Exploring how the human body works is of particular interest to dancers and no area is more exciting and emotionally charged than flexibility. It’s an important issue for dancers because it not only affects us functionally, but aesthetically as well.
In the dance biz, functional mobility is part of a triad along with balance and strength that develop incrementally. There are many factors that affect flexibility including hormones, growth rate, hydration, genetics/talent, diet, lifestyle, stress, and tension. This is a relief for many dancers to learn – it isn’t that they’re lazy, not as good as others, or don’t practice enough. The human body is massively intelligent. A growing child needs stability more than mobility in most cases. As they become more proficient in their movement skills – stronger and more coordinated, they are able to relax more and mobility increases.
Fascia (which envelops, separates, and binds together muscles, organs, and other soft structures of the body) has several properties including elasticity, plasticity, and viscosity. Fascia also develops tension that limits mobility. Because the entire fascial body is interconnected, a single restriction in one area of the body (surgery adhesion, injury, poor posture, inactivity, tension, etc) will emanate into other parts of the body causing fascia to ‘felt’, reducing movability – think early morning stiffness after the body has been at rest all night. For a dancer, this inflexibility can be confusing and frustrating.
In technique classes at PDC, we teach flexibility practices to ensure students know proper approaches to safe stretching. We teach dancers when to safely stretch, why warm-up prior to stretching is critical, and multiple at-home skills to improve agility. In almost every ballet class, dancers write in their journals about strength, flexibility, and balance goals and ways to achieve them. They’re instructed that all 3 develop simultaneously and work in one area improves all three.
So for those looking to improve and be a more proficient dancer, there really aren’t any shortcuts. Training and class time is the easy answer to developing an organized, strong, and supple body, resistant to injury. And with the proper information and the motivation, we are confident that success will follow for each of our dancers.