Bartlett - Established 1884 in New York City

Safety First in the Dance Studio

By Barbara Denise Files

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Figure skating classes teach you about safety on the ice.  You learn how to stop and control your speed.  Then you learn how to fall on the ice and get up in a safe way.  Some skaters even wear helmets to protect their heads.  All these tips help you to challenge yourself and have fun at the rink without getting hurt.

In dance class, there are similar tips to help you learn and have fun while minimizing the chance of an injury.  Take a moment to see if you follow these guidelines in your dance class.

Use the buddy system to set up portable barres and mirrors.

Portable barres are long and difficult to control.  If you lift only one side of the barre at a time, it may twist and topple to the floor.  It's no fun to have a barre fall down...and possibly land on your foot.  The safest way to move a portable barre is with one or more skaters holding each end.  Carry the barre together and adjust it until it stands straight and level to the ground.

Many portable mirrors are top-heavy.  If you puch them too hard on a single side, they will fall over.  Likewise, if you aren't familiar with adjusting the angle of a portable mirror, it may swing and hit you in the head.  Play it safe by setting up and adjusting your mirrors with one or more skating buddies.

Keep a safe distance from the mirrors.

Many off-ice rooms have tall mirrors mounted to one or more walls.  Skaters tend to dance too close to the mirrors, especially during combinations that travel across the floor.

It's no fun to whack your arm or leg into a mirror.  Even worse, you could injure yourself or crack the glass.  Check out your position in the room before starting a dance combination to make sure there is enough space.

If you run out of space during a dance combination, stop dancing and move back to a better location.  Then resume your dancing as quickly as possible.  Most likely, your dance instructor will notice this and suggest some spacing adjustments for the future.

Wear dance clothes and dance shoes to dance class.

If your clothing interferes with your dancing, it's a safety hazard.  Here are the most common problems:

  • Hooded sweatshirts.  Remove them when dance class starts or switch to a lighter and safer warm-up sweater designed specifically for dancing.

  • Bell-bottom pants with legs that are too long.  If you’re standing on the fabric of your trousers, it’s time to hem them or cut them down to size.  Consider switching to tights, leggings or dance pants cut with a narrower and shorter leg line.
  • Clothing that rides up or down during class.  It’s hard to concentrate on your dancing when you’re busy tugging at a shirt.  Enjoy a safer and more comfortable dance class by switching to something that fits you better and stays put during class.
  • Socks or bare feet. Unless your instructor asks you to remove your shoes—some prefer to conduct part of the warm-up in socks or bare feet—wear ballet slippers or jazz shoes at all times.  Socks are too slippery for most dance floors and bare feet may not glide evenly on the floor.  Dance shoes are designed to cushion and protect your feet while supporting your movement.

Learn the proper techniques for using a ballet barre.

If you're new to dance class, here are a few suggestions for safety at the barre.

  • A ballet barre is not designed for gymnastics.  Skaters who hang or swing on a barre may pull it out of the wall.

  • If your off-ice practice room lacks formal barres, use something solid and fixed for support.  It is safer to press your fingertips against a wall or the ledge of a windowsill, than to use a folding chair.

  • If you stretch at the barre, learn from an experienced dance instructor how to lift your leg safely on and off the barre, how to position your leg on a barre and how to stand correctly while your leg is on a barre .  Avoid the possibility of injury by practicing these techniques under the watchful eye of a professional dance teacher.

Practice dance steps in dance class.

Many skaters enjoy other sports or activities outside of the rink.  Occasionally, they arrive at dance class bursting with excitement over something learned in another activity.  They want to practice while the new concepts are fresh in their minds.

Unfortunately, it's distracting and unsafe to practice anything but a dance step during a dance class.  Although running and tumbling are great forms of exercise, they are hazardous during class.  If you have just learned how to do a cartwheel or want some advice on the rotation of your axel jump, show your dance instructor before or after dance class.  You'll receive a more enthusiastic response and stay safe, too.

In dance class, it is safer if everyone practices the same steps under the supervision of a dance instructor.  If your instructor divides your class into groups, ask for permission to practice dancing while the other group takes its turn.  Then, work on the dance step or combination you just learned.  Find out if there is a designated area within the room that is a safe spot for improving your dance steps.

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