Last week, I sliced the tip of my left index finger off with a bread knife. Luckily, it wasn’t serious and didn’t require stitches or anything, but it hurt (and still hurts) with any kind of pressure.
While great for getting me out of chores like washing dishes, missing a fingertip makes social dancing a little bit difficult.
However, it’s been interesting because it’s forcing me to really communicate with my partners and set boundaries.
I don’t condone dancing if you’re seriously injured and need to rest and recover (check out Brielle’s amazing article about what to do if you’re injured for that conversation). But some injuries or hurts won’t stop you from dancing completely. A few years ago, my good friend fractured her knuckle from getting kicked in the hand and was in a hard cast for a couple of weeks. She was still able to dance because the hand was immobilized, but she had to be clear and firm about what she could and couldn’t do.
Here are a few things I’m implementing through this somewhat bizarre and fortunately fairly mild injury.
Be clear up front about what you can and want to do.
When someone asks me to dance, I say “Yes, I hurt my finger though so I can’t use my left middle and index finger.” And I show them. Then I make sure when they take my hand that I don’t touch them with my hurt fingers to reinforce the idea.
My friend is four months pregnant right now (I know that’s not a weird injury!) and she’s doing the same thing. When people ask her to dance, she says “Yes, but I’m pregnant so please don’t do multiple spins because I’ll get dizzy.”
Setting boundaries is super important for a safe and successful dance. Rachel goes into more detail about this in her article on how to teach consent.
Take a knee
Sitting out is fine. It’s okay to say no. I was social dancing the other night and I danced with someone who kept squeezing my hands. I tried to explain to him the situation and keep my injured fingers out of the dance, but to no avail.
So the next time he asked, I just said no.
I think it’s important to reiterate over and over again that it’s ok to gracefully say no if you don’t want to dance a particular dance at any point. I injured my back last year and really couldn’t dance, but I still went to social functions because I was running them or just wanted to go and hang out. Because of that, I got really good at saying no and not feeling badly about it.
I used to feel so guilty every time I said no to a dance, even when I was injured. I know a lot of people, leads and follows, who feel that way and will say yes even when they don’t want to or can’t dance. So I’ll say it again, it’s okay to say no and it’s okay to get told no, especially when there’s an injury involved.
Use it as a way to improve your following or leading
My friend with the knuckle injury said that being in a hard cast actually improved her following. Since she couldn’t really feel any of the signals through the cast, she had to rely on other senses to follow. She said it made her pay closer to attention to what leads were doing and really watch them to see what step was next.
Besides improving her following, she said it also made her more aware of what she was doing with her arms, especially when transitioning to closed position. She didn’t want to bash her lead’s arm with the cast, so she made sure she was really staying in her lane.
Leading or following, having a hand semi out-of-commission is forcing me to be more creative with my movements and try to find more moves that I can do with just one hand.
I tried dancing with no hands, but I’m not there yet with my following skills…