The Injured Dancer: Expectations v. Reality

Posted by on 06.01.2015

A few weeks ago I introduced my readers to the injury I am currently recovering from.  My hope was to offer readers an insight into a very real part of the professional dance world that is not often discussed.  In sports you may see injuries multiple times in a game, by why isn’t it the same when you go to the ballet? It is a sport after all.  Well, the answer is simple.  We can’t show you our pain.  So I decided to show it here.

Today was the first official day of Miami City Ballet’s 2015-2016 season.  Due to studio availability, we often work for a short stint in June where we focus on learning new choreography for the upcoming season. This year we are working three weeks this month, then breaking again during the MCB School’s 5-week summer intensive program.  So today, I had to face my expectations for my injury and compare them to my reality.

Our wonderful company doctor here in Miami started to poke holes in my expectations last week when she told me that my ankle will never really be the same again.  It just won’t function the same way anymore.  That doesn’t mean that I won’t be able to make it do everything I want, it just means it’s structure will be different.  She told me that once I can get over that in my head, then everything will be easier.  It was hard to hear and you may be thinking “Wow. That was blunt!” But the truth is she knows how dancers think.  She knows that we put very specific demands on our bodies, and she knows that our goals for healing will be to return to memories of days past.  Working on taking that expectation out of the equation, has already helped me make strides.

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Putting on pointe shoes to walk around in at home. Step one!

I didn’t know what to expect this morning when I stepped into the studios.  I knew that I had 45 minutes of glorious physical therapy to look forward to and an early day which would allow me to get through my insane number of exercises I do each day.  I also knew that people would be asking me about my injury and how I was doing.  Everyone’s words, from dancers to staff, were very helpful and calming.

Over the past seven weeks, I have been looking to this day as if it were an exam in school.  Will I be prepared? Will I ace it? If not, will I be able to scrape by without failing?  My expectation had been to ace it: to be back and dancing and with this injury behind me.  My reality: not quite.   As that started to sink in this morning, I was reminded by our physical therapy staff how far I have come, and how sometimes these injuries can just take a little more time than expected.  And that’s the reality I need to face in these three weeks.

Expectations v. reality can sometime be harmful for dancers who are working on rehabbing from an injury.  Being positive is important, but you also don’t want to allow yourself to develop goals for your recovery timeline that may be impossible.  There is just no real way to predict how each individual will heal. The only thing we can really do is to offer an injury as much support as possible, to guide by pain, and to be patient.  I now know that my expectations are not running the show.  My ankle is making all the decisions.  And all I can do is listen.

2 Comments

  1. Very well written article with much to think about. Thinking of you!

    • Thank you so much!

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