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Ballet dancing with Hypermobility EDS (hEDS)

By Bonnie Southgate age 56, SEDS Rehabilitation and Corrective Exercise Specialist

Bonnie dancing with Mikhail Baryshnikov - photographer Martha Swope

What do you think when you see a ballet dancer on stage performing?

I have heard so many people describe dancers as having non-symptomatic hypermobility. There is always the assumption that the athlete, dancer, gymnast etc. are physically at the top of their game and have perfectly functioning bodies.

As a dancer, my flexibility was my greatest asset, and it was clear from the beginning I was more mobile than anyone else in the class.

Unfortunately, this was a double-edged sword, as, without the mobility, I may not have had the career I did, but it ultimately was what ended my career early.

I danced with the Washington Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Sadler’s Wells, and the Royal Ballet; dancing many principal roles - sounds amazing, right?!

The reality was that I had extreme pain and fatigue.

Early in my career, I was taken to physicians who would find nothing wrong with me but would prescribe powerful pain medications and amphetamines, some no longer even used on humans! The show must go on...

I never questioned anything.

I was too young, and believed I was given the best care available.

My excessive hypermobility never came into it.

I thought pain was part of the job.

I danced through the pain for as long as my body could take it, but sadly my career was shortened by injury and problems related to my hypermobility.

I was finally diagnosed with hEDS in 2018 at 52 years old, much like many in my generation, it was never seen as a problem.

Bonnie Southgate

Since retiring at the age of 27, I knew that I needed to do something to help myself, so I trained as a Pilates teacher, remedial sports therapist and corrective exercise specialist.

For the last 20 years, I have continued learning and adding many other skills to my toolkit.

I have felt the changes to my own body have been so profound that I have been inspired to try and help others with EDS, HSD and charitable groups such as Sussex Ehlers-Danlos Symptomatic Hypermobility Group, (SEDS), a unique organisation that recognises its members' full spectrum of needs. I feel proud and honoured to be part of SEDS.

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