what's my story

what's my story?Less

what's my story?

Dani West, PT, MScPT, BA Dance

Dani West, PT, MScPT, BA Dance

Less

What's my story?


I never knew I wanted to be a physio until the 3rd year of my dance degree. Yes, dance degree- There is such a thing! I remember I was in a course called 'Movement Analysis' and we were instructed to analyze someone's gait pattern (fancy term for walking) and incur what muscles might be tight/ weak based on their presentation. I was FASCINATED. Wow, so cool you could watch someone walk and use this information to be able to tell where a movement dysfunction could be coming from. Following the exercise, I immediately asked my prof- "Ummm, is there a job where you just do this all the time?!" and she replied,


 "well yes. Physios do this."  


And just like that, my journey to becoming a physio had begun.


Now up to this point, my whole life had been dance. I started when I was 7 years old- first taking tap dancing at a studio in Fort McMurray called "Frederick Dance Studio". Donned my first pair of Mary Janes and started with a tap teacher- who little did I know- would follow me for most of my dance career and become like a second mother to me; Miss Linda. Like most young dancers, you start doing anything and everything offered at the studio- tap, jazz, ballet, contemporary- and before you know it, any after school time or extracurricular activities are entirely consumed by dance or something to do with dance. Dance extra rehearsals, production rehearsals, exam prep, extra choreography, self practice, dress rehearsals, workshops etc. I get it. Dance is a crazy world. But it was my life and although I did school sports, I did have to end up choosing dance over sports especially in Grade 12. I achieved my Grade 9 Al Gilbert Tap Certification and also achieved my Intermediate RAD Ballet Certification within the same year...Grade 12. Yes I know, crazy. Not sure how I did it along with Student Council President, Senior Volleyball, Diplomas and studying for the Lead role in our recital. 


What's my story?


I never knew I wanted to be a physio until the 3rd year of my dance degree. Yes, dance degree- There is such a thing! I remember I was in a course called 'Movement Analysis' and we were instructed to analyze someone's gait pattern (fancy term for walking) and incur what muscles might be tight/ weak based on their presentation. I was FASCINATED. Wow, so cool you could watch someone walk and use this information to be able to tell where a movement dysfunction could be coming from. Following the exercise, I immediately asked my prof- "Ummm, is there a job where you just do this all the time?!" and she replied,


 "well yes. Physios do this."  


And just like that, my journey to becoming a physio had begun.


Now up to this point, my whole life had been dance. I started when I was 7 years old- first taking tap dancing at a studio in Fort McMurray called "Frederick Dance Studio". Donned my first pair of Mary Janes and started with a tap teacher- who little did I know- would follow me for most of my dance career and become like a second mother to me; Miss Linda. Like most young dancers, you start doing anything and everything offered at the studio- tap, jazz, ballet, contemporary- and before you know it, any after school time or extracurricular activities are entirely consumed by dance or something to do with dance. Dance extra rehearsals, production rehearsals, exam prep, extra choreography, self practice, dress rehearsals, workshops etc. I get it. Dance is a crazy world. But it was my life and although I did school sports, I did have to end up choosing dance over sports especially in Grade 12. I achieved my Grade 9 Al Gilbert Tap Certification and also achieved my Intermediate RAD Ballet Certification within the same year...Grade 12. Yes I know, crazy. Not sure how I did it along with Student Council President, Senior Volleyball, Diplomas and studying for the Lead role in our recital. 


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Crazy, yep, I get it. I get the crazy. Another reason why I feel like it is important that dancers- any any patient for that matters- finds the physio that "gets them", that relates to them. That knows their kind of crazy and are willing to work WITH them and for them.

But I digress...Where was I? Oh yeah, Grade 12, crazy, dance, and more crazy.


Then real world. Now what?


I graduated, the wings had been clipped, I had to decide something that I feel ALL senior dancers struggle with: 

"To dance, or not to dance." that is the question.


I had a strong academic background and yet I was also at the height of my dance training (according to Grade 12 me). Do I continue to keep up with dancing or do I succumb to the pressures of society and put the shoes away and "go out and get a real education and real career".


Keep in mind, I was wanting to be an artist in one of the biggest oil and money driven towns in Alberta. Pursing the Arts was not exactly encouraged.

But follow your heart right? I figured that it would be easier to keep the momentum going and continue with dancing than to stop now, and decide in 4 years that I missed it and wanted to get back into it. So dance it was!


So there I was, my first day at the University of Calgary studying to get my BA in Dance. Excited to keep the 'momentum going' and continue training 800hrs/ day everyday right?


Completely wrong.


First of all, my mom did my course schedule. Had no idea how to register for classes, barely knew what the requirements were, so needless to say I was in for a rude awakening when I discovered that I only had one 2hr technique class a day in First Year.


What?!


This was the biggest shock for most of us 'studio dancers' used to at least 8hrs of training a day. But it was the only way that our schedules permitted us to fit in our other University required courses for the program. Yes we had to do a little more than just "dance around" in our "fluffy little dance degree". We had to take everything else that a regular degree would require such as: so many science credits, english courses, psychology credits etc. The only difference was that we did get graded on how well we moved in technique classes. I took Anatomy- another course that completely swept me off my feet and had no idea that I would completely LOVE. Also ended up taking Mind Sciences, Ethics, etc. That's another thing about following your dream- you never know what else you might accidentally fall in love with along the way. Taking other courses outside of what I knew I already loved, was probably the best thing I ever did. Best advice I could give someone still searching for their passion/ their path. Just TRY something new, take courses, try workshops- you never know what might move you or who might inspire you along the way.


So after my Dance degree, then it was real world. Now what? The physio path was sparked, but I still had to figure out how to pay the bills in the meantime. So I taught a a few dance studios around the city, performed in a few small works in dance festivals, even started working in a few physio clinics as admin to learn more about the profession.


I was still yearning something. Thought I would love teaching dance more, but the anxiety at class preparation and my perfectionism to design the 'perfect class' or come up with more creative dance games was killing me. I was putting so much work into the prep that it was taking over my life and sucking the fun out of teaching. Choreography? Same thing. So much pressure to design the 'perfect dance', have the kids love it, be proud of it, again the expectations I had of myself and the amount of time and prep I put into it was consuming me. I was not enjoying it. It was not for me.

I was sad because I knew I wanted dance in my life, but I knew that dedicating my life to being an artist was not a lifestyle that I was prepared to take on. The amount of dedication and training that it takes to be a professional dancer and make it as a professional dancer is BEYOND... I knew that just wasn't the life that was calling me. So aside from teaching dance, what else could I do?


So I had to shelf the whole dance thing for a little bit.


The physio journey was about to begin.


First year I applied, I was taking courses through Athabasca University in order to meet some of the other pre-requisites for the program that I needed. Because the program is SO competitive, and I didn't yet meet all of the requirements, I didn't get in.

I was devastated.


Up until that point, I don't really ever remember myself 'failing' at something or not getting accepted to something I didn't apply for. But I pressed on. Finished the courses (had to self teach myself Statistics and Physiology- not something I would advise doing solo!) and then re-applied to U of A (and only U of A) the following year.


Waitlisted. Again.


Why?! I remember it was June 2009 and I had called to ask where I was on the waitlist. I think I was 12th. Great. Another year wasting away working at a physio clinic, watching people do a profession that I KNEW at this point, I was MEANT to do. Again devastated and angry, so I bought a car out of spite (still driving it now actually- VW Rabbit!).


In August 2009 we were coming back from a camping trip and reception was shotty. I had a missed call from the U of A and a voicemail- it said I was accepted and to call and confirm my spot! My phone was about to die so we had to pull over at a nearby Coffee shop just so I could charge my phone so I could return the call. I was bursting inside- worried that in the time it took for me to call them back, they would give away my spot. I called, they answered, I accepted.


And that's when I made Andrew pull the car over beside a field so I could get out and do a Cartwheel.


I was officially in Physio school!


But the journey didn't end there. It was a long 2 years and the learning didn't really start until after graduation. I got my first job at the Calgary Winter Club (still there to date!) and also started my mobile physiotherapy business: Indepth Physiotherapy going around at local dance studios and treating dancers. I had found where dance had fit in my life. Dance physio had found me!


Since graduation, I have taken other physio courses such as Mulligan's, Level II Upper, Dance Physiotherapy courses with Ms. Lisa Howell (who is honestly amazing and you should check out her blog- the Ballet Blog and Perfect Form Physiotherapy)- I owe any dance specific physio knowledge that I know to her. I have worked as a physiotherapist at the Edge School for Athletes, and have collaborated with various dance studios around Calgary doing workshops and working with dance teachers to increase awareness of injuries and injury management. And as of May 2018 I currently completing my Pilates Teacher Training course at Embody Pilates Studio in Canmore.


My next goal? 

To create a new standard of physiotherapy. 


To offer one-on-one, high quality, INDEPTH physio services to patients. 

To promote MOVEMENT as the main treatment modality and show people how they can treat themselves and become less dependent on others for treatment. If you have had a bad experience with physio, I am truly sorry for that and urge you to try a new approach. One that is catered for you, treatment time dedicated entirely for you, and a home program that teaches how to take care of YOU when your body seems out of sorts.

I am passionate, dedicated and motivated to give physio a good name again. If you are looking for something just for YOU, and are looking for tools to self treat, then come say hi!   Also please check my YOUTUBE Channel- THE SOAPBOX to check out why I do what I do!


Here's to getting people moving again and moving well.


Here's to YOU!


Dani West, PT, MScPT, BA Dance