La Trobe and The Australian Ballet partnership

La Trobe and The Australian Ballet's collaboration capitalises on La Trobe’s research strengths and The Australian Ballet’s world-renowned injury prevention and rehabilitation teams.

What happens when Australia's most renowned ballet company joins forces with a university known for excellence in research and learning experiences? A multifaceted partnership that's making gravity-defying leaps in the realms of sport, art and education.

Professional ballet is one of the most physically demanding art forms, but research on injury prevention techniques and rehabilitation programs is limited. As The Australian Ballet's Research Partner, we have brought together La Trobe's acclaimed researchers in exercise medicine with the ballet company's internationally recognised medical team.

The partnership’s research program will investigate the athletic capacity of leading ballet dancers, with the aim of:

  • optimising dancer performance and health
  • informing injury prevention and rehabilitation programs throughout the community.

Our students are contributing to research that's uncovering the strength, agility and endurance of the performers, leading to revolutionary injury prevention and rehabilitation programs for dancers and sportspeople alike. The research will involve The Australian Ballet's elite dancers and provide valuable industry insights for La Trobe students wanting to develop a career in ballet, performing arts or sport.

This partnership is a reflection of the two organisations’ shared values of excellence, community inclusion and global leadership.

It aligns the expertise of Australia’s national ballet company with La Trobe’s world-class research and our commitment to sport, exercise and rehabilitation. Students at La Trobe will now have exclusive access to working with The Australian Ballet’s sports medicine research programs, providing industry experiences that are second to none.

Professor John Dewar, La Trobe University

Excellence in health and sports research

  • La Trobe is ranked one of Australia’s top universities for research in Physiology and Victoria’s best University for Other Medical and Health Sciences research.*
  • La Trobe’s Human Movement and Sports Science research team has been ranked ‘well above world standard’ in four successive Excellence in Research Australia surveys undertaken in 2010, 2012, 2015 and 2018.
  • La Trobe’s academics are leaders in the field, ranked ‘well above world standard’ in 23 fields of study including Physiology, Nutrition and Dietetics, Human Movement and Sport Science, and Psychology.*
  • Leading the ballet research programs is La Trobe’s Professor Jill Cook, an internationally regarded expert in musculoskeletal health with close to 330 published articles, and presentations to Olympic and FIFA conferences in 2017.
  • *Australian Research Council, 2019, Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) Outcomes 2018

Leading research expertise

  • La Trobe’s Centre for Sport and Social Impact (CSSI) research expertise extends beyond the physical health and wellness of athletes and the community. The centre examines the broader social and economic impact of sports participation, events and organisations through real-world research and engagement with industry and government.
  • The Gait Laboratory is a state-of-the-art research facility within La Trobe’s Sport and Exercise Medicine Research Centre. The laboratory facilitates research into the structure and function of the musculoskeletal system, and causes, prevention and treatment of musculoskeletal injuries and disease. This is the largest lab of its type in the southern hemisphere, and features a motion analysis system comprised of ten high-speed cameras that collect detailed precision information about physical movement.

Experts in preparing elite athletes for the stage

  • The Australian Ballet is one of the busiest dance companies in the world, with demanding national and international touring schedules requiring dancers to maintain peak performance year-round while mastering and performing the rigours of a diverse repertoire.
  • The Australian Ballet’s Artistic Health Team includes physiotherapists, myotherapists, a strength and conditioning coach, a dancer welfare and development coordinator, psychologists, sports and exercise physicians and general practitioners. They provide essential support to keep performers strong and healthy and are recognised as world leaders in injury prevention and management.
  • The company has an extraordinarily low rate of injury and highly sought-after expertise by Olympians, elite athletes and other international ballet companies.

Experts in dancer health

  • Director of Artistic Health and Principal Physiotherapist, Dr Sue Mayes AM, has more than 25 years’ experience treating elite dancers from around the world. She completed her PhD entitled Hip Joint Health in Professional Ballet Dancers with La Trobe in 2017 and is now an Adjunct Research Fellow of La Trobe University. She was awarded a Distinguished Alumni Award in 2018.

Our partnership journey

La Trobe and The Australian Ballet have informally collaborated on research since 2015, with the official partnership announced in March 2017. The partnership evolved through a collaboration between La Trobe’s professor in musculoskeletal health, Professor Jill Cook, and The Australian Ballet’s Director of Artistic Health and Principal Physiotherapist and Adjunct Research Fellow, Dr Sue Mayes AM. Both are leading international experts in their respective fields. The research partnership now forms part of La Trobe’s Sport and Exercise Medicine Research Centre (LASEM).

A partnership as flexible as the elite dancers it supports

Our sport and exercise scientists have collaborated with The Australian Ballet's Artistic Medical Team to prevent injury and optimise dancers' health on-stage. Now, our partnership supports dancers off-stage, too. Through the La Trobe Elite Athlete Program, dancers, current or former, of The Australian Ballet can access valuable education and pre-transition career development. The program provides flexibility and helps these elite dancers to balance university studies. They'll receive dedicated academic support, assistance with enrolment and timetabling, flexible assessment, tailored career advice and access to exclusive scholarships.

Opportunities for La Trobe students

The partnership will offer La Trobe students unique opportunities to gain experience with The Australian Ballet. These opportunities include internships, working with the ballet’s elite athletes and experiencing the ‘behind the stage’ business world of creating spectacular performances.

Research growth and development

Since our partnership began we’ve expanded our number of research projects, broadened our focus and increased the diversity of our research collaborators.

We launched four research projects in 2017, mostly driven by Professor Jill Cook and Dr Sue Mayes. The projects aimed to investigate key concepts linked to musculoskeletal health in dancers. Now,  postgraduate students are conducting research as part of the partnership. We’ve developed strong, external research collaborations with elite sporting clubs and various La Trobe departments and our research focus has broadened to incorporate dancer wellbeing.

*Photos by Ren Pidgeon