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Fit for the 21st Century

Posture Exercise Key to Dance Career Longevity

The key to enhanced dance technique, performance and career longevity

A dancer’s career demands peak physical strength, strong balance and alignment, as well as the stamina to train and compete for long periods of time, all while avoiding career-ending injuries. As such, many dancers look to outside forms of exercise such as yoga, strength training, and cardiovascular training to improve their abilities. StrongPosture® exercise has shown to be effective in improving dance performance, reducing injury, and conditioning the body to achieve higher levels of movement.

“Physical ability and longevity are key to a dancer’s career. Aside from natural performance talent, dancers must be primed to endure long, strenuous rehearsal and performance schedules that may include a tremendous amount of travel. Posture exercise allows dancers to quickly and efficiently locate and correct their weaknesses, as well as to support, strengthen, and augment their technique and performance quality,” says artistic director and Certified Posture Exercise Professional (CPEP) Kelli Dorrough.

Dorrough began dancing at age 2, focusing on ballet, jazz, as well as many other varieties of dance. She performed with a company from her teens to early 20s and moved on to become the ballet director of her studio. She now resides in Orlando, FL and is the artistic director for Momentum dance company. As artistic director, she develops all dance programs for her students and integrates supplemental training to improve technique and physical ability to produce a wide range of movement.

“Choreographers must constantly look to what’s working in the industry at the time and adapt to what’s current. Dancers must be even more versatile. Every director you work with will be different in approach to movement, and you have to use your body to produce that’s being asked of you. This is why it is so important to understand how your body works, and how to change it to meet the demands of your director.”

Dorrough has been incorporating posture assessments and rehab for dancers of all levels at her studio over the past year. With her younger students, she has incorporated posture exercise into classes, specifically dedicating a portion of class to balance and wall protocols. Her older students receive one-on-one training to correct individualized issues.
“My students love doing the exercises and are very committed. They’re engaged with the protocols, asking questions about the exercises and showing excitement about the progress they see in their dance ability. Most importantly, I’ve noticed how much the exercises have changed my dancers’ outlooks – they feel encouraged that they can achieve greater technique than they thought was possible. The earlier we can work on posture awareness and control, the better.”

Another benefit of posture exercise that Dorrough has noticed is enhancement of breath control. She points out that dancers are notoriously bad breathers, largely due to the fact that many dance instructors do not focus on how to breathe through movements.

“While choreographers will tell dancers to breathe, they often don’t tell you how. If you’re not taught to breathe effectively, you end up breathing shallowly through the chest. This creates a variety of neck and shoulder issues, but breathing is a cause that is usually overlooked. StrongPosture® exercise focuses on deep, diaphragmatic breathing that correlates with movement. This helps dancers to keep their bodies free and fluid, as well as able to more powerfully perform longer, more rigorous choreography.”

In addition to improved technique and performance, Dorrough explains that StrongPosture® exercise works to combat chronic pain and unrecoverable injury. Fatigue and minor injury are common to the industry, and dancers have a difficult time determining if they are really injured. With posture awareness and strengthening, dancers are more in tune to their bodies and limits, thus reducing the likelihood of overexertion and hyperextension.

“One of things we battle with in dance industry is pain. If you are not performing at your peak, you are more likely to get injured. Whether a dancer is dealing with compounded microinjuries or large, impactful injuries, pain creates overcorrection, imbalances, and increased potential for further damage,” Dorrough says. “Because you are an instrument – part of a palette from which someone is painting a picture on the stage – if you’re injury-prone, you’re replaced. This creates a perfectionist mentality that keeps dancers going even when they shouldn’t. This is why expansion of athleticism, understanding the limits of the body, and keeping it in its optimal balance, alignment and strength is so vital.”

Through all the improvements in technique, attitude, and performance she has seen in her dance company, Dorrough believes the advantage of posture exercise compared to other extracurricular forms of training is that it’s concise, effective, and easy to do in the studio, at home, or on the road. She argues that attention to posture assessment and rehab is a must for the industry.

“The foundation of dance correlates so exquisitely with StrongPosture® protocols. The bottom line: the more control you have over your body and its movement, the better understanding on how your body will achieve balance. This allows dancers to focus on interpretation and expressiveness of movement rather than struggling with balance, breath control and alignment. Such an opportunity to improve dance ability is golden.”

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