I had the great honour and pleasure of volunteering my physiotherapy services for some of the dancers from Canada’s Ballet Jorgen prior to their performance of the Nutcracker, a Canadian tradition, in London. This has now been my second time working with this company. My first being last year when they were in town performing Sleeping Beauty.
I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to experience these shows from a very unique perspective; through the eyes of a physiotherapist. You can’t turn off a physio! As most of the audience watches and enjoys the rond de jambe, demi-plies, and releves, I watch and enjoy the postures, flexibility, and strength. I also analyze each movement and assess their potential for causing injury immediately or over time.
So many things could go wrong. What if he doesn’t catch her? What if two people collide? What if those pointed toes finally say:”Hey I’m tired, use the rest of the foot to stand on.”
Leanderson et al. reported that ballet dancers were most likely to suffer injuries of the lower extremity. They stated that the most common traumatic injury for ballet dancers was ankle sprains, while the likely result of overuse was tendinosis (or chronic degeneration of the tendons). Further, Smith et al. discuss that foot and ankle and spinal pathologies are the most predominant areas of injury amongst professional and pre professional dancers.
What truly amazed me is that despite the fact that some of these dancers performing had pain or discomfort, nobody in the audience aside from me and maybe a few others would have known. These professionals maintain the elegance and beauty of their characters helping us become immersed in the story they are telling.
Normal human beings would show signs of pain such as grimacing, limping, or altered movement patterns…but not this crew! I suspect they’ve trained their way to superhuman status! Clearly if you really want something and are willing to put the necessary work in, you can do anything!
Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, teaches us how it takes ten thousand hours of deliberate practice to acheive mastery. This is an excellent author and the book is a must read.
I learned an important lesson with these performers that I will surely take back and share in my own practice. With the right motivation, immeasurable work ethic, some collaborative support, and the passion to create something spectacular for the world, regular people can do really incredible things.
If you’ve never been to the ballet, I highly recommend experiencing this for yourself. Check out Canada’s Ballet Jorgen to see when they are touring in a city near you.
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Leanderson, C., Leanderson, J., Wykman, A., Strender, L., Johansson, S., Sundquist, K. (2011). Musculoskeletal injuries in young ballet dancers. Knee Surg Sports Taumatol Arthrosc. 19: 1531-1535.
Smith, T., Davies, L., de Medici, A., Hakim A., Haddad F., Macgregor A. (2016). Prevalence and profile of musculoskeletal injuries in ballet dancers: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Physical Therapy in Sport, 19, 50-56.