Alignment is essential for dancers to achieve strength, flexibility, coordination, weight placement and injury prevention. Dancing is fast-paced and there is a lot of pressure placed on dancers to be perfect. Therefore dancers will often ignore pains without noticing that they are developing injuries that could take them off the dance floor for a long time, or in some cases forever.
Dancers train many hours each day. I remember when I was dancing full-time ballet I would be at the studio around 8:00am and wouldn’t leave until 9:00pm. Because of this intense work load, dancers, just like athletes, need to be in top condition, and dancing alone won’t achieve this. Dancers are expected to have the perfect ‘look’ and often push their bodies into positions that they are not physiologically able to do safely.
The beauty of Pilates is that we can slow your body down which enables us to target the correct muscles and strengthen your body accurately. Pilates is also a full body work out that will create balance throughout your body. We assess which muscles are strong and determine the muscles that need strengthening. Ballet dancers spend most of their life in external rotation which creates imbalances in your body. This eventually can cause weaknesses of other muscles and in turn can result in injuries. In the Pilates studio we are responsible for maintaining and developing balance in your body.
Another reason why Pilates is essential for dancers is for the rehabilitation aspect. Pilates with equipment is so good because most of the work is non – weight bearing which takes the pressure off the dancers joints and they are able to work on their alignment and control in a gentle way so that coming back into the studio after an injury is a lot easier. A dancer is also able to stay in shape while having the time off recovering. It is possible to do almost everything you can do standing in a dance studio, horizontally on the machines. This means that even though the dancer may need time off dancing they are still able to maintain most if not all of their strength while injured.
Joseph Pilates created Pilates. He studied yoga, martial arts, bodybuilding, gymnastics and boxing to improve his fitness and health. During his internment in Britain during World War I, Pilates helped care for bed-ridden servicemen, a situation that inspired his trademark exercises.
Dancers have many stressful demands and train with a strong intensity. Pilates takes the pressure off performing to slow the student down and focus on aligning the body and isolating the muscles that need more attention. The artistic director of the Australian Ballet explains that Pilates enables targeting muscle groups that supports the ballet dancers technique. Pilates teaches you to understand how to activate and strengthen the small linking muscles, as opposed to the larger prime movers such as quads, glutes, hamstrings. This in turn will help a dancer prevent injuries, improve their classical technique, alignment, and allows the dancer to work with a heavier workload.
A council member of the Australian Pilates Method Association (also a dancer) talks about Pilates being a very valuable tool for a dancer says Penelope Hoess, “Physiologically, our centre of gravity lies in our pelvis,” Pilates works the deep muscles that are located around the joint for stability and strength. This helps dancers strength and flexibility.
Q Pilates specializes in individualising Pilates programs to suit the needs of each client and is an ideal studio for dancers to come in, prevent or rehabilitate injury and improve dancing technique. We also offer Barre Pilates, a fun, fast-paced mixture of Ballet Barre exercises and Pilates for general fitness and dancers alike.
Written by: Liljana Stojan
Image Credit: http://newlifepilates.ca/