I often write about injury prevention because my goal is to keep dancers dancing. However, injuries happen and sometimes even the best-prepared dancers get injured. Dancers are trained to dance, not to sit on the sidelines. So when a dancer gets injured, it is natural to feel a little lost. While I hope you’re never in this situation, here are some tips of how to keep up if you have to sit out.
Even though you are not dancing, now is the best time to address some weakness that may have put you at risk for injury. Assess your other body areas – core (abdominals, back muscles, hip muscles), legs, upper body, and ankles. Is everything as strong as it possibly can be? This is also a time to focus on your whole body strength. Some dance teachers will let you do your cross training or physical therapy exercises on the side during class, but you have to ask each teacher.
Having an injury and being out of dance can take its toll on your mood. It is normal to feel left out, sad, or down when you have an injury. Many dancers worry they will be left behind with class or technique. They worry they may not get large roles, or may not be moved up a level. These worries are generally just that – worries. Most dancers get back to dancing at their same level, or higher, after an injury. Staying positive can be hard, but it is key. Keeping a good attitude helps healing and can help you return earlier and stronger. Focus on this time as a rebuilding period where you are becoming stronger and taking the time to improve your technique. Then, you will be back stronger than before.
For many dancers, their lives are at the studio. Being out of dancing does not necessarily mean being out of the studio. Each dancer is different, but many dancers need time in the studio to keep up with the choreography, technique, and friends. Every studio and teacher has different rules; so make sure to ask permission before trying out any suggestions. Some dancers video or film rehearsals so they can learn the choreography later. There are teachers who include sideline dancers in assistive teaching, but not every class works well with this method. If you are not able to attend your studio, take the time to read about dance history or watch historical dances or dancers.
Journaling or answering questions about a class can help you improve your own technique in new ways. It may not be appropriate to share the answers, but the most important part of the exercise is improving your dance and artistry. Here are some suggestions:
- Write 3 corrections you would make if you were the teacher. How would those apply to you and your dancing?
- Write 3 positives the dancers should continue doing well. What are things you are doing well for your dancing and your health from the sidelines?
- Choose one dancer and watch her/him. What do you see? Make sure you are looking critically for both positives and areas for improvement.
- Who in this class inspires you? Why?
- Listen to the music playing. How does this influence the dancers? Comment about musicality.
- What do you see in this class that you are planning to apply to yourself in future classes?
Even if you are not sitting out of class for an injury, these are tips that can improve your dancing and your artistry. Dance happy, dance healthy!
by: Dr. Kathleen L. Davenport, M.D.