Ballet and scoliosis might seem incompatible. But
Boston Ballet principal Anaïs Chalendard, who was
diagnosed with severe scoliosis at age 14, says this is a
misconception: “Quality strength comes from ballet,”
she argues. “The doctors were so amazed at the way
ballet was such a good balance of work and freedom.”
Instead of undergoing surgery as a teenager, she
chose to spend 22 hours a day in a full torso brace for
five years, just so that
she could spend two
hours a day dancing at
Roland Petit’s Ecole
de Danse in Marseille.
“Ballet was my therapy,”
Although she was unable to find a Mézières
she says. “Scoliosis also
influenced my way of
dancing because, in bal-
let, I felt so free.”
During those years, Chalendard regularly
trained in the Mézières Method for breath-
ing and posture. Practitioners hold a series of
precise postures while segments of the body
are mobilized into alignment. Tight muscle
chains are stretched to allow for the greater
strengthening of the core and leg muscles. The
approach helped Chalendard learn how to relax
the muscles around her rib cage, allowing her
body to adapt to her unique spinal structure.
practitioner in the U.S., she still incorporates
Mézières principles into her dancing today.
She also practices Pilates daily. The emphasis
on deep lateral breathing while mobilizing
the spine and rib cage has improved her spinal
strength, and helps her find her center of balance more easily.
Every day, her center is in a different place. Finding it is crucial for
avoiding spasms. She assesses her spine before she even gets out of bed in the
morning, but most important is warming up properly at barre. “If I don’t have
enough port de bras and balances at the barre, it’s fatal,” she says.
Yet Chalendard insists that scoliosis is not a restriction. “Scoliosis is something I need to be aware of, but thinking about it constantly is not a solution,”
she says. “I actually ignore it on purpose. Yes, it affects me, but it is also a
choice to let it be a part of me. All dancers have a way of working around their
limits—that is what makes your movement unique.” n
yourbody | WORKING OUT WITH...
This Boston Ballet
principal doesn’t let
scoliosis hold her back.
BY SARAH WROTH
One of Chalendard’s
favorite ways to mobilize
her spine and rib cage
is the Pilates “Mermaid”
exercise on the reformer.
The side bending action
against resistance stretches
the muscles on the side of
her torso, while the rotational component helps to
decompress twisted spinal
joints and to restore mobility. The pushing action of
the arms also strengthens
the stability of her shoulder
“Scoliosis is not
a limit, it’s a
hurdle. It will give
you a special
way of moving
and allow you to
develop a unique
set of abilities.” MORNING
As soon as Chalendard
wakes up each morning, her
warm-up routine begins to
prepare her back to support
her throughout the day:
• Sits up in bed.
• Starts with soft breathing.
• Focuses her breath on the
muscles between the ribs.
• As her lungs expand and
contract, focuses on slowly
moving each vertebra of
• Begins to softly open and
close her chest to follow
• Incorporates a gentle
shoulder roll to free up her
• Finishes by filling her
lungs with two more deep,
Soaring through José Martinez’s Resonance