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Really confused and lost


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The past three years have marked huge changes in regards to my future in dance. I'm now 19 and potentially facing another huge shift. I'm scared out of my mind.


At 16, my future looked bright. I had things going for me--I was told I had tons of potential just waiting for me to grow into it. I wasn't the world's greatest 16 year old by any stretch of the imagination but, at least from what I was told, a professional career wasn't far from my reach. A few weeks after my 17th birthday, coincidentally also a few weeks after I was asked to perform in 40 performance Nutcracker tour with the company associated with the SI I had attended, I suffered my first major injury--a labral tear in my right hip. I had the surgery and returned to dance 6 weeks later, 4 months after the injury occurred. As a dancer, I grew alot after that time off--I finally seemed to be growing into myself as an artist and not just a technician. That was my junior year of high school. At the end of that year, I was asked to dance with a local professional company and do their Nutcracker the following fall. From Nut, I was asked to stay with them and dance their spring and summer seasons. It was an amazing experience and I felt like I was finally back on track after the injury. That year, senior year, I was 18, and I was also dealing with the college process. I knew that I wasn't ready to be auditioning for companies yet and decided I'd go the college route--I could always audition while in college. By the end of the year, I was having hip trouble again and decided against a conservatory program once a second surgery was mentioned as a likely possibility. It only made sense--I needed to know that, no matter what ended up happening, I'd at least have a place to spend the next four years. When, this August, we decided we needed to go the surgery route, I felt confident I had made the right choice.


I had that surgery in October and have been dancing again since January. I'm now just starting to feel good taking full classes again but I still have a considerable ways to go to make up for all the lost time. I'm currently pursuing a dance major at a liberal arts school along with a second major in biology and a pre-med concentration. Science is my second love and, since the first injury, I've learned that I can't always count on dance being there so this combination only seemed logical. The dance faculty is quite pleased with my progress and I'm still on track for the major. Unfortunately, I've also been having some problems with the left hip lately and, at my visit with my surgeon yesterday, learned that it probably also has a labral tear and some abnormalities like the right did (as an aside, he's completely astounded at how well the right has recovered--I'm 100% pain free in all activities which doesn't always happen, especially when they're on their 2nd surgery). I have an MRI/arthrogram scheduled for two weeks from today which should give us a better idea as to the extent of the problem--if I need another surgery, which it seems likely I will, I'm at a complete loss as to how I should proceed.



I feel like, for the most part, I've been injured on some level for the past two and a half years--three by the time the left hip gets sorted out if surgery is needed. I've been dancing, but I've been dancing with some heavy restrictions. My heart is more in it than ever but I'm worried my body isn't--and I don't know how much longer its going to hold out. I'm currently home on spring break and have been taking company class with my old company--the AD has asked me to dance with them again this summer and next fall if I can get home for at least a few performances. My professors are telling me I'm making excellent progress but my body is clearly starting to fall apart.


I'm at a total loss. I know every dancer must go through this at some point in time, I just wasn't planning on having to go through it at 19. I feel like I'm stuck in an identity crisis--I was always the kid that danced. Even at my studio growing up, I was the stubborn kid that never gave up and that everyone thought would be the one to make something of themselves no matter what the odds. And here I am, feeling like maybe the time has come to move on but I can't for the life of me figure out how. I'm not ready to let go but it seems like the odds are moving even further out of my favor.


I can stay actively involved in the dance department--that's a good part of the reason I chose the school I did. Non-majors have just as much opportunity in terms of casting and classes as the majors do. Letting go of the dance major isn't what scares me, it's letting go of the dream and allure of a career in this world. And, thanks to my experience last year, I've already had a taste of it and am longing for more.



I'm not sure what I need right now--advice, encouragement. Anything to help me figure out this transition or if this transition even needs to be made. Thank you.

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This is really tough, La Bailarina, and I'm so sorry you are having to go through this. However, I would not start transitioning yet. Let's see what happens with the left hip, and then afterwards. If it is as good as the right one, you may very well still have a chance at doing what you really want to do. There is no law saying one must be in a company by 19 or 20. Right now just concentrate on doing what you have to do, recovering, if that is necessary, and going on from there.


That said, what causes the labral tears is a huge question in my mind, and I have to wonder if you will be in danger of this happening again. Have they told you anything about that? If that is the case, then perhaps thinking ahead in terms of transitioning might be wise.

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Thank you Ms. Leigh. It's really encouraging to hear this and something I need to be reminded of.


As far as the cause of the tears, we have discussed it to great lengths before I went into my second surgery. I have impingement, an abnormally shaped femoral head, that caused the second tear in my right hip. I also have a very slight degree of dysplasia (where my hip socket is shallow)--fantastic because it gives me extra rotation but not so good for the joint. The first tear was trauma related and no cause was looked for since I remembered the exact moment when I felt something "go". Once there was that tiny bit of extra space, the bump on my femoral head had a bit of room to do some rather considerable damage. During the second surgery, they addressed the new tear and this bump--after much talk and consideration with my surgeon, we decided not to address the dysplasia because it would have been a much more involved surgery with a much longer and less certain recovery and because the dysplasia I have is so minor, they didn't feel like it was playing a role in things. At this point, given how good things are going, it seems like we made the right choice in just leaving the dysplasia be. Right now, we know that my left hip is also slightly dysplastic and also has the impingement--just like the right, though the impingement appears smaller on the CT scan that I've had. If there is a tear, the impingement is the root of the problem and it'll be addressed if there is surgery.


I'm just so scared of what the future might hold. The past two days have sent my mind racing with about a million "what ifs"...I hate to think what the next few weeks will hold as I await the MRI and then waiting for the results. I don't even know where to begin to touch on the issue with my dance teachers at school--I've done a pretty good job with pretending it was "just a bit of tendonitis" but it's gotten worse over break and now that my theory of it "just being tendonitis" has been shot done by surgeon and I'm getting it arthrogramed and MRI'ed, I feel like I should probably mention it...

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Probably. I think they should know.

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Hi, trust me I know what you are feeling. Let me tell you that the most important thing for you to do with now is heal your body. Healing is what will help you make your next decision for your life career. It is very important to visualize healing in all of your inujured areas and trust me it will help.

In terms of your next step, you should make sure that you stay calm while you are deciding what to do because it will only make you more frustrated than you already are. Fill you mind with your other interest and make sure that you go over your ballet work when you can so that when you do get back fully to whatever you decide, in the dance field, you have not lost your technique.

Though I have never gone through your transition from Ballet to College, I do know that being injuried can really get you down. At the same time you learn so much about yourself and you really have time to think about your future goals. Continuing in a dance deparment in school is very good and will keep you in the dance mindset that you love.


I wish you a lot of luck with your further doctors appts. and don't let them put you down.




I hope this helps a little!!





"Technical perfection is insufficent, it is an

orphan without the true sould of the dancer"..Sylvie Guillem

Edited by quickfeet
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I've now distanced myself from the news by about a week and it's still horribly overwhelming. My MRI/arthrogram is next Friday, it'll then take about another week for me to get the results back (the films will have to then be sent up to my doctor at home to look at and interpret, then he'll have to get back to me). The wait is the worst part.


I've told my teachers; some have really shocked me with how supportive and encouraging they are, others are reminding me why I was scared to tell them in the first place. I'm ready for this all to be over and done with. I'm just dying to be able to actually dance again and not hold anything back.


I'm lucky in that my doctor really "gets" dancers though--he works with the Boston Ballet so he understands what saying "don't dance" means and really knows what I'm talking about when I mention certain things that make it worse. Just got to keep pressing onwards I suppose...

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I'm sorry, mcrm and aatw, lovely posts, but no one is allowed on the Young Dancer forums except Young Dancers and the three teacher moderators.

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Oh, dear, sorry Miss Leigh!!! It was 3 am, and I couldn't sleep, so I guess I was too bleary-eyed to notice what forum I was in. I only have time to check in now and then these days, so I was on a roll! :-) You said what I wanted to say anyway!





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La Bailarina, I'm no expert. But I do have a burning passion for dancing. I don't have the opportunities (and probably not even half the talent) that you have. :(

Your post brought tears to my eyes. And though I really don't know what to tell you at this stage, I am hoping and praying that things work out for you!


I wish you all the best! :)

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  • 2 weeks later...

I really can't thank everyone here enough for how wonderful you've been. This board is awesome!


While I'm still waiting for the MRI results (they messed it up so I now have to go back and have it redone this week), I'm doing better. I've had some really good conversations with alot of people who have convinced me that I really need to just focus on what is best for the long term, not to worry about time out of dance in the short term, but to think about what further down the road might be like. And that's helped more than anything. And also just being reminded that while things aren't too bad at the moment, that I am still dancing, I am limiting alot and things clearly aren't 100%--nobody is going to hire a dancer that can't go through passe retire on one side and has a huge discrepancy in turnout between her legs.


I'm feeling like I'm ready to take whatever might be thrown at me. I'm ready to be back to my old self, the dancer that never let anything get in her way.

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I just, wanted to let you know how you are not alone. When I was your age, after being cast in my Company's production of Little Mermaid, and having signed up to a very promising Summer Intensive; I had a knee injury. I didn't need the surgery, but I was still 6 weeks in recovery. I lost the part on the production and decided to skip the Summer Intensive.


I stopped dancing for 2 years after that. And since October, I've gone back.


All chances I had of professional future went away. But I feel like I am at the best position ever to dance. I went back to the same company I danced with before. And I'm not on the main group or anything... But I've come to a place in which I am dancing for me. Because my heart asks me to dance, because I love it... And everything else, even though I would have loved to have a future dancing to make a living... well, I've gotten used to the way things are.

This was not my plan A... I didn't want to do things this way. But this is the way it turned out to be... And even though I'm living, and dancing on my plan B; I'm thankful that at least I can still dance and be in it and, most of all, love it!



I hope things are different for you and that you can still pursue a career dancing! But just in case; don't lose hope... Just because things may not be as you planned, it doesn't mean it's all over!

Best of luck!

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  • 10 months later...

Dragging this one back up because, unfortunately, it's become relevant again.


I saw my surgeon today for the 6 month check on my left hip--surgery was inevitable and happened in September--as well as a follow-up on the problems came up again with the right this fall. At this point, the left is closer to 100% than anyone could have hoped and the right is, well, not. It had been until the last surgery but now it's not. I've been in and out of physical therapy for it since it started getting bad again in September. I had new imaging done that all came back looking good. I've had second opinions. I had a cortisone injection at the end of January and then headed back to PT. It seems to be a bad case of psoas tendonitis, perhaps with an underlying cause but, given the clean imaging, that seems rather unlikely. I've made some improvement but not a whole lot--I'm stronger but things still hurt and can get downright painful though I'm getting better at working through it.


My surgeon doesn't think there's any real risk of more damage being done if I continue to dance--its more a question of whether or not I can tolerate it. He offered the possibility of doing an exploratory surgery to confirm that the good imaging was truly indicative of the joint being good--he feels that the imaging is fine but offered this if it would give me peace of mind though didn't recommend it as it would likely cause more problems than it would uncover, since the hip isn't exactly the world's easiest thing to scope. At this point, his recommendation was to keep up PT for a bit longer and see what happens--if nothing else, it doesn't seem to be getting worse.



Aside from miraculously waking up one morning pain free (which I gave up hope on years ago), this is probably one of the better outcomes. He hasn't discouraged me from dancing, not at all actually, but I'm starting to wonder. My confidence is shot--I hate landing on my right leg and my sense of attack is totally gone. I'm 20 years old, I've lost alot of time and this is looking like it's going to be a chronic problem. Is it time to cut my losses? I hate thinking about this but I feel like they're real questions I need to be asking myself. I don't know where to go from here.

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La B-

I don't think any of us can answer that question for you......but I do think that deep down, you know the answer.

Here are some questions that might help:


1. Could your body take dancing 8 hours a day, many of those hours en pointe, without causing further injury? I want you to really, really think about this one....because every dancer has to stop performing at some point. Their bodies start to betray them and they can no longer remain at the top of their form. So it is a question that every dancer faces. Period.

2. Can you think of ways you could still dance, though perhaps not as an income source?

3. Can you think of ways a person can still be involved in the art form without it being as a paid performer?

4. What about supernumerary roles? Would that be workable?

5. Can you see any ways in which your situation might help others?

6. If one shifts their focus away from paid ballet-performer as profession, does that mean 'the end/I can never dance again'?

7. Can you realistically see a 'no regrets' future if you decide not to pursue the professional ballet dancer title?


I think there are also some real things to consider about being a professional dancer that some people don't consider. Being a professional dancer can be very much like being a model: A model's job is essentially as coathangar, and a dancer's job is as paint to canvas, though they are not directing the brush. As a dancer, it is your job to dance the steps given to you in the manner in which the choreographer sees them being danced. Many times, the dancer has no input. They are just the "brush".


Then there is the whole lack of job security thing. Your job is good for about 3 months. Then you get to start worrying about whether your contract will be renewed. You have to be ready, willing, and able to move cities quickly in the event that a contract is not forthcoming in your current city. Every summer, you must make the decision about unemployment checks or not......will I be able to pay my bills in summer, or not? How about health insurance? In your particular situation, with your medical history, would it be a good idea to opt for a profession that doesn't offer much in the way of protection?


I find that there are many talented dancers who make a decision as soon as they hit 18 that that life is not for them, and that's ok. There is no shame in making intelligent decisions. There is no shame in having followed a dream to it's conclusion! What that conclusion is is not important... the very fact that you had the courage and persistance to follow your dream is what is important. The journey is what matters- not the destination. :clapping:


And there are so many other ways to actually make money within the art form of ballet that have nothing to do with performing, and have the securities that being a performer doesn't provide.


I see a place for you in ballet.... definitely. Your passion and love for the art form shines through your every word. I think the ballet world would miss something if you left it all behind. Now, is your place as paid-professional ballet dancer??????? I don't know.

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Clara, thank you. I still don't know what to make of this but I know I need to think about it--and I've been avoiding it for too long. I'm trying to not let my current situation at school that I've discussed on the private forum influence my thoughts at this point--it's a passion sucker but, as I'm on break at the moment and taking classes with old teachers back at home, I know that this is still what I love. The questions you raise are good ones--some of which I can answer, others I'm not so sure about.


To the big question, my immediate gut reaction is of course I'll still dance until I can't even walk anymore--it's what I've always done and there doesn't seem to be reason to stop now. Logically, I know that's also probably not the wisest choice. Logically, the answer seems to be to cut back a bit, maybe drop the major, maybe start teaching. But I'm an all or nothing kind of person--either I'm 100% in or 100% out. Either I throw myself in or I distance myself completely--it's too painful for me to just be involved on a recreational level, at least at this point. That makes the decision harder because there's no turning back.



My doctor, who works with a big professional ballet company and has been regarded as "the guy" to see if you're a dancer with hip problems in my area, feels that dancing a full schedule shouldn't make things with my hips any worse than they are. It could improve, it might not, but it's probably not going to get worse. The rest of my body? who knows--my ankles haven't had any problems in the past few years, everyone is always shocked that I haven't messed up my knees yet (not sure if that's good or bad haha--good that they're still okay, bad that maybe they won't be tomorrow!), my shoulders are messed up but manageable and haven't gotten any worse in recent years. Another source told me I'll probably need a hip replacement by my late 30s if I keep dancing--the same source that told me I'd need one by the time I turned 20 if I kept dancing following the 1st surgery. I know that hip problems will be inevitable for me down the road whether I dance or not, maybe a little sooner if I do, there's no denying that, but I'm hesitant to believe that it will be as soon as the other doctor has predicted--in theory, everything inside the joint has been addressed and looks good, though I am being followed for any signs of early arthritis.


Cutting back to a less than pre-professional training level would be hard for me. It's been hard enough for me to see myself lose technique when coming back from the surgeries, I don't think I could go from the intensity of training that I have now to anything less and not become horribly depressed--it'd be easier for me to just stop entirely. Being a super kind of falls into the same category--it'd be fun but not at this point, I'd need to distance myself from things first. I've considered teaching, with more seriousness lately because I have been working more and more with kids and having a really good time (in an academic setting though) but I don't think my heart would be in it as much as it should be--I'd feel like it was a cop-out option. I also used to have big dreams of going into choreography but, as I've progressed in comp classes, I'm learning it's not really for me--I like being told what to do and I don't like having my work critiqued. I like being the paintbrush.


Past the age of 13, I've never seen myself dancing with a big name company. I just don't have the body for it--except for maybe NYCB or PNB because I'm so darn tall and even in my unrealistic early teens, I knew that those would never be viable options. So, as a result, I've never seen myself really making much of a living as a dancer and I've never really cared much about that. Getting paid any amount to do what I loved seemed like more than enough. In recent years, the plan was to work as a research assistant to actually pay the bills--hence the second degree in biology. Job security is a little more worrisome, particularly given the way things stand now, but I'm okay with not ever really knowing where I might end up in a year.


I always planned on, when I had to stop dancing, going on to medical school or grad school for physical therapy. Dealing with these injuries has really illuminated the lack of people in these fields that are knowledgeable about dance. That's what plan B has been. My professors tell me it's viable but it seems almost as overwhelming as trying to get into a company. That's about as close to the dance world I feel I could get at this point without dancing like I am now--being otherwise involved would just be too difficult for me I think.


If I were to stop dancing now, because I couldn't stop pursuing a professional career without ceasing to dance at this point, I wouldn't regret anything that I've done up until this point. I've loved every second of the journey--as wild and crazy as it has been. But would I be able to look back and not wonder what would have happened if I hadn't stopped? Probably not. Would I regret not chasing the dream a little bit further? Probably.



That's where I'm at the crossroads. My fear as that I'll chase the dream too far and not know when it's time to let it go. My short-term fear is that I'm going to graduate in two years with degrees in dance and biology and find myself scrambling for a job. That I won't be able to get a job dancing and I won't be able to get into med/grad school because I won't have had enough shadowing experience--something I've not been able to do due to the dance major.


Thank you, again. It's given me things to think about, things that I need to be thinking about even though I don't necessarily want to be. You're right that its the journey rather than the destination that matters--I've learned so much more about myself and life through dance than one could ever expect and had the time of my life while doing so. At the same time, I don't think I'd be able to not feel like I had given up on a dream and that I was letting everyone that had believed in me along the way down. I'm just scared--there doesn't seem to be a right decision or even one that it more clear than the other.

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