UPMC Joins Pittsburgh Ballet’s Swan Lake Dancers to Promote a Healthy Heart



By Rick Pietzak and Tim Betler

As part of a campaign to promote heart health throughout February, PittsburghBallet Theatre performer Julia Erickson agreed to have her heart checked throughout rehearsals for the production of Swan Lake.  Michael Mathier, M.D., a cardiologist with the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute and medical director of the UPMC Community Outreach and Cardiovascular Health Program, took readings of Ms. Erickson’s heart rate each time she completed a routine in order to demonstrate the benefits of exercise to cardiac health.

Ms. Erickson’s results were excellent, reaching 85 percent of her maximum heart rate.  She emphasized the importance of cardiovascular health for her own performances. “I am happy to hear I am in good cardiovascular condition. As dancers, we want to recover as quickly as possible so we can get back on stage,” she said.

“Make your heart beat faster – it’s good for you,” said Dr. Mathier.  “But be smart about it. If you have a heart condition, make sure you talk to your doctor ahead of time.   Start easy and gradually work up to a higher level of activity.”

Ms. Erickson is the principal dancer in the demanding role of Odette/Odile for “Swan Lake,” which runs at the Benedum on Feb. 13 to16. 

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