REPORTAGE. At the Paris Opera, dancers finally have the right to care for high-level athletes

Depuis mai 2022, les danseurs de l

Since May 2022, the dancers of the Paris Opera benefit from cryotherapy sessions.
Since May 2022, the dancers of the Paris Opera benefit from cryotherapy sessions. (©ES/ news Paris)

A cloud of icy steam escapes from the van parked in the backyard of the Palais Garnier, in front of the artists’ entrance. While dancers from theParis Opera begin to emerge from their day of rehearsals at the end of the day in September 2022, Yann Boshi emerges from the back of his vehicle. It just filled up. Neither diesel nor petrol this time, but a tank full of liquid nitrogen.

In his van is a mobile institute of cryotherapy, this method of cold treatment very popular with top athletes. Since May 2022, the Opera Ballet has been using its company, My.Cryocar, to promote the physical recovery of dancers.

In the van parked in front of the artists' entrance, a cryotherapy center.
In the van parked in front of the artists’ entrance, a cryotherapy center. (©ES/ news Paris)

Three minutes at -130°

The principle is simple: for two to three minutes, athletes lock themselves in a cabin and immerse themselves in a nitrogen gas bath at -110°, -120° or -130°. “This produces a thermal shock for the body”, decrypts Xaviere Barreausports physician and coordinator of the ballet’s health department.

Faced with this significant stress, the body will adapt through several physiological phenomena. At the end of a session, this leads to an analgesic effect, particularly for muscle pain, and a reduction in inflammatory processes. It is a very interesting tool for the physical recovery of dancers who are subjected to important daily physical exercises.

Xaviere BarreauSports doctor at the Paris Opera

It was she who drove the implementation of cryotherapy within the walls of the Opera, in a global approach to offer dancers an environment adapted to their high-level practice. This cold method is already widespread in professional sports. It was set up in 2009 at Insep.

If no advanced scientific study has validated the technique, it is unanimous among athletes. Dancers are no exception. “What comes back the most is the feeling of light legs, the reduction in pain and a general feeling of well-being and relaxation”, lists the doctor.

Dancers particularly sensitive to the effects of cryotherapy

With its mobile device launched in May 2021, My.Cryocar works in particular with professional football, handball and basketball clubs. The company is also solicited by the general public.

“I think it’s the dancers who best measure the benefits of the cold,” says the entrepreneur while starting the cooling of his tank. “They have such a keen perception of their bodies, their muscles, their physical pain…” On the screen, the temperature plummets rapidly, a whirlwind of smoke forms above the cabin.

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The liquid nitrogen contained in the tank will be cooled and come out in the gaseous state at a temperature of up to -140°.
The liquid nitrogen contained in the tank will be cooled and come out in the gaseous state at a temperature of up to -140°. (©ES/ news Paris)

Busy days for the body

From 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., a parade of dancers follows one another in the cramped cabin. The 154 members of the company are entitled to two sessions per week. In this return to September, the shows have not yet resumed. “When the season is launched, I will intervene especially after the performances”, explains Yann. Sitting on a bench, Thomas Doquir waits his turn.

Cooling of the cryotherapy cabin.
Cooling of the cryotherapy cabin. (©ES/ news Paris)

The dancer has been back in the studios for two weeks. His program for the day is not yet too busy: “We’re going gradually to get the machine back on track,” he explains while mechanically massaging his calf. He comes out of a rehearsal of more than four hours. Normally, he can dance up to nine hours a day.

Like many other colleagues, Thomas discovered the virtues of cryotherapy following an injury. Since the arrival of My.Cryocar, he no longer needs to integrate the trip to a care center in the middle of his already busy days. “There it is really very practical, we do it on the spot, at the end of a performance or a rehearsal, before returning home. It is also a big saving because cryotherapy sessions outside are expensive, ”he explains.

A quick session

His turn is coming. Thomas, rushes into the cabin in his underpants, with gloves and socks for all protection. “At this temperature, the blood will concentrate towards the vital organs, so we protect the extremities”, explains Yann while adjusting the height of the tray. Only Thomas’ head protrudes above the cabin.

Thomas Docquir, a dancer from the Paris Opera, in the middle of a cryotherapy session.
Thomas Docquir, a dancer from the Paris Opera, in the middle of a cryotherapy session. (©ES/ news Paris)

Let’s go for three minutes at -120°. Yann monitors the feelings of the dancer. “It’s not painful but there is always apprehension,” explains Thomas, his smile twitching over the seconds. A first minute passes. To beat the cold, everyone has their own method. Some listen to music, others chat.

A restful sleep

The young man displays a concentrated mine. ” How much time remaining ? he asks with a grimace. “It’s almost over,” encourages Yann. The elapsed time sounds deliverance. “Well done,” he slips, releasing the shivering dancer.

If the restorative effects arrive from the first quarter of an hour, they are felt a little later for Thomas. “After the session, I have a lot less aches, and my sleep is really restorative after a session. The next day, I’m less tied up, ”he says. A welcome relaxation to attack the dance class the next morning in flexibility.

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