Pilates and dance have a long-standing history that dates back to the early 20th century. Joseph Pilates, the founder of Pilates, was a German gymnast and fitness enthusiast who moved to England in the early 1900s. It was there that he began working with dancers, including famous ballerinas such as Rudolf von Laban and Hanya Holm, to develop a series of exercises to help them prevent injuries and improve their performance.
The Pilates method, originally called “Contrology,” was designed to improve strength, flexibility, and posture through a series of controlled movements that emphasized proper alignment and breathing. This method was initially used by dancers and athletes to improve their physical performance, but it quickly became popular among the general public as a form of exercise and rehabilitation.
Dance and Pilates have a symbiotic relationship in that many of the principles and movements used in Pilates are derived from dance. The focus on proper alignment, core strength, and control of movement are all essential elements of dance training as well. This relationship has only grown stronger over the years, as many dance schools and companies now incorporate Pilates into their training regimens to help prevent injuries and improve performance.
An experimental study by McMillan and associates found that a 14-week Pilates intervention improved dynamic alignment in ballet students. As well, a study by Amorim and Wyon found that dancers who participated in a 12-week Pilates Mat intervention increased their levels of muscular strength and flexibility compared to a control group who showed no changes participating in normal dance class. Due to these muscular adaptations, dancers were able to hold a developpé position for an average of 9 seconds longer, and increased their height 4-10°.
In conclusion, the history of Pilates and dance is a rich and symbiotic one that has helped both practices to evolve and thrive over the years. The incorporation of Pilates into dance training can be an effective way to prevent injuries and improve performance, making it an essential tool for dancers of all levels. As Pilates continues to gain popularity as a form of exercise and rehabilitation, we can only expect this relationship to grow stronger in the future.
For more information on dance injury prevention and cross training protocols join IADMS at the 33rd Annual Conference in Columbus Ohio from October 12-15, 2023. This 4-day, CME-certified conference provides an opportunity to learn from and network with over 500 professionals in the field of dance medicine and science. Attendees will learn the latest advances in the field through lectures, panel discussions, Q&A, case studies, and practical sessions given by world-renowned keynote speakers, accomplished guests, and notable peers and colleagues from around the world!
Contributed by Colette Dong on behalf of IADMS