T h e H e a l e r s
by Jennifer Leake
Dance Australia Magazine, November 2001.
© Dance Australia. Reproduced by Permission
Dancers are especially well suited to a career in the physical therapies.
Jennifer Leake examines the options .
Dancers are fascinated by the intricacies of the human body, in the ways limbs and torsos can be manipulated to achieve the heights their performing art demands. They understand the benefits of healthy eating. And they are veterans when it comes to dealing with injuries. Most dancers are also familiar with the stresses, both mental and physical, of performing new and challenging roles. They also appreciate alternative training methods-new ways of exploring and strengthening their bodies and minds. For dancers wanting to change career paths, physical therapies and training methods can therefore be a good choice for a second vacation. By becoming a physiotherapist, dietitian, sports psychologist, pilates instructor, massage therapist or other related healer or trainer, dancers can redirect their interests into new areas without losing contact with the physiological and spiritual aspects of dance. Former experience in dance is a valuable asset for the therapist or trainer looking to work with dancers and athletes. What better pre-requisite for helping others achieve their goals than a dancing background?
Massage Therapists must be, without a doubt, the most popular of all therapists. They ease muscle strain or spasm, pain and discomfort. While relaxing muscles, massage can also relieve emotional stress. Many dance companies have a preferred massage therapist who dancers can turn to before or after performances and during gruelling rehearsal periods. Massage Therapist Stephen Wayne-Smith is a former dancer who runs his own thriving practice (Zen Living Natural Health Clinic). He treated world class athletes during the Sydney Olympics. He is also popular among dancers and believes his background has given his career an excellent head start. After studying human movement and anatomy from the dancer’s point of view, he is now able to identify with the demands of their work and predict the sort of injuries they may have. He can then help prevent or heal their injuries. “You loosen muscles and bring the dancers’ attention to their muscles so they know what to look out for-even show them exercises to help them stretch correctly and prevent injury. It’s no good when dancers come in to see you when their injuries or muscle strains are really bad-you’ve got to try and help prevent injuries altogether”, he says. One of Wayne-Smith’s remedial massages can improve blood circulation and prepare the body for peak performance. His deep tissue massage can break up scar tissue and adhesions. He is also equipped to use aromatherapy (healing essential oils) during his treatments and to give advice to clients about how to eat better for stress relief and peak performance.
Just as there are several dance techniques, there are also several massage techniques, each of them requiring different degrees of study. Wayne-Smith hasn’t limited himself to one technique. After completing a Diploma in Performing Arts (University of NSW), he went on to do an Associate Diploma in Health Science (Massage Therapy), At TAFE Northern Sydney Institute. This diploma, which is two years full time or four years part time, gave him massage training from a medical/sports perspective, and readied him to work with people from all walks of life. He is now adept at techniques such as Shiatsu (from Japan), an open handed technique applied along the body’s energy pathways (or meridians), Tuina, a Chinese acupressure technique, deep connective tissue massage (known as DCT) and remedial massage. He also learned the most basic of all techniques, Swedish massage, which is taught in shorter certificate courses at private institutions. Non private schooling opportunities (such as TAFE) around Australia and several private institutions offer massage diplomas as well as certificate courses.