Medical Care and Physiotherapy at the Dance Department

18 December 2019

In order to prepare our next generation of young dancers for a long and fulfilling career, two women are doing their best to ensure that health and wellbeing are topics in the curriculum and daily training at the Dance Department of the Royal Conservatoire. Many years of experience accumulated important knowledge on how to raise a healthy artist, and those best practices could be used in other departments as well.

Anne Ofman started at the KC 17 years ago, when she joined the dance department in Group 8. “I basically grew up in this place. It feels like I spent my entire life here” she says with a big smile on her face. “Many of my old teachers are nowadays my colleagues, which is amazing”. Her familiarity with the place is a big advantage. “I know exactly how the students feel and what they are going through. This makes it easy for me to support them in the right moments.” Anne is now working as a Caractère teacher as well as a physiotherapist at our Dance Department.

Anne tells us how an injury opened the door to a whole new world: “Spraining my ankle was a key moment for me because it was the first time, I received physiotherapy. I immediately knew that I wanted to deepen my knowledge in this subject and wrote my Dance History paper on the importance of health in the dancing world. As a dancer, you always have a plan B. Plan A is to dance as long as you can. But even if you manage to dance until you are 45, you still have 20 years of working ahead of you. So, I decided early on to become a physiotherapist.”

After a couple of years abroad as dancer, Anne came back to The Hague and started teaching at the KC. Now, she finally found the time to become a physiotherapist and she successfully finished her studies while teaching next to it.

She puts an emphasis on starting with a good warm-up and teaches the young ones how to stretch safely. Additionally, they train their core for a better posture and more stability. That will already prevent a lot of injuries.

“Injury prevention is the first step into a long career. To know how your body works and where your boundaries are will ensure that you have a long dancing life ahead of you. I see the kids here at school quite often and know them very well. The moment, I see that something is not going well, I intervene and check one-on-one whether there is a potential injury coming up. For instance, a change in the feet-position could be an indicator for a problem with the hips. Then, I will train certain muscles with the student in order to strengthen the hip and prevent an injury”, Anne explains.

Healing an injury is far more difficult and takes a lot of time and patience. She knows that from first-hand experience. And an unhappy, demotivated mind will even prolong this process. This is why a mental support is as important as the physical support. Anne has a vision when it comes to health at the KC. “We are only at the beginning of this and there is so much more to learn. I would like to visit other schools and learn from their experience. I read a lot of articles online and see that in countries such as Australia, this topic is widely discussed. Together with my wonderful colleague Eleonore, I hope to further the discourse of health at the Royal Conservatoire. Working with someone like Eleonore, who is as motivated as me and has extensive knowledge of the subject herself is very fulfilling.

Eleonore joined us 4 years ago as a dancing teacher at Jong KC Dance. Since then, she also became the Medical Care Coordinator of the Dance Department.

Every student who is accepted into the dance program gets a medical check-up before they are allowed to dance and every school year starts with an injury prevention lesson. The Dance Department has a whole medical team consisting of a physician, an orthopedic surgeon, several physiotherapists and dieticians. “Well-being and health are central topics for us dancers”, Eleonore tells us. “We want the best possible care for our students”.

Dancing can be the most amazing and inspiring thing to do, but you need a healthy body in order to live your dream. “Our body is our instrument”, she says.

Topics such as injury prevention, body conditioning and a healthy nutrition are therefore essential, but the time in the busy roster of a dancer is very limited. “We support our students where we can in good and in bad times. Supporting an injured student mentally and physically and giving time and space to heal properly is an essential part of my work. My door is always open for the students and I gladly lend them an ear. That’s why there is a couch in my office.”