Diagnosing and managing common dance injuries
- Teitz CC
- J Musculoskel Med
Copyright © 2009 International Association for Dance Medicine & Science • www.iadms.org A primary goal of dance science is to produce healthier and better dancers. It’s a win-win situation for dancers when improved technique allows for greater freedom of expression. While studies and experience have shown that incorrectly performed dance movements increase the risk of overuse injuries1,2 we often forget how some of the most basic movements in dance need optimal attention and care. The demi-plié, with its fundamental role in many dance steps, is one such movement (Fig. 1). A study by Couillandre, Portero and Lewton-Brain3 with dancers from the Ballets de Monte-Carlo has given us insights to improve the function of the demi-plié and reduce stress on the foot, ankle and spine when performing this movement. By applying a correction using principles of anatomy, biomechanics and movement intention we can influence jumps, turns, and probably any steps requiring explosive takeoffs from a demi-plié. It is a simple yet effective way of improving not only the foot in the demi-plié but also full dynamic alignment (the body’s placement during movement). This is of special interest in creating the illusion of ballon, an essential element of ballet where the dancer appears to float in the air.4 Placement or alignment in static positions (attitude, passé, etc.) is a first step in creating the body awareness necessary for ballon, but achieving optimal alignment for ballon during movement preceding jumps (dynamic alignment) is much more difficult. One of the clearest examples of this is going from demi-plié to jumping. A frequent error is a “bucking” motion of the torso when taking off, as a result of which the dancer only achieves dynamic alignment on the way down. This leaves little time for the audience to appreciate the position in the air. Some teachers consider this error to be due to a lack of abdominal muscle strength, but our study investigated a simple three-minute correction that dealt only with movement intention, not strength. The decisive factor seemed to be one of coordination. The illusion of ballon results from coordinated movement rather than jump height. By giving dancers an alternative movement intention in the demi-plié we were able to show that bucking could easily be corrected. The correction appeared to create a constant muscle chain interconnecting the legs and torso and improving the foot’s biomechanics by aligning the heel bone in the demi-plié. The firing of the hamstring muscles going down into plié and then from plié to the jump demonstrated a direct link to the diminished bucking motion in the torso. Researchers have already found that improving technique through muscle coordination is normally associated with the reduction of injury rates,5 leading us to consider if the correction could have an influence on injury prevention as well as performance enhancement.