When it comes to dancing there are many differences between pros, pre-pros, child dancers and dancers who take up the pursuit as adults. Each of us have our own theories as to what those differences are and most of us who fall into the latter class of adult dancers usually do that at our own peril. As I sat down to write this I realize that this is what this blog is about really… how my experiences are different because I am an adult learning to dance. Not that my experiences are more valid or real than anyone’s else’s nor are they more important… but the journey of the grown-up that begins to learn ballet as an adult is different at every turn.
So here I am with a new experience, I have an injury, a dancing injury. For the past three weeks or so my left foot has been unhappy in pointing and in releve. I didn’t think much of it because from the beginning my feet didn’t really like ballet. I always needed extra time to warm them up and they still protest with some mild cramping through the first few exercises at the barre. But the last few weeks have been particularly bad. Now the other issue for me is that I have an extremely high pain threshold. This is a bad thing in as much as it is a good thing. The bad part is that I can really get hurt without realizing it – like not realizing that something is super HOT until I’ve got a really nasty 3rd degree burn or catching my fingers in something and not immediately removing them because it doesn’t actually hurt that much or putting a band-aid over an open wound that eventually takes SIX stitches to close or walking around on a foot that has multiple stress fractures. Yeap, all of those things have happened. And I have been walking around on a foot with stress fractures… not only walking around, going to ballet class five times a week! I also now have FHL tendonitis. The good part is that I don’t require tons of pain meds and even when it hurts, most of the time, I can just shrug it off and it doesn’t hurt that bad.
The stress fractures will heal and I can be taught how to deal with the tendonitis with stretching, exercises, and taping – after the fractures heal, of course. So in the big scheme of things, I’m okay. I’ll be back, save my place at the barre – it’s the end spot, thank you very much.
But let me tell you where I’ve been as an adult dancer for the past few days… and here is where I think we as adult learners will find a difference from other dancers… this is the sort of thing that plays with our heads and with our hearts. This is the sort of thing that whispers (or screams) in our ears… you can’t do this, you aren’t built to dance, you are too old for this, your body can’t do this, it’s too late to learn, you’ll never be able to do this, give up before you really hurt yourself. Wanna know the truth? I’m not built to be a ballerina. I’m short, stocky, and busty. I’ve got really short limbs. I lack any real sense of balance, rhythm, or movement. I don’t even like to move, I like to sit still. And I’m not young anymore. I’ve got some age and some mileage on me. I’ve got old injuries, bad habits, and a few extra pounds to account for. And I hate to break it to you but I’m here to tell you that no one escapes an injury without it forever making a mark on you physically. I can find injuries from childhood on the bones of an old person, injuries that the person themselves might have even forgotten. Still there, etched in our bones and in our skin. Your body tells the story of who you are, where you’ve been, and what you’ve done. It’s a roadmap, a diary, a biography.
I will not leave this injury behind me. It will come with me. And yes, I will recover and I will learn how to deal with it. In fact, the knowledge of how I learn to deal with it may teach me a new way to work that can provide improvements to my dancing. That’s entirely possible. But the truth is that the injury itself won’t make me physically stronger. BUT it can make me emotionally and mentally stronger. I don’t have to listen to the voice of self-doubt in my head that tells me that this injury is a billboard saying that ballet is not for me. Ballet is for me and it’s for you too, if you choose. We can find ways to work with our bodies no matter what the issue. Dance can be found in the furthest reaches of the world, from the oldest tribal civilizations to the most modern of sects. Human beings dance from the time when we wiggle in the womb to the last death rattle in our bones, we have movement in us.
So that’s it then. I’m hurt. I have an injury. That’s what I have to work with right now. But I will, in some way, every day, acknoweldge myself as a human being who dances. And I will be back to learning ballet. Ballet too will be etched in my bones and in my skin because it’s already etched in my heart.
~All will be well. Dance for me and I’ll dance for you.