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Photo: Wendy Whelan and Craig Hall NYC Ballet, by Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

AGEIST BEST PRACTICES

ageist contributors | MAY 10, 2018

longevity lessons from a dancer

This week we are asking Drea Sobke, dancer and pilates expert about the remarkable increase in career longevity of dancers. Wendy Whelan retired from the NY Ballet in her late 40s and now, at 51, has transitioned into modern dance. We were wondering if there were some useful lessons for us non-dance professionals.

Feet First
Since our feet are the foundation of our bodies, it’s extremely important to have flexibility in our foot and ankle joint to ensure a healthy walking pattern and a happy body. The first thing dancers do before any class, rehearsal, or performance is stretch their feet, ankles and calves. Take a moment in your day to stretch your ankles with an easy calve stretch. 

-Find a curb or a small ledge
-Stand with the ball of your foot on the the lip and allow your heel to hang down
-Stretch one calve at a time for 20-30 seconds each

Head in the sky 
Posture and back health is everything for a dancer.  An easy trick to improve your posture is to make sure your head is above you, and not in front of you. Sounds simple right?  Most posture issues start with improper head placement, but can be easily fixed by realigning the head and retraining the muscles in the neck.

Happy Moves
Dancers are known for having a youthful spirit, which can be attributed to the endorphin rush from movement.  Finding a movement practice like dance, Pilates, Gyrotonic, or yoga can be an incredible outlet for emotional and physical stress. 

Spine Time
Joseph Pilates once said "You are only as young as your spine is flexible".  In Pilates and dance, movement of the spine in all spatial planes is key.  Treat yourself by stretching your spine and its surrounding muscles by bending sideways, rounding forward, arching back and twisting in both directions. Finding a Pilates or Gyrotonic instructor or class is an excellent way to getting your spine moving safely.