The junior dance competition season is underway, and for many young dancers it is an exciting opportunity to perform on stage. However, the school holidays, rather than being a time for rest and recuperation between busy school terms, can transform into a hive of additional activity with dancers participating in winter schools and eisteddfods. In Melbourne for example, a dancer may have a performance of her classical solo one morning in Frankston, followed by a jazz troupe that afternoon in Werribee, followed by a lyrical duo in Heidelberg the next morning. Punctuate this schedule with extra rehearsals and workshops; a hectic timetable, with high intrinsic expectation and perceived pressure from teachers and parents can lead to a physically exhausted and emotionally drained young person. And in a few days…term 2 starts!
I remember this all too well. In amongst all this dancing, I somehow needed to find time to stay abreast of school study, engage with my non-dancing peers and also just chill out!
I’ve outlined some methods below to assist with recovery during those heavy dance periods, to maximise performance potential and help minimise the risk of injury.
Purpose: reduce muscle soreness, begin the tissue repair process and restore function.
- Stretch following activity – long indulgent stretches, working through all the major muscle groups, holding the stretch for 30 seconds but repeating each 3 to 5 times
- Ice pack – utilise an ice pack at home (or a bag of trusty frozen peas!) on any acute injuries to help reduce pain, swelling, bruising and inflammation
- Soak feet in cold water – to soothe tired feet, especially helpful after dancing en pointe
- Massage – either by making an appointment with a myotherapist or massage therapist, or by working on a foam roller or spikey massage ball at home
- Compression garments – wearing compression leggings or compression socks (on flights or on long car trips home after dancing) will help prevent swelling pooling in the feet and assist with blood circulation
- Postural drainage – resting with the feet elevated up the wall helps with venous return
- Adequate sleep – the National Sleep Foundation recommends a teenager aim for between 8 and 11 hours of sleep per night
- Optimal nutrition – replenish glycogen and protein, water rehydration
Purpose: settle the emotions.
Competition season can be an emotionally challenging time, with heightened stress and expectation. It is crucial in the down time between performances to participate in pleasurable activities in a calm environment.
- Share fun times with family and friends
- Watch a funny movie with an enjoyable, positive message
- Read a book
- Listen to music
- Spend time outdoors for fresh air and vitamin D
- Take the dog for a walk
- Avoid using electronic devices
Purpose: control the thoughts.
Many aspects of dance competition are out of your control – you cannot control what other performers do on the day, you cannot control the decisions of adjudicators, you cannot control the results. So it is important to focus on the things you can control.
- Make a list of the positive things achieved on each day
- Keep a training diary to ensure you stay on track
- Assess short-term goals for the next few weeks
- Reaffirm long-term goals for the months ahead
- Make plans to address any problems or obstacles such as costume repairs or choreography modifications
- See your dance physiotherapist to assess any acute injuries and to develop an ongoing management plan
Research is underway to investigate the optimal recovery regimens for various sports. So my recommendation is to explore the methods outlined above to establish a strategy that works best for you!
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
Best of luck for the upcoming dance competition season!