Posts Tagged ‘Sarah Jordan’

Dance And (Healing) The Broken Body

Posted August 9th, 2012

Sarah Jordan has written extensively for national and regional magazines and newspapers. She is also the author of four books and a regular contributor to the Festival Blog.

Before Pilates.

How bad does it have to hurt to keep a dancer off the stage? Often, near catastrophically. Dancers, especially classically trained, continuously battle the limits of their bodies’ abilities to tolerate damaging physical repetition all for the sake of creating the illusion of effortless beauty on stage. Chances are that Georges Balanchine ballet that dazzled you with its speed, attack, and precise musicality, was performed by a dancer concealing a bum knee, murderously throbbing feet, and an aching back. Dancers are known for their high thresholds for pain and will push through most suffering, making physical accommodations to achieve the look they want and to perform their choreographic assignments. But there is a physical price they pay.

Dancers’ bodies require atypical strength, power, flexibility, agility, fine motor skills, and proprioceptive and kinesthetic awareness. Properly trained, rested, fueled, hydrated, and lucky, a dancer’s body will thrive season after season. But when hurt, dancers often wait until they are in significant pain before seeking help. And the line between temporary discomfort and career-ending pain can be blurry.

Many young classical dancers will push past the levels of their training to perform challenging choreography, and set themselves up for ticking time-bomb injuries. Forcing turnout (the rotation of their leg outward at the hip) beyond normal range can eventually cause stress fractures in the spine or knee issues; going on pointe without necessary foot and ankle strength can create tendonitis, stretched ligaments, and bone spurs; improperly strengthened lower abdominal muscles and hamstrings can lead to their own chain reaction of problems. Dancers dance through the pain for their art—and often for fear of losing work or being branded as a dancer who is “injury prone.” According to the US Department of Labor (Bureau of Labor Statistics), 90 percent of all dancers get injured.

But change is afoot for encouraging safer dance practices. I talked with three dance veterans to learn how attitudes towards dancing injured are evolving and messages of preventative wellness are being preached to younger dancers. New programs such as The University of the Art’s Body Pathways, the brain child of associate professor of dance Jennifer B. Johnson, is a powerful model for dancer education and preventive health care.

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How Bad It Can Go: The Strange Pleasures Of Live Theater Gone Wrong

Posted July 24th, 2012

Sarah Jordan has written extensively for national and regional magazines and newspapers. She is also the author of four books and a regular contributor to the Festival Blog.

Left to right: Geoff Sobelle, Quinn Bauriedel and Trey Lyford in machines x7

Only five minutes from the end of the show. Only five minutes. That’s what Pig Iron Theatre’s Quinn Bauriedel remembers thinking about his 2009 show machines machines machines machines machines machines machines when he found himself backstage wearing a black plastic bag covered in cereal and unable to bring his Rube Goldberg-ian masterpiece across the finish line. Moments earlier Bauriedel had been shot into “outer space” on a conveyor belt on a plank of wood. Fellow performer Geoff Sobelle had kicked the board to shoot him through a cat door leading offstage, but things hadn’t gone right with the stunt and Bauriedel had cracked his head on a two-by-four as he went through. (Someone said later it looked like a puppet head thrown against a wall.)

With Sobelle on stage and the injured actor still needing to run a light cue, Bauriedel knew his tingling head and diminishing sensation in his fingers and toes wasn’t good. He remembers wondering if he would be paralyzed. “It had been one of the great performing moments of my life, and I was five minutes away from the end,” he recalls. “But I couldn’t continue. What’s funny is that Geoff made an announcement that one of the actors was injured and we had to wrap it up, but the audience thought it was just the next level of the show with an actor hurting himself . . .five minutes later the audience is still waiting for something to happen.” The next thing was the EMTs carting Bauriedel off to the hospital.

“We had trained the audience to believe anything was possible,” says the actor.

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