Training Ballerinas

Posted On: August 19, 2016

I am Dr. David Johnson, I am both a chiropractic physician and as a physical therapist working on Chicago’s North Shore as the Director of North Shore Spinal and Sports Rehabilitation.

I have a long and rich career working on athletes, artists and every day people. I have focused my work so as to understand the biomechanical and ergonomic demands of how people work and play.

Early on I had the good fortune of working with the now closed Barat College in Lake Forest. I volunteered to do physicals for their basketball team. They were a small division three college and were an underserved population in spite of being in Lake Forest. This work, lead me to come in contact with other students at Barat.

I got exposed to the Ballet program at Barat of which Rory Foster was one of the more notable instructors. Having not a lot of dance experience except for one Modern class in college (a class I took to become more flexible for wrestling) I did a lot of study reading books and watching Ballet.

This led me to Lisa Gold and the North Shore School of Dance. I believe Lisa may have graduated from Barat and was serving as a part time instructor there. I approached Lisa and asked her if I could take a class from her. She asked me why I wanted to take a class and told her I wanted to understand how dancers trained to better prevent injuries in dancers. She agreed to let me take a class but warned me it would be difficult.

She placed me in a beginning Jazz class. I told her I wanted to learn Ballet. She explained to me that Ballet is the foundation for all other forms of dance and that I would be exposed to plenty of Ballet.

She also warned me that the average age of the class would be 13 and it was going to be all girls. This made me take pause, but I swallowed my pride and took the class. It was awkward and I of course was the least flexible of the lot but I learned a lot. I came away with a deeper appreciation of how dancers train. This knowledge has helped me treat many dancers over the years.

This last summer I returned to the North Shore School of Dance in Highland Park, to teach young dancers how to prevent injuries in workshops put on by the school.

My message is simple. Listen to your body and if you are hurt communicate it your teacher. Good form and proper posture prevent many injuries. Stretch areas that traditionally get tight like the hip flexors. Strengthen areas that dancers typically undertrain like the inner thigh and lower back musculature. Finally don’t over train.

To date it has been a very rewarding experience working with the dancers and instructors at the North Shore School of Dance. I want to say thank you to Lisa Gold, and all of the dancers I have had the good fortune to work with over the years.

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