Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Dancers and Dogs

Today is Groundhog Day #167.

I thought I'd share an interesting video I happened upon today. ABT principal dancer Sarah Lane stars in a short video entitled “Dancers & Dogs” on YouTube. It's well worth the 2 minutes 34 seconds it takes to watch.

"Dancers and Dogs" is subtitled "Ballet 101". If you can take your eyes off her movements (and her cute dogs) you might note that each action or position is tagged with the ballet term. She reaches to a high kitchen shelf with a relevé. She picks up a bag from the floor while executing a beautiful penché. Later, she executes a well-controlled développé (tagged "extension").

That développé took me back to a class several years ago when then-principal dancer of The Washington Ballet Morgann Rose substituted for our regular instructor. As she demonstrated the steps for the next exercise she casually executed a développé that put her right leg almost 180 degrees above her left. And she did it as easily as raising her hand.

Normally I'm totally focused on translating the description and demonstration into the movements I'll need to attempt, but this completely broke my focus. I remember saying something like, "I'm sorry, am I supposed to be learning something, or just watching in awe?"

Morgann Rose retired at the end of the 2016-17 season, so that was more than three years ago. I still remember that développé.

It's been so hot and humid here, I decided to get a treadmill. The model I wanted, a highly-rated and popular model, has become too scarce to have delivered, so a friend and I rented a pickup truck and drove to the nearest sporting goods store that had it in stock. We knew it weighed almost 300 lbs (135 kg), but we figured between the two of us we could slide it up the six steps from the sidewalk and through my front door. What we didn't bank on is that the weight is not evenly distributed. One end -- the one with the motors -- is far heavier than the other end. I can lift 150 lbs reasonably well, but trying to lift 250 lbs and drag it up an incline was a bad idea. Eventually I recruited a couple of neighbors to help and we got it into my house.

As I returned the truck I thought to myself that I was going to be sore the next day. And I was. But that soreness got worse and worse over the next ten days, to the point where just rolling over in bed was very painful. I'm told I've strained several of my back muscles, primarily the Quadratus Lumborum (or QL) muscle. So much for being able to exercise!

Fortunately there doesn't appear to be any structural damage. I have my normal full range of motion with no pain, as long as I'm not using my muscles to support myself. But even something as simple as coughing would cause a hot burning pain across my low back to my hips.

Oddly, what helped the most was my dance training. The better my posture, the less I hurt. By keeping my upper body properly centered over my hips and engaging my core muscles, much as I would in ballet class, I can minimize the stress on my QL and thus the pain. Talk about incentive.

Now, 20 days later, I'm greatly improved. Not pain free yet, but I'm not needing 400 mg of ibuprofen every 6-8 hours, like I was 10 days ago. In another week or so I might even assemble the treadmill that started this nonsense!

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