By Brian Henninger
Injuries… They are the great equalizer of the dance industry. You can condition till your blue in the face, you can be the greatest technician ever, but nothing can combat the effects that being extremely physically active and time have on your body. Limbs break, Joints break down, Muscles strain, and things tear. So how can you keep your career on track when an injury comes your way? Here are a few tips and also bits of knowledge to help keep it all in perspective when your faced with the fleeting mortality of your performance career.
Allow yourself time to freak out! Thats right, Brian Henninger (Mr. “Keeps it all together” ) is telling you to FREAK OUT! You have to allow your emotions time to run their course. Allow in the thoughts and feelings of “Oh my god what am I going to do if i can’t dance any more?” “What will i do if my ability is stolen from me with this injury” “What if i never dance again?”. Once you allow yourself that time come back to the reality that LIFE WILL GO ON. YOU WILL BE OK!
See it for what it is not worse then it is: If your dealing with an injury and you haven’t been diagnosed yet. It is important to remember to release yourself from worrying about all the “What if’s” until you know EXACTLY what the issue is and what courses of action are available to you. Try as much as you can to stay within the moment and realize that this is but a speed bump in the larger course of your career and more importantly LIFE. Allow that to put everything in perspective and keep the worry at bay until you really know whats going on.
Get Checked Out: I know what you might say “ but brian, I have no insurance, and I am a struggling artist, how can I get this thing taken care of?”. First I will say that there are several resources available in NYC and also in LA for dancers to get evaluated for injuries. Often times colleges will have low cost clinics available where you can go get checked out. One such clinic in NYC is called “Harkness Center For Dance Injuries”, and a quick google search will provide several links. Many minor injuries can take us out of commission for weeks at a time but will heal on their own, but serious tendon strains or tears need to be checked out and diagnosed and physical therapy or surgery is sometimes needed. These Injuries are also dangerous because if left un diagnosed you are putting yourself at risk for arthritis, scar tissue, and serious problems later in life. If your experiencing significant pain and it has been undiagnosed for longer then a week and its not improving, you need to get checked out. Injuries like hernias can start as small pains but if they are left un checked they can grow and even become infected causing serious health problems. If you are experiencing persistent pain you need to get it checked out.
Create a mental and physical regimen: The trick to coming back from injuries quickly and powerfully is to stay focused and connected to your rehabilitation even from the moment you are injured. It doesn’t matter how bad the injury, you MUST believe in your mind that you WILL recover, and be better then before at that! Nurture that intention by creating a physical regimen to remain engaged with your body while you rehab. Personally I am dealing with a knee injury currently that is preventing me from really dancing. Rather then just laying down and “taking it” , I have decided to instead get re focused in the gym, and set some new fitness goals that I can pursue while I rehabilitate my knee. There is also a hidden value in remaining active in that it keeps your blood circulating and sending nutrients and immune factors into your injured tissue to help with the healing process. Just be sure to manage any inflammation and pain with regular icing and anti- inflammatory use. There are countless stories of people being told they would never walk again let alone dance and against all odds they over came and returned to dancing. Your are NO different. It is truly mind over matter.
Plan for your future: I cannot stress the importance of financial maturity enough with you. It is so important that you be in the habit of saving a percentage of your earnings and put that away for rainy days, or INJURIES. You never know when you may need that saved up money to help supplement your income while you rehabilitate an injury. It is also important to sit down and really take a look at your finances and clearly see how this injury will affect you both creatively but also financially.
Stay engaged and creative: Stay engaged with the dance world. Go observe a class if you can’t dance. If you are a Choreographer use some of your down time to conceptualize your next project. If you have other interests in the arts such as acting, photography, etc that normally take the back seat to your dancing, maybe you can use this time to shift focus a bit and work on your other skill sets!
Every injury and dancer is completely unique. No one will experience an injury the same way that you will and no one will experience the same physical challenges that you will. Therefore it is important to not compare yourself to anyone else and realize that your body has its own way of healing and its own time table. Also remember to realize that dance is a part of your life, not your whole life. Even if it is the biggest part of your life, in order to be a healthy PERSON you have to allow yourself time to focus on other areas. Regardless of whether your injury is career, or (god forbid) life threatening, know that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. and that “this too shall pass.” Stay grateful, and stay patient. You will be back on the dance floor before you know it!
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