Health & Body
Emily Giacalone, modeled by Elizabeth Steele of The School at Steps.

In fall 2012, New York City Ballet associate artistic director Wendy Whelan, then a company principal, was taking morning class when her foot slid out from under her, causing her to pull the very top of what felt like her right hamstring muscle. "It shocked me from the inside out," she notes.

Whelan spent three months nursing her hamstring. But once she got back to performing, her right hip flexor began flaring up. "By the end of Nutcracker season, I could no longer bear standing in fifth position. I could not lift my right leg without severe pain," she says. "I couldn't imagine why or how this was suddenly becoming so debilitating." A sonogram revealed a complex labral tear in Whelan's hip.

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Health & Body
via Unsplash

An injury can feel like a complete backslide, but that doesn't mean you have nothing to gain while you're on the sidelines. According to researchers from St. Mary's University, talking out your emotions after getting hurt can make it easier to move past the negative and come back stronger.

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I'm recovering from an injury and my PT tells me I'm ready to take class. But I have a huge mental block and a lot of fear. Help! —Caitlin

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After what appears to have been an emotionally draining injury-rehabilitation program, American Ballet Theatre and Bolshoi Ballet star David Hallberg has returned to the stage.

A little over a year ago, Hallberg buzzed his hair, posted a semi-cryptic message on Instagram and dropped out of the ballet world altogether. He moved to Australia to treat a lingering ankle injury, specifically seeking out Sue Mayes and the Australian Ballet's physical therapy team. Now healthy, he made his comeback in Sydney on the evening of December 13. He performed the role of Franz in Coppélia, as a guest artists with the Australian Ballet.

Hallberg tackled his therapy program with a dancer's usual determination and drive, though that didn't keep him from experiencing self-doubt. "Emotionally, some days I was just going by the words of my team and not my own self-belief," he told the Sydney Morning Herald. His pride also took a knock, when students from the Australian Ballet School witnessed him slowly working his way back from injury to peak condition.

Fortunately, those moments of struggle have paid off: Not only was Franz a brand new role for Hallberg to add to his repertoire, but the entire ballet world wished him well during his comeback performance.

 

 

 

 

Australian audiences can still catch the danseur noble on December 16, 19 and 21. We'll keep you updated on his next moves!

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.

 

Photo via Burst

I'm recovering from surgery on my ankle, and I'm feeling intimidated about getting back into the studio. How do I get over feeling like I'm starting at square one? —Julia

Coming back from an injury is one of the scariest and most humbling experiences a dancer can face. But it's also an opportunity. When else do you have the luxury to slow down and intricately analyze your technique? I had two major injuries during my career, and both times I came back stronger because I had time to correct issues with my alignment, address long-standing bad habits and strengthen weaknesses. That said, coming back to class was hard. It will feel strange and you'll get very frustrated at times—which is perfectly valid! But try to stay focused on your ultimate goal, which is to fully recover and get back onstage. You can't do that without going to class, so you'll have to understand that things will be different for a while.

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Injuries can be devastating to a dancer. How do you survive when you can't perform or even take class?

 

The Dancers' Resource, part of The Actor's Fund in New York City, is offering a support group for injured dancers. The eight week program, led by The Dancers' Resource social worker, offers a space for professionals to confidentially discuss the emotional issues that accompany an injury. 

 

Dates: Tuesdays, January 11 to March 1

Times: 2:00 to 3:30 pm

Location: The Actors Fund, 729 Seventh Avenue, 11th Floor

Qualifications: A pre-attendance interview is required

Contact: Alice Vienneau 917-281-5977, avienneau@actorsfund.org

I’ve always told myself that when my ankle swells, that's just my body attempting to heal itself. I'm not completely wrong: Inflammation—and the swelling, heat, pain and redness that comes with it—is our body’s first response to injury. However, sometimes this attempt to destroy the damaged tissue goes a little too far and our body starts attacking healthy tissue, too. That's where anti-inflammatory medications come in, preventing the negative consequences of inflammation. The only problem? According to Lauren Whitt, Ph.D., the director of Employee Wellness at University of Alabama at Birmingham, these drugs can go too far, and also dampen the healing properties of inflammation. She recommends a more balanced approach: By simply altering our diets to include more natural anti-inflammatory foods, Whitt says that we can prevent ever needing anti-inflammatory medication.

 

Whitt's go-to natural anti-inflammatory foods:

  • Citrus fruits
  • Dark and leafy greens
  • Tomatoes
  • Wild-caught salmon

When you get sidelined by an injury, you try physical therapy, Pilates, swimming—anything that might get you back onstage ASAP. But when you return, something always seems a little different. Maybe that right knee doesn't feel as secure when you're jumping, or your left hip grips a little more during développé. It's hard not to wonder: Was there something else you should have been doing while you were out?

Sports scientist Patrick Rump is trying to change the way dancers approach injury prevention and recovery. His greatest success story? Alina Cojocaru. By recording every detail of Cojocaru's life after her back injury in 2008—what she ate for breakfast, how much weight she could lift, the angles of her legs when she took off for a jump—and creating a computer profile, he helped her return to the studio much faster than doctors predicted.

Much of the dance world is hesitant to welcome his method, which is based on the theory that a dancer's recovery must be approached as you would an athlete's, with training that is unconventional for ballet dancers, like weight lifting. Want to form your own opinion? There's a documentary, Dance, Sports Science and Patrick Rump, out about how he rehabilitates dancers. (It premiered at the Prix de Lausanne.) Read more in this CNN story.

Being injured can be a frustrating experience—it feels like losing control of your body. But there's an app that can put you back in the driver's seat by showing you the inner workings of your anatomy, from the largest muscle to the smallest nerve.

Zygote Body is a tool that helps you understand the body’s makeup through a hands-on 3D image. It allows users to peel apart the layers of the body for exploration, and to zoom in on specific areas. That means when your doctor or physical therapist diagnoses an injury, you'll be able to take a closer look at exactly what's happening to your muscles, ligaments and/or tendons. And the app will help you get to know your body overall, making you better equipped to pinpoint injured areas and describe them to your doctor.

Get more information and download the app at zygotebody.com.

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