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Who's Responsible?

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In a few different topics the subject has come up of the health risks associated with being a ballet dancer.

A 2000 study on dancers in Pacific Northwest Ballet revealed (not to anyone's surprise) that ballet dancers suffer injuries along the same lines as athletes in professional contact sports.

We know technique (or lack of proper) is a major culprit, but are there others?

Does the audience push for "bigger and better" circus act type form? Does the schools? The artistic director? The dancer themselves (in order to stand out)

And ultimately, in who's hands does the responsibility of health lie?

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All of the above, and more, Calliope. The art of ballet itself is an "unnatural" one in terms of the demands of the technique on the body. It requires rotation and flexibility well beyond what the "average" body was designed to do. Many dancers have pushed themselves so hard for so long to achieve the amount of these things necessary to become a dancer.

Then there are those few who have all of those things to start with, but the technique has changed in the more contemporary work to things that push even those bodies to extremes beyond what is probably healthy.

And then there is the factor that has been discussed elsewhere about the dancers in most companies today having to constantly switch from classical to contemporary mode, sometimes on an hour to hour basis. Which brings up the role of directors and ballet masters, and especially the scheduling of ballets and rehearsals. For instance, the company has class in the morning. It would stand to reason that the most difficult work should be done right after class rather than at the end of the day. But things don't always work that way. Often the principal dancers are the ones who have the hardest time, because the larger rehearsals will be scheduled first and the principals will have to wait until much later to do their rehearsals. Since their work is more demanding, it can be very hard to get that kind of work going after waiting around for several hours. (Example: during Nuts rehearsals, our company generally rehearses the Grand Pas and the Snow Pas couples first, saving the various divertissement for later in the day. This is good, especially for the principals. However, if it were done the other way around, it would not be so good.)

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