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Leaps and Stones May Break My Bones, But I’ll Never Stop Dancing

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CNU chapter.

It is the last night of Irish dance rehearsal before tech week starts. We are rehearsing in the M&T performance hall where our show will take place in a few days. Katrina, our choreographer, insists on running the whole piece two more times before she’ll let us go for the day. The newly placed marley dance floor moans under our feet as we shuffle to our respective starting wings of the stage. We are all already so tired from rehearsal today, but continue to push through with a smile. I take a deep breath and give my partner at the other end of the stage a thumbs up to signal the start of the music. We begin our dance as usual, but it doesn’t end as usual. Right before the end of my first segment, I did a split-leap in the air as I have done a million times before—except this time, instead of landing softly, I heard a loud crack and felt a sharp pain shoot through my foot and up my leg. My “stage smile” faltered for a moment before I picked back up where I left off to finish my part. I quickly rushed to the wings before my next section and I shook out my foot and stepped into place for my next entrance. I brushed off the concern from the other dancers backstage who watched what just happened as it was just a slight misstep, but it’s fine. I’m fine. 

We ran the entire dance one more time, but no amount of adrenaline could mask the pain that was radiating from my foot.  I am not exactly a stranger to performance injuries; I broke my ankle in 7th grade and 9th grade and still danced on my casts. This time wasn’t much different so I swiftly changed out of my jazz shoes and stuffed my now aching foot into my white converse before hobbling over to another dance studio to rehearse for my ballet midterm group presentation.

By the time I got to the dance studio and changed into my ballet shoes, my toe was approximately twice the size that it should be and was already starting to bruise. “It’s fine. I’m fine,” I kept reassuring, more to myself than to my group. However, the more I kept dancing, the increasingly more aware I became of my probably broken toe.  Each time I would falter in my turns or flinch when I landed a jump, I would make a conscious effort to push the pain from my mind and keep dancing.  I have to keep dancing. 

Halfway through ballet rehearsal I caved and accepted my friend’s plea to allow her roommate to bring me bandages and ice. My group members forced me to sit out the rest of our rehearsal and I just called out the choreography to them. I still tried to move my feet while sitting in the chair and was subsequently reprimanded for not taking proper care of my foot. It was killing me to watch them dance my choreography without me. But I guess they were right… for now. 

The very next day started tech week rehearsals for the dance concert, “A Delicate Balance.” I was forced to sit out of this rehearsal too in hopes that just a couple of days would be all the rest I needed to be ready to dance in the show later that week. The amount of swelling and bruising that consumed a couple of my toes was a bit concerning, but I kept pushing on. I didn’t have time to get x-rays but safely assumed that I had broken two toes and was deeply upset, but wouldn’t let it stop me. I buddy-taped them just like the doctor would have done and I kept dancing. This is first time I was thankful for only being in one of the pieces in the concert. I did happen to be in the only one that involved alternating hopping around on the balls of my feet and intense tap work at the end, but it’s fine. I’m fine. 

A friend in my ballet class also broke a few toes before her performances in “Legally Blonde” before spring break. We just grin and bear it though. Dancing on broken bones is always a challenge, but nothing compares to a sprained back. One of the dancers in my Irish piece told me about the time she suffered a severe sprain in her back the tech week of her freshman year for the dance concert. In order to still be able to perform, she had to get a cortisone and novocaine shot the night before the show opened. A horrified expression flickered across my face for a moment at the thought of needing shots to alleviate my pain, but then I agreed that I would have done the same thing if I had been in her place. We dancers don’t give up that easily. This is a minor break compared to what I have sustained before. It’s fine. I’m fine.

It is now opening night of the dance concert and I made sure to take extra medicine before my piece to avoid staggering off the stage on the brink of tears as I had done the previous two rehearsal nights. I had too many family and friends coming and I didn’t want to let them down. Right as the curtain went up, my partner and I exchanged our usual thumbs up to make sure we were ready to go. I wore the proudest smile as I emerged from the wings and thanks to my adrenaline high from performing in front of a sold out theater, I didn’t feel too much pain as I danced. I gave my best performances for our two shows. All my family and friends couldn’t believe how I still danced on my broken toes, but I did it. It’s fine. I’m fine.