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Press Release: Elmhurst Ballet School - "Up the Spiral" Dance Injury to performance case study


Jan McNulty
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ELMHURST BALLET SCHOOL ‘UP THE SPIRAL’ DANCE INJURY TO PERFORMANCE CASE STUDY – IN COLLABORATION WITH UNIVERSITY OF WOLVERHAMPTON AND IN ASSOCIATION WITH BIRMINGHAM ROYAL BALLET 

 

Elmhurst Ballet School, in collaboration with University of Wolverhampton and in association with Birmingham Royal Ballet, is at the forefront of research in dance science and is pioneering ways for dancers to avoid injury by introducing ground-breaking fitness and rehabilitation techniques. The intervention, delivered by Performance Enhancement Coach, Nico Kolokythas MSc, ASCC, PhD Student at University of Wolverhampton, gives dancers the option to sidestep surgery and return to an improved strength and fitness level observed at pre-injury. 

 

It is fourteen months since Carlos Acosta, revered dancer and Vice President of Elmhurst Ballet School, officially opened the school’s on-site, state of the art Health and Wellbeing Centre, just weeks before his retirement from classical ballet. 

 

The Centre is unique to a professional dance school of this kind and facilitates close working relationships between healthcare, artistic and boarding staff. The school currently offers students access to a range of health services including: nurses; doctors; physiotherapy; nutrition advice; dance psychology; strength and conditioning; and performance enhancement coaching.

 

Based in Edgbaston, Birmingham, Elmhurst Ballet School produces world class dancers through a holistic approach to training, education and health. This methodology supports the intensity of full-time training and helps students to develop into independent, collaborative and versatile artists, professional-ready for the competitive dance sector. 

 

During the course of the current academic year, Nico Kolokythas has been putting the pioneering work to practise.  One case study is highlighted in a short film, Up the Spiral and shows the intervention with 2017 Elmhurst graduate Jade Wallace. Jade, a ballet category finalist in the recent BBC Young Dancer competition, will join Birmingham Royal Ballet as an Apprentice in August. Jade turned to the expertise of the Health and Wellbeing Centre to promote rehabilitation for excruciating ankle pain.  

 

Nico Kolokythas explains:The purpose of this multidisciplinary case study with Jade had a two-pronged approach. First we decided with Nick Allen, Clinical Director at Birmingham Royal Ballet, that in order to eliminate the possibility of an operation we had to use all possible means available to promote rehabilitation of a pain in the ankle for Jade. Evidence based practise together with practise based evidence guided us to simply think outside of the box. As the school’s Performance Enhancement Coach I worked with Jade to develop foundation strength in order to be able to push the boundaries. However, the rehabilitation was not a straight line upwards, we did have moments where pain simply came back and therefore a careful regression and progression strategy was applied.  

 

Our second aim was to debunk the myths around female dancers using weights and resistance training in general with the fear of losing the classical aesthetic look. Research based practise in sport has shown that strength gains can be achieved without muscle size and this is clearly seen in Jade's physique. We monitored closely her body composition and the numbers are impressive, decreased body fat and no change in muscle mass and therefore no extra size. 

 

But the most important success is that we now have a dancer free of pain, who feels stronger, more confident with her body and feels her dance effortless.”

 

Jessica Wheeler, Principal of Elmhurst Ballet School, said:This case study and video shows how much importance Elmhurst Ballet School places on evidence based practise to deliver the best health and well-being provision for its students. Being at the forefront of research in dance science and having Nico Kolokythas working at the school as Performance Enhancement Coach has had a direct impact on the outcomes for students – Jade’s case study is testimony to this. Nico’s interaction with Jade has seen her return to full health, stronger and fitter than ever before and ready to start her professional dancer life with Birmingham Royal Ballet.

 

 

Notes:

Elmhurst Ballet School is the oldest vocational dance school in the UK. Founded in 1923, in Camberley, Surrey, it relocated to Edgbaston in Birmingham in 2004. The modern school, under the leadership of Principal Jessica Wheeler and Artistic Director Robert Parker (former Principal dancer with Birmingham Royal Ballet) is the only purpose-built vocational dance school in Europe and includes a studio theatre, seven dance studios, academic classrooms, on-site accommodation and a state of the art Health and Well-being Centre. 

 

Elmhurst Ballet School is a world-renowned for the training and education of classical ballet dancers and the school benefits greatly from its association with Birmingham Royal Ballet which offers students significant performance opportunities and inspiration.

 

The school takes a holistic approach to professional dance training and believes for students to thrive in a specialist vocational environment, the three strands of its Live, Dance and Learn philosophies are equally important. Elmhurst aims to nurture the thinking classical ballet professional of the future - healthy and well-rounded human beings who are trained and educated to outstanding artistic and academic standards. www.elmhurstdance.co.uk 

 

 

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Great to see another school employing a strength coach. I have been employed at KS Dance as head of strength and conditioning for two years. In this time we have developed a fast growing Dance Health and Strength Programme. Congratulations to Jade and Nico on their work. 

 

Its great to see other schools emolying strength and rehab principles like this. 

 

TheBalletStrengthPro on Instagram 

and 

Science in Dance on Facebook are similar programmes implemented in Vocational ballet school settings to aid injury prevention and promote performance. 

 

I hope to see more Dancers investing their time and energy in S&C soon. 

 

Rupert Wiltshire MSc and PhD student of Dance Science 

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It's so great to see Elmhurst publicising this so much. I know from having meetings with him that Robert Parker is very keen to implement more S&C in the school but as usual it's all down to funding. What has been wonderful for Nico's work is that it has been so warmly received by the students, and I'm sure that Jade's success story will help support those of us who advocate for safe strength and conditioning training for dancers!

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When I was at the RBS there was nothing like this for us students.  We went to Demitri Papoutsis (osteopath), which we had to pay for, to get straightened out.  Any 'specialist' that came to the school would just give us an injection!  No time off for fear of showing a weakness.  The three main UK Ballet Companies have now spent a lot of money on machines and staff for injury repair and maintenance.  But what about counselling/psychotherapy?

 

I am a psychotherapist now and have noted that no money has been spent on mental health care.  The companies and schools have part-time performance and sport psychologists, they are not counselling psychologists.  The only school that has a counsellor on the staff is White Lodge.  Students and dancers are less worried now about disclosing injuries but there is still the stigma of mental health.  It appears from the motivational words that are used in the video that if you have anxiety, bereavement, body image issues, just get on with it!  There doesn't appear to be any emotional/mental health support.  Elmhurst don't list a counsellor on their staff list.  There may be one, but why not list them.  Stigma.

As you may have guessed I am a fervent advocate for getting mental health out into the open so that people feel able to talk about their issues.

I am putting together a self-help book for dancers regarding emotional and mental health.  I have been there as a dancer, so I know what it takes.  We had no help back then, either physical or emotional, I would like to help change that.

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I agree Terry, such an important area which needs to be brought out into the open.  I'm so sick of the 'mental abuse' dished out at vocational school that would never be tolerated in any other learning environment. 

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2 hours ago, Terry Hyde said:

The companies and schools have part-time performance and sport psychologists, they are not counselling psychologists.  The only school that has a counsellor on the staff is White Lodge.  Students and dancers are less worried now about disclosing injuries but there is still the stigma of mental health.  It appears from the motivational words that are used in the video that if you have anxiety, bereavement, body image issues, just get on with it!  There doesn't appear to be any emotional/mental health support.

 

As you may have guessed I am a fervent advocate for getting mental health out into the open so that people feel able to talk about their issues.

The people who need help the most will be the least likely (and the least able) to ask for it.

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Elmhurst pupils do have access to independent student advocates. Councilling services are available externally but these are not free. BUPA do have a dedicated Mental Health Team that pupils can access including Psychologists etc. 

I agree that there is still a stigma attached to mental health and not enough is being done to support our young dancers on their difficult journey. 

Us parents need help too sometimes ?

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Thank you Harwell, taxiforballet and cotes du rhone ! for your comments.  See my post re my proposed book "self-care for dancers......." on this forum.  See my blog via my website regarding dancers and ex-dancers' own mental health stories.

Edited by Terry Hyde
missed out one other person.
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This is a subject that has recently become very significant for my dd and I find it terrifying that post 16 schools can get away without offering even the most basic of pastoral care never mind counselling services!

4 hours ago, Terry Hyde said:

 

As you may have guessed I am a fervent advocate for getting mental health out into the open so that people feel able to talk about their issues.

I am putting together a self-help book for dancers regarding emotional and mental health.  I have been there as a dancer, so I know what it takes.  We had no help back then, either physical or emotional, I would like to help change that.

 

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