The Danish Wounded Warriors Project
The Danish Wounded Warriors Project supports young victims of traumatic multiple injuries and helps them to return to a meaningful life by minimizing the impact of their physical and /or mental impairments.
Besides the Fairytale “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” by Hans Christian Andersen – one doesn’t tend to associate Ballet Dancers with Soldiers – although there are in fact, more similarities in our training than one might have imagined.
Being Ballet dancers, we are forced from an early age to acquire many specialized skills. Ultimately, we are required to obtain elite levels of fitness, high amounts of self-discipline, forced to continuously push physical boundaries, expected to handle hard criticism on a regular basis, as well as have the ability to overcome injuries and invest in endless training for the prevention of injuries. We are elite athletes and our careers rely on being in the best physical shape.
Dancers have been using Pilates as a rehabilitation method for decades. However, Pilates was actually originally created during World War 1, where the founder of the system, Joseph Pilates, used his method to rehabilitate injured soldiers.
In March 2010 in Copenhagen, almost 100 years on, a heavy influx of wounded soldiers were being sent home to Denmark with monstrous disabilities and amputations. Worrying reports were highlighted within the media, concerning the lack of rehabilitation efforts, and it was impossible to sit back and do nothing. The Royal Danish Ballet Foundation, a non-profit organization – started and supported by the dancers at The Royal Danish Ballet – decided it was time to act and contribute and approached Royal Ballet Dancers Jojo Bowman and Jessie Lee to involve them in the project. Jojo and Jessie together with their team now stand at the center of all efforts surrounding the work of the DWWP as founders and poly-trauma Pilates instructors.
Next step was to approach ‘The Copenhagen University Hospital’ with a proposal of offering our help.
Not only were the founders of DWWP able to return the training to its real roots, but also igniting a mutual respect and understanding for highly disciplined training at elite levels. They used the tools and movement sequencing of the Pilates system to address the physical challenges, the ingrained ability of a dancer, to ‘feel from the inside out’ to fine tune and eliminate dysfunctional compensatory movement patterns- and last but not least – the natural instincts of a human being, to contribute to healthy communication skills, to promote a sense of self-motivation and by working together towards a “common goal”.
The DWWP, was brought to life by The Royal Danish Ballet Foundation, based on an original idea by Samuel Rachlin and developed by Troels Askerud and Byron Mildwater.
In this project Royal ballet dancers have successfully trained soldiers with multiple traumatic injuries and amputations and helped them return to a meaningful life by minimizing the impact of their physical and/or mental impairments with the help of highly advanced, specialized physical training. The project directors – former Royal Danish Ballet dancers Jojo Bowman and Jessie Lee – were awarded an honorary medal from the Danish Society of Military Medicine and the “Anders Lassen” award presented by His Royal Highness, Frederik, The Crown Prince of Denmark.
Today the DWWP is a non-profit organization situated within a stone throw of The Royal Theater and runs under the roof of Copenhagen Pilates Studio. It is an independent entity with it’s own Board, consisting of 6 Board members and is 100 % funded by private sponsors. The DWWP offers free training to both soldiers and civilians with multiple traumatic injuries, many of whom, also suffer from Post Traumatic Stress disorder.
However based on the huge success – of what started off as a tailor made project – and the proven effects of the training on poly-trauma patients – we are currently seeing an influx of patients from outside the ranks of military life – and the project is slowly developing into something of an even greater magnitude and potential.