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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Going to class sick

Guest Terin

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Guest Terin

I know my teachers like people to at least watch class, no matter how sick they are. Actually, a girl came to a rehearsal throwing up in a bucket :green: once, and my dance teacher was very pleased. :o But I wondered where to draw the line between sick enough to go and take class or sick enough to just watch class. For instance, what if you feel nauseous, but nothing bad has happened yet? Or if you have a really bad cold (I know when I get colds my sneezes are so wild my whole body jerks, and I fall out of my turns)? Is there any sort of rule of thumb to abide by?

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If it's catching, stay home! :o


If you're nauseated (nauseous means you are sickeningly disgusting!), be your own judge. It could pass or it could get worse. For bad colds and viruses, many of which are mistakenly called "flu" - stay away from other people!

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Guest monte

If I'm contagious I stay home so I don't spread germs all over the place. If it is an injury I usually go to class but watch. Sometimes with an injury I will do alittle bit of the class, if I can manage, always keeping in mind not to overdo things. :o

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Sometimes it also depends on when you'll be performing next. Usually my teacher doesn't want up to come expose other people (but we're still to watch if it probably isn't catching), but there have been times when I had to come to class and rehearse with a fever. :green: But at the same time, one year several people had to dance with a fever and abou tready to pass out, because one girl had to come try and dance when she was sick. :o

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I wanted to add that this becomes a very ticklish situation in a university dance major setting where, for instance, in my program, you are allowed two absences per semester. Because of the pressure to attend class and because, so often, younger people do not take their illnesses seriously and believe they are invincible, they insist on coming to class no matter what. I've personally experienced going across the floor and ending my combination about a half inch from someone who lets out a positively tuberulin-sounding cough in my face. Or think of all those young dancers with coughs who place their hands directly from their mouths right back to the barre -- now ripe with germs for others to contract. Even if students are coming only to watch on such days, if they are feverish and coughing, they are still putting others in harm's way.


During my first year in the major, we had some very frightening times at the university in this respect. Several students contracted the typically fatal bacterial meningitis, including a young woman who had been taking class, and the son of our accompanist. The accompanist's son recovered. The young woman did not. She died very suddenly. Shortly thereafter, all students in the dorm were required to be vaccinated (this still doesn't work in a percentage of cases), and a short lecture was presented at classes the dance majors were taking that semester -- with basic advice on how to lower your risk.


During that time, I contracted, for the first time in my adult life, the flu. It was a very bad case, complicated by my concurrently coming down with strep and a raging sinus infection. I had a fever for almost a week, which resulted in shingles, which then resulted in post-herpetic pain (joint pain). On a side note, just when I thought I was going to lose my mind from the ever present fever, it finally broke while I was watching Sarah Hughes skate her transcendent performance at the Olympics (thank you, Sarah!). My dance teachers were very supportive, and would have allowed me to continue without dropping ballet technique for credit that semester, after 2-3 weeks out, but when I tried to return to class during that phase when you're still going through a malaise, I would run a low grade fever and get dizzy while taking the barre, so I opted to drop the course for the duration of the semester, and instead, focus on completing my other academic, non-physical work.


That was a smart move for me. It relieved a lot of pressure, and kept me healthier in the long run. I was able to maintain my straight A average and recuperate in my own time. The following fall and spring, I admit I had a bit of trepidation after that experience. But, I used the experience as a learning device. I no longer scheduled early morning academic classes prior to my ballet technique classes and opted instead for more rest in the morning. Getting good rest was my most important requirement. Also -- I took an extra class or two in the evenings each week, so that I had a 'stash' of makeup classes under my belt ahead of time, in the event I might find myself under the weather again and need a few days off. By relieving myself of some pressure for perfect attendance, I actually HAD perfect attendance.


What would I consider some circumstances where it would be perfectly okay to come to class "sick" and observe without putting risk to yourselves or others?


-- If you're like me, there's a day or two each month when your period is just too heavy to do more than a barre;


-- When you have a sinus infection (common down here with our very humid climate) that differs from a cold in not being infectious;


-- When you have an injury -- like when I couldn't walk on my foot after clunking it on my Pilates machine one morning. (Yup, just call me "Klutz" instead of "Funny Face");


-- Or when you're past the infectious stage of an illness, on the mend, but still without sufficient energy and strength to take class.


Also, on those days when students observe, we are encouraged to focus on one particular student of our choice throughout class, and write a critique to be handed in at the end of class for the teacher. There's much to be learned by watching as well as doing.


You know, we always hear those stories about brave dancers who go on no matter what. Sometimes it's just hard to know for sure what to do. I've taken class from a woman who got her break in Rambert's company that way. The principal fell ill, and my teacher, who had understudied the role, had just been in the hospital days earlier for appendicitis. She opted to go on and ending up garnering rave reviews, and so her career was really born that night. That's the thing about a dancer's life -- so unpredictable.

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I'm sure everyone has their stories about that day they went to class and they shouldn't have....I sure do! I typically get the flu once or twice a year, and I get it bad! It's hard to get out of bed, let alone dance. But the year before last, in a fit of determination I pushed my way through a warm up class and a 3 hour rehearsal. My lips were a purplish color and one of my fellow dancers was continually telling me to sit down. At the time, it wasn't so bad. But I payed for it the next few days, when I would have been recovering, but instead was even more sick. Obviously, I haven't been so ignorant since then. But, my teachers encourage us to miss daily ballet classes and be able to get yourself to rehearsal on Friday and class followed by rehearsal on Saturday and possibly Sunday if we are in the midst of one of our 3 act ballets from September through December. They would rather see us rest up for rehearsal then push too hard. I have a feeling that may be a typical reaction to sickness.

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My mom doesn't let me go anywhere if i even show any syptoms of any illness. She is so worried about getting other people sick, it gets annoying sometimes because i don't like missing school (i'm kind of a nerd, i actually like school). :wub:

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  • 3 weeks later...

I can go either way...I definitely don't go if I'm throwing up or if I'm contagious. And I usually don't go if I'm just feeling really poorly(really sick, yet not contagious) either. Generally, I find it better to use the time to really rest and get better. I know for me, pushing through my sickness just causes me to crash completely a few days later, so I usually take the days off I need, from either school or ballet, when I need them. Plus, germs get passed around so easily. My mom has been suggesting keeping a bottle of hand sanitizer for after barre, and after my teacher(little kids wiping snot all over their hands and then holding hands with me!) I have seen classes though where everyone had tissues stuck into the seams of their leotards so that the could blow their noses after pique and chaine turns!

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You should hear some people doing fouettés with full sinuses. Sniff-sniff-sniff-sniff, etc. :)

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:blushing: I think sometimes I'm one of those people, Mr. Johnson. Even when I don't go to class, I practice at home during the time I would normally be taking class. I especially practice my turns, which is really hard with the colds I get. :)
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