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Dancer Wellness: Power, Empower and Educate! Mid-Atlantic IADMS Regional Conference

Posted By Janine Bryant and Gayanne Grossman, Friday, May 1, 2015

On April 26th members of IADMS held their first Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference entitled Power, Empower and Educate! at DeSales University in Center Valley, Pennsylvania, USA. 

Speakers were Megan Richardson of Harkness Center for Dance Injuries, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York, and Gayanne Grossman, Muhlenberg College Director of Dance Wellness and instructor of Anatomy and Kinesiology, Physical Therapist to dancers through the Lehigh Valley Health Network, PA., IADMS Education Committee member and Editor-in-Chief of the IADMS Bulletin for Teachers. The day was moderated by Janine Bryant, Director of Dance Programs, Eastern University, PA., IADMS Education Committee member, and PhD Candidate, Wolverhampton University, UK.

The program included sessions on dance medicine and science topics including: Plyometrics for building power, points on pointe training and readiness and improving alignment through releasing of myofascial restrictions. Delegates also engaged with an IADMS promotional table. Sessions were well attended by dancers, teachers, choreographers, and directors of schools and companies, college students, medical practitioners, and dance scientists; leading to stimulating discussions on dance medicine and science within practical dance settings. Attendees came from as far away as Boston and Virginia.

 

This conference offered exposure of dance medicine and science to the Mid-Atlantic, Southeastern region of the USA. Conference organizers, Gayanne Grossman and Janine Bryant hope that this event will provide the inspiration for participants to attend the 25th Annual Meeting held within reasonable driving distance from the Mid-Atlantic conference venue in Pittsburgh, PA. this coming October 2015.


Conference Organizers:
Janine Bryant, Tim Cowart and Gayanne Grossman

Tags:  IADMS  regional conference  wellness 

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Dancing with the pelvis: Alignment, deviations, and mobility

Posted By Clara Fischer Gam and Elsa Urmston on behalf of the IADMS Education Committee, Thursday, April 30, 2015

In the latest post from the IADMS Education Committee we started a two-post discussion on pelvic structure and alignment. We looked at pelvic anatomy, motion and came up with ideas for putting these concepts into practice in class. This second post will focus on pelvic alignment and its relevance to movement execution in the studio.


Source: Getty Images

We have all learned from experience: proper alignment is one of the basic building blocks for achieving the aesthetic line and form required for dance technique. We know that many are the contributors for good skeletal alignment, but one area that plays a special role is the pelvis.

Practitioners and researchers comment on the importance of pelvic alignment. As mentioned in the previous post, when in a natural position in relation to the rest of the body, the pelvis assumes neutral alignment because the surrounding joints and muscles are balanced. Neutral pelvic alignment can help us to achieve efficient execution of dynamic movements and static positions and therefore more effective muscle recruitment. Not only might neutral pelvis facilitate body movements in general but it also seems to improve specific action at hip and lumbar spine.

How to find your neutral pelvis?

As well as the image below, have a look at this handy youtube film which helps you find neutral pelvis.  Place the tip of your index fingers on the symphysis pubis, resting each of your wrists on the tips of your front hip bones (right on those bony projections, called anterior superior iliac spines) and let your thumbs extend, nearly touching in the middle. Can you notice that your hands are now forming a triangle shape on the centre of your pelvis?  For a neutral pelvis, the triangle lines should be on the same plane, aligning these three bony landmarks.

When working with students, it’s good to keep in mind though that anatomical differences may occur from dancer to dancer, therefore the triangle alignment should be a reference for finding an individual neutral pelvis.

Pelvic deviations generally imply any alteration in posture from neutral but when it comes to dancers, anterior pelvic tilt (that is allowing the tailbone to flare backwards) appears to be more common.

Why is that?

Misalignment of the pelvis could be related to imbalanced use of muscles that control the pelvis, the lower portion of the trunk and hip, or to structural conditions.  Particularly, anterior pelvic tilt could be linked to lack of action of the deep rotators of the hip for turning out (we’ve mentioned before the key role that these muscles play, recap here. The misuse of the inner thigh muscles or poor core control to stabilize the turnout may increase this deviation still more (for more about the core check this post).

Dancers with anterior pelvic tilt might get tight hip flexors and possibly lower back pain, as it increases the angle of lumbar lordosis. Posterior pelvic tilt (tucking the tail under) is typified by a flat back-like deviation and commonly associated with tight hamstrings and gluteal muscles and weak quadriceps, hip flexors and spinal erectors. Generally, dancers with a misaligned pelvis either anteriorly or posteriorly can more easily develop vertebral stresses and knee, foot, and ankle injuries due to compensatory movements and excess of muscle tension during training.

Despite all the information available on pelvic alignment, there is still a question to be answered: Is there an ideal degree of pelvic tilt that should be maintained through our dance movements?  Pelvic mobility in dance seems to be a hot topic of discussion among dance practitioners, teachers and scientists. Undoubtedly, there are many steps that intentionally involve the pelvis (either as initiator of the action as observed in Graham Technique for example, or as a consequence of another movement). However, we know that some techniques  require  that some specific movements should be performed with neutral (or even immobile) pelvis. I wonder though to what extent the pelvis really is immobile in such movements?

In relation to this, Wilson and colleagues looked at a grande rond de jambe en l’air. In our training, most of us learned that the pelvis should be still for the whole time during grande rond de jambe en l’air both at and past 90°. Yet these researchers observed that amongst experienced dancers the pelvis itself is deeply involved in gesture leg range of motion, especially when the leg is raised past 90°. In order to move the leg fully at highly vertical angles, the pelvis seems to follow the leg - even though we aim for creating an illusion of an immobile pelvis.  In a follow-up study the role of the pelvis was examined in facilitating gesture leg motion, and the related “cost” of the muscles involved. For skilled dancers the effort in the gesture leg is smaller than in the standing leg. This was reversed in less skilled dancers. So we might conclude that the skilled dancers worked more efficiently in their standing leg to support the pelvis and gesture leg, whereas the less skilled dancers are mostly using the muscles in the gesturing leg.  A recommendation to the teacher might be to appreciate that when working on movements where one leg is moving fully, a strategy to focus on the standing leg will help balance the necessary movement in the pelvis and spine. Not allowing the pelvis to move commensurately with the gesturing leg will decrease the potential range of motion and place unnecessary stress on the hip joint and lumbar spine.


Source: Getty Images

But what about other movements where the pelvis should be neutral? Deckert suggests that the answer is multifaceted and individualized to each dancer. Introducing exercises for dancers which focus on increasing awareness through individualized anatomical education, motor control and promoting alignment habits may help dancers locate the neutral pelvis.

Integrating the following exercises into a dancer’s daily routine may also help:

• Increase abdominal strength; strong abdominals provide support for finding and maintaining a neutral pelvis.

• Stretch hip flexors, if they have become excessively tight from years of anterior pelvic tilt. Stretching them on a daily basis will allow the pelvis to settle into a more neutral position.

• “Pelvic clock” provides a first step toward improvement by increasing awareness of pelvic alignment: Lying on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor, tip the pelvis through full range of motion, starting at 12 o’clock with the navel and lower back pressed to the floor and moving through to 6 o’clock as the waist rises off the floor and the tailbone is the only part of the spine contacting the floor. Make certain not to miss any point of the clock, and repeat in a counterclockwise circle. This exercise forces you to explore the full range of motion available in the pelvis and find a neutral pelvic alignment.

What I enjoy the most about the quest for finding movement efficiency in dance, is that it always awakens further inquiry; which movements involve pelvic motion? Which should hold a neutral pelvis? Which body part is leading, following or supporting movement?

 

Keep Exploring:

IADMS Resources here and here.

 

Clara Fischer Gam, MSc.

Dance Science

Dance Education

Pilates Method

Rio de Janeiro – Brazil

Email: clara.figa@gmail.com

 

Elsa Urmston MSc PGCAP AFHEA is the DanceEast Centre for Advanced Training Manager, Ipswich, UK and a member of the IADMS Education Committee.

Email: elsa.urmston@danceeast.co.uk

Tags:  anatomy  dancers  pelvis  teachers 

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The Pelvis: The Meeting Point of the Body

Posted By Clara Fischer Gam on behalf of the IADMS Education Committee, Monday, April 27, 2015

We will get the week started with a post from the IADMS Education Committee. This is part 1 of a two-post discussion on pelvic structure and alignment. Today we will take a closer look at anatomy of the pelvis and share ideas for embodying these concepts in the studio.

 
Source: Getty Images

The pelvis as the “meeting point” of the body is a really clear analogy, as it is this structure that offers attachment for the legs and supports the spine and upper limbs. It plays a key part in bearing and transferring weight, it allows us to travel with dynamism as well as find balance and stability in the body.  Experiential anatomy allows us to really develop a sound working knowledge of the anatomical structure; linking theoretical knowledge and practical exercises in class can be really useful for developing movement strategies, enhancing quality and intention for dance technique.

So, how is the pelvis structured?

The pelvis is made up of two halves, the innominate bones (or simply, hip bones). Each one is formed from the fusion of three bones: ilium, pubis and ischium. Together, these three bones contribute to the hip socket that connects the pelvis to the femur (more about the hip joint in a previous post). 



Diagrams by Jake and Stuart Pett for IADMS

Anteriorly, the hip bones are connected by the symphysis pubis, a cartilaginous joint. Posteriorly, they connect to the sacrum through the sacroiliac joint. The upper part of the sacrum connects with the 5th vertebra of the lumbar spine (lumbosacral joint). For a more comprehensive anatomy of the pelvis, check out this great video.  

To bring about a more embodied knowledge of pelvic bones, I often encourage students to make use of touch as we go through anatomy concepts. Bone palpation activities can be easily applied to class when exploring anatomy of the pelvis. The author Andrea Olsen offers us a good suggestion:

Starting at a supine position, knees bent: trace the bones of the pelvis with the finger tips.

Firstly at the iliac crest, find the anterior superior iliac spines (ASIS), those bony projections at the front part of each hip bone. Then walk the fingers forward until the pubic symphysis.

Roll on your side: starting again at the iliac crest, trace the ilium back to the sacrum, feel the sacroiliac joint. Continue down the back of the pelvis and locate the ischial tuberosities (the "sitz" bones).

Flex the hip, and trace from the ischium to the pubic bone between the legs. Roll to the other side and repeat. You can find more experiential anatomy exercises on Olsen’s book, referred below.

 

Mainly, the pelvis moves as a whole: articulation occurs at the lumbosacral joint and at the heads of the femurs. It tilts anteriorly (allowing the tail bone to flare backward) posteriorly (tucking the tail bone under), laterally (lifting one side of the waist) and it also rotates (turn) for both sides. When watching students dancing, we may notice that ease of movement as well as restrictions for specific directions vary from dancer to dancer.

At a natural position in relation to the rest of the body, the pelvis is in the so-called neutral position: known for being the most stable and shock-absorbing for our structure, as surrounding joints and muscles are balanced.  Watch out for our next post, where we will discuss the importance of pelvic alignment for optimal performance! 

Something I really like to do to explore pelvic articulation and positioning is to practice the pelvic clock exercise as a warm-up in class (typical routine of Feldenkrais and Pilates sessions). That way, dancers can experiment with pelvic movements, discovering their own range of motion, restrictions and ultimately find their neutral pelvis. Watch a tutorial here.

 

Keep Exploring:

Olsen, A. Bodystories: A Guide to Experiential Anatomy. Lebanon: University Press of New England, 1991.

Calais-Germain, B. Anatomy of Movement. Seatle: Eastland Press, 2007.

Fitt, S. Dance Kinesiology. New York: Schirmer Books, Second Edition, 1996.

Salk, J. Teaching modern technique through experiential anatomy. Journal of Dance Education. 2005;3(3): 97-102.

Batson, G. Somatic studies and  dance. International Association for Dance Medicine and Science, 2009. Available here.

 


Clara Fischer Gam, MS.

Dance Science

Dance Education

Pilates Method

Rio de Janeiro – Brazil

 

Email: clara.figa@gmail.com

 

 

Tags:  anatomy  dancers  pelvis  teachers 

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IADMS 2015 Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Posted By Hannah Etlin-Stein, Monday, April 20, 2015

IADMS is now gearing up for another Annual Meeting and this year it is in Pittsburgh!

 

 


As IADMS is a diversely international community, the Annul Meeting is a fabulous way to explore a new city and culture, while connecting with the IADMS community.

For those who have never attended an Annual Meeting it's an experience unlike any other and can provide many benefits.

  1. Multidisciplinary- IADMS is unlike many professional organizations in that not only do our members come from all over the globe, but they come from different professional backgrounds as well. Dancers, educators, health care practitioners, students, physicians and dance enthusiasts all gather together to share their knowledge and passion for the health and wellbeing of dancers. This allows for interesting discussions to emerge between attendees with varying expertise.

  2. Networking - In a world where it is so easy to connect virtually with someone across the globe, it becomes even more important to continue to foster those face-to-face connections. IADMS Annual Meetings are a great place to meet and connect to the small yet vast dance science community. When I first presented at IADMS, I was amazed how many people came up to me after my presentation to tell me about research they were doing in a similar field. This type of networking is essential. Who knows - you might just meet your next research partner this year in Pittsburgh!

  3. Mentorship -Although growing yearly, one of the many qualities of IADMS is its intimacy. For a student or someone entering the dance science field, it is remarkable to turn to your left and realize you are sitting next to a researcher you have referenced numerous times. It’s also amazing that they will most likely be willing to talk to you and offer advice or mentorship. The relationships developed at Annual Meetings are critical and potentially career changing opportunities.

  4. The dance party - no other organization provides such an informative, inspiring and FUN Annual Meeting as IADMS. If you haven't been yet, you will witness how the IADMS members know how to simultaneously engage in meaningful scientific inquiry while being able to let loose and have fun.

This year the Annual Meeting will be held in Pittsburgh!! There are many things to do in this Vibrant city! What's cool about Pittsburgh you ask?

Pittsburgh Trivia:

  • In 1954 the first Polio vaccine was developed by Jonas Salk and his team at the University of Pittsburgh.

  • The first smiley faces emoticon is credited to have been invented in 1982 in Pittsburgh by a man named Scott Fahlman :)

  • Famous Pittsburghers include Martha Graham and Gene Kelly, dancers/choreographers we know and love.

  • Pittsburgh has the most certified 'green' buildings in the USA! Now how's that for a city!

Things to check out in Pittsburgh:

The Cathedral of Learning: Standing at 535 feet, the Cathedral of Learning is the tallest educational building in the Western hemisphere and the second tallest gothic-styled building in the world. This Pittsburgh landmark is the centrepiece of the University of Pittsburgh’s main campus. (pictured below)

 

 

Andy Warhol Museum: With over 900 paintings, 100 sculptures and numerous prints, photographs and videos, this museum covers work from all periods of Andy Warhol’s career.

Point State Park: This 36 acre state park located in downtown Pittsburgh is marked by one of the country’s largest iconic fountain. A beautiful landmark Pittsburgh is known for. (pictured below)

 

  

The Duquesne Incline: Open 365 days a year, this century-old cable car will provide the best views of downtown Pittsburgh. Scaling Mount Washington and one of the few remaining inclines in the country this is a must do in Pittsburgh. The Incline is also featured in Flashdance! (pictured at the top of article)

 

Hope to see you all in Pittsburgh for the IADMS 25th Annual Meeting, October 9-11 2015. For more information click here!

Tags:  Annual Meeting 

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Dance Medicine and Science at Dance UK’s ‘The Future: New Ideas, New Inspirations’ Conference

Posted By Sarah Beck, Monday, April 13, 2015

This past weekend, from April 9th to 12th, Dance UK hosted their first ever Industry Wide Conference titled The Future: New Ideas, New Inspirations. With the future of the dance sector at the heart of this conference, it seemed only right that dance medicine and science featured within discussions.

The program on Saturday 11th included 12 ‘healthier dancer’ sessions on a wide range of dance medicine and science topics including: ‘Protein for dancers’ from Professor Kevin Tipton, ‘The hypermobile student in dance class’ from Nicky Ellis, and ‘Psychology of injury: the impact of what we say and do’ from Dr Natalie Walker. Dance UK were also extremely honoured to be able to feature four presentations that were previously presented during the IADMS 24th Annual Meeting in Basel and extend thanks to IADMS for their partnership in this. IADMS also had a promotional stand at the conference, which delegates engaged with. Sessions were filled to capacity and attended by dancers, teachers, choreographers, and directors of schools and companies, as well as medical doctors, students, physiotherapists and dance scientists. This mixture led to interesting discussion on the application of principles discussed into practice, something I know we all strive for in this field. Many of the sessions were filmed and video clips will be available over the next few weeks.

The final day of the conference focused on education and training the dance artists of the future and although no specific dance medicine and science content was scheduled in this day, it certainly featured in discussion in a way that any dance medicine and science enthusiast would be proud of. One topic in particular kept resurfacing: periodization. It seems imaginations had been sparked by the presentation on the previous day from Professor Matthew Wyon and Joost Van Megan on the work in periodization currently underway at ArtEz in the Netherlands (also presented at the IADMS 24th Annual Meeting). I urge you all to follow the link and watch Dr Christopher Bannerman’s keynote speech, in particular from around 36 minutes 30 seconds in, to hear him enthusiastically discussing this presentation. 

This conference provided fabulous exposure of dance medicine and science into the wider dance sector in the UK, which we hope continues to inspire debate, collaboration, and practical implementation of and around ideas presented.


[The IADMS blog would like to feature further write ups of events and conferences so please do let us know about those happening in your local area so that they can be included.]

Tags:  conference  dancers  UK 

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The Spine: The impact of head position

Posted By Elsa Urmston on behalf of the IADMS Education Committee, Monday, April 6, 2015

This blog post from the IADMS Education Committee brings focus to the importance of spinal alignment and its role in aiding the efficient and effective mobilization of the body in dance.  Specifically this week, we will look at the cervical spine and the all too common problem of the forward head posture.


In recent weeks I’ve been aware of the images on social media about the impact of smartphone and tablet use on the alignment of the upper body in everyday life, bringing about the forward head posture which drops the shoulder girdle down and forwards, bringing with it the cervical spine and skull.  The middle back or thoracic spine area has a tendency to drift backwards and, to accommodate the upper back shift, the hips tip forwards, creating a domino effect of increased force on the central line of the body.  Herein lies muscular and skeletal imbalance as the center of gravity is pulled anteriorly and posteriorly off the midline – the result – pain, discomfort and inhibited movement range.  Here we see the resulting force placed on the spinal column, relative to degrees of anterior cervical spine flexion.

 



In my own classes I often see this forward head posture - whether it is a result of increased screen use is up for debate!  I’d like to think it is the students’ eagerness to learn but this forward head posture may come about because of students looking down, lack of confidence, concentration or any multitude of reasons.  But balancing the skull on the spine is critical in helping young dancers to find efficiency in their whole body movement, and tackling it early on in the training journey seems a prudent step in finding fluency of movement and avoiding injury risk. 


Ideal spinal alignment requires the skull to be balanced on the occiput, creating a central line through the spine which minimizes stress on the body.  And once the skull is balanced on the spine we can ensure that the natural curves of the spine are supported for maximum shock absorbancy in jumping and support for the dancing body in motion.  As soon as the head moves off this central line, forces impact on the joints of the body; of course sometimes we want that to happen as this initiates movement, or balances movement in other parts of the body.  But equally, we need to ensure the efficient balance of the skull on the spine to enable safe and effective practice.  Any distortion in the spine because of head position can impact balance and how we move – pirouetting with a forward head stance is nigh on impossible!  


The impact of the forward head posture on the spine is varied, but as I mentioned earlier there is always a domino effect on the spine and indeed the joints of the lower limbs.  This image below really illustrates this clearly – with the arrows indicating the stress points rippling down the body from poor head position.



So what can educators do to enable efficient head position amongst our youngsters and avoid the impacts on the spine we see above.  We have probably all experienced the image of the string coming from the top of the head, to ‘lighten’ the skull on the spine and allow length in the spinal column.  This can be helpful but I think can sometimes result in the chin being pulled inwards towards the throat, the head falling slightly back and in turn, creating the flat back posture, also often associated with young dancers as they try to find that length we all seek.  Those vital spinal curves disappear. 


Multidimensional images of the head-spine relationship seem to create a better balance amongst the students I work with.  For example, whilst standing we consider the string from the crown of the head, alongside marionette strings which cluster above the ears and draw upwards to help students understand the volume of the skull balanced on the spine.  Often I will have students working in trios, one partner clustering their fingertips firmly on the sides of the skull just above the ears.  They press gently on the flesh for 30 seconds or so, so that the dancer can feel the touch of their partner, the partner then draws the fingertips up to the crown of the head to unite and lengthen up into the space above, often drawing the hair with the fingers.  The other partner lightly cups one hand on the forehead and the other on the posterior curve of the skull and remains there whilst the marionette strings are drawn upwards.  Students’ reactions to this tactile task are always positive and they observe in their partners the lengthened spine and ideal head placement we seek but also the spinal curves remain intact.  They are able to recall the tactile memories of the hands-on work in their dancing as a reminder. 


For me, I have learnt a lot from Alexander Technique (AT).  The verbal directions, “to let the neck be free, to allow the head to go forward and up, so that the back can lengthen and widen”, alongside hands-on work in class as shown below, reiterate the balance of the head whilst dancing.  Examples of AT in practice are widely available on the web; these short films are a great visual introduction to the basic principles of AT, and their specific application in dance. 
Video 1
Video 2

I have also found these dance-specific AT podcasts helpful in developing my own understanding and taking these ideas into the classroom to help my students.  I strongly recommend a listen!
BodyLearningCast

IMAGE WILL RETURN SOON


At the DanceEast Centre for Advanced Training we spend a lot of time team-teaching in technique classes – a luxury I know.  I will work within ballet and contemporary classes, the class teacher leading the class in the normal way, whilst I circulate to work with students individually, reminding them quietly of teaching points covered in dance health classes, using tactile feedback from the examples above as well as many others, to try to support the transfer of learning of principles from our health classes to their application in technique and performance.  So in fact we are trying to overcome habitual movement patterns such as the forward head posture through re-education.  We find a sustained deepening of the students’ understanding when we work in this way, which enables an enquiring learning approach from the students in which they ask questions and interrogate their own practice.


There are numerous videos including stretches for forward head posture available on the web.  In my experience some people, sometimes find these useful, but the focus is on treating the pain caused by poor alignment rather than tackling the root cause.


For further resources, take a look at the following:


A great collection of Alexander’s writings:
Alexander, F. M.
The Alexander Technique: The Essential Writings of F. Matthias Alexander. Lyle Stuart. 1990.


Batson, G. Somatics Studies and Dance.  IADMS Resource Paper. 2009.


The Complete Guide to the Alexander Technique

  


Elsa Urmston MSc PGCAP AFHEA is the DanceEast Centre for Advanced Training Manager, Ipswich, UK and a member of the IADMS Education Committee.

Email: elsa.urmston@danceeast.co.uk

 

Tags:  dancers  ergonomics  neck  spine  teachers 

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What do ballet dancers, bar tenders and paramedics have in common?

Posted By Luke Hopper, PhD, Friday, April 3, 2015

Lifting is an important technique across dance styles. With diverse modern choreography, lifting is an increasingly common technique not only for males but for female dancers as well. The act of lifting is often described as giving the partner grace and the impression weightlessness as they float through the air. But what about the lifter below? What about their technique? And more importantly what about their health?

In industry, lifting is the focus of a wealth of attention in the interests of occupational safety and health. This is because so many workers injure themselves performing lifting tasks. And the injuries they experience are commonly to the lower back

Dancers experience lots of leg injuries, but backs, particularly lower back injuries are also way too common in dance. A serious back injury can be a disastrous career ending experience for a dancer. Therefore should lifting in dance be considered from an occupational safety and health perspective and how could it prevent injury? In the US, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have released a safe lifting equation which lists six key variables (in addition to the weight being lifted) that affect risk of injury to the back:

  1. Horizontal location of the object relative to the body
  2. Vertical location of the object relative to the floor/li>
  3. Distance the object is moved vertically
  4. Asymmetry angle or twisting requirement
  5. Frequency and duration of lifting activity
  6. Coupling or quality of the workers grip on the object

Swap the term ‘object’ in the list for ‘partner’ and I’m sure that you can think of a whole lot of examples where dance breaks most if not all of the rules. But should lifting be banned from all choreography? Certainly not. Should dancers question their partner’s weight? Definitely not. Should dancers be aware of the risks of lifting so they can perform safe dance practices? Absolutely.

Alderson et al. (2009) estimated the lumbar forces in male dancers performing two lifts:

  1. Arabesque or presage: where the female stands in arabesque and is lifted in the arabesque posture by the male above his head into straight arms
  2. Full press: where the female stands in front of the male, jumps into the lift and is lifted above the male’s head

Surprisingly, every male dancer, for every lift examined, experienced the largest forces in the back before his partner had even left the ground in the posture shown below (Figure 1). The forces are likely the highest at is point because the male is generating momentum into the lift which requires more force. Think of pushing a piano across the studio, it requires a more effort at the first push compared to after the piano is moving.


                Figure 1: The position of greatest force in the lift.

In addition, despite the female jumping into the lift and ‘helping’ the male, the maximum back forces in the full press lift (Figure 2) were larger than in the arabesque (Figure 3). The full press was likely to have higher forces because of the dynamic jumping like movements of the lift. The explosive movement at the start of the lift may make the lift feel easier but it is because of the increased forces at the start of the lift.

 
           Figure 2: Full press lift.                                 Figure 3: Arabesque Lift.

Dancers should be careful of their posture right at the start of the lift as the discs of the spine are particularly susceptible to injury during these kind of intense movements and flexed body positions. Maintaining good posture throughout the whole lift is really important but male dancers should be particularly aware of the posture they start the lift with considering the high forces they experience at that point.

The forces measured in Alderson et al. were above the NIOSH recommended safe limits. To add a bit of perspective, the forces measured were more than a paramedic lifting a stretchered patient, but less than a bar tender lifting a beer keg. Lifting remains an important component of modern day choreography, but so do the risks to the dancer. Technique is of course important, but approaching lifting in dance from an occupational safety and health perspective can only serve to make dancers more aware of their bodies, closely consider their lifting technique and the forces they put through their bodies.

Recommended reading and images sourced from:

Alderson J, Hopper L, Elliott B, Ackland T. Risk factors for lower back injury in male dancers performing ballet lifts. J Dance Med Sci. 2009;13(3):83-89.

Full text articles from the Journal of Dance Medicine and Science are available to IADMS members!

Luke Hopper, PhD, is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Edith Cowan University.
Email: l.hopper@ecu.edu.au

Tags:  biomechanics  dancers  lifting 

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Core Control: “Not just abdominals”

Posted By Clara Fischer Gam on behalf of the IADMS Education Committee, Monday, March 16, 2015

 

In previous Education Committee posts we’ve spent time talking about turnout, and mentioned the importance of core control and neutral alignment in maximizing rotation of the legs.  Here, we spend a bit more time focusing on core control and what that might mean.

Everyone is talking about the importance of core control and the topic is becoming commonplace among dancers and teachers. We keep hearing that dancers got to have “core awareness,” “strong abdominals,” and “movement control.” Before we start “drawing our belly buttons in” we might well ask ourselves: 

What does core control actually mean?

The term core usually refers to the structures (including bones, muscles and ligaments) of the shoulder girdle, trunk, pelvis and hip. As the human spine is in essence an unstable structure, further stabilization is provided by the musculature.

There is still some debate within research about the muscles that constitute the core and their precise contribution to movement control, but here we will meet muscle groups that are often considered by researchers to be involved in the dynamics of core control:

Superficial muscles of the trunk: They produce trunk motion and act as prime movers during dynamic activities and provide multi-segmental stiffness over a wide range of motion (e.g.: rectus abdominis, external and internal obliques, iliocostalis thoracis).

Deep muscles of the trunk: These local muscles are better suited for segmental stability (e.g.: transversus abdominis, multifidus, interspinalis).


Transfer Muscles of the Shoulder Girdle and Pelvic Girdle: These muscle groups connect the upper or the lower limbs to the trunk thereby transferring the forces through the system during movement (e.g.: hip flexors, scapular stabilizers)


Above: Serratus anterior, example of transfer muscle of the shoulder girdle

 

Above: Psoas major and iliacus, examples of transfer muscles of the pelvic girdle

Pelvic Floor Muscles: These muscles are part of the compound structure that closes the bony pelvic outlet, offering support to the pelvic organs (e.g.: urogenital sphincter, levator ani)

As superficial muscles can be easily accessed, we tend to rely on them maybe more frequently than we should (e.g.: feeling only the “six pack” rectus abdominis activation without regard for the deep abdominals when “contracting” in Graham Technique class). Although deep muscles are not as easy to feel and recruit as superficial muscles, they’ve got an important function. Teachers can encourage students’ awareness for these deeper muscles (e.g.: they can be reminded of the action of transversus abdominis as well as of superficial muscles involved while reaching a penchée).

What then?

These diverse muscle groups act together to maintain control of positioning and movement of the trunk over the upper and lower extremities: and that’s especially relevant when it comes to dance. Core control seems to provide spine support and to back up pelvic alignment, which could be important factors to ensure movement control of legs and arms as well as to facilitate turnout in dancers.  You can find some ideas for core support training directed to turnout on this International Association for Dance Medicine & Science (IADMS) Resource Paper HERE.  Also check out our previous blog posts for bite-size information HERE.

Lack of core control seems to increase strain on the surrounding joints, bones and ligaments and has been related to injury risk on lower extremities and the lower back. As we know that dancers quite often acquire injuries on these parts of the body, bringing core control activities into studio practice could also play a key role on injury prevention and in turn enhance movement efficiency.

When cueing dance students to navigate through the core concept, it’s important to keep in mind that as postural adjustments and external loads entail constant changes to the body, core stability is considered a dynamic concept. That means that the contributions of each muscle on maintaining trunk stability may vary moment to moment throughout movement. For this reason, it’s hard to say that there is such a thing as a single core muscle we should always focus on while dancing. The core control muscles appear to work synchronously with one another.

Instead, it could be really useful (and fun) to explore the strategies used to achieve a desired movement you are working on and observe the muscle activation patterns it causes, whilst keeping in mind the anatomical references as well as research findings and discussions about core control. Why not help young dancers themselves to feel their core throughout movement and to identify their personal patterns during class? Kitty Daniels talks about strategies to help students to understand the role of core control in practice as well as to find a system of their own to work on individual challenges and artistic goals. Find out more about this teaching approach at this IADMS Bulletin for Teachers article HERE, click on Bulletin Volume 1, Number 1, pages 8-10.

As we’ve mentioned before providing images and online applications which allow dancers to locate these muscles really seems to aid understanding and importantly, the efficient execution of movement. Check out these short animated videos: they are great resources in locating those deep control muscles, which are often so difficult for dancers to feel.

Keep exploring:

Ambegaonkar JP, Rickman AM, Cortes N. Core stability: implications for dance injuries. Medical Problems of Performing Artists. 2012;17(3):143-148.

Cholewieki J & McGill SM. Mechanical stability of the in vivo lumbar spine: implications for injury and chronic low back pain. Clinical Biomechanics. 1996; ll(l):l-15.

Hodges PW & Richardson CA. Contraction of the abdominal muscles associated with movement of the lower limb. Physical Therapy.1997; 77(2):132-142.

Kline JB, Krauss JR, Maher SE, Quo X. Core strength training using a combination of home exercises and a dynamic sling system for the management of low back pain in pre-professional ballet dancers. A case series. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science. 2013; 17(1):24-33.

Panjabi M. The stabilizing system of the spine. Part II. Neutral zone and instability hypothesis. Journal of Spinal Disorders. 1992; 5(4):390-397.

Clara Fischer Gam, MS.
Dance Educator, Pilates Instructor
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Email: clara.figa@gmail.com

Tags:  anatomy  dancers  teachers  turnout 

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An intervention to improve turnout - Research Study

Posted By K. Michael Rowley, Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Many posts on the IADMS Blog from the Education Committee have been focused on the anatomy and control of turnout. But does awareness of where turnout comes from and exercise targeting hip external rotators actually make a difference in turnout a dancer can achieve? According to research from Florida State University published in the Journal of Dance Medicine and Science, the answer is yes.

Researchers developed a 45-minutes daily 10-day training intervention focused on turnout. This included education and awareness practices as well as exercises like the clam, a passé press will side-lying, side lunge, attitude on a rotating disc, stretches, and tennis ball massage. What made this study unique was that outcome measures were not only turnout ability, but also the rating of dancers performing an adagio by graduate students and faculty before and after the intervention.

Five of the six dancers tested increased their total turnout, measured by the angle of the feet on low-friction rotating discs (figure above), by 9° to 22°. A faculty rater with expertise in body sciences reported all post-intervention performance videos as showing greater turnout control than pre-intervention. The report states that, “Her comments included: ‘The pelvis looked more stable’; ‘the torso looked more lengthened’; ‘the chest was more open’; ‘I saw a greater level of confidence’; ‘much less hip hiking’; and ‘the initiation of the rotation is coming from the back of the legs.’”

Pata D, Welsh T, Bailey J, and Range V. (2014) Improving turnout in university dancers. Journal of Dance Medicine and Science, 18 (4), 169-177.

Full text articles from the Journal of Dance Medicine and Science are available to IADMS members!


 Photo Credit: Dan Dunlap, SarahKim Vennard

Tags:  dancers  research  teachers  turnout 

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5 Questions with Susanna Piculell

Posted By IADMS Student Committee, Tuesday, March 3, 2015

This month's featured member is Susanna Piculell of University College London. Susanna is a physiotherapist specialising in dance medicine. Her areas of interest include injury prevention, preseason functional screenings, periodization for dancers and performance psychology.

 

-How did you first get interested in dance science/medicine?


I’ve always been fascinated by dance, both as a spectator and a performer. Nevertheless, I felt pretty early that the performing artist profession was not for me, so I decided to approach the field from another angle by combining my dance, exercise and health interests. Thus, I decided to become a physiotherapist and specialize in dance medicine. 


-Are you currently participating in research? Can you give us your elevator pitch about your research area?

My MSc research proposal is on-going and due to be finished in September 2015. The aim of the study is to investigate whether there is a correlation between two preseason tests (knee to wall and single leg calf capacity) and subsequent injury to feet and ankle in professional ballet dancers. This is to gain a little further understanding of possible underlying factors behind these, far too common, ballet injuries and what kind of preseason tests are worthwhile to include. I see it as a small step that can lead on to future studies, new questions and new pointers.

 

 

-Which Annual Meeting has been your favourite so far and why?

I have only been to one, but the 21st Annual Meeting was wonderful. It was my first international gathering with other people like me, “dance nerds,” who also possess a fascination and enthusiasm to optimize dance performance.


-In which ways has IADMS helped you grow in your field of study?
Particularly after my BSc graduation in 2011, the JDMS has been very important to keep me updated on the progress of dance medicine. I also see IADMS as an essential source for networking, the world of dance medicine is still rather small and we need to collaborate and share our knowledge to keep on moving forward.


-What would you say to a student thinking of joining IADMS?

Do it! Especially now when you’re a student, not only because it is cheaper but also because now you might be needing it the most, in terms of career advice, access to literature and networking.

 

 

If you’re interested in the Student Committee and its initiatives, contact us at student@iadms.org.


Special thanks to the “5 Questions With...” Sub-committee, Andrea Alvarez and Siobhan Mitchell.

Tags:  5 Questions With  perspective  physiotherapy 

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