Physiotherapy with the heart of a dancer – a personal history

Author: Dinah Hampson

When I was five, I saw my first full-length ballet and fell in love. I begged for lessons and studied dance for the next ten years. Despite passion, talent and training I didn’t have the physical facility for a career on the stage and I chose a different path. Ballet is defined as an artistic dance form performed to music using precise and highly formalized set steps and gestures. I assumed my years of studio time were forgotten when university led me to a career in physiotherapy.

Physiotherapy is defined as the art and science underlying movement and function, whereby physiotherapists make clinical judgments and apply their skills to develop a patient’s functional abilities. So in reality, the years of studio time were not forgotten, but rather formed a strong foundation on which I built my physiotherapy skills.

On reflection, I think that sharing this relationship is important for people interested in dance science for two reasons:

1) Physiotherapists with a dance background benefit their patients by truly understanding movement. This is important for recognizing subtle alterations in normal movement, changes in motor patterns and compensatory muscle activity. If left unaddressed, these subtle changes in movement are risk factors for delayed recovery and future injury. I understand now that the years of practicing precise technique created an eye for alignment, symmetry, cadence and balance. Without internalizing the rhythm and movement of ballet, my understanding of human movement and function would be less.

2) Secondly, I think it is important for dancers passionate about movement to understand that their skill set is valuable and transferable outside the studio. Of the thousands of children who study dance, few will ultimately end up in a professional dance career and of those who do, few of those careers will last. The average duration of a professional dance career is 15 years with many dancers stopping for health related issues. Given age is not usually the limiting factor in ending a dance career I think it is important for dancers to understand that Physiotherapy is definitely a viable career option for which dance training is an asset.

IADMS forms a perfect environment for all people interested in dance, movement and science to network and share experience. I would encourage any dancer interested to contact me or any other physiotherapist to explore the profession and recognize the value that ballet training brings to the art of science.

1. Google search for ‘Ballet’. Available here.
2. The heart of the physiotherapy profession. Canadian Physiotherapy Association, 2012. Available here.
3. Transitioning from a professional dance career. Centre for arts and cultural policy studies, Princeton University. Available here.

Dinah Hampson BA, BScPT, FCAMT Diploma of Manual and Manipulative Physiotherapy Diploma of Sport Physiotherapy Owner Pivot Sport Medicine and Orthopaedics, Toronto ON Canada