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Sunday, May 19, 2024

En Pointe Dance Academy Adds Physical Therapy to Repertoire

Rebekah Keese, owner of En Pointe Dance Academy, watches on as Dr. Blair Sweeney tends to one of her dancers. (En Pointe Dance Academy)

WILLIAMSBURG — Rebekah Keese trained in all types of dance styles for much of her life, but due to injuries, was forced into retirement at the age of 19. That same year, she decided to open her dance studio.

Now, Keese partnered with a local physical therapist, Blair Sweeney, to become the first studio in the Historic Triangle to have an in-house physical therapist at all times.

As Keese grew up in the dance world, she was exposed to the negative side of dance from an early age. Always being told she wasn’t thin enough or wouldn’t fit in certain costumes, she said she faced tons of verbal trauma that caused various feelings of not being good enough.

“We trained and we trained hard and we didn’t have anyone to advocate for our mental and physical health. Dance used to be like that and you just pushed past the pain and you always felt like a stronger dancer if you kept pushing through,” Keese said.

When opening her own studio, En Pointe Dance Academy, became a reality, Keese knew that she wanted her studio to look at every dancer as an individual. She takes it very seriously to know her dancers names, personalities, and their limits.

“When I opened my studio, I always had a heart for training my dancers so that they are trained the correct way, they know the anatomy of their body, they know what muscles they are using, how certain steps connect to another step. When you are younger, you think you are invincible. When I opened this place, I promised myself that I was going to make a change in the dance industry and I was going to bring a healthy training and development plan to the forefront,” Keese said.

After watching many dancers in her studio struggle and based on her own history in the dance world, Keese decided to partner with a local physical therapist, Blair Sweeney, to become the first studio in the Historic Triangle to have an in-house physical therapist at all times.

“Each dancer is different. For me, it’s all about how we can set the dancer up for success, but to the way that their body is built, in a safe direction,” Keese said.

Sweeney and Keese work together to address the injuries and limitations of each dancer at En Pointe Dance Academy. Dr. Sweeney is a specialist in pediatric physical therapy and

“I’ve spent a lot of time in the developmental world of children’s anatomy. I have this deep understanding of the development of a child. For Bekah’s dancers, we have a typically developing body and we are creating an abnormal body movement. We are putting it through some a-typical stuff in dance classes and then we want the body to function as normal in the day to day life,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney has been sitting in on classes at the studio, watching each dancer closely. Whether the student is in one class a week or multiple classes a night, Sweeney also makes it a point to know her patients.

“Not only do I know how dancer A is doing, but I’m really looking at what her class is doing. I want to see what is expected of her body and then I can see the little differences from class to class. I’m not in every class, every day, but I’ve been spending a lot of time here, trying to assimilate into the culture of the studio,” Sweeney said.

While at the studio, Sweeney offers in-studio treatment, injury prevention, massage therapy, pointe shoe assessments, and pointe readiness assessments.

Keese hopes that Sweeney continues to build relationships with her dancers for many reasons — a big one is trust.

“I want them to, when they do get injured, to come to her. She won’t say ‘put this boot on, you’re done for the year’, she’ll be able to work with them to find the right solution. Building the relationship where my dancers feel safe enough to own up to their symptoms and know that she is part of our community and they can go to her for the help they need is very important,” Keese said.

As the two work together, they would ultimately love to expand their efforts to include anatomy and nutrition classes.

“An educated dancer is a successful dancer,” Keese says.

For more information on Keese and Sweeney’s efforts, visit enpointedanceva.com.

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