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Marissa Schaeffer, PT, DPT, CSCS is a licensed physical therapist and strength and conditioning specialist in New York City. She is the founder of FlySpace, a physical therapy studio servicing performance artists, and senior physical therapist at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Her expertise is in helping performing artists rehabilitate, learn new movement patterns, and avoid future injuries to ensure longevity. Hers is a collaborative endeavor among clients, orthopedists, dance companies, instructors, and more. Marissa wants all dancers she works with to feel strong, confident, safe, and cared for. She also works with triple threats, ice skaters, professional athletes, and anyone who wants to move their bodies better.
Marissa graduated from SUNY Purchase College Conservatory of Dance with her BFA in modern dance and pursued a career as a dancer in NYC. She then went on to graduate from Columbia University’s program in physical therapy where she received her doctorate in physical therapy with honors. During her career as a physical therapist and conditioning specialist, Marissa has worked with the Limón Dance Company, Colorado Ballet, HopeBoykinDance, the Kaatsbaan Ballet Intensive, Kennedy Center Dance Lab, various Broadway shows including Freestyle Love Supreme, SUNY Purchase College, Columbia University, Barnard College, and more.
Marissa’s goal is to get performing artists back on stage as quickly as possible. She accomplishes this via in-studio, hands-on work and utilizing drills to create more functional movement patterns, as well as activity-specific strength training. To ensure that the healing sticks, all clients are taught at-home self-care methodologies. This is why Marissa has a reputation for helping people who have bounced among physical therapists in a long search to solve their pain. Her worldview is holistic. She has established a network of healthcare providers—orthopedists, nutritionists, general practitioners, chiropractors, massage therapists, acupuncturists, and more—so that all aspects of a person’s mind and body are addressed.
She also works with dance and theater companies to address the overall needs of all their performers. Marissa has had success preventing injury through “prehabbing”: anticipating the physical demands of a dance style or particular show. She collaborates with the company or show director, as well as experts in strength training, to create a program that adds to a performer’s capacity for movement.
At Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Marissa works with the company dancers as well as pre-professional students at the school’s injury clinic. She facilitates conversation between instructors and students to understand the cause and extent of injuries, to help them understand necessary modifications.
In addition to caring for patients, Marissa is dedicated to educating the performing arts community. Marissa co-hosts DanceWell Podcast which releases bimonthly episodes on health and wellness for dancers. She co-founded the Dance Ready Project which provides dancers the tools to take their art to the next level. She has presented to dance professionals at the annual conferences of the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science, the National Dance Education Organization, the Performing Arts Medical Association, and the American Physical Therapy’s Combined Sections Meeting. Marissa authored a research paper that appeared in the Journal of Dance Medicine and Science.
- Physical therapy