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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Reconditioning Advice


Amethyst Aurora

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Amethyst Aurora

I recently came "back" to the ballet world! I’ve been chronically ill for the past 7 years (Lyme, Babesia, Bartonella, Mycoplasma, Mono, POTS, etc.) and had to stop dancing 6 years ago. During the past 6 years, I’ve been essentially bedridden for 2.5 and unable to work for the rest. Due to encouragement from my psychiatrist I’ve allowed myself to think about dancing again! (It was too painful and depressing to even think about before.) 

I’ve been able to make slow gains in both strength and stamina and have been able to sit up and walk for a little bit longer every day. I have a stretch and mild exercise routine that I do 3 times a day and I am very good at listening to my body and taking a break or pushing further as needed. I actually think my time off and extreme deconditioning will be beneficial for my dancing in the long run; a chance to really focus on and fix my technique and re-learn things the right way, an added depth to my artistry (lots of life experience and lessons in those few years!), and the surety that I truly do love to dance and it isn’t just a passing hobby. 

That being said, does anyone have any advice for reconditioning? I realize it’s a very unusual situation and I’m probably doing everything I should already but you never know, so I thought I’d ask! :) Any and all thoughts are welcome!

P.S. It’s been lovely reading this forum again, I’ve missed it so much!!

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Noodles

Welcome back Amethyst Aurora! It sounds like you have been through quite a lot, I hope you find the answers that you seek. If you do not get some input here, I would suggest that you speak to your doctor for advice on how to ramp up your physical exercise routine. Two things that come to mind, and probably need medical approval for, would be something to strengthen your core, like pilates, and something to increase your stamina.

Best of luck on your return to ballet!

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Amethyst Aurora

Thank you, Noodles! It's lovely to be back! :) I agree with your suggestions and have been adding in core exercises as I am able. (Stamina doesn't need targeted exercises at this point; everything is a stamina exercise after being bedridden! :D)

 

I should clarify, my doctor is aware of my efforts and trusts my judgment of what I can and cannot (or should or should not) do. I have a lot of interest in kinesiology and physiotherapy, so I am pretty confident in my current routine and plans for ramping up. :)

 

I was hoping to hear from those who have gone through reconditioning in the past (to whatever degree) and what their experiences were like. I'm hoping for advice from personal experience rather than from medical knowledge. Although I do welcome both! :)

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Chasse Away

I just wanted to wish you luck, Amethyst Aurora! It seems you have overcome so much, it’s amazing and inspiring really! And now you are taking another step on this journey. 
 

Can you go back to class? Dancers at any level can benefit from going back to a beginner classes and working on the basics, but I think it would be especially useful for you. That way someone can watch you and correct your technique as well, since you’ll want to build good habits from the ground up again. From personal experience, I dropped down a level or two when I sprained my toe, but I also believe that the best way to learn ballet technique is in ballet class, there are things that can be added on in addition, but I think the foundation is the class itself. 

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Noodles

I will share what my daughter did when she was injured. She had a stress fracture and was out for 9 months.

Once she made it through the 'rest and do not do ANYTHING' stage and her doctor cleared her to begin some movement she began doing pool workouts designed by her physical therapist. She swam laps to help build her endurance, which was tough. My daughter found pool barre helpful, which got her back to using ballet specific muscles with the benefit of water being non-weight bearing and adding slight resistance.

When she was cleared to get back into the studio she could only take 20 minutes of class, the doctor set her up on a schedule to slowly increase her class time a small increase each week based on how she felt. Sometimes it was two steps forward, one step back. She went slowly and it took her about 3 months to be back to her full schedule.

I hope that is helpful, of course this was the protocol given to my daughter by her medical professionals which may not apply to you. Please refer to your own doctor and PT on anything that you want to do. Above all it is very important to go slowly and let them (and your body) guide you.

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insidesoloist

So, there was an 11 year break between when injury nixed my dream of dancing professionally, and when I was ready to get back to ballet.  And that time around, I did it nearly all wrong.  Working in my favor at the time were that I hadn't gained more than 20 lbs, and I was still in my 20s.  After a year of a good yoga practice and a summer of ramping up my physical activity with walking, jogging, swimming, and giving myself barre, I plunged back into dancing 6-10 hours a day.  And within a few years, I was able to get back to a decently high level of dance -- enough to be offered a spot in a company.  But, I did up plagued by tendonitis, and could not hack the amount of pointe work necessary to dance with said company.  That was crushing.

Now I'm kind of with you.  Ten years after that, and five years almost entirely outside the studio -- not even teaching lately -- I'm gearing up to re-start.  This time I'm significantly older, but also hopefully a bit wiser, and I'm really invested in doing this in a sustainable way and rebuilding myself as much as possible from the ground up.  

All of that is to say: Let's cheer each other on!  I'm not sure where you're at physically or with your ballet technique.  For me, much of my gearing up actually has to do with balancing out the ballet by getting stronger in parallel.  I have supinated my whole life, and ballet exacerbated that, and so I really need to retrain myself.  I've got to learn to use larger muscles more frequently instead of relying on smaller muscles that were never meant to do the work I've historically asked them to do.  I was working with a PT before the pandemic, and will be using PT as much as possible to help me sort out my imbalances.  At this point, though, I think I've got a pretty good handle on them and it's just about going slow and steady.  

Feel free to PM me if you want to chat more about this process!

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Amethyst Aurora

Wow, insidesoloist! I can’t imagine the heartbreak of starting again just to have to quit again later. That must’ve been incredibly hard. :( It is kinda nice to know that there are others who may not be in the same boat, per se, but are in a very similar one! I wish you all the best and I hope your return to dancing goes more smoothly this time. :) 

I may PM you later, but I still haven’t reached 30 posts yet. I’m much more of a reader than a poster! ;) Thank you for the offer!

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insidesoloist

Thanks @Amethyst Aurora!  I'm so glad you posted this.  Maybe other folks who have come back after time off will come out of the woodwork and share what worked for them.  :)  

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Redbookish

 

On 7/30/2020 at 6:51 PM, insidesoloist said:

Maybe other folks who have come back after time off will come out of the woodwork and share what worked for them

And also, for dance students affected by COVID lockdowns, we're all having to come back to training, in ways that accommodate adult bodies - oh, and ageing ones as well 🥵

If you are anywhere near a qualified teacher of "Progressing Ballet Technique" (PBT for short) that might help? These are graded exercises, based on ballet alignment and placement, using a Swiss ball. They start very simply, and focus on developing & maintaining core strength, using the SWiss ball as a form of feedback (if it wobbles or moves about, your pelvis & core are also wobbling!) The nice thing about PBT is that it's developed specifically for ballet dancers, so it starts with developing turnout & alignment.

The other thing that might be useful if you can gain access is doing a floor barre programme. So the floor supports your weight, while you work n turnout and alignment. Again, the advantage is that it's designed for ballet, so - in my experience with a London master-teacher of this - there's an emphasis on turn out, alignment, and being up on your legs and hips. 

Good luck!

 

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Amethyst Aurora

I had never heard of PBT before, that looks super intriguing! There aren't any teachers in my area, but it looks like they have an online course, so that might be worth investing in! :)

I do love floor barre. :) It's actually been perfect for my situation, I can lay down while still "dancing"! 😉 Thank you for your suggestions!!

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Redbookish

One of the silver linings of the lockdown (here in the UK) and the global pandemic is that many teachers have discovered really effective ways of teaching online. So geography need not limit you. I've been really impressed by the way various teachers have adapted to teaching online - I know I've improved over lockdown as I've been able to do more classes (I take class almost every day online) and teachers are able to give very specific corrections.

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insidesoloist

Redbookish, thanks for mentioning PBT!  I knew this was "a thing" in Australia, but hadn't realized so many people in my corner of the world had trained in it.

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Redbookish

My local studio teaches it, and I've done a couple of years of once a week classes in it, but stopped when the training I was doing at the gym was proving more effective. But I still do a number of the exercises on my own - mostly using work on the Swissball to try to get a bit more strength & mobility in the use of my spine.

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  • 5 weeks later...
Amethyst Aurora

Here’s a happy update for anyone interested!

I was able to find a Physical Therapist in my area who has worked with dancers before, and came recommended by both my doctor and the studio I’m planning on dancing at! He has been great; after only two weeks so far I’ve noticed improvements in knee range (I have muscular hypoextension) and pointed ankle range (I was winging my feet too far for my arque legs)! He has me doing a lot of hip stabilization exercises and glute/hamstring strengthening as well. It’s nice to have someone else look at me and help me figure out what I need. :)

I’m still slowly gaining strength and stamina; I’ve been able to sit upright all day every day for the past 2+ weeks, something I haven’t been capable of for the past 4.5 years!!! I’m still plugging away with daily conditioning exercises and walks, it looks promising that I’ll be able to work part-time again soon, and hopefully I’ll be able to start taking level 1 ballet classes in the winter or next spring!

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InTheWings

Thanks for the update!  So happy you are on such a positive trajectory!  👍

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