Getting Grounded to Take Flight

When I first had an inkling that I was going to need physical therapy for my knees, before I even got the official word from my orthopedist, I started to research PTs because I wanted to make sure I saw one who worked with dancers. There was no way I was going to see a PT who didn’t understand why I had to keep dancing at least a little bit while I recovered from my injuries. Lucky for me, Doctors for Dancers had just launched and a PT local to my area had added herself to the database of dance specialists.

Two+ years later, we’ve gotten my knees back into dancing shape (mostly), but we’re still working together on other issues. Besides just directly working on healing my body, my PT has been helping me better understand my body and increase my body awareness, which has just been a boon to my dance training!

You all know that body alignment plays a huge role in our dancing. It helps us stay balanced and connect with our partner. It helps us create bigger, more powerful shapes while staying in control of our movement. Finally, something I’ve really grown to appreciate, it helps us dance without risking injuries.

The knowledge that my PT has been injecting into my brain finally seemed to trickle down into my body over the last month or so. Teacher and I have been trading off on working on choreography one week and the quality of my dancing another week. I would go to a lesson and then go to my PT the next week and tell her what I was feeling and what I was having trouble with. She’d explain something about my hypermobile hips or watch me get into a closed frame position and see where I was pushing too far forward or hinging at my lower back too much. Then I’d return to the studio and share what my PT observed with Teacher and we’d try dancing again. What a difference!

Over the last year, I’ve put together a team to support my dance journey, without realizing or intending it. I had my PT and my dance teacher longer than the last year, of course, but it’s been over the last year, as everything slowed down due to the pandemic, that we’ve really been able to dig deep into what I was feeling in my body as I danced and why. At the same time, I signed up for virtual workouts provided by another dancer/personal trainer who I connected with years ago through her podcast, Dancespeak. These workouts focused on functionality over aesthetics, and to my delight, included a lot of exercises that either mirrored or complimented the exercises I did in physical therapy!

So my dance training, cross training, and physical therapy have all aligned and work together to support this Girl right here. The result has been some really great moments of dancing with Teacher during our lessons. Teacher’s wife observed us during my last lesson and echoed what I had been feeling. She said I looked lighter, like I finally felt like I had the time and space I had been wanting in order to dance.

Duality is a constant theme to my dance journey, and this latest development was no exception. It was true that I felt lighter in my movement, like I was floating across the floor. But I also felt grounded, anchored into the floor in a way that gave me more freedom in my dancing.

It’s not a new concept, right? You’ve probably heard your teacher or another coach talk about needing to feel like you’re sending energy down into the floor and up through the top of your head at the same time. Knowing and feeling are two different things though, and I’m happy to report that I’m finally truly feeling it. Can’t wait to tell my PT.

Like everything, this new/improved flight through grounding is a work in progress. Some lessons are better than others. My body easily reverts to its old unaligned habits when I get tired. The important thing is I have reached a point where I can recognize when I’m off and make the correction. Sometimes it gets frustrating to know what I’m doing wrong but not be able to prevent it. Teacher will tell me “you let it go there” and I reply “I know…let’s try again.” I remind myself that at least I’m aware enough to correct the error. Like I said, work in progress!

It’s unfortunate that I won’t get to show off this new level of awareness and control on the competition floor anytime soon. My next adventure takes precedence and it’s getting closer (more details to come)! Just like PT is helping my dance though, dance and cross training are helping me progress in PT by strengthening my body while keeping my hypermobile joints from wiggling too far out of alignment. So this journey continues forward, even if the rhinestones and hair spray are shelved for now.

How’s your journey progressing? Will you share in the comments? (I’m living vicariously through dancers who are getting to compete again.)

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