Dancers and the Growing Spurt
You’ve started to notice a decrease in strength and flexibility. You work harder. Long balances and pirouettes become more difficult to achieve, so you work even harder. All this hard work doesn’t seem to pay off; those pirouettes just aren’t getting any better. Your self-esteem drops as you see your fellow students appearing to improve. Welcome to the “growing spurt”. This usually takes place between the ages of 11 and 14 but varies with each individual and can last 18-24 months. Not only do we deal with sudden increases in height, which causes a decrease in strength, fluctuating hormones can make or break a “bad hair day”. Working through this change is the only solution. Good eating habits are extremely important. Dieting during this growing time is not the thing to do. Raging hormones add weight to a dancer’s body but you must continue to fuel your activity – with healthy choices, not junk foods.
Aside from the mental changes with those raging hormones, you will notice physical changes in limb to torso length, your arms and legs appear to be longer and heavier, and they seem to simply “get in your way”. As the nervous system struggles to keep up with these muscular and skeletal changes you will experience a fluctuation in coordination and balance. This is because the bones in the arms and legs grow before the torso starts to lengthen causing the core (the center) of the body to become unstable and dancers rely on this “stable core” to get them through class. Because our bodies are not symmetrical, one arm or one leg can grow without the other causing the body to struggle.
These growth spurts can affect our mental stability, making us feel less adequate to perform at the level we previously attained. But use this time to your advantage. Let your teacher know you are struggling with these changes and your teacher should be able to give you modifications in class work that will help you work through this stressful time. Limiting movement in jumps, pointe work in the center, kneeling floor work in jazz or modern class and other movement that stresses the knee joint such as grand pliés are some modifications to be aware of. Your teacher can help you concentrate on stabilizing your core work through postural corrections, facilitating a deeper kinesthetic awareness. You, as a dancer, can concentrate on technical understanding and enhancing your artistry.
Trust your teacher’s decisions on class work modification and together you will work through this growth spurt successfully. You will become a more technically sound dancer for all the extra attention and hard work applied and that self-esteem lost will once again emerge.
This information written by Syble Bracken. All Rights Reserved.
The Ballet Workshop, Inc.
1634 Railroad Street, Enumclaw WA 98022 (360) 825-2196