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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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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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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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To torque or not to torque: The summative contributions of the knee, tibia and foot in the use of turn out

Posted By Maggie Lorraine on behalf of the IADMS Education Committee, Monday, February 23, 2015

In a previous post we examined the structure of the pelvis and hip joint and observed how the anatomical variations of the structure can impact on an individual’s ability to externally rotate their legs in the hip socket (turnout). We know that in most cases, dancers do not possess perfect turnout or complete external rotation from the hip. Often turnout is viewed as the placement of the prescriptive positions of the feet on the floor, however it is important to remember that turnout is an aligned movement of the whole leg from the hip joint culminating in the centering of weight over the foot on the floor whilst dancing. Ergo turnout is an action not a static position.

Dr. William Hardaker and Dr. Lars Erick, in a paper delivered with Martha Myers to the 1984 Olympic Scientific Congress, estimated that the 180° turnout is achieved by 60°-70° rotation of the leg from the hip and the remaining 40°-30° is picked up by the knee, tibia and foot. At the tibia, torsion is defined as an axial twist of the tibia or shinbone. Dancers in their growth years may develop external tibial torsion as a result of turning out their feet beyond the range of the hip joint. The torsion has been measured as widely varied as 16° to 60° and also with differing amounts of tibial torsion in each leg.

The small bones in the foot allow a gliding action to occur at the arch and it is not uncommon to see dancers force the lower limbs beyond the normal limits of the hip’s range of motion, creating a compensating action called pronation or “rolling in” of the feet to achieve the perception of greater or perfect turnout. The injury rate for the foot and ankle complex is the highest of all joint systems and the illustration below clearly indicates the risk potential. Note the change to the alignment of the Achilles tendon and the weight distribution on the inside of the foot as a result of the pronation of the foot.

IMAGE WILL RETURN SOON

Many factors contribute to the safe and efficient control of turnout whilst dancing. Rather like a team, body alignment, core control and the recruitment of muscle groups, which activate and control turnout, all play their integral part. Should one part fail there is a chain reaction that effects the efficiency of the others.

Many years ago I learnt what was for me is the golden rule of alignment and turn out. The weight of the body should fall like gravity, through the centre of the bones and the weight of the body is evenly distributed over the feet on the floor. This ideology creates stability, strength and control in a way that would be difficult to achieve through the action of torsion of the knee, tibia and pronated foot. The bonus of the aligned mode of working, is that turnout can be improved by the efficient recruitment and strengthening of the turnout muscles and the intrinsic foot muscles supporting the body weight on the floor.

Follow these links for more information:

Information for this article has been drawn from the IADMS Resource Paper

The following IADMS link provides an excellent training program for dancers:

Further reading:

Grossman G, Krasnow D and Welsh TM. Effective use of turnout: biomechanical, neuromuscular, and behavioral considerations. Journal of Dance Education 2005;5(1):15-27.

Maggie Lorraine is the Leading Teacher in Ballet at the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School and is a member of the IADMS Education Committee.

Tags:  anatomy  dancers  teachers  turnout 

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Approaching turnout with young dancers: Muscles that rotate the leg

Posted By Elsa Urmston on behalf of the IADMS Education Committee, Monday, February 2, 2015

 

All too often we see our young dancers forcing their turnout in an attempt to achieve the illusive 180 degree line of the feet whilst often compromising the neutral line of the spine and pelvis and putting the knees, ankles and feet at high risk of injury.

The last blog post by the IADMS Education Committee focussed on the anatomy of the hip joint; this time we take a look at the muscles which govern turn out and the lateral rotation of the hip. Knowing which muscles do what can help young dancers especially work more efficiently; talking about the location and function of those muscles and showing images of them can really inspire children and young people to maximise the rotation of the hip whilst working safely and effectively. And reminding them that there are no turnout muscles in the feet is a light-hearted reminder of how turnout should work! There are some great applications available which can help our dancers to clearly understand the anatomy and musculature of turnout, and are well worth bringing into the classroom, such as 3D for Medical Muscle System and VisibleBody. 

Whilst the most obvious muscles of the hips are located in the buttocks, the muscles that are vital for turnout are the six deep lateral rotators, buried under the gluteal muscles and deep within the pelvic girdle. Identifying and recruiting these muscles can be tough and we often see an over-recruitment of the gluteus maximus in an effort to rotate the legs, both when standing and gesturing the leg in a non-weight-bearing position. The deep lateral rotators aid the efficient rotation of the leg, running laterally across the back of the hip joint capsule. They all attach on or adjacent to the greater trochanter of the femur and achieve rotation by pulling the greater trochanter backwards, towards the back of the pelvis. As well as the diagrams below, take a look at this great animation which demonstrates the location and function of these muscles in hip rotation.

Other muscles contribute to the rotation of the leg too. The sartorius is thought to help turn out the leg when the hip is flexed or abducted such as in retiré or attitude devant. And the inside thigh muscles (adductors) may also contribute to the rotation of the legs when they are extended and already turned out by the deep lateral rotators. In class I tend to talk about the adductor muscles lengthening to aid the rotation of the leg, especially when the leg is extended to second; this tends to bring about less tension and ensures that the deep lateral rotators remain the primary rotators of the legs, both when weightbearing and gesturing the leg.

 

It is important to remember that external hip rotation and turnout are not really the same thing. Anatomically, 60% of turnout is achieved by the outward rotation of the hip. The rest tends to come from the ankle, followed by the knee joint and tibia itself. 

The problem here of course is when those deep rotators are not recruited first. This, coupled with anatomical factors which hinder the rotation of the leg, can mean that the dancer screws the leg from the foot upwards in a bid to achieve that 180 degree line of the feet I mentioned earlier. This places huge torsion on the big toe joint, ankles and knees – a recipe for greater likelihood of injury. The knock on effect of this screwing action also often means that the alignment of the pelvis and spine are compromised. So, the use of core support and an awareness of pelvic alignment are also crucial if turnout is to be fully functional in dynamic dancing. The recruitment of the deep rotators and the stability of controlled foot placement on the floor are the key elements for the safe recruitment of turnout whilst dancing.

There is a range of specific exercises for conditioning the turnout muscles, and for helping dancers to recruit the primary and supporting muscles involved in rotating the leg and maintaining efficient alignment of the spine and pelvis. Take a look at the IADMS Resource Papers for lots more information and ideas to take into class:

·         Turnout for Dancers: Hip Anatomy and Factors Affecting Turnout

·         Turnout for Dancers: Supplemental Training

 

Further Reading:

Grossman G, Krasnow D and Welsh TM. Effective use of turnout: biomechanical, neuromuscular, and behavioral considerations. Journal of Dance Education 2005;5(1):15-27.

 

 

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  teachers  turnout 

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Dancers have the answers when it comes to dance floors

Posted By Luke Hopper, Monday, January 26, 2015

 
Pictured: Luke Hopper, Talia Wheeler; Photographer: Ray Marsh of Harlequin Floors

So you are starting a new school or planning a performance tour, you check out the venue, look at the floors and some red flags go up. All of a sudden you have a difficult decision to make. Is this floor sprung and going to be ok for my dancers? Here are a few tips from some recent research that can help you if you have experienced this common problem.

Sprung floors are basically made to absorb and return energy during dancing. Absorbing energy can decrease impact on a dancer’s body and energy return can help jumps. The top surface of a sprung floor normally sits on a foam or basket weave structure so that it can move up and down with the dancer returning and absorbing energy. So the first thing to do when checking out your new floor, is try to get an idea of the floor structure. Unless you are lucky enough to have the actual floor details or specs, this often means getting on your hands and knees and trying to see what lies beneath. Doorways and barre posts are often good spots where you can get a good look underneath the top surface of the floor. If you think the floor structure might be ok then it is time to quiz your dancers.

Standards

First of all, there are standards that are apply to the manufacture of dance floors. These standards are typically developed from the sporting industry and have their limitations for dance. Dancers generally prefer a soft floor that falls within the upper ranges of the standards for shock absorption. Nonetheless, if you are going to purchase a new floor you should always ask the manufacturer if their products have been approved by the standards for your region of the world.

Dancers have the answers

When it comes to deciding if a floor is appropriate for dance, recent studies have shown that dancers know what they are talking about when it comes to floors. When interviewed as a group, dancers were able to give a good estimate of dance floor properties compared to the standard measures. Therefore asking your class or company dancers what they think of a floor is a really valuable way of getting a better understanding of a floor. Here are a few tips to help you along;

·        Every dancer will have a different sense of the floor.

Just like different dancers prefer different shoes. Therefore it is important that you get a group response about a floor. Individual dancer preferences for floors are not a reliable measure.

·        Let dancers make their own decisions.

This means getting dancers to develop and give their opinions anonymously. This way they don’t feel pressured into the ‘expected’ response.

·        Use specific and open questions.

Asking specific questions is important but also give the dancers the opportunity to express their own opinions. Often these dancer perspectives will make you stop and look at the problem differently.

·        Make sure the dancers use the whole floor.

Just hopping up and down on the spot is not enough to get a good feel for the floor. The dancers need to experience the whole floor space using lots of different movements. Choreographing a short routine for the all the dancers to test the floor with can be a good way of getting them moving.

·        Give yourself a comparison.

If you have access to another floor that you know meets the standards and is appropriately sprung, get the dancers to repeat the questions on the other floor. This will give you a better scale of how the new floor rates for the dancers.

Once you have the responses from the dancers it is ultimately your call whether or not to go with the floor. Although, hopefully the dancers have helped you with your decision. If you decide to use the floor but still have your reservations, make sure to structure the first classes and rehearsals at a low intensity. This will give the dancers the time to adjust to the floor and help you identify any problems along the way. No one wants to have to stop classes because of an inappropriate floor so working with your dancers in the interests of their own safety is important for a safe and effective dance environment.

 

Luke Hopper, PhD, is a postdoctoral scholar at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Edith Cowan University.

Email: l.hopper@ecu.edu.au

Phone: +61 8 6304 8234

 

Recommended readings

Hopper LS, Wheeler TJ, Webster JM, Allen N, Roberts JR, Fleming PR. Dancer perceptions of the force reduction of dance floors used by a professional touring ballet company. J Dance Med Sci. 2014:18(3):121-30.

Hopper LS, Alderson JA, Elliott BC, Ackland TR, Fleming PR. Dancer perceptions of quantified dance surface mechanical properties. Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part P: Journal of Sports Engineering and Technology. 2011:225(2):65-73.

Tags:  dancers  floors  teachers 

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What has the “Anatomy of the Hip Joint” got to do with Louis XIV?

Posted By Maggie Lorraine on behalf of the IADMS Education Committee, Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Classical Ballet is a dynamic art form. The art of ballet has undergone change since its birth in the mid-17th to early 18th Century. It is interesting to review the description of the organization of the body, codified by Pierre Beauchamp (1631-1705). The five positions of the feet are described as turned out from the hip to an angle of 45 degrees. It was emphasized that the feet should never be turned out more than 45 degrees.

Over time, there has developed an expectation for Ballet dancers to turnout each foot to 90 degrees creating a 180 degree shape with the feet.  By studying human anatomy it appears that Beauchamp was more anatomically sound in his recommendation of the 45 degree turn out “from the hip” than the current 180 degree placement “of the feet” that we now often see.  There are many anatomical factors contributing to the effective use of turn out.

The Bone Anatomy of the Pelvis

The pelvis is formed from the fusion of three bones: ilium, pubis, and ischium. Each of the three bones contributes to the hip socket or acetabulum.


The Ball and Socket

The hip joint includes two main parts, the ball and socket. The ball of the hip joint consists of the round head of the femur or thigh bone and the femur articulates with the hip joint to enable the leg to rotate outwards.

There are three factors that affect turnout from the bony structure of the hip joint and most researchers agree that these conditions cannot be altered with training:

1.      Angle of femoral anteversion

On average, the neck of the femur is angled 15 degrees forward relative to the shaft of the femur (see Figure 3A). An increase in this anterior angulation, called anteversion, often will cause someone to toe in when they walk, (see Figure 3B). People who are born with more anteversion, the orientation of the femoral shaft in the hip socket makes the knees face towards each other when standing or walking. In ballet class, when they turn out their legs from the hip, the knees face the front, leaving little additional hip rotation to create the expected angle of outward rotation visible at the feet.

However, a decrease in this angulation, called retroversion, will allow one to have greater turnout (see Figure 3C). People born with retroversion have a much easier time with turnout. Just standing in neutral, the knees and feet tend to face outward. By adding external rotation at the hip, they can achieve a larger angle of outward rotation visible at the feet than the average person.


2.      Orientation of the acetabulum

The socket of the hip faces out to the side and somewhat forward.  The socket that tends to face more directly to the side with a less forward facing will allow a greater amount of turnout to come from the hip therefore greater movement range.

3.      Shape of the femoral neck

The neck of the femur is subject to some variability. A longer and more concave neck allows a greater range of motion at the hip and is therefore considered to be advantageous.  A shorter and less concave neck will have the opposite effect and limit turnout resulting in less movement range.

Bearing these anatomical differences in mind, it is more important to encourage dancers to use the turnout they have, rather than working against their anatomical make-up to achieve an unrealistic position.  Louis XIV was happy with 45 degrees, we can safely move beyond that if we apply a good understanding of anatomical structure and function.

Further Resources:

Wilmerding V, Krasnow D.  Turnout for Dancers - Hip Anatomy and Factors Affecting Turnout, IADMS Resource Paper. 2011.
Available HERE

Krasnow D, Wilmerding V. Turnout for Dancers – Supplemental Training. IADMS Resource Paper. 2011.
Available HERE

A useful tutorial on the hip joint, range of motion and function:
Sechrest R. Hip Anatomy Animated Tutorial, 2012.
Watch it HERE

A great tutorial on hip function in squats with additional images on bone structure, which may govern why people may need to approach movement in different ways:

De Bell R. The Best Kept Secret: Why People Have to Squat Differently, 2015.
Watch it HERE

Tags:  anatomy  dancers  hips  teachers  turnout 

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First IADMS Blog Post! - How to stretch for dance class

Posted By K. Michael Rowley, Thursday, January 8, 2015

Welcome to the IADMS Blog !

The purpose of the IADMS blogs are to connect the public – the dancing public, the teaching public, the researching public, the clinical public – with current happenings in the field of dance medicine and science, in order to promote educational, medical, and scientific excellence. For more information see www.iadms.org/blog. For now, let's jump right in with a research study published in the Journal of Dance Medicine and Science.

Sitting and stretching passively or stretching with repetitive motion - which is safer for a pre-class stretch? Personally, I've been told to stay away from "ballistic", or dynamic, stretching and instead to spend at least 30 seconds in a stationary, or static, stretch position. Research by dance scientists, however, says that's not the optimal technique to maximize safety and performance in class.

Niamh Morrin at the University of Bedforshire and Emma Redding at Trinity Laban conducted a study published in the Journal of Dance Medicine and Science in 2013 about stretching techniques during a dance class warmup. They found that their ten dancers performed best when both static stretches and dynamic stretches were done after a cardiovascular warmup. What does "performed best" mean for these researchers? Their subjects had significantly higher jump heights, better balance, and more range of motion in their hamstring muscles. It appears that the warning I have always received about avoiding ballistic stretching, however, is not entirely off base. When their subjects did only dynamic stretches and left out the static ones, they actually showed decreased range of motion in the hamstrings. On the flip side, when they did only static stretching subjects failed to show improvement in balance or jump height.

Morrin's and Redding's conclusion? "...a cardiovascular warm-up, followed by 30 seconds static stretches, followed by 30 seconds dynamic stretches, provides the optimum performance of vertical jump, balance, and hamstring range of motion."

Morrin N, Redding E. Acute effects of warm-up stretch protocols on balance, vertical jump height, and range of motion in dancers. J Dance Med Sci. 2013;17(1):34-40.
http://dx.doi.org/10.12678/1089-313X.17.1.34

Photo Credit: Dan Dunlap, Pamela Oppenheimer

 Attached Thumbnails:

Tags:  dancers  stretching  teachers 

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