For the last three months, I’ve been unable to dance. I first noticed a twinge around my knee in October. It took a questionable orthopaedic appointment, an MRI Scan and four physiotherapists before I found a professional I trusted.
Frustratingly the injury still lingers, exacerbated by the fact that there was never one solid diagnosis. I am returning to class, slowly. It’s a long and arduous process, and it will take a while before I can build up my class attendance.
As dramatic as it sounds, being unable to dance made everything bleak. Any talk of dance on TV of in a magazine triggered a panic attack. My ballet shoes are still hiding in the laundry cupboard.
Whenever anyone asked me “how’s your leg?” I felt my entire body tense up. It was only because they cared, of course, but it brought a huge black cloud around me, smothering and relentless.
I am trying to see the positive in coping with an injury. Whilst it’s very difficult, here is what I’ve gathered so far…
1. The importance of diet.
It’s so hard for a dancer to eat correctly – rushing from work to class doesn’t leave much time for nutritious, balanced meals. But since my injury, I have completely reassessed my diet. Protein is key – eggs, greek yoghurt, fish; alongside complex carbohydrate and excessive amounts of vegetables and fruit. Boring I know, but I’ve definitely noticed a difference (and of course, there is still room for cake).
2. Accepting your weaknesses makes you stronger.
Having started dancing only a few years ago, I have certain limitations. I’ve always struggled with my turn-out, but now I recognise and embrace this, rather than pushing myself in the wrong way, potentially causing injury.
3. The benefits of cross-training.
Dance classes used to be my main source of exercise, but now I’m working on improving my overall health. Alongside daily physio rehabilitation exercises. I aim for moderate cardio and strength training throughout the week.
4. Staying humble.
I was overwhelmingly nervous about my first class after injury. What if I cause further damage? What if I can’t remember the routines? What if I have lost all my technique? Truth is, I felt like the newbie again. But it encouraged me to re-learn the exercises in a positive way – I’m no longer complacent in class (something I could occasionally flirt with) – I’m attentive and humble, always wanting to learn and improve.
5. Dance for yourself, not others.
As silly as it sounds, it was hard accepting that dance classes would continue without me (!!!). My current ability is limited (no jumps, no full plies, no technique classes) and my flexibility has decreased significantly (splits are a distant memory). But being injured has reminded me to dance for myself and not for others. I simply focus on what I can do at this very minute, taking one small step at a time.
6. Always believe in yourself.
This is something I’m still working on! But I keep reminding myself of my journey and all I’ve achieved so far. Things WILL get better, I just need to treat myself kindly. In the words of JLo (obviously), I am learning to dance again.