Happy Sunday to everyone!
As mentioned in Movement Wednesday’s post, Applying Strength, today’s post will be a Q & A session with Physical Therapist, and Pilates certified, Jill Vonderhaar Nader. Jill has over 14 years of experience working with dancers, broadway dancers, symphony players, vocalists, as well as a number of athletes, including Cincinnati Reds and Bengal players. Jill is the founder and owner of PrehAB Pilates and Physical Therapy. I hope you all enjoy and learn from this session as much as I have.
dancehealthier: How is working with a dancer different than working with a non-dancer? – This may have to do with your approach, your exercises, your focus?
Jill Vonderhaar Nader: Working with dancers is very different in the fact that dancer’s bodies are considered hyper-mobile. This might be their genetic nature, which is what drew them to dance from the beginning, or they might have been able to develop excessive flexibility over time. So, when you are evaluating a dancer’s injury, it is very important to keep that in mind. You have to allow them to maintain that excess flexibility they need for dance but at the same time, help them create the necessary STABILITY to allow an injury to heal and prevent further injury in the future.
I have heard many dancers complain that they saw a rehab professional who could not understand how dancers could get injured because they were so flexible! The reason many dance injuries occur is exactly due to the fact that they have so much flexibility that their joints become too mobile and go past a normal range for that specific joint, which can lead to joint damage or soft tissue trauma.
Other injuries just occur with the physical nature of the job and can just happen on accident, but regardless it is still important to have someone who is familiar or will at least understand the delicate balance you must create when developing a rehab program for a dancer.
dancehealthier: Jill, I was so inspired by your manual therapy work and how invested your internal focus had to become while working with your clients? Could you explain this work and how your investment is key to helping others?
Jill Vonderhaar Nader: Just as a dancer has to develop an intricate sense of movement and “feeling” for movement, I have had to develop an intricate feel for joint motion and soft tissue mobility using my hands. My hands can tell me everything I need to know about an injury as well as really watching a dancer’s movement. Watching someone move will show you where they might be breaking down their body and then I follow that up with hands on work to test their motion and actually feel where they have restrictions that are causing them to move improperly. I have spent many years and a lot of money taking courses, learning from others in my field to keep expanding my knowledge on this. Seeing dancers get better and actually understand how they can retrain their bodies for optimal movement is my motivation to keep learning! It is truly a passion of mine so it is easy to stay focused and keep wanting to improve.
dancehealthier: Your exceptional at cueing exercises for your Pilate training? How important do you think this is for succession in your clients performance?
Jill Vonderhaar Nader: I think this is very important, because once someone leaves my clinic, they can still “hear” that cueing as they practice and visualize how the body moves. With cueing the movement makes sense to them, which helps to ingrain that proper movement into their muscle memory. Many people joke that they can hear my voice in their head when they are recreating the exercises on their own – that means I have been successful in my treatment! The more senses you integrate to your body, the better outcome you will have in getting the proper movement. The mind body connection is very strong and very effective.
dancehealthier: If there is one piece of advice you have for a dancer, what would it be?
Jill Vonderhaar Nader: Always be an active part in your injury prevention and rehab programs. Work closely with some one who respects you as a dancer and understands your needs. Find someone in your area who can work with you on developing an injury prevention program and help you figure out where your body might be susceptible to injury. Stay in shape outside of dance – Pilates, Gyrotonics, some forms of yoga (if it is designed for dancers), cardiovascular exercise, regular pre-dance warm ups, etc. If you do get injured, stay an active part of the process and really understand your injury and what is involved in getting it better.
dancehealthier: What has been your most pivotal/climatic time in your career? How does that time motivate you today?
Jill Vonderhaar Nader: The time I transitioned into learning Pilates really changed everything about my career and my life personally. It expanded the results I got with my patients so much and also taught me so much about my own body and how things are connected. By learning this connection with my own body and how it moves, I was able to translate that to my patients and got incredible healing results. It has been the best thing I have ever done for both personal and career satisfaction.