As dancers, we derive a lot of happiness from movement, and not being able to dance because of an injury—even a relatively minor one that requires you to take a break for just a few weeks or months—is hard.
After a stress fracture worsened over the summer, I found myself on a forced break this past fall. I missed out on a big competition and an annual event I was really looking forward to. It was hard too to shake the feeling that I was falling behind in my training. At times I felt a bit overwhelmed and frustrated by all the catching up I thought I’d have to do when I could finally started dancing again.
But being on a forced break while unwelcome, wasn’t all bad. I had more time to focus on other interests and started a few new projects, including writing for this site! Moreover, not being able to dance for a few months actually deepened my appreciation for my dancing and the role that it plays in my life.
Dealing with an injury that has you sitting off the dance floor? Keep reading for five things you should do as you recover.
And remember that taking care of your body to prevent injuries is just as important as taking care of yourself as you recover. Be sure to stretch regularly (especially after a long night of social dancing or during a congress event), wear the right kind of shoes, and cross train to build the right type of muscle strength you need as a dancer.
- Don’t Rush It
This is the most important thing to remember while you’re injured! If you start dancing again before you’re ready, even if it’s just socially, you’re almost guaranteed to experience negative repercussions (including subsequent injuries) later on.
Six weeks, three months, or even a year—that all feels like a really, really long time when you can’t dance, but compared to the rest of your life, it’s very short! Your body needs time to heal, so take your time getting back on the dance floor.
- Stay Positive And Reframe Your Injury As An Opportunity
Not being able to dance doesn’t have to be a bad thing. You can use the time you’d normally spend rehearsing or taking class to reconnect with family and friends, or learn a new skill that you’ve always wanted to try.
You can also use your ‘extra’ time to pursue some of the nonphysical aspects of your dance training. After all, dance is so much more than just a physical thing!
Take a music theory class or songwriting class. Listen to different types of salsa and bachata artists. Watch videos from shows and competitions around the world.
There are lots of great resources out there to help dancers strengthen their emotional and mental skill sets too. Check out this book, Dance Psychology for Artistic and Performance Excellence, by Jim Taylor and Elena Estanol. It’s easy to read, full of super helpful (and inspiring!) information, and includes access to web resources to various activities and exercises. Working with a personal coach, psychotherapist, or energy consultant can also be a great way to invest in your emotional dance training while you’re waiting for a physical injury to heal.
- Find Other Ways To Remain Active and Continue Physical Training
Even though you can’t dance, there are likely other ways you can be active throughout your recovery. Ask your doctor or physical therapist to suggest exercises or activities that are safe for you to do, like swimming or pilates. If you’re dealing with a foot or leg injury, focus on building strength in places like your core, back, pelvis, or arms instead.
Staying active will also help ward off some of the depressive and negative feelings dancers often experience while they’re injured. Even if you don’t realize it, you’re used to all those endorphins that are released through movement and not having them is likely to affect your mood. So too is just not being able to enjoy something you love so much, so make sure to practice self-care during your injury, whatever that means to you.
- Stay Involved With Your Dance Community
Being around other dancers when you’re injured is hard. Sitting out never feels good, especially when you’re physically unable to participate. But removing yourself entirely from the people and community that you love just because you can’t dance isn’t a good idea either. Instead find new ways to get involved with your dance community.
If you’re part of a team or a studio, you can offer to help out with administrative or promotional tasks, like checking people in, posting on social media, or selling tickets for an upcoming event. Just because you can’t dance doesn’t mean you should forgo all dance-related social events, like a big anniversary party or your city’s salsa congress. You can still enjoy the shows, the music (especially if there’s a live band!), and catching up with your dance friends. So if there’s an event you’re looking forward to, keep your plans to attend!
- Know You’re Not Alone
Dancing puts a lot of stress on your body, and almost everyone experiences some kind of injury at some point—remember that you’re not the only one who’s dealt with an injury, or the complicated and confusing emotions that often come with it. Reach out to other dancers for advice and support, and take time to process everything you’re feeling by writing it down.
And finally, don’t forget that no matter how much you love dance, no single thing can define who you are. Don’t think that just because you can’t dance (or can’t do whatever the thing is that you do), that there aren’t twenty other things that you can do and really enjoy, because there are!
Have you dealt with an injury that kept you off of the dance floor? What’s your advice for injured dancers?