Healthier Dancer Week

Healthier Dancer Week provides an opportunity for dancers and physical performers to access information and advice on a range of aspects of health and well-being. Key health and well-being practitioners have been selected for their expertise and experience in these areas. Speaking about the programme today, Paul Johnson, Chief Executive of Dance Ireland ‘said Dancers are the backbone of our profession. The life of a professional dancer can be challenging and health and well-being is really important’.

Workshops are open to physical performers including actors, dancers and students.  Places are limited so must be booked in advance. Week-long pass discounts are available. 

Places are limited, advance booking is advised: 01 855 8800 or email  

Special offer: €50 Week Pass (access to all sessions).  Cost per session €10 DI members/€15 non-members. 


Workshop Descriptions & Biographies       

Monday 19: 2pm – 3.30pm
Mindfulness: Movement & the Mind        

Josephine Lynch, Mindfulness Ireland

In this workshop Josephine will offer guidance in mindful movement and sitting meditation, giving you an opportunity to slow down so that you become aware of not only what is happening in the body as you move but also what is happening in the heart and mind.  We can learn so much about our striving, our fear, our attachments, what brings us joy, through slowing down and tuning in in a different way to our experience.  Josephine will also guide some sitting meditation.  She will offer a short introduction to mindfulness and its benefits as part of the workshop, but it will be mainly experiential. 

Participants need to bring a yoga mat to this workshop.               

Josephine Lynch M.A. Mindfulness-based Approaches (Bangor University), Lic.Ac., Dip. Herbal Medicine, has also gained the Certificate of Competence to Teach Mindfulness-Based Courses from the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice, Bangor University.


Monday 19: 3.45–4.45pm & 5 – 6pm
Analysis of Movement Patterns

Ruth McGee, Physiotherapist

The workshop is aimed at professional dancers and will focus on identifying dysfunctional movement patterns and introduce corrective exercises. For example, the movements which will be analysed, head to toe will include standing on one leg, pointe, demi-pointe, plie, hopping/jumping etc. It will be guided and directed by the class and specific issues of the dancers.

Please note, there are two one hour workshops. Each workshop is limited to 15 professionals.  

Ruth is a Chartered Physiotherapist in Sports and Exercise Medicine and in Musculoskeletal Medicine. She has over 20 years’ experience and works with a number of top consultants in Orthopaedics, Sports Medicine and Chronic Pain. She has extensive experience in both the public and private health sectors both nationally and internationally. She is a guest lecturer on both the undergraduate and post-graduate programmes in Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin.

She has worked with two of Ireland’s National teams and has toured with Riverdance. She works with junior and senior athletes at County, National and International level.

She founded the Enniskerry Physiotherapy Clinic in 2001, where she practices and manages a team of practitioners. In 2014, she was appointed to the Physiotherapists Registration Board of Ireland by the Minister for Health.

Tuesday 20: 2pm – 3.30pm
Food Matters – Diet & Dance

Richelle Flanagan, Nutrition Wise

This workshop will focus on how diet can help your dancing performance. It will also examine the facts and myths about nutrition. Feed your curiosity and do not miss this informative session that is sure to give you some food for thought.

Richelle Flanagan, B.A. (Physiology), MSc Nutrition & Dietetics, PgCert Allergy, MINDI, has been a practising dietitian for over 10 years, including 2.5 years with St James’s Hospital. She runs Nutrition Wise, a nutrition consultancy providing nutrition clinics, workplace wellness & consultancy services. Richelle has a wealth of experience in working with people to better understand and self-manage their health through nutrition, behaviour and lifestyle change. Richelle is a member of the Irish Institute of Sport Panel of Nutrition Advisors. Richelle was President and CEO of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute (INDI) the professional body for Dietitians in Ireland.


Tuesday 20: 3.45pm – 4.45pm
Osteopathy & Dance – The road to health

Olwen Grindley, Osteopath & Dancer

Many studies have shown that dancing is good for you. According to its founder, Andrew Taylor Still, osteopathy is the search for health. The question to be addressed is how these two practices can be combined in order to maintain a healthy dancing body. This presentation workshop looks at the common ground between dancing and osteopathy and how they can inform each other in ways that benefit everyone.

Olwen trained as a dancer in Ireland, England and at the Pina Bausch School in Germany (Folkwang-Hochschule). She danced in Germany for a number of years before returning to Ireland and working with all the major companies. Olwen has also choreographed for theatre (Second Age, The Gate, Classic Stage Ireland) and acted in a number of productions, mainly with Second Age Theatre Company.  She is a teacher of Limón-based contemporary dance and has taught for The College of Dance and many schools around Ireland.

Olwen recently graduated from the British School of Osteopathy with a Masters in Osteopathy. She is very interested in combining her passion for dance with her newfound passion for osteopathy to find new ways of approaching dance and health.


Tuesday 20: 5pm – 6pm
Safe Stretching & Warm up

Stephen O’ Rourke, Physiotherapist & Performer

Stretching and warming up is an integral part of everyday preparation and care in a dancer’s life. This workshop presentation aims to examine the research behind both practices to help guide dancers to a safer way of preparing for performance or training. Participants should wear comfortable clothes.

Stephen O’ Rourke, MISC, originally trained as an actor at the Samuel Beckett Centre TCD. He has performed both nationally and internationally with various theatre companies as a dancer and actor. He then went on to train as a physiotherapist at the Royal College of Surgeons and has a special interest in Dance Medicine and injury prevention.

Wednesday 21: 2pm – 4pm
Pain and Injury – the Dance between Mind and Body

Roisin Cahalan, Physiotherapist and Lecturer

Pain and injury are an everyday part of being a dancer. Increasingly, injury screening programs are being developed to identify dancers at risk for pain injury so measures can be put in place to reduce that risk. Many existing screening programs focus overwhelmingly on the physical traits of the performer – balance, flexibility, power, fitness and so on. Dancers themselves often perceive that these factors contribute to injury. However, recent research in dance and sport indicates that vulnerability to pain and injury is much more complicated than previously thought. Factors such as mental health, sleep quantity and quality, stress, poor physical health and a lack of social support are all implicated in the cause of pain and injury. Passion for dance – harmonious or discordant is also key in mitigating against injury or making a dancer more susceptible.

This presentation discusses some of the less understood risk factors for pain and injury in dance. A related workshop will allow participants to gain an insight into their own characteristics and traits with a view to understanding their personal potential risk for pain and injury.

Roisin Cahalan graduated from University of Limerick with a degree in physiotherapy in 2008. Prior to that she worked as a professional dancer for eight years with Riverdance, The Show. She completed her PhD under the supervision of Dr. Kieran O’Sullivan and Prof. Peter O’Sullivan on pain/injury in dancers in 2014. She has worked in a variety of therapy environments and has her own clinic treating musculoskeletal conditions in dancers and athletes. She is currently researching pain and injury in a variety of different dance genres in adolescents and adults. Dr. Cahalan is also a qualified Irish dance teacher. She works currently as a Practice Education Co-ordinator in Physiotherapy at the University of Limerick, Ireland.

Wednesday 21: 4.30pm – 6pm                                 
Eating Disorders – truths & myths         

Harriet Parsons, Bodywhys

This presentation will approach how to understand, recognise and deal with the issue of eating disorders. All eating disorders will be discussed, as well as understanding how a person can develop and get caught up in an eating disorder. Issues such as support, treatment and recovery, as well how to support a friend will be talked through during the seminar.

Harriet Parsons is a psychotherapist and the Services Manager with Bodywhys, The Eating Disorders Association of Ireland.

Previously Harriet trained as a ballet dancer with the Perm State Choreographic Institute, Russia. Harriet went on to work with the Chelyabinsk Opera and Ballet theatre, and then with Moscow City Ballet touring Germany and the UK.

In 1998, Harriet hung up her ballet shoes and went to college to study psychology. From there she completed an MA in Addiction Studies, and went on to gain a MSc. in psychoanalytic psychotherapy with St. Vincent’s Hospital School of Psychotherapy, Dublin. Harriet is a registered practitioner with APPI (The Association for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy in Ireland), and Chair of the organisation, as well as being on their scientific committee.


Thursday 22: 2pm – 3.30pm
Dealing with injury Panel Discussion

Dancers’ personal perspectives & reflections

Five leading dancers share their insights, reflections and perspectives. An opportunity to gain a glimpse into the life and challenges of a working dancer’s life. We will hear from dancers working within ballet, contemporary, traditional and aerial dance.  An afternoon of dance chats, moderated panel discussion and audience Q&A!

Panellists/Speakers: Kristyn Fontanella (Irish traditional dance), Roisin Laffan (Contemporary dance), Katherine O’Malley (Contemporary dance), Diarmaid O’Meara (Classical Ballet), Emily Aoibheann McDonnell (Aerial dance)

Moderator: Hazel Hodgins, Dance Ireland Programme Manager

Kristyn Fontanella is a dance professional with a broad range of experience in dance and theatre. Best known for her lead role in Gaelforce Dance, she has trained in many dance forms, which has taken her all over the world, including touring companies Trinity Irish Dance Company, Lord of the Dance and Riverdance (Boyne Company). She holds a BFA in Theatre and Dance from Central Connecticut State University and a MA in Contemporary Dance Performance from UL. Kristyn resides in Limerick, where she continues her creative process exploring and integrating the two worlds of Traditional Irish Dance and Contemporary. She teaches at Dance Limerick and on the BA and MA courses at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, UL.

Róisín Laffan is a performer and dance artist. In 2014 she toured the UK in a triple-bill with the Jasmin Vardimon apprentice company, she worked with the electronic group Le Galaxie and performed at the Dublin Dance Festival with ponydance. She performed in CODES 2.0, a Midaspaces production, at the Hong Kong Technology festival.  Most recently she made her debut at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 'Ponies don't play football' (ponydance). Roisin is completing a degree in Biology at University College Dublin where she is a recipient of the Ad Astra Scholarship for Performing Arts.

Katherine O’Malley is a performer and Associate Artist with Liz Roche Company. In 2012 she completed her MA in Contemporary Dance Performance at University Limerick and is currently working on a self-directed research project on her own creative process supported by the Arts Council. Katherine has also performed work by John Scott Dance, Sara Rudner (USA), Fearghus Ó Conchúir, Cíotog Dance Company & Macushla Dance Club, Maiden Voyage (NI), Dylan Quinn, Splinter Productions with Morleigh Steinberg and Oguri (USA), Thomas Lehman (GR), Pappa Tarrahumara (JP) and Catapult Dance Company.

Diarmaid O’Meara trained at Central School of Ballet, London and subsequently embarked on a freelance career. He has worked with various companies such as Ballet Ireland, English National Ballet and The Royal Opera and with choreographers such as Lucy Burge, Susie Crow, Javier de Frutos and Morgann Runacre-Temple. Diarmaid continued his training with Roger Tully and has taught at Trinity Laban, Central School of Ballet, Bird College and Sylvia Young Theatre School. 

Emily Aoibheann McDonnell is a Dublin born artist and aerialist, director of Dying Breeds 'dynamic sculpture' company and Creation Aerial, an international physical training and performance school specialising in creative aerial performance and research. In 2014 Emily received a research bursary from the Arts Council of Ireland to develop a new piece of work entitled 'Object Piggy' which premiered at Dublin Fringe Festival this year and won the Judge's Choice Award for 'its energy, exuberance and detail - a downright dynamism that embraces and underpins everything Fringe'.

Emily presented internationally for the first time in July 2015 with 'Papaveraceae', a moving installation, at the Prague Quadrennial of Scenography, Performance Design and Space. She is currently developing a new work which explores parkour and free-running as political occupation and physical subversion of authority of space and architecture. Other work include: Dying Breeds 'Creación' (creative programme 2015), PaperDolls BUNK (2013), A Letter to Mina (2012) and Constellations (winner of Spirit of the Fringe, Dublin 2012).

Thursday 22: 4.00pm – 6.00pm
Pointe Shoes: Readiness, shoe fitting & exercises for pointe work

Deirdre McKenna, Physiotherapist

“When can I start pointe work?” is a frequently asked question by young dancers or their dance teacher.  Dancing “en pointe”, in particular, places massive demands on the dancer’s body, with up to 12 times body weight passing through the foot. This workshop will give participants the skills to assess different foot types and to take this into consideration when choosing pointe shoes.  It will also cover taping and padding techniques used to assist with protecting the dancer’s foot when “en pointe”.

As part of this presentation, a comprehensive strengthening programme will be taught, which will address the core, turnout and the muscles of the lower limb which are particularly important in stabilizing the foot when “en pointe”. 

Active participation is encouraged, and participants are requested to bring tennis balls and therabands and to expose their feet. 

Deirdre is a Chartered Physiotherapist and STOTT Pilates Certified Instructor.  She graduated from the University of the West of England with an Honours degree in Physiotherapy.  In 2001-2002, she undertook a Masters in Sports Medicine, and her thesis was on Bone Mineral Density in Dancers in Ireland, which she presented at the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS) Conference in Laban Centre, London in 2003. She is a member of IADMS and Dance UK.

Deirdre worked in a specialist dance physiotherapy and Pilate’s clinic in Sydney Australia. On returning home, she opened Brookwood Physiotherapy and Pilate’s clinic ( and continues to work with dancers in the clinic and offers workshops to dance schools. 

Deirdre was appointed Senior Company Physiotherapist to Birmingham Royal Ballet in 2011.  She is currently Company Physiotherapist for Ballet Ireland.

She trained with Sylvia Behan School of Ballet successfully up to Advanced RAD level and in The State Choreographic Institute in Perm, Russia.  As a dancer, Deirdre understands all the demands of dance, the technique involved and can relate to dancers.  Furthermore, she can apply her physiotherapeutic skills to assist the dancer in the recovery process. 


Friday 23: 2pm –3.45pm
The Resilient Dancer: how to cope with life as a dancer

Olivia Hurley, Sports Psychologist & Lecturer

Dancers often experience stresses in their careers, due to, for example, injury, fatigue and heightened expectations. These stressors have the potential to impact negatively on their dance performances.
This session will introduce dancers to a number of techniques, used in sport and performance psychology, which are aimed at helping dancers to cope with such challenges, so that they can maintain a high-level of performance, even during such challenging times.               

Dr Olivia Hurley is a Registered Psychologist with the Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI). She graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Psychology from UCD (1997) and completed an MSc (2000) and PhD (2003) in Sport Psychology, under the supervision of Professor Aidan Moran in UCD.
Olivia is a Lecturer of Psychology (Sport and Health Psychology; Research Methods and Statistics) on the Applied Psychology programme in the Department of Technology and Psychology, in the Faculty of Film, Art and Creative Technologies, IADT. She also delivers the Level 8 Certificate in Sport Psychology, Special Purpose Award, in IADT.

Olivia has been awarded an Adjunct Lectureship in UCD for 2016-2018, to deliver the Sport Psychology module in the School of Psychology in UCD. Olivia is a member of the Irish Institute of Sport’s panel of Sport Psychology Consultants.

In her role as a consultant, she works with many top athletes and performers, in both team, and individual sports and disciplines, to help them enhance their performances. She was one of the co-founders of the Division of Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology (DSEPP) in PSI and is the Secretary of the DSEPP. Olivia has published a number of academic papers, and book chapters, has presented at both national and international sport and psychology conferences, and has acted as a reviewer for a number of academic journals.

Friday 23: 4pm - 6pm
Managing Injuries on the road: the working dancer
Louise Keating, Physiotherapist

This session will inform the dancer about the most common dance-related injuries, and how to prevent, diagnose and manage these injuries. A workshop will be included to enable a quick screen of the dancer to be undertaken.

Louise Keating is a Lecturer at the School of Physiotherapy, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and a Specialist Member (Musculoskeletal) of the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists. She also works as a Clinical Specialist in Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy at IONA Physiotherapy in Drumcondra.

Louise toured with Riverdance as physiotherapist and chief medical officer for the Liffey Company.