Holistic Healthcare for Dancers
March 25, 2019


Q&A with Marla Pichler, Director of Dancer Wellness

When did The National Ballet of Canada institute the Dancer Health and Wellness Programme and why is it important that we have one?
In 2011, we established an in-house Dancer Health and Wellness Programme. The concept of the programme was actually a dream of our Artistic Director Karen Kain. She realized how important it was to provide holistic, individualized care for our artists year-round. It is my mandate, as the Director of Dancer Wellness, to work with both our core medical team and our dedicated consultants. We aim to work collaboratively using both conventional and complimentary treatment philosophies. Having a medical team that is familiar with dancer related injuries allows us to be consistent with our treatments. The dancers have very busy rehearsal and performance schedules, so it is ideal that the majority of their care can be done in The Walter Carsen Centre during the rehearsal period and at the Four Seasons Centre when we are in season.

Can you describe the National Ballet’s holistic approach to dancer wellness?
Treating the dancers holistically means that we are taking many factors into account when we are assessing their issue. Physical, mental and preventative health is all interconnected. An injury may have many aspects to it and so the treatment needs to all encompassing.

The dancers receive annual health screenings. What happens during this process?
The screening is part of Dance/USA’s Task Force on Dancer Health. Although Dance/USA uses the data we collect for research purposes, we have added additional elements to the process, which gives us, the medical team, insight into how our dancers are doing both physically and psychologically. The information we get from the screen allows us to create restorative programmes for each member of the company and establish individualized wellness plans.

In addition to staff at the ballet, who supports our Dancer Health and Wellness Programme?
Our in-house team includes Paul Papoutsakis (Company Athletic Therapist), Ginette Hamel (Company Physiotherapist), Brian Bastedo and Ron Mulesa (Company Massage Therapists) and Je-an Salas (Resident Pilates Teacher). We work closely with our internal medical team including Dr. Michael Clarfield (Company Sports Medicine Physician), Dr. Darrell Ogilvie-Harris (Company Orthopaedic Surgeon), Dr. Julia Hamilton (Company Physician (Family & Sports Medicine), Dr. Melissa Piercell (Naturopathic Doctor), Dr. Pat Colton (Psychiatrist), Lesley Lustig (Clinical Social Worker/Psychotherapist), Dr. Doug Misener (Performance Psychologist) and Dr. Nicholas Durand, D.Pod.M. (Consulting Foot Specialist/Chiropodist). We also work with external consultants who cover everything from urgent care to dental surgery. We are so fortunate to have MedCan as one of our partners in health. Through their Year Round Clinic, our company members have access to nurse practitioners and doctors who deal with their acute, episodic urgent needs. Most recently, they offer our dancers access to their virtual telemedicine.

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