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Should dancers be encouraged to dance with injuries?! Is it really something that is unavoidable?


dancerbabe82
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I'm starting a new thread because this topic got discussed on a different one which was not the correct intention.

 

There appears to be a climate of belief among dancers that not only is it inevitable to dance through an injury but that it should be celebrated or praised.

 

Other things that still perpetuate through are things like dancers should be rehearsing non stop right up until a show/exam/competition in order to be brilliant.

 

I feel really strongly that until people stop believing these things, and stop telling our young dancers these things, that dancers will not get happier or healthier - and they deserve to be as healthy as any other professional.

 

 

The advent of the discussion of eating disorders in dance, and the launch of the national institute NHS dance injury service is all brilliant but sadly, until people make changes to beliefs, our dancers are going to keep getting injured, way more than they need to.

 

I'd love to know peoples feelings on the matter.....

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I remember a teacher (retired NYCB dancer) and founder/director of a company told (bragged) to me (during an interview in my capacity as a dance critic) how she taped up the very swollen ankle of a dancer so he could get through multiple rehearsals and performances. Only slowly did the triumphant smile fade from her face - as she saw mine.

 

For some reason dancing is seen as an almost military activity: the show must go on - the dancer must dance - almost no matter what. Anything less is seen as lazy, wimpy, cowardly, letting everyone down, lack of character and dedication.

 

Injury happens, illness happens - neither is a symptom of an unworthy character. On the contrary - dancing with illness can infect others. Dancing at less than one's optimum physical condition can endanger the dancer's future as well as compromise others.

 

Dancing sick and/or injured is not heroic - it is not a display of dedication. Just becoming a dancer is a proof of dedication.

 

If someone is indeed using an injury as an excuse - well, that will soon enough play itself out to an inevitable outcome.

 

Maybe this all started when Catherine of Russia used serfs for her dancers and they needed to constantly show their devoted thankfulness for the opportunity to till the fields by day and dance at night. Maybe the autocratic ballet teacher mold started that way, too.

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No, it should be avoided at all costs. "A stitch in time saves nine" applies here. A small injury which should easily heal may be turned into a major problem by dancing on it before it is better. A major injury needs careful attention so it does not become career-ending.

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My dd is still a student, she has attended three vocational schools and I must say, at the first indication of an injury the schools have made the students see a medic and they are made to rest. My dd had a sore hip recently and the Bolshoi would not allow her to dance at all until the med centre had looked at her and given their recomendations. I have to say my dd was very naughty and did not tell her teacher that her hip was sore, it was the teacher who spotted it straight away and made her stop dancing.

From the student side of things I have never heard of this type of bragging before. I know the students dread injury, but I have never heard of them carrying on dancing through the injury and then bragging about it.

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I think illness and injury are two different issues and should be treated as such. If my dd had an injury and had been told not to dance - especially by the dance physio - I would ensure that she didn't dance.

 

However, she has danced twice while really being too ill to do so - 2 days before EYB last time she came down with tonsilitis so I kept having to meet her at the stage door to dose her with painkillers and antibiotics. At Christmas she was due to take her Inter Foundation and was on course for a Distinction. Five days before the exam she became very ill with a raging temperature but nothing was showing up so we thought it was viral. Turned out she had an ear and chest infection and had perforated her eardrum!

 

Both times I said that she should really stay in bed - no chance. I'd literally have had to tie her to the bed to stop dancing. In the end I decided she'd be less distressed if I just let her dance.

 

So injured and ordered off dance by the physio - it's a no-no. But I think sometimes if an ill child insists on dancing, it's very difficult to stop them!

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I think illness and injury are two different issues and should be treated as such. If my dd had an injury and had been told not to dance - especially by the dance physio - I would ensure that she didn't dance.

 

However, she has danced twice while really being too ill to do so - 2 days before EYB last time she came down with tonsilitis so I kept having to meet her at the stage door to dose her with painkillers and antibiotics. At Christmas she was due to take her Inter Foundation and was on course for a Distinction. Five days before the exam she became very ill with a raging temperature but nothing was showing up so we thought it was viral. Turned out she had an ear and chest infection and had perforated her eardrum!

 

Both times I said that she should really stay in bed - no chance. I'd literally have had to tie her to the bed to stop dancing. In the end I decided she'd be less distressed if I just let her dance.

 

So injured and ordered off dance by the physio - it's a no-no. But I think sometimes if an ill child insists on dancing, it's very difficult to stop them!

 

I think that illness is every bit of a "stop sign" as is injury. A fever (viral or otherwise) is a stop sign - the body is busy fighting infection. That's more important than any dance activity.

 

Dancing on pain killers is artificially turning off the body's "stop sign."

 

By allowing a sick child to dance because it would cause stress if denied - is subsituting one stress for another. But, then, one looks back and says - "well, it worked out so where's the harm?" Yes, for that time it may have worked out - but that doesn't imply that its not a risky decision. If the dancer is an adult then that decision is one's own responsibility.

 

Everyone handles these things differently. But had it not worked out.........

 

I could not, in good conscience, as a teacher allow any student to dance while ill or injured, tired - or hungry. I dealt with that and more when I was teaching.

 

At one time (many yrs ago) my son took ballet lessons and was cast as the naughty brother in a Nutcracker for San Diego Ballet. This was a fully professional production in every aspect - and serious business. At the time my son was eleven yrs old. Before allowing him to do this I thoroughly questioned the rehearsal schedule and was told that they would never run later than 8 p.m. Well, quite soon rehearsal times slipped later and later into the night. One day I came home and found him asleep in a chair at 3 pm - most unlike a lively eleven yr old boy. After warning the company this could not go on but when it continued - without any hesitation I pulled him from the production. Was I over protective? I don't think so - when an eleven yr old is sleeping wherever he can - it is affecting his health.

 

I was giving a private lesson to a marvelous 12 yr. old student who was about to audition for a major company's school - but in the midst of the lesson - when a difficulty arose and she told me she hadn't eaten breakfast (there were problems in her home) , I immediately stopped the lesson and fed her instead. I told her mother to see to it that she was properly fed before coming for any further lessons. Likewise - sick or injured.

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Re young dancers, I have a feeling that during rehearsals and performances the chaperones are acting in loco parentis, and are responsible for decisions regarding the child's well-being.

 

Whether or not a child is fit/well enough to continue is down to the chaperone, and the chaperone can refuse to allow the child to perform if they believe it is not in the child's best interests.

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I think that illness is every bit of a "stop sign" as is injury. A fever (viral or otherwise) is a stop sign - the body is busy fighting infection. That's more important than any dance activity.

 

Dancing on pain killers is artificially turning off the body's "stop sign."

 

By allowing a sick child to dance because it would cause stress if denied - is subsituting one stress for another. But, then, one looks back and says - "well, it worked out so where's the harm?" Yes, for that time it may have worked out - but that doesn't imply that its not a risky decision. If the dancer is an adult then that decision is one's own responsibility.

 

Everyone handles these things differently. But had it not worked out.........

 

I could not, in good conscience, as a teacher allow any student to dance while ill or injured, tired - or hungry. I dealt with that and more when I was teaching.

 

At one time (many yrs ago) my son took ballet lessons and was cast as the naughty brother in a Nutcracker for San Diego Ballet. This was a fully professional production in every aspect - and serious business. At the time my son was eleven yrs old. Before allowing him to do this I thoroughly questioned the rehearsal schedule and was told that they would never run later than 8 p.m. Well, quite soon rehearsal times slipped later and later into the night. One day I came home and found him asleep in a chair at 3 pm - most unlike a lively eleven yr old boy. After warning the company this could not go on but when it continued - without any hesitation I pulled him from the production. Was I over protective? I don't think so - when an eleven yr old is sleeping wherever he can - it is affecting his health.

 

I was giving a private lesson to a marvelous 12 yr. old student who was about to audition for a major company's school - but in the midst of the lesson - when a difficulty arose and she told me she hadn't eaten breakfast (there were problems in her home) , I immediately stopped the lesson and fed her instead. I told her mother to see to it that she was properly fed before coming for any further lessons. Likewise - sick or injured.

 

Edited to add that I thought that spannerandpony's post that Anjuli was responded to would also be quoted in the box!

 

 

I agree with everything that Anjuli has said and would like to add that allowing a sick child to dance is also exposing other children to infection. There are many parents out there who would not let a sick child take class, rehearse, perform, do an exam etc and it would be such a shame for the child of such a parent to become ill and therefore be prevented form participating in something that was equally important to them. Of course, children often get ill without knowing the source and can not be protected form everything but I have been known to withdraw my children from activities when quite obviously infectious children have been present, so as not to jeopardise their involvement at a later date!

Edited by Jellybeans
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I think that there is almost a mythology surrounding ballet and suffering. It seems rare to read about a dancer who does not mention their bruised, bloodied, blistered and bunioned feet! In Tamara Rojo's recent interview in the Evening Standard (on the Links section) it was almost shocking to read how she thought ballet was lots of fun. I almost did a double-take at that because I think the suffering, pain and exhaustion tend to be what we get to hear about, almost certainly in the attempt t to keep proving how physically demanding (and worthwhile?) ballet is. The myth of the "suffering genius" too can be big in other art forms too - literature, music, art are full of tortured souls where the greater the suffering, the greater the genius - but this often just relates to mental suffering, not the physical suffering that dancers, especially ballet dancers, are "supposed" to undergo. There is something sadistic and masochistic about it all. Hopefully it's changing.

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I agree Anjuli, but honestly, she became so distressed at the thought of not dancing, and had worked so hard, I didn't have the heart to stop her. I know her nature, and believe me, although every instinct as a Mother told me to keep her in bed, I know she would have beat herself up for months afterwards about it. To let her dance was to me the lesser of two evils.

 

It didn't really "work out" because she only got a Merit in her Inter Foundation, but because of the change in syllabus, if she had missed the exam there was no opportunity to take it at a later date. In her eyes, that would have been two years hard work wasted.

 

Lesson learned though because both times it was Winter, in the run up to Christmas - so teacher and I have agreed no more Winter exams!

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Anjuli I cannot agree with you enough. Not to mention the fact that if a dancer is ill, hungry or tired they are more likely to suffer an injury! In fact fatigue is the biggest (reported) cause of injury in professional dancers.

 

So rather than accepting the injuries as par for the course, perhaps its the training mindset that ought to change too?!

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I think that there is almost a mythology surrounding ballet and suffering. It seems rare to read about a dancer who does not mention their bruised, bloodied, blistered and bunioned feet! In Tamara Rojo's recent interview in the Evening Standard (on the Links section) it was almost shocking to read how she thought ballet was lots of fun. I almost did a double-take at that because I think the suffering, pain and exhaustion tend to be what we get to hear about, almost certainly in the attempt t to keep proving how physically demanding (and worthwhile?) ballet is. The myth of the "suffering genius" too can be big in other art forms too - literature, music, art are full of tortured souls where the greater the suffering, the greater the genius - but this often just relates to mental suffering, not the physical suffering that dancers, especially ballet dancers, are "supposed" to undergo. There is something sadistic and masochistic about it all. Hopefully it's changing.

Well maybe I'm looking back with rose tinted glasses but certainly my performing career was more fun than pain!! And my ds ,now touring with a ballet company is also having a great time. Yes he is exhausted at times but then so are most working people aren't they? And most working people don't get to follow their hearts desire.

As for dancing through injury, well its hard when its a VERY small company but DS says they have frequently worked around health issues to ensure that no one suffers - for example a dance was re choreographed to rest an injured dancer.

However DS suffered a nosebleed mid performance the other night so not sure how they all coped then.!

Edited by hfbrew
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Anjuli I cannot agree with you enough. Not to mention the fact that if a dancer is ill, hungry or tired they are more likely to suffer an injury! In fact fatigue is the biggest (reported) cause of injury in professional dancers.

 

So rather than accepting the injuries as par for the course, perhaps its the training mindset that ought to change too?!

 

I think you're right. Remember what seemed to be a spate of injuries during the Stretton era at the Royal Ballet, when they were dancing all different types of work more or less at once? (And my goodness, what's wrong at the Paris Opera Ballet at the moment?!) And it's frequently reported that most professional dancers are dancing with some level of injury, which always worries me: it seems it only stores up problems for the future. On the other hand, it's understandable: if you are somewhere like the Royal Ballet (which I'm only quoting because it's the company I observe the most) and only get perhaps a couple of chances at a coveted role per run, and the ballet may not be back for 3 years, it's quite likely that you would try and dance through an injury rather than giving it the rest it needs. Compare that with, say, ENB doing a long run of Manon a couple of years ago: there were, I think, a number of dancers off during that run, possibly resting what may only have been minor injuries, but the run was long enough that they knew they'd get their chance eventually, and the pressure to ignore injuries was probably consequently a lot less.

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Apart from injuries, I wonder how many dancers and dance students develop post-viral fatigue type illnesses such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). I know that Lauren Cuthbertson was out for many months after a bout of glandular fever and then CFS. Happily, she recovered and has danced the lead in a number of performances since, but I read somewhere that she is now very careful with her health (gets plenty of sleep etc). I get the impression that she has changed her lifestyle somewhat in an attempt to reduce the risk of a re-occurrence of her illness. Speaking personally, I have been rather taken aback by the deterioration in my teenage son's general health (he is not a dancer) since he started secondary school. He has developed quite severe hay fever (or possibly year-round rhinitis), is often tired and is off school with nausea for a day or two every couple of months. I have considered, and discounted, problems at school although he has found it hard to adjust to senior school. I just think that he doesn't get enough sleep or eat enough of the right foods, despite my best efforts, and his body is under a certain amount of stress because he is approaching puberty. I'm getting worried that he'll be ill or below par when he's sitting public exams in a couple of years time.

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I think this is an interesting debate how we strive as parents to keep our children healthy (physically and emotionally) especially through the teenage years when we have less control over their eating and sleeping patterns.

My 15 year old DD seems to fluctuate between having bags of energy and extreme lethargy and fatigue when she wants to sleep all the time.

I do find that the dancing children I have met (including my own DD) are incredibly hard working and driven and do tend to push themselves to the limit in all areas of their lives. Sometimes I find I just need to give her "permission" to take a night off.

I had an interesting chat with a colleague who is a child and adolescent mental health nurse; she said that if they get a referral for a teenage girl with symptoms of low mood they request that the GP prescribes iron tablets whilst they are waiting for the initial assessement as the symptoms for anaemia can be the same as depression in this age group.

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Just wanted to add that on a previous thread I started regarding dancers and tiredness, I mentioned that I was ordering a book on nutrition. Well the book has arrived and I would like to recommend it as it is a fabulous source of information regarding health and diet and seems to link in nicely with this thread. Title: Nutrition for the Dancer by Zerlina Mastin.

swe

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Hi I just think as parents it is our responsibility to ensure that we protect our children's wellbeing when they are either sick or injured. Even if a child is determined to carry on they are unaware compared to most adults as to the possible consequences of their continuing to perform when not well or injured.

Ax

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Like your DD, Spanner, my DD took her Grade 5 having been violently ill with a stomach virus the day before. She hadn't eaten eaten for 48 hours and was insistent about taking the exam. She did so and got commended for it which was a miracle in the circumstances. She was fit for nothing after that.

Edited by Fiz
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Glad it's not just me Fiz! :-)

 

The thing is, the title of this thread is "Should dancers be ENCOURAGED to dance with injuries", not "Should we forcibly PREVENT our children from doing an exam when ill"

 

I'm probably overprotective with my daughter, but I know her personality, and if I had stopped her taking her Inter Foundation (especially as she wouldn't have been able to retake the exam), she would not have forgiven me. She stayed in bed for the days preceding and following the exam, but she would have laid there and stressed had I made her miss it.

 

Of course I don't encourage her to dance with an injury or an illness, but there is a difference between encouraging your child to dance when ill, and knowing how they would react if you tried to stop them.

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Yes we've gone off topic here really! My concern was really the 'celebration' of a dancer who 'carried on with an injury, what a trooper' and what that message is sending out.

 

My other thought is that how many people believe that injury is inevitable and therefore accept it?

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Yes we've gone off topic here really! My concern was really the 'celebration' of a dancer who 'carried on with an injury, what a trooper' and what that message is sending out.

 

My other thought is that how many people believe that injury is inevitable and therefore accept it?

 

I'm not sure I understand the last sentence; are you meaning this passively or actively as in:

 

Injury is inevitable somewhere on someday in one's life. I've seen someone suffer a grievious injury stepping off a curb. Or do you mean the dancer should just accept training that is more likely to produce injury or seek out training that is less likely to produce injury?

 

By "accept" do you mean that if one is injured one should just soldier on? Or, does "accept" mean "ok - I'm injured - so now I have to accept that fact and do something about it (rest, dr. visit, ice, etc)?

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What bothers me sometimes is that people seem to accept that the high injury rate in dance is inevitable; that there is nothing that can be done.

 

I know that injury in life is not entirely unavoidable, but I do worry that there is a mindset among dancers saying "don't whine about having an injury because it's part of what goes on" and more concerning, the message sometimes being sent out by being positive about those who 'soldier on' as though it's something to be proud of - which sends mixed messages to young dancers.

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That attitude of the "iinevitability of injury" and the "stop whining and soldier on" is abetted both passively and actively by the hierarchy and by the pressure of time.

 

I was watching the trailer for the new ballet documentary "First Position" about students going through a dance competition and as I recall one of the statements is: "no training too painful." Now I've looked at the trailer again and I don't see those words so either I first saw a different trailer for the film or the words have been deleted. But the over-riding message is one of pressure from every side. Everything is "now or never."

 

Same is true if a student is ill or injured - only one chance at an exam or a role in a performance. Why can't an exam be scheduled in a central place for those who were ill or injured?

 

I remember many years ago in a major dance magzine an interview of the head mistress of a top (very top) ballet school being asked what happens if demanding absolute perfect turnout puts the student as risk. The head mistress said if the student is injured - well, there are many others waiting to take that spot.

 

So, with those kinds of attitudes amongst the movers and shakers is it any wonder that a youngster fears that complaining of an injury or being ill would be seen as whining and/or endangering that youngster's chances at any future at all.

 

The attitudes don't start with the kids - they start with the adults who structure their lives.

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