Treating dancers with massage therapy
I recently treated the dancers in Michael Clark’s brilliant latest creation at the Barbican, entitled New Work 2012. The performance had rave reviews being described as:
- “the most exhilarating new piece of contemporary dance to appear in Britain this year, by turns ravishing, outrageous, borderline certifiable, and sometimes all three at once”
- Mark Monohan writing for The Telegraph described the dancing as “what looks like a willfully dismantled and artfully reassembled ballet class. Every second of it is recognisably Clarkian, from the skewed classicism of the steps to the dancers’ straight backs, loose pelvises and preternatural air of detached composure”
Although this performance was relatively short, only two 25 minutes acts with an interval, the dancers would have been rehearsing and dancing for up to six hours a day. The strains on their bodies are inevitable and I especially see injury and pain occurring in the hips, feet, ankles and backs of both contemporary and classical ballet dancers. Men are seen to have more injury to their backs due to lifting; and the women sustain more foot, ankle and calf strains, due to pointe work. To be able to fulfil the role of dancing for two short but energetic acts, the dancers required massage therapy to enhance performance by releasing muscular tension. The massage also speeds up the body’s natural recovery process and helps prevent injury. Due to the sheer physical exertion on their bodies, dancers are often in pain and massage therapy really can help with the healing process of minor soft tissue injuries. It also improves flexibility and range of motion, improves posture and of course helps with overall relaxation of the dancer, both physically and mentally.
As a former dancer I am aware of the high standards dancers expect from their own bodies; helping to achieve those standards is my aim and also my passion. I feel it is easier to understand a dancer’s body and the demands placed upon it because I have experienced it myself. I also feel better equipped to support dancer’s recovering from injury as well as dancer’s maintaining their peak health.
During my dance career I suffered injuries and noticed how much quicker my body would recover after a massage treatment. This led me to study the art of massage therapy and since being qualified for over 18 years, I have had the privilege of treating a vast array of dancers from many different companies and styles. These have included Rambert, The Royal Ballet Company, New York City Ballet, Mariinsky Ballet, world class ballroom dancers and many West End productions; and most recently and regularly with the Michael Clark Company.
The Michael Clark Company understands the huge benefits of massage when dancers are performing. Due to busy schedules, the dancers are more prone to overuse injury - these injuries occur when muscles are not rested fully after training, rehearsal or performance. Massage can improve circulation which helps to flush out toxins that build up in the muscles and therefore aiding a speedy recovery. Working with such talented dancers is inspiring and seeing the performance at the end of the day is one perk of my very satisfying job!
Monday, 19 November 2012