Good pain, bad pain, injury, and genetics.
As ballet dancers, we experience “good pain” and “bad pain”.
“Good pain” may be when you are a young student stretching. Your teacher will push you, safely, but it for sure isn’t comfortable. I hated stretching when I was younger. My body was by no means flexible, and it was my least favorite part of class.
“Good pain” may also be when you are sore from working hard the day before. There are of course things you can do to prevent or lessen the pain from being sore, but sometimes it really is inevitable. Once your body is warmed up from class though, you really do not feel this soreness anymore.
At some point though, a dancer will probably experience “bad pain”. We as dancers become very in-tune with our bodies after many years of training, and can tell when something is wrong. If something hurts in an abnormal way for a few minutes in class or rehearsal, it can be worked through and it is something to remember, but not worry about. A dancer will take note of what hurt, and if they cannot find a circumstantial reason behind it, will know to take care and strengthen what is weak, or loosen what is tight.
But sometimes that “bad pain” gets worse. If it is during Nutcracker season, for example, a dancer may try to push through the pain, even when it starts to reoccur. Legwarmers over the area will be used, more stretching and strengthening. Usually the problem is working the wrong way, or something is weak or too tight. Sometimes what is really needed is a couple weeks off for the body to heal. And, sometimes, we are unable to take that time off. The bad pain can turn into an injury, which will be worse in the long run.
Ballet isn’t natural. We force the body to learn certain movements and move and stretch in ways it wasn’t meant to. Usually though, we can take care of our bodies so that we may do this unnatural movement even with our genetics. And if genetics do get in the way, they can cause pain that will last a dancer’s entire career. The dance can lessen the pain if they take care of themselves, but sometimes even that is not enough.
I guess what I’m saying is this: know your body, as I’m sure you dancers reading this have learned to do well. Know the difference between good pain and bad pain. Don’t let bad pain become injury. And if your genetics hold you back? Work hard to overcome it, but not so much that you hurt yourself more. It can be frustrating to feel like you can’t improve, to feel limited by injury and pain, but if dance is really what you want to do, don’t quit. You can trust me on this because…
…My body was not designed to do everything a ballet dancer needs to do, my genetics cause me daily pain. I wonder if I had done something differently in the past maybe I wouldn’t be in this position. But there isonly moving forward, and I am determined to lessen the pain, to overcome it, and have a successful career.