Broadway dancers perform eight shows weekly--on steps, on both flat and raked surfaces, and in different heel heights, from flat to four inches. They may be doing choreography that incorporates ballet, jazz, tap, and modem dance all in the same performance. In addition, they perform with intensity for a short period, rest, and then return to the stage as many as five or six times throughout the evening.
Galli's frequent treatment of injured Broadway dancers led him to conduct a two-year survey (see graphs) that included the casts of Miss Saigon, Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Les Misgrables, and other shows. "There is a distinct correlation," says Galli, "between injuries and the lack of preperformance warm-up or classwork. In more than one hundred twenty-five questionnaires gathered from show dancers, injuries range from lower back pain to ankle sprains, causing missed performances from one show to three weeks."
If the show does not remain stimulating through rehearsals and changes in cast, a low level of interest in the performance is fostered. Boredom and inattention set the stage for injury. "When this happens and classwork is excluded from a weekly schedule," explains Galli, "there is no muscular compensation for repetition of the show's choreography on the body and for changes in the height of heels."
Maintaining physical condition requires a fifteen-minute warm-ups, if the dancer is under thirty years old; thirty minutes if the dancer is over thirty. "A proper warm-up increases circulation, strengthens muscles, and permits nerve impulses to travel faster throughout the muscular system," says Galli. But a proper warm-up does not consist of a few bounces, a brief stretch, and a kick or two. [See "Warm Up," Personsal You, January, page 92, and "Cool Down," August, page 44.! Statistically, the survey shows that dancers who take at least two classes weekly and warm up before every performance are injured seventy percent less often. It also shows that when this group is injured, time missed from performances is cut in half.
While taking class and warming up may hold little interest for a performer who is adding vocal and drama training to expand career opportunities, finding a new exercise method that stimulates the dancer physically and mentally, costs less than an injury.
Louis C. Galli, D.P.M., is in private practice in New York City and has treated dancers in professional companies sin ce 1974.
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|Title Annotation:||injury prevention for Broadway dancers|
|Date:||Dec 1, 1994|
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