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Ballet Talk for Dancers

NEW ballet Student at 45 with bad back

Rich Beatt

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Oh, only one class? - well, no wonder there's muscle tightness. It's normal - particularly the 2nd day after new, unusual exercise that goes beyond normal daily movements.

Only you can tell what is 'normal' muscle response to new and unusual movements & exercise, and what is down to pre-existing problems, but it's great that your back now feels good. Here's hoping the feeling continues!

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Yes, I was anticipating it not being good so maybe hopped on here with my question prematurely for relating. And it wasn’t stiffness that occurred after that one class the next day. It was fiery that same night. Almost like nerves. Maybe they were just waking up? It’s day 4 now and my back is feeling better than it has in years. I think my issue, as on of mynlractioners suggested, is I am far too tight. My muscles are in protection mode and they need something to get them to loosen up. Dance might be the ticket. Next class is tomorrow morning.  There will be some more insight after that. 

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Stick with it if you can. I have two ruptured discs and my back is usually improved after class.


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18 hours ago, Rich Beatt said:

My muscles are in protection mode and they need something to get them to loosen up.

And remember to breathe! (My teacher's regular correction to the whole class) - that might help the muscles if they're 'protecting' by tightening up.

I had a dance teacher in contemporary dance (release technique) who used to tell us to 'send' the breath to the parts of our bodies that felt tight. I thought it was a bit mumbo-jumbo, but actually, recently, I've found visualising this and thinking about breathing through the parts of my body which hold tension, has really helped! It's only taken me a decade to learn that and get it into my body ...

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  • 1 year later...

Hey Rich-  Hope you are doing well.  I would love to hear how your body has responded over time, and whether you are still dancing multiple times per week.  I began just a year ago not at age 61.  In your original post you asked whether anyone was in a situation similar to yours.  Well, despite having a few more "seasons" than you, I certainly can reflect on a few of your points and experiences.  I have chronic disc issues in my c-4, -5, -6 and -7.  A year and a half ago I had three different surgeons recommend immediate "fusion" surgeries and the implantation of an artificial disc.  My discussions with surgeons let me to the wild idea of giving ballet a try to see if it would help limber me up and improve my overall feeling.

In short, I can honestly say that I cannot recall how long ago it was that my body felt as good as it does today.  As I started ballet class I certainly experienced more than casual aches and pains along the way.  For example, when I began my right knee was the first body part to express displeasure!  It seemed to trouble me for eight weeks or so before the discomfort subsided.  Then after being introduced to jumps (the simple sautes, changement, etc) I think one of my lower vertebrae started pinching a nerve as i had leg pain and slight numbness.  I even fell to the ground a couple times when I lost control of my foot.  But alas, I continued to work the muscles gently and have not had that issue bother me for quite some time now.  Presently we are continuing to work on pirouette preparation and execution and my instructor suggested I work on spotting by simply twirling ten or twenty times each day.  That too has become much easier over the past two to three weeks.

So, my experience is that my body continues to adapt and gain strength as I continue with my classes.  If you get a chance I would love to hear some of your experiences looking back over several months.  Cheers.  Matt

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Rich Beatt
Posted (edited)

Hi Matt, I can say that I’m sure I did not address my back issues enough going back into ballet. My low back is so tight, I believe it was the cause of my calf tear in May and then bilateral tarsal tunnel in mid September.

I’m currently healing my feet and doing gentle ashtanga very beginner level yoga - no forward bends, I am working with an instructor who has gone through the exact same low back issues as me and is able to do pretty advanced stuff after the fact - in hopes to loosening up my low back and hamstrings before I continue with dance. The tarsal tunnel has been three months healing. All my medical people are saying it will not require surgery, just rest, rehab and time. It is coming along in the three months so far. I am hopeful that I can gain some safe progress in my ashtanga practice (keeping a neutral spine always until tension has been addressed), do calf and feet strengthening and then start with gentle barre work.

I am hoping to start at a new studio this coming fall and it will be Vaganova method. I have only ever done RAD and as far as I can tell, I need to regress in my in level compared to RAD, from looking at this method on paper. Which will suit my body just fine I think! This gives me time to address what I should have addressed in the first place. Ah well. The saying goes and I strongly believe it, two steps forward and one step back is not a disaster, it’s the cha-cha! Hope that was helpful, good luck with your progress and happy dancing!!

Edited by Rich Beatt
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