Strictly Pilates for Dancers

It’s that time of year again, we start looking out our winter woollies, the leaves start to turn gorgeous shades of red and orange, and of course on a Saturday and Sunday night we’re glued to the TV watching our favourite celebrities strut their stuff on Strictly Come Dancing.

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Inevitably, inspired by the effortless-looking cha cha or tango that the professional dancers pull off week after week or maybe by the spectacular costumes, we start looking into local ballroom dance classes. At the very least we pull a few sneaky moves in front of the mirror when there’s definitely no-one watching! Wherever we dance, we all want to be judged as ‘punchy and dynamic’ and with ‘power, drama, passion and beauty’, to steal a few of the Strictly judges’ favourite praises.

If we do get out there and learn a few steps at a class, how do we avoid tripping up or losing balance and potentially injuring ourselves? Or even avoid the scathing verdict of the judges? I’d rather not dance at all than be called ‘flat footed and stompy’, ouch!

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Professional dancers know that they have to work hard to prevent injuries in their daily working lives and many companies send all their dancers to Pilates classes to prevent imbalances and maintain muscles at optimum strength and length. Pilates contributes to the core stability, coordination and balance required when moving quickly and changing direction in complex routines. In addition it builds your body into a strong foundation which means you can do some much more impressive moves and put some flair into it!

Hamstring injuries are common, especially where a dancer is frequently performing the splits. Any dancer who is lifting a partner is at risk of wrist, shoulder and low back injuries if they have not trained their core and upper quadrant (the collective term for the collarbone, shoulderblade and shoulder joint) to support their partner and withstand the fast movements involved in a lift.

The most common injuries dancers pick up are of the foot and ankle, but they can really injure any part of the body depending on the demands of the style of dance they are doing. Ballet dancers need to balance on their toes and maintain great strength and precision while demonstrating extreme flexibility; at the other end of the spectrum a breakdancer will need incredible upper body strength and coordination. Pilates addresses core and global strength, flexibility, coordination, balance and lung function which can all improve dance performance.

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Following a programme of Pilates can help build a good foundation to prevent injuries when doing the activities you want and also give you the poise and balance to improve your performance. Like Abbey Clancy was told, after working on her core, her tango was ‘snappier than the crack of a whip’!

Reference: http://hjd.med.nyu.edu/harkness/patients/common-dance-injuries

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