As we know, a typical day in the life of a dancer can be highly demanding, physiologically, psychologically and emotionally. Conservatoire dancers who may be exposed to long training hours and a heavily practical daily workload could be at a heightened risk of injury, as a result of fatigue from insufficient rest. Previous studies documenting the rest-work ratios of professional dancers have highlighted trends whereby common dancer injuries, such as sprains and strains, were often a result of fatigue from training.
Fatigue has been defined as “extreme tiredness, weakness or exhaustion—mental, physical, or both.” Once fatigued, the ability to perform movements requiring complex skill is compromised.
“Dancers from previous studies considered fatigue and overwork to be major contributing factor to their injuries…”
A lack of rest can take its toll on the technical aspects of a dancers practice. This can negatively impact alignment, heighten inefficient biomechanics, and place stress on the muscles and joints which can only be tolerated to a limited extent before injury occurs.
Augmented rest– what is it and why does it matter to me?
As is often the case for dancers, designated break or rest times are used for things like warm-up/ cool-down, rehearsal and stretching. The busy life of the dancer may also mean that this time is used for frantically running around trying to complete all of your errands in one go as there are simply not enough hours in the day. But is this really rest? Dance scientists are working actively to assess how dancers can use their (albeit short) breaks in the most effective way to rest, recover, consume and digest food for energy, and to prepare for the rest of the day.
HOW CAN I REST I HEAR YOU CRY!?
Ever heard of somatics?
Somatics balances rest and action which can have positive implications for technique and creative practice, as well as general well-being and personal authority. In resting, a student is encouraged to observe themselves with attention to residual sensations, novel organisation of their self-image, and a general state of open awareness to their present experience. From within this reduced activation, a re-calibration of self-organisation occurs that allows for more freedom of choice when reactivating movement.
Rest and recovery in Somatic Practice
- Restful reflection
- Using imagery
- Listening to the presence and quality of movement
- Feldenkrais technique
- Alexander technique
- Sweigard’s constructive rest
Written by Jessica Lowe, Graduate Intern for Health and Dance Science
Batson, G., & Schwartz, E. (2011). Revisiting the value of somatic education in dance training trough an enquiry into practice schedules. Journal of Dance Education. 7 (2), 47- 56
Twitchett, E., Angioi, M., Koutedakis, Y., & Wyon, M. (2010). The Demands of a Working Day Among Female Professional Ballet Dancers. Journal of Dance Medicine and Science. 14 (4), 127- 132