Like most dancers, I’ve picked up a few injuries over the years. Now in my 30s and teaching dance full time, some of those injuries are recurring and having a significant impact upon my work. Yes all dancers suffer some ‘wear and tear’ from time to time, but could some of my more significant injuries have been prevented?
Dancing, as we know can have amazing benefits for our health, including our mental and physical wellbeing. But what happens when we overuse our bodies through the repetitive nature of dance? Having a good working knowledge of anatomy can not only prevent injury but also aid the recovery process. If I had known years ago what I know now, I would have known what NOT to do so that I would not have placed unreasonable demands on my body while dancing. In fact, I didn’t find out until I went on my dance teacher training course that there were ‘Dos and Don’ts’ for dancers. It’s even more important to have a full working knowledge of this when you’re actually teaching dance so that you also know how to prevent injury among your students. When learning the syllabus for the IDTA Freestyle Associate qualification, I discovered that there were at least 5 major things that dancers must not do (and that dance teachers must not teach!) and learning all about the anatomy and physiology of the body for my professional dance teaching exam backed this theory up.
For example, repeatedly performing sudden forward-bending movements as part of someone else’s choreography placed a significant amount of stress on my previously injured, but recovered back…10 years on and this injury is one of the reasons that I now have to reduce my number of dance teaching hours and, had I have had a thorough understanding of this before, I would have known that there are in fact 3 different ways of moving (including sudden forward-bending movements) that can actually cause spinal damage. If I asked you how you would prevent tissue injury, joint injury, muscle rupture or spinal damage in your dancers, would you have the answers? If one of your dancers came to you with a back or knee complaint would you know what to do or what NOT to do so that they could exercise safely?
As a dance teacher in today’s society it makes sense that you would want to know these things, to protect yourself as well as the dancers you are teaching. That’s also one of the major reasons as to why more and more establishments are asking for qualifications when dance teachers apply for jobs. As dance teachers we have a responsibility to ensure we are keeping our students safe. After all, teaching physical activity can be a risky business and we have a duty of care to ensure those risks are fully minimised. If you would like more information about gaining a dance teaching qualification, please visit http://www.dancewerk.co.uk/teacher_training.html
I would really recommend that you foster an environment of open discussion in your classes with your dancers so that they can have the opportunity to let you know about any existing injuries they may have or if any specific movements are causing them pain. Above all else, listen to your bodies – they talk!