September 14, Berlin. The atmosphere is tense. You can almost physically feel the pressure on your very own shoulders, although it only weighs on a small group of people: The Red Bull Dance Your Style contestants. This is how HE4DS’ Chau felt when Sophie and him attended this years’ German qualifier to take care of the dancers of the night.
Red Bull Dance Your Style is in many aspects different from most other dance events that the HE4DS team gets to attend, Sophie explains. The battle system gets along without any judges, because it’s the crowd who judges the dancers. They decide who will advance and who won’t. The DJ only plays commercial and popular music from any genre. It’s a strange situation for these dancers, as they are used to get down at a completely different kind of party. “It’s all about entertainment”, says Sophie. “Technique matters, but more important is who sweeps the audience off their feet!”.
“Just” Dance physical therapists?
To Sophie, the whole event was a huge success, but in a different way than one would expect. Successfully bringing dancers back to their feet is one thing. Changing the way people SEE physical therapy is another:
“Yalda [one of the event’s organizers] stepped in front of the dancers and told them: This is the HE4DS Team. They are your physical therapists for tonight. The word spread immediately. Everyone wanted to see us, even if it was just briefly.”, explaines Sophie.
“Simply KNOWING we were there provided everyone with so much more confidence and a strong feeling of security. Sure, we physically treated dancers in the traditional way, but the mental support we provided was extremely helpful to everyone, too.”
Chau experienced the night in a quite similar way. “Many dancers were talking to us before the event started. There was an immense performance pressure, I could tell. This was one of the first events after the long, covid-related pause and many dancers had fears and doubts if they were still fit enough to deliver. This becomes an even bigger thing when you are explicitly invited to said battle – the expectations are incredibly high!”
Finding the right words is an essential skill for physical therapists, Chau states. “You create a safe space for dancers. Mental health is as much our task as physical health! “
“Mental stress and physical stress always come in hand in hand.” Sophie adds. “Feeling stressed out tenses up your muscles, making you more prone to injuries and limits your movement range. Soothing your mind automatically soothes your body. It’s all connected!”
The clocks’ ticking: Decisions that change EVERYTHING
Finally, the first battle of the night went down. Chau tops this as his personal highlight of the event: “I remember a glitter jacket. One of the dancers blew confetti. The crowd went completely crazy, and the atmosphere went through the ceiling. You could immediately tell the ice was broken. Everyone was back at their game! It was such a dope kickoff!”
Sophie’s personal highlight took place a little later during the competition:
“It was during the quarter final. One of the dancers got hurt. The schedule was incredibly tight, and they’ve had super short breaks between rounds. We only had 10 minutes. TEN short minutes to check him, treat him and decide if he can go on and what exactly he can do and can’t do. That’s an incredibly tough decision. Imagine: These dancers have trained extremely hard and very long, just to be on that HUGE stage. One thing can have far-reaching consequences on your career. You tell him he can’t go on – he might miss the chance to represent himself. You tell him he can go on – he hurts himself more and that may cost him his career too. “
To Sophie, this moment was what clearly showed her how important it is to provide medical support at high-performance dance events.
“I felt all of this at once: The thrill, the empathy I have for other dancers and the fear to make a wrong decision. Responsibility to make the right one. As a physical therapist, I’m determined to do my best, to use the skills I have acquired throughout the years and to do what I love: Help dancers dance!”
Learn more in part 2: What were the injuries of the pro-dancers & What’s the (rather surprising!) #1 cause to most dancer injuries!