Dancing with Injuries
Dancers, especially professional ones, are athletes. We often do not think of ourselves as such, but we are. The hours we put into training, the cross-training, and the performances can be hard on the body. Injuries happen, and too many dancers dance through the injury. Not a good idea, though we often don’t have much choice. Beginners may quit, because they don’t know how to deal with the injury and may have to take a long time off in order to heal.
There are, however, things you can do to keep up your skills while you are injured and healing up. First, a disclaimer: always follow your physician’s advice. Never dance through an injury if your doctor has told you to rest it.
While it was not a real injury, I found I had a lot of time to think about dancing when I got a tetanus shot in my left arm recently. Tetanus shots suck, plain and simple. I often cannot use that arm for days afterwards, and I get body aches and pains that make it difficult to do anything more than shiver under the blankets and moan. Makes it really difficult to keep in practice… I found myself annoyed that I could not do more except drills where I could hold my arms at my sides. Boring. And then I realized, there was a lot I could work on while I was “injured!” I couldn’t use my left arm, but I had been meaning to work on my occasionally-floppy right arm. What a perfect time to do it! So while I danced, I was able to pay more attention to my right arm, leaving my left at my side. I noticed things about my right arm that I hadn’t before, because I was always more focused on other things.
So if you find yourself injured and unable to dance, perhaps there is something you can do to improve your dance while still resting your injury. Broke your foot? Have a seat, prop the leg up, and focus on upper body. Rotator cuff problems? Rest your arms and work on traveling steps instead. Think of an injury, not as a forced time away from dance, but a time to work on all the other parts of your dance you haven’t had a chance to get to yet.
But always remember to follow your doctor’s advice on how to treat your injury. It’s better to get a few weeks of rest then to keep hurting yourself and end up with months away from dance. And if you find yourself injured a lot, you may need an assessment of your dance technique from a qualified teacher. Always remember to warm up (don’t do intense stretches!) before you dance and to stretch and cool down afterwards in order to prevent injury.