Designed to educate and motivate, Spear’s #LetsKeepMoving Blog is our official stream of fitness tips, exercise advice, and healthy lifestyle inspiration. Our articles and features are written and produced in direct partnership with our physical and occupational therapists! Disclaimer
The lights of Times Square are no longer dimmed— Broadway is back! After a year-and-a-half long shutdown that saw the closing of New York City’s famed Theatre District, the Spear team celebrated the return of Broadway, arts, and culture to the city, serendipitously coinciding with the grand opening launch of our Times Square – Center for Performing Arts clinic, with a grand night of emotional stories, celebratory hugs, epic performances, exciting productions, and of course, much love.
Situated right in the heart of Broadway, our Times Square clinic was born from a desire to provide a special space specifically for dancers and performers, an innovative idea brought forth by the location’s Clinical Director, Ninia Agustin, PT, DPT, during her very beginnings at Spear.
Growing up performing and competing as a dancer, Ninia has held a long-time love for the art of movement, evolving into a passion for helping performing artists rehabilitate and treat their bodies. Ninia was clear on her vision: bridging the world of dance with the science of physical therapy, her two passions, to create a space that catered to the physical needs of performers. Today, that dream is alive and well.
Spear’s Times Square clinic is a location created with the performer in mind. Our clinic works hand-in-hand with other like-minded organizations such as Mt. Sinai’s Samuel J. Friedman Health Center, a medical care provider that is focused on the particular healthcare needs of the entertainment and performing arts community, and The Actors Fund, a national human services organization created to meet the needs of our entertainment community. Together, we’ve formed an amazing support group for artists.
When the pandemic closed the city, Broadway, and our Times Square clinic down in March of 2020, just weeks after our opening, it was an unexpected and difficult time for everyone. This clinic was thoughtfully planned to serve as the premier location for performing artists and creatives to receive the therapy treatment they need. The vision suddenly seemed shaky, and the team struggled to find their footing.
Last month, with Broadway re-opening, we were given an opportunity to celebrate our team and their dedication to the artists who were finally getting back on stage. To commemorate such a momentous return, we created a truly magical night to honor the return of the culture, love, excitement, and emotion that art awakens for us all. We gathered together to celebrate in style with live performances, most notably from Scott Sussman, Spear patient, former Broadway actor, and Speech-Language Pathologist specializing in Singing Voice Rehabilitation. He wowed us by performing “Something’s Coming” from West Side Story and “Help is On the Way” by David Friedman, a beautiful track about maintaining faith through hard times, much like what we experienced right here in the city.
The return of Broadway marks a massive win for the performing arts community as a whole.
Over the last few weeks, our incredible Spear team members, with the addition of some special guests, joined together in creating our mini-documentary above. Serving much emotion and heart, it is our love letter to the city, an homage to the arts, culture, and performing arts of the city we adore so much.
The evening was a celebration, as well as a moment to reflect on the journey we’ve walked together. CEO and Co-founder Dan Rootenberg shared his deep appreciation for the dedication the team has. “Everybody is passionate about the arts, and that’s what it’s about,” Dan shared. “If you love what you’re doing and are passionate about what you’re doing, you know it’s sure to work.”
Ninia also acknowledged the trials, tribulations, and triumphs the team faced together. Thanking her teammates by name, she graciously recognized the efforts of every single Spear member, from the Front Desk Care Coordinators to the Therapy Technicians and Physical Therapists, for turning a vision into reality. “Five years ago, I said I wanted to build a niche practice working with dancers,” Ninia shared. “This is my background, this is my passion, and I would love to do it—and here we are.” Today, the clinic sees all kinds of performers, from Broadway actors, to dancers, to musicians. The Times Square team, who are all performers, artists, musicians, and dancers themselves, are a group of truly passionate members dedicated to what they do. The closeness to the craft really allows them to connect more with our performing patients, creating a truly special bond.
With large red scissors in hand, Ninia stood with the rest of the team, standing tall in support, as they cut the ribbon to mark the “grand opening” of the clinic. The joy and elation in the room was electric. As Dan said: “the lights are back on Broadway, and it’s very special.” We cannot wait to continue living our vision, and keep New Yorkers moving.
Our awesome team of guiding physical therapists and volunteers are all smiles at our dance injury screening!
On March 23rd, SPEAR partnered with Columbia Dance Medicine to offer a free dance injury prevention screening for the NYC community. Our team of physical therapists, all of whom themselves dancers, pulled from a wide range of experiences with ballet, modern/Horton, musical theatre, salsa, and Irish step, to help participants evaluate their strength, flexibility, endurance, and balance. The team also recommended effective warm-up and conditioning practices, while interviewing dancers to better understand not only their individual habits, physicalities, and experiences, but also the unique demands of their styles and training regimens.
Ninia Agustin, PT, DPT and Clinical Director of our Plaza Hotel clinic
“Dancers are an extreme outside of the normal patient population,” says Plaza Hotel Clinical Director Ninia Augustin PT, DPT. Oftentimes they come in with entirely different needs and skill sets from the average patient, such as hypermobility and pointework. Their goals when pushing their bodies to new extremes, or their desires not to miss out on training opportunities, can often be unnecessarily pitted against their doctors’ and therapists’ interests in helping them take the time to recover from injuries. “Sometimes I’ll put my hat on, and I’ll say, as a dancer yes, as a PT maybe not, but maybe [we can] figure out a way to mesh the two worlds together; I think that’s what’s lacking in the healthcare industry.”
When beginning training at a very young age, dancers can also develop a higher pain tolerance and have trouble distinguishing typical soreness associated with strength building, from potentially concerning signs like sharp pains that could indicate something is wrong. “They’re so hyper-aware of every minutiae in their body, and they…don’t necessarily have the verbiage to explain how they’re feeling,”says Dr. Julia Iafrate of Columbia Sports Medicine. This can make it all the more difficult to address potential issues before they become major injuries requiring extensive rehabilitation, or to even know what questions are most useful to ask when going about training.
A common question in the ballet world that arose during the screening, for example, is the minimum age at which young dancers should begin dancing en pointe, requiring them to carry all their weight on the tips of their toes. But as Dr. Iafrate points out, the answer often depends on many factors, including arch strength and ankle stability, that are more difficult to assess and do not consistently correlate with age categories. And while for many years, most forms of dance have incorporated static stretching into students’ warm-ups to improve flexibility, it is now common knowledge among most PTs and sports medicine doctors that static stretching, if not preceded by proper warm-up, can actually lead to more injuries.
Our injury prevention screenings aim not only to help participants become more familiar with their own bodies, but to educate dancers, parents, and teachers. With the knowledge they acquire, they may better articulate and analyze their biomechanical inefficiencies, and thus make the most of their physical therapy sessions. SPEAR’s budding dance medicine team hopes to encourage dancers to invest in more long-term relationships with their physical therapists so that we can work together not just for recovery, but for improved prevention of major injuries as well.
Gwen Giffard, PT, DPT, leads a dancer through an airplane test
Upon reflecting on what she learned from the screening, SPEAR physical therapist Gwen Giffard laughed and remarked, “I learned it’s really hard to do an airplane test.” By the end of the screening, one thing that was very clear is the importance of finding opportunities to improve communication between dancers and PTs to improve dancers’ overall health and the longevity of their abilities to continue on with their passion.