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Artists take the stage to promote health care services for performers 

Dancer Wellness Program addresses health and injuries related to New Orleans performers

click to enlarge New Orleans Musicians’ Assistance Foundation’s workshops push performers to become healthier and stronger.

Photo by Taylor Cohen

New Orleans Musicians’ Assistance Foundation’s workshops push performers to become healthier and stronger.

An upcoming health care event will feel more like a Carnival celebration, complete with flamboyant costumes, glittery makeup, live music and risque dance performances.

 On Aug. 29, Carl Mack Presents and the New Orleans Musicians' Assistance Foundation (NOMAF) will host an open-mic drag show to help performers — especially drag performers — learn more about local health care options.

 The free event, dubbed "I Will Survive" after the eponymous disco hit by singer Gloria Gaynor, takes place from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Mardi Gras Museum of Costumes and Culture, and features performances by local drag performers such as Laveau Contraire, Sugar Monroe and Blazen Haven. Local musicians, face painters and tarot card readers will add to the fun. Burlesque sensation Trixie Minx is the mistress of ceremonies.

 The event is part of NOMAF's Dancer Wellness Program, which includes monthly wellness workshops that address health and injury topics relevant to various performance groups — from the Mardi Gras Indians to marching band members.

 "We're raising awareness that we have this particular program for drag queens, which are kind of a below-the-radar group of individuals who need access to services," says Erica Dudas, managing director of NOMAF.

 During the disco-inspired bash, a health care guide will enroll people in Medicaid and teach them about the many clinics that offer primary care or behavioral health services. There also will be a table with information about NOMAF's upcoming events and monthly workshops.

 NOMAF is a nonprofit organization that works in tandem with the New Orleans Musicians' Clinic & Assistance Fund (NOMC). This clinic has provided medical care to musicians and performing artists in New Orleans for nearly 20 years.

click to enlarge The Dancer Wellness Program includes monthly wellness workshops that explore health and injury topics relevant to performers. - PHOTO BY ERICA DUDAS
  • Photo by Erica Dudas
  • The Dancer Wellness Program includes monthly wellness workshops that explore health and injury topics relevant to performers.

 Carl Mack, the founder and president of Carl Mack Presents, says he was surprised to discover his performance artists — jugglers, aerialists, stilt walkers, female impersonators and others — could receive health care services from NOMC.

 "A lot of people might be misled by the title of the 'Musicians' Clinic' and think they're not eligible (for health care) because they're not a musician," Mack says. "But it's broader than that. (Health care) is available to all types of people in the performing arts and the supportive arenas around it."

 Mack met with the director of NOMAF to discuss hosting a workshop at his French Quarter museum to attract female impersonators from around the city. The winning idea was the open-mic "drag show." Mack will play the xylophone during the event.

 NOMC is a member of the Performing Arts Medicine Association, an international consortium of doctors who help performing artists. They provide cost-efficient access to comprehensive and preventive health care, wellness education, mental health services and social services.

 An athletic trainer from the Tulane Institute of Sports Medicine designed "the course work" for the Dancer Wellness Program, which was established in 2015. The free monthly workshops teach attendees about good nutrition and how to become better performers and strengthen their bodies. It also connects them to primary clinical care.

 Future workshops include an event at the Marigny Opera House Sept. 18, followed by an event at the Ashe Cultural Arts Center Oct. 21, where nearly 20 local athletic trainers will assess the physical condition of dancers. The New Orleans Public Library also will be there to sign up attendees for library memberships.

 "I think that health care can be a scary topic for some people," says Dudas. "What I'm personally looking forward to is the amount of access that people will have (to health care) and the ability to answer questions about the health care system in New Orleans. Also, it's going to be a lot of fun."

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