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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Returning after injury/surgery


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First, here is the quick backstory. DD(now 15) sustained injury July 22, then had surgery Nov 5 to remove a bone from her left foot and reattach the posterior tibial tendon, so was unable to dance for almost 7 months. She attends a residential arts school as a freshman.


The doctor gave permission for her to participate in barre only as of Feb 18. (She is still having PT each week). The first few days back at barre she was feeling great about everything. Now, not so much. She has always been much harder on herself than anyone else and very much a perfectionist. She feels like she should be able to do the barre exercises as well now as before she was injured.


How do I make her understand that it is going to be a slow process of returning to where she was before the injury? How do I help keep her positive and from being so hard on herself? I have told her she should have a small goal each week to work toward. Does this work in ballet? She said she needs to be doing double pirhouettes at the barre. Is this realistic after only being back in ballet shoes at barre for a little more than a week after almost a 7month absence?


I think this part of her journey is going to be harder than when she couldn't do anything. It's not that she doesn't want to work hard. She is an extremely hard worker. She is just very impatient with herself and her progress.


Advice anyone?

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No, she should not be doing double pirouettes at the barre, or anywhere else, after that length of time off, surgery, and only a week back in class. That is ridiculous, and her teacher should be sitting on her and guiding her as to what she should do. She is lucky to be able to do anything at all yet, and has to realize that coming back will be very small steps forward. Patience is the key word, and we all know how hard that is. But, that's the way it is. If she pushes it, she loses it, because she will end up injured again. It will all come back, and she will be fine, IF she doesn't try to get there in a great big hurry. It doesn't work that way.

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Thank you for your reply, Ms. Leigh. You have confirmed my thoughts and feelings. I will relay what you have said to DD. Hopefully your words will have more clout than mine!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Quick update...Yesterday was 18 weeks since surgery. Wed afternoon the doctor gave DD the go ahead to participate in center work. She is being trained in PT for a sport test that the doc wants her to pass before he releases her and she will take the test on the 22nd. As long as she passes the test, we don't see the doc again for 2 months. (Kind of sad because he's a really cute doc!)


DD sent me a text after her class yesterday. I was holding my breath and really afraid to look at it, but it was a big smiley face. She was happy with the class and the teacher watched her like a hawk. She comes home today for spring break so will take some classes next week at her home studio. Hopefully this will be good for her since the classes should be easier than at her residential school. I just keep reminding her to take baby steps!

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Update! DD took the sport test at PT today instead of Monday....and she passed! So she has officially graduated from therapy. She has worked so hard and this was a hard test, developped for a cross-section of athletes to be sure they are ready to return to sport. I am really proud of her!


She is on spring break this week and has been able to take class at her pre-residential studio as well as another studio in town. Even though the doctor told her she could go back en pointe, she has made the decision to wait until she has been doing full class for awhile. I am proud she made this decision on her own since it is the time when casting is being done for the spring performance at school.

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Very wise decision. Rushing back to full classes and pointe work is really not a terrific idea.

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