An elite contribution

The worlds of football and ballet have collided under Susan Mayes’ world-leading physio research and she has been acknowledged for her work in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
The Riddells Creek resident has been named a Member (AM) of the Order of Australia for significant service to physiotherapy, particularly to ballet.
Working with elite dancers from the Australian Ballet for the past 25 years, she has extended the careers of many dancers through her research.
“I’ve really been driven to challenge the common belief and changed some traditional classes through my findings,” Ms Mayes said.
“When I first started with the company, dancers had a very short careers and were forced into retirement early because of their injuries. Now those kinds of injuries are rare and dancers are retiring due to choice not injury.”
As the company’s principal physiotherapist since 1997 and director of artistic health, Ms Mayes has made a significant impact on the world of dance in changing the way dancers stretch and train.
Enamoured of the world of dance from a young age, and from a dance background herself, Ms Mayes easily settled into life at the company.
She toured with the Australian Ballet for 20 years and was in constant demand by some of the world’s top dancers including famed French ballerina Sylvie Guillem.
Ms Mayes was Guillem’s private physio for the past 15 years until the dancer retired at the age of 50 – a long career in ballet.
She also helped American David Hallberg return to the stage after injury and he will soon become the new artistic director for the Australian Ballet.
Since joining the company, Ms Mayes has developed a proactive team in dance medicine that is now sharing its findings with other elite sports.
An expert in foot and ankle, Ms Mayes has applied her findings and exercises to football, as North Melbourne Football Club’s consultant physiotherapist since 2017.
While dance and football seem poles apart, Ms Mayes says “there are more similarities than differences between dancers and footballers”.
“They acquire a lot of the same injuries, although, there are some obvious differences in their movements – there is no charging or running in dance. The footballers are now benefiting from some of the exercises used for dance,” she said.
Ms Mayes continues to tour and share her knowledge to help athletes around the world.

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