Blackpool Dance Festival
This week, ballroom dancers from all over the world are converging on a small city often referred to as the Vegas of England - Blackpool. The Blackpool Dance Festival is one of the most prestigious competitions in the world of ballroom dancing. I was privileged to compete there 3 years ago in the Amateur Ballroom division as well as the British Formation Team Championships. (The BYU Ballroom Dance Company has returned again this year, and won the ballroom event Wednesday night.)
For the first time this year, the competition is being broadcast live at DSI-London.tv. It's been exciting to watch the action for just (British) pounds a day while listening to the entertaining commentary. So far, I've seen bits of the Under 21 Ballroom, Rising Star Professional Latin, and – best of all – the Professional Latin Championships. It's impressive to see the athleticism of the dancers. With 4 or more rounds before the final and semi-final, 5 dances per round for up to two and a half minutes per dance, each couple can expect to perform for over 60 minutes at or around their maximum effort. For an average track athlete, that would be similar to running 800 meter sprints 30 times with short breaks in between.
More than once during the broadcast, the commentators mentioned this athleticism. They said that the dancers spend time outside of dancing focused on their fitness. They even reported that in addition to their coaches, many of the couples have sports psychologists and personal trainers. This fascinated me. I have been interested in dance medicine ever since my dance experience at BYU. The dance department has a dedicated athletic trainer who does everything from treating minor injuries to rehabilitating serious injuries to preventing further injuries and improving strength and conditioning specific to individual styles of dance. Ron Nuttall is the most skilled and knowledgeable dance trainer I can imagine, whose experience allows him to diagnose and treat common dance ailments in his sleep. His spinal manipulations beat any chiropractor I've known in specificity and effectiveness. I was lucky to be his teaching assistant one semester for his Dance Conditioning and Injury Prevention class. Even years later I refer to the class notes and reflect on what I learned from observing him.
There are many differences specific to dance training as compared to other sports. As you watch the video below, do you notice how expansive their movement is? They seem to have greater than normal range of motion in all of their joints, from their fingers, to their neck, all the way down to their toes. Pay special attention to how the ladies articulate their feet during the slower movements by flexing and pointing at the ankle. Watch again how much movement there is in the lower body during the fast jive, and yet notice how stable their midsection is. They are all balanced, flexible, incredibly strong, aerobically fit, and still manage to maintain a composure throughout the event.
Watching dancers compete at such a high level fills my minds with questions.
What do they do to train outside of dance?
How do they maintain a good balance of strength and flexibility?
How does a dancer's aerobic max compare to that of a track athlete?
What would be the optimum training for improving performance in those last full-effort dances of Quickstep and Jive?
I could go on and on…
Chiropractic & Dance
Curiously, chiropractic doesn't seem to be a prominent contributor to dance medicine. The scope of practice encompasses everything needed to be a great dance trainer. Theoretically, the education and skills a chiropractor gains would allow him to do everything and even more than an athletic trainer, like Ron (though I'm confident Ron's experience would have him running circles around any chiropractor who attempts it – I'm looking forward to the humility). I have come across only a handful of chiropractors who have experience working with dancers.
A brief search on The International Association for Dance Medicine and Science membership directory shows less than 50 Allied Health Professionals listed in the USA. I'm looking forward to attending their annual meeting being held in Seattle, WA this year.
What do you think?
Do you take advantage of a chiropractor or any other health practitioner to improve your dancing? Do you work on your physical fitness outside of dancing? What do you feel you need to become a stronger, more balanced dancer?