5 Mistakes Adult Ballet Dancers Make That Can Lead To Injury

Injuries are unfortunately a common feature in ballet. Do your best to avoid these accidents by taking certain precautions before and after class. We all slip up now and then, but you may be able to limit any damage by following these tips.

1. Improper footwear


Seems simple enough, but you would be surprised how many adults wear ill-fitting footwear to class. You should never wear second-hand. Always have your new pair of technique shoes properly fitted by a professional. They may all look the same, but they’re not. Every brand makes its own cut/silhouette, and you want to be sure to wear the line of shoes that best fits your feet. I have very small, narrow feet. I love the Capezio Juliet shoe. No matter if you prefer canvas or leather, check that your toes are snug but not crammed. Shoes that are too tight do not allow you to distribute weight evenly throughout your the bottoms of your feet. You want to feel sure-footed when you’re dancing; not struggling to hold the shoe on your foot, and not have it so tight that you end up tripping.

2. Starting pointe before you’re ready


More adult students are beginning pointe than ever before, and that’s great! However, eager students have the tendency to jump the gun, and their teachers don’t help matters by allowing them to start when they’re not really ready. Sure, adult students aren’t going to have as stellar a foundation as their younger counterparts. But giving an underripe student license to dance on pointe before they’re capable would be like handing your car keys over to your five year-old. An adult student should demonstrate a fairly strong technique i.e. they know how to use their plié, articulate their feet, pull up and out of their hips, and zero sickling! If they move like a baby giraffe barely learning to walk when they’re in technique shoes, it’s safe to say they probably shouldn’t be dancing on pointe yet. They could compromise the strength and alignment of their ankles and knees, leading to injury. And frankly, it doesn’t look pretty. 

3. Poor technique


If you find yourself constantly twisting your knees or ankles, chances are you’re an injury waiting to happen. Basic technique dictates you should always turn out from your hips. If all you can comfortably manage is a first position that looks like the letter “v”, don’t be tempted to push it out until it is a perfectly straight line. It may briefly give the illusion that you have flawless form, but it will hurt you in the long run. I used to have a problem with pronating, or rolling my arches inward. I had to actively work to correct this, by working from my hips downward. Once my turnout improved, I could more evenly distribute my weight to the entire sole of my foot. So, if you have knock-knees, weak arches, or you slouch worse than the Hunchback of Notre Dame, work on correcting these issues!

4. Not stretching


You shouldn’t start dancing without stretching. Big mistake. Stretching increases circulation to your muscles and lubricates your joints. You can tell which students stretch and those who don’t. Students who stretch perform better and feel better. It’s an irony, really: students will often complain about being inflexible, but they won’t make any attempts to grease their wheels. Always arrive at least 15 minutes prior to class so you can give your body the proper warmup it needs. Practice straddle stretch, quad stretch, and butterfly. Mild, simple exercise like these do wonders for stiff muscles and reduce the risk of injury.

5. Dancing through burnout


Some adult students are really dedicated. They juggle work schedules, multiple classes a week, and family life. And they run down their immune systems, leaving them susceptible to injury. Your body needs at least 1-2 days of recovery time between workouts. If you notice you’re extra tired or feeling sick, be reasonable and hold off from going to class. Ballet requires all your strength and stamina, and you can’t perform at your best if you don’t rest.

Adult ballet students are eager and hardworking, but if they’re not careful, they can hurt themselves in an art form that demands a lot from them physically. Steer clear of unnecessary injury and enjoy class!

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