Ballet News

Chiropractor Sets it Straight for Ballet Idaho Dancers

There are ballet dancers and there are doctors, but there are very few doctors who have danced with the New York City Ballet. Afshin Mofid is one of them. Mofid, the only chiropractor in the Northwest with a professional dance background, runs Mofid Clinic of Chiropractic of Boise, the official chiropractic clinic of Ballet Idaho. Dr. Mofid also teaches the company dancers from time to time. Drawing from his chiropractic training and storied ballet career, Dr. Mofid developed a wellness and injury prevention program for Ballet Idaho that’s based on the clinical knowledge of a doctor and a dancers’ understanding of the specific strains ballet puts on the body. “The dancers have never been to a doctor who could teach a ballet class,” Dr. Mofid says. “I can look at them as a dancer, but at the same time, I’m looking at the quality of their movement, imbalances and muscle proportions as a doctor.” Born in Iran to a family of artists, poets and writers, Dr. Mofid started his ballet training at the age of 9. His star rose quickly; by 16, he had moved to New York City to finish high school and practice in open ballet classes. A year later, he was dancing with the New York City Ballet’s School of American Ballet founded by George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein. Dr. Mofid was soon chosen personally by Balanchine to join the company, where he was part of the last generation of dancers to work with the legendary ballet pioneer and Jerome Robbins. From 1980 to 1986, Dr. Mofid danced leads in several productions, including La Valse, Nutcracker and Afternoon of a Faun, earning extensive critical acclaim from The New York Times and others. Newsweek magazine once declared him one of the “upcoming stars” of ballet. After retiring from ballet, Dr. Mofid lived briefly on a dude ranch in Montana, taught ballet at the University of Idaho, explored the outdoors in Sun Valley, worked as a waiter in Los Angeles, taught ballet at UC Irvine and enrolled in college. This twisting and turning path ultimately led to chiropractic, which was a natural transition from ballet for Dr. Mofid. For professionals and amateurs alike, dancing takes a rigorous toll on the body, and recurring knee and back pain had led to interruptions in Dr. Mofid’s rehearsal and performance schedule. It wasn’t until he visited a chiropractor that he found relief. Chiropractic is a health care discipline that emphasizes the inherent recuperative power of the body to heal itself without the use of drugs or surgery. The practice of chiropractic focuses on the relationship between body structure (primarily the spine) and function (the nervous system). The malfunction of the nervous system can lead to serious health issues, and chiropractic techniques concentrate on this area of the body to preserve and restore overall health. The wellness program Dr. Mofid developed for Ballet Idaho uses a specific set of exercises designed to identify weaknesses in the dancers’ structure, align their bodies, optimize muscle reaction and identify technical flaws that could lead to injures. Dr. Mofid met individually with each dancer to assess their technique, body proportions and strength, and then developed the program based on the data he collected and his dual understanding of the body as a dancer and chiropractor. “The dancers know that I know exactly what they’re going through, what they’re talking about,” Dr. Mofid says. “That’s a huge plus with any patient.” The exercises are task-specific in nature, as dancers’ bodies are not designed for endurance training such as long-distance running. “Dancers are like boxers — it’s more of a sprint than a marathon,” Dr. Mofid says. “They don’t have to sustain the movements. If we can make sure their bodies are aligned and functioning ideally, they can perform to the best of their abilities. Even if they’re not in pain, a misalignment of the spine can cause a delay in muscle reaction and affect their performance.” Dr. Mofid’s program has paid huge dividends for Ballet Idaho, insuring career longevity for the dancers and saving the company money. For his own practice, working with the dancers has helped refine Dr. Mofid’s skills and allowed him to better care for his patients. “The most obvious result is, if someone is starting to get injured, we get to it immediately,” he says. “These dancers, a lot of them are just starting their careers. If we can prevent these injuries, it will help them enjoy a long and healthy career.” Mofid Clinic of Chiropractic is located at 880 N. Curtis Road in Boise, across from Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center. For more information, call 208.323.1810 or email mofidclinic@yahoo.com.