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Hello my lovely FCBD sisters and brothers,I received the below email from one of my students this week and I would like for you to share your thoughts with regards to it.This letter might enrage a few of you, as she claims that ATS has done damage to her body, but later contradicts herself by saying that she doesn't blame ATS at all. She also says that her damage to her knees is due to floor-work (which is possible), but again contradicts herself by saying her biokineticist says it's due to overuse. I have not replied to her yet, but I feel that if she thinks that ATS is doing damage to her body and that she is still injured, she should not return to my studio without a note from a doctor or specialist doctor giving her the all clear to return to classes.It is quite a long email, but I would really appreciate your time and thoughts with regards to it.Let me first give you some background on this student before you read her email:This student has just recently started Level 3 and at the same time she has continued to attended three to four classes of level 1 and 2 per week at her own will. She also practices at home all the time! She truly loves ATS and is a very good dancer. In about September last year I started to train and condition the Level 3's for floor-work. I always start with leg strengthening exercises a few weeks before they even attempt any floor work. As always, I asked if any of them had any knee problems and those who did sat out of the exercises and the others including this specific student who said they were fine took part in them. I also advised them that if at any time they felt pain they should stop doing the floor-work immediately. At the end of October this specific student came to me and told me that her knees were starting to hurt when she danced and that they felt swollen and tender. I immediately told her to see a doctor and that she could only return to classes once the doctor had given her the all clear.As it turns out her mom is her doctor and she diagnosed her with bursitis on both knees and could not return to class as a result of the condition. Also, I have just recently increased my class prices. I have not had a price increase in about two + years, almost three. I have been charging extremely low prices, just enough to cover the running costs of my studio. I decided that this year I would increase my prices, just to make an little extra money for myself to help me get by. I warned all of my students about the price increase about three months ago and so far, everyone except for this student is ok with it. To top it off, I have given this student many hours of free dance instruction. I let her attend as many classes as she wanted for free, as long as she paid for at least two classes per week. My dance instruction is my only form of income. Here is her letter:Dearest HeatherThank you for your email re: class times and prices this year. I did receive it. I'd just like to share my thoughts with you about two things. This email turned out much longer than I had planned (sorry!) - so read it when you have some time to spare. Firstly, classes this year: As I have already told you over sms, I have made the decision to not dance as much as I was dancing last year because of my knees (I will explain that in more detail later on in this email.) I am hoping to attend Mon L2 class and the L3 class. BUT with the new prices, I am concerned that I will not be able to afford it. This is my last year of my studies, and even though I work as a tutor at university, the pay is irregular and not very substantial. Last year I could just about manage to afford the classes I was attending, costing me about R530 a month. This year, if I do 2 classes a week and get an 8 class card, it will cost me R640 a month... only a little bit more than last year but it will be a squeeze for me. I just wanted you to know that this makes it difficult for me to keep up. I am not asking for special treatment. I will pay it because I love ATS and I love being taught by you and the quality of teaching and learning that I am exposed to under you is fantastic and worth every cent! I also did my own research and saw that most belly dance teachers charge roughly the same sort of prices, so you are not being unreasonable. I now realise that your previous prices were an absolute steal, and you were still allowing me to come to some classes for free which I am very grateful for!! THANK YOU! I am not even sure how justified I am in moaning about the price hike... I guess I just wanted you to know how I felt about it and that I may struggle financially. I am not requesting that you do anything about it, this is my own issue and I must figure out a solution. But I do think that its important that you know where I am with this. Anyways, it's just the beginning of the year and it will be fine for now. I will let you know if I cannot keep it up and we can discuss it more then. Then, about my knees. Besides for the bursitis on both knees due to floor work, I have discovered that ATS has caused a lot of other problems. Before you get defensive, I just want to share this with you so that you know what I think happened, why I will be cutting down on dancing and maybe help you in some way. Important to know: I am not blaming you nor the gentle dance form that is ATS. I harbour no resentment, and I take full responsibility for the injuries I have sustained. To elaborate: The biokineticist I have been seeing has really helped me understand what is going on with my knees. The biggest thing is that my kneecaps are tracking out when they should be pulling straight back. This is probably happening because my vastus lateralis (outer) quad muscle is MUCH stronger than my vastus medialis (inner). She thinks I probably also had minor tears in the ligaments around my knees, and this would have happened mainly due to overuse. Very interestingly, she picked up that in my natural posture my pelvis was twisting towards the left and and my hip positioning was unbalanced (kind of similar to the ATS posture in the lower body). Holding this posture as my natural posture is causing some torsion in both knees. Also, my left knee was in a much worse state than my right knee and my left ITB was a lot more inflamed than my right. You might see where this talk of imbalance is going. I had heard that ATS is often criticised for being unbalanced/unnatural in its required posture and some movements so I did a lot of reading on the Tribal forums and realised MY OWN mistake. Yes, the posture may seem awkward to some and the hip bump family of movements does put more pressure on the left leg to stabilise and the right leg to 'bump' and turn BUT if you are doing the movements correctly and supplementing ATS with another form of strengthening exercise that DOES work both sides unilaterally (balancing muscle strength), it should never be a problem. Because ATS was my only form of exercise (I felt I could not afford gym/pilates/yoga classes), my lower body started to unbalance itself. What added substantially to this is that I had very quickly increased the amount that I was dancing, from 1 or 2 classes a week to 4 or 5 classes a week, often classes running one after the other, and my body was not prepared for this sudden increase. My mind was, but my muscles were not strong enough to keep up that amount of dancing, keeping proper technique and posture. Also, when I would hurt in my lower back, hips, pelvis or knees, I just carried on. Silly silly silly. Luckily, the rest from dancing that I took for the bursitis allowed these issues to come to light before I could do any serious damage to my body, especially my knees. Through regular biokinetic exercise sessions, swimming and hopefully pilates (if I can afford it - now you should be able to see why I am worried about finances), I will be able to strengthen my muscles, balance out and correct the issues I have discovered. I am already doing much better and I hope I will be able to start dancing again as soon as classes open in Feb. Like I said before, I am the only one responsible for my body. There is no blame on you or ATS. I wanted to share this with you because I found it quite interesting myself and it does concern you my own ATS practice, and in relation, you as my ATS instructor. Thank you for taking the time to read this very lengthy email! I do appreciate it. I hope you are not angry with me. This is an attempt at sharing my thoughts with you; it is not meant as an attack. I really look forward to seeing you again on the dance floor soon! I have missed dancing and you and the other dancing ladies sooooooo much!
Wow Heather… that was on intense e-mail…Two things struck me about it: re: Financial Issues"this is my own issue and I must figure out a solution." - she's right. We've all been in a place where we have been worried about affording classes. If she loves it as much as she claims she does, she'll find a way to come back.re: health issues"Like I said before, I am the only one responsible for my body. There is no blame on you or ATS. I wanted to share this with you because I found it quite interesting myself"You were right to tell her to see a Dr. From the sounds of it, she just wanted to vent to you a little bit.Was she wearing knee pads during floor work??I think it's a good idea to request a Drs note in order for her to continue...sorry if that wasn't much help :p
Oh Heather. My first response was "what does she want from you?" If she's giving you the answers to her problems, then what does she want? That is one of the most passive aggressive letters I've ever read. Like Jesse said, I think you were right in having her have a Dr.'s note to return to class. It makes you the least liable. Do you have insurance and ask students to sign a liability waiver? I hope so! It also might be worth it to just tell her that maybe a break from ATS® would be best for now. That way she can save her money to come back to class, and more importantly give her body the time it needs to heal. This is what stuck out to me, "Because ATS was my only form of exercise (I felt I could not afford gym/pilates/yoga classes)." Exercise does not have to cost money. I'm sorry. A person can walk, jog, or run down the street (although that's no help to her knees). There are all sorts of at home exercises that can be done that don't cost someone $$. I find that excuse BS.
I agree with Jessie and Carrie on all counts. She tetters back and forth between ATS caused this and I am the one to blame. I don't understand the point of the email. Now I am not a doctor but I've not heard of the lower body imbalancing itself due to the ATS posture. But then again she stated that when she felt hurt in her lower body she kept dancing. *shrug* I suppose I would be inclined to ask if she had some other underlying medical conditions and definitely a doctor's release.
Oh geez. So sorry to hear this Heather. I agree with the others — I'm not sure what she wants from you? You're right to ask for a doctor's note with her return to class. It seems to me like she is not really taking personal responsibility for her financial issues or her injury, and there's nothing you can do to fix that. I think a “I'm so sorry to hear about your situation! I'd feel best if you brought a note from your doctor when you come back to class.” You could always offer something like a work study or barter to reduce the cost of her class if you're comfortable with that.I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir here, but postural imbalance can come from SO many things. How long is she likely to be dancing per day? An hour maybe? Think about how many more hours you spend in your body during the day. Do you always step up or down stairs starting with the same leg? Lean to one side when you're typing at your desk? Is your skeleton asymmetrical?
As a doctor, several things do stand out for me in her e-mail. 1: She was doing a LOT of dancing and not much of any other exercise. ANY physical activity done to excess without other balancing activities can cause overuse syndromes. Cross-training and yoga will help prevent some of this. 2: It depends upon what type of 'bursitis' she has in her knees as to what part of ATS 'may' have aggravated it. A pre-patellar bursitis, on the surface of the kneecap, could be caused by excessive floorwork especially without knee pads. Any type of kneeling activity, scrubbing floors, etc. can cause this. 3: Patellar tracking issues are quite common in women because of our wider femur angle at the hip than what men have. She is right, if the muscles on the medial side of the thigh, especially the VMO, are weaker than the lateral side, this is more of a problem. Strengthening the medial muscles will help rebalance and improve patellar tracking. In general, I do not think ATS has specifically, as a dance form, caused any of this in isolation. She would be well to get some good physical therapy advise for strengthening the areas needed, back off a bit on ATS as her only form of exercise and do another complimentary exercise in addition.
Thanks for all your thoughts and advice.I really appreciate it.I can understand how she feels about my price increase. Sadly, it's something I just had to do. I have been meaning to do an increase every year for the past few years, but backed down because I felt too bad for my students. There have been many price increases here in South Africa over the past year on our fuel, rent, taxes, tolls, etc... I just couldn't put it off anymore.There is no such thing as insurance for dance teachers in South Africa, but all my students sign a waiver of liability which legally covers us.We do our floor work on very thick padded floor matts. We haven't done any extreame floorwork, only ATS movements while on our knees such as arm undulations, chest rotations etc...I have also done some light conditioning and stretching to prepare their bodies for when they do more intense floorwork and laybacks at a later stage. A few months back, I had told her to take it easy and listen to her body. She did slow down for a while, but then came back in full force again. She is young in her 20's and full of energy.She has also been taking part in my belly dance fusion classes where I do quite a lot of yoga and strengthening exercises for the body.I am so grateful that she came to me to tell me about the pain in her knees and that she took my advice about seeing a doctor before further damage could be done. I initially thought that she may have pulled or torn a ligament during class.Carrie is so right in saying that other forms of exercise do not need to cost a thing. I think that is a poor excuse. I myself have aerobics and yoga DVD's that I do on my own at home from time to time when I can't get to classes. I also agree that her poor posture may have been caused by any number of things. She is a film student, so standing at the camera for hours and sitting doing editing can also be a possible culprit. How is she standing or sitting for those long hours?I have a sneaky feeling that she my have attempted to practice the floorwork by herself at home, injured her knees and is too afraid to tell me. I have told my students that they can not, under any circumstances practice floorwork at home.I feel really bad for her. She is a lovely dedicated dancer and student and I think she is frustrated with her situation. I can feel it too.Anyway, I am not going to comment to her on her claims or observation about the effects ATS has on her posture. I'm just going to tell her nicely that she will need to bring me a doctors note approving her return to class for both her protection and safty and of course for mine as well.Anita posted this inspirational note about posture on the FCBD FB fan page which put a smile on my face: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=516698825041959&set=a.158958914149287.33203.156748387703673&type=1&theaterThanks again. 🙂
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