This week, we are kicking off our Careers in Dance series! This series will include interviews with people working all sorts of different jobs within the dance industry. We had this idea after talking to a few of our senior company dancers about their planned career paths, and wanted to do something to help give them insight into all the options they have to link dance with their other passions. We hope you enjoy our first interview with Long Island based dance teacher/trainer, Danielle Pinga!
Tell us about your work!
-I’m Danielle Pinga, a Personal Trainer for True Dance Potential. TDP is an elite training program that guides dancers to achieve success by educating them in technique, flexibility, strength, conditioning and most importantly injury prevention. During one on one training sessions, I evaluate the dancer based on their bio-mechanical patterns during a simple work out. During our evaluation we are able to pick apart the dancers’ strengthens and weaknesses where we then plan a program made specifically for that dancer’s needs.
What is your dance background?
-I started dancing when I was three on Long Island, NY and haven’t stopped since! After graduating high school, where I was dancing competitively I went to SUNY Oneonta as a Biology major. During my time there, I was a dancer for the Oneonta State Dance Team and a dancer, choreographer and Vice President of the Terpsichorean Dance Company. The summer after graduation, I was accepted into the training program at Broadway Dance Center where I trained for three months studying contemporary, jazz, hip hop, street jazz and ballet. Soon after, I joined a dance company, DanceWorks in Astoria, Queens. The summer after, I became a certified 200 hour Yoga Instructor and then a NASM Certified Personal Trainer. With my dance history, college education and certifications I was able to connect both science and dance together. I’m a firm believer in the fact that you are never done learning! Still today, I make sure I take class to keep myself up to pace with this wonderful dance world that continues to evolve.
What got you interested in PT/injury prevention?
-The idea of working with dancers on injury prevention started my junior year of high school. I was always one to get shin splits and I was always curious on why that was. When I started doing my research, my ballet teacher at the time told me about a facility in NYC, Westside Dance Physical Therapy, that specializes in dance injuries. Two summers later, I was accepted as an intern there where I got to shadow treatments of dancers from all over NY including the NYC Ballet and ABT. Seeing exercises executed on stage cut outs and seeing ballet barre as part of their warm ups was an eye opening experience. Dancers move very differently than a typical athlete which is why dance medicine is so important to get dancers the treatment they need.
What’s your favorite part of working in the field?
-My favorite part about working in this field is seeing the joy from all my dancers when they finally achieve a new goal. Whether they hit five turns, hold their planks for a record time or even just that moment where their technique and placement finally clicks. I love educating dancers’ on anatomy and how it’s so important to understand which muscles should be activated during certain movements. It’s very rewarding when they even remember the muscle group names and relate it to their workouts. It proves they are starting to understand their bodies which will help them prevent injuries!
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to pursue a similar path?
-For anyone that is looking to pursue this field, know that there are so many opportunities out there if you do your research. You can be a personal trainer, a physical therapist, a physical therapist assistant, athletic trainer, or even a yoga and pilates instructor. All these fields can relate back to dance medicine. Once you figure out which field you want to get into you then can decide your college path. I do recommend that you start your internships early so you can meet as many people in your field as you can while you're still in school!
What’s your best injury prevention tip for dancers?
-The best advice I can give to dancers about preventing injuries without an evaluation is to warm up the correct way! Dancers often will walk into rehearsals and jump straight into stretching their splits. Always make sure that you are properly warmed up before stretching. Think of a cold piece of gum, if you try to stretch it, it will snap but a warm piece is easily stretched; think of the gum as your muscles! A good warm up can consist of running in place, jacking jacks, lunges, calf raises, short kicks and squats. Before going on stage, I always recommend my dancers do their warm up in addition to ballet barre!
Thank you, Danielle, for doing this interview with us! Dancers, you can follow Danielle & her amazing work on Instagram @danielle_tdp
Do you have a dance-related career you want to hear more about? Let us know who you want us to interview next in the comments below!