Dancers, Go out in the Sun!

Louisa_PointeShoes_Rocks

Summer is here! Dancers, what are your plans? To many of us who are in love with the barre, the prospect of taking a summer break without any dance class is just a torture, isn’t  it?

Pointe-Shoes-on-the-Rock-5

Well, let’s take a look at the issue from a different perspective. Dancers spend most of their waking hours indoors, inside the studio, away from exposure to natural light. Without the benefit of the sunlight, our skin would not be producing enough Vitamin D, which is a vital hormone that aids the absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc, among hundreds of other benefits it brings to the body. I referred to Vitamin D as a “hormone” instead of a vitamin, because it functions differently from vitamins,  in that it can actually be manufactured by the body itself without the help of food. Its production is triggered by exposure to sunlight. Knowing that it helps the absorption of the important minerals that contribute to bone health, it is therefore of utmost importance for dancers to get adequate amount of Vitamin D.

A study presented at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine’s Annual Meeting has linked too little vitamin D in the body to an increased risk of muscle injuries in athletes. While the study involved football players, you have probably seen the list of the most demanding athletic activities, in which ballet ranks higher than football (sorry I can’t find that list now). So the warning from the research can definitely be applied to ballet dancers and students alike.

Louisa_Dancing-on-the-Roof

Practicing barre on the rooftop

By now, you probably have guessed what the best way to get Vitamin D is. Yes, get out in the sun! But do so without those horrendous “visors” ubiquitous in Asia, and sans the carcinogenic sunblocks. In case you haven’t heard, most commercial sunscreens contain questionable ingredients that could lead to cancer or hormonal disruption and other terrible long-term health issues. In the reference section below the article, you can find a link to how to choose sunscreens that are safe. Personally, I do not use any sunscreen at all, except for a thin layer of tinted moisturizer by 100% pure on my face. My body likes getting the tan. I have a lot of natural pigments (melanin), which protects me from the harmful effects of ultraviolet rays. I also eat a lot of vegetables in a rainbow spectrum on a daily basis, which serves as a natural protection from sunburn. I have read that people in tropical countries apply coconut oil to protect their skin (http://bit.ly/1gHJJfL). I haven’t tried it myself but you might want to give it a try (best to use extra virgin coconut oil).

I have once overheard a conversation involving the parents of a girl who hopes to become a professional dancer when she grows up. The parents were asked about the summertime activities they have planned for the girl. They replied: “She wouldn’t be going outdoors much. It’s best for her to keep her skin color fair, as it would be ideal for ballet dancers. She’ll be swimming in indoor pools and mostly playing indoors.”

I balked at such a suggestion. Not only is this a most unscientific approach to their daughter’s health, it also reinforces the stereotype that ballerinas should have fair skin (read David King’s blog post about the idea of “passable white” in ballet, http://bit.ly/1SuWrdC). Why can’t we, Asians, maintain our natural skin color and create our own ideal for ballet dancers?

Well, I’m way past the age of becoming a professional dancer, but in my whimsical way, I like to think of myself as an “outdoor ballerina”—having fun in the sun—and I am not ashamed of my brown skin. Let’s have some fun in the sun this summer, shall we?

 

 

References:

Vitamin D: Health Benefits and Recommended Intake

Vitamin D Deficiency Links to Risk of Uterine Fibroids

Lack of Vitamin D Leads to Muscle Injuries

The Environment Working Group’s Guide to Sunscreens

Classical Ballet: An Art or a Sport?

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8 thoughts on “Dancers, Go out in the Sun!

  1. These days I thought: sun is shining and I am practising steps in a basement. I used to go to the swimming pool every Sunday last summer, what has happened? I do not want to miss a single opportunity to dance, but I need some outdoor activity, too. So, this morning I decided to go back to my sunday swimming routine. I had a lot of fun and will continue.
    I have very light skin and sun protection can be difficult. I never liked sun screen, so after swimming I lie or sit in the shadow of a tree, which works for me. I haven’t had a sunburn for years.

    • Your swimming routine sounds fun, and I’m glad you enjoy it. Fun is the motivating factor for us to keep doing what’s beneficial! Good that you don’t use sunscreen. They do more harm than good.

  2. Love this! Thanks for expounding on the benefits of sun exposure. I’ve recently read a similar study about the negative effects of using sunscreen and totally agree with it.

    • Thanks for your comment, Isabones! Glad you also have read about this information piece of health information elsewhere. Dancers spend a great deal of time inside studios but they need to have absolutely strong bones in order to have a healthy and long career, so sun exposure should be factored in whenever possible.

  3. I don’t get out in the sun enough, but I just moved to a place where there are plenty of places to hike. Dancing on the other hand? I’ve haven’t seen too many places thick enough to practice my pirouettes.

  4. Lovely photos!!

    I have been spending most of my summer teaching ballet. jazz, and lyrical. Not bad at all. Oh, and taking jazz twice a week as well. Our studio just had our summer camp and teaching at it was fun. I’m getting my vitamin D by swimming in our pool allll the time. Swimming is the only thing I love about summer. I’m a fall/winter girl. 🙂

    bearika-ballerina.blogspot.com

    • Thank you Bearika Ballerina! Swimming is just a perfect activity to get lots of Vitamin D in the summer. But I guess the weather is much more agreeable to you now that it is much cooler? 😉 By the way, congrats on getting your new teaching job and on the Nutcracker part! Sorry I can’t leave a comment on your blog as I don’t have an account on blogger. Happy dancing!

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