A Better You

May-June 2011 | A Better You | Better Balance

Living the dance life is a balancing act. Literally. How many hours have you spent teetering on demi-pointe or performing a challenging adagio on one leg for 64 counts? So much of our early training is spent in finding our balance, and then once we gain it we assume it will always be there for us. Unfortunately this isn’t the case.

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February 2011 | A Better You | Needy Knees

When a dancer has to stop dancing prematurely, it’s often the knees that are to blame. Sometimes those pesky joints lay dancers low in a dramatic mid-performance injury, and sometimes it’s just daily knee pain that leads a dancer or teacher to quietly end her career.

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December 2010 | A Better You | Get Hip to Health

Hips—we love ’em in the dance world. They make life worthwhile by letting us kick, swivel, turn, jump, everything—you name it. We probably spend half of our dance lives cultivating the perfect demi- and grand plié.

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November 2010 | A Better You | Body Check

For dancers, pain is a way of life. And as teachers, after years of accepting the physical discomfort caused by rigorous training, rehearsal, and performance, we may end up with a skewed perspective on how much discomfort is acceptable. It’s time to rethink what’s acceptable for your body from a health-and-wellness point of view.

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October 2010 | A Better You | A Touch of Caution

As dance teachers, you probably find that you need to touch your students in order to make certain corrections. Dance is a visceral, physical tradition, and hands-on cueing and correctives are essential. Yet in today’s dance world—at least in the United States—let the teacher beware.

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September 2010 | A Better You | Letting the Sun Shine

Waking up tired and sluggish? Do you feel apathetic, indifferent, and numb at the studio? Have long days turned into long years, your attitude become “Been there, done that” as you anticipate every irritation that can happen in a day? Are you counting the days until vacation even though the dance year just started?

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July 2010 | A Better You | Super-Charged Caffeine

Ten years ago, during one of my nutrition lectures at the San Francisco Ballet School, a young dancer asked if it was OK to consume an energy drink—then new on the market—before performances. She said one drink (which will remain nameless here) gave her more than enough va-voom to get her through a two-hour ballet.

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May-June 2010 | A Better You | Oh, My Aching Back!

Got an aching back? You’re not alone. It’s estimated that 80 percent of people will experience low back pain at some point in their lives, and why wouldn’t dancers be included? They endure long hours standing in classes and even longer hours delegating, directing rehearsals, and doing grunt work during performance crunch times. Most teachers have reveled in their back flexibility, perfect pull-up, and posture, but how long can those nobly acquired attributes hold up? Here are some tips to help tame those aches and pains.

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February 2010 | A Better You | What’s in a Word?

Having a nice day? As teachers and studio owners, you’ve probably noticed that the quality of your day has a lot to do with the people you deal with. Dance education means lots of face-to-face interaction, and that means running the gauntlet of myriad personalities and their varying emotional states. When customer satisfaction is a necessary goal for survival—as it is for anyone involved in teaching dance—it’s important to work toward positive outcomes in both business and casual interactions.

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January 2010 | A Better You | “Ouch” to “Ahhh”

It’s one thing all dance teachers have in common: standing for mega-hours. I remember talking to a friend who had stopped teaching dance; she said the best thing about it was that her feet didn’t hurt anymore. And when I sympathized with a dancer caught in ridiculous traffic, a similar thing happened: She said she was so grateful just to be sitting down. Sound

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December 2009 | A Better You | Frenzy Free

Everyone would agree that the year’s end is a difficult time. It usually involves frantic list making, wrapping up the fall season’s dance programs, and facing increased family and social commitments. And then there’s coming to terms with what did and did not happen in the business plan for the year. If that isn’t a recipe for hyperventilating and an impending sense of doom, I don’t know what is.

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A Better You | Super Powers of Sleep

Missing a little sleep? Well, think twice about doing that, if you can. As someone who travels frequently across both national and international time zones on business, I can attest to the mental and physical challenges of sleep disruption. And judging from the plethora of commercials for sleep medication on television and in magazines, sleep—or more important, insomnia—is a national concern.

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A Better You | Maximizing Your Potential

Got talent? Of course you do! If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be in the position you are with a dance studio. Is it a blessing that allows you to soar above your peers, or a curse that blinds you to the need to follow through with vision and passion?

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A Better You | Rediscovering Your Core

It’s true that most dance injuries occur in the ankle and foot; however, overuse injuries are the hallmark of dance training, which is repetitive by nature. The biomechanical chain from the core downward is of crucial importance in helping dancers continue to dance. The top of this chain is, of course, the core.

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A Better You | Know Your Legs and Feet

Virtually all dancers treasure their legs and feet. Legs give us the power to enjoy the greatest feeling in dance: flying through the air. In my favorite childhood dream—perhaps a precursor to my love of leaping—the air would flow through my hair as I soared over houses and trees.

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A Better You | Know Your Upper Body

Nothing is more beautiful or exhilarating than a port de bras. I love the saying “The legs dance the music and the upper body sings the movement.” But getting to the point where your dancing sings is not always easy. Often the problems are obvious to teachers, but what a correction really means or where the work should be happening might not be so evident to students. This month we examine some tools to guide corrections related to the upper body, and in the next few columns we will sequentially dissect the lower body and that all-important turnout.

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A Better You | Coping in a Crisis

Does art imitate life? The lively arts in America historically shadow the ebbs and flows of the economic life of the country, and those who practice them know all too well the pain of the current economic downturn.

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A Better You | The ABCs on Vitamin D

Why does Vitamin D matter? For starters, it plays an important role in bone density, especially in women. The American College of Sports Medicine and the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science have made groundbreaking statements about the incidence of amenorrhea, osteoporosis, and stress fractures in female athletes and dancers.

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A Better You | On-the-Go Nutrition

Staying healthy while being in a studio all day and eating on the run is one enormous challenge. And wouldn’t it be great to go beyond maintenance by achieving optimal health?

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