Health & Body

Doctors for Dancers: Get to Know These Health Professionals Before Injury Strikes

Thinkstock.

Freelance dancer Rebecca Greenbaum was looking forward to a fun and lucrative Nutcracker gig when she became plagued by ankle pain. An orthopedist diagnosed her with tendonitis and sent her to physical therapy. Though it was informative, her ankle troubles persisted. "I would maybe feel better for a day, but the pain would come back," she recalls, so her therapists suggested acupuncture. Greenbaum was skeptical, but she was willing to try anything. Finally, she found relief that lasted: Acupuncture combined with physical therapy got Greenbaum onstage, pain-free. Two years later, both treatments remain part of what Greenbaum calls her arsenal for maintaining wellness.

Getting injured is overwhelming for any dancer, and figuring out a recovery strategy can add to the stress. Oftentimes, it takes a team of medical professionals to help you return to the stage safely. Since knowing who to see can be confusing, we've outlined some of the most common practitioners ballet dancers might visit and why.


While it's a good idea to have any concerns seen by a physician, there are certain injury symptoms that warrant prompt medical attention. These include acute trauma (especially involving the head), severe swelling, fever, significant or lingering pain, inability to bear weight, unexplainable weight loss or gain, or debilitating fatigue.


A team of practitioners helped Rebecca Greenbaum get back onstage. Photo by Rachel Neville, Courtesy Greenbaum.

Primary-care physicians: Even with symptoms more mild than these, your primary-care physician is a great place to start your care. These doctors are trained to help with a variety of challenges that can impede your dancing. They'll identify symptoms that require a specialist's attention and make appropriate referrals.

Orthopedists and orthopedic surgeons: Ballet injuries usually require a doctor with vast knowledge of muscles, bones and connective tissue, so this often leads dancers to an orthopedist. If there's any concern that your injury might require surgery—for instance, if you need to have painful bone spurs removed or damaged connective tissue repaired—you can expect to see an orthopedic surgeon.

Certain situations, like a complex bone break, may require surgery, but most injuries don't, or they can tolerate a wait-and-see approach, says Dr. David S. Weiss, MD, associate director of the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries at New York University Langone Medical Center. To determine the right treatment plan, Weiss suggests you ask "What's the risk of the surgery?" and "What's the risk in waiting?" All surgeries have a degree of risk, so seek a second opinion if you're not confident with the answer to either question.

Osteopaths: This type of physician traditionally favors preventive care and relies minimally on medication. Today, you can find osteopaths (identified by the credentials "DO") in every medical specialty, even surgery. New York City–based dancer-turned-osteopath Dr. Stasia Blyskal, DO, explains that practitioners "receive extensive training in the interrelationship of the body's structure and function." For example, they might look at how the shape of your pelvis affects your turnout. Osteopathic physicians like Blyskal, who specializes in osteopathic manual manipulation, use their hands to help rebalance the body's systems. Treatments can include the high-velocity adjustments you might associate with a chiropractor, or a more subtle technique called "osteopathy in the cranial field," which feels like gentle pressure, lifting or lengthening. "Dancers work so hard, they sometimes think that if they're having pain, they need to work their body harder," she explains, "but gentle techniques can be very helpful."

Physiatrists: A physical medicine and rehabilitation physician, or physiatrist, specializes in injuries involving muscles, bones and connective tissue, as well as the brain and spinal cord. At your first visit, a physiatrist will test your joints for flexibility, strength and balance, and watch how you walk. Physiatrist Dr. Elizabeth Manejías, MD, who sees dancers at New York City's Hospital for Special Surgery, says that about 60 to 70 percent of her treatments involve a type of acupuncture for the muscles, called dry needling, while other physiatrists might give injections of steroids, lidocaine or other medications.


Acupuncture can be used to treat physical symptoms, like swelling and muscle strains, as well as mental challenges, like anxiety and exhaustion. Thinkstock.

Other Wellness Professionals

Most dance injuries are neither spontaneous nor completely debilitating. Instead, they develop gradually due to poor alignment, overuse or stress. If you're proactive, you can catch some of these problems before they become a full-blown injury. It's wise to see a health professional, though not necessarily a physician, for irritating issues—hips that click during certain movements, or ankles that are cranky every morning. Though only an MD or DO (along with physicians assistants and nurse practitioners) can legally make diagnoses and write prescriptions, there are many other practitioners who can help with these pre-injury puzzles.

Physical therapists, certified athletic trainers and massage therapists: In addition to getting you back into shape post-injury, these specialists can help prevent injuries, especially if they have dance-specific training. Along with manual treatments like assisted stretches and joint mobilization (where you typically relax and breathe while someone moves your bones), PTs and ATCs may suggest exercises and stretches for homework to help improve your alignment, range of motion, muscular balance and ballet technique. Massage can be a useful tool for preventing muscular imbalances that can lead to injury, and is also a popular post-performance ritual for dancers. Specializations vary, so look for professionals with certifications in sports medicine, orthopedics, rehabilitation or manual therapy.

Chiropractors: Because of the immediate effect of their treatments, many dancers like to see chiropractors. They employ a range of techniques aimed at helping the bones become better aligned. Expect a chiropractor to explain their plan for your visit. For instant changes, they might ask you to inhale and then bend you sideways, eliciting a loud pop, or, for more gradual transformations, simply have you lie with small wedges under your pelvis. Occasionally, chiropractors support their treatments with other modalities, like acupuncture or massage.

Acupuncturists: NYU Langone's Harkness Center for Dance Injuries' Megan Richardson, MS, Dipl Ac, LAc, ATC, an acupuncturist and certified athletic trainer who treated Greenbaum's tendonitis, calls acupuncture a "reset button." This form of ancient medicine inserts very thin needles under the skin to alter the body's energy. It can be used to treat physical symptoms, like swelling and muscle strains, as well as mental challenges, like anxiety and exhaustion.


Healing Takes a Team

Don't be frustrated if the professional you choose refers you to a different expert—in fact, be glad! As Greenbaum found, it often takes several kinds of treatment to fully recover. A reliable practitioner should recognize their limitations and have a good idea of who you should see next. You should also have a sense of when it's time to try something new. "Within three to four visits, you may not feel 100 percent better, but there should be a change," says Richardson. This is true of most treatment plans, so if your progress has plateaued, ask yourself and your provider if it's time to try another approach.


How Important Is Dance Expertise?

Seeing a practitioner who's familiar with ballet is ideal. If you live near a professional ballet company, find out who their dancers see. However, depending on your insurance or location, this may not be possible. Dr. Selina Shah, MD, FACP, a physician who treats dancers from San Francisco Ballet School, suggests that you be prepared to "be a partner in the process." You may need to do a bit of teaching by demonstrating steps and explaining class format. When dance-specific knowledge is not an option, a practitioner who is curious and open to learning about ballet can be a great health collaborator.


Don't Ignore These Aspects of Healing

  • What you eat can impact injury. Without the proper balance of micro- and macronutrients, the body isn't able to effectively repair itself, says nutritionist Heidi Skolnik, MS, CDN, FACSM, who works with students at the School of American Ballet and The Juilliard School. A nutritionist can assess your particular diet and suggest foods that will help you stay strong and heal.
  • The stress-injury connection is real. Boston-area clinical psychologist Dr. Elisabeth Morray, PhD, explains that stress can lead to a feeling of bodily disconnect, which can prevent dancers from detecting the warning signs of injury. Stress can also disrupt sleep, which compromises the immune system and reduces healing. Consider working with a mental-health professional to keep your mind and body performing at their best. —EK
The Conversation
Ballet Stars
Joffrey Ballet's Victoria Jaiani and Temur Suluashvili in "Orphée et Eurydice" with the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Photo courtesy "Great Performances."

You might say, "You just had to be there," about the Joffrey Ballet's 2017 world premiere of John Neumeier's reimagined Orphée et Eurydice with the Lyric Opera of Chicago. But on January 18, audiences from around the country will have a chance to witness this extraordinary collaboration up close, from the comfort of their living rooms, as PBS stations broadcast Orphée et Eurydice on "Great Performances".


Keep reading... Show less
popular

Are you looking for inspiration to develop and grow as an artist, preparing you for a career as a dancer? The Raydean Acevedo Colorado Ballet Academy's (CBA) Summer Intensive and Pre-Professional Division receive rave reviews from students, teachers and directors. These programs offer aspiring dancers instruction and career guidance from internationally renowned master teachers and CBA's accomplished faculty. Training takes place in Colorado Ballet's eight state-of-the-art studios at The Armstrong Center for Dance.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Stella Abrera in Romeo and Juliet. John Grigaitis, Courtesy ABT.

This American Ballet Theatre principal has jump training down to a science.

Keep reading... Show less
Photo by Tzu Chia Huang

Register to audition for the chance to experience the ultimate setting for professional dance training. Experience professionalism, be the priority, and see the progression in just 6 weeks! Ballet Arizona's Summer Intensive begins June 10 and classes are held through July 19, 2019. The program culminates with a final full-length performance in the Dorrance Theatre. The School of Ballet Arizona is known for its outstanding, internationally-renowned faculty, a state-of-the-art facility which includes a 299-seat black box performance theatre, and small classes with personal attention, all accompanied with a challenging and complex curriculum.

Photo by Tzu Chia Huang

Keep reading... Show less
News
Patricia Delgado will dance in new choreography by Jamar Roberts at Guggenheim Works & Process' program The Choreography of Light. Erin Baiano, Courtesy Works & Process.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've pulled together some highlights.

Keep reading... Show less
News
Courtesy Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Royal Ballet announced today that international star Carlos Acosta will be taking over as director in January of 2020. Current BRB director David Bintley will be stepping down this summer, at the end of the company's 2019 season, after a 24-year tenure. "It is a tremendous honor and privilege to have been appointed to lead Birmingham Royal Ballet," Acosta said in a statement.

Since retiring from The Royal Ballet in 2015, Acosta has focused much of his attention on his native Cuba, where he's proven his directorial abilities at the helm of Acosta Danza, the contemporary company that he founded in 2016. In 2017 Acosta also opened his first Dance Academy through his foundation, which provides free training to students. We don't yet know how Acosta will balance his time between his projects in Cuba and his new role at BRB.

Keep reading... Show less
Jaime Lynn Witts as Belle in Stephen Mills' Belle REDUX/A Tale of Beauty & The Beast. Anne Marie Bloodgood, Courtesy Ballet Austin.

Growing up, I was always the one who didn't have the right body or the right feet or even just the right look. I never had that encouragement in the studio that things were going to work out for me, but I was always determined.

I didn't train at a big ballet academy, but I do think I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time, with parents who always supported me. I started in dance with creative movement classes in my hometown of Doylestown, Pennsylvania. I had some really wonderful Russian and Ukrainian ballet teachers from a young age, but it was frustrating because I didn't have the things they were looking for. You grow up seeing those pictures and videos of classical ballerinas and you know what it's supposed to look like. To not have the right body or feet when you're younger is devastating.

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network
Aurelie Dupont explained she did not share Polunin's values. Photo via Instagram

Sergei Polunin, whose recent homophobic and sexist Instagram posts have sparked international outrage, will not be appearing with the Paris Opéra Ballet as previously announced.

POB artistic director Aurélie Dupont sent an internal email to company staff and dancers on Sunday, explaining that she did not share Polunin's values and that the Russian-based dancer would not be guesting with the company during the upcoming run of Rudolf Nureyev's Swan Lake in February.

Keep reading... Show less
Summer Intensive Survival
Francois Perron teaching class at the French Academie of Ballet. Rachel Neville, Courtesy French Academie of Ballet.

When Katie Spagnoletti was 16, she auditioned for several well-known, company-affiliated summer programs. Although she received some acceptances, the price tags and level of competition felt daunting. She decided to try the relatively smaller Saratoga Summer Dance Intensive instead, and when she walked into orientation her first day, she sensed she'd made the right choice. "Co-director Melinda Roy greeted me—and every other student—by name. It made me feel like the faculty was truly invested in me as a person and a dancer," says Spagnoletti, now a dancer at City Ballet of San Diego. "I had friends who'd gone to some of the big-name schools, so I'd heard about those experiences—and I knew mine was going to be unique."

When planning your summer, it's exciting to think about an intensive at a prestigious pre-professional school—maybe the one attached to your dream company or that all your friends are talking about. But is bigger always better? With a wealth of options for summer study, it's worth looking at the benefits of smaller schools. For many dancers, training in a close-knit atmosphere can outweigh the cachet of a big name.

Keep reading... Show less
Viral Videos
Screenshot via YouTube

Every once in a while, the stars align, things fall precisely into place, and the perfect marketing campaign is born. Such is the case with New York City Ballet's new trailer for their upcoming run of The Sleeping Beauty.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Photo captured via YouTube.

The ballet Don Quixote offers its principal ballerina the unique chance to play two different characters in one role: there's Kitri herself, a vivacious village girl, and then Dulcinea, Don Quixote's idealized love, who takes on the form of Kitri in his dream. The Paris Opéra Ballet's Aurélie Dupont, a former étoile and now the company's artistic director, creates distinct personas for each incarnation of her character. In this clip from a 2002 performance, Dupont dances Dulcinea's variation with serene precision, embodying the mystical beauty of Don Quixote's imagination.

Aurelie Dupont - Dulcinea www.youtube.com

Keep reading... Show less
Viral Videos
YoungArts 2019 finalist Kali Kleiman in rehearsal Katherine Bollens, Courtesy YoungArts.

Let the ballet live streams continue! Last week we let you know that Youth American Grand Prix is streaming its regional semi-finals each weekend. Tonight, National YoungArts is sharing its finalists' dance performance.

The National YoungArts Foundation seeks out high school aged artists from around the country and gives them monetary awards, mentorship opportunities and the chance to participate in regional workshops. Artists span across 10 disciplines ranging from music to writing to visual art to dance. The finalists from each region are invited to the annual National YoungArts Week, an all-expenses-paid experience including master classes, workshops and performances with top artists (this year the dance faculty includes former New York City Ballet star Wendy Whelan). Nominations for the U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts will also be made from this group.

Keep reading... Show less
News
A photo from Miko Fogarty's 2015 cover shoot (Nathan Sayers)

Back in 2015, gorgeous ballerina Miko Fogarty was on top of the ballet world (and on the cover of Dance Spirit). After starring in the 2011 dance doc First Position, she'd racked up numerous competition titles, achieved social media stardom, and earned a contract with the Birmingham Royal Ballet.

Then, suddenly, she disappeared.

Well—not exactly. As she revealed last summer, Fogarty decided to switch gears, trading the ballet world for the world of academia. She's currently majoring in integrative biology at UC Berkeley. And now she's been tapped to give a TEDx talk about why, and how, she made the transition.

Keep reading... Show less
popular

We sat down with James K. Payne, School Director of The School of Pennsylvania Ballet, to hear his thoughts about students auditioning for summer intensives this winter. We think you'll be very interested in what he has to say.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Christopher Duggan for Pointe

While dancing excerpts of August Bournonville's Napoli this summer at the Massachusetts-based Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, the artists of the Royal Danish Ballet were in perfect sync. The dancers exuded pure cheer, from their buoyant, clear footwork to the precise angle of their épaulement. This seemed fitting for a national company where most members train in the Danish style from age 7 and feed in from the school. Yet three of the principals onstage—Amy Watson, J'aime Crandall and Holly Jean Dorger—are in fact American.

Keep reading... Show less
News
Photo by Carlos Quezada, Courtesy ABT

American Ballet Theatre announced today that Brooklyn Mack, a former Washington Ballet star, will join the company as a guest for its spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House. Currently an in-demand international guest artist, Mack will dance in three performances of ABT's Le Corsaire this June.

Keep reading... Show less
Forsythe's in the middle, somewhat elevated uses the battement like an attack. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet

Just before retiring in 2015, Sylvie Guillem appeared on "HARDtalk with Zeinab Badawi," the BBC's hard-hitting interview program. Badawi told Guillem,

"Clement Crisp of the Financial Times, 14 years ago, described your dancing as vulgar."

Guillem responded,

"Yeah, well, he said that. But at the same time, when they asked Margot Fonteyn what she thought about lifting the leg like this she said, 'Well, if I could have done it, I would have done it.' "

They were discussing Guillem's signature stroke—her 180-degree leg extension à la seconde. Ballet legs had often flashed about in the higher zones between 135 and 160 degrees before. But it wasn't until the virtuoso French ballerina regularly
extended her leg beside her ear with immaculate poise in the 1980s that leg extensions for ballet dancers in classical roles reached their zenith. Traditionalists like Clement Crisp were not taken with it.

Keep reading... Show less
News
Courtesy VAM Productions

Raise your hand if you're excited for competition season! Youth America Grand Prix Regional Semi-Finals are well underway, leading up to the much-awaited New York Finals April 12-19. Even better, they're live-streamed, meaning you now have the perfect excuse to spend your weekend at home, watching ballet (while sewing your pointe shoes and stretching, of course).

This weekend features semi-finals in Seattle, Washington and Tampa, Florida. To see the full schedules and set up streaming, click here. Streaming starts at $13.99. Packages of 2, 4, 6 or 12 total viewing hours are available, and viewers can log in and out as often as they like.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Careers
Chase Johnsey (second from right) in English National Ballet's production of The Sleeping Beauty. Elliot Franks, Courtesy In The Lights PR.

George Balanchine famously said "Ballet is woman." He should have added that ballet is man, too, because it has long been defined by the traditional male-female binary. A formal challenge to the paradigm was launched in June, when Chase Johnsey was offered the opportunity to dance female corps roles in English National Ballet's The Sleeping Beauty in London.

"I am a classical ballerina," says Johnsey, a freelance dancer who identifies as gender fluid and uses he/him/his pronouns. His ENB performance (in the mazurka and as a marchioness in the hunt scene; he also understudied a nymph) made headlines around the world and turned him into an activist for the cause—not to change classical ballet, but to open its doors to artists across the full spectrum of human gender. By hiring Johnsey, ENB artistic director Tamara Rojo put ballet's gender-exclusiveness on notice. "Our work and our company should reflect the world we live in," she stated via email. "Ballet should have no barriers; it's for everyone, everywhere."

Johnsey isn't alone. Jayna Ledford and Scout Alexander, two young transgender dancers, are training hard to break into the professional ballet world. We spoke with them about the dreams, achievements and challenges of nonbinary artists in the intensely gendered world of ballet.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
All photos by Jayme Thornton for Pointe

From marriage to career transitions to injuries, our 2018 cover stars have had a busy year.

Find out what they've been up to since they graced the cover of Pointe and what they're aiming for in 2019.

American Ballet Theatre's Betsy McBride

Photo by Jayme Thornton for Pointe

New Year's Resolutions: School and Self-Care

My New Year's resolutions are to complete my Associate of Science degree, sleep more, and slow down from time to time to appreciate the little things in life.

Life Updates: Star Studded Performances

Since appearing on Pointe's cover, I performed in the New York Ballet Stars Gala in Cape Town, South Africa in honor of Mignon Furman. I also performed in a very exciting Balanchine Tribute Festival at City Center with American Ballet Theatre alongside Joffrey Ballet, The Mariinsky Ballet, Miami City Ballet, New York City Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, The Royal Ballet and San Francisco Ballet.

McBride also recently got engaged to longtime boyfriend and former ABT dancer Simon Wexler.

You can read our February/March 2018 cover story on Betsy McBride here.

News
Melanie Hamrick for Flexistretcher, via @flexistretcher

ABT corps dancer Melanie Hamrick will be taking a leave of absence from the company's spring season, but for the best reason possible: She's working on her own ballet. Her piece is set to premiere in March, and will feature music curated by Hamrick's longtime boyfriend, Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger (cue the moves like Jagger puns).

Keep reading... Show less
Sono Osato, Screenshot via YouTube

Sono Osato, a trailblazing ballet and musical theater dancer, passed away last Wednesday at her home in New York City.

Best known for originating the role of Miss Turnstiles in Jerome Robbins' hit On the Town—one of Broadway's first non-segregated musicals—Osato got her start at 14 as the youngest member of the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, and as the troupe's first Japanese-American performer. She went on to dance for Ballet Theatre (now American Ballet Theatre), where she found success in New York City but was banned from touring in Mexico and California because of her Japanese background. For a brief time, Osato went by her mother's maiden name, Fitzpatrick, in an effort to escape the World War II-era anti-Japanese sentiment. During the war, her father was confined under military guard in Chicago as an enemy alien.

Keep reading... Show less
Trending
International performer Joy Womack balances flexibility and strength to maintain her turnout. Photo by Quinn Wharton for Pointe.

Turnout is one of the defining characteristics of classical ballet and the foundation of your technique, but the deceptively simple concept of external rotation can be hard to execute. For those born with hip joints that don't naturally make a tight fifth position, it's tempting to take shortcuts in the quest for more rotation, but you'll end up with weaker technique and a higher risk of injury. We asked top teachers and physical therapists to break down the meaning of turnout and offer safe ways to maximize your range.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Boylston and Whiteside brought charm and technical brilliance to Harlequinade. Photo by Alan Alejandro Sánchez, Courtesy ABT.

Alexei Ratmansky's reconstruction of Marius Petipa's Harlequinade, which debuted this spring at American Ballet Theatre, felt as fizzy and decadent as a glass of champagne. Though resplendently designed and lovingly assembled, the ballet relied on the personal charms of its Harlequin and Columbine to buoy its all-too-poppable bubble of a plot. And nobody brought more charm, or technical brilliance, to the leading roles than the opening-night cast, James Whiteside and Isabella Boylston. The charismatic duo perfectly understood the lightweight fun of the ballet, relishing the beauties of its coloratura choreography while keeping the extended mime passages just to the right side of camp. Their offstage best-friendship—they're known to their Instagram fans (including Jennifer Garner) as "the Cindies"—lent a special warmth to their onstage partnership, especially in the ballet's surprisingly tender climactic pas de deux. Audiences floated out of the theater afterward, pleasantly intoxicated.

Harlequinade www.youtube.com

Viral Videos
Vienna State Ballet first soloists Olga Esina and Roman Lazik, via YouTube.

Vienna really knows how to ring in the New Year with its annual concert by the Vienna Philharmonic, filled with the waltzes of the Strauss family and other composers. The best part? Broadcasts of the event (shown in the U.S. on PBS) also include interludes of ballet. On January 1, catch dancing from the Vienna State Ballet on PBS' Great Performances' "From Vienna: The New Year's Celebration 2019" (check local TV listings). (Editors Note: You can now watch the full 2019 concert here!) In the meantime, here is a collection of gorgeous videos from New Years' past.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Sponsored

mailbox

Get Pointe Magazine in your inbox

Sponsored