Last week I embarked on an 11 day research and professional development trip to New York City and Kansas City thanks to the generous support of the Lisa Ullman Travelling Scholarship fund who awarded a scholarship for the flights. This trip has been in the planning for months and with so many things lined up in the 11 days it's hard to know where to begin describing everything.
I arrived into NYC on Saturday 4th June with plans to visit a couple of companies and arrange paperwork ready for my placement at the Harkness Centre for Dance Injuries (see next blog post for an update on this). First stop was the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance to watch Graham 2. This company consists of some of the best Graham dancers, many of whom have studied at the school. Approximately 85% of the Graham company itself consists of previous Graham 2 dancers. I wanted to see how these companies work, how they are prepared for the demands of the choreography and what happens when they are injured.
Watching the company it became very clear that they train incredibly hard to be able to maintain perfect poise along with the renowned Graham contractions. Every moment was held in perfect stillness, with the dancers in incredible control of their bodies, able to hold contorted positions in an instant. It was a joy to watch the company and to see how much they have obviously trained their strength, power and balance. We know that dance alone does not increase components of fitness, although it could be argued that the demands of Graham technique might conflict with this idea, so it can only be presumed that they also incorporate supplementary training into their schedules.
Speaking with their Programme Manager, they have two specialist consultants in NYC that they can turn to if their dancers are injured; Dr Donald Rose and Dr David Weiss, based at the Harkness Centre for Dance Injuries. There is a similar story at Alvin Ailey America Dance Theatre, however they are very fortunate to have a wonderful team in place within the company to help maintain the health of the dancers and rehabilitate them should they become injured. I was delighted to meet Shaw Bronner at their studios on 55th and 9th Avenue and visit the physiotherapy studio, as they undergo an exciting extension of their existing studio space.
Although these two companies have access to specialists in New York City, it appears that, given the size of the United States, it is difficult to sometimes find a specialist in dancers' health when on tour and for those who are not close to one of the larger cities. Mapping the dance specialist knowledge centres and clinicians across the states seems like a daunting task, and one that may take some time, but one that would ultimately be beneficial to dancers across all states, as well as those visiting America for work or training.
My first toe-dip into dancers' health in the United States has raised many more questions, but also sparked some exciting prospects which I look forward to exploring and sharing soon....