Physical therapy students work with Alvin Ailey dance troupe.
by Gillian Smith ’12
When most people think of physical therapy, they think of rehabilitation programs, the elderly, and injuries. At Ithaca, physical therapy could also refer to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
In October 2010, Nick Quarrier, clinical associate professor of physical therapy, took three students to the State Theatre to work with the Ailey II dance troupe from New York City on their second visit to Ithaca. The dance company began in 1958 and has performed in 48 states, 71 countries, and six continents.
The head physical therapist at Ailey is a colleague of Quarrier’s and contacted Quarrier to let him know that the troupe would be visiting Ithaca. Quarrier said he and three students worked with the dancers to assess any injuries they might have and to help them prepare for their performance by giving massages and using soft tissue stretching techniques.
“It was exhilarating to work backstage with such talented dancers,” Quarrier said. “My students want to get involved with dancers upon graduation, so this gave them firsthand experience.”
Shaina Ung ’11, a clinical health studies major, said she has been dancing most of her life and had taken a couple master classes at Ailey before college.She worked with the troupe when they first visited three years ago and jumped at the chance to work with them again.
Ung said the theater gave them a small room, and they brought a cushioned table, a box of physical therapy equipment, and a list of dancers who required therapy. They were able to do some forms of intervention such as massage, stretching, connective tissue mobilization, and prevention education.
“The experience working on the dancers’ bodies and talking to the dancers about their injuries and lifestyle was incredible and enjoyable,” she said. “The most amazing part was working on the dancers and being able to see them perform beautifully, despite whatever bodily injuries they had.”