Dance Techniques and Associated Injuries Part 1


Arabesque is a pose that creates an elongated line by standing on one leg and extending the other leg behind it, either on or off the floor. The supporting leg may be straight or in demi-plié, but the weight of that leg must remain evenly distributed over the foot. The working leg must be stretched with a straight knee. While performing any of the many variations of an arabesque, the weight of the body must remain distributed evenly to avoid injury. If too much force is placed on the arch of the supporting leg, plantar fasciitis can occur. The same pronating force can lead to heel pain and inflammation. If the technique is executed incorrectly and the supporting leg is subjected to repeated stress than a heel spur will develop. A heel spur is the product of chronic heel pain and bursitis. Further, in the demi-plié, position, if excessive force is absorbed by the Achilles tendon then Achilles tendonitis can also develop.

Assemble is an elevation step done by brushing one foot outward on the floor and then in the air, while at the same time springing upward with the supporting foot. The body must be erect and centered over the hips and feet to do an assemble so that when the foot brushes outward no undue stress is caused by trying to compensate for the uneven weight distribution. Proper body alignment is necessary so the supporting foot can spring off the floor effectively. If either foot needs to make adjustments, an injury can occur. Improper technique exposes the supporting foot to undue force which is absorbed through the ankle, resulting in a sprain. The acting foot can be irritated by the brushing motion, leading to skin abrasions, blistering, contusions and a hematoma. Improper landing can also cause periostitis, inflammation of the connective tissue that surrounds bone. It is also important for the legs to remain turned out throughout the movements of assemble to minimize stress and the possibility of a strain on the knee during takeoff and landing.

Attitude is a vertical position of the body in which one leg is raised with a bent knee and supported by the other leg which is either straight or in demi-plié. Both the supporting and working legs should be turned out from the hip, although some contemporary movements permit the rotation to be turned in. The knee must be higher than the foot on the raised leg to achieve the proper image of an attitude and for proper muscle development. When working to hold the leg in its correct position, it is important to use the muscles in the thigh, and not the back muscles. Do not sickle, or curve, the foot to give the appearance of the proper position. fThis improper technique will lead to Achilles tendonitis and or plantar fasciitis.

Balance is a movement done in waltz tempo in which the dancer shifts weight from one foot to the other. The transfers of weight are important and the dancer must make sure the ball of the foot bears the weight when the foot touches in back. However, the weight must be evenly dispersed through the foot when the whole foot touches the floor on a ligament and or muscle strain can develop. The foot is highly susceptible to plantar fasciitis and arch pain through improper technique and overuse.

Ballonné is a springing movement executed by jumping into the air while extending the other leg from the knee or ankle and then returning it to the same spot when the supporting leg lands back on the floor. This movement begins and ends with the body supported by one leg; therefore, it’s necessary to be centrally balanced in the upper torso. There is significant stress factor being placed on the supporting leg, both the knee and foot must spring off the ground and land onto the ground with precision. The weight cannot fall back into the heel because such an action will inhibit the springing motion required to execute the movement and can cause injuries like sprains, strains, plantar fasciitis, arch pain and even Achilles tendonitis.

Ballotté is a jumping movement accompanied by a swaying motion of the body. To avoid injury, the weight of the body must be centered so that a slight lean of the body will not pull it off balance. It is also necessary to be pulled-up in the upper torso so that the springing off the floor will not require extra effort from the feet, which could strain various muscles and ligaments in the lower extremities.

Cabriole is a jumping movement in which one leg is raised and the supporting leg springs upward and outward to beat the raised leg. This gives the illusion of pushing the working leg higher, while landing on the supporting leg. As with any jumping movement, even weight distribution must be maintained to avoid undue pressure on the supporting foot. Maintain control of the body using the abdominal muscles to reduce pressure and shearing forces off of the muscles of the lower extremities. When the abdominal muscles are not used, the force onto the knee can be substantial and a twisting motion will lead to a knee injury.

Développé, is a developing movement, stand on one leg and bring the other foot up from the ankle to the knee of the standing leg. Stretch the leg to its fullest and maintain center over the ball of the foot. It is important to stay in alignment while executing this movement, the supporting foot cannot roll in or out otherwise it will cause a strain to the muscle and or ligament structure.

Échappé, is a spring movement in which the feet spring out simultaneously to second or fourth position. Proper placement of the feet on the floor is critical to this movement so that the dancer can check for correct positioning after the springing action. Do not roll in or out in order to avoid stress on the feet. The ball of the foot is subject to a significant impact upon landing which can cause various forms of pain and inflammation to the feet and legs like periostitis, bursitis, capsulitis and sesamoiditis. The heel should always touch the ground on landing otherwise, shinsplints will occur.