-shaped skirt is to have the dancer stand up straight and in proper alignment.

Could not have said it any better myself!

 

Click here more info on the Physics of the Skirt Hang.

 

Click for more kinesiology info: Dance Kinesiology

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