Coronavirus update: Scottish Ballet is prioritising the health and wellbeing of the company at this challenging time for all of us. Please click here for the latest update on performances and other activities.

Interview with Martin Lanfear, Head of Performance Medicine

As Scottish Ballet's Head of PMed, Martin ensures our dancers stay at peak mental and physical condition, ready to tackle any challenge thrown at them. We caught up with Martin to find out how he is adapting his department to overcome some of the challenges brought on by coronavirus.

What are your top priorities for the dancers while they’re on furlough?

My priority during this period is the wellbeing of the dancers. Of course, this means ensuring that they are physically as fit as they can be within the boundaries of the lock down, but equally (if not more) important is their psychological and emotional wellbeing. This is a trying time for us all, so it's vital that I'm constantly checking in with the group and making sure that they are aware of the support we have in place for them.

What’s changed in your day-to-day management of the health and wellbeing of the dancers?

Much like the rest of my profession I have shifted to a telehealth model of care. We utilise various platforms of video calls to continue rehabilitating our injured members of the group, it's not the same as working together in our gym but it’s still effective. We're having to think outside the box a little with regular household items morphing into rehab aids, for example kitchen counters acting as barres and tinned soup or bags of rice as weights! These don’t compare with the real thing, so it’s important we provide the dancers with proper equipment.

What are some of the new processes or services you’ve put in place to help support the dancers through the lockdown period?

The Artistic and Performance Medicine Teams collaborated to reach out to our dancers daily through our Keeping in Touch programme. These calls ensured our dancers felt informed and involved with any company-wide changes. It also allows us to flag any individual issues, such as new muscular skeletal issues from the change of pace of working, and mental health issues.

The PMed Team at Scottish Ballet is made up of physiotherapists, doctors, strength & conditioning coaches, dieticians, and psychologists, all of whom are available to the dancers for support. This support just happens to be via telehealth at the moment rather than through the usual in-person consultations. We have also been using this time to deliver high quality online education sessions on various medical and health topics related to dance and performance, such as talks on stretching, pharmacology and imaging.

In terms of day-to-day offerings, our Artistic Team streams a live ballet class for our dancers each day and we have an up-to-date catalogue of digital yoga and strength & conditioning sessions that our dancers can engage with at home. The Technical Team have cut and delivered 2sq.meter vinyl dance flooring and some equipment from our gym to each dancer’s doorstep. The flooring is actually the same piece of vinyl that travelled with the company to Korea and the Highlands & Islands in 2018. At present, our dancers are improvising with kitchen counter tops for barres, but through the Back to Barre Appeal, we’re hoping to raise funds to provide portable barres and other fitness equipment for each dancer.

Your role is usually hands-on, with frequent face to face contact with the dancers. How are you keeping track of their wellbeing at the moment?

In normal times I rely on having frequent, informal conversations with the dancers throughout the working week to keep tabs on their wellbeing. At the moment I’m having to rely on the relationships I’ve built with them over the years so that they reach out to us if they need support. Our dancers can use our app to report new issues and we are also monitoring their wellness (e.g. mood, stress, fatigue, soreness, sleep) for any changes. So far so good.

What advice would you give to anyone out there doing their best to stay fit and well during lockdown?

I think it is important to acknowledge that training and exercise is going to look and feel different during the lockdown, so we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves if we aren’t able to train the way we’d like to. Regular exercise obviously is great for us physically but it also has significant psychological benefits, which is something we shouldn’t overlook during these often challenging times.


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