Irish dance: 5 tips for keeping your dancing healthy

Staying healthy takes more and more of my time, and it seems obvious to try to enhance the benefits of dance by paying attention to a few basics. This is not an exhaustive list: I have already written about some of these tips but ’tis always good to have a reminder.

1. Dance floor – seems an odd kind of thing to put top of the list but flooring is critical to reducing knee, hip and ankle injuries and sore backs, ideally, sprung floor is the best or at least something with some bounce or give in it. You should be able to see the floor moving when someone walks or dances on it. The floor also needs to be very clean- swept first then a very hot, dry-damp squeezed-out mop over the top to get all the grease and dirt off.

2. Dance shoes – another vital piece of health equipment that we often only consider for their looks or convenience.Shoes do a bigger job than just protecting your tootsies: they give vital support to your entire body whilst you are whizzing about the floor for hours at a time. Shoes that really support your feet have low twist (hold the shoe heel with one hand and the shoe toe with the other and twist to see how easy or hard it is to do) and the thicker the sole is, the better. (See the Irish Dance Shoes page for more detail.)

3. Fresh air –  I have been really, really sick on several occasions after attending céilís in halls that had little or no ventilation. Plenty of fresh air is very important in any crowded venue or dance hall. Windows are a wonderful old-fashioned invention that our latter-day air conditioned environments tend to overlook. It is also very important that any air conditioning units that are used are also kept very clean.

4. Rhythm-this may sound a bit unusual but you can avoid a lot of little accidents, bumping, pulling and having your feet stepped on by your partner by keeping in time with the music. You will also find you use a lot less energy when you’re in time with the music.

5. Dance partner– if you’re dancing with a partner, each person dances for themselves under their own steam i.e. you don’t do their dancing for them. This means no pulling or yanking, particularly not with fingers digging in firmly into the spine or shoulder. People carry all sorts of injuries and pains – arthritis, bruising, sprains – and it pays to take care about other hand holds. See Irish Dance Partners: Dancing Under Your Own Steam

Oh, and by the way, if you’re coming down with something – tickle in the throat, aching muscles, headache – do everyone a favour and give dancing the slip until you’re feeling better.

Go maire tú saol fada, lán d’áthas agus sláinte
May you live a long life, full of gladness and health

What other tips do you have for us for staying dance healthy?

Nora Stewart 
Irish Bliss
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