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Advice for dancers.

I'VE BEEN DANCING A NUMBER OF YEARS, BUT CERTAIN STEPS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN HARD FOR ME. I RECENTLY DISCOVERED THAT MY HIPS ARE DEFORMED--THEY HAVE FLAT SOCKETS. NOW, I NEED SURGERY FOR HIP REPLACEMENTS IN BOTH HIPS. HOW WILL THIS AFFECT MY ABILITY TO TAKE CLASS? BALLET IS WHAT KEEPS ME SANE.--THERESA NOTARE, WASHINGTON, D.C. Hip dysplasia, a common condition, may contribute to arthritis in dancers. The affected hip sockets look like shallow saucers, rather than tea cups, which makes it difficult for the head of the femur (thigh bone) to be held securely in place. Dancers who have this condition and force their turnout end up in a lot of pain. When they aim for a perfect fifth position, they can rotate the femur partly out of the hip socket. The good news is that hip replacement should leave you pain-free. The hard part is doing one hip at a time (usually three to six months apart). You'll also need extensive rehab before returning to dance class. To avoid dislocating your hip after the operation, you'll need to modify your technique. Carol Lee Spielberger, a former ballet dancer who teaches at the University of Tampa, found that she had to lower her leg extensions to 90 degrees and settle for single pirouettes after her hip replacement. To find a specialist nearby, contact the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons (847.698.1200; www.aahks.org).

I LOVE MY COLLEGE CLASSES IN FLAMENCO. I WANT TO CONTINUE STUDYING, ALTHOUGH I MAY NEED TO TAKE A BREAK FOR FINANCIAL REASONS. HOWEVER, I NEED TO FIND A GOOD TEACHER. WHAT QUESTIONS SHOULD I ASK TO FIND THE BEST INSTRUCTOR IN A SMALL STUDIO OR COMPANY?--NAME AND LOCATION WITHHELD You're smart! Instead of taking a chance on a new teacher who may pass on bad habits, you're asking questions now, before it's too late. The most important information about all dance teachers is their professional background. Did they perform as adults or were they simply students? If you want to reach your full potential, it's best to find a teacher with professional experience. Likewise, it's good to work with dance teachers whose students have gone on to successful performance careers of their own. Last but not least, ask other students if the teacher treats them with respect. In terms of learning flamenco, a teacher must also be able to explain the structure or interplay between performers. Virginia Wilmerding, a teacher affiliated with the dance program at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque who has done considerable research in flamenco training methods, tells me that all good instructors teach dancers how to listen to and interact with the singer and guitar player. This dimension varies from traditional to contemporary, depending on the teacher's flamenco "pedigree" and where they performed around the world. As with any dance style, no one form of interpretation is right. The trick is to pick the style that suits your talents and personality. To find a teacher and studio near you, click on www.flamenco usa.com; for festivals and master classes, try www.flamencobuzz.com.

I WANT TO BE THE BEST DANCER I CAN, BUT MY BREASTS ARE GETTING IN THE WAY. AS I'VE MATURED, SO HAS MY BODY. AT 19 YEARS OLD, I AM QUITE TOP-HEAVY. BALLERINAS WEAR SKIMPY CLOTHING. IS THERE ANY WAY TO PROVIDE MORE SUPPORT?--LAURA, MUNCIE, IN Breast size is a sensitive topic--especially for dancers. Classical ballet still favors a very streamlined torso. Yet, as countless teenage girls discover, no amount of hard work will change a D cup to a B cup and give you the small-breasted look that's still the ideal body type at many companies. Fortunately, there are a number of creative ways to work with your anatomy, according to former New York City Ballet dancer Carole Divet, now assistant director of costumes at NYCB, who has designed costumes that range from simple leotards to romantic tutus. For skimpy outfits, such as Balanchine's "black & white" leotard ballets, Carole recommends using a support bra developed by Angela Kostritzky, a former dancer (order by phone at 877.264.3545; $35). Unlike most sports bras or girdles currently on the market, this bra provides maximum support while minimizing the size of your breasts. It's not a single-piece garment, but has a hook and eye closure that makes it appear similar to a normal bra. The bras are handmade, though they come in standard sizes (small is 32-34 A or B; medium is 36 B or C; and large is 36 C or D). What this means is that their manufacture often requires some time, so you may be waiting awhile before you receive the finished product. However, I'm told that they are well worth it. At NYCB, Carole also creates a flatter look in her costumes by sewing a bra into a costume or slightly tightening a bone bodice. Many well-endowed professionals rely on these strategies and have very successful careers.

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.

SEND YOUR QUESTIONS TO: Linda 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:Sep 1, 2004
Words:885
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