While there are many causes of both knee and foot pain in a dancer, it may help to focus some extra attention on strengthening the core and glutes. If this area of the body, commonly referred to as the “center”, is strong and used appropriately during movement, it does a good deal to protect the joints, tendons, and ligaments of the lower legs and feet.
Strengthening the core can be done with a large variety of exercises. However, as a dancer, it may be best to utilize exercises that require a stable core as opposed to those that incorporate a flexing motion, i.e. plank variations rather than sit-ups or crunches. After all, we do not flex the spine when we dance. Therefore, we need to train the core to remain neutral and strong as we stand tall and move our limbs.
Stabilizing the core while the arms and legs are moving (only legs in an Irish dancer’s case) is one of the most important aspects of being able to maintain correct technique and beautiful posture. Strengthening the glutes and understanding how to activate them during dance is the second part of this stabilization equation. Furthermore, the external rotators are buried deep under the gluteal muscles and must be engaged if a dancer strives to remain turned out while dancing. They are responsible for the position of the rest of the leg.
If we have enough strength and are able to apply it, the core becomes a powerhouse during dance movements and takes an enormous amount of pressure and weight off of the knees, ankles, and feet. If you have ever heard your dance teacher say “pull up”, he/she is trying to remind you to engage your core in order to become the tallest that you can with the most beautiful posture, all while your feet and legs are moving a mile a minute. For ideas on how to strengthen these areas, please see our exercise videos on Facebook and Instagram or contact us for more information.