Monday, January 28, 2013

Injuries You Can Heal: Back

I know what you're thinking. "Daisy, you're insane. If I could heal my back myself, I wouldn't be spending hundreds of dollars on doctors, physical therapy, and chiropractors." Hear me out.

I've spent the last 3 months with a thoracic (rib cage) vertebrae out of place. It's causing severe back pain when I twist, side bend to the left, and when I breathe. Fun huh? I went to two different doctors, a chiropractor, saw four different physical therapists, and got almost as many diagnoses: sprained back, inflamed intercostals, lumbar misalignment, tense erector muscles...the list goes on. It took me a while to get the "your vertebrae is in the wrong place" diagnosis.

And then one of my therapists was able to fix it (mostly). Horray! It was getting better throughout January, but still not completely gone.

Today was my first dance class in 5 weeks. I've been in dancing in those weeks, but not doing the intensity that a class demands. One modern class and my back was in just as much pain as it was in 3 months ago when I first felt the injury.

I came back to my room and did a little research to see if there was anything I could do. Lo and behold, I found an article from called Spontaneous Release by Positioning. Even though the article stresses that you must have someone else do it for you, I was able to achieve a similar result with a spiky pinky ball on the floor. It feels better. Not perfect, but better.

Now as a warning, this isn't an end-all-be-all. Not all back problems are vertebrae out of place. Make sure you are sure of your diagnosis (aka you've seen at least 2-3 doctors who have had the same opinion). It would be best if you could teach someone to do it for you, but alas, I am alone in my apartment, so the pinky ball and floor worked almost as well. Now I'm going to go practice fix it again and see if I can fix it entirely.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Ideal Dancer's Body: Knees and Elbows

Strange thing to be ideal about, huh? But for the dancers who are underextended, overextended, or have bowed legs, you know what I'm talking about. These are just a few of the more common joint appearance "issues."

Under extension is a problem because your arms or legs never look straight. Whenever your teacher says "straighten your knees!," your reply is "I am!" This problem could be in the joint (structural), or it could be muscular.  For example, maybe the bicep is always slightly activated and the tricep is too weak to fully counteract the bicep, resulting in a perpetually "bent" elbow.

Hyperextension (or "Over extension") is a lot more common and "easier" to fix. This is when your arms or legs seem to bend backwards, past the point of being "straight."

Photo Credit
Usually, hyperextended elbows or knees are not harmful or cause for alarm. The bad news is it's also fairly "incurable." Hyperextended girls are usually told to "soften" their elbows and knees all the time and must learn to continually mildly bend their joints in order for them to appear "straight."

Bowed legs affect a good portion of the population, especially Asians. This is a condition where the legs are curved outward so that the knees do not touch on the inside when the person stands with their feet together.
Photo Credit

Also not something curable, but mild bow-leggedness most likely does not put a person at risk for injury. The only thing a bow-legged individual needs to watch for is tracking their knees over their toes in parallel first position - it is hard for you to know where your knees are and the tendency is for them to drift apart.

All of the conditions I have listed above are mostly aesthetic - there is no way or reason to correct for any of these joint abnormalities. Some of the best dancers there are have these abnormalities and are very aware of them: in fact, it is the abnormality that makes them more aware and causes them to pay special attention to correct posture and stance at all times. While none of these necessarily create an "ideal" look, there is nothing wrong with them. Some choreographers may even exploit these abilities (some really love hyperextended elbows. It's interesting). Love the body you've been given.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Pet Peeve: Take the Correction

Few things make me angrier than someone who ignores, disregards, or doesn't make an effort to change once they are given something to work on. What's the point in continuing doing what you're doing if it won't make you better? Why would you keep practicing with the same bad habit or wrong movement in a piece of choreography?

I don't mean from class to class, really - heck if I could remember all of the corrections I've ever been given. There's way too many things to think about, especially in ballet (head back, chin up, eyeline, fingers soft, elbow curved, arms lifted, turned out from the hips, weight over the balls of the feet, weight between your 1st and 2nd toes, hips square, shoulders back, breathing. And you haven't even moved yet) or during a dance number. But if you are given a specific correction or suggestion by a choreographer or teacher (or even friend!), why wouldn't you do it?

Sometimes it's hard to remember. I get that, I do it all the time. I'm given one correction and then the next time I do the movement, I've completely forgotten. But I remember at the end, beat myself up for it, and remember it the next time. And the time after that.

But what really gets me is when people don't care. They hear the comment, and it goes in one ear and straight out the other without hitting anything in between. It's hard for some people to change, but some people just don't want to. And why are you a dancer if you don't want to change? If you don't want to improve? Why are you still here?

If you don't give your best effort to making a correction when it's given to you, you're wasting everyone's time: your own, your choreographers'/teachers', and your classmates. You wasted a chance to improve, you wasted your choreographer's time in giving you that correction when they could have been looking at someone else who cares, and you are wasting someone else's chance to get noticed or improve.

So don't be lazy. Don't settle for good enough. Make improvements every day, and respect yourself and everyone around you by giving it your all.