Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dance Doctor

Class V was doing a lesson on “Healthy Body” today and we were listing out all the medical specialists. I found one glaring blank. Where was the Performing Arts Medicine Specialist? I had to stop and take a deep breath. Memories began to rush in of fruitless and frustrating medical sessions with doctors who did not understand performing arts related injuries. And I remembered the essay Asawari wrote for a proposed conference project in her application to Sarah Lawrence College where she was offered a Presidential scholarship.

I recalled her research and thought process during the writing of the essay.
Her basic premise was that an elite performer is quite akin to a champion athlete. Both fields call for years of consistent training and constant practise. But they are treated differently when it comes to their healthcare. While sports are viewed as a necessity, the arts are considered a luxury.

At a time when Asawari was both a national sports medallist as also a pre-professional inter-disciplinary performing artist, her body was taking a beating and despite being injury free for the most part, there were the occasional medical visits. The doctor’s reaction depended on whether she said a State Championship was coming up or it was a Recital that stood endangered by her ailment.

It was a given that there would be a lot of explaining to do. On one such visit I remember, she had to carry her Pointe shoes along to show how exactly the foot was positioned in one. The doctor had no clue whatsoever as to the kind of injuries a ballet dancer could sustain and how to treat them without injuring her further.As a matter of fact, I have not heard of a Performing Arts Medical Specialist. The common refrain to an artist seeking medical attention is, ‘Rest it or give it up!' Nothing could be more disastrous and impractical to an artist who has poured hours and hours of herself in pushing the creative envelope. Asking them to rest or give up is like suggesting professional suicide. 

There is a real need for an accessible, affordable and professional performing arts science.

A performer needs to be at the peak of fitness, both physically and psychologically. Her art depends entirely on physical dexterity and mental acuity. Why then is performing arts not seen as a needy profession? Unlike sports medicine, why is there no formal training available in performing arts medicine? What is the reason for this undervaluation?

So much hoopla over life and none over what makes it worth living?!

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