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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Post-injury, post-layoff return to classes


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DD, newly 15, is returning to ballet after hip surgery for a torn labrum. With the summer mostly off and then surgery, it has been about 4.5 months since she has danced.


What is a good schedule of classes for her to regain her strength and technique? Both in terms of number and level? The studio will let her take any classes she wants. (This is a serious but not pre-pro studio.)


The normal schedule for her current level is 4 technique classes/week (1.5 hours each), each followed by a half-hour or hourlong pointe or variations class, plus one 1.5 hour modern class. DD has no aspirations to a professional ballet career. DD was just moved into the current level, which is the most advanced, at the end of last year.

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That sounds more like a question to ask her doctor and physical therapist. :) Hopefully, there is also someone on staff at her ballet school who is familiar with injuries and how to go about regaining strength.


It is possible that doing floor barre for a few weeks may be a good idea. Also Pilates and strength-building exercises should probably be incorporated.


The other thing that may help is figuring out what caused the injury in the first place. Then, she can learn to work in a different way to avoid it happening again. :P

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Treefrog, does her PT have any knowledge of ballet, and working with rotation? I don't know about how many classes she should start with, I do know that after that kind of surgery she must start VERY carefully! I would feel better if her doctor and/or PT could help her with knowing exactly how much she can do in terms of rotation when starting back.

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We do have some guidelines from her orthopedist about how much flexion and rotation she can use. Right now, she is in a month-long period where she is "ramping up" from max 90 degrees flexion and 45 degrees rotation, to no restrictions. By December, she is cleared for any and all movement.


Neither the orthopedist nor her PT know much about ballet. The ballet-focused PTs in town are out of plan for us, and we cannot affort to pay $150/session with them. One of them has said she would do a free diagnostic session when DD was about three weeks shy of a full return to ballet; I'm going to schedule that for next week. This PT and our PT are also very willing to talk to each other, so our PT can get guidance.


Clara76, preventing future damage is absolutely on my mind! The ballet PT already gave us one assessment pre-surgery; I wanted her to see DD then, in case she could see anything that was triggering the cartilege tear (she couldn't). She was the one who suggested coming back now.


Anyway ... the bottom line is that we've gotten guidance on how to move, but not how often. And, injury aside, how would you ease someone back who has not been dancing for several months? Should they jump in whole hog, or take just a couple classes? And if the latter, how long should they do that before ramping up to a full schedule?


Thanks for your guidance.

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My daughter did not like the instructions she was given by her sports doc and PT (both of whom have extensive experience working with ballet dancers) when she was coming back from a stress fracture a year ago. But, their advice proved to be true (we know because she didn't follow it and it took her much longer to get back to full classes. :ermm: )


The directions were that the number of weeks you must sit out of dance for an injury/surgery are the number of weeks you should also take to get back to full classes. That means if you are sitting out for 5 weeks, you should take another 5 weeks before you are doing a full class. You might be dancing every day, but you shouldn't be doing the full class. Adding new exercises each week, then scaling back if any pain is involved and keeping it slow is what was advised.


I can't speak to your specific injury, Treefrog, but it sounds like the advice is along the same lines of slow and steady. This is REALLY hard to do, when they are feeling good and believe that they can handle that extra exercise, more turnout, etc. Try to help her see the long term picture, although I know this is about as easy as trying to rein in a waterfall, with your fingers! :blink:

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Yes, balletbooster is right. Slow but steady. It's not the number of classes, but if she can do her normal schedule but just not the whole class, that would be far better than just jumping back in whole hog, but by doing the 4 tech. classes only, and only doing barre at first, moderating that of course, in terms of rotation and extension. I think it will come back more quickly by dancing a little bit more often than cutting out classes. But that too, is a decision for her doctor. If no limits other than degree of movement have been set, then the 4 days should be okay.

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Last year we had a very advanced dancer from our school that had to have surgery to correct a injury to her knee. She had been out of full class for quite a while leading up to the surgery due to another injury as well. When she came back to the advanced class, even just the barre was a bit too much for her because she was afraid she would re-injure something, and she had been away so long that she was a bit out of shape, even though she had done lots of PT.


She, the teachers, and her parents finally decided to have her take a lower level class for about a month -- and this worked like a charm. She was able to fully regain her strength without reinjury. In addition, it was a wonderful opportunity for the students in the lower level class to see this advanced dancer do all the steps with such precision and to see her successful return after two major injuries and such a long time off of ballet.


To see her now in class, you would never know she had been injured or had to take so much time off.

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Yes, lower level classes are also a very good idea. :wub:

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Thank you! I especially liked Balletbooster's suggestion about taking partial classes. Luckily, the studio is very flexible; we've agreed that DD will keep a log of all classes she takes -- and now, I guess, it will be how much of each class -- and we'll settle on a reasonable payment in the end.


What's nice about the partial classes is that she can take some of the classes at her regular level. As you might imagine, it's been a blow to be promoted, and then not get to take class! I also like that it reinforces the idea that it's okay to quit when you've had enough, and that it is important to listen to your body.


She has been taking a few lower level classes already by way of dipping her toe in the water. I think it's time to start committing to a real schedule. Balletbooster, your guideline for how long to budget based on time away for injury is really helpful.

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