|Dance & Performance Massage
Massage is often used for dancers, singers, musicians and other performers to maintain a high level of performance without injury. The demands of audition, rehearsal and performance can mean a dancer or performer is repeatedly using the same muscles over and over. If these muscles become tight and develop trigger points, this can cause weakness and structural changes which will lead to injury. Injuries may include muscle strains, ligament sprains, back, neck and joint pain or simply muscle soreness and fatigue.
Dance troupes and Ballet companies have often found that the investment of employing skilled massage therapists is worthwhile to keep the injuries down and time out from performance to a minimum.
Performers are usually very aware of their bodies, often more so than elite athletes and usually expect a high level of awareness from their practitioners. A dancer may notice their pelvis is anteriorly rotated because their centre of gravity is forward from where it should be when they spin!
Long running musicals place different stress on the performer compared to companies who perform a number of different shows through the year. In the case of the Lion King, the run in Sydney was so long that some of the strong, fit dancers started to get injuries towards the end of the run, this then places more demands on the ‘swings’ (dancers who swing in to do roles when someone is injured) as they start performing several roles for the one performance. It is very important in these long running shows, for the performers to have access to a massage therapist for preventative treatments, ideally someone with the ability to do some structural assessment to locate muscle tightness and structural changes before they become a problem.
In the companies with a smaller number of shows massage is particularly useful in the audition and rehearsal periods, when the dancer suddenly places different stress on the body. “I have seen the situation where a ballet dancer was asked to do a physically challenging manoeuvre repeatedly and the choreographer then decided they were not right for the role. When I saw the dancer they were very tight and sore in particular muscle groups” Catherine Tiney says. This is often a normal part of a dancer’s life and they can be greatly supported with timely, skilled massage.
In addition to the work dancers place on their bodies, some shows require the performers to wear heavy or restraining costumes which change the way they move, placing different stress on the muscles, ligaments and joints. There is also extra stress placed on the body in performances where humans move like animals, such as the Lion King and Cats.
Massage Therapy is not just for general muscle tightness or chronic conditions, there are many acute injuries which can be effectively treated on the spot by an appropriately trained massage therapist. Catherine Tiney noticed this when on tour with Lord of the dance “One night Michael Flately’s assistant radios me during the show and says can you see Michael in interval, he was in pain with shin soreness (shin splints). I iced along the medial edge of the Tibia bone where the tight calf muscle pulls on the periosteum (lining on the bone). Then with specific Trigger Point Therapy released the Soleus (calf) muscle causing the pain, followed by some specific Muscle Energy Technique stretches. Michael was very appreciative after the show as he said he had no pain in the second half”.
The Irish dancers have a lot of injuries associated with tight calf muscles, as they largely dance on their toes, such as shin soreness, shin splints, stress fracture of the Tibia, Plantar Fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, calf strain and even sprained ankles and massage works very well to prevent or treat these conditions, even moments after the injury.
Massage Therapy should be an integral part of a dancer’s life and for many performers. Many production managers should consider the benefit of utilising the services of a skilled massage therapist as a way to keep the troupe injuries down. When looking for an appropriate massage therapist consider the level of training and experience. Catherine Tiney and her network of therapists have experience working with The Australian Ballet, Riverdance, Lord of the Dance, various musicals such as The Lion King, dancers from Bangarra Dance and a variety of professional musicians.
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