To start, heed these words: Don’t dance when you’re injured!
‘What’s the point of this post then?’ you ask.
This is for those of you who have begun a rehearsal or job process and suffered an acute injury during said process. Although, in the name of activism, the best thing to do is rest and recharge for another day, we’re all too familiar with the mantra “the show must go on”.
Equity rightfully continue to challenge this ideology in the dance industry – among many things. But at times – let’s be honest – the job is career defining or is close to heart. It’s important to reiterate: Don’t dance with an injury!
This post is a personal account on how I navigated the ‘Reflection’s process with an ankle sprain, and will hopefully offer some insight in how you too can navigate the effects of an injury.
After spending an evening at a Floor Rippers dance jam in Brixton (you should check them out, it’s always a great atmosphere), high on Serotonin because dance always makes me happy, I took a leisurely stroll to the train station; (Public transport is always involved).
Only just realising the time, I had but a few minutes to run to get on the right train.
Hello stairs. Feet, meet stairs. Stairs, meet feet. One step in particular was a bit overzealous with the introductions and fancied a chat with my ankle. Ankle meet stairs, stairs ankle.
Not a fun experience.
It took a good hour to get home and apply the *RICE method – but by then, the damage was done.
Rest (often this need only be ‘modified rest’ for the injured body part, rather than complete rest) to encourage healing and prevent further injury.
Apply Ice as soon as possible (wrapped in a damp towel, not directly to the skin or you will risk burning it).
Compress the injury site using a bandage.
Elevate the injured body part – all of which will help to reduce blood flow to the injured area discouraging swelling and preventing secondary tissue damage.
A month later, and ankle still bandaged, the rehearsal process began. And with it being such an important project for me (and all of us) I adopted a cyclical practice to ensure I would be ready.
Whatever acute injury you suffer, mobility and suppleness from stretching aid the healing. In my case, releasing tension in the joint, and surrounding foot muscles to allow for stability and mobility.
But don’t overdo it! Excessive stretching can be as equally damaging. Speaking to Dance Informa, Lisa Howell of Perfect Form Physiotherapy, says: “Make sure that you avoid over-stretching. A lot of people just stretch when they’re off, which is one of the worst things you can do because the muscles lose their strength, become very lax and don’t fire correctly.”
As suggested above, over-stretching can leave the ankle and foot muscles susceptible to more injury – especially from muscle and tendon laxity.
Exercises are necessary to rehabilitate ALL muscles that aid the foot’s (or the area of injury’s) stability.
In this case, before and after rehearsals, I would take time to test the ankle’s strength gently, never forcing or rushing the process. Taking from Tomislav English’s Ferus Animi / Terra Nova practice, a series of crawling locomotive exercises worked on the whole body and leg muscles to establish a harmonic stability; almost like a reintroduction of the foot to the rest of the body.
There is, of course, a need to let the body go through it’s natural healing process, but if you just heal, you’re more than likely back to square one; with the possibilities of the same injuries occurring again. Lisa Howell believes so, and says: “… include progressive developments of all of the movement patterns you use in your dance style, so that when you get back into class, those movements have been retrained from the ground up. Otherwise, it is more likely that your injury will reoccur.”
By strengthening and testing the boundaries, you negotiate with your body in finding out why such an injury occurred, and build the area of injury back up and beyond to prevent the injury from reoccurring.
Allow for proper time to rest! It’s a no brainer!
Not resting enough doesn’t give the body enough time to process the stretching and strengthening cycle in order to understand what is being asked of it.
Not resting properly will otherwise damage the ability to fully recover. Don’t be overzealous about recovering!
By being proactive in dealing with the injury in a safe manner, I was able to go through the Reflections process unharmed.
You can see for yourself. No (unintentional) wobbles here!
Self-care is a discipline.
With the right process, you too can survive an injury whilst dancing. If you really must!
One Dance UK – Dance Injuries Resources
Preventing Dance Injuries
US National Library of Medicine / National Institutes of Health – Preventing dance injuries: current perspectives
A Teacher’s Guide to Helping Young Dancers Cope with Psychological Aspects of Hip Injuries