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Dance Clinic – your dance questions answered

What questions do you have relating to dance training, performing or teaching?
As dancers in a complex industry, we have many questions and are eager for advice. Dance Informa has a new column – Dance Clinic– where you can fire your questions at a leading dance expert and teacher.

Doc Dance
Doc Dance has danced with one of the world’s leading ballet companies, holds a Bachelor of Physical Education, a Diploma in Dance and Graduate Diploma of Education amongst many qualifications and achievements. A certified dance educator with a long history in the industry, Doc Dance has enjoyed a successful career in ballet, musical theatre and variety shows. Doc Dance is a University Lecturer, being invited all over the world to speak and to conduct master classes, and has now joined the Dance Informa team to help our readers achieve their goals.

Your Questions…

Hi Doc Dance,
I am starting to dance seriously at 22 years of age. I have been dancing on and off since I was 5 but I am taking more classes now that I am financially stable. Are there things that could help me to get the most of my time in class? I can’t do as many classes as most girls, but I want to be the best I can be. I would love to keep dance as a significant part of my life and one day do some commercial work in hip-hop and contemporary.

Dear Reader,

Without seeing you in class it is very difficult to answer your question.
Success at 22 years of age is not out of the question, but it could be slightly late to be taking dance seriously. My main concern would be flexibility, which is necessary for range of motion, dynamics with jumps, leg extensions etc. It also helps with injury prevention.

The more you push yourself to achieve flexibility (unless your flexibility is OK), the greater probability you have of injuries. Physiologically, the older you are the more difficult it also is to obtain a reasonable range of motion. But hopefully this is not a problem for you. 

If you want to make dance a career at some stage you will be up against dancers that will probably be doing full time dance, getting up to 25 hours +  of class per week. Apart from the number of hours that full time dance offers, the variety of classes offered are also a great benefit. So to give yourself a really good chance you might want to look at full time in the near future.

Providing you have good teachers with the classes that you can take, the best thing you can do is to listen to every correction and comment they make to you, or to others, and take these corrections home with you. Make sure you practise, practise, practise.

Good Luck with your endeavours,
Doc Dance

Dear Doc Dance.
As a professional dancer and ex-instructor, I am concerned with the popularity of the 180 degree extension to seconde with the displaced hip. Often the leg is quite turned in and placed in front of the hip because the student/dancer cannot achieve a high extension without this ‘cheating’ . If an adult dancer wishes to do this, that’s one thing, but I am concerned about the strain on the lower back for young bodies with this bad placement. I would rather see a well-executed turned out extension in seconde at 135 degrees. What do you think?

As dancers we learn by observation and repetition. Today children are able to see amazing dancers that can do any and everything from their televisions and computers. So, it is no wonder that kids are obsessed with 180 degree extensions. They see it and they practise it, and then when we talk technique and placement they can’t understand why they aren’t allowed to get their legs as high as they can.

Everyone wants high legs, but as dance educators one of our priorities is safe dance practice and we have an obligation to ensure the correct and ongoing training of the dancers under our instruction. As teachers we should be trying to train the dancers to have a well executed turned out extension to seconde, starting at 90 degrees. Then when this is achieved, they can develop it to 120 degrees, then 135 degrees and so on.

Some rare bodies are anatomically and physiologically able to do incredible extensions at very early ages and it can be natural and easy for these young dancers to achieve this, so I don’t believe they should be restricted for their natural ability, providing it is placed as well as possible.   

Sometimes dancers who are able to sit in a flat 180 degree (or beyond) side split or seconde with ease are able get their legs up to what is perceived as a great extension to seconde, but often it is really a side split with their bodies cranked over to one side with the working hip lifted.

A very large number of potential motions are available via the ball and socket construction of the hip joint which can make for extreme ranges of motion. However, the many ligaments in the design of this joint are constantly under strain due to the unnatural movements that dancers do because of the nature of dance in general. As such, strains, sprains, muscle soreness, D.O.M.S. (delayed onset of muscle syndrome) and injuries often occur because of the constant overuse and repetition that we impose on our bodies – especially in a lot of cases with a develope to seconde. So to avoid any possible injuries, a well placed, rotated extension to seconde, in my opinion, is the best option in the long run.

Doc Dance

Hey Doc Dance,
I’ve had an issue with my hip and I’m fifteen years old. When I walk I have my tendon clicking over the bone in my right hip. It causes pain in my lower back and hip. I tend to hold back in class because I don’t want to make it worse. Do you have any advice?

Dear Reader, 
Please note that I am not a medical doctor. I have several degrees and I understand the general mechanics of the body, but I cannot advise you as either a doctor or a specialist. I can give you my opinion based on the knowledge that I have both as a professional dancer and as an educator. I hope that this will be of some assistance to you.

I too had a similar problem with a clicking hip as a dancer in training and as a professional dancer. My problem was not while walking, but when I was warming up and doing leg swings at the barre. My hip would click or crunch with every leg swing. Once I was warm the problem seemed to dissipate, but during the warm up period I was often in pain. The doctor told me that it was common and to “put up with it or stop altogether”, so like many dancers I just accepted it and kept going. I have had it all my life!

Your issue seems to be different as it affects you with a normal and necessary activity, such as walking and you get pain in your lower back as well. Are these pains related or are there two separate issues at once? What about activities such as cycling or swimming? Do these affect you in the same way? They take almost the same action/activity but are non weight bearing.

If you are experiencing pain then you should absolutely go and see your doctor. Let him know exactly what is happening and tell him what activities hurt more. Have you seen a physiotherapist? There are several “dance specialists” out there whom I am sure would see dozens of girls your age weekly with similar problems.

Clicking in the hip could be anything from possible tight ligaments, which might be assisted with deep tissue massage, or it could be a nitrogen bubble or a buildup of oxygen which “pops”. It could also be related to your age and growing, or it could be serious or something that needs to be managed. So please seek professional advice. The sooner you see someone about it the sooner you will have answers.
Good luck my dear!
Doc Dance

Do you have a dance question?
Email you questions to info@danceinforma.com with the Subject: Dance Clinic
You may find your answers in the next edition!

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of Dance Informa Pty Ltd, its directors and employees. The Dance Clinic column is simply provided to give helpful advice and feedback to dancers, teachers and parents, but should not be the only resource used by readers to make decisions about their training/dancing or professional practice.



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