About Susan

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Pain and Pleasure

Mid-air, trying not to think of the landing
Pain and pleasure ... who hasn't experienced this before, when it comes to something one loves? I haven't been to technique class in a very long time as I cannot point my left foot without a sharp, stabbing pain. It's as if the top of my ankle is being lanced with great gusto by a thick, sharp needle. When it first happened, I was executing the most simple tendu a la seconde. The pain was quite shocking and before I knew it I was on the floor, pushing myself off the marley with my hands to get out of the way of the other dancers.

Of course, it wasn't the tendu itself that had caused the pain. I admit that my left foot had been bothering me for quite some time, but not enough for me to have stopped and gotten it checked out. Who doesn't dance with one or more nagging discomforts at any one time? My left foot had been feeling stiff and "crunchy" for months. It suffices to say that a number of misaligned small bones, slightly swollen tendons, and a whole slew of big jumps finally did me in.

But why did it have to converge on the day the show opened?

Don't get me wrong; I'm not whining. Much greater heartbreak has occurred to dancers everywhere. But when it happens, you just have to think: Why now? You've worked so hard to prepare for the stage, and now you either can't present your work or you'll have to dance it to less than your potential. I honestly don't know which one is worse; it entirely depends on the extent to which you can dance full out with the injury.

But we dancers are gluttons for punishment, but not because we simply like suffering: Think of the burning desire to get out there and dance! That's what we've trained and rehearsed countless hours for. Dance is performance art, after all.

I couldn't give it up, so when the time came I took painkillers and tried to warm up my stiff muscles; no matter what I did I couldn't seem to warm up. I now realize it was psychological. Doubts raced through my mind: How am I going to do those big jumps? How am I going to get through anything if I can't point my foot? I'd gingerly test a movement and my heart would plummet as the pain shot through me.

In the end when I got out there, I danced my heart out as I am wont to do. When performing, it's extremely difficult to hold back or to "save" yourself to nurse an injury or to preserve endurance for subsequent shows. You want to give your all.

So, I gave it my all. Despite having taken the painkillers, the stabbing sensation was intense. Miraculously, a feeling of calm flowed through me and I smiled without having to force it. I felt real joy. I was dancing!

It goes without saying that I didn't dance the next day. Or the next day, or the day after that. But, I was satisfied; I had danced the show. Maybe the jumps weren't so pretty, but the energy was there. Now I must be patient. The extent to which I miss going to class is painful in its own way, but I will be good. It's better to be out now than push an injury too far and be out for longer ... or forever.

I can hold out for self-preservation, and even more so, for the chance to dance one more time. I'll take pain now, for the pleasure to come. 
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