Shmuel Tatz working on ballet star Andris Liepa
Physical Therapy for Dancers
Fine-Tuning the Body at Carnegie Hall
Some of the world's best dancers and musicians
seek the help of virtuoso bodyworker Shmuel Tatz.
By Tara Bennett-Goleman
In the maze of rehearsal room and offices that rise high above world-famous Carnegie Hall, Shmuel Tatz practices unique art. His artistry lies not in music or dance, but in fine-tuning the human body.
To Tatz's studio on the 8th floor come some of the world's finest dancers and musicians, seeking his help in relieving the aches and strains their craft imposes on their bodies.
Among the famous musicians who have come to have their body tuned are violinists Isaac Stern and Yehudi Menuhin and the recent Russian immigrant and master pianist Vladimir Feltsman.
Menuhin, famous for his lifelong study of yoga is enthusiastic about Tatz. Whenever he comes to New York from his home in London, Menuhin makes an appointment, praising Tatz as "one of the most sensitive and effective gifts to the violinist and to all who require so much of their body."
Isaac Stern is equally ardent in his praise. "Not only is Tatz an enormously gifted, highly trained, and experienced physical therapist," says Stern, "he is also knowledgeable in the unique needs of performing artists who so often have problems caused by professional work over the years."
The parade of dancers to Tatz's studio has included Meryl Ashley and Darcey Kissler, female leads of the New York Ballet, and Fernando Bujones, male lead of the American Ballet Company.
"Primitive dance is more natural for body than modern dance," says Tatz, whose accent carries evidence of his early years in Lithuania and Russia, as well as his more recent years in Israel. "Primitive dancers were not competing with each others; the movements of their dance are healthy for the body. The problem began about two hundred years ago, when dance became a performing art. Then dancers began to do movements that were aesthetically pleasing but harmful for the body."
Beyond help for twisted muscle and sinew, performers come to Tatz to fine-tune their bodies for the peak performance that can be achieved when the body is relaxed and well controlled. Indeed, Tatz calls his approach body tuning. "I have no one system that works with all my clients," he says. "I listen to my patients and help them listen to their own bodies. In the final analysis, people are often their best doctors."