In recent years there seems to be an over-abundance of ailments, injuries, illnesses, etc. Have you noticed it too? Sometimes I walk into the studio and feel like I’m constantly taking the first five minutes of class to greet my receiving line of students waiting to tell me what is wrong with them and what they can’t do that day. This processional starts from my youngest beginners to my oldest, advanced dancers, so there seems to be a trend.
Now, let me preface this discussion with in no way should we as teachers, (especially of dance) be dismissive of injury or illness. Injuries are one thing but being at the studio spreading germs and passing sickness is another; especially when the kids are practically living at the studio. However, in terms of injuries, there is a fine line of which injuries are ones dancers are able to work through and which are not.
So what do we do? How do we as teachers and studio owners address the legitimate things going on with our dancers and show sincere concern but reign in the, “selective injuries?”
Here are a few things I suggest:
- Have a meeting with your students. Remind them that it is always important to tell teachers what is going on with them physically if there is a problem. But ask them to self-reflect. If they are continually injured, ask them first, why they think this is happening? Are they working properly in class and if so, then what could be the culprit? Secondly, ask them to really think about what injuries are workable and which are not. While they may need to adapt some of the warm-up, choreography, etc. for the time being, are they able to dance? Now if your student comes in with a broken foot, obviously not, but if they are suffering from a small dose of tendonitis in their hip….they must also learn ways of working through things. Again, all about balance and working smart. Dancers are often quick to tell me what they can’t do that day in class. Instead, help them modify their thinking and only ask them to tell you what it is they can do that day.
- The “selective injury.” This is a popular one. Be on guard for those dancers that come in with an injury and “need” to sit out. You agree, and then magically come time for choreography combos or rehearsal and that dancer comes to you with, “I feel a little better, I think I can dance now.” Sorry kiddo, if you can’t do technique warm-up then you shouldn’t be able to learn choreography or rehearse. While this is also a little bit of testing boundaries, stay firm on this, because the truth is if the dancer really does have a legitimate injury which needs attention and rest, you are going to do even more damage with them not warming up and then jumping into rehearsal.
- The “repeat violators.” This is the one where the same kid comes in week after week with something wrong with them. After about three classes in a row, start documenting in the attendance book what was wrong with them and that they sat out for a class. This could be an indicator of something else that is quite serious going on, whether it be physically, emotionally or mentally, so keep note; that way if a parent meeting is necessary you can show them the sequence of events to get to the bottom of things and find out what the real culprit is.
- Demand the “doctor’s note.” If you are getting to the point where more than two children are chomping at the bit to tell you their latest injury the second you walk in the door week after week or absences are out of control, set a precedent in the beginning of the year or during registration. Let students and parents know that it is imperative that teachers are informed of all injuries and illness and doctors’ notes are required. This is important for a couple of reasons. #1: So you can keep note in the student’s file of what the diagnosis is and #2 So the entire faculty and staff is aware of the condition and can help monitor and know what is going on with the dancer, what their treatment and/or rehabilitation entails and how long they might be out or needing to modify things in class.
- Time well spent. If a dancer is sitting out of class, do not allow it to be a free hour to sit and do nothing. There are plenty of lessons they can still learn by observation. Have them take notes on the class lesson, have them notate choreography; give them an anatomy diagram to fill out, etc. At least if they have to sit out, they can keep their brains activated and get the most out of their lesson!
First and foremost, remember that the wellbeing, safety and health of your dancers is always the first priority and should be given immediate attention. Sometimes though with excessiveness, we do need to monitor these situations and make students aware of things they can and should work through for their own benefit. Hopefully, your dancers will learn the benefits of taking care of themselves, dancing wisely and staying healthy to have a wonderful and productive season! Good luck to everyone!
See you in the dance studio,