Honors thesis students tell health stories through a senior project

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Syracuse University drama student Kat Kelly was 13 when she realized that doing what she loves, dancing, causes her pain. When she was 14, she was diagnosed with a labral tear in her right hip, a common injury for dancers and hip dysplasia.

“There is that emotional-mental connection to knowing that you are hurt or knowing that you have limits when you are in pain, and you are in a room full of people who can do those things without feeling pain,” said Kelly.

What began as a personal struggle for the dancer soon turned into a graduate thesis project Performing with paina performance focused on reducing the stigmas surrounding disease and injury in the performing arts.

Renée Crown Honors acting students Elana Babbitt, Jessica Cerreta, Gabriela Moncivais and Rileigh Very shared their stories about navigating health in the world of acting with Kelly on Sunday night at Skybarn on South Campus.

“This performance strives to put a face to the problem and demonstrate that with proper support, injuries and illnesses don’t have to end a career,” Kelly wrote on the event’s webpage. “Rather, it’s a normal part of this profession.”

When Kelly was diagnosed with her hip, she realized the importance of taking care of her body.

“You have to keep your body to do what you love,” Kelly told the audience. “Doing what you love doesn’t keep your body.”

Very had a similar epiphany at 13 when a gymnastics accident caused spinal compression, leading to four protruding discs, a diminishing disc, and spondylolisthesis, a spinal injury caused when the vertebrae slide into each other. The latter cannot be healed without surgery, which Very chose not to undergo.

“The first thing (my coaches) told me: can you walk? I remember sitting there thinking, ‘Can I move?’ ”Much said. “I was completely shocked. I suffered so much. I started dancing so it was less pounding, but the chronic pain never goes away.”

Very believes that building a community of people who also face health problems in the art industry will help others like her feel less alone.

“We are dealing with the impostor syndrome already in this sector … and it is such a ‘continuous’ mentality that there are several times in the classroom where, in my bad days, I not only have that impostor syndrome, but I also feel physical pain, ”she said.“ I feel alone in a room full of people dancing with me ”.

As a high school student, Moncivais underwent surgery to remove a polyp in her left vocal cords which required her to remain silent for two weeks. The need for surgery left her afraid to use her voice, she said.

“There is this fear of it happening again,” he told the Daily Orange. “It took me to understand that sometimes trying not to do things so you can keep your voice safe can almost hurt you even more and you just have to release it and let it go.”

Kelly reminded the crowd that “performance psychology” is as crucial as sports psychology, while engaging her audience and even eliciting laughter.

Kelly said she feels she has been taught how to perform, but not how to train. She believes the solution is to teach dancers about wellness and anatomy before they start attempting complex moves.

“If instead we started by answering the question, what should this feeling be like … we could avoid misuse and injury,” said Kelly. “Working from the inside out rather than the outside puts you and your health at the center of the job.”

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