Advice for dancers: former New York City Ballet dancer Linda Hamilton, Ph.D. is a lecturer, a psychologist in private practice, and the author of Advice for Dancers (Jossey-Bass). She has been offering advice to Dance Magazine readers since 1992.
For example, injured dancers in the first stage of recovery confront major changes in their body image, lifestyle, and self-esteem. A good physical therapy program can be extremely reassuring during this time. However, because dancers also need to feel productive, it helps to develop another strong interest or continue one's education. Injured dancers can also improve their body image and forestall the usual weight gain by seeing a nutritionist. The middle stage of rehabilitation offers dancers a special bonus--the first real signs of progress. The kick is to enjoy the small victories along the way, rather than focusing on real or imagined losses.
The last stage of rehab from an injury combines a supervised exercise regime with dance classes, often with good results. Unfortunately, in some cases a full recovery is not an option. This is when vocational counseling and emotional support can help dancers successfully make the transition to a nondancing career. Speaking as one who knows, I can assure you that there is life after dancing--whether this occurs after an injury or due to a powerful attraction to another career.
HOW CAN A 19-YEAR-OLD MAN WITH LITTLE TO NO FORMAL TRAINING LEARN TO DANCE? AT EVERY DANCE SCHOOL IN MY AREA ALL I FIND IS AN UNWILLINGNESS TO TAKE IN MEN WHO ARE BEGINNERS. PERSONALLY, I WANT TO SPEND MY WAKING MOMENTS IN A DANCE STUDIO--NOT AT A DEAD-END JOB THAT TAKES UP ALL OF MY TIME. PLEASE TELL ME YOUR IDEAS.--ALEXANDER KOVELL, TACOMA, WA I absolutely love your enthusiasm for dance! At the same time, you need to be realistic about maintaining a good job to pay your bills. The reality is that few young dancers support themselves by performing. In fact, most dancers work in jobs such as catering, word processing, or fitness. Given your late start in dance, the chances of finding a full-time job as a performer are slim. However, you could find a rewarding job that caters to a competing interest, while gaining additional satisfaction from taking an adult beginner dance class. Although some dance schools are fairly strict about their age and auditioning requirements, others offer open dance classes for all, regardless of their age or ability.
I'M A FEMALE DANCER WHO REALLY WANTS TO BECOME MORE FLEXIBLE. ARE THERE SPECIAL LEG EXERCISES TO HELP ME? I WANT TO DO SPLITS AND RAISE MY LEGS HIGHER.--HOPING IN MICHIGAN, ADDRESS WITHHELD As we all know, every dancer's body is different. This means that you may fall within the normal range of motion or be tight-jointed or hypermobile. Interestingly, while loose-jointed dancers often get into professional training programs, they are more likely to develop injuries over time. Consequently, these dancers do best when they include strengthening exercises in their training program. In the case of tight joints, regular stretching (after you're completely warmed) can improve your flexibility within your natural range of motion.
Still, the way you stretch is important. Ballistic stretching, such as bouncing, tightens your muscles rather than lengthening them. You can also tear muscle fibers by forcing your splits, leading to bleeding and scar tissue. A better way is to stretch each muscle group slowly for twenty seconds, using your breathing to help. This approach covers the whole body spectrum, including your turnout muscles, the front of the thighs, and the inside and back of the legs, as well as the back, waist, and shoulder muscles. It's also important to keep proper placement during stretches, so please don't let your feet roll in while stretching your calves. For more information on specific exercises, check out the book Stretching: 20 Anniversary revised edition by Bob Anderson (2000, Shelter Publications).
SEND YOUR QUESTIONS TO: Linda Hamilton, Ph.D., at 2000 Broadway, PH2C, New York, NY 10023.
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|Date:||Mar 1, 2004|
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