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Anatomy of a Dancer: Tip #3

October 7, 2015


The most versatile of dancers coexist within a balanced physical paradigm of strength and flexibility. One without the other results in either a lack of range of motion or a lack of stability. As we watch dancers improve in technique and artistry over time it is increasingly fashionable that impressive feats of flexibility hold equal value alongside artistic expression and technical expertise. The first step a dancer must undertake in order to join the progressive ranks of gifted dancers begins with appreciating the concepts of Active and Passive Insufficiency.

In an effort to move more, reach higher or bend farther it is imperative to understand the opposing actions between a designated muscle group and its anatomical opposite. Let’s take a high leg kick, for example. In order to pursue a higher kick it is necessary to strengthen the front of the thigh, producing more contraction and, thus, a higher kick or lift of the leg. A lack of strength in the muscles located along the front of the hip and thigh can be termed “Active Insufficiency,” as these muscles lack the “sufficiency” to contract and raise the leg accordingly.

“Passive Insufficiency” can be then attributed to the opposing muscle groups (in this instance the gluteals and hamstrings along the back of the thigh) when they are not relaxed or flexible enough to lengthen to the equal and opposite degree of the contractile muscles along the front. The consequence of this limitation results in a resistance to movement and a reduction of leg height.

An invaluable task for any dancer is to undertake a balanced program of strength and flexibility, emphasizing both in equal measure, in order to avoid the unnecessary risks of effort and injury associated with Active and Passive Insufficiency. Attending to this fine balance will most certainly result in an exquisite range of motion that is effective, safe, enjoyable and artistically rewarding.

Eric Zimmer, BA Health and Human Performance, ACE Medical Exercise Specialist, Professional Dance Teacher

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