Dancer Wellness: Returning to the Stage
November 9, 2021
Heather Ogden in physical therapy. Photo by Karolina Kuras.
As Director of the Dancer Wellness Programme, Marla Pichler oversees and coordinates the complementary health services for The National Ballet of Canada’s dancers. Here, Marla shares the evolving challenges of the pandemic and the company’s preparations for a long-anticipated return to the stage.
What were some of the challenges the dancers faced during the lockdowns and periods of self-isolation?
The biggest challenge is that the only way for dancers to stay in performance shape is to dance. They need space, they need special floors and they need to partner, for example. During our time away from the studios at the Walter Carsen Centre, we gave each dancer a small piece of flooring to train on, we did our best to offer classes over Zoom, and we encouraged the dancers to access tools to help them remain strong and flexible. But none of this could replace dancing in a proper studio.
Artists of the Ballet in a Socially Distanced Class. Photo by Karolina Kuras.
What are the challenges now that the dancers are preparing to return to the stage and how has the Wellness team been able to help?
Now we are faced with the challenge of difficult repertoire, long work days and a variety of choreography as the dancers rehearse six different productions. We need to progress incrementally. Our coaches took the return to the studio slowly with the hope that we would prevent injury. The medical team is there to support the dancers with injury prevention strategies, to treat little aches and pains before they become big problems and to provide care to those dancers who have sustained an injury.
What aspects of health and wellness will your team focus on in the coming months?
The wellness team will focus on strength and flexibility training as well as adjunct treatments like Pilates and dynamic movement techniques to support the dancers’ needs. We also recognize the need for more therapy hours, so we have increased this by 25%, from 40 to 50 hours per week of available therapy times. We hope this will allow all dancers to access the treatment they need.
See The National Ballet of Canada onstage in Serenade & Angels' Atlas with Soul, November 11 – 27, and The Nutcracker, December 10 – 31.
Serenade & Angels' Atlas With Soul