We asked our Orange County adult ballet instructor Kiara to write weekly posts. Her first article is regarding her recommendations for adult ballet student injury preventions. Kiara has a bachelors degree in dance from UC Santa Barbara and currently at the UC Irvine masters of dance program. She is also a certified yoga insturctor who has written for Yoga Magazine.
Tips for Injury Prevention – by Kiara Kinghorn @kiaramoves
Many of my students in Orange County have returned to ballet after learning it years ago in their childhood. I especially love teaching these students, because I can tell the technique is still lies within their bones, and it’s a beautiful process to watch it reemerge after decades of dormancy. However, we need to be realistic about learning or relearning ballet in an adult body and be cognizant about the susceptibility of injury. From my experience, longevity—rather than extreme results or achievement—is really the best goal for an adult dancer to have. After all, you want those knees to carry you through life, not just through pliés. So, here are my top four tips for injury prevention as an adult beginner to ballet:
- Complement ballet with something low impact
With all the jumping and external rotation of the hips (turn-out), ballet can be somewhat impactful on the joints. That doesn’t mean it isn’t possible to enjoy multiple times a week. However, if you are working out on the days that you don’t dance, it’s better to pick something low impact, like swimming, walking or cycling. (Also none of these require hip rotation—an added plus! ) Yoga is great for improving flexibility and Pilates does wonders for your core strength. If your complimentary activity includes a lot of weight bearing or jumping, you may want to reconsider it alongside learning ballet.
- Use a theraband and a foam roller
I recommend these two items constantly to my students, and for good reason. A theraband is an effective, low resistance way to build strength in all the complex muscles that ballet requires (I especially recommend it to build foot strength!). Therabands are cheap, can be ordered online and are easy to bring to the studio for before and after class. While a foam roller is somewhat bulkier, it is essential to roll out the muscle fascia after an intense ballet class. Many studies show that foam rolling has major benefits for reducing muscle soreness and inflammation, and increasing range of motion. Trying adding ones with different textures to get the most benefit.
- Think about your footwear
Of course you wear ballet shoes in the studio, but what are you wearing outside of it? The answer may be the source of lots of unnecessary pain and barking for your dogs. As long as your feet are precious gifts and the expression of your artistry, treat them with care as you bound through life. That means footwear that has orthopedic support like running shoes. If you must wear formal shoes for work, consider orthopedic inserts, or look for shoes with arch support. In any case, try to limit sandals or flat bottomed shoes (ironically named ballet flats). Because you must flex your toes at every step, flip-flops are absolutely the worst choice for ballet dancers!
I cannot stress this one enough: If anything at any time feels painful in a ballet class, stop and modify. Of course it is important to know the difference between “good” pain, like muscles working and stretching, and “bad” pain, that feels like injury. It takes some time and deep introspection to know the difference, but I advise you to find it for yourself and whenever you need, modify the combination in class. Just last week at UCI my ballet teacher gave a slow, eight count circular port de bras. No problem, right? Then he double timed it: four counts. Uh-oh. Then it was just two counts, and then, yes, a one count circular port de bras. After multiple back injuries, I listened to my body, and politely said no thank you to that. Any good teacher (and every Align teacher!) will respect your choice to modify.