While dance is an art form, it is a physically rigorous activity that can have the same effect on the body as a sport does. Dancers are constantly pushing themselves, striving to become better at their technique and artistry. As dancers get older, their art form becomes more demanding, requiring hours of training and hard work to master a skill. Naturally, some dancers run into injury during their training. There are some injuries that are unpredictable, but it is important to know that there are some key factors that can reduce the risk of injury in the dance studio.
1. Keep your body healthy. The most important way to prevent your body from becoming susceptible to injury is by keeping it healthy. Dancers should keep a water bottle with them and drink plenty of water in order to stay hydrated. Bring a bottle of water into the studio during class to drink between dance exercises. It is also important that a dancer stays nourished, so eat! Eat something healthy before you dance. We all know it can be much easier to make our way through the drive through line than to take time to pack something healthy to eat before dance class, but it takes the same amount of time to throw some healthy snacks (fruits, vegetables, a source of protein) into the dance bag as it does to order, pay, and get food. Dancers that eat healthier before class will also have more energy to excel. It is also important that a dancer's body gets enough rest. You'll regret staying up late the next day when your jazz teacher decides it's time to work on your leaps!
2. Practice dance in a safe environment. There are a few ways to make sure the studio you are dancing in is safe. First off, it should have correct flooring. Tile or cement floors are dangerous for dancers. Dance studios should have sprung sub floors, so that when dancers jump or leap their impact is absorbed by the floor, instead of by their joints. The floor should not be too slippery, but it should not be too sticky either. Most dance floors are either hard wood, or a type of dance floor called Marley. The temperature in the dance studio should not be too hot or too cold. Most dance studios are kept somewhere around 72 degrees. Lastly, there should be enough space for every dance participant to execute their movements fully and safely, not overcrowded.
3. Dance instructors need to be knowledgeable. Dance instructors should be experts on their profession. It is important that dance teachers are people who have studied dance outside of attending a dance studio until they were 18. There are plenty of programs, including colleges and universities where passionate dancers can study dance technique, and how to properly educate their students. Instructors must also be trustworthy, not only in the eyes of their dancers, but also the parents. If a dancer is not feeling well, or is feeling discomfort while dancing, they should trust their instructor to be able to tell them they are not feeling well and the instructor should be knowledgeable to provide help. Parents need to trust that their dancer is in safe hands when they enter the dance studio.
4. Proper warm up is essential. Too many dance injuries occur because a dancer has not warmed up their body. Just like an athlete warms up before a game, a dancer needs to warm up before they leap into strenuous physical activity. Most dance classes are structured to begin with exercises that warm the body and the muscles up, and get increasingly more difficult as the class progresses. Classes are structured this way so that the body can be properly warmed up. Dancers need to warm up before performances as well. This can be difficult at times, but is important to warm up muscles before they are stretched. There is never an excuse for dancing cold.
5. Cross training strengthens the body. Dancers spend most of their free time in the dance studio, so it can be hard to find time to do anything else. It is proven that dancers who cross train their bodies are less likely to get injured. Cross training can be taking Yoga, Pilates, or working out at the gym. It is a way of strengthening and exercising the body in a way that dance might not. Here at Atlanta Dance Central, we offer a dance conditioning class to help our dancers strengthen their bodies. Cross training helps to build a more fit dancer.
No dancer wants to sit out of dance class and suffer from an injury that they could have prevented. By staying healthy, warming up before class, cross training, and making sure your dance studio has the proper dance environment and knowledgeable instructors, you are reducing the risk of injury to your body.