As cliché as it reads, “the body is the dancer’s instrument.” We use the body, rely on the body, and depend on the body to do our job. We must listen to it too. When we have a muscle spasm we have to consider drinking more water, when the body is fatigued we must calm our dancing, when we bruise we have to adjust our diet, and when our bones become fragile we may consider increasing our intake of calcium. To meet the demands of our work (rehearsing and performing, day-after-day, season-after-season), we must listen to our bodies. Beyond this listening act, dancers’ aren’t required to know the education behind the body, but for those who are interested; dancehealthier would be pleased to fill you in.
dancehealthier, for the next month, will share with you a Movement Wednesday series called,” An educational look inside the body.” Whether a single fact or many facts are learned, I hope that you enjoy the series.
Did you know that there are 206 bones in the adult skeleton and they are composed of either compact bone (smooth) or spongy bone (bars of bone with lots of open space)? Long bones, such as the femur bone (connecting our hip to our knee), and even our fingers (phalanges), get the name LONG because they are much longer than they are wide. Long bones are composed primarily of compact bone. Short bones, are typically cube shaped, and they tend to be composed primarily of spongy bone. Flat bones are wafer-like in shape, primarily made up of compact bone sandwiching a layer of spongy bone between them, and found in the skull. Lastly, irregular bones do not fall into any preceding category due to IRREGULAR shape. The vertebrae are irregular bones.
For another interesting fact, bone is one of the hardest materials of the body. Although bones are light in weight, they tend to be remarkably resistant to tension and shear forces that continually act on it. This statement is very important, especially in the word, continually. As dancers, we know that our dancing consistently uses many of the same muscles (our calfs tend to be very strong – due to the natural repetition that ballet presents). Ballet class follows a pathway from plie – to tendu – all the way to grand allegro. It is set-up to help us, get us warm, keep us strong and healthy. Unfortunately, we can’t swim one day, run the next, lift weights the next and expect to go run a ballet. Ballet is structured for a reason, but this structure can continually place tension and shear force on our BONES. Even though nature has given us extremely strong, especially simple structures, we need to remember that they are just as vulnerable too.
Ways to help our bones stay healthy:
Get adequate rest, eat well, drink lots of water, make sure you are getting proper amounts of calcium (as well as other minerals – magnesium, phosphate) and vitamins, go to the Dr. to tend to bone pain, know your muscle and joint weaknesses and perform exercises to make them stronger, & take the proper time off when injured.
Reference: Marieb, Elaine, N., & Mitchell, Susan, J. Human Anatomy & Physiology Laboratory Manual: Ninth Edition. Pearson Education, Inc. 2011.