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Advice for dancers.

I AM A 22-YEAR-OLD MODERN DANCER AUDITIONING FOR SMALL COMPANIES WITH MUCH SUCCESS. HOWEVER, I WORRY THAT BIGGER COMPANIES WON'T HIRE ME BECAUSE I'M FLAT-FOOTED. I'VE TRIED STRETCHING AND RELIEVES ON POINTE, MASSAGE, AND VARIOUS THERA-BAND[R] EXERCISES. BUT MY FEET STILL LOOK LIKE I DON'T EVEN DANCE AT ALL! ANY SUGGESTIONS?--TRYING TO LOOK PROFESSIONAL IN ARIZONA While it's possible to mold your feet until the age of 13, orthopedists tell me there's little you can do to improve your arch once you stop growing. Why? Because foot type is genetically determined. The three main foot types include the normal foot (medium arch), the cavus foot (high arch), and the planus foot (low arch or flatfoot), and sprained ankles. A flatfoot, in contrast, creates a poor releve, which is less of an issue in modern dance than ballet. Still, it tends to be hypermobile, often causing you to roll in when jumping. My advice is to audition for small and large modern dance companies, while working correctly to avoid injuries.

I'M 41 YEARS OLD AND CAN'T TOUCH MY TOES, EVEN THOUGH I DO YOGA. IS THERE A DEVICE OR EXERCISE YOU CAN SUGGEST TO HELP?--DAVID FROM HAMLIN, PA I can understand your wish to be more flexible. Besides increasing your range of motion, you'll be less likely to get muscle pulls. According to dance medicine specialists, your inability to touch your toes is probably due to tight hamstrings. Other causes include tight hips or lower back muscles, or possibly unrecognized conditions in the spine such as fused lower vertebrae. Physical therapy can help you find out what's wrong and what to do about it. You can find an appropriate referral in the Dance Medicine Resource Guide, available from the International Association for Dance Medicine & Science at

I'M VERY CONCERNED ABOUT A LOVELY YOUNG DANCER IN MY CLASS WHO IS LOSING TOO MUCH WEIGHT. I'VE SPOKEN TO HER MOTHER ABOUT THE PROBLEM BUT NEITHER SHE NOR MY STUDENT FEELS IT'S NECESSARY TO GET MEDICAL HELP. WHAT CAN I DO TO ENCOURAGE THEM TO SEEK TREATMENT?--WORRIED TEACHER Don't let her dance! Eating problems affect virtually every system in the body. Some of the health problems, such as poor temperature regulation, are basically harmless. Others, including cardiac arrhythmias, severe electrolyte imbalances, and rupture of the esophagus, are life-threatening. While you might rely on a dancer's parents to seek appropriate treatment, they may deny the problem because eating disorders run in families. Instead, dance teachers should enforce a strict policy that requires a sensible weight goal (with regular weigh-ins for those who are too thin) coupled with evidence that the dancer is seeking appropriate treatment. To find out more about a healthy weight for height, you can check out my book Advice for Dancers.

Send your questions to: Linda Hamilton, Ph.D., at 2000 Broadway, PH2C, New York, NY 10023.

former New York City Ballet dancer Linda Hamilton, Ph.D., is a lecturer, a psychologist in private practice, and author of Advice for Dancers (Jossey-Bass). She has been offering advice to Dance Magazine readers since 1992.
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Title Annotation:former NYC ballet dancer answers readers' questions
Author:Hamilton, Linda
Publication:Dance Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2003
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