From Guest Blogger- Jessica Frazier
As a dancer, we want to feel that our bodies are invincible. And many people that idolize and support ballet believe that we are. But the obvious reality is that we definitely are not. Dancers are probably the most injured athlete out there. We do not have the luxury of a professional football or baseball player who has an off-season to recover from injuries and rest their body. Yes, ballet companies do have a season that lasts 7-9 months depending on the company, but many dancers spend the summer doing guest performances, teaching, or attending summer programs.
With injuries, hindsight is 20/20. Dancers (or at least I do) have a tendency to underrate pain, or try to be the hero and dance through the pain. You end up saying “well, I can stop after the next show or audition.” But you never stop because you are afraid of missing the next event on your calendar.
Breaks are easier to take when you choose to take them rather than a doctor and your body forcing you to stop. Stopping seems worse when you feel you’re finally getting somewhere with your technique. You get worried that resting for an injury would stop the momentum.
Since coming back to Philadelphia in December, I’ve been going to doctors trying find out why I was having back pain when I did certain movement such as bending backwards. The pain varied from nothing to barely getting through class. It took a month just to do get all of the test done for the doctor to decide that I have a stage 1 spondylosis in the second Lumbar vertebra (L2). Spondylosis is when the space between two vertebrea lessens and start to compress or rub against one another. Stage 1 is not that severe, but doctors take tend to take extra precautions so it does not escalte to higher levels.
As a result, I now have to wear a back brace 23/7 for the next six weeks. The brace is similar to a traditional tutu bodice, but made out of plastic. It covers my whole torso, starting at the top of my rib cage and ending at the top of my pelvis. It was an adjustment getting used to the brace to say the least. When I first started wearing the brace, I could barely move, even walking felt wierd. The worst part is attempting to find a comfortable way to sleep while wearing the brace.
What every dancer faces while resting due to an injury, is what to do with the newly found spare time that is usually spent in class and rehearsal. Me personally, I dive into my schoolwork and don’t resurface until I can dance again, or run out of work to do. I also get to catch up on my “fun” reading that gets neglected during the semester. Right now I’m reading ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ which is a great book, and of course is better than the already lovely movie.
I still go to the studio everyday and watch classes. It’s a great chance to watch your fellow dancers that you might not watch as much when you are self absorbed in taking class. I watch the dancers that I admire in the company so I can learn qualities that I want to emulate in my dancing. Additionally, I watch to find how other dancers fix similar mistakes I tend to make in class.
The only negative to watching class is, well, you’re sitting and watching class instead of taking class. For the first week, not dancing does not bother you terribly, but after a while the body craves to move. Sitting out makes you realize how much you miss dancing. Dancing has similar symptoms of a drug dependency, when you stopping dancing, you go through variing amounts of withdrawal.
But the most important part of recovering from an injury is staying positive. Six weeks might seem forever in the moment, but looking back later it will seem like no time at all.
The Traveling BalletMaster