Arts & Theater

Dance medicine workshop at Davis conference engages younger crowds

Dr. Sonia Bell, right, teaches a dance medicine workshop with retired ballerina Isha Lloyd, 25, at the UC Davis Pre-health student conference on Sunday in Davis. Lloyd danced for seven years with the Sacramento Ballet company before retiring in March.
Dr. Sonia Bell, right, teaches a dance medicine workshop with retired ballerina Isha Lloyd, 25, at the UC Davis Pre-health student conference on Sunday in Davis. Lloyd danced for seven years with the Sacramento Ballet company before retiring in March.

A pair of pink satin pointe shoes floated from student to student, occasionally pausing to be stroked or turned over with a delicate curiosity. The shoes, used for a type of ballet performed on the tips of the toes, are often considered a symbol of grace and beauty. To the students at the Dance Medicine workshop Sunday, they were introduced as a source of stress and pain.

Dozens cycled in and out of a UC Davis classroom this weekend to hear the story of Isha Lloyd, a seven-year cast member of the Sacramento Ballet who was forced to leave the stage earlier this year because of a ganglion cyst in her right foot.

She assisted Dr. Sonia Bell, a seasoned dance physician now working with Avanti Sports Medicine and Fitness in San Francisco, in a presentation on the growing field of dance medicine.

Throughout the session the dancer stretched her slender limbs to unfathomable heights and angles as Bell described the many physical demands placed on a professional ballerina. From stress fractures to herniated discs, the dancer’s body is susceptible to a wide range of injuries related to hyperflexibility and repetitive use.

“Dance medicine is a subspecialty of sports medicine, but dance is even more special because the return to play is very different,” Bell said. “You’re not just running across the field – you’re working with the fine motor movements in your feet, and that’s all you’ve got. And if they’re not working right, you really can’t fake it. There’s no faking performance.”

Lloyd, who began dancing at age 3 and has scored major roles with the Sacramento company, said she had to look far and wide for a doctor who could understand her desire to return to the stage after her injury. Now retired, the 25-year-old works as an emergency medical technician and a Pilates instructor while continuing to help expand the field of dance medicine.

“It was a horrible phase for me,” she said of the weeks before and after her surgery. “It takes a different type of doctor to help us get back to our feet. I want to help those upcoming doctors. If they’ve got a passion for it and an understanding, it helps.”

Raising the next crop of physicians was the main focus at the 12th Annual UC Davis Pre-medical and Pre-health Professions National Conference held Saturday and Sunday for high school, college and post-graduate students interested in the medical field. The dance medicine workshop was a new addition this year, along with a horse care workshop and a functional ultrasound practice room.

The event is almost entirely organized by students from the UC Davis Pre-health Student Alliance, and has been held on the Davis campus for the past six years since being moved from American River College. The conference began as a resource for community college students, but now includes registrants from all of the UC schools and seven other campuses throughout the country, said Brittany Derieg, project manager of student affairs. This year’s attendance was estimated at 8,000 people.

The new emphasis on visual and interactive workshops, as opposed to sit-down lectures, is due to an increase in attendance from high school students, who represented about 19 percent of the crowd this year, Derieg said. That’s almost twice what it was two years ago, partly due to the outreach team’s visits to more than 40 high schools in the area.

The high school demographic is new and growing, she said, and formats have been tweaked to accommodate those who may not have a concrete idea of what their futures hold.

“They might like their science class, but they may have a limited idea of what they can do with that,” Derieg said. “We want to show them that if you have an interest in this academic area, but you also love music or art or dance, you can combine the two.”

Ashley Reiser, a junior at Oakmont High School in Roseville, was scribbling feverishly in a notepad during a pre-veterinary session featuring a Welsh thoroughbred named Casanova. The teen, who is already enrolled in a health-related college preparatory program through her school, said she is now considering becoming a veterinarian.

“I’m discovering how fast-paced your note-taking has to be to catch up to the conversations in a college classroom,” she said. “It’s very different. In high school, you can ask the teacher to slow down. It’s a good learning experience.”

Other programs directed at high school students included SAT workshops and admissions panels, as well as sessions for parents.

Komila Jalilova, a fourth-year pre-med student at UC Davis and one of the conference coordinators, said the student organizers worked hard this year to make sure there was something for everyone. She said the event has become very popular on campus, especially for freshmen who have not yet chosen majors.

“When you come to Davis as a pre-med, you don’t know how grueling the courses can be, and a lot of students get caught off guard,” she said. “These kids are getting a head start.”

Call The Bee’s Sammy Caiola, (916) 321-1636.