From Virtual Stillness to Dance Movement
What to Watch for as You Move Through the New Norm
by Brittany Cohen, CPT, HMS, EdM & BFA in Dance
Over the past year, the entire world has flipped upside down. Everything from school routine to dance routine and all that is in between has had to be adjusted to meet the "new normal". With all this change comes a very relevant and extremely important change we NEED to take into consideration when dancing, what our bodies are doing… more specifically, maybe, what they aren't doing so much. M-O-V-I-N-G!
We can take a moment to appreciate that we are moving through the "new normal" with a bit more grace and consistency now than at the start. By now, maybe you have gotten into a more consistent routine with school and you're able to maintain a dance schedule that lets you continue your training inside the studio or at home. Hooray!
What we need to address is that this movement, or the overall patterns of movement on the day to day are NOT what they once were. From moving through your day at school, to being outside on the warmer days, to even being more active in the dance scene at conventions and performances, the amount of movement we do is far LESS than what it used to be. With this change or decrease in movement that was set by the schedules and environments we found ourselves in, we should take a deeper look at just exactly what we are doing with our bodies throughout any given day. With this awareness we can begin to better understand how this change is affecting our bodies and minds and how we can support them to continue to dance at our best.
I find it very likely that this is not the first time you are noticing that things are a bit different for your body. I would bet that your body has been sending you plenty of signals and feedback about what it is experiencing in this new normal. In my own body and the bodies of the dancers I get to work with I have seen some of the following positive adaptations in their bodies: less inflammation and more easeful mobility. I should state that this was an adaptation I saw relevant in a few key points of time over the last year. Dancers were able to find a relief of tension and discomfort in areas that were consistently OVERWORKED from their weekly training. We know that when muscles become tired and weak, we can start to see incidences of injuries resulting from over working of those muscles. REST is the best way to help relieve those issues, coupled with using gear like half sole dance socks to no show dance socks and supportive dance equipment. As mentioned in a previous The Muse blog post, the pandemic brought a huge pause to the dance world and with it a chance for overworked and fatigued bodies to get needed rest.
Being the driven and "the show must go on" community that we are as lovers of dance, it wasn't long until we were creating and utilizing creative outlets to allow us to return to activity (albeit in a new way). With bodies back in action at dance training but still limited in movement from other schedules of life (i.e. school), dancers were running the spectrum of active to still on any given day. School takes up 1/3, if not more, of the time dancers spend in a day. The activity they experience physically during that time has a GREAT influence on their overall kinesiology, which is then carried into their dance practices.
Of the many adaptations I have seen dancers experience in their bodies from the long hours of sitting in front of screens and lack of active movement, some of the most common include a decrease of strength and mobility. This is not uncommon for any body to experience when exposed to long hours of sitting and stillness, but what raises a red flag is that dancers are taking their weaker and less mobile bodies into high activity and demanding situations as they continue their dance training. In light of the NFL playoffs, "flag thrown on the play!" Dancer's bodies require strength and mobility to help ensure they are training efficiently and safely in their time at dance.
Some important factors to consider to help you transition safely from sitting to movement:
- Release Tightness: Chest, Front of the hips, Inner thigh
- All the places that have been contracted and shortened
- Try lifting your chest to the ceiling in and upper back arch and kneeling lunges
- Mobilize Stiff Joints: Spine, Hips
- Bring gentle movement back into areas that have been immobile or stressed
- Try hip circles, side bending, and gentle twisting
- Activate sleeping muscles: Core, Upper Back, Glutes
- Try holding a forearm plank, upward facing dog, and glute bridges
Taking ten minutes after your extended period of sitting to try out some of these concepts for movement will help you give your body a period of supportive transition from sitting to preparing for bigger movements in dance.
A good rule of thumb to remember: When we are sitting and slouching we are releasing and lengthening the larger muscle groups of the back of the body and shortening the muscles at the front of the body. To counteract this, following extended periods in this position, it is encouraged that you gently move the body through the opposite actions, opening the front of the body and activating the back of the body.
If you are experiencing any limitations, discomforts, or pain while or after dancing since the change to your daily activity, seek out the care of a dance specialist and medical professional to help you overcome and get back to dancing at your best!
Are you looking for more resources to help you improve your dance abilities and understanding? Check out the resources created and cultivated just for passionate dancers like you on the BCA Instagram Page - follow @bcartistry.dance
"I teach busy dance moms and their passionate dancers, ages 7-14, who feel like they don't have a voice or a plan when addressing injuries & development in training through 1:1 sessions, giving your dancer the tools to overcome & improve their technique, and you the relief of knowing your dancer is safe & supported, all in the comfort of your home."
A lover of all movement, Brittany received her Master's in Dance Education from Rutgers University and graduated from Mason Gross School of the Arts with her B.F.A. in Dance Performance. Brittany is also a Certified Human Movement Specialist, Certified Personal Trainer, and a Yoga Therapeutics Instructor, using her knowledge for research in the support of safe practices in the development of dance abilities. She has inspired and supported young dancers & their families as well as studio communities through her work with BC Artistry LLC, offering personalized and comprehensive coaching, training, and consultation. Brittany works with other local dance medicine and wellness specialists as the team leader for the Bridge Dance Project of New Jersey Chapter. You can learn more about Brittany and her work by visiting www.bcartisry.dance, and share in her passion for dance on Facebook and Instagram