Dirty Dancing – Having the Time of My Life

Cheesy as it may sound, yesterday I had the time of my life.  I’d never been backstage before, and I swear it’s the truth that I owe it to Emily.

I met my friend Emily through the WVU Swing Dance club in 2009.  She studied theater, and now works as a stage hand wherever she’s needed.  We’ve kept in touch, and she asked if any swing dancers were free to help out with the Dirty Dancing musical yesterday.  I’ve always wanted to see what her job was like and to observe what happens behind the scenes.  To be honest, it seemed like well organized chaos to me.

Learning About Formal Wear

The show started at 7:30pm, and my shift started at 5:45pm.  I was part of the wardrobe team during the show.  My ticket included three different actors who I would help with their changes in between scenes.  Some were ‘quick changes’ which had a stricter time limit; for these, I was sometimes just off stage so that I could assist the performer as soon as they left the stage.  Switching from a polo and khaki’s to a full tux in less than 2 minutes was a bit intense, but everyone was very helpful to me (the newbie).  Many of the clothes are actually Velcro attachments including the bow ties and cummerbunds which saves valuable seconds.  I also learned that a cummerbund was designed to help catch crumbs and smooth out the waist line while wearing a tux; the pleats should face upwards so that they can fall open.

Other than quick changes, I would set out the clothes for the performers to change into behind the stage.  In between, I would hang up discarded costumes and prep for the new outfits.  I was able to watch some of the show through a reflection of a mirror backstage; it was beautifully performed.  Later, I found out this was the 32nd performance of the show by this troupe.

Example of Backstage

After the show ended, I helped with tear down.  This took from after 9pm to just after 2:30 in the morning.  I had no idea that all the lights on stage were actually brought in by the touring show!  There were around 4 tractor trailers that had to be loaded with all the gear, costumes, backgrounds, etc.  It was a lot of labor; I definitely didn’t need to do my weightlifting workout yesterday.  In a way, it was like the CrossFit of theater.  Lots of pushing, pulling, and squatting.  As a physical therapy student, I kept an eye out on lifting form.  I was pretty pleased that the staff would correct anyone who was lifting with their back instead of their knees.

One thing I realized during cleanup is that the show has a physical therapist and massage therapist who tour with the troupe.  Some of the actors had to go in for a quick therapy appointment before the show.  I wish that I could have met the therapists because it seems like such an interesting setting, especially since I am interested in rehabbing dancers and other performance artists.

Overall, I had a blast working backstage.  There’s a sense of excitement and fun, and it definitely has made me appreciate the role of those workers behind the scenes.  I was invited to work a few shows in the next two months, and I’m looking forward to learning more and hopefully meeting a physical therapist in this setting!

If you can’t tell, I was pretty excited last night.

My next post comes out Friday, November 17th at 11am.  I’ll discuss recent advancements in the research of robotic exoskeletons!



Much of what I have learned about physical therapy and online health/wellness, I have learned from Greg Todd, the founder of Physical Therapy Builder.  He is a fantastic physical therapist whose mission is to help physical therapy students and physical therapists provide patient focused care without becoming overwhelmed.  Greg Todd is also known as a “social media guru,” and I have a lot of thank him for.  I highly suggest his courses, especially Smart Success PT.  In May, I attended Smart Success PT Live, a business, marketing, and branding course by some of the top PT entrepreneurs in the field.


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