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Developing a Personal Dancer Wellness Plan

Posted By Donna Krasnow and Ginny Wilmerding on behalf of the IADMS Education Committee, Monday, January 30, 2017

Our focus for this blog post is on a new IADMS and Human Kinetics publication, edited by renowned dance educators and IADMS members, Ginny Wilmerding and Donna Krasnow.  Dancer Wellness is a useful, one-stop resource for all dance teachers interested in embedding dance medicine and science principles into their practice and ensuring the long-term health and wellbeing of the dancers with whom they work.  Here, Ginny and Donna give us a taste of how to design a personal dancer wellness plan as a foundation for long and effective dance practice.

 

Photo by Jake Pett, image reproduced with permission by Human Kinetics:
http://www.humankinetics.com/products/all-products/Dancer-Wellness-With-Web-Resource

 

As a dancer, you will face many challenges to your health and wellness. Every aspect of your training, from the environment and what you eat to your technical work and possible injuries affect your health. You can design your own personal dancer wellness plan and continue to develop it for many years. You can seek the assistance of teachers, health care professionals, and others in your support network to help you create your personalized plan.

 

Let’s start with the basic foundations of the dancer’s life. You can learn about your dance studio floors and other environmental aspects such as temperature, ventilation, lighting and sound, and make sure that you are working in a studio that meets certain requirements. You can speak to the school director and your teachers if you find problems in these areas. You may feel more confident if you have others such as parents or other dancers join you in these discussions. Next, you can study anatomy and physics. You can make sure that you are dancing in the best possible alignment, and that you understand scientific principles of movement. You can pair up with a friend from class and do partner assessments. You can also examine your learning strategies so that you have multiple ways to learn new technical skills in class. Finally, think about ways to supplement your class work with outside conditioning, and consider what areas of conditioning need the most focus, whether that is muscular strength, flexibility, or cardio-respiratory endurance. Conditioning can decrease fatigue and improve your confidence.

 

Next, let’s look at the mental components of dancer wellness. In terms of your mental training, you can consider how reliant you are on the mirror, and shift your emphasis to physical sensation and developing your kinesthetic sense of movement. You can use your teachers’ images and create your own images to enhance your dancing, especially in areas where you need improvement. Dance psychology can provide important tools for motivation, and help you deal with a wide range of views about yourself, including self-concept, self-awareness, self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-compassion. Rest and recovery are crucial for your health, and may be the most overlooked aspects of wellness. Consider your sleep habits, and also look at ways to cope with stress and anxiety, especially near performances. Finally, you can find alternate ways to rest, such as mentally practicing choreography.

 

Last, let’s consider the physical components of the dancer’s health. Make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need, such as carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals, and water. See if there are ways to eat fewer foods that have little nutrition, and add foods such as fruits and vegetables. If you smoke, design a plan to stop, and make sure you are physically active during periods of time that you are not dancing. For bone health, it is important to include weight-bearing exercise in your activities. Through your conditioning work, make sure you understand how methods of gaining strength, flexibility, and core support can give you knowledge you need to prevent injuries and sustain long hours of dancing and rehearsing. If you add a new technique to your training, you may need to add different conditioning exercises that prepare for those demands.

 

By developing your personal dancer wellness plan, you can improve your health and have many years of rewarding dancing. Good health contributes to dance injury prevention, less fatigue, better nutrition to fuel your energy needs, and enhanced self-esteem. You can find out much more about the principles discussed here in the new Dancer Wellness book.  You can purchase a copy with accompanying e-resources here. Happy reading!

Tags:  Dancer Wellness  dancers  teachers  wellness 

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