Safety Level

Thoughts about overstretching and safety in dance

It’s a common thing to see on television and social media these days when it comes to dance, and particularly with young dancers: overstretched bodies in contortionist-type movements.  Movements like the scorpion, where the leg can be extended so high in the back that the dancer’s head touches it; the oversplit, where a dancer’s legs go well past 180 degrees; and my personal un-favorite, the tilt — a legitimate modern dance step that has been distorted in order to reach the leg past the head.

Although you see these movements practically everywhere (and many dancers unknowingly imitate them), they aren’t a safe way to train, especially with young bodies that are growing and dancers who are still learning muscle awareness and control.  Serious damage can occur whether the move is performed once or repeatedly, especially in the hips and back.  Not only that, the artistic integrity of dance suffers at the expense of these “tricks,” so-called because of their wow-factor but lack of choreographic merit.  Television ratings and likes on social media have trumped safety.

And let me be clear that flexibility IS still very important for dancers; what I’m referring to here is overstretching past correct body placement and alignment.

This article from Lisa Howell’s Ballet Blog (Lisa Howell is a well-known physical therapist in the dance community), is an eloquent summary of the dangers of overstretching.  This news story, also featuring Lisa Howell, is an eye-opener.

Are these things going to go away overnight?  Nope.  But by educating our dance families and students about correct placement, appropriate progress, and injury prevention, we can help them understand that dance is so much more than the tricks they see on TV and social media.  Dance is about a love of movement and the artistry and passion that tug at your heart.  It’s about having a home away from home with great friends and great role models.  And it’s about having a strong, healthy body.

– Ms. Julie


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