Ballet News

Archive of: December, 2009

Chiropractor Sets it Straight for Ballet Idaho Dancers

There are ballet dancers and there are doctors, but there are very few doctors who have danced with the New York City Ballet. Afshin Mofid is one of them. Mofid, the only chiropractor in the Northwest with a professional dance background, runs Mofid Clinic of Chiropractic of Boise, the official chiropractic clinic of Ballet Idaho. Dr. Mofid also teaches the company dancers from time to time. Drawing from his chiropractic training and storied ballet career, Dr. Mofid developed a wellness and injury prevention program for Ballet Idaho that’s based on the clinical knowledge of a doctor and a dancers’ understanding of the specific strains ballet puts on the body. “The dancers have never been to a doctor who could teach a ballet class,” Dr. Mofid says. “I can look at them as a dancer, but at the same time, I’m looking at the quality of their movement, imbalances and muscle proportions as a doctor.” Born in Iran to a family of artists, poets and writers, Dr. Mofid started his ballet training at the age of 9. His star rose quickly; by 16, he had moved to New York City to finish high school and practice in open ballet classes. A year later, he was dancing with the New York City Ballet’s School of American Ballet founded by George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein. Dr. Mofid was soon chosen personally by Balanchine to join the company, where he was part of the last generation of dancers to work with the legendary ballet pioneer and Jerome Robbins. From 1980 to 1986, Dr. Mofid danced leads in several productions, including La Valse, Nutcracker and Afternoon of a Faun, earning extensive critical acclaim from The New York Times and others. Newsweek magazine once declared him one of the “upcoming stars” of ballet. After retiring from ballet, Dr. Mofid lived briefly on a dude ranch in Montana, taught ballet at the University of Idaho, explored the outdoors in Sun Valley, worked as a waiter in Los Angeles, taught ballet at UC Irvine and enrolled in college. This twisting and turning path ultimately led to chiropractic, which was a natural transition from ballet for Dr. Mofid. For professionals and amateurs alike, dancing takes a rigorous toll on the body, and recurring knee and back pain had led to interruptions in Dr. Mofid’s rehearsal and performance schedule. It wasn’t until he visited a chiropractor that he found relief. Chiropractic is a health care discipline that emphasizes the inherent recuperative power of the body to heal itself without the use of drugs or surgery. The practice of chiropractic focuses on the relationship between body structure (primarily the spine) and function (the nervous system). The malfunction of the nervous system can lead to serious health issues, and chiropractic techniques concentrate on this area of the body to preserve and restore overall health. The wellness program Dr. Mofid developed for Ballet Idaho uses a specific set of exercises designed to identify weaknesses in the dancers’ structure, align their bodies, optimize muscle reaction and identify technical flaws that could lead to injures. Dr. Mofid met individually with each dancer to assess their technique, body proportions and strength, and then developed the program based on the data he collected and his dual understanding of the body as a dancer and chiropractor. “The dancers know that I know exactly what they’re going through, what they’re talking about,” Dr. Mofid says. “That’s a huge plus with any patient.” The exercises are task-specific in nature, as dancers’ bodies are not designed for endurance training such as long-distance running. “Dancers are like boxers — it’s more of a sprint than a marathon,” Dr. Mofid says. “They don’t have to sustain the movements. If we can make sure their bodies are aligned and functioning ideally, they can perform to the best of their abilities. Even if they’re not in pain, a misalignment of the spine can cause a delay in muscle reaction and affect their performance.” Dr. Mofid’s program has paid huge dividends for Ballet Idaho, insuring career longevity for the dancers and saving the company money. For his own practice, working with the dancers has helped refine Dr. Mofid’s skills and allowed him to better care for his patients. “The most obvious result is, if someone is starting to get injured, we get to it immediately,” he says. “These dancers, a lot of them are just starting their careers. If we can prevent these injuries, it will help them enjoy a long and healthy career.” Mofid Clinic of Chiropractic is located at 880 N. Curtis Road in Boise, across from Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center. For more information, call 208.323.1810 or email mofidclinic@yahoo.com.

Bus call for the tour to Billings

Bus call for the tour to Billings, Montana, was for 6:30 a. m. for a 7 a. m. departure. I unlocked the Annex building as the trickle of cold, sleepy dancers began. Someone decided to start a pot of coffee for the road. The dancers huddled in the office reminded me of hovering over a campfire for warmth. Michael experimented in ways to provide hot turkey and stuffing during the bus ride. James came on the bus with his camping backpack and survival gear. It was only a five day roundtrip, and with the supplies and experience gathered on the bus, I felt confident we were prepared to survive not only the weekend, but even an accident stranding us in the mountains along the way. Some dancers slept on the bus; others read or played cards. Preparation for a tour usually entails packing and sleep. Rest and nutrition are important for dancers, and more so when traveling. The conversations and laughter echoing around the bus were just one demonstration of the camaraderie felt among the dancers. In many ways, we are a family. The scenery en route to Billings was incredible. I’m a southern girl, raised in the bayou, so snowy, forested mountains are still awe inspiring for me. I think the winter wonderland scenery helped keep everyone in the holiday spirit, even without our families. Dancers become accustomed to traveling, whether touring with a company or searching for a job, and on this trip, the serene beauty of nature helped keep our spirits balanced. The hotel graciously had a late Thanksgiving meal ready for us Thursday evening after we arrived. The plates were loaded with food, which is always a happy sight to hungry, travel weary dancers. We all grew up with different family traditions and expectations for the feast, and sharing this meal together brought a sharing of stories about home for the holidays. The stuffing and pie weren’t bad either! Our first interaction with the young dancers in Billings was a walk through rehearsal at the local YWCA, where some of the young dancers take classes. The dance students were well rehearsed, but some seemed a little timid around the professionals. Friday evening was a technical and dress rehearsal with the orchestra. For most of the company, the Alberta Bair Theater was a new venue. A large stress of tour lies primarily in the unknown of a different theater and orchestra. In this instance, however, the Morrison and Special Events Center stages are still relatively new to most of the company. I haven’t really had a ‘home’ theater in years, though some are more familiar that others. There was an added stress in this tour in that our technical and dress rehearsals in Billings were our first for this year’s production. When the snow fell on stage during the snow scene, it was our first experience dancing in the flurries, or blizzard depending on where we were on the stage. I ended the scene under one of the larger ‘snow falls’ and am still finding flakes in my dance bag. It is a pleasure and a treat to share our company and our dancing with others. I enjoy the excitement of touring, occasionally, but also appreciate that Ballet Idaho is a resident company to Boise, and not always on the move. I am now accustomed to living away from my parents and brothers, but not to leaving my husband behind. The entire Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain region is new to me, and I hope to see more, just not away from my new home in Boise for too long. I wanted to thank our Board of Directors for helping to provide Thanksgiving dinner, and of course to the Billings Symphony Orchestra and Chorale for inviting Ballet Idaho. I must also thank Betty Loos and Jana Stockton from the School of Classical Ballet in Billings for rehearsing and providing such wonderful children for our production of The Nutcracker. Ballet gives us an opportunity to share our gifts and our souls with otherwise complete strangers in the audience, and sometimes on stage. One of the joys of The Nutcracker is that after a performance, no matter where, our fellow dancers and stage hands are no longer strangers. -Sarah Ellis, Ballet Idaho Company Dancer

The Nutracker children shine!

What an amazing Nutcracker year this has been! Alex Ossadnik and I started on September 12 in Las Vegas, teaching the children's parts to an entirely new group of kids. The Nevada Ballet Theatre will dance our production right after we finish in Boise. Then we went on to Billings, Montana, where we taught a completely different group of kids their parts in Nutcracker. They will be dancing with our company over the Thanksgiving weekend in Billings. Finally, we taught our own kids here in the Treasure Valley their Nutcracker parts. It was a huge difference from last year, when the production was brand new. Lots of our children were returning to Nutcracker, some even in their old parts. But it's nice to see kids dance a mouse one year, then a party child the next, then perhaps the Garland Dance. Watching their progress as they grow into ever-more difficult parts is one of the greatest rewards a teacher can have --- and our students from Ballet Idaho Academy are shining this year! One of the most gratifying things is to see Brenna Houk and Cristina Zimmerman, who will both be dancing Clara this year. They are wonderful students, serious, concentrated, passionate about their work and committed to improvement on every level. They have grown in our school over the years and, hopefully, will continue their remarkable stories. Sebastian Houk, Brenna's brother, is making his debut this year as Fritz. He is a terrific kid, a joy for the teachers and an inspiration to any young man who might think about dancing. Sebastian brings every ounce of his talent, work-ethic and good attitude to his studies. Nutcracker has always been, and should always be, about the children. We are proud of all the hard-working and dedicated student dancers who join us each year in making this Holiday event so memorable. Learning and performing a part in the Nutcracker, like studying dancing at Ballet Idaho Academy, provides a foundation for skills needed in life --- cooperation, dedication, hard work, meeting challenges and gaining confidence. I'd like to thank all the parents who have shown such positive goals for their children and with whom we will share the joy and pride of our upcoming performances of Nutcracker. [flickr-gallery mode="photoset" photoset="72157622796526929"]
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