The ODC Healthy Dancers’ Clinic Focuses on Educating Dancers About Holistic Well-Being

by Bridget Conrad | 9/18/2019 5:05 PM

Photo Credit: @ODCsf on Twitter

People commonly categorize dancers as artists, and while that is a true statement, dancers also should be thought of as complex athletes. The physical demands that are put on dancers from choreography and rigorous performance schedules make physiology and fitness just as important as great technique. This is why places like the ODC Healthy Dancers’ Clinic (HDC) in San Francisco are so important. This volunteer-based dancer injury clinic exists specifically to treat dance-related injuries and to educate dancers on holistic well-being.

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HDC is leading the way to a new culture and wellness for dancers. Created in 2005 by Rick Coughlin, MD, the ODC Healthy Dancers’ Clinic is made up of a renowned team of volunteer physicians and therapists. Through the volunteer collaboration of academic health professionals, HDC strives to improve the well-being and healthcare of the local dance community through education, musculoskeletal screening, integration of health services, enlightened treatment protocols, and injury data analysis, with a goal of injury prevention.

Coordinated by Associate Director Kendal Alway, DPT, HDC provides guidance and advice to dancers and performance artists on injury management, recovery, and longevity. HDC's volunteer staff is fully devoted to improving the health of dancers. These medical professionals work at some of the best clinics in San Francisco and meet monthly to discuss goals, educate each other, and work on projects related to the clinic. The clinic's full staff also includes acupuncturists, nurses, and other alternative treatment professionals. If you take dance or movement classes, and have a dance-related injury, you are eligible go to this clinic. All dance students and professional dancers are welcomed to schedule appointments.

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In fact, if you live in the San Francisco area, you can check out the HDC at its next Complete Healthy Dancers Clinic on Sept. 22. During this clinic, patients can schedule hour-long appointments where they meet with up to three health practitioners from a variety of fields. A mixture of volunteer physical therapists, orthopedists, nutritionists, and mental health professionals will meet to discuss the variety of ailments that dancers face and how they are interconnected. These free clinics happen quarterly and focus on holistic well-being.

Photo Credit: @ODCHealthyDancersClinic on Facebook

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The ODC is dedicated to the lifecycle of the artistic process. Through the company, school, and theater, it inspires audiences, cultivates artists, engages community, and fosters diversity and inclusion. Every year, ODC/Dance Company's 10 dancers perform for more than 50,000 over two home seasons in San Francisco (Dance Downtown and The Velveteen Rabbit). In 46 years, ODC/Dance has performed for more than a million people in 32 states and 11 countries, with support from the NEA, the U.S. State Department, and many state and city arts agencies.The ODC School provides training in a wide range of dance genres to all ages and abilities in an effort to nurture creative artists, appreciative audiences, and a healthy generative community. This school also advocates for the performing arts as an essential part to economic and cultural development of the community. The ODC Theater supports artists through commissioning, presenting, mentorship, and space access. Emerging artists at the top of their career can set up shop with the ODC Theater. 

Over time, dancing at a rigorous, professional level will take a toll on even the most elite dancer's body. This is why holistic well-being education is so important to the longevity of a dancer's career. If all dancers were fully educated on holistic well-being, the dance community as a whole would see less injuries and be able to showcase their veteran dancers for longer periods of time.

I have to say thank you to all of the volunteer medical professionals that give their time and talents to the ODC Healthy Dancers' Clinic. To have a place for dancers to go where they are treated as athletes is truly a huge step in the right direction for injury prevention in the dance community. 

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