I am a performing arts physical therapist working at a downtown Athletico clinic in Chicago. I recently had the opportunity to travel with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago to Germany. As I let my patients know I would be away from the clinic, quite a few asked what I would be doing. When I told them I would be working while traveling internationally, many responded wondering “How does your work as a physical therapist take you to Germany for a week?!” Let me explain…
I traveled to Germany with a group of inspiring, positive and dedicated performing artists from Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. These performers work a physically and mentally demanding job to share their love of dance to not only Chicago, but also across the world. I am one of five physical therapists who has the privilege to work with the dancers during rehearsal at their studio in Chicago on a weekly basis. Additionally, we treat the dancers in the backstage environment before they perform at the Harris Theater. They also bring a physical therapist with them overseas to help keep the dancers in good form during shows on the road.
I joined Hubbard Street Dance Chicago on their 2020 international tour to Ludwigsburg and Leverkusen, Germany. During my time traveling through Germany with the company, I was quick to learn that there is a lot that goes into taking a tour on the road. In addition to the fourteen dancers, there is a production team and artistic staff traveling as well. At each new venue, the team has to orient themselves to the theater. This means that the first day at each venue is a long day of work for the production team. They work alongside the local crew in Germany to reset the stage in order to meet the specifications of the choreography being performed. The second day is another full day where the dancers are introduced to the space. The day begins with a warm up class for the dancers followed by about five hours of technical rehearsal. This entails working cue to cue on each piece so the production team can set spacing and lighting. During this time, all hands are on deck. After a quick dinner break, the dancers jump right into their performance which runs a little over two hours. Following the performance, everything is then packed up and the process is repeated at the next venue.
As a physical therapist on tour with the company, my role is to be present during the technical rehearsal as well as during and after the performance to help the dancers manage both chronic, overuse and acute injuries if they occur. I set up a treatment table in one of the rooms backstage where the dancers can sign up for fifteen minute treatment sessions throughout the day. During these sessions, I provide hands-on treatment as well as education on self-management techniques to help the dancers meet the physical demands of their choreography during the show.
My experience in Germany will leave a lasting impression on me. I now have an understanding of the many team members it takes to make a professional performance of this caliber a success. I became part of the family that is created when you spend countless hours with a group to create and cultivate your passion. I saw first-hand how art has the power to unite, inspire, and move people no matter where you are or what language you speak. This experience exposed me to life outside of my own little bubble of Chicago and gave me the opportunity to watch art connect strangers from around the world. Thank you to Athletico and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago for the opportunity to support these amazing artists and create a life-long memory.
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