My Athletic Training Immersion Experience at the Louisville Ballet

By Emalee Johnson
CHS contributor

Emalee Johnson, a native of London, Ky., is in Athletic Training, Class of 2022. She spent the fall participating in an Immersion Trip with the Louisville Ballet. The following are her thoughts on what the trip meant to her.

My time spent on my immersion trip was absolutely incredible.

But first things first: The fall immersion is a two-month-long clinical experience in Athletic Training.

I’m the only one currently in our program who is interested in working in the performing arts field, so I was able to land an immersion trip with the Louisville Ballet. When I first got there, we started doing Dance USA screenings — these are strings of testing that give us as athletic trainers insight into deficits that these athletes are coming into the season with.

Something that blew my mind — part of the screening’s test was a vertical jump, and our oldest artist (who was 45) had a 27-inch vertical!

Season for the ballet typically runs from August until May, with a summer intensive for those wanting to join the company. This season they have seven shows planned. I was even invited back after my immersion ended to help with Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. Those were both unbelievable experiences. It felt like being behind the scenes on Broadway — and something that surprised me was that same “game day” feeling was present at each performance.

Treatment-wise, most of what we did was manual therapy-based and neuromuscular re-education. All the artists had a robust knowledge of anatomy. They knew exactly what muscles were turned on and off and how to orient their body to make sure the muscles they needed turned on/off stayed that way.

My favorite part of the experience had to be where the sports medicine area was located: Surrounding our area was all the costuming from all the shows that the Louisville Ballet has performed over the last 70 years.

My biggest learning experience/takeaway was how non-traditional athletes should still be considered “real” athletes.

Dancers are real athletes.

And this experience makes me excited for the future of performing arts medicine. Performing arts needs healthcare, and I feel as though everyone needs to experience the performing arts setting at least once in their lives. Whether it’s as a spectator, marketer, athlete, athletic trainer, etc. — performing arts is a relatively new field of athletic training and I highly recommend looking into this field.


March is National Athletic Training Month, and we’re honored to recognize our AT program — their faculty, staff, students and alumni.  

It is also Women’s History Month, and the College of Health Sciences will spotlight Women Making History. Whether students, faculty, staff or alumni, these women are leading their fields of research, crossing traditional academic boundaries and impacting Kentucky’s most pressing challenges.