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Moving through a pandemic - back to dance basics

By: Emily Espinoza

This time of year, many of our dancers would normally be preparing for exciting performances of The Nutcracker, spending hours in the studio perfecting the art of creating pictures in space. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that for as much as we prepare, our circumstances – our normal – can change so drastically, and yet, the show must go on. 

We sat down (virtually!) with Dr. Kimberly Schumacher with Releve Physical Therapy, a physical therapist who many of our company members use, to help bring some perspective to dancers who want to keep it moving even though they may not be able to be in the studio as much as usual. We continue to appreciate her advice and insight as we move through this pandemic.

What have you been seeing in the MYB dancers as you have been watching them navigate through COVID?  Any thoughts you would like to share specific to how our students have been approaching such an unexpected year?

This pandemic has been a challenge for so many reasons. Dancers are accustomed to discipline and routine and having that change abruptly and unexpectedly has brought on some various challenges. In the dance world, some companies and summer intensive programs offered virtual classes over the summer, but most dancers will tell you there is no greater feeling than being in the studio, creating something beautiful and being inspired and motivated by their peers, teachers, and choreographers.

I’ve seen dancers who have really taken this time to go back to the basics and really work on improving and perfecting their technique. It’s very impressive and inspiring! There’s no better time to put these new habits into focus.

In this time when so many dancers are not able to dance as often as they are used to, what is the best way for them to take care of themselves at home?

It’s so important to stay active! Participating in cross-training activities like strength and conditioning, physical therapy exercises tailored to their specific needs, Pilates, interval workouts, yoga, and low impact cardiovascular exercise like elliptical, walking, rowing, and biking/cycling are all examples of ways to stay healthy, avoid injury and/or pain and will help supplement dance training.

I’m a huge believer in consistency and have been working with several of the MYB company members to help develop a dynamic warm-up for muscle activation and proper cool-down routines for muscle recovery. This has been extensively researched in the dance medicine and science field. Finding and staying consistent with a comprehensive routine that is individualized and specific to each dancer’s unique needs is essential in maximizing dance potential, improve technique, prevention of injury and increase overall longevity of their dancing.

What other advice might you want to share, as a physical therapist?

It is so important as many of the dancers are spending much longer days sitting at a computer screen with virtual schooling, to remember to stay active, develop good postural habits, stay hydrated, fuel with proper nutrition, and get adequate rest. Having a consistent routine for these not-so-normal days is so helpful. Additionally, working one-on-one with a physical therapist who specializes in dance medicine, can help with a new or chronic injury, but also help identify muscle imbalances, joint restrictions, weaknesses, postural and technical faults that may put them at risk for future injury, cause them to take time away from dance or impede their technical potential. 

Listen to your body. It will tell you what it needs.

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