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ADVICE FOR DANCERS.

Q The director of my daughter's dance school believes that students should train without relying on a marley floor covering. She uses a sprung wooden floor. Yet I know other dance schools that use marleys. Doesn't this floor covering keep dancers from slipping? What about cushioning joints and muscles?

Worried Mom

A In the 1950s, many performers loved to dance on wooden floors--and hated linoleum! Nowadays dancers prefer vinyl floor coverings. Why? According to Perry Silvey, the production stage manager of New York City Ballet, this floor is predictable. Rather than slipping, dancers can concentrate on performing the steps. Of course, most dancers still deal with less-than-perfect dance floors, but are these floors safe? Yes and no. Concrete floors create all kinds of physical problems for dancers because they have no "give"; a properly sprung dance floor (resilient but not too bouncy) absorbs energy, preventing overuse injuries. Added protection comes from a vinyl cover, so long as it isn't too slippery or too sticky. Vinyl can also provide some cushioning. A sprung wooden floor shouldn't be dangerous for dancers if it's well maintained and not too oily.

Q I'm a 14-year-old male dancer with an injured hip. My doctor has diagnosed it as tendonitis with an inflamed bursa. I'm trying to change my technique because my dance teacher says my problem comes from sitting in my hips. It's still popping out of the joint. What can I do?

Brandon

A See a physical therapist! While hips don't pop out of their joints, dancers can suffer from a condition called the snapping hip. Predisposing factors include tightness, as well as poor technique. Fortunately, special exercises can help.

Q My dance teacher told my class that no one could go on pointe Until we are thirteen, no matter how good we are. What does age have to do with it? Say What? from Milwaukee

A No one really knows when dancers should begin pointe work, but most dance medicine specialists agree that it takes about four years of training to develop sufficient strength and technique. Some Russian doctors also feel that dancers who wait to start pointe at age fourteen will have fewer injuries. It's good that your teacher is being cautious. If you want more information, check out The Pointe Book, Revised: Shoes, Training, and Technique by Janice Barringer and Sarah Schlesinger (Princeton Book Co., 1997).

Q In your advice in the November 1998 issue, you said the hot fields of dance medicine include psychology. Can you tell me more?

Stephanie from Boulder

A Gladly! If you want to be a psychologist for dancers, you need to get a doctorate in clinical or counseling psychology. It helps to do your dissertation on an important topic in dance, such as eating disorders or career transitions. Last, but not least, try to get clinical experience by working in a dancers' healthcare clinic. In my book, Advice for Dancers, I provide contact information for more than thirty medical services and clinics for dancers.

Q I need a quick and easy way to relieve tension right before I audition. Any suggestions?

Aimee

A Smile! Smiling can reduce tension, anger, and frustration. Besides associating it with happy feelings, research shows that smiling releases neurochemicals that relax you. So hold your smile for sixty seconds and feel the tension go.

Linda Hamilton, Ph.D., is a psychologist, a former dancer with New York City Ballet, and author of the book Advice for Dancers (Jossey-Bass, 1998).
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Article Details
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Author:Hamilton, Linda
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Column
Date:Jun 1, 1999
Words:578
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