Membership Partner

Emma Sulley

Dance Physiotherapy and Dance Pilates Services

As an Ausdance WA Member, you have access to between 10% to 30% off dance physio and dance Pilates services with Emma Sulley at Body Logic Physiotherapy (BSc Physiotherapy, MClin Physiotherapy (Sports), MClin Physiotherapy (Manips), APAM) in Shenton Park. Ausdance WA recently sat down with Emma Sulley to learn about her practice and in particular her specialisation with dance.

To book in with Emma Sulley, please contact Body Logic Physiotherapy, mention you’re an Ausdance WA Member and we will verify your discount!

Describe a normal day for you as a Physiotherapist?

In private practice at Body Logic Physiotherapy and The Valley Physiotherapy dancers make up about half of my caseload – from young aspiring dancers training at secondary or tertiary level to adult professionals working independently or even dancers from local dance companies and adults dancing for fun and fitness. I help them through pain and injury, get them ready for pointe work and work with them and their teachers to improve technique and performance. A significant proportion of my dancers come to me for a second or third opinion, having seen may other health care practitioners for complex pain conditions without gain. I also run three pilates and conditioning for dance classes weekly, these might include activation, strength, flexibility and technique integration exercises which help to support a dancers training. The other half of my caseload is very varied, I treat yoga teachers and students, swimmers, kids with sports injuries and pain and people with persistent and complex pain problems. I run pilates small group classes daily. Some afternoons will finish with a few hours on-site at one of our theatres, working with performers from touring dance, theatre or musical theatre shows.

What an interesting and varied day you have as a Physiotherapist! How did you come to be a Performing Arts Specialised Physiotherapist?

I think my practice of performing arts physiotherapy happened quite organically, growing from my love of and the enjoyment I get from being surrounded by dance and the arts. Dance has always been a big part of my life – I’ve studied contemporary, classical, tap and jazz, and have always loved performing. When starting out working as a physiotherapist I treated a number of my friends who were studying contemporary dance at WAAPA and felt totally in my element. I then moved to London and had the opportunity to be the resident physiotherapist for the Hoxton Circus Space, working with BA students studying all circus disciplines. I also worked for many years for a West London physiotherapy and pilates practice with a high dance and performing artist clientele, run by ex-professional dancers – classical, contemporary and capoeira – who had all studied further in physiotherapy and/or pilates. While in London I met my now wife, a highly successful musician and actress who was recording a TV series. She came from a family of thespians – writers, musicians and theatre directors and I was involved in many of their productions as a physiotherapist and medical liaison. When moving back to Perth in 2012 there was a lack of dance physiotherapists and word of mouth spread around through the dance community and schools in Perth and then progressed nationally, being offered opportunities to work with many touring productions through Perth.

Why is it important for a dancer to seek specialised care?

A practitioner specialised in dance will have a thorough understanding of both the physical demands involved in the various dance disciplines as well as the demands of being in a company or dance performance. This will result in an enhanced quality of treatment, a quicker return to dance and an optimised recovery both in the short and long term. Treatment by a physiotherapist with dance specialist knowledge is likely to result in more highly targeted treatment resulting in less sessions and thus more cost-effective.

What benefit could physiotherapy have on a dancer?

There are many areas physiotherapy can help the dancer with:

  • Recovery from injury: both returning to dance in the short term but also addressing any longer term implications.
  • Improve you technique: for example increasing your functional turnout, improve the pointe in your feet, be able to jump higher and plie deeper.
  • Conditioning for dance – get stronger, more precise activation to feel your body working more efficiently, assist flexibility, plan training schedule.
  • Pre-pointe preparation – get ready to safely start pointe work.
  • Education about your body as your tool of expression

You have had such an interesting career working with Dance Companies and even at the London Olympic Games, what advice would you give any young budding physiotherapists out there?

Seek out your passion. Physiotherapy has such a vast scope, from the type of physiotherapy work to where you want to work in the world. The Australian Physiotherapy degree is very well regarded throughout the world so you’ll be a step ahead of the competition if you have a desire to travel. If you aspire to be working in the dance medicine arena start now: get in touch with your local dance school, take up continuing education opportunities in dance physiotherapy such as those run through the Australian Physiotherapy Association and The Australian Ballet as well as other movement conditioning practices that can inform your physiotherapy practice such as pilates and ask other dance physiotherapists in your area if you can observe them treating – you’ll learn a lot this way.

I see that you are passionate about integrating Pilates into physiotherapy practice, what has motivated you to champion this?

When I started out practising physiotherapy 18 years ago our treatment sessions were short. We were encouraged to do hands-on treatment and, if we had time, give out a quick exercise at the end of the session to continue the benefits at home. There was no time to look deeper into underlying causes that might benefit movement, pain and ultimately performance. In my second year out as a physiotherapy practitioner, I was lucky enough to attend a workshop by a Polestar Pilates Physiotherapist – although only one hour long I immediately could feel in my body how helpful this would be for so many of my patients. I promptly underwent study and certification in both Polestar Pilates and the Australian Physiotherapy and Pilates Institute methods and have incorporated this into my treatments, amongst many other techniques to provide a much more holistic assessment and treatment of dancers and performing artists.

Are there any new performances or up and coming dancers that are exciting you?

Oh my gosh, so many.

Australian Dance Theatre (ADT) is one of my favourite dance companies in the world. They have captured my interest ever since their performance of HELD at Sadler’s Wells in London. It was a performance combining two of my biggest passions, dance and photography. Every performance I have witnessed from ADT has an exquisite breathtaking physicality that I have so much admiration for. I’m really looking forward to Garry Stewart’s next work, The Beginning of Nature.

I would love to be able to see Chunky Move’s new work, Common Ground, starring one of Australia’s leading contemporary dancers and also one of the dancers responsible for me getting into dance physiotherapy, Tara Jade Samaya.

I loved Adam Rennie as Frank N Furter in the Perth season of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Up and coming choreographers that are exciting me include Christopher Hill from West Australian Ballet, whose choreography is like entwined fine silk and Laura Boynes from STRUT whose works are always physical, thought provoking and have a good dose of humour.

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing dance artist Ghenoa Gela twice this year, in Hot Brown Honey and in a dance performance as part of the Gold Coast 2018 Festival with Danielle Micich’s Force Majeure. I love her storytelling and her use of dance to educate people about the two First Nations peoples of Australia.

I’m keening awaiting the theatrical world currently being created by Punch Drunk’s, Maxine Doyle with dancers from STRUT.

I’m also aware of a lot of up and coming ballet talent in secondary level dance schools throughout Perth, including Pevnev Ballet Academy’s Ayesha Lucido and The Perth School of Ballet’s Noah Benzie-Drayton and Tyler Lindsay.

Thank you Emma Sulley for taking the time to inform our members about the services you offer.

For those interested in booking in with Emma, please contact Body Logic Physiotherapy, mention you’re an Ausdance WA Member and we will verify your discount!