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The Australian Ballet is busting myths about injuries, and helping athletes from other codes overcome theirs

0 2 years ago

They’re the dancers of The Australian Ballet.

Measuring physical feats of repertoires against professional sports is difficult because dancers cannot wear GPS devices on stage and who else does a grand jeté en manége?

Observers can only wonder.

An American in Paris audiences have recently been marvelling of the performers’ superior athleticism and endurance.

How many sportspeople could do four shows — or games — in one weekend?

Some former athletes and health professionals understand both disciplines.

“Having been on the other side of the fence, it’s incredible the amount of work they put in just to get out onto the stage,” former North Melbourne footballer Sam Wright says.

As an injured player, Wright spent time rehabilitating with dancers. He has since been employed at the ballet as a welfare boss.

“My initial thought coming in here to rehab was embarrassment,” he says.

“I thought I was working hard [in football].

“I would say the dancers are on par, if not more professional athletes than AFL, just because of the sheer demand of what they do and what they put their bodies through.”

Ballet mistress and rehabilitation specialist Megan Connelly agrees.

“They’re way ahead of most because in sport you don’t have the diversity of movement, and you also, in dancing, have the expectation that it’s got to be pretty seamless, and you can’t show the effort,” she says.

“Footballers show their strength, and you can hear it and you can see it on their faces, and we’ve got to produce all sorts of movement without necessarily showing how it might feel.

“It’s body, mind, and soul — it encompasses all of that and so much more, or I should say, in a very different way than sport does.”

World-renowned physiotherapist, Dr Sue Mayes, has spent decades treating professional sportspeople in her directorship of artistic health at The Australian Ballet.

“I like to think of them as athletic artists. They’re artists first and foremost, but they’re incredible athletes,” she says.

“They can jump higher than anyone, they spend hours working … there’s no other athlete who spends as many hours training.”

Most people don’t realise dancers who perform in the evenings have already spent a whole day doing their exercises and often rehearsing for the next production. On long days, they can punch in for work at 9.30am and clock off at 11pm.

The company performs 180 nights annually.

Dr Mayes did not discount the excellence and work ethic of sportspeople.

“We do see other elite athletes in here as well,” she says.

“They’ve got their own skills. Luckily these guys don’t get any body contact, because I think that’s a known cause of injury. Obviously, the athletes are better runners generally.

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