Styles of Dance and Their Demands on the Body
Dance has evolved in many different forms, with wide variations in technique, style and artistic expression. These differences are what distinguish the dance type, its cultural origins and artistic purpose: a ballet dancer’s use of pointe work and extension creates a sense of etherealism on stage, while an Afro-Caribbean dancer’s low centre of gravity and rhythmic foot stamping highlights the connection with the earth and story telling. Because of these individual, highly stylized techniques, there are very specific physical demands placed on the body. Flexibility, strength and power, cardiovascular fitness, body composition, ethnicity and aesthetics are all factors that contribute to different dance styles in varying degrees. Some dancing communities may be more exacting in their requirements with regards to length and intensity of training, age and physical characteristics or emotional maturity and musicality. For example, ballet requires high levels of external rotation in the hip, both for aesthetic and functional purposes. Poorly developed ‘turn-out’ is a leading cause of injury in ballet so strength must be developed over years of training to prevent compensatory overload on the knees and ankles. Contemporary dance utilizes the floor a great deal as a choreographic tool, requiring the dancer to fall and roll, often with unpredictable changes in speed and direction. Core stability, flexibility and strength in the legs and ankles are of paramount importance to perform these movements well, and to protect the knees as much as possible.