In 1991, I was 12 years of age I was training 6 days a week; three classes and a private lesson as well as at least an hour a day practice at home. Winning championships, happily competitive and successful, and living and breathing Highland Dancing. A wonderful time in my life!
It was also a time of chronically sore heels, a weird hip issue where I would lose all elevation and power in one leg when I was hopping, and times of calf and achilles tightness that would ache constantly in the night for days and weeks on end.
Warming up was doing a few static stretches and then the Village Maid to music before jumping into the Championship Fling….. Cooling down was some calf stretches….. Every class, private and practice was dancing everything to music then working on corrections…. My mum’s query of doing private lessons on a concrete floor was met with a raised eyebrow querying her ‘hippy new-age’ parenting methods. 🙂
All of that was worth it at the time though, and I never questioned or regretted any of it in my pursuit to achieve my goals in Highland.
Fast forward to the eve of 2019 though, I know better. Members of our community know better, and many are pursuing some really great research, investigation and training methods that are creating Highland Dancers with supreme skill and grace, but do so with the long term health and wellbeing of the dancer’s mind and body at the same time.
At Ardlair I have been on a journey to educate myself, our team, and all of our dancing family members and friends to the ways of sustainable training practices. This stuff is bread and butter in the world of junior elite sport and some other dance forms, and I am utterly devoted to bringing it into my school and the wider Highland Dance community.
Thanks to the mentoring of Pat Gush from Gauteng, South Africa, 2019 will be our fifth year of weekly scheduled dance body conditioning classes at Ardlair for our competing dancers. It is our second official year of introducing periodised training and event participation for our competitive dancers. This summer, we are introducing dance body conditioning training and education for our support teachers and instructors so that our whole team is united with the same message.
I truly believe all of these pieces, and more, are the reason why our competition team have ended 2018 injury-free and are genuinely enjoying an off-season rest before our pre-season starts again from 1 January.
Our dancers have pursued ‘pre-habilitation’ support from allied health professionals. We have routines for warm-ups and cool downs. We have home massage tools and ice buckets for routine icing…
Dancer’s bodies are unique, special, and for their life. We ABSOLUTELY believe at Ardlair that we can reach elite performance levels and high achievement for our dancers with those goals – BUT – our goal is to achieve that is a sustainable, methodical, patient plan with their health and well-being at the forefront of all that we do.
So… Miss Lisa’s summer activities and reading list includes a self-motivated progression through a textbook outlining the principles and exercises for improving technique and avoiding common injuries.
There is a well-known quote: ‘The past is where you learned the lesson, the future is where you apply it’….
Ardlair is happy to be a part of the future in Highland Dancing!
Principal Teacher – Ardlair School of Dancing