In the September issue of Pointe Magazine (wow, shit bunheads say) there is an interview with Mikko Nissinen regarding what’s lacking in pre-professional training, in which the Boston Ballet Artistic Director makes a very valid point; “It takes three steps to be a professional: You have to learn how to dance, how to perform, and how to deal with injuries.”
There is such a high probability of becoming injured in this career that knowing how to handle an injury is literally the most important skill a dancer can have, second only to learning to dance and perform. Of course, dealing with actually becoming injured is difficult, but straight forward: something hurts, you seek medical advice, you are diagnosed. The part that comes next, the whole “being an injured dancer” aspect, well that is a bit more complicated.
In the closing sequence of Breaking Pointe’s Season 2 finale (I really need to take the bobbypins out of my brain before making references), Ballet West Artistic Director Adam Sklute says, “Ballet can be vicious” and flashbacks to the variety pack of injuries incurred by the dancers during the season fill the screen. He’s right. Behind the rhinestones and tulle, we hide pain. Serious, at times crippling, pain. It may sound dramatic, but that’s because it is.
Being an injured dancer is so much more than physical therapy, acupuncture, x-rays, and massages. It hurts so much more than the sprain, fracture, or blister itself. Your world as you know it flips upside-down. Everything you have worked so hard for up until this point is taken away in the twist of an ankle, and only time, patience, and optimism will bring it back. It’s like every hardship you’ve experienced in your ballet career thus far has been a little test of your dedication, and this is a 10-chapter exam. Are you willing to stay true to something you can’t even do right now? Will you be able to return to something that damaged you so physically without letting it break you emotionally? The answer has to be yes. Or you’re in the wrong business.