Pressures Facing the Injured Dancer
Advice for Aspiring Young Dancers by Alisha Coon
It is common to see a rise in the number of dance injuries as we approach the end of year. Rehearsal time and workload increase dramatically in the lead up to the end of year performances. Academic workload and social engagements also usually increase around this time too, which can lead to extra stress on the mind and body. So commonly, the combination of all these factors can put you at a higher risk of injury.
I could talk about prevention till the cows come home! For example, the importance of adequate rest, recovery, sleep and nutrition – But the reality is, the likelihood of being injured close to performance time at some time during your career (or training) is very high. In fact, I don’t know any professional dancer who hasn’t struggled with injury at some point in their career.
If you have experienced injury close to a performance season then you will understand the dilemma this puts you in. Your director/teachers are expecting big things from you, your team are counting on you, your family are excited to see you dance, and there is pressure you place on yourself because you’ve worked so hard for this. It’s easy to FEEL like it is a huge issue, but you really need to look at it from a bigger perspective and think about your LONG-TERM health if you want a LONG-TERM career!
Let’s talk about teachers and directors. I feel like many directors get the blame for dancers continuing to push through injuries. I hear so many dancers say “but I’ll get taken out of the dance if I don’t dance today” or “I got yelled at for marking.” Directors need to see everyone dancing full-out in the lead up to performances so they can produce the best show possible.
It is the DIRECTOR’S JOB to get the show up and running and it is YOUR DECISION whether or not you can dance.
Seeking a professional opinion is also important. You need to see a physio who knows dance bodies and dance-related injuries. If you keep pushing your body when you are injured, then not only do you risk further injury, but the injury may turn into a recurring or lifetime problem.
One of my worst injuries happened in the lead up to a new premiere. I was down to the final 2 to be cast for the final duet. I wanted it so badly that when I pulled my hamstring I decided to ignore it and keep dancing. I kept pushing and fighting, just so I could get the part and dance 6 performances of this show. Silly Alisha! Firstly, I did not get the role so all that pushing was for nothing. Secondly, because I didn’t rest and recover when the injury happened – that injury became a recurring pain that I had to deal with for the next few YEARS! In hindsight, I should have taken the few weeks off that my hamstring needed. I would have saved myself years of pain and many costly physio visits.
It can be hard to make decisions about injuries, so talking to your family and physio about it can really help. Keeping a check in on your thoughts as it is also important to avoid the guilt or depression that sometimes develops when you have an injury. I remember thinking things like “the choreographer will never use me again if I pull out” or “the teacher will hate me” or “my team has to do extra rehearsals to fill my space, they will be angry at me.”
You need to do what is best for you, and if that means deciding to take a few weeks off to let an injury heal, then stick by your decision and be proud of yourself for doing what is right for your body.
- Remember to look at the bigger picture when it comes to injuries. Missing a competition or end of year performance means nothing in the long run.
- Always get a professional opinion and advice about your injury
- Try not to let the situation overwhelm you or make you feel pressured to do something that may affect your future career.
- Injuries have a strong effect on you mentally as well, so try to stay positive by focusing on the bigger picture.
- Having a strong, healthy body means everything as a dancer – so take care of it!
Lots of love, Alisha xxx