Range of Motion
PT doctoral candidate Robert Yu brings dancing and physical therapy into alignment
“I think anyone can dance,” says Robert Yu, DPT ’24. The physical therapy student has been teaching open style choreography (formerly referred to as “urban dance”) since his teen years, and most recently hosted a pop-up class on campus in February.
“The goal isn’t just to learn my choreography, it’s how to interpret that information and make it your own,” he explains. “It’s not about regurgitating but learning a movement repertoire, a movement vocabulary that you can use when you freestyle.
”After practicing the Chinese martial arts Wushu and Kung Fu as a child and teenager, Yu “fell in love with movement” in high school and started b-boying (an original term for breakdancing). “Regardless of language, dance is a way to connect people,” says the 26-year-old. “I love dancing all together, regardless of gender, age, or ethnicity.
”Yu has taught dance and created choreography in many different forums: he led several dance teams while an undergrad at UC Berkeley, taughtat the Kinjaz Dojo in Chengdu, developed his own raining program called Haki, and, through his Raw Art Within dance collective, performed the opening act in the 2019 annual Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco.
“You train to dance, you don’t dance to train” is a motto that Yu lives by, devoting hours to martial arts and weight lifting. He freestyle dances for his own self-expression, posting videos on Instagram (@rawbertyu) for his more than 2,000 followers.
Given his extreme athleticism and martial arts background, Yu understands the pain of injury and appreciates the therapists, chiropractors, and acupuncturists who’ve taught him how to target certain muscles with specific exercises — something he now does for patients. In his clinical rotation at Kaiser Permanente in San Ramon, he learned a lot about working with young athletes and orthopedists. Indeed, he recognizes the ways his medical calling complements his dance career. After all, he points out, “Physical therapy is all about teaching movement.”