Cosmetic surgery options and preparations for dancers

A new nose changed dancer Maina Gielgud's life. "I desperately wanted to perform the romantic roles, such as Giselle, Odette/Odile. But I was usually cast for the Myrtha types, the mean girls," says Gielgud, who danced with Maurice Béjart's 20th Century Ballet and as a principal with London Festival Ballet. Her nose wasn't huge—it just had a knob on it from a childhood accident—but it was large enough to keep her from traditional heroine roles. After rhinoplasty in the 1970s came the roles. "First Giselle, then Odette/Odile—the dream roles basically—even Juliet," she says.

Whether it's a small frame and delicate face for ballet or a muscular body and striking features for commercial roles, appearances count in dance. Though parts of the field, especially modern dance and tap, enjoy a growing diversity of body types, having the ideal look can sometimes take you farther. Still, all surgery presents a risk, and the choice needs to be well-thought-out, including rigorous investigation, with all the variables considered.  

Costs and Risks

Risk is always present with surgery, and it differs depending on the type and length of surgery, the type of anesthesia used and the medical history of the patient. "Dancers are generally in very good physical health, are not overweight and are nonsmokers," says Dr. Adam Schaffner, clinical assistant professor at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York and director of JUVA Plastic Surgery. "Assuming no other health problems are present—like anorexia nervosa or bulimia—they are generally good surgical candidates."

Those heading into a cosmetic surgery procedure should be in good mental and physical health. The main concern is that if the patient has an underlying eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia, or body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), she will not be satisfied with cosmetic surgery, since the problem is more mental than physical. BDD is much more serious than the body dissatisfaction that is often experienced by dancers—it is a distorted perception of a physical defect when there isn't one.

Cost is another consideration and varies according to the kind of surgery, length of time in the hospital and anesthesia, and it can easily add up to several thousand dollars. Only in rare cases are these procedures covered by insurance (breast reductions may be, with a well-documented history of back pain). It's important to seriously assess the career gains vs. costs before handing over your credit card.

Making the Decision and Finding a Doctor

Rachel Winer, clinical psychologist in Houston, TX, and adjunct faculty at Rice University’s department of psychology, suggests doing prep work before even visiting a doctor. The internet is a place to start. "I would recommend against only looking online, though," says Winer. "Use it to come up with a list of questions for surgeons ahead of a consultation. Ask about outcomes—risks, benefits, any unwanted side effects and what to expect in general. Gather as much information related to the procedure as possible, including nonsurgical alternatives." Also, consider getting the full report from other dancers who have gone through a procedure.

Find a board-certified plastic surgeon or facial plastic surgeon (ear, nose and throat), rather than a physician with another specialty who also does cosmetic surgery. Look for doctors with academic affiliations and hospital privileges. Once you narrow down a few selections, it's perfectly fine to request to speak to other patients.

"Plastic surgery can make a difference," says Schaffner. "I have seen my patients' careers take off." For Gielgud, the new nose came with some welcome perks. "I didn't have to spend quite as much time with makeup and hairdos before performance to be attractive and camouflage my profile," she says. "It's not necessary to be picture-perfect, and expressive eyes can make the most uninteresting face fascinating. In my case, I remain delighted that I did it." DT

 

Nancy Wozny is a frequent contributor to Dance Teacher based in Houston, TX.

 

Surgery Specifics

Liposuction

Liposuction is the most common cosmetic surgery. “You can be thin everywhere else but still unable to address a pocket of fat on the outer thigh,” says Dr. Richard Baxter, surgeon at Baxter Plastic Surgery in Seattle, WA. Certain areas of your body may simply be resistant to exercise—leading to intense frustration. In these cases, liposuction may be a good solution.

Since dancers are relatively thin, there’s not a lot of fat to be removed and liposuction recovery is usually fairly quick. Expect to be back teaching and dancing in approximately two to three weeks, says Dr. Adam Schaffner, clinical assistant professor at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York and director of JUVA Plastic Surgery. “But it depends on swelling and bruising, and every patient is different.”

 

The Face

While the body is your instrument in dance, the face is what conveys all emotion onstage, and pleasing proportions can't hurt, especially when doing work on camera. Plus, the older you get, the more concerned you may be with how your looks are changing. If this is the case, you don't necessarily have to face the knife. Botox can address those pesky forehead lines and the parallel trenches between the eyes. Depending on what the patient wants to change, Schaffner uses a combination of injectable filler materials along with Botox. With a skilled practitioner, you will still be able to be your expressive self. Baxter agrees. “Botox is magic,” he says. “It's very safe and effective.”

Breast Surgery

Breast augmentation and reduction in dancers is rare, but it does happen. “Sometimes dancers want small breast implants, to be a little more feminine,” says Schaffner. And while large-breasted women are not generally inclined to pursue dance careers, breast reductions are an option for those who do and have trouble fitting into restrictive costumes or have any related back pain. “Reduction is a more involved surgery, and the recovery could be several weeks more than augmentation,” says Baxter. Those who have a breast augmentation should wait about six weeks before pursuing any unrestricted physical activity.

 

Additional Resources

American Society of Plastic Surgery: www.plasticsurgery.org

The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery: www.surgery.org

American Board of Cosmetic Surgery: www.americanboardcosmeticsurgery.org

MedLine Plus: www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/plasticandcosmeticsurgery.html

 

Photo: ©iStockphoto.com

Bobbi Jene is another poignant film to add to this year's must-see list of dance documentaries.

After 10 years living in Israel and dancing with Ohad Naharin's Batsheva Dance, American dancer Bobbi Jene Smith decides to leave the company –and the life she's come to know–in search of finding her own path as a dancer and choreographer.

Keep reading... Show less
Photo by Jim Lafferty; modeled by Sydney Magruder, courtesy of Broadway Dance Center

"If you don't have strong abdominal muscles, you sag into your lower back, your pelvis usually tips and you're hanging out and slumped into your hip joints," says Deborah Vogel, movement analyst, neuromuscular expert and co-founder of the Center for Dance Medicine in New York City. "It just has this whole chain reaction."

The effects of poor core strength can be dire for dancers: from weak and tight hip flexors, which negatively impact extensions, to lower-back discomfort and misaligned shoulders and necks. "Having well-toned abdominals for your posture is the primary reason why you should do stabilizing exercises," says Vogel. "It will allow you to bring your pelvis into correct alignment and good posture."

Keep reading... Show less
How-To
In Motion's senior company dancers and Candice after a showcase performance in Bermuda, (2016). Photo courtesy of Culmer-Smith

When I was 23, an e-mail circulated among my former college dance classmates at Towson University, regarding a teaching position as the jazz director at the In Motion School of Dance studio in Bermuda. I applied, and after a few e-mails, I got offered the job.

Four weeks later, I packed up my tiny little car in Denver, where I was a dancer for the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, and drove across the country to my hometown in Maryland, before flying out for my new life in Bermuda.

Looking back now, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn't have time to think through how I should prepare and what I needed to do to officially apply for a work permit. I was mostly concerned with how I was going to pack all my clothes and belongings into two suitcases. If I could go back, I wish I would've had a more specific guide to what teaching in another country entailed.

In an effort to share my experience, here's what I wish I would've known before I left and what I learned over my 10 years living and working as a dance teacher abroad.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
At age 12, doctors advised Paige Fraser to stop dancing and have surgery. Instead, she chose physical therapy and team of chiropractors and massage specialists to help work through her condition. She has just begun her 5th season with Visceral Dance, based in Chicago.

Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine, when viewed from the back, has one or more curves. The vertebrae are abnormally rotated, which creates twisting and more prominent visibility of the rib cage on one side, and it is most commonly seen in adolescents ages 10 and older. Most cases cannot be reversed, but they can be controlled, for example dancer Paige Fraser who despite suffering from severe scoliosis, has thrived as a dancer. Dance teachers can play an essential role in spotting the condition at an early stage.

“Teachers can help to notice that scoliosis is there in the first place," says Sophia Fatouros, a New York City–based dance teacher and and former professional ballet dancer who has struggled with scoliosis since she was 12. “Parents do not always see their children in tight clothes, like leotards."

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Sebastian Grubb (right) runs Sebastian's Functional Fitness in San Francisco. Photo courtesy of Grubb

From improved aerobic capacity to better reactivity, cross-training can to do wonders for dancers' health and performance. But with the abundance of exercise programs available, how do you get your dancers on the right routine?

Sebastian Grubb, a San Francisco–based fitness trainer and professional dancer, shares three questions to ask as you consider different cross-training options.

Keep reading... Show less
Videos

When choreographer Cristian Faxola learned he had two days to create, develop and shoot a music video as an audition to choreograph for The Squared Division production house, he and his team embraced the challenge.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Thinkstock

I have heard you say that tight hamstrings prevent full extension of the knees and that you prefer hamstring stretches in a standing position, rather than on the floor. Can you explain why?

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox

Win It!

Sponsored