Home Business Insights & Advice How The Royal Ballet School supports student with its healthy dancer programme

How The Royal Ballet School supports student with its healthy dancer programme

by Sarah Dunsby
11th Sep 23 11:31 am

It takes ballet dancers years of training and dedication to hone their craft and perfect their performance skills. As a result, a career as a professional ballet dancer can come with considerable physical and psychological demands.

As one of the world’s foremost centres of classical ballet training excellence, The Royal Ballet School in London thoroughly prepares its students for careers in dance. The School produces healthy, resilient young dancers and invests in its students’ long-term health through the Healthy Dancer Programme.

The future of classical ballet healthcare

Students of The Royal Ballet School undertake extensive physical training alongside their academic studies. These young artistic athletes work hard to develop their natural talent for classical ballet and other dance styles, such as character and contemporary.

The Healthy Dancer Programme underpins all training students experience at the School. The goal of this programme is to strengthen the whole dancer, encompassing their physical, mental, and emotional health. This holistic approach to healthcare helps students realise their full artistic potential and prepares them for successful careers in classical ballet.

A dedicated team of 20 healthcare professionals manages the programme, supporting and educating students from the age of 11. This team includes:

  • Physiotherapists.
  • Rehabilitation ballet instructors.
  • Strength and conditioning coaches.
  • Sports physicians.
  • Pilates instructors.
  • Performance nutritionists.
  • Medical practitioners.
  • A clinical psychologist, who is also the School’s mental health and safeguarding lead.
  • Counsellors, who look after students’ psychological well-being and support their training with a focus on performance psychology.

The healthcare team works closely with the School’s academic, artistic, and pastoral staff to create the highest-quality care for every student. The innovative healthcare programme is pioneering in its use of a holistic approach to training dancers.

Leveraging science and data for personalised healthcare

The Healthy Dancer Programme teaches students to understand their bodies and minds, empowering dancers to play a leading role in their well-being.

As such, The Royal Ballet School has developed a wellness app for students to record and monitor their daily health. Students can input data on factors like hydration, training load, quality of sleep, and anxiety levels. This data feeds into a database, called Smartabase, that builds a unique profile for every student.

Students also undergo screening exercises each term, and this information contributes to each young dancer’s Smartabase profile. In addition, the health screening allows the healthcare team to create custom conditioning programmes to support each student in their training.

The healthcare teams at The Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet also track data through Smartabase. This means the three organisations can collaborate and share research. The collective Smartabase data creates a body of research that informs the School’s artistic programme and provides insights for the wider dance community.

On top of this, the School works with leading sports science institutions at Queen Mary University of London and St Mary’s University, Twickenham.

The Royal Ballet School hopes this cutting-edge research will illuminate the unique healthcare challenges dancers face and allow the School to offer its students the best possible support.

Meeting the growing demands of a classical ballet career

Leticia Dias, an artist at The Royal Ballet and a former Royal Ballet School student, says psychological support is one of the most important aspects of healthcare for ballet dancers. “It’s nice to know that someone is there if you want to speak to them.”

Matthew Ball is another former Royal Ballet School student who is now a principal dancer at The Royal Ballet. He explains that it’s always “quite a shock to the system” for a dancer to experience an injury. Psychological support is as important as physical rehabilitation when injuries occur.

Ball adds that, while it’s important to preserve ballet’s rich tradition and culture, the demands of the discipline are always evolving. The Healthy Dancer Programme puts these changing requirements at the heart of its work.

“Some people have been trained in a certain way, so they’re not used to seeing dancers work in a parallel position or train with weights,” Ball says. “But that’s necessary for what we’re putting our bodies through.”

Pushing the boundaries of healthcare for the next generation

The Royal Ballet School hopes that the Healthy Dancer Programme will ultimately influence and advance the training of young dancers all over the world.

Kevin O’Hare, the director of The Royal Ballet, has expressed his delight at what the Healthy Dancer Programme means for graduates of the School who might join the dance company.

O’Haire explained that these “wonderfully informed dancers” can expect “a really strong career because they know from the beginning what it takes to be a professional dancer.”

He added: “That informed knowledge is what will keep their career going for many years to come.”

About The Royal Ballet School

For almost 100 years, The Royal Ballet School has nurtured, educated, and trained exceptional young dancers for careers with leading dance companies like The Royal Ballet. Some of the School’s most famous alumni include Margot Fonteyn, Kenneth MacMillan, Darcey Bussell, and Matthew Ball.

The School’s admissions process evaluates only a dancer’s talent and potential in classical ballet. Currently, an average of 88% of students receive financial support to attend the School.

Full-time training with the School can last up to eight years and comprises four programmes:

  • Foundation Programme (White Lodge), for students aged 11-14. This is the first stage of a student’s training journey.
  • Development Programme (White Lodge), for students aged 14-16. This builds on the classical ballet training from the Foundation Programme.
  • Vocational Programme (Upper School), for students aged 16-18. Students with the potential to progress to a career in classical ballet at the highest level pursue this programme.
  • Pre-Professional Programme (Upper School), for students aged 18-19. This final year of training focuses on professional repertoire and preparing for entry into professional careers. The Pre-Professional Programme includes work experience opportunities with The Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet.

The School gives students extensive training in classical ballet (plus various other dance styles) and academic studies that span a broad curriculum. A comprehensive healthcare programme and robust pastoral support ensure young dancers are healthy and happy.

Learn more about full-time training at The Royal Ballet School.

Leave a Comment


Sign up to our daily news alerts

[ms-form id=1]