Christine Jones has spent the last two decades helping her students improve their flexibility, mobility and movement patterns.
- Former Dancer
- BS in Exercise Physiology from the University of Utah.
- Fully Certified STOTT Pilates Instructor
- Founder of Intermountain Pilates Training Center
- Yoga Alliance E-RYT 200 and E-RYT 500
- Creator of the mUvStretch Curriculum
- Presenter at Dance Teacher Summit
- Advocate For Healthy Physical, Mental and Emotional Development of Dancers
A pitfall is a hidden or unexpected challenge! And here’s the thing…we all run into them from time to time. But when you find yourself falling into stretch pitfalls, you need to identify and address them. Otherwise, they will negatively affect your stretch programs and efforts. This will directly affect your dancer’s flexibility, mobility, technique, and performance by causing “gaps” to form in their technique. And no one wants gaps….
One common and sneaky pitfall comes in the form of “lack of time.” In my 20+ years of working in the dance world, I have seen it creep in many times.
Here are a few examples:
Have you ever told your dancers to “go ahead and stretch on their own?” You probably did this due to “lack of time.” Or a need to get something else done, which is related to, “lack of time.”
Have you ever cut your warmup short so that you could get to other things like cleaning dances or practicing their technique? Again, “lack of time.”
Now you get it! You have a LOT to fit into your weekly dance schedule…. jazz, ballet, pointe, contemporary, hip hop, tap, choreography, ballroom, acro, tumbling, turns and leaps and, let’s not forget, cleaning and rehearsing your competition dances.
With so much to do, it can be easy to push your stretches to the side. But don’t! With all that dancers are being asked to do, it’s critical that they sufficiently stretch. They need balanced stretch sequences that provide variety and are dance specific – meaning they address the muscles and muscle groups commonly tight in dancers.
Learn More About How To Recognize And Correct For Lack Of Time:
So while, YES. It may save you time in that moment to have your dancers “stretch on their own” or skip their stretches entirely. It will NOT save you time in the long run. Nor is it safe and effective. And it certainly does NOT create healthy stretch habits in your dancers.
I mean the last time you told your dancers to “stretch on their own” did they do the stretches they NEED or did they do the stretches they LIKE? I am willing to bet they did the stretches they LIKE! Which generally are NOT the stretches they need.
Allowing to let “lack of time” keep you and your dancers from doing the stretches they NEED, on a weekly basis, is like putting a bandaid on something that needs much more than a bandaid!
Meaning – rather than addressing the fact that you need an effective and consistent stretch curriculum you continue to stretch when it’s convenient and skip it when it’s not. But consistent and proper stretching is essential to success in dance. So rather than falling victim to the immediate stretch pitfall “lack of time”. Implement an effective stretch program.
Following a weekly stretch curriculum will systemize your approach to stretching and create familiarity. Not only that. When you implement a comprehensive, age appropriate stretch curriculum, that includes the exact time it will take to complete your stretch sequence, you can plan accordingly! It’s like time blocking your warmup and stretches. Which increases productivity and gets you and your dancers closer to your long-term goals!
So, if increased productivity, helping your dancers reach their flexibility goals and saving time sounds good to you, then our weekly stretch curriculum is your solution!
And while, yes, it will take some extra time upfront to implement the curriculum. Once it’s in place it will save you time and ensure you never say, “dancers stretch on your own” again!
For the love of dance education!
Looking for more tips on improving your studio’s stretch habits? Check out the following articles:
Front Splits are a milestone for dancers and a foundation for success. The ability to do the front splits is a measure of flexibility and translates to achieving technical aspects of dance with ease and efficiency. All to often dancers are told they need to get their front splits but aren’t given the proper tools to get there. So they go home and sit in the splits in an effort to get the splits.
But here’s the truth…the splits are NOT the prerequisite for the splits. Proper stretches are!
In order to safely achieve the front splits you need to stretch the muscles that oppose them. When this is done splits literally become easy! You will no longer need to force, push or wonder if you will get into the splits that day. Because you will!
At times, you can have up to 10 hip flexors opposing hip extension. For a dancer, this will not only limit your splits, but it will also limit your arabesques, penchés, leg hold turns, grand battements, grand jetés and much more.
Also, it’s important to understand that you may be able to do the splits but still have tight hip flexors. If this is the case you are putting unnecessary strain on your hamstrings. Over time, this can lead to injury and decreased flexibility in the back of your legs.
Muscular imbalances and postural deviations are SO common in the dance world. Why? Dance involves a lot of repetitive movement with an emphasis on certain muscular groups, i.e. the deep 6 external hip rotators, hip flexors, and hamstrings. This means your dancers could be risking injury without proper stretching and technique!
Over time this causes certain muscles to elongate and others to shorten. And because muscles attach to bones via tendons, they are able to pull bones in certain directions. Often, the muscles that have shortened pull the bones away from a neutral joint position.
If the dancer’s “neutral” joint position is actually a deviation from neutral they will continue to return to that position when resting- this means anytime they are standing, sitting or dancing without consciously trying to correct their posture.
Why? Because the deviation has become their new “norm”. And the most efficient way to move away from their new “norm” and restore neutral, is to stretch.
SO, if being efficient is your thing, you’ll want to stretch to restore and strengthen to maintain!
But before we can get to fixing…it’s important to do some educating!
Let’s start with three VERY common postural deviations in the dance world:
The Anterior Pelvic Tilt, aka, “the banana butt”
This involves flexion of the hips and increased extension of the lumbar spine.
This specifically tightens the hip flexors and lower back.
This specifically elongates the hamstrings and abdominals.
This specifically limits…pretty much everything in dance, especially hip extension, i.e. an arabesque!
The Posterior Pelvic Tilt, aka “the tuck”
This involves extension of the hips and decreased extension of the lumbar spine.
This specifically tightens your hamstrings.
This specifically elongates your hip flexors.
This specifically limits…A LOT, especially hip flexion, i.e. leg extensions.
The Lateral Pelvic Tilt, aka, “the hip hiker”
This involves one hip lifting higher than the other.
This specifically tightens your side body and outer hip.
This specifically elongates the opposite side body and outer hip.
This specifically limits…upper body mobility and balance, i.e. pirouettes.
So, how do you correct common postural deviations in dancers? First, you STRETCH. You spend a little extra time stretching muscles that have tightened to return the joint to neutral.
Then you STRENGTHEN. When you do it the other way around, you are making things harder than they need to be and fighting a battle you won’t win. Let’s go for the win…
Watch our video, The Benefits of A Neutral Pelvis and Spine, for a more in depth explanation of the specifics of each postural deviation and how to correct it. It will also provide you additional information regarding what a neutral pelvis and spine refers to and the benefits of each.
Ready to completely overhaul your studio’s stretching curriculum? Check out how it will transform your studio and get a FREE Trial!
Looking for more tips on avoid risking injury to your dancers? Check out the following articles: