Heal Zeal

Published on 26 November 2017

Physiotherapist/performer Jasmine Xie uses experience from her twin professions to aid fellow artists.

By Jo Tan

Jasmine Xie has two professions to juggle. “When you’re a physiotherapist, it’s easy to not have time to perform,” she explains. “So instead of the standard nine-to-fiver with neck-and-shoulder pain, I choose only to treat those more highly dependent on my input, like stroke patients, or those who need their bodies to be in top condition — including fellow performers.”

Her showbiz experience informs how she helps colleagues. “I understand the show must go on, and I won’t just tell an injured performer to rest because chances are, they won’t or can’t listen. Instead, I have to get creative with options and speed treatments up within a safe time frame, so that they might be sore but mobile.

“My friend was working on a musical and pulled something in his back on the day of the performance. I happened to be around and did a super-quick treatment during his half-hour break. Another time, someone had a sprained knee on a TV set, I was there and able to help.”

Xie’s empathy extends to making house visits in the wee hours to performer-patients who have to get onstage the next day, even if it means barely getting sleep herself. She also offers generous discounts. “The priority is to get them better — we can talk about money later on.”

Her dual perspectives were also responsible for artist/educator Lim Chin Huat inviting Xie to treat students of the Intercultural Theatre Institute. “He noticed actors can lack awareness of their bodies. Observing the students at work and seeing how they moved, I could pick up on existing issues or risks of future injury and talk to them. Also, combining my own experience of dance, movement and physiotherapy means that the exercises I get them to do are not just for healing. If a dancer feels pain executing a certain turn, I can identify weaknesses in certain musculature, and advise how to improve this so that they can perform even better than before.”

Xie’s physiotherapy feeds into her own performance practice: knowledge of the body helps her find more efficiency in movement and postures when creating a character. Moreover, her physiotherapy journey has provided material for a monologue she performed with The Theatre Practice’s Actor’s Lab. Plus, she gets acquainted with lauded artists when her reputation leads them to seek her out for treatment.

“Chatting is part of the mechanism to get people relaxed for physiotherapy. During treatments, I’ve had the honour of getting insights by chatting with artists I greatly respect but might rarely speak to as a performer. My own acting training then comes in useful to let me focus on playing the role of a physiotherapist and shut off the potentially star-struck part of me. I often have to fine-tune my approach to suit different types of patients. It’s quite fun — another kind of performance.”

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