A common topic for discussion with my dance colleagues is how we are all getting on with our various injuries. I have been suffering from Morton’s Neuroma and Bursitis in my left foot for some time. This followed on from a bout of Plantar Fasciitis. For me it is a persistent problem and restricts me from wearing heels to teach and when I go out to dinner with friends. To a person who does not spend a lot of time on their feet this problem is one that they can adapt to by wearing flat shoes and using orthotics. For me the problem is more complex and to show a leg action or a release I would love to get back into my heels. To date I have had six steroid injections into my foot and whilst they help two weeks post injection the effect of this only lasts around five weeks.
Many of my colleagues have the same problems with their feet and others suffer from worn out knee cartilage, bunions and issues with their backs. After a lifetime of dance many teachers and professional dancers are now paying the price for the impact of dance upon the body. Despite a thorough knowledge of safe practice the reality is that dance movement causes stress and overuse on our muscles and joints. Added into the mix is the professional dancer’s quest for excellence, which often causes them to work without adequate rest and to persist in over repetition of certain actions.
I am wondering really why dancers put themselves through this agony and if they would have done it in their earlier life if they had known the consequences and the pain in later life. I am reminded of a story about a podiatrist/chiropodist who was employed to work with a dancer from the Royal Ballet. Whilst treating her feet he remarked that he thought it was terrible that the practice of dance had caused such problems with the feet which were prone to bleeding and bunions. She invited him to watch the ballet one night and at the end of the evening with tears in his eyes he said he finally understood why dancers persisted with dance. I do no know if this story is true but I like to believe it is.
I guess what I really want to know is whether others dancers believe their pain is worthwhile and whether they would have changed anything? For my own part I think the joy of dance, performing and teaching is worth the sacrifice. However just sometimes when I am pulling on my boat like flat ugly shoes I do have to wonder.