Ballet AZ Blog

A dancer’s body is their instrument. Day in and day out they rehearse for hours, pushing their bodies to the extreme so that when they step onto the stage, their movements are as seamless and graceful as possible. Over time however all of this hard work and dedication will take a toll on their bodies, this is when injuries can and will occur…step in Itamar Stern.

Stern is a physical therapist at Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy here in the Valley. With over 25 years of experience, he is not your typical PT and that is because he also specializes in dance injuries. Stern did some work with Ballet Arizona in the late 90’s but it wasn’t until about 7 years ago, when company dancer Natalia Magnicaballi tore her ACL that he really began working with the company. We sat down with Stern to talk about the importance of physical therapy and how it relates to ballet dancers.

Q: What drew you to work with dancers?

A: Their bio-mechanics are so intriguing because of their hyper-mobility and being very flexible. Overall it’s just an extremely under-served population when it comes to sports medicine and I want to help them to become athletic artists.

Itamar Stern in a strengthening class for Ballet Arizona's company and studio company men.
Itamar Stern in a strengthening class for Ballet Arizona’s company and studio company men.

Q: Why is physical therapy so important for dancers?

A: First, their work requirements are so different compared to any other sport and that is mostly because of their hyper-mobility and flexibility. What is most common is that dancers will wait a long time to say anything about something hurting or an ache because they don’t want to miss anything or be out. The problem with that is they wait until it’s too late and then we have to work on healing and getting back into shape. My goal is to work with them on prevention. That means doing assessments to find areas of potential injury and working on them.

Q: What do those preventive measures look like?

A: Strengthening classes are really important. For awhile the men were getting a lot of injuries from lifting the women, so I had to work with a lot of them on how to build up that strength. But its making sure they are strong enough to do their work in a way that doesn’t comprise their bodies.

Q: Any advice for aspiring dancers?

A: Dancers need to be in tune with their bodies. That means maintaining strengthening techniques, focusing on their nutrition and keeping good sleep habits.


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