Cleveland Ballet's unprecedented partnership with healthcare professionals is the barre for dancers

Dancers from the Cleveland Ballet Company rehearse
Dancers from the Cleveland Ballet Company rehearse
Posted at 7:45 AM, Feb 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-06 17:54:29-05

CLEVELAND — Science and the arts don’t usually go hand in hand, but in Cleveland, the two have merged together. University Hospitals and the Cleveland Ballet have formed a partnership, just like University Hospitals has with the Browns and the Cleveland Monsters.

The Cleveland Ballet is the only dance company in the country that is fully backed by healthcare professionals at this level.

Lauren Stenroos has been with the company for five years.

“Ballet is very strenuous on the body. Our jobs, as dancers, is to appear effortless on stage,” she said.

Anna Cerveny, a senior physical therapist with University Hospitals treats the dancers once a week. She emphasized that while it may look easy, the dancers within the ballet are pushing their bodies to the extreme.

“A dancer has to extend their leg all the way up to their ears, that’s the very limitation of their hip. They have to be on point which is the very limitations of their ankle,” said Cerveny. “As dancers, they’re expected to be performing at the end ranges of their motion at all times.”

It’s about creating a fantasy on stage, but behind the curtains, the reality of a dancer’s job isn’t so glamorous. It’s plagued with injuries.

Marla Minadeo is just 17 years old, and the youngest professional dancer in the ballet, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t had her fair share of injuries.

“I’ve sprained both of my ankles several times. I’ve dislocated both of my knees several times. It’s been a lot,” she said.

Dancers from the Cleveland Ballet Company rehearse
Dancers from the Cleveland Ballet Company rehearse.

Gladisa Guadalupe is the co-founder and artistic director of Cleveland Ballet. She said dancers’ careers, are often cut short.

“Dancers do not have long careers because of injuries or lack of understanding of our bodies,” said Guadalupe.

Stenroos is only 32 years old, but she is one of the oldest in the ballet.

“Honestly, I’m very fortunate. I have had a few minor injuries,” she said. “My ankle gets jammed a lot.”

While Minadeo and Stenroos are at different points in their career, they have the same goal: extending it.

“I’m trying to prevent injuries, right now, so I can last another 15 years,” said Minadeo.

Preventing injuries is the goal for Cerveny and the other medical professionals.

“They come in with the minor aches and pains in hopes we are preventing major injuries,” said Cerveny.

Cerveny and the others are on hand when the dancers need them and watching them dance when they don’t.

“How is their pelvis shifting? How is their back moving? Is their foot collapsing in as they’re plieing? Is their weight over as they jump onto one foot?” she said.

They’re finding points of weaknesses before they turn into problems. Stenroos learned things about her body that she didn’t know before.

“My foot, the bones would just be jammed together because, functionally, my hip was weak,” she said.

Cerveny said she’s working to turn the culture of dance around.

“There was kind of a stigma, not wanting to talk about injuries or hiding the injuries,” she said.

Guadalupe said this partnership has made her dancers stronger.

“The science gives us more elements to teach. We push more in the studio, instead of two pirouettes, let’s do five,” she said. “ Now, we want dancers to last to 40, 45, 50, why not? Athletes can do it because they’re given the tools.”

The Cleveland Ballet is currently in its fifth year, but they have dancers from all over the world.