“Will I ever recover?” – The Mentality Behind a Dance Injury by Tampa City Ballet Dancer Claudia Suárez

The Mentality Behind a Dance Injury. Claudia Suárez

Four months ago, I hurt my ankle.

It is such a small injury, but tendons really take a long time to heal. There is no way around it: they have to heal by themselves or by surgery.

I was directed to do my therapy exercises and no more: no ballet until further notice.

The longest I’ve taken off ballet class is 2 or 3 weeks. But then I found myself not dancing, working at the front desk of my ballet company for 4 months, while watching my friends through a window taking ballet classes and rehearsing.

It is hard to see yourself losing muscle mass, stamina, flexibility and strength; gaining weight due to not burning the calories you normally eat; your mind going crazier and hungrier every day to get back into the studio.

Claudia Suárez, photo by Gene Schiavone
Claudia Suárez, photo by Gene Schiavone

Dancers’ hardest times are definitely those when we cannot move. You go from dancing full-time one day, to suddenly feeling caged and deprived. Imagine cutting a bird’s wings, or a fish’s ability to swim, it feels like that.

While I write here or on my blog about my injury feelings and recovery progress, I realise the more I share the mental side of injury, the better I feel afterward. It is better to not keep these “haunting thoughts” to ourselves.

Our supporters are the best in these situations. If you are currently going through an injury, make sure you stay motivated, think positive, and reach out to your best supporters: family, friends, dance figures you admire (favourite dancers).

The Mentality Behind a Dance Injury. Claudia Suárez
The Mentality Behind a Dance Injury. Claudia Suárez

I am lucky I have had support during these 4 months.

However, now I’m in the process of getting back to dance, another feeling haunts me: Will I ever recover?

Patience, care and consistency are key. Thankfully, I did not take the surgery path, so my recovery is probably shorter than some out there. Concentrating on what matters – which is listening to my body and focusing on a positive outcome from all this – I have been able to carry on.

The Mentality Behind a Dance Injury. Claudia Suárez
The Mentality Behind a Dance Injury. Claudia Suárez

I am glad the majority of companies around the world provide dancers with a physio room, physical therapies, gym equipment, Pilates facilities etc.

For an example, Joseph Gatti’s new company (United Ballet Theatre in Orlando), is focusing primarily on their dancers’ health and maintenance.

Companies are focusing on the injury prevention and health of their dancers more and more. I’m also happy to see them offering psychological support. Being a dancer in this field already has lots of mental pressure, but injuries add exceptional psychological pressures.

Dance is probably 80% mental and 20% physical, and this applies to injuries as well.

If you know a dancer that is going through a hard time, do not leave them alone. This is a crucial time, which will determine if they continue to dance or stop completely. No matter the outcome, maintaining a positive energy is key.