Hello dancers, it’s Luke The Ballet Physio here, and today I’m going to talk about proprioception. That’s our joint position sense, or our body position sense, so that even with our eyes closed, we know whether our fingers are open or closed, or whether our leg is stretched or bent. The problem is that sometimes it lies to us. So I’ve seen many dancers who plié slightly crooked, slightly to the side, and they don’t know. I tell them, “Do you know that you plié to the right?” And they say, “No.” And I get them to look in the mirror, and they look in the mirror and plié, and they go, “Oh yeah, I do.”
So the problem is that our bodies get used to what we normally do, and that feels symmetrical and it feels correct, even if it’s not. So sometimes we can use mirrors to help, to make sure that we’re symmetrical on both sides, and to make sure that we’re doing what we know we should be doing. And sometimes we can rely on corrections from our teacher.
I had an example of this once myself. I was cycling, and as a physio, I’ve taught people how to cycle correctly before, and to make sure that their knees go straight forwards over the middle of their foot. And I know that my left leg is weaker than my right leg. And I looked down as I was cycling one day, just briefly, and I noticed that my left knee was coming in. And so when I moved it so that it was pedaling straight again, it felt to me like it was too far out to the side, and it also felt just as strong as the other side. So now whenever I cycle, I know that for me, it has to feel slightly wide for it to actually be straight on.
So this is something that we can take to the studio, and to make sure that we’re using corrections in this way, so that we’re teaching our bodies what symmetrical and what neutral feels like, even if it doesn’t actually feel like it, if that makes sense.
The other thing I would say on proprioception is that some things that we can do affect our proprioception. So if you’ve just done a stretch, your body will feel a bit looser in that area. But that doesn’t mean you’ve made progress. It doesn’t mean, “Oh, I fixed that. I’ve loosened up my flexibility.” It just means that you’ve reset your proprioception. So sometimes, we have to make sure that progress is being made by what we can see happening in the days and weeks to come, and not just how we feel in the moment.