We've landed back in New York City with 2 days of intense dance clinic visits lined up. First on the list is a day of observing the dance physical therapists and meeting the team at the Harkness Centre for Dance Injuries, part of the Langone Medical Centre.
There are lots of forms to fill in and medical of my own to undertake before I can undertake my day of observing but it is certainly worth it. On arrival at the Harkness Centre, you feel that this clinic is dedicated to dancers. Even as you arrive into reception there are photos of dance everywhere and information sheets to take away on concussion, pelvic floor and hypermobility in dancers, and I am welcomed by a very friendly member of staff.
The team at the centre are so welcoming and I am lucky enough to observe several of the specialist physical therapists and athletic trainers throughout the day, as well as speaking with other members of the team including Dr Marijeanne Liederbach. What immediately strikes me about the clinic is
how at ease the dancers attending for physical therapy are, when being treated by someone who clearly understands their needs and the demands of being a dancer. The fact that many of the team were also previously dancers and can demonstrate or understand the demands of a specific style of choreography clearly helps to build trust between practitioner and dancer.
The clinic is also equipped with a small gym including a treadmill, two Pilates reformers, bike and numerous different balls, resistance bands, balance pads and weights. This gives the dancers an opportunity to go through their prescribed exercises and fully understand the movement in their body, before going away to practice these exercises at home or at the gym. Exercises also included dance specific tasks such as sissones and petit allegro.
During my visit I was also able to watch an Injury Prevention Assessment with an adolescent dancer and was extremely impressed with how the athletic trainer articulated the reasons for completing the screening, how it would help the dancer and why certain aspects of training were important; for example stretching after class. Engaging dancers in this information at this age can only benefit them in the future of the dance training, and doing so in a non-threatening and fun way was extremely interesting to observe.
The Harkness Centre for Dance Injuries in NYC is a wonderful facility for dancers to be able to access, particularly with the more complicated healthcare system than we are privy to in the UK. Feeling that they are in a safe environment where the practitioners understand the needs of a dancer and how an injury affects their ability to train, perform and subsequently earn money, is as important as the treatment itself.
Over the next couple of days I was able to also visit the newly opened Friedman Health Centre for the Performing Arts, a programme supported by the Actors Fund and Mount Sinai Doctors. With a fantastic location in Times Square, the health centre opened in March 2017 to provide healthcare for
those working in the performing arts; dancers, actors, singers, stage hands, stage managers as well as their partners/spouses/children. Supported by the Actors Fund (based on the two floors below the centre) they are unable to offer free healthcare, but accept Medicare, 3 options of Obamacare and will hopefully soon be able to accept workers comp. The clinic is currently headed-up by two physicians;
a sports medicine doctor and a family medicine doctor, and they hope to expand this team over the coming year. Although they are not currently able to offer such specialist care for dance injuries as the Harkness Centre, they do work with the physical therapists at the Harkness Centre should more specialist care be required, and aim to provide longer opening hours to suit those in the performing arts with movable schedules.
The facilities at the Friedman Centre are enviable, with more space to expand into as they become settled and include additional services. My schedule luckily fitted perfectly with their breakfast meet and greets where I was able to meet with the physicians and tour the beautiful new facilities. As with the Harkness Centre, the space is designed to feel very performing arts focused, with photographs of various shows adorning all the walls between examination rooms and the reception area.
Performing Artists can then also visit the offices of the Actors Fund on the two floors immediately below for advice on housing, insurance, careers help and support groups for injured dancers.
My final stop was at Westside Dance Physical Therapy, established by Marika Molnar in 1986. Marika was kind enough to show me around their facilities, with dancers and physical therapists working hard at every turn. WSDPT provide physical therapy to New York City Ballet, based just across the road, as well as the School of the American Ballet and numerous professional dancers. Marika also introduced me to some of the tools she has developed for dancers including the Parasetter and minis (used by NYCB) and the Tye4, which provides both a good resistance workout, but is also a useful tool for rehabilitation and assisted movement.
During this visit to the United States I have been extremely lucky and privileged that so many experts in dancers' health, and dance medicine and science research have opened their doors to allow me to observe their work, as well as give up their own time to sit and discuss their work with me, and how we might share more of this information internationally. Over the past 30 years dancers' health has made so much progress thanks to these people and their enduring hard work, and I am excited to see where the next 30 years will take us.