By Michele Johnson
Do you think dancers are recognized as athletes? Do you think they are paid fairly and receive the medical treatment and health education they need? And that professional dance is as popular as professional basketball or baseball? If you answered no to any of those questions than you understand some of the struggles that many dancers face.
Meet Dr. Selina Shah, professional dancer and physician in dance and sports medicine. Dr. Shah is the official physician for Diablo Ballet, among other dance companies and schools and is the Medical Director of Dance Medicine for the Center for Sports Medicine, seeing patients in San Francisco and in the East Bay. She has combined her passion for medicine with her personal experience as a professional dancer to bring together comprehensive programs that are changing the face of dance medicine. When talking about professional dancers, Dr. Shah states, “Some of them put their bodies through more than basketball players and get paid a fraction of what they do.”
Her father, who is a surgeon, inspired her love for medicine. She has been dancing professionally for the last 20 years in ballet, pointe, modern, jazz and Bollywood. When talking about her professional dance career she says, “I danced all the way through medical school, residency and fellowship.” Because of her personal experience with dance, she understands the demands it puts on a dancer’s body.
She treats injuries and provides health and nutrition education to keep athletes going strong. Dr. Shah performs screenings for dancers to pinpoint weaknesses in the body for them to focus on. Many parents seek her medical advice for their young daughters wanting to start pointe work. With her expertise, she can determine if a young ballerina is strong enough and has the technique required for the demands of wearing toe shoes. Dr. Shah explains, “It’s not about age; it’s about having the right skills – the complete toolset.”
She has written several articles for dance medicine, including free downloadable educational resources for dancers. Check out this article she wrote on Vitamin D deficiency that is a common cause for exhaustion.
Dr. Shah is on the board of the IADMS, International Association for Dance Medicine and Science. The organization is a collaboration of professionals from the dance and scientific worlds. It can be summed up in its’ mission statement: “IADMS enhances the health, well-being, training, and performance of dancers by cultivating educational, medical, and scientific excellence.”
Dr. Selina Shah is someone to follow in the medical industry. Her achievements are numerous: from sports medicine, traveling to help Olympians, to speaking at conferences – she is making strides to help out dancers of all ages and skill levels. Diablo Ballet is certainly grateful to her for keeping our dancers dancing!
Michele Johnson is Advertising Production and Prepress at Diablo Magazine and Diablo Custom Publishing. She is also a fabulous volunteer at Diablo Ballet.