The Pilates method is a very effective and compatible conditioning routine for a dancer’s body. Dance is a wonderful and powerful art form. There are a vast range of schools/methods/techniques within the dance industry;however the principles underlying mastery of the steps remain the same. The Pilates method has the ability to reach out and intertwine with so many different styles of dance due to its strong foundations developed on flowing movement, control, centering, breath and alignment.
There is a common misconception that dancers will automatically find the Pilates method very easy as they already have a great sense of movement and “strength”. I say “strength” because often strength can be confused with a holding pattern that has been created in the body from a young age as a coping mechanism for executing the required steps. Often when a dancer commences the Pilates method the first port of call is to expose and undo any of these underlying holding patterns. Through Pilates exercises we can teach the body more efficient ways of moving – starting with the basics and progressing further as new muscle recruitment patterns become instilled in the body and alignment and posture improve.
The Pilates method is one of the most effective methods of rehabilitation and injury prevention for dancers. Why?
The Pilates method teaches dancers to engage mind and body as one. Without this ability a dancer will have a very limited career as their body will not be able to cope with the constant stress placed upon it. The Pilates method teaches dancers to be aware of certain key muscle groups, such as the deep external rotators of the hip, the adductor group, and the shoulder, which have to maintain a high level of strength in order to cope with the stresses placed on dancers’ bodies when performing the technique. There are many areas of the body in which overuse injuries occur, including the pelvis and hip. Any small shift or imbalance in the pelvis greatly affects the overall body. A weakness or imbalance around the pelvis radiates throughout the whole body and causes holding patterns or injuries to form. The Pilates method has a strong focus on strengthening the pelvic girdle as this takes pressure off the surrounding body, allowing the body to move freely in space.
The Pilates method will teach a dancer how to connect & move their limbs from their centre and, as a consequence, tension decreases and flexibility improves. Research shows that 65% of dance injuries are caused by overuse. This means that a specific Pilates conditioning program can prevent these injuries from occurring. To get the most from your Pilates session and dance performance you will need to follow these simple steps:
Step 1: A diagnosis should be made and a cause investigated.
Step 2: The best means of treatment should be advised by a qualified practitioner and must be adhered to (for example, rest, avoidance of aggravating movements, massage etc).
Step 3: Why is the overuse occurring? (the practitioner, Pilates instructor and dancer work together to discover this).
Step 4: The Pilates instructor works with the dancer to devise a realistic rehabilitation goal. The instructor will devise a Pilates program which will include specific exercises (for the studio and home) to gradually get the dancer back to class and then performing again.