Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Taking an Extended Break from Dancing

One year when I was a student at Indiana University, we had a whole week off for Thanksgiving. The week we came back to school we had technical and dress rehearsals for The Nutcracker, which opened the very next weekend! My toenails felt bruised and every time I had to go onto pointe the pain was excruciating. Just putting my pointe shoes on after a full week off made me cringe. I felt like my feet had become bloated and soft in such a short amount of time.

After that experience I made sure to do certain things during any extended breaks from dancing (which made me feel like one of Pavlov’s dogs). Here’s a list of things you can do to keep from regretting time off, but still enjoy having that time off.

Stretch a little bit everyday. It doesn’t have to be a full barre workout, but stretch your hamstrings and lower back especially. This can be done while watching television or even while you’re waiting for water to boil. You may want to do this in the privacy of your own home or wherever you happen to be vacationing—just so people don’t wonder what you’re trying to prove in public.

I know it’s cruel—you’re on break, for crying out loud—but put on your pointe shoes at least every other day. Just put them on and walk around in them. You don’t really have to do much else, although it will probably be impossible to resist doing a few relev├ęs since you went to all the trouble of putting them on. Keep your feet conditioned to remember that they’re still going to be expected to be squished in the near future. That no, this is not the beginning of retirement.

Do some sit-ups. Whenever I took a break, my balance suffered when I returned to class. I found that if I did a few repetitions of 20 sit-ups or crunches everyday it made a world of difference.

Another thing I tried to do during breaks was to sew as many ribbons and elastics onto new shoes as I could (if I had money to buy new ones, that is). If I didn’t have new shoes, I worked on old shoes to make them last longer. You can fix fraying ribbons by cutting them on a diagonal, covering the ends with clear nail polish, or burning them off with a cigarette lighter.

Keep your feet and arches in good condition. There’s not much worse than feeling like your foot is stuck in a pointed position and you have to manually flex it to release it. If you simply point and flex your feet a little bit everyday this will help.

Are there any other dancers out there who have more tips to add? Please leave a comment!

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