Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sore knees, and thoughts on dance technique

Last night after dance AnnaBeth commented that her knee hurt, "but it's the other knee this time." She had had a sore knee and ankle after dance a few days ago.

It was good to know that it was the other knee, since it seems less likely that she's consistently doing something to hurt the knee or that there's a current structural problem with her leg.

We talked a bit about possible causes for sore knees after dance, and she stood up to show me her turnout. Her knee was turning out about 45 degrees, but her foot was turned out at about 80 to 85 degrees. Well, no wonder it hurt -- she was twisting the joints to achieve a turned out foot. Turnout in dance is a case where cheaters don't win -- cheaters end up injured. She experimented some with rotating from the hips, saying that certain things "felt better". She noted that it was easier with her knees bent than with them straight, which makes sense.

I'm sure it will be better by this morning. But with so many dance practices in the next week or so we'll have to be vigilant.

I imagine this is also why her ankles sometimes feel wobbly. When the turnout is coming through the knee and ankle, and the ankles aren't properly strengthened, you're more likely to twist an ankle while dancing around on demi-pointe.

I used to read a blog by a woman who was a dance physiologist who was involved in Irish Dance (she sews solo dresses ... and knits ... I was so enchanted with the combination that I was ready to go move in with her). She had excellent articles on the physiology of Irish Dance. But, alas, she has deleted her entire blog, so I'm having to scrounge elsewhere for information. Because I don't know about dance physiology, but I do know that bad habits can lead to injury, sometimes years and years later.

So this will be a depository for my links. If I were clever I'd make another page somewhere, but I'm not clever (and not patient enough to figure it out), so it's just a post that will be updated when I come up with something new.

Great book on turnout: Tune Up Your Turnout: a Dancer's Guide by Deborah Vogel. Explains the anatomy of turnout, how to truly test for turnout, and how to improve turnout (hint: pinching your bum muscles together doesn't do it).

The author has a website full of archived newsletters and information. I also subscribe to her blog, Teaching Smart. Much of the information is beyond me, or doesn't seem to pertain directly to Irish Dance, but little by little my brain is absorbing more and more information about how this stuff works, and I'm understanding more of the big picture of how this all goes together.

Another blog I subscribe to is Ballet Shoes and Pointe Shoes. Although the name is "ballet", turnout and working on pointe (or demi pointe, as is more common in Irish Dance) is the same for the various types of dance.

Thinking of pointe, another great resource is Lisa Howell. Tons of information on preparing your body for pointe work. The YouTube videos are wonderful -- she shows some of the same exercises Deborah Vogel describes, so you can sort of put together your own multi-media tutorial by searching these websites.

I downloaded Lisa Howell's ebook, The Perfect Pointe . Great information. Thalia has reached the age where she will be permitted to go on pointe in Irish Dance. BUT, are her feet ready? Irish Dance shoes have no support for pointe work, so the strength must be in the feet. The turnout information in The Perfect Pointe mirrors what Deborah Vogel explains in her book and website. I also get her emailed newsletters; again, not everything (not much!) pertains directly to Irish Dance, but it all increases my knowledge of how the body works in dance.

Moving away from feet and legs, Irish Dancers also need good core strength. Our favorite Pilates DVD so far has been Classical Pilates Technique: Exercises for Kids & Young Adults. I'm sure there are other good ones out there ... frankly, I'd love to know what they are, so we can have some variety.

As a matter of fact, I'm always looking for new material, new ways to people have expressed these same ideas, new exercises or routines that accomplish similar things. If you happen across something, please let me know.

1 comment:

Tara said...

This is so interesting to see. I just took Tess to her first PT session for patella femoral syndrome. First she complained of one knee hurting, then the other, then both and the pain stayed. I guess it's pretty common for girls as they mature. For now it's knee braces and lots of PT and motrin and ice. Hopefully strengthening her hips will help take some of the load off the knee area.
Hope AnnaBeth feels better soon.