This story has a happy ending, I promise!
I find one of the hardest things to cope with as a dancer are injuries.
Dancing comes with a price, not just from the wear and tear on our bodies,but dealing with reoccurring stress injuries and insuring we are doing everything we can to stay healthy. This of course means that we have to take our vitamins, go to bed at a decent time in order to be alert, focused and able to come back each day with more determination to challenge our limits when we get to the studio. The more we learn about our bodies, the more awareness we will acquire to notice when things are out of place and how best to go about fixing our own issues.
As most of us know, these injuries can occur from poor training habits that overtime develop imbalances in the body. When this happens it can be a shock to our system and stir an abundance of questions as to where a dancer went wrong in their training and why couldn’t they have noticed it sooner. Thankfully there are many wonderfully skilled and specialized physiotherapists and massage therapists to nurse us back to health, of which I am quite familiar with.
I had a moment exactly like this last year. After over-packing my summer with dance intensives and not taking time to take care of my body and imbalances through extra conditioning, my back went into spasm. It was during one of our jazz classes and I just could not take it anymore. It was only the beginning of the year and I was just so overwhelmed because I had my whole 3rd year ahead of me that was going to be packed with even more dancing and opportunities. I was mad at my body for not allowing me to do what I love most. It hurt so much and I felt like I was trapped in a body that was not my own. I was incapable of doing any back bends or anything, by thoracic cavity just seized up.
Its really hard in our program because if you miss ANY classes they have a history of attendance to hold against you should they think of putting you on probation and in an extreme case, kick you out of the dance program. Injuries are taken into consideration, but with a grain of salt and at the end of the day you aren’t dancing, that could count against you. It was also super stressful because on top of all our dance and academic classes, we had guest choreographers who were coming in only a week later and there was literally no time to rest let alone heal.
As I found a place on the floor with my icepack on my back, I looked up at my classmates. They were dancing the adage that we normally do in jazz, one of my favourites.
*I should disclaimer that our style of jazz is very old school, and soulful…down to the original routes of jazz dancing. Our teacher is fabulous and man, can she dance!
Anyways, we usually listen to recordings of live bands playing jazzy music, but for this adage we had the song “Morning Sun” by Melody Gardot. It is so powerful and soulful and with the movement it just made complete sense in my body. I could actually feel myself dancing for the first time in a long time when we learned that adage. It wasn’t just steps anymore in a particular order. It was intuitive, it was natural and it felt beautiful.
Some of my friends joke that its kind of lyrical for our jazz classes, as in the 14 year old lyrical jazz category for competitive dancers. But somehow it just seemed to work for me!
So as I laid there on the floor I could feel myself dancing with the music but at the same time felt so trapped and disabled that I was fighting back tears from just feeling a bit too overwhelmed. Once I calmed down a bit, and I was watching all my friends and classmates dance this adage, something in me changed. I was all of a sudden overcome with such a rush of gratitude and awe of being one of them. Being a part of this class in particular.
Everyone was fully embracing the subtle nuances in the music. They were living the dance too and I could feel that when I watched them! They were dancing bigger than themselves and letting their movement fill up the music with ease and musicality. It made the adage look both simple (which technically speaking, its not 😉 and dynamic.
And of course watching all my beautiful friends dance with such poetic quality and the combination of hearing that soulful song and being stuck; flat on my back ,made me want to weep even louder…but it was OK. It was just what I needed to gain perspective, take time to observe and appreciate all that was around me and to acknowledge what I still have in me to offer. It also just felt good to cry because with all this pent up energy and integrity to uphold composure can be quite challenging, regardless of the education you are pursuing or what you do. It is exhausting,but its a wonderful thing to stop and realize all that you’ve got!
My back is a lot better now after lots of physio and chiro work, but I will never forget the way my class made me feel. Its a moment I won’t soon forget.
You were born to do great things, and you will find your way, just like everyone else
– The Inspired Dancer, xo