Injuries in dance seem to be a pretty common thing. Dance is obviously a physical activity in which we strive to push the body to do things it wouldn’t normally do. I’ve always found that if I’m not aware of my body’s limitations and weaknesses or am not working to correct these imbalances I have a tendency to injure myself. My injuries have resulted in needing to modify choreography, having to take time away and re-evaluate my technique, seeing outside specialists such as physiotherapists, massage therapists and chiropractors, and in more extreme cases abandoning certain aspects of dance altogether. My most severe dance related injury was a bad case of shin splints and chronic achilles tendonitis, which meant putting down the pointe shoes for good. I didn’t look that great in a tutu anyway.
Now, I find balance to be the best course of action when it comes to maintaining my body for dance. I’m no longer training 8 hours per day as I was in dance school nor am I forcing my body into ballet, something I’m not physically suited to. Some bodies easily fit into the very specific form that this classical dance demands and I find this to be a beautiful thing. My balance has come in knowing my body and coming to accept it as it is. Awareness of technique and extending on my body’s strengths is the way to go for me. It is a constant push and pull of evaluation and course correction. Mentally, I have to consistently remind myself that striving to be better is great, however over-doing it will lead me to a negative place. In this negative place my physical body is being done absolutely no good and my progression ceases to exist. Slow and steady wins the race.
I have also explored several other methods of cross training that have allowed me to understand my body in a more detailed way. I have found training in Pilates to be one of the more helpful methods. It has helped me investigate an ease of movement and a more subtle approach to conditioning the body to function in an efficient way, in addition to being extremely strengthening. Yoga has always been a good standby and continues to be something I fall back on when something isn’t feeling quite right. Both Pilates and Yoga classes and schools can be found in an incredible range in Vancouver so there is never a lack of information here. I practice many of the poses and exercises at home on my bedroom floor when necessary! Swimming a few laps and then stretching in the sauna or whirlpool always helps me to correct minor imbalances. There is nothing like a good old foot massage with lots of peppermint foot cream. I’ve gotten really good at getting in there like no one else can, slight masochist that I am. And for as long as I can remember I’ve been in possession of several balls of varying sizes and densities from the toy store (yes the toy store) that I can roll and lie on to help release those big muscles that refuse to let go otherwise. When something is really hurt, I ice it, and if the swelling persists for a few days I start alternating extreme hot with extreme cold on the area. This worked like a charm when I broke a bone in my foot last summer in an escapade unrelated to dance, and was having trouble loosening the spot. Every once in a while, I break out the old theraband, which is basically a long elastic used for resistance in strengthening specific areas. It’s an essential at the physiotherapist office and I think my Mom bought me my first one when I was 14. Nothing like learning about physical rehabilitation at a young age!
At the end of the day, I try not to stress too much about my aches and pains. I know my body is extremely complex and that it probably knows what it’s doing a lot better than I do. If it’s telling me something, I should probably listen. If I don’t know what it’s telling me, I can ask for help. My body has been good to me, I should be good to it.
CoCo & Rico Contributor, Kara Nolte