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The New York City Ballet will launch a wellness program next fall, aimed at reducing its dancers' injuries. Artistic Director Peter Martins asked Linda Hamilton, a former City Ballet dancer, a psychologist and author of Dance Magazine's Advice for Dancers column, for recommendations on how to reduce the number of injuries the dancers experienced. Hamilton and three of her NYCB colleagues--NYCB orthopedist Dr. William Hamilton; Marika Molnar, the company's physical therapist; and Lawrence DeMann Jr., company chiropractor--conducted a four-month-long research study to determine how to help the company. They asked NYCB dancers about their training, how they stayed in shape while working and while on break, and their medical history. If injured, dancers were given another questionnaire that inquired what the injury was, how it happened, how heavy their rehearsal and performance schedule had been, whether they had been learning any new choreography at the time of the accident or had been under any extra stress. They discovered that many injuries might be prevented if dancers were simply made aware of risks and taught how to stay healthy.

Perhaps predictably, Linda Hamilton and her colleagues found a correlation between age and injuries. Dancers who were over 21 years old tended to be hurt more often than younger ones. They noticed, however, that younger dancers were more likely to suffer from stress fractures and other over-use injuries often brought on by a combination of intense exercise, low weight and dieting. Hamilton says many over-use injuries could be easily avoided if dancers would eat a healthier diet that includes plenty of calcium.

The doctors also found that dancers who were getting hurt tended to be the ones who didn't take class or cross-train during company breaks. Weight training and stationary cycling, says Hamilton, could reduce the number of injuries suffered. "Who knows, maybe we'll install stationary bikes at New York State Theater," she says.

Finally, the physicians found a relationship between anxiety and injuries. Dancers who took yoga or underwent psychological counseling were physically healthier than those who didn't engage in some form of stress management.

The new wellness program will focus on all these areas, but Hamilton says the curriculum will be further refined to respond to individual company members' specific needs. "For a long time, there's been a gap between dance science and the dance community," says Hamilton. "Dancers tend to focus on the outcome of their training rather than the process. But it's important to remember that getting there in a healthy way doesn't compromise your goals."
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Title Annotation:New York City Ballet offers wellness program
Author:Weeks, Janet
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2001
Previous Article:Springtime for Hits?

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