By Josef Brown
My experience at the IADMS conference 2017.
"OK Houston, we’ve had a problem here."
Jack Swigert, Apollo 13 astronaut to Mission Control
The above quote, which until I consulted Dr. Google I believed to be the more commonly mis-quoted, ‘Houston, we have a problem’ was all I knew about Houston. That, and it had recently been decimated by cyclone Harvey and was home to the Houston Ballet, which is under the Artistic Direction of Australian, Stanton Welch who has risen to be acclaimed as one of the world’s choreographic giants.
But after fifteen hours of a movie marathon, TV binge watching Qantas flight to Dallas, a nervous wait trudging through security to try and make a connecting flight - I didn’t - a further 3 hours mulling around a terminal and then another plane, I finally disembarked and emerged into the open air to be wrapped in the soothing heat of the recently deluged Houston, Texas.
I’d arrived in Houston for the annual IADMS Conference. If you’re not already familiar, IADMS is an acronym for, International Association for Dance, Medicine and Science. Over four jam-packed days hundreds of the worlds leading health related practitioners in dance; physiotherapists, podiatrists, Orthopaedic surgeons, Physical and Neuro-Kinetic Therapists, teachers and engaged professional dancers come to listen and deliver lectures on all aspects of dance training, injury prevention and rehabilitation.
My introduction to IADMS started as soon as I left the American Airlines terminal and boarded the Super Shuttle bus headed towards the uptown area, some thirty minutes away. Within moments of fastening my seat belt it became obvious that the two women seated beside me, one from Philadelphia and the other from London, were also on their way to IADMS and we quickly got to chatting becoming engrossed in a fascinating conversation about where dance training was headed, discussing the possibilities of adapting sports periodisation to the ballet studio. We talked until the shuttle pulled up to a squeaky stop at it’s first drop off where I realised I’d barely looked out the window as we barrelled down the I69 and that I’d missed the outer lying areas of Houston that had flown by. ’OK’ I thought. If the next four days go anything like this, it’s going to be fun.
Check in. Hunt for food. Eat. Return and try to sleep. Can’t. Drag myself fully awake from this drowsy jet-lagged induced stupor at 2am. Do Yoga in my room. Try to sleep again. A little better now. Wake groggily to an all-too-dictatorial alarm furiously blaring at 6am. Shower, shave in a less than fully conscious state before deliriously exiting the hotel to walk out into the hazy early morning light and prepare for the set up at IAMDS starting at 7am.
I walk the ten minutes to arrive at the uptown J.W Marriott and long before the first lecture starts at 8.30am there are already people thronging in the Exhibitors room, standing around picking from the freshly laden breakfast baskets, sipping coffee and generally swarming with other IADMS devotees that they perhaps only chance to catch up with once a year. The feeling is buoyant, friendly and suddenly I feel more energised. Is it being around their infectious enthusiasm or is it that the Starbucks extra sweet, extra large American Cup o’ Jo* I’m downing has already kicked in.
*American nickname for a cup of coffee.
I establish our MDM stand in a large, open room that I share alongside Gaynor Minden, Harlequin Floors, Normatec Recovery, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, Westside Dance Physical Therapy, Balanced Body, Shenandoah University Performing Arts Medicine, Harkness Centre for Dance Injuries, Safe Dance International, Performing Arts Special Interest Group of the American Physical Therapy Association and others with equally long, important and illustrious sounding names.
While the far more succinct MDM has been the lone dance-wear manufacturer at local IADMS events held in Sydney and Melbourne over the past few years, it was MDM’s first welcome to an International event and while we were quietly confident, we could only guess at how the unique innovations inherent in the MDM range would be received at this level of exchange.
If I had any doubts or insecurities however they were soon dispelled in the first 10-15 minutes after our set up was complete. No sooner had I carefully laid out our last shoe, taken a picture of the table and emailed it through to HQ coupled with an accompanying smiley face, then people started drifting from all corners of the room to be introduced to MDM.
It was in those first few minutes that I realised MDM was in it’s sweet spot; face to face with engaged teachers, dancers and those working to reduce injuries. They had inquisitive, questioning minds, that while besotted with the many wonderful traditions in dance, also hungered to understand where our knowledge might take us. They were there to ask and discover what new programs could be devised, what new equipment developed that might assist the intelligent dancers of today and tomorrow meet the technical and choreographic challenges the future will surely bring.
They came and picked up the shoes, spun them over in their hands, examining them inside and out. They pressed into the EVA shock absorptive material that the DanceBase Support is forged from and listened intently as I described how the revolutionary design functions as a training aid to correct pronation. But with all that, as intellectually intrigued as they were, it wasn’t until they donned them that the lights really went on.
I was travelling light and really only had display shoes with me, but I happened to be carrying two pairs of MDM’s new Intrinsic Profile Performance and a sample shoe of the Protract Curve for Performance, which will both be available in early 2018. With these three sizes, a 5.5N and 7N in the Intrinsic Profile Performance and a 6N in the Protract Curve, I was able to fit 90% of all present. Of course the fit was sometimes less than optimal and not what we’d suggest when purchasing in store, but such is the flexibility of these two stretch performance shoes that it was adequate to provide the sensory kinetic experience that differentiates MDM from all other brands on the market.
They felt it. They felt that support cupping the back of the heel, the subtle lift under the arch that helps gently activate the intrinsic muscles. They felt the cushioning as their weight pressed into the heel. They felt their toes spread properly, perhaps for the first time, as they moved onto demi-pointe and they felt the sheer thrill of seeing their pointed foot having never looked so good. Ultimately they felt more comfortable and supported than they ever had in a dance shoe.
Some like Susan Jaffe, Ballet Mistress at American Ballet Theatre and Jane Paris, Pilates Instructor at the Royal Ballet Company and Australia’s own wonderful dance educator Mark Pace were already familiar and intrigued with the MDM range. But there were many, many others from all across America, from Japan, Turkey, Europe and of course Australia who strolled up to the learn about MDM for the first time and all had similar experiences. They quickly became enthralled with all that this wonderful Australian company has achieved and were eager to imagine what these innovations promise for the years ahead. And more than passively absorbing information, they were keen to add their knowledge and experience to the conversation about what was possible; what dance wear can and should be.
And this is exactly how MDM want it. A shared craft, passion and love of learning from one another. This is what MDM aims and works to bring to every encounter, every meeting and relationship. It’s what brings us to IADMS events and to the ADF Teachers Lounge. It’s what brings us to meet with the heads of dance syllabus’s, to local stores and local studios across our capital cities, regional cities and rural areas. Because the driving heart of MDM is to continue to develop the worlds most advanced and exciting foot wear for dance and that can’t be done alone. To improve the lives of the dancers we all cherish, we all need to be involved and engaged.
MDM - supporting every foot, every step
Banner Image - Darian Volkova Photography