Education and Flexibility Training
It's been a while since I've posted, and this blog entry will be brief!
What have I been up to?
I have participated in lectures and webinars on flexibility training, and I have taught classes on this subject. I have helped other dance educators understand proper stretching protocols, and I have helped many students gain more confidence in their abilities through understanding this method of training.
Through this work, I felt inspired to jot down some thoughts. I also wanted to let you all know what I've been up to!
Educating Dancers and Families
I've been teaching dance to children of all ages and educating them on safe ballet and dance technique (this is a life-long study and cannot be learned in a weekend crash course!). I have also been talking to children and parents about the benefits of dance as a study: the cognitive benefits, the physical benefits, the mind-body connection (the sense of well-being felt through physical expression), and the ability to achieve goals when the content is challenging.
Dance is all of those things, and is so so so good for you. I hope you all have a chance to dance this summer, whether it be a regular dance class offered, a square dancing class, a group salsa class, or a Zumba class!
What else have I been doing?
I've been training students and other dance educators on safe flexibility training protocols so that we can start (and in some circles, continue) the trend of safely increasing young dancer's range of motion, over time. There are more and more articles and scientific studies available to us today (and these articles are not new) that promote protocols that support increasing healthy ranges of motion without using the "overstretch". In fact, there are so many scientifically-backed articles available to us that discourage "overstretching" that I am not sure why any dancer would dare try this method. Perhaps if you are using this method, or want to, then you should seek the advice of a physical therapist, or sports medicine MD, and see what their thoughts are on the "overstretch". My gut instincts says that neither would encourage a dancer to do what I've seen done on social media that is labeled the "overstretch".
Gadgets and social media can make us doubt the natural order of our body and the joints and soft tissue it houses. Think twice before investing in the gadgets, or taking the advice of anyone on YouTube without knowing what their education and experience is. Nothing can replace effort with time spent doing the right things over and over again.
Flexibility is Not Always Required
Flexibility is only one aspect of dance, and is not always required to be a skilled dancer, and yet many people think they cannot dance because they don't have the same ranges of motions as the trained dancers we see on TV. They don't start a dance class, or they don't get back into dance, because of this narrow view of what dance is, and the misunderstanding of what dance is. Dance offers us something; not the other way around. Dance is for us. We collect information, we become better through practice: this is the only truth about dance.
It is easy to narrow our sights because the competition reality dance shows on mainstream media display the incredible ranges that dancers can have. If you or a beloved dancer is struggling with flexibility: please reset the focus on what is being achieved over time, and dance because you love it!
Not every dance genre requires the newly readjusted 120-degree arabesque. The arabesque was originally a ballet position where one leg was lifted behind the dancer at 90 degrees, which is safer for the back and more likely to be achieved over time without the prerequisite of genetics (i.e., what we call “natural flexibility”).
So... I did a Google search on West African Dance classes, Indian Folk dance (BollyX is a great workout as well as expressive movement), Sassy Hip Hop, Street Jazz, House, not to mention group Salsa classes! None of these styles requires excessive ranges of motion, and they are all wonderful forms of expression, and fun to learn. And remember that fun does not mean easy... it is fun anyway, but dance is a skill that is learned, and you go to class to learn the technique. Be brave because your teachers will be so happy to help you learn what they know. Dance teachers love what they do, and what dance gives us can only be experienced with others. Yes, it feels safer to stay in your bedroom and dance by yourself; but, being part of a group who dances together is when we are most connected. We are hard-wired to dance with others.
I Will Continue To Encourage You
Six powerful words.
There are so many classes out there, and so many genres that do not require the dancer to be part contortionist to execute the steps. And, although many of these classes that I mentioned above are in closer proximity to major metropolitan areas, you might find someone in your community who has experience with a style of dance that is not offered at your local studio. Ask around. Start something new. Be the pioneer. I encourage you to seek whatever it is that will make you feel accomplished, and dance can do that for every student. Dance is a process that requires patience and work because it requires determination and study. Seek it!