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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.

Six months ago, I underwent an operation for tendinitis in my foot. I thought the hardest part of my recovery would be the pain and the crutches; I wasn't prepared for catty remarks from other dancers. All I want is to be back on stage. I don't need this negative energy.--Confused Dancer, New York, NY

Ouch!!! While it's never easy to be injured, it can be especially difficult if you're a professional dancer. From a practical standpoint, a company dancer who's 'out' means only one thing--more work for everyone else. Still, this doesn't explain why many injured dancers feel like outcasts. I believe that the cattiness regarding injuries stems, in part, from the dance culture's emphasis on being stoic in the face of sore muscles and pain. Healthy dancers may also need to distance themselves from the real possibility that, one day, they too may be injured. The good news is that more dancers are learning how to care for their bodies. At New York City Ballet, dancers deal with injuries through educational seminars, pre-season screenings, and wellness consultations. My advice is to focus on your recovery rather than the negative vibes from others.

I am 5' 1" and curvaceous--think Jennifer Lopez. I do not have the body for ballet. However, I love modern dance, hip-hop, and jazz. How can I prepare for a company with a variety of styles, like Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater? Also, do you have tips on improving my flexibility and turnout?--Rebecca Joy Orlowitz, Narberth, PA

The best way to get into a dance company is to audition for their affiliated school. Why? Because the faculty will get to know you and hopefully recommend you to the artistic director. You'll also train in the specific styles favored by the company. The Dance Directory by Faith Shaw Petrides (currently out of print, but available in performing arts libraries) describes the repertoires of over 300 companies and provides contact information for their dance schools. As for improving your flexibility and turnout, it's important to set realistic goals, because these attributes have a genetic component. A physical therapist in dance medicine can help you develop a program of daily stretching.

I need a professional opinion. How much does following the traditional ballet dress code play a role in getting a job? My daughter, who is very talented, showed up for her first ballet company audition in an ugly black cover-up. She feels she is not as skinny as the other dancers, even though she exercises and watches what she eats. Her downfall is that our family carries extra weight on our legs and bottom. I try to get her to dress right because both of us have invested a lot of time and money in this career. I want her to have the best shot, but she won't listen to me.--Concerned Mother, Kansas City, MO

While it's good to show up for a ballet audition wearing the standard uniform (pink tights, an attractive leotard and possibly a skirt), clothes are not your daughter's problem. Covering up specific body parts is one way to camouflage her perceived "flaws." Unfortunately, this approach backfires since company directors want to get a clear picture of your body as well as your dancing. Rather than getting into a power struggle with your daughter, why not help her develop other strengths, just in case? For example, performers who can dance, sing, and act (what some people like to refer to as a triple threat) have a better chance of finding work than those who have only one talent. The more options available to your daughter, the less vulnerable she'll feel adopting the typical dancer attire.

Thank you for giving dancers great information every month. My question concerns a comment you made in your January 2004 column. You wrote, "qualified teachers don't put young children (before age 11 or 12) on pointe." What happens if they go on toe earlier? is it dangerous? And could you suggest a book on the dancer's body?--Miyoung dempsey, Belvedere, SC

In the old days, some people believed that putting young girls on pointe could damage normal bone development in the foot. While there's no evidence to support this notion, most professional ballet academies want their students to develop sufficient strength and technique on demi-pointe before they add toe work to the mix. After all, why bother going on pointe until you've learned the steps? As for a helpful book on the dancer's body, there are many available, including nay own Advice for Dancers, which has a large resource section. You might also be interested in the proceedings of the annual meeting of the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science, which summarize the latest research. These will be posted on by summer. Injury prevention in students is always a hot topic.


Hamilton, Ph.D., at 2000 Broadway,

PH2C, New York, NY 10023.
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Author:Hamilton, Linda
Publication:Dance Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2004
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Next Article:Past present.

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