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Thread: Ballet dancers' brains 'adapt to spins'

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    EZETTIE LATUASV IVAKMHA CaroLiza_fan's Avatar
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    News Ballet dancers' brains 'adapt to spins'

    Found this story on the BBC website this morning, and thought you guys might find it interesting, as it is bound to apply to figure skating as well as to ballet.


    Ballet dancers develop differences in their brain structures to allow them to perform pirouettes without feeling dizzy, a study has found.

    A team from Imperial College London said dancers appear to suppress signals from the inner ear to the brain.


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    And to hear the actual interview that the BBC did with the neurologist who led the research (Dr Barry Seemungal) and a former principal dancer with the Royal Ballet (Deborah Bull), you can (hopefully!) listen on this page (I don't think it is geo-blocked):

    Why don't ballet dancers get dizzy when pirouetting?


    Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this research.

    CaroLiza_fan

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    Wicked Yankee Girl dorispulaski's Avatar
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    I'll have to read it through, but the first thing that came to mind was the brain damage that Lucinda Ruh experienced from spinning.

    http://www.menshealth.com/fitness/al...tions-answered

    1. Why don't they hurl or at least teeter after one of those blazing spins?


    You do get dizzy, for a second or two, which is why skaters usually don't leap right into a jump after a spin. Instead, they take a few steps (strokes, they call them) to allow the fog to clear, and then plunge back into their routines (by the way, it's a program, not a routine). Also, most skaters, myself included, will tell you that they simply get used to the feeling. That said, Lucinda Ruh, often called the greatest spinner in the history of the sport, once told me that she routinely spun so fast--a physicist once calculated that the G force to her brain was akin to a fighter pilot--that she suffered mini concussions and had lingering effects, including vertigo and severe headaches.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dorispulaski View Post
    I'll have to read it through, but the first thing that came to mind was the brain damage that Lucinda Ruh experienced from spinning.

    http://www.menshealth.com/fitness/al...tions-answered
    One theory, assuming both are right, I can come up with is that skaters put the head off centre, causing centripetal force on the brain against the skull; ballerinas put the head as the centre. There's also the matter of speed (everything is faster on ice). Any physio/physics guru to confirm?

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    If I have it right, the spins a ballet dancer does make one turn each. The dancer pushes off with the non-spinning leg and pivots around to the same spot in the circle and then pushes off again and again, repeatedly. Aren't there 32 spins in the Black Swan's dance from Swan Lake? Whereas a skater, because of the smoothness of the ice, can spin like a top from one push. There would have to be more force created by such a powerful spin. would it be centripetal or centrifugal? I think the latter, but don't take my word for it.

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    Ballet dancers "spot"---they focus on one spot, and whip their heads around to focus again on that same spot with each turn. That helps them to keep their equilibrium when spinning. As Olympia explained, dancers' spins are controlled by the dancers' own motions to initiate and continue the spin. But figure skaters cannot spot because their spins are too rapid and not really under complete control. Dick Button once explained that to try to spot might actually break a skater's neck!

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    Kevin van der Perren spotted his rotational jumps. Dick Button always remarked on it, saying that he didn't see how he could possibly do a quad with that technique.

    About spinning, this article makes perfect sense. The brain is wired to receive information from the inner ear that is necessary for balance. When you spin, that information is harmful instead of helpful, so the brain turns it off. If you ask skaters why they don't get dizzy, they do not have an answer. They just "get used to it."

    The interesting part is that the receptors in the brain actually seem to die off a little. I wonder if figure skaters have more balance problems in old age than other people do.

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    Constable , Costume Police colleen o'neill's Avatar
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    Well dancers do do spins with multiple rotations from one push off, but not equal to the number of rotations that skaters do. Some very good points have been made . I'd think the different head positions must make a difference ..but the speed ( c-force) must be a biggie. Just as it's a factor in the punishment a skater's knees take from jumping.

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    ~ Figure Skating Is My Passion ~ Ladskater's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chuckm View Post
    Ballet dancers "spot"---they focus on one spot, and whip their heads around to focus again on that same spot with each turn. That helps them to keep their equilibrium when spinning. As Olympia explained, dancers' spins are controlled by the dancers' own motions to initiate and continue the spin. But figure skaters cannot spot because their spins are too rapid and not really under complete control. Dick Button once explained that to try to spot might actually break a skater's neck!
    Figure skaters are taught to look at a focal spot when they spin. Believe me it works. One does get used to it. I am not sure about Dick Button's explanation but if skaters keep their heads up and do focus on one spot during a spin it helps. Worked for me!

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    Constable , Costume Police colleen o'neill's Avatar
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    Yes, but did you turn your head with each revolution , or keep it still and just try to catch your spot as you come around ?

    Even as a dancer ( way back when ) I've done some forms where spotting is a no-no ..where there are fast 2 footed spins in place, multiple revolutions , and you have settle on your spot and sort of just glaze out as you go around and try to focus your eyes when your body tells you you're coming around to the right spot. Sometimes you only manage to catch it every 2nd or 3rd time, but it keeps you from getting dizzy.

    It's hard to explain..hope you know what I mean because I'm curious.

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    At the rink. Again. mskater93's Avatar
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    No, you don't spot as a skater. I've been taught to "defocus" my eyesight and then as you exit the spin, you quickly pick three non-moving spots to glance at quickly to stop your brain from spinning.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mskater93 View Post
    No, you don't spot as a skater. I've been taught to "defocus" my eyesight and then as you exit the spin, you quickly pick three non-moving spots to glance at quickly to stop your brain from spinning.
    Yes, that's what skaters do. They do get dizzy, but they can recover quickly by getting used to it. If they do spins in the opposition direction (like counter-clockwise), they have hard time in recovering their balance, just like an average person.

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    Spiral Lover tulosai's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ladskater View Post
    Figure skaters are taught to look at a focal spot when they spin. Believe me it works. One does get used to it. I am not sure about Dick Button's explanation but if skaters keep their heads up and do focus on one spot during a spin it helps. Worked for me!
    They are taught this but only at the very early stages when they are learning to spin and the spins are slow and without many rotations. As others have said, it is impossible to spot correctly (or at least as a dancer does) as a figure skater at a more advanced level.

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    I have always found it fascinating that in the world of ballet, it is actually more common for turns to be choreographed with clock-wise rotations. In skating, we would call those who prefer this 'direction' to be "lefties"

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    Custom Title Johar's Avatar
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    Are there some people who can never overcome dizzyiness from spins?

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    I have low blood pressure and somewhat slow organs, and had anemic symptoms until well past teenage years; EVERY TIME I got up from even a split second of sitting position, I momentarily blacked out with headache (the kind of feeling where the brain is being sucked down), world got wobbly, powered out, and fell - and had to rest several seconds.

    Because it was part of my life as were talking and walking, I learned to fall "safe and dignified" in the middle of running, looking like I'm slowing down and impulsively crouching down (that's what everyone thought, if not feigning seek). Given right momentum in walking, if it happened in the midst, I could sometimes manage walking, though like a zombi for the seconds, by controlling with consecutive bits of twitch hear and there "falling" forward, like how space rockets control directions. I was not conscious enough to think hard, but "got used to" and trained my muscle reaction over time with splits of consciousness.

    Yep - I hate those girls who try to feign fragility for attention or sympathy, saying "Oh, don't worry - it's just anemia". People, Anemia is painful and dangerous! I almost bumped into cars, often hit my head on rails with this!

    --- I digress. And wordy.

    My point is, dizziness is something one can get used to, with practised control embodied over time Of course, no offence for those who can't, because adaptability differs body to body.

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