Dancer to Massage Therapist
Diploma in Wellness and Relaxation Massage student Otis Herring is a dancer and choreographer. Otis decided to study at Wellpark College so that he could combine his love of performing arts with his interest in Massage. His goal is to graduate and forge a career where he can help performers with training, recovery and relaxation. Otis explains why Massage therapy is so beneficial to dancers and performers and how Wellpark College is providing him with the skills to achieve his career goals.
Otis, you come from a Performing Arts background, can you tell us how long you have been dancing and why you love performing?
I have been dancing professionally since 2007, so almost 15 years now. I have also been acting professionally for almost 5 years. I love performing because it makes me feel good. The rush of nerves, the ability to do great feats with the body. It’s just exhilarating. I come from a sporting background and my mom is quite artsy, so it’s really the perfect blend.
What drew you towards studying for a Diploma in Wellness and Relaxation Massage?
When I was going to university back in 2003 in America, I wanted to study either dance or physical therapy. I lead with dance and was doing prerequisites like Biology, chemistry, physics, and physiology. Dance was my love and passion so that always lead me- all the way to New Zealand. When the pandemic hit and Kiwis weren’t travelling abroad as much. I figure this was a good time to study again, and so massage therapy was back on the table. A friend of mine I used to dance within Black Grace started his journey 3 years ago and I thought I an do the same and make good use out of limited travel.
How do you see yourself combining your love of performing arts and Massage therapy in the future?
Well, I think my kinesthetic knowledge of the body helps inform the type of care I can give. Additionally, I want to link that expertise with artists in the field and provide better care and home care. If I can help the longevity of an artist/athlete, it would be my absolute pleasure.
Dancers have to be both strong and flexible, they use pretty much every muscle group. Why is it important for Dancers to have a regular massage?
As I have learned in my coursework at well park, massage helps with performance, maintenance/prevention, and recovery. From rehearsals to performances, the body is taking on a high level of stress. Repetition is key in dance and working a particular muscle/ muscle group over and over can create imbalance. Massage has the ability to restore that difference. Likewise, assisting with relaxation techniques allows the artist to better rest and repair to get back on the dance floor and inspire the world.
Does Massage help speed up recovery from performance injuries?
Massage has the ability to help. Some research shows that over a 5 week period there have been adequate changes to the injured area. Additionally, it depends on what the injury is because sometimes the area is best to be left alone as to not cause more injury. All in all, I am only level 5-almost certified. There is much more research and learning to be done as I endeavor to pursue level 6 studies in remedial massage.
How often should a dancer have a massage?
Personally, I go once a week. It’s what I can afford, and I’m also not dancing 9am-6pm, 5-6 days a week like I used to. There has to be a balance, and it also depends on treatments. A simple relaxation massage could be effective 2 times a week. A deep tissue massage would be best with there are days between to recover. I would venture to say, depending on the availability of the therapist, and financial capability, 1-3 times a week pending the workload.
Is there any particular type of massage that you would recommend for dancers?
I have personally found that Thai based massage helps me. The stretching and manipulating component involved is where I find the best benefit. I have had deep tissue and Swedish massage and they are great. I think there should be a blending of hands-on massage and stretching. All bodies are different, all dance is different. The dancer should trial practitioners and see which one works for them.
As a dancer and a soon to be qualified massage therapist, you will have a greater understanding of how to help fellow performers look after their bodies through massage. Are there any common problem areas that dancers face that you would focus on as their Massage therapist?
Hahaha. I laugh because it’s honestly EVERYTHING, especially if they are a contemporary dancer. Dance incorporates everything. You are up, you are down, you are on your back, head, shoulder, you are falling into someone’s arms, you are being catapulted into the air. It’s “Full On,” as Kiwi’s say. So, depending on how much time there was, I would just ask what can we focus on today. I have taken a cupping course as well, so I would utilize that knowledge to address as much as I could in the session I had.
The Diploma of Wellness and Relaxation Massage is a fairly intense year of study how have you found the Programme? What were the biggest challenges?
Wellpark is a beautiful place to study. For me, living in town and getting to Albany 3-4 times a week is taxing, not to mention lugging kilos of linen, books, food, and laptop. It took some time for the faculty to understand I was working full time and studying full time. I just needed to show them I was equally dedicated to both my dreams and will excel. I have. Lately, the biggest challenge has been trying to complete the diploma during the lockdown. Commitment and dedication sometimes waned, but in 6 ish weeks, it would have been worth it.
How have you found studying during the COVID 19 lockdown restrictions? Any tips for studying Massage during a lockdown?
HARD! The faculty has been extremely supportive! That has been the blessing and probably what sets Wellpark apart from other universities. They really do care and I have seen it. The best advice I can give is to COMMUNICATE. Be upfront, be honest. It may be scary, but Wellpark wants you to succeed. They have standards, and they will abide by them, but communication gives a better scope of what’s going on in your life and they will do what they can to help.
The Diploma in Wellness and Relaxation Massage covers a wide range of papers, skills and learning. What have you enjoyed the most about the Programme?
I’ve honestly enjoyed my classmates. The cohort I have been with has enhanced my learned exponentially. I may have a question, and from my question, my cohort takes it to new depths and we get to explore a wider range of what was originally at hand. I love them for that. Additionally, whole systems theory and the six dimensions of wellness have been major takeaways- everything is connected from the body systems to your workplace and environment and emotional stability. Not to mention the practical hands on learning of techniques.
What have you enjoyed most about your time at Wellpark College?
I have learned a new skill that will enrich the rest of my life. I am thankful they have jumpstarted a new career for me.
5 Fun Quick Questions
Favorite Performer?There are far too many for me to name, but I must say Alvin Ailey, Kevin Iega Jeff, Ronald K. Brown, Riley Bourne, Codie Wiggins to just name a few.
Favorite dance genre? Traditional dances- from all cultures, and contemporary dance.
Best advice you have ever been given? Stay ready, so you don’t have to get ready.
What’s your go essential oil? oooooo I have been feeling Lemongrass and Clove separately and OG (original go to) for me would be Verbena or lemon Verbena
Best post-performance recovery food? Very hard because I love food so much, and it depends if I try to be consciously eating or I’m eating comfort foods. A baked good never fails me.
Interview by Nikki Morgan with Otis Herring
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