Preparing dancers for jumping following injury or holiday.
Jumps and landings occur frequently in dance, with professional dancers often being required to perform very creative and athletic jump combinations.
How do dancers make these jumps and leaps look so effortless? It requires tremendous amount of strength and coordination to execute them correctly. In this article, the importance of how a dancer lands and absorbs the impact from these jumps will be highlighted, with the two main reasons for this focus being injury prevention and power production. If a dancer cannot land properly or perform certain landing variations in a controlled environment, the risk of injury will be higher and they will never be able to reach optimal force production to jump up into the air.
A dancer needs to be able to land in an aesthetic, effective and efficient body position. To allow them to absorb force, as well as produce force and correct line. This enables a dancer to rapidly move or jump once again after contact with the ground or more simply perform a slower movement depending on the choreography. An example of this would be when a dancer is required to do multiple sautés in a row or perform a grand jeté en avant and stick the landing on one leg.
This would, therefore, raise the questions of how do we work on landing technique? And what progressions can we use in order to return to impact after a break or post-injury?
For the body to positively adapt to impact and force absorption the dancer must load the skeleton and tissues. In order to improve landing mechanics, we can involve drop landings and jump and stick exercise variations, both bilaterally and unilaterally. The real focus on these exercises is on quality and control, exposing the neuromuscular system to forceful eccentric contraction.
We can then begin to focus on developing forceful concentric contractions through utilisation of the stretch shortening cycle and contractile elements of the muscle. A dancer can use maximal force generating exercises, and can also begin to introduce more continuous repetition exercises which promotes neuromuscular efficiency.
Lateral jumps are often neglected when applying return to jump and landing progressions. These are an important consideration for dancers, due to the nature of the movements they use in practice and performance. Movements do not always occur in the neutral or sagittal plane and therefore, we must expose the body to all types of movement when rehabilitating an athlete to ensure full recovery or returning a dancer to landing progressions after a holiday.
This very basic and simple list contains ideas (not all possibilities) and can be developed further depending on goals and needs analysis. However, here are some regular progressions for the return to jumping without the specific considerations of injury type and strength pre-requisites or dance genre. Health practitioners have certain load tolerance markers to fulfil in rehab that may be specific to injury type. Therefore this article will not go into the specific guidelines or markers set out by governing bodies. This list of exercises are simply ideas and basic templates that can be utilised in the return to Dance following injury. The volume and Intensity of these progressions should also be manipulated effectively. Similarly, there are Dance Specific variations to these exercises which will be shown in our follow up article.
Rehabilitation Progressions (Health Practitioner Lead)
Drop Landing Assisted (Small)
Drop Landing (Progression)
Single Leg Drop (Step off)
Single Leg Drop (Drop Off)
Double Leg Jump and Stick (multidirectional)