An Ice Pack a Day

By Jarrett, Sara | Dance Spirit, July/August 2007 | Go to article overview
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An Ice Pack a Day

Jarrett, Sara, Dance Spirit


Two summers ago, Shakia Johnson, a freelance hip hop choreographer based in Philadelphia, was one of two emerging choreographers at Bates Dance Festival. During the first rehearsal for a dance she was scheduled to show at an end-of-festival concert, she snapped a tendon in her thigh-but she ignored the messages her body was sending her. "I'm thinking, 1I pulled a muscle.'" she says, "and I'm limping, hut I'm still finishing the rehearsal. The next day it started hurting even more, but I took two classes in the morning and two in the afternoon." By l lie third morning, Johnson's pain was excruciating and the festival teachers convinced her to go to the doctor. She was told she couldn't dance for three weeks, but only stayed out of class for a week and a half: "I'm hard headed," she admits.

Taking just one class-after she was told not toprolonged Johnson's recovery time from three weeks to seven. She spent the rest of the festival walking on crutches and observing classes. Her dancers still performed her piece, but she set the whole thing from a chair. "If I ever get injured again. I will go to the doctor immediately," she says, "even if it's just a sprain. We need our bodies to dance."

"Working with your limitations rather than against them can help you have a long career and stay injury free, " says Bates' director, Laura Faure. "Sometimes students who've waited all year to gel to a feslival or summer intensive don't waul anything to slop them, so they ignore every message their body sends them. I can't stress enough how imporlant it is to listen to your body."

Donna Krasnow, a professor in the department of dance at York University in Toronto and conference director for the International Association for Dance Medicine & Science, agrees: "Resting right away is a lot better than taking lhree months off later."

Here are some tips to help yuu tune into yuur body and make it through your summer injury-free:

* If you're sore or tired, take it easy. "If you're really just sore, rest, drink a lot of fluids, do some gentle stretching and a little bit of massage," says Faure. Go to class, but don't do everything full out.

* If something hurts, sit out. "If you think you've injured something." Krasnow explains, "don't he afraid to ask how you can modify your activity or maybe take one day off. " If a proper warm-up and light massage don't alleviate any of your discomfort, or make the pain worse, observe your classes for one day and use it as a learning opportunity. "A student can learn as much by watching-sometimes even more," says Faure. "Observation skills are really important."

Remind yourself that an injury doesn't get to pick or choose which classes it's ready to take, so don't skip ballet in order to dance your heart out in hip hop later in the day. Not only is this detrimental to your recovery, it makes it hard for your teachers to believe you the next time you say you're injured (remember the boy who cried wolf?}. If you should be resting, actually rest.

* If an injury is traumatic or acule, seek medical help. If you experience suddLMI pain because of a fall ur a collision and you're immediately debilitated-you can't put any pressure on your foot or get up from the floor, for instance-don't waste any time.

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