Athleticism in Artistry

Performing artists are performance athletes

Dedication. Practice. Technique. Precision. Commitment. These words describe a small sampling of qualities it takes to be an athlete. Athletes can be any age, any skill level. The athletic population is dedicated to their activity. They practice to perfect their technique; spending countless hours working on a single movement pattern so that they can become more efficient at the skill. It is time we start thinking of performing artists as athletes because they demonstrate these same qualities.

Having confidence in movement patterns is critical for all athletes. Performing artists learn and practice exacting skills that require precision and specific muscular control. Performing artists have unique physical requirements that can increase risk of injury. Improving education regarding potential muscular imbalances and overuse injuries is advantageous to keep artists performing the activity they love. This article will touch on a few categories of performing art; future articles will explore each category in greater detail.

Dance

Dancers require strength and flexibility. Sustaining strength, balance, and grace through a wide variety of positions is remarkable. From ballet to contra dance, dancers have the potential to encounter foot, knee, hip, back, neck, or shoulder injuries. Modern dance and hip-hop present potential risk of concussion. Preventing injuries through focused strengthening around hips and trunk can assist in longevity of professional or recreational dance.

Musicians

A combination of fine motor skill, trunk stability, and repetitive motion creates unique situations for musicians. Awareness of body positions and respiration during practice and performance can change length tension relationships of muscles and either prevent or promote overuse injuries. A common muscular pattern includes forward shoulders which shortens the muscles in the front of the chest and lengthens the muscles at the back of the shoulders; this biomechanical position can lead to back, neck, or upper extremity pain when not addressed.

Theatrical art

Theater is a combination of full body motion, fine motion, and speech and song. Actors play many roles. Posturing for a character, heavy costume requirements, movement patterns, and vocal projection can contribute to various injuries. Physical stamina and endurance is required for long rehearsals and performances. The physical demands of an actor likely change based on the current project. Maintaining a base fitness routine helps actors adapt to varying demands.

The three categories above are typically the first ones that come to mind. In addition, there are countless other performing artists each with their own unique movement requirements and risk of injury.

The goal of becoming aware of potential injuries is to be a motivator for changing movement patterns. There are inherent musculoskeletal risks in most activities; the goal of injury prevention education is to encourage movement with knowledge of how the body moves. Human bodies are designed to move. If your inner athlete likes to dance, sing, act, or play an instrument, please continue! The goal of the upcoming articles in this series is to increase awareness of the physical demands performing artists may encounter. Life is unpredictable but spending time on self-care to optimize movement patterns can help to enhance time spent doing the activity you love. Having recourses to manage injuries is critical.

Injury prevention to enhance performance

CorePhysio is proud to announce our quarterly Performing Artist Screening Clinic starting in April 2018.  An injury prevention screen is an outstanding opportunity for a performing artist to consult with a DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy) about potential injury and receive diagnostic triage for the recommended level of care.  The physical therapy screening process is not a replacement for a comprehensive PT evaluation, but rather a 10,000 foot view of each client for red flags, and identifying meaningful next steps to facilitate healing and successful participation in your artistry.  All levels of performing artists are welcome. It is helpful to bring your instrument with you to the screen or be ready to sing, dance, or move in a meaningful way related to your activity.  Following the screen the physical therapist will discuss results and make suggestions—ranging from a simple precaution or modifications, to exercises for self care, to consulting with a physical therapist or primary care provider. It is a great opportunity for dialogue and education regarding your body and your sport.  

The first Performing Artist Screening Clinic will be April 14, 2018 at Core Physio in Fairhaven. Advance sign up is required, and each 30-minute screen is $30. Call (360) 752-2673 for more information or to reserve your space at CorePhysio’s Performing Artist Screening Clinic!

Katie Schaner, DPT

Katie’s love and amazement for human movement began at a young age while watching professional dancers. Her interest in dance expanded to include many years of dance training, performance, and choreography. When not dancing, she enjoys moving outdoors through hiking, backpacking, cross country skiing, and biking.