Having just returned from a month long tour working with The Australian Ballet, we asked Alphington Sports Medicine Clinic Physiotherapist Madeleine Hook a few questions about her experience.
When & how did you become involved with The Australian Ballet?
I completed a fantastic placement with the physiotherapy team at The Australian Ballet whilst I was a student studying at La Trobe University, which was a wonderful opportunity to get to know its experienced clinicians and to develop my skills working in this area. As a result, I was fortunate to be offered the opportunity to perform the role of physiotherapist on this year’s Regional Tour of Coppelia. The Australian Ballet has an internationally recognised artistic health team headed by physiotherapist Sue Mayes, and has rehabilitated dancers from ballet companies in Europe and America. My experience with them, in conjunction with my own time as a dancer studying at the Victorian College of the Arts, has really cemented my interest in working in sports and dance medicine.
How long was the tour for and where did it take you?
This year the Regional Tour spanned four weeks, however the length can vary each year depending on the itinerary and number of destinations. The towns that we visited were located largely in regional New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, and included Griffith, Wagga Wagga, Shepparton, Albury, Warragul, Tanunda, and Mount Gambier.
It was a privilege to be involved in bringing this production to audiences in regional areas who otherwise might not get as much of an opportunity to enjoy the ballet. I know the company was touched by the warm welcome that was received in each town, particularly from the local dance schools.
What was most enjoyable about your role?
I loved getting to know everyone that I was touring with, from the dancers to the artistic staff and stage crew. We spent a lot of time together and it was great be surrounded by so many talented and hard-working people. I was also very grateful for the support and mentorship that I received through liaising with members of the physio and medical team back in Melbourne at the Australian Ballet Centre. There are many aspects of working as a physio in dance that are unique to this area, and it was invaluable to gain further exposure through the touring environment.
What do you find the most challenging?
Life on the road can be challenging at times, as your routine is constantly changing and each venue that we would bump in to would be different to the last. With time you become good at adapting to different schedules and environments, though I believe by the end of the tour everyone was excited to see their own bed again! Conversely it was great to be able to explore all the regional towns and enjoy the views of the landscape whilst travelling from location to location.
How does this differ from other sports you are involved in / athletes you have worked with?
I have been involved in working with the Victorian Calisthenics State Team and was able to tour to Perth with them for the National Championships earlier this year. One of the main differences between calisthenics and ballet is the injury profile. In ballet there can be a relatively greater proportion of foot and ankle injuries due to the intricate and demanding nature of the foot and leg work in their daily class and repertoire, including pointe work for the female dancers. Comprehensive and individualised strength programs for the purpose of injury prevention are implemented for all the dancers in the company. Calisthenics involves elements of acrobatic work where the performers are working in extreme ranges of low back range of motion, which can lead to overload and injury without necessary strengthening work.
How do you feel this experience will help you in treating your patients at Alphington Sports Medicine Clinic?
There are often dancers, both vocational and recreational, presenting to Alphington seeking assistance to manage injuries and to improve their performance. Touring has further enriched my experience in helping dancers to negotiate the rigorous demands of life as a performer, and in understanding the various and often difficult decisions that need to be made in balancing health and rehabilitation with the desire to perform and work.
To learn more about Madeleine check out her bio.
For an appointment with her please phone our Exercise + Rehabilitation Centre on 9482 5211.