Earl Decoud Jr.: The man with a million faces

Earl Decoud Jr. (@chiefsolomon)

Earl Decoud Jr. is a Performing Artist Among Us and a driven and rising young star.

Earl made history in February 2017 when he was one of two students from San Bernardino Valley College Theater Arts who was cast in productions at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. Earl performed in Doing Nothing is Doing Something exploring the language of hate and social issues in this country. He was subsequently nominated for the Kennedy Center's The Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship and will have the privilege to perform in a series of works in competition for the scholarship.

Although he is excited, honored, and humbled by this opportunity, he focuses on his future dreams. He has visions and goals that are clear and concrete. He wants to be a professional artist performing work that he believes has a message and purpose, works that leave a resonance in the heart and mind. He wants people to remember his characters and not him as an actor. It is also extremely important to him that his work accurately reflect the many faces, backgrounds, cultures, and experiences of Black America.

The only way you can do somethings is if you tell yourself you can do it.
— Earl Decoud Jr.

What sets him apart from his peers is his humbleness and willingness to learn. He wants to be known as the man with a million faces. He is observant of the world around him and learns from everything including "humans, animals, the way the wind blow, the way the sky moves." Because of his core beliefs and values, he is open to different types of work spanning from classical to television. 

A work that he is particularly proud of is A New Day in which he was able to portray and honor a dear friend:

Earl attributes his love of theater to his mother who put him in the YMCA where he performed seasonal plays. He remember the way he was able to make the audience feel something whether it was happiness, joy, sadness. He fell out of theater but subsequently rekindled this joy and love when he removed from the high school football team for poor grades. This re-awakening of the soul helped him improve his grades and get into College where he found his calling as an artist.

He describes the feeling of being on stage: "It is amazing being on stage and watching as people watch you and their eyes just get big as they watch everything you're doing." And this feeling continued to grow in college under the guidance of his professors, especially Ronald Bourbeau who really helped him foster his craft. 


Look for Earl in his upcoming performances with the Kennedy Center and follow him on Instagram @chiefsolomon. 


Braving the Storm: The Walking Ladies of the Chuck Norris Posse

This last weekend May 6-7, the awesome and inspiring teachers of The Seedling School walked for 24 hours at Claremont High School to raise over $1700 during the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life.

Mrs. Deep Tolia-Shah, Mrs. Carrie Swienton, and Mrs. Tracy Mokricky braved the wet and wild weather that hit Southern California over the weekend to fulfill their promise to walk continuously for 24 hours in solidarity with cancer survivors and those lost to cancer.

Team Chuck Norris Posse: (Left to Right) Mrs. Deep Tolia-Shah, friend, Mrs. Carrie Swienton, Mrs. Tracy Mokricky

Team Chuck Norris Posse: (Left to Right) Mrs. Deep Tolia-Shah, friend, Mrs. Carrie Swienton, Mrs. Tracy Mokricky

Their team, Chuck Norris Posse, walked through pouring rain, wild cyclonic wind gusts, and occasional hail. They started strong through the opening ceremony with support of friends and family. The continued on as other participants disappeared with the thunderstorms. In the late evening, they were rewarded with the the Luminaria and continued to walk in the light of the words "HOPE".

After dark, Relay participants shared an emotional moment when each Luminaria was lit in remembrance of a life touched by cancer. Together, they took a moment of silence to remember the loved ones they’re dedicated to. 

After dark, Relay participants shared an emotional moment when each Luminaria was lit in remembrance of a life touched by cancer. Together, they took a moment of silence to remember the loved ones they’re dedicated to. 

During the evening with clearer weather, my family and I walked with these lovely ladies and found out more about their lives. Mrs. Swienton was instrumental in setting up the Relay for Life for the Greater Pomona Valley Chapter. She started walking 6 years ago when a dear friend was diagnosed with cancer, and she was looking for additional ways to demonstrate her support beyond just monetary donations. Since then, she has walked every year. 

Over the years, Mrs. Swienton has recruited the support of her friends and colleagues and at work. For the last few years Mrs. Deep Tolia-Shah and Mrs. Tracy Mokricky have walked with her in solidarity. 

By the time morning arrived and they crossed the 24 hours threshold, these 3 ladies were among the last 15 brave souls to have fulfilled their commitment, dwindled down from the initial hundred. When asked about how she felt, Mrs. Mokricky stated, "There was a time there where I was really thinking maybe we don't have to do this because of the weather, but then inside I was glad we did it." Like everything in life, sticking to our faith, beliefs, and values can be accompanied by doubt and fear, but in the end when we trust in the goodness of God and wholeheartedly do what is right, we can inspire everyone around us. My family and I were deeply touched and inspired by these 3 lovely ladies who both metaphorically and physically walked through the storm for their beliefs. I hope you are as deeply moved as we are.

"There was a time there where I was really thinking maybe we don't have to do this because of the weather, but then inside I was glad we did it."

"There was a time there where I was really thinking maybe we don't have to do this because of the weather, but then inside I was glad we did it."

Funds raised support cancer patient programs and groundbreaking research that can help save lives. This event also celebrated the over 15.5 million cancer survivors nationwide. 


The Doctor on Your Side(line) - Dr. Tiffany Davis-Maltby @nflvet

I recently went to a communication course led by Dr. Tiffany Davis-Maltby, former Charger Girl. Who else would be better at leading a communication course than Dr. Davis-Maltby (dancer, cheerleader, mother, wife, physician, former nurse and all around awesome person)?  She is our next performing artist in our series Performing Artists Among Us.

Dr. Davis-Maltby danced 1 season with the Seahawks and 4 seasons with the Chargers all while she worked as a full time nurse. She was paid $50 for home games and had 2 unpaid 4 hour practices and all day Saturday practices every week. Promotional appearances paid more but were hard to get (although she had many!) When asked what made her cheer when she was paid so little and had to work a full time job, she answered simply, "Love." She loved to dance. She states, "In those times, there was no pretense or arrogance, just pure love." 

After cheerleading, Dr. Davis-Maltby put herself through medical school and became a physician. She talks about a little known fact: Chargers Girls may be the hottest in the NFL but in her time, they were also the smartest and most talented. Her Chargers Girls peers were teachers, lawyers, and pilots. Among them was Tiffany Billings, the founder of Club Jete (@clubjete). 

When asked what skills she brought with her from her cheerleading days to physician practice, she answers, "Everything you do has translatable skills." During Dr. Davis-Maltby's formative years, her family moved innumerable times. She attributes her insightfulness to her ever-changing environment. Despite not having formal dance training all those years, she became adaptable and learned quickly. She attributes this and her strong work ethics for her success in life. She had taken one season off and had to re-audition to get back on the team. She attributes her strong work ethic and her reputation for working hard to getting her back in despite having to compete with younger dancers for the spot. 

Dr. Davis-Maltby states, "In those times, there was no pretense or arrogance, just pure love." 

Dr. Davis-Maltby states, "In those times, there was no pretense or arrogance, just pure love." 

Cheerleading taught her how to connect with people with whom she may not have had anything in common. Dance and cheerleading also help her overcome her shyness and bring out her warm personality. To this day, these skills help her connect with patients and form strong doctor-patient relationships.

Regarding the horrors and superficialities that are commonly rumored with cheerleading, Dr. Davis-Maltby states that the Chargers were a great organization. She had weight-in's but never let those bother her and had a method to get through those without losing her self-esteem and integrity.

As a Chargers Girl, she had the privilege of dancing with some of the best choreographers and managers including, Angela King. Dr. Davis-Maltby danced and cheered all through life. Chargers Girls dance routines included hip-hop, tumbling, contemporary dance. To this day, she identifies as a dancer. She states, "I'm always dancing and moving."

I can personally attest that she is constantly dancing and moving and cheering her patients on as one of those everyday Performing Artists Among Us.




Eddie Meyer - Cajun / Zydeco Dancer

Eddie Meyer is descended from the Navajo but his art form stems from the deep south. He is a retired Zydeco dancer and jewelry maker. 

Eddie can be found wearing traditional inspired garments. His piercings are all done by traditional artists from Arizona. 

Eddie can be found wearing traditional inspired garments. His piercings are all done by traditional artists from Arizona. 

Zydeco is a folk dance that is performed to the fast paced zydeco music. It originated in the beginning of the 20th century among the Creole peoples of Acadiana (south-west Louisiana). Zyedeco music is usually played on an accordion accompanied by washboard. The music and dance originally celebrated house dances and socializing. 

Here is an example of Zydeco dance by Joanie "Li'l Biscuit" Brown & Sean "Gator Boy" Donovan demo Zydeco dancing at a benefit -- to help bring partner dancing to Seattle-area high schools -- for Dance It!, August 30, 2009. Video by Carol Andrews.

Eddie was first introduced to Zydeco by Brad Sjoblom and performed around the country for 50 years until an accident with a chiropractor ended his career. Every year he performed at the Long Beach Bayou Festival, various bars and venues in Lafayette, the Pasadena Eclectic Music festival, the Annual Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Music Festival, and The Bon Temps Social Club of San Diego.

Example of Zydeco music by the Grammy Nominated Roddie Romero and the Hub City AllStars perform at the Crawfish Festival in Long Beach, California in the summer of 2008.

Eddie was also a metallurgist and made silver Navajo inspired jewelry. He plans to resume selling them around the local markets in California. Keep an eye out for Eddie and is jewelry. 

Performing Artists Among Us: Debra Forth @debradarlingface

On a recent trip to San Francisco, I ran into the amazing Debra Forth. She is super talented and the perfect artist to showcase as the first in our series Performing Artists Among Us, where we highlight the talented artists that live among us everyday folks.

Debra is a Jane-of-all trades in the performing arts: graphic artist, accessories artist, singer, and comedian. Her colorful popculture images reflect her vibrant personality and evoke excitement and jubilance.

Sample of Debra's artwork from  https://www.etsy.com/shop/DebraDarlingface#about

I met Debra while she was singing on the Shiny Red 1955 Mack Fire Truck, her day job to pay her bills.

Debra sings for us through a tunnel.


Debra describes herself as "a rainbow-haired amazon from Detroit." She is the quintessential artist. She is brave and tenacious; she gave up her 14 years corporate retail career to pursue her dreams in Foggy San Francisco. She finds inspiration in all aspects of her life including pop culture, SF, Chicago, NYC, Detroit, her years in retail, as well as the odd-end jobs that pay her bills. 

Debra processes situations through her prism-lens self and the output is hilarious, colorful and inspiring. Check her out at the Mack Fire Truck Tour her website, or around SF art venues and comedy clubs by follow her on Instagram @debradarlingface for her next appearance. Or wave hello if you see her on the 55 Mack Fire Engine around SF! You'll be glowing for days from her bright humor and insightful jokes. 

Debra tells her funny unscripted joke.

AMWA 102nd Annual Meeting San Francisco

This year's AMWA Annual Meeting in San Francisco was a great success with women physicians gathering from around the country to support and celebrate each other. 

The featured film was "50/50: Rethinking the Past, Present, and Future of Women + Power" by Tiffany Shlain, Emmy-nominated filmmaker & founder of The Webby Awards. The impactful film explores the 10,000 year history of women and power and what it will take to get to a 5050 world.  

This year, we inaugurated Suzanne Leonard Harrison, MD as President and Connie Baum Newman, MD as President-Elect.  Dr. Newman is an endocrinologist and physician-scientist and Adjunct Professor of Medicine at New York University School of Medicine and Academic Visitor at the University of Oxford, UK. 

Suzanne Leonard Harrison, MD AMWA President inauguration speech. She serves as Professor of Family Medicine & Rural Health at the Florida State University College of Medicine in Tallahassee, Florida.

The 2 keynote speakers were Sandra Fluke, Esq and Jessica L. Mega, MD, MPH

Jessica L. Mega's speech on "The Freedom to Innovate" encouraged us to be courageous and make our own paths as she has done with at Verily Life Sciences.
Sandra Fluke's speech on "Making Our Voices Heard" encouraged us to advocate for our patients as she has done advocating for gender equality, LGBTQ rights and criminal justice reform.

It was an honor to be around such inspiring and supportive women. The conference was powerful and inspiring. I highly recommend that if you are a woman in medicine that you join AMWA. Membership is very affordable, but the benefits are priceless. 

Wellesley Women in Medicine at AMWA: Florence Doo, Tina J Wang, Connie Newman (left to right)

Revealing dance tights!

Tights are quintessential to dance and ballet. Any mental image of a ballerina conjure up images of a dancer in tights, leotard and a tutu. Yet, this seemingly simple garment is a complex entity. Not only do tights serve many different purposes but they also are used by dancers to express an individual aesthetic. This posting delves into the history and purpose as well as the facts and myths circulating about the illustrious dance tight .

Classical  image a dancer in tights, leotard and a tutu.

Classical  image a dancer in tights, leotard and a tutu.

Throughout history, tights were the subject of many controversies. Vaslav Nijinsky reportedly debuted in his Russian performance of Giselle before the Royal Family with skin hugging white tights in contrast with the expected loose brown tights. Supposedly, the Imperial Theatre immediately fired him for public indecency.(1) The Pope had his own dance company and insisted on blue tights so the dancers' limbs did not resemble naked flesh.(2) Now-a-days, the dance ensemble including the tights are a method to express a dancer's individuality and can be in all variations of colors, self modifications, and combinations.(3) Dancers will even show up to class in their worn out, ripped tights as a badge of hard work and experience. 

Vaslav Ninjinksy in tights in  Le Spectre de La Rose  in 1911

Vaslav Ninjinksy in tights in Le Spectre de La Rose in 1911


Let's start our journey with the tights at the beginning. According to Adrian Clarke of the Library of Costume and Design, tights are our tangible connection to Ballet’s origin. They are the oldest item of clothing with the longest tradition in dance.(3) Unconfirmed sources often site that Marie Camargo was the first dancer to shorten her skirts, enabling her audience to appreciate her intricate footwork. Around the turn of the 18th century, the costume designer at the Paris Opera, Monsieur Maillot, invented tights used specifically for tights.(4) Tights were commonly wore by men since the time of the inception of ballet but not worn during dance. During the Renaissance, the use of the tight become more common in theater and dance by both genders.(1)

From Marie Anne Cuppi 1710-70 known as La Camargo dancing" oil on Canvas by Nicolas Lancret

From Marie Anne Cuppi 1710-70 known as La Camargo dancing" oil on Canvas by Nicolas Lancret


Fundamentally, tights serve a distinct purpose- they allow for free and unrestricted movement. Well made tights move freely with the dancer to allow for dance movement through the whole range of movement of the joint. Some dance historians attribute the use of the dance tight to the blossoming of ballet into its full potential as dancers were able to freely explore more complex and wide ranges of movement.


The dance tight also serves another purpose- highlighting of a dancer's alignment. On stage, the light color of the tights contrasts with the dark or colorful backdrops, showing off the dancer's clear and long lines. In class, the tights allow for the teacher to assess for issues with alignment, including bent knees from tight hamstrings. Backseams are an additional visual aid, making checks easier. 


Dance tights also serve to keep the legs and muscles warm. Dancers often wear wool leg warmers or pants over their tights during warm up and initial barre routine to help their muscles warm up and become supple. Warm muscles are looser and more contractile, allowing for more explosive and powerful dance movement as well as prevents injuries.

Muscle Activation

Some say the muscles of the leg are highlighted by ballet tights to help teachers correct dancers. However, I find in my own assessment as a physician of dancers, that tights inhibit a clear view of muscle tone and activation. I prefer to assess dancers without tights and with a clear view of the entire body and kinetic chain.

Health and Recovery:

Some dancers claim that ballet tights aid in compression and muscle recovery. However, the amount of compression present in a standard pair of dance tights is not sufficient. Dancers do use compressive garments for dance and recovery,(4) but these are not the standard ballet tights.

Sanitary Reasons

I've also heard teachers and dancers talk about tights as a barrier that protects feet against dirty and sweaty pointe shoes. However, I find tights are just too thin to protect the shoe or the dancer from the copious sweating that comes from the hard work of dance practice.


I've also heard dancers talk about the use of tights to aid in shoe grip particularly during pointe work where one is required to work through the toes. I find the opposite happens with me and my feet tend to slip out of the heel of the pointe shoes much more easily with footed tights.

In contrast, the thin, footed dance tights do provide an additional layer of protection for the foot particularly during long hours of pointe work. They can help keep padding and taping in place when pads are worn under the footed tights. They help to minimize abrasive forces and prolong the exposure duration of skin to the shear forces of dancing. (This is similar to runners using tape and petroleum oil on their nipples and waist line.)


Ultimately, dance is a visual art form. In this light, tights have an aesthetic role and serve to elongate a dancer's line, especially those with back seams. Choosing a tight color is tricky and can be as nuanced as finding the right pair of dance shoes.

There are 2 distinct pink colors: ballet pink and theatrical pink. Ballet pink tights are more salmon in color and look best with the more salmon shoes, like Freeds, Capezio, Gaynor Minden. Theatrical pink tights are a lighter pink and pair well with paler shoes, like Grishkos and Russian Pointes. Depending on the brand, these pinks will vary as well. The color will also vary based on the material and when worn. Capezio #9 in ballet pink is notorious for looking bright orange on dancers. In general, non-mesh tights appear as a pale pink in the package, but they often look white, yellow or purple once on a dancer. Mesh tights look extremely pigmented in the package, but become lighter once worn. 

(1) Tights tend to show up a different color in the package. Compare the color of the ballet pink tight outside of the package in the next picture to the darker color it appears in the package. (2) The color of tights changes compared with each other and against shoes. The theatrical pink tights are on the left and the ballet pink tights are shown on the right. (3) The color of tights changes compared with each other and against shoes. Here the colors of the ballet pink tights and the theatrical tights light against the darker skin toned tights. (4) Here the colors really darken against the shoes. (5) Here the ballet pink tights look a lot lighter when fully stretched and on against a dark dance floor.

Personally, my go-to tights are the Body Wrappers Convertible Mesh tights with Backseam. The convertible foot allows me to switch easily between pointe and flat shoes. The tights are soft and non-scratchy. Despite the mesh surface, the color blends well into all skin tones. 

(1) Here the 2 tight colors are shown over a darker skin tone dancer. (2) This can be compared with the next picture of the 2 tights over a lighter skin toned dancer. (3) The convertible footed tight allows for padding to be placed under the tights.


  1. Ostwald, Peter. Vaslav Nijinksy: A Leap into Madness. Kensington, 1990.
  2. Banham, Martin. The Cambridge Guide to Theater. Cambridge University Press. 1995
  3. Clark, Adrian. Tights Connection to the Beginning of Ballet: a history of tights. http://www.dancetrain.com.au/tights-connection-to-the-beginning-of-ballet/
  4. Kassing, Gayle. History of Dance: An Interactive Arts Approach. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2007.
  5. Adams, Rebecca. Ballet Dancers Explain Those Signature Leotards, Leg Warmers And Other Style Secrets. Huffington Post. 2014. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/09/ballet-style_n_4064192.html.
  6. Rain, Francis. Compression Garments for Dancers. Dance Informa. http://dancemagazine.com.au/2014/11/fling-physical-theatre/

Call and Response in the Arts: Cubism, Music, and Life

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is hosting the exhibit Picasso and Rivera: Conversations Across Time. On March 11, Wellesley alumna Jennifer Josten, Director of Graduate Studies and Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburg, moderated a talk regarding the exhibit, Cubism's Audience and Interpretation, Paris to Mexico City.

Jennifer Josten, James Oles, Patricia Leichten (from left to right)

Jennifer Josten, James Oles, Patricia Leichten (from left to right)

The dialogue was between art historians James Oles, Wellesley professor and adjunct curator of Latin American art at the Davis Museum, and Patricia Leighten, Professor Emerita of Art History & Visual Studies at Duke University. They discussed the reactions to Cubism in Paris and Mexico City as well as the dialogue and interplay between Picasso and Rivera.

Pablo Picasso and Diego Rivera in a call and response

Pablo Picasso and Diego Rivera in a call and response

In the question and answer section, a woman brought up the theme of call and response that is so prominent in music and dance, especially in African culture. (A call and response is a succession of two musical/dance phrases, where the second phrase is performed as a direct commentary on or response to the first.) She likened the relationship between Picasso and Rivera and their use of their art as the studio art's embodiment of call and response.

Conversation between me and James Oles

Conversation between me and James Oles

This talk was an exciting immersion into other forms of expression. As a musician and dancer, I was fascinated by the intersect between the art forms. It reiterates that all aspects of our lives are in constant fluctuation in relation to our own self, our environment, and those around us. We must honor that, idiomatically, our scientific and objective brains are also strongly informed by our expressive and artistic selves in a call and response dialogue. 

The let-down effect in performing artists

When I was in medical school, I would repeatedly experience a cyclic health-and-illness pattern around the time of examinations. As soon as those grueling 3 hours exams were over and it was time to relax, I would get sick.

I remembered back in my dancing and performing days, I would experience a similar phenomenon. We would rehearse and rehearse and rehearse... often late into the night and do it again the next day. Almost on cue, after a performance, my body and mind would relax and I would become ill.


Scientists term this phenomenon the "let-down effect" or "adrenal fatigue." Some scientists think that the body is weakened during times of stress making it more vulnerable to infection. Others think it's a physiologic response to prolonged stress.

There is scientific evidence of this mind-body effect. During times of stress, the body releases cortisol. High levels of prolonged exposure to cortisol can weaken immune responses to pathogens like bacteria and viruses resulting in illnesses. As soon as the stressor is removed, the body down-regulates all systems and causes the body to go haywire. Some scientists believe that it is this hay-wiring that causes the cold-like syndrome.

Whatever the true scientific reason behind the "let-down effect," don't let it get the better of you. Remember to wind-down before big performances like other athletes. Use meditation, guided and self-guided imagery, and somatic methods like Yoga and Feldenkrais to prepare your body and mind. Your mind is part of your body and also part of your instrument and tool of trade. Remember to keep your mind healthy, just like you would your body.


  1. R. B. Lipton, D. C. Buse, C. B. Hall, H. Tennen, T. A. DeFreitas, T. M. Borkowski, B. M. Grosberg, S. R. Haut. Reduction in perceived stress as a migraine trigger: Testing the "let-down headache" hypothesisNeurology, 2014; DOI: 
  2. Segerstrom SC, Miller GE. Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry. Psychological bulletin. 2004;130(4):601-630. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.130.4.601.

Variations of the Pirouette (en dehors) from 4th

Recently, I started taking ballet from Ilona Missakian, Ph. D. She asked us to do an allegro combination with a pirouette. I started from the classic RAD 4th position. She corrected me and said she preferred the Balanchine-style pirouette. Over the years, I've been asked to do many different pirouettes starting from many positions with different preparations. As adult dancers, we were always allowed to do what we felt was most comfortable. It got me thinking of the pro's and con's of the different styles of pirouettes en dehors. 



In the Balanchine-style pirouette, the beginning and ending are in an extended fourth position with the back leg extended. When using this deep, elongated preparation, dancers keep their weight far over the front foot and use their back toes to push into passé. Turning from Balanchine’s long fourth position can lead to faster pirouettes. The arms are straight with the palms down. The working side arm never opens to second and pulls straight in. When the dancer turns the front hand and brings it to the chest and crosses the other arm over the first arm, the dancer is able to get into a faster turn. The energy goes up and forwards before turning. Balanchine’s pirouettes are spotted front to allow the audience to see the dancer face on. This method is difficult, requires a strong standing leg, excellent balance and core strength.



In the RAD style, the pirouette en dehors starts from the fourth position with a plié, with more weight over the front foot, known as a closed fourth position. The plié pushes from both legs. RAD pirouettes use rounded arms. The front arm opens during the plié before the turn. As the second arm closes to first position, there is an initiating turning force. The RAD style of training teach dancers to spot where the turn will finish. Turning from the classic 4th position requires good turn out and use of fundamental movements learned at the barre. 


Other times, a teacher may ask for a pirouettes starting from fifth position en face, landing fifth back. This is to help the dancer feel the connection of the shoulder to the ribs and hip on the supporting side. The more compact preparation allows the dancer to feel the upward pull rather than focus on the turning.  In the same token, the landing is in fifth to emphasize control and balance.

Open Fourth/Intermediate position: 


This preparation position is a variation of the traditional RAD double plié. In this turn, the larger open fourth position allows the dancer to gather energy and control the rotational forces to speed up the rotation. The arms start in opposite fourth with the working arm opening to hit a la seconde as the “widest” moment with the dancer then pulling up into the pirouette. Master teacher Finis Jhung, who studied videos of turning wizards like Mikhail Baryshnikov in slow motion, termed this position “The End of the Plié.” The position is a second position plié with the weight on the front foot between the preparation and the retiré pose. This turn allows for fast turns with maximize's the dancer's control of turn speed and style.


Whatever style of pirouette en dehors you have learned, I encourage you to try and learn them all. They are all stylistically different, and physically they require activation of different muscles as well as the same muscles with differing amounts of control. Working through a pirouette style that is different can teach you nuances about your body and point out weaknesses and imbalances in your technique and body. It gives you, yet, another tool to improve yourself and express your movement and individual style.


Professor Jeff A. Russell - Professor, Trail Blazer, Mentor

I would like to kick-start the new Professionals in the Arts Series by honoring my friend, mentor, and unwavering cheerleader, Dr. Jeff Russell.

From the SHAPe Clinic webiste

From the SHAPe Clinic webiste

Jeff Russell is a special man of unwavering character fueled by his Christian Faith and his ever supportive wife, Ruth Russell. 

In 2002, Jeff Russell took a leap of faith. He and his wife found their calling. They packed up their belongings and 2 children and moved to the United Kingdom to pursue a PhD in Dance Medicine and Science from the University of Wolverhampton. He was the 3rd person in the world to obtain this degree. But what is remarkable is not the degree, but what he has given up to help performing artists in need of healthcare. 

 In late 2001, a dancer had braved the weight room, occupied by big burly football players, to seek help from Dr. Russell regarding a dance injury. After he cared for her, word spread like wildfire that there was this "athletic trainer" willing to help dancers. And soon, all sorts of students clad in leotards and dance wear were trudging through the weight room looking for Dr. Russell. He has now dedicated his life's work to the much-needed niche and to help performing artists, a group of individuals who are not offered the same healthcare as traditional athletes, but who have just as many demands placed on their bodies.

Jeff Russell has a long lists of accolades and a publication list even longer. He is Director of Science and Health in Artistic Performance (aka, SHAPe) at Ohio University and serves on the International Association of Dance Medicine & Science Board of Directors and the Editorial Board of the Journal of Dance Medicine & Science. Prior to that he was at the University of California, Irvine where he won the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Research Supervision and founded and directed the Performing Arts Medicine Service at Belhaven University. He gave up his successful business as president and CEO of the Joe W. King Orthopedic Institute in Houston, Texas where he executed research for presentation at various professional societies and publication in a variety of orthopaedic journals to pursue a life of service.

This story alone makes Jeff Russell remarkable. But there is more. Fundamentally, Jeff and Ruth Russell dedicate their lives to the unwavering support of the growth and development of others. He taught me to keep my eyes focused on the distant lighthouse becon of our Faith shining through the dark waves and fog. He took my phone calls at odd-hours during many brutal 7-days-long physician calls marked by a mere couple hours of sleep and no rest. He sent me encouraging texts all 4 years of my training. He taught me that it is our spouses partnered to us by His Grace that allows us to carry on with our Work. And he and Ruth have done this for countless others including their own adopted children, not only encouraging us in our professional careers but more fundamentally in our personal character development.

Jeff Russell is embarking on a new venture. Through his platform Artsanus, he will be sharing his knowledge and insights. But importantly, he will be sharing his passion and Faith. It is my hope that Jeff and Ruth will touch your lives as they have changed mine and my family's. 

From the Artisanus website

From the Artisanus website

The Musical Coinage of the Austrian Mint: Part II

In this posting, I continue to present the Austrian’s Mint coinage celebrating its rich history in music and arts. For details regarding the Austrian Mint’s history, please refer to Part I.

Coin Series:

Wolfgang – Amadeus – Mozart

Mozart is Austria’s most famous composer, so naturally the Austrian Mint produced coins celebrating him.  In this series, the mint produced a three silver coin series entitled “Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, A Life in Three Acts.” The obverse of each coin depicts a portrait of Mozart. The reverse of each coin features a different opera by Mozart.

The first coin of the series, Wolfgang: The Wunderkind (2015), celebrates Mozart’s boyhood as a musical prodigy. The reverse features the opera, “Bastien und Bastienne”.

The second coin, Amadeus: The Genius (2016), celebrates Mozart as an adult. Mozart made a lot of money when he moved to Vienna, but a lavish extravagant lifestyle ultimately left him in debt when he died at a young age of 35. The reverse features “Don Giovanni.”

The last coin, Mozart: The Legend (2016), celebrates Mozart’s legacy. The portrait was painted by his brother-in-law Joseph Lange. The reverse features what is probably his greatest opera, “The Magic Flute.”

Klimt and his Women

Arguably one of Austria’s most revered painters, Gustav Klimt was a symbolist painter. Klimt’s primary subject was the female body. In 2012, the Austrian Mint commemorated the 150th Anniversary of Klimt’s birth with this five gold coin series. This five-year series, featured some of Klimt’s most famous works: Adele Bloch-Bauer (2012), The Expectation (2013), Judith II (2014), Medicine (2015), and his most famous work, The Kiss (2016).

The Austrian Mint truly appreciates its fine Austrian culture by producing such beautiful coins showcasing its culture. I look forward to enjoying the music and art of these renowned Austrians (as well as the coins that celebrate them).


Dancing and drumming in the Lunar New Year!

The Lunar New Year is a time for festivity and celebration around the world. Celebrations start at the beginning of the lunar month (which changes on the Gregorian calendar). This year, the first day of the Lunar New Year fell on Saturday, 28 January. Each year, the Chinese culture celebrates a different zodiac animal. The year 2017 is the year of the Rooster.

The festival is heavy with performing arts, full of symbolism and representative of the Chinese culture.

The Dragon Dance is performed by a team of dancers who manipulate a long flexible figure of a dragon using poles positioned at regular intervals along the length of the dragon. The dance team simulates the imagined movements of this river spirit that brings good fortune.

Performing in a dragon dance team incorporates multiple skill sets; like all performing arts, it requires training as a team, acrobatics, and dance. As a performing arts medicine specialist, I also examine the physical risks. These dancers are at high risk for injury. The performers are out in the sun or rain, in outdoor arenas full of concrete and uneven surfaces, often interacting with the crowd in an improvisational manner.

The festival is also full of music. The drum is heavily featured and the dancing is set to the beats of a percussion ensemble. In ancient China, drums were seen as all-powerful magic weapons, and were first used in battle. They are now used in folk art and festivals to express the spirit of the Chinese people.

The festivals also include other types of traditional Chinese instruments like this bamboo percussion instrument. These instruments are played by horizontally shaking the unit and thereby producing a multi tonal sound. When played as a unit with singing, the music produced is complex and beautiful.

The musical coinage of the Austrian Mint: Part I

The Austrian Mint’s origin goes back to the year 1194, when King Richard I (the Lionheart) paid Duke Leopold V of Austria a ransom to secure Richard’s freedom after a year of imprisonment. Richard’s men had thrown Leopold’s banner into a moat over a quarrel and insulted Leopold, who subsequently captured and imprisoned Richard near Vienna when Richard was returning to England from the Crusades. Leopold struck coins from the ransom and, thus, started the Mint.

Throughout the centuries, the Mint had various names with each associated empire by which it was occupied. The current day Austrian Mint (then the Mint House) was built in 1835. After the formation of the Republic of Austria in 1918, the Austrian Mint (then the Vienna Principal Mint) became Austria’s only mint and remains so today. In 1989, the Mint officially changed its name to the Austrian Mint and it became a subsidiary of the Austrian Nation Bank (Many world mints are subsidiaries of their national banks.)

The Austrian Mint is a member of the international minting elite. It was the first in the world to strike a silver-niobium coin in 2003. But the Austrian Mint is renowned by numismatists for their performing arts coinage. The focus of the performing arts coinage is the nearby Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and composers and artists born in Austria. We will look at some of the Mint’s beautiful coins produced in 2016 and the expected releases for 2017 below.

Vienna Philharmonic Bullion Coins

The iconic Vienna Philharmonic gold coin was first introduced to bullion investors in 1989. It was named after the nearby Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, which inspired the designs on both sides. It was so successful that it was the best selling gold coin in the world in 1992, 1995, 1996, and 2000. Due to it’s success, the Austrian Mint produced a silver version in 2008. The obverse of the coin depicts the pipe organ in the Viennese Musikverein’s Golden Hall, home of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. The reverse of the coin depicts eight characteristic orchestral instruments: four violins either side of a cello in the foreground and the Viennese horn, the bassoon, and the harp behind.

Commemorative Coins

Vienna Opera Ball

The year 2016 celebrated the 60th Anniversary of the reopening of the ball after a 17 year suspension during World War II. The annual Austrian event takes place in the building of the Vienna State Opera, on the Thursday preceding Ash Wednesday. It is one of the highlights of the Viennese carnival season. The obverse of the coin depicts a young woman holding a red bouquet and a young man kissing her other hand. The Vienna State Opera is depicted in the background. The reverse of the coin depicts the ball opening with dance performances by young men and women.

New Year coin 2017 – Waltzing in the New Year

The Mint of Austria has launched its latest “New Year’s” coin that celebrates the 150th anniversary of the first performance of Johann Strauss II’s (Austrian born) masterpiece, “The Blue Danube.” The piece is the first tune of the year to be played on Austrian radio, thus, it is synonymous with the New Year and is the perfect theme for the Mint’s New Year coin.

175th Anniversary of the Vienna Philharmonic

In January 2017, the Austrian Mint will be releasing the 175th Anniversary of the Vienna Philharmonic silver coin. It celebrates the first ever performance of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, on March 28, 1842. The obverse of the coin depicts the orchestra’s three founding fathers: August Schmidt, Otto Nicolai, and Alfred Julius Becher. The reverse depicts a detail from Max Oppenheimer’s massive triptych, titled “Die Philharmoniker”, which hangs in the Belvedere museum in Vienna.

Part II will be posted next week. Stay tuned!


Kintsugi Approach to Performance Related Injuries

Kintsugi (金継ぎ) is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold. As a philosophy, Kintsugi incorporates the broken pieces into the aesthetic of the restored item, making it part of the object’s history, resulting into something more beautiful than the original.

I approach dance and play-related injuries with the same philosophy. An injured body is neither "broken" nor meant to be discarded. Rather injuries elucidate where our bodies are weak and our technique less than ideal. Performing arts medicine professionals help dancers and musicians better understand where the weakness in their technique and the kinetic chain occurs and how to strengthen these areas. Much like Kintsugi, injury recovery guided by a performing arts medicine specialist helps performing artists transform their bodies and their art beyond their original state.

Judo Buyō - The lost art of Judo Dance

Judo Buyō translates in English to Judo Dance.

Judo Buyō began in the 1960's by Kodokan Judo, the founding Judo association, at a time when women were not permitted to participate in Judo matches. To allow more participation from women, Judo Buyō was created. Women performed the Judo Buyō during the opening ceremonies.

After women were allowed to compete and women's Judo matches were developed in 1978, Judo Buyō died out. Even in Japan, it is a relatively unknown dance/martial art form.

Recently in 2014, Japanese Judoist Keiko Nagasaki revived the art form. As a 7th dan Judo master, she has been teaching Judo for 40 years. She created a troupe composed of 12 women judoka and began performing the dance before matches in her hometown of Kanazawa.

The differences between the Judo Buyō she danced in the past and her revived Judo Buyō are her modifications. The dance was originally composed of basic Judo movements. She now includes more complex Judo movements including throws, break-falls, and rolls. She has also re-adapted the Judo Buyō's purpose and uses the dance as another method to practice and share her love for the sport of Judo.

Keiko Nagasaki's journey to revive Judo Buyō was documented in June 2015 by the Japanese broadcasting corporation, NHK world: https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/editors/3/20160615/

Additional photographs can be found here: https://zendoukan.jimdo.com/柔道舞踊/

As a side note: Buyō is a separate tradition and refers to the traditional Japanese performing art of dance and pantomime. It developed in the early Edo period (early 17th century) from kabuki, a traditional Japanese theater drama incorporating dance.


  • Stevens J. The way of Judo: a portrait of Jigoro Kano & his students. Boston: Shambhala, 2013. 230p.
  • History of Kodokan Judo [Intenet]. Japan: Kodoan Judo Institute; [cited 2017 Jan 7]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: http://kodokanjudoinstitute.org/en/doctrine/history/
  • All the Right Moves [Internet]. Japan: NHK World; 2016 Jun 15 [cited 1027 Jan 7]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/editors/3/20160615/

The saut de chat: ballet terminology - isn't it all the same?

I picked up our Performing Arts Medicine journal, Medical Problems of Performing Artists, today to stay up to date on the current research and became very confused. An article used the term saut de chat to refer to a grand jeté developpé. After years of studying ballet across a mixture of Italian, French, Russian, English, American traditions, I'm familiar with variations in "ballet language." So I decided to do some investigating.

It turns out that that saut de chat is a commonly used term to describe grand jeté developpé. To avoid confusion, the movement is illustrated below. This ballet jump is performed/practiced as part of grande allegro exercises. A high degree of flexibility and strength is required to achieve a full split position in mid-air.

I learned this step as it is described in words- grand jeté developpé- big jump that starts from an unfolding leg. Gretchen Warren, a leading author trained in the Royal Ballet tradition, also calls this step a grand jeté developpé. Gail Grant, another leading author in ballet terminology, calls this step a grand pas de chat from the Vaganova tradition. This was also the terminology used by the Balachine tradition as noted by Barbara Walczak and Una Kai. Anecdotally, this step has also been referred to either correctly or incorrectly as the grand jeté pas de chat, pas de chat jeté, Russian pas de chat, Italian pas de chat.

As a medical professional, I would describe this as a jump involving anterior leg hip flexion and anterior knee extension from a flexed position with simultaneous posterior leg hip extension with knee in extension.

All this to say, movement and spoken language are fluid and highly stylized. That's why choreographers and dancers have their signature styles.

(Note: this is not to be confused with pas de chat which is the step of the cat and in the Cecchetti Method requires starting from a 5th position. It begins with raising the foot in raccourci derriere, at the height of the jump with both legs in high passé, landing on the starting foot with the other foot in raccourci devant, closing in demi-plie in fifth position.)

Benedetto Pistrucci, the British Sovereign and Overuse Injuries

The year 2017 celebrates the 200 year design of the British Gold Sovereign created by renowned Italian gem and metal engraver Benedetto Pistrucci. His ‘St. George and the Dragon’ design has been relatively unchanged since its creation. The British Sovereign is considered the flagship of the Royal Mint and is one, if not the most recognized coin in the world. 

Despite the British Sovereign being so widely renowned, little is known about the occupational and health risks endured by Pistrucci. An exhaustive search by the authors has yielded little to no available information regarding overuse injuries that must inevitably have been endured by metal engravers. Pistrucci was reported to have worked 15 hours daily in his engraving work shop. Dr. Wang has seen countless studio artists with overuse injuries particularly in the neck, arms, and hands. Pistrucci must have suffered from persistent overuse syndromes that are not reported. To this day, the only legacy of his sacrifice for his art form is the enduring British Sovereign. 

The original British Sovereign originated centuries before Pistrucci was born. The British Sovereign was originally issued in 1489 when Henry VII won the throne after defeating Richard III in the War of Roses. Henry VII ordered the Master of the Royal Mint to create a new gold coin to start the Tutor dynasty. The obverse of the coin depicted the king in full coronation regalia and the reverse depicting the royal arms, crowned and superimposed on a magnificent double rose to symbolize the union of House York and House Lancaster after the War of Roses. The British Sovereign stopped minting in 1604 after the death of Elizabeth I and end of the Tutor Dynasty.

In 1817, the British Sovereign returned due to the Great Recoinage of 1816 as an attempt to restabilize the currency of Great Britain following economic difficulties precipitated by the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars.

Pistrucci was employed by the Royal Mint to engrave various coins and medals. As a foreigner, Pistrucci could not be appointed the position of Chief Engraver, even though the position was vacant and Pistrucci did all the duties. Pistrucci’s masterpiece, the British Sovereign design, depicts St. George (England’s patron saint) slaying a dragon with a spear on the reverse. Pistrucci choose a classic Greek look where George is naked (except for the Roman helmet and cape) and muscular. Later designs (2005 & 2012) depict George wearing a full suit of armor slaying the dragon. The obverse depicts George III wearing a laurel wreath crown, like the Caesars of Rome.

British Sovereigns are struck in the same 22 carat Crown Gold alloy as the first modern British Sovereign of 1817.  The technical specifications of the coin have also remained unchanged. The British Sovereign is a “protected coin” for the purposes of the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981, which is an act of the parliament of the United Kingdom which makes it illegal to make fake versions of the coin.

The Royal Mint has released three versions of the 2017 British Sovereign – the regular Sovereign, the half-Sovereign, and the quarter-sovereign. All versions come in Proof condition in a capsule stored in a beautiful glossed walnut presentation box. A numbered Certificate of Authenticity and booklet with information about the sovereign, Pistrucci, and his design are also included. And for the first time ever, you can register your British Sovereign purchase on the Royal Mint website where they will publish your name on a special book that will be published by the Royal Mint.



Women in Medicine Local Conference

Today we had our local AMWA Women in Medicine conference run by Eliza Chin, MD. Our guest moderator was Saralyn Mark, MD.  Both women have written books on the subject and are staunch supporters of women through their advocacy efforts. It was a pleasure and honor to be able to network and support my fellow sisters in medicine.