We are all asymmetrical. Look in a mirror… the 2 sides of your face aren’t even. It’s normal to have slight differences between the 2 hips and the range of turnout. I’ve never seen a perfectly straight spine. Bottom line – we all have some asymmetries in our alignment and muscle usage.
Dancers often will tell you their own asymmetries. ‘My right leg is my better standing leg. My left leg is much higher in in front and side extensions. My right leg is my better jumping leg and so on and so forth.
The challenge is with having uneven movement patterns and asymmetries is that they feel ‘normal’ and we come to accept the differences. We often don’t notice the imbalance or asymmetries increasing over time, unless we do something that makes us aware of how differently the two sides of the body are working.
I ask my students to complete an injury survey before I do a movement assessment. During the assessment I’m looking at the typical relationships between muscle groups. For instance, how much internal versus external rotation do they have at their hips? This simple test tells me something about the structure of the hip joint. I take special note when the ROM tests unevenly between the two sides.
For example, one dancer tests with more turnout than turn-in on both sides, but they aren’t using the turnout they have – they aren’t stable in passé, for example. The second dancer tests one hip with much more turnout and the other side has more turn-in than turnout.
With both dancers the goal will be to improve the balance between the mobility and stability of the hip joint. It is the second dancer, though, that has caught my attention because that type of imbalance is going to show up in other areas. Are they standing in an even first position? What’s happening in the lesser turned out side to make it ‘look’ even?
It is the type of movement detective work that I love so much. And… these types of imbalances and/or asymmetries more often lead to injuries. There was a study done on Division II collegiate athletes who were rowers, volleyball and soccer players. They were given a functional movement screen and the players with asymmetries and differences of movement patterns between the 2 sides of their body were 2.75 times more likely to have sustained an injury that would keep them from practice of competition. The asymmetries were more significant for injuries than having weakness or tightness on both sides.
This makes sense to me. I find those larger imbalances often correlating to past injuries that have been noted on the questionnaire. They may have passed the PT tests for being able to return to dancing – but their movement wasn’t organized or integrated back to pre-injury levels.
This is where doing easy assessments as I show in the mobility/stability online course comes in. Often, it’s motor control that needs to be focused upon.
In the video below, I was working on a simple functional movement of walking up the stairs wanting to keep my pelvis organized and working both legs evenly. I was working on ankle/hip connection and noticing how the decreased mobility in my right ankle was connected to less stability at my right hip (including under utilizing the rotators and gluteus medius)
This exercise could be useful for the dancer who has very different rotation at the 2 hips. No… it isn’t a rotator exercise per se, it is seeing how well the rotators are working within a movement. There are multiple variations on this one simple movement that could focus their attention in different areas.
How about standing in first position on the floor with the stairs on your right. Step slowly and easily with your right foot in turnout on that bottom step and stand. Once you have good balance slowly lower your left foot back down to the floor and into first position.
Balancing out asymmetries requires more than stretches and strengtheners. It requires integrating and organizing our movement efficiently.
If you are an experiential learner, consider coming to the Enhancing Technique with Mobility and Stability Training Dance Teacher Retreat In Tuscany, Italy, July 2022!
To your success,