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Health Care for Dance Students at a Performing Arts Academy: A Dean's Perspective

Daniel Lewis
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 13 Number 3: Page 114 (September 1998)

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Abstract: I am not a doctor, physical therapist, or any other kind of health care professional. In fact, I have been a dancer, choreographer, and teacher for 30 years'20 at the Juilliard School as a teacher and assistant to the director, and ten years at the New World School of the Arts in Miami as teacher and dean of dance. Although I am well-versed in the many health-related needs of dancers, I am not an expert in the field of injury prevention. What I share with you in this brief report is 30 years of being on the dancer's side of the fence regarding health care for this population. In my previous multiple roles, and now especially as dean for high school and college level students in dance, I have had more than enough experience dealing on a daily basis with the whole spectrum of the needs of healthy dancers'both professionals and students'to be called an expert. The New World School of the Arts has 980 students altogether in dance, theater, music, and visual arts. I am dean for 91 dance students of high school age and 130 college dance students. This division also supplies support services for the students in theater and music on a regular basis, particularly minor physical injuries incurred in practice or training. In rare instances we are even called upon to help the visual artists'for injuries such as sprains rather than for injuries related to their classes. First of all let us be clear: there is no such thing as injury prevention. You can reduce the number and severity of injuries sustained in a performing arts school or a professional company, but not totally prevent their occurrence. In addition, dance is a strange and "different" kind of creature and, therefore, often needs a different kind of approach to treatment. I do not discuss the services that are actually available to dancers today but talk about those that optimally should be available. If I talk about dancers as being "strange", I must also talk about the institutions and schools as being "stranger"! When you put these two together you get a situation that is extremely complicated, and there is no single health care system that will work universally.

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