| Dancing on and off for over twelve years can cause extreme stress on a dancer’s body. Luckily, my twelve-year experience has not brought me any serious injury. I have suffered from pulled muscles, weak back, bruised toenails, and blisters galore. As Sandra Abma says during a CBC Radio program, “It may look beautiful and graceful on stage, but ballet is hard on the body”(Abma). This statement is completely true. Personally, I know that ballet forces my body to its limits and beyond. Ballet hurts, but with much work and the blessing of being born with wonderful feet and flexibility, a dancer can obtain what he wants. Though my experiences with injury are not severe or career damaging, I have experienced pain from the art of ballet. Missing and bruised toenails are not pleasant to the eye, or to the feet when they are in Pointe shoes. Being extremely flexible is not one of my strongest qualities. My body is able to do the required splits and bends that express grace, but my body does not allow me to go much further.Being in classes with overly flexible dancers and ones with extremely beautiful feet make it difficult to be confident in yourself. But, as in sports and life, everyone has his strong points and his weak points. Luckily, I have never had any problems with my diet and eating. I have been privileged enough not to have to go through a strenuous diet in order to do my best with my dancing. I have had friends who went through the typical ballet eating disorders, but I have kept myself away from these problems. I have seen what they do to dancers and I never wanted to experience dieting problems. Sleeping and resting in proper amounts are really important to me. Through dancing for two weeks straight in the summer of 2001, I realized the importance of sleeping and being properly rested. I realized that a dancer is not able to do all he wants to do if he is to perform his best the following day. Even a nap for an hour or two on Friday afternoon helps. During the school year this concept is even harder for a dancer to grasp. Doing well in school and doing well in dancing takes up most of a dancer’s day. Performances require double the amount of practices so a dancer must work on his schoolwork diligently. I had to learn this through my years of dancing, but now that I know it, I am able to do my best in school and still show up for rehearsal every night. Thanks to being careful and watching out for my own body, I have never experienced a career ending injury.
William Starrett, the director of Columbia City Ballet, taught me much about injury and a dancer’s safety during the summer of 2001 when I attend CCB’s summer dance program. Being taught by extremely famous dancers and partnering with professionals who dance for their career showed me the importance of resting, taking care of your body, and eating healthily. William Starrett began dancing in San Francisco and only two years later he was already dancing with a professional company (Starrett). Starrett’s career took off fast and furiously and did not stop until he was required to undergo double hip replacement surgery. Forcing turnout lead to serious injury that all dancers should know about. To help show what forcing turnout does to a dancer’s body, a local South Carolinian television station made a documentary on Starrett’s surgery. Starrett’s experience with dance injuries provided a good lesson, not only for him, but also for all dancers, and shows dancers the importance of knowing your body’s limits and not pushing it too far (Starrett).
Another prime example of a professional dancer who struggled to keep himself safe throughout his dancing career is the director of Greenville Ballet, Andrew Kurharsky. Kurharsky’s career was not abruptly ended due to injury, but he himself did go through injurious experiences in his thirty-five year. Kurharsky went through two broken foot bones, bad knees, and bad back. His knee problems began when he was around the age of sixteen and from there progressed into an extremely serious and chronic injury. In an interview that I did with Kurharsky, he told me what he does to help inform his dancers about safety and how he tries to help them stay safe. Kurharsky told his views on sleeping and resting adequately and his ideas on how mental relaxation is also a key to staying safe. He stressed the importance of dieting and for dancers to stay away from eating disorders and pills to lose weight. Kurharsky feels it is important to learn to eat right to best fit an individual dancer’s body. Informing the teachers and instructors if a dancer is injured is extremely important to him. He realizes that if injuries are not promptly addressed they can turn into something much more serious. Kurharsky stated that the best way to elevate any long term, serious injury, is “rest, ice, and elevation” (Kurharsky). Kurharsky assists his dancers in their healing process and tries to advise them of the best way to heal. “Applying ice to the injured area is a good way to reduce swelling and pain,” Kurharsky says (Kurharsky). Like most dancers believe and realize, drugs and alcohol can really affect a dancer’s career. He discourages smoking, even to reduce the stresses of long dancing days and to watch weight. Through my interview with Andrew Kurharsky, I learned many ideas on how to keep myself safe and I learned how important it is to a director of a dancing company to keep their dancers safe and out of harm’s way (Kurharsky).