Health & Body

3 Principal Dancers Get Real About Injuries on Instagram

Injuries are the absolute WORST. Believe me, after a bad break at the base of my second metatarsal during my junior year of high school, I can say with complete confidence that the whole experience is a real bummer. A tweaked knee, popped tendon or broken ankle are the kinds of things that fill dancers' nightmares. In this rigorous and at times unforgiving artform, taking necessary time to recover can feel like a death sentence to a promising career.

While I was able to eventually recover and land my first professional contract with Odyssey Dance Theatre in Salt Lake City, Utah, just two years later, that time of rehabilitation was devastating to me. Looking back, I wish I had had the inspiration and guidance of professional dancers who had triumphed over injuries and went on to continue their dazzling dancing careers.

Thankfully, today the world of social media allows dancers to generously share their experiences with the public. Check out these three star-studded performers who've gotten real about injury recovery on Instagram. Share their stories with your students and help them navigate the rough terrain of minor to major injuries.

1. David Hallberg: American Ballet Theatre

In 2014, principal dancer David Hallberg had an ankle injury that almost caused him to quit ballet altogether. After multiple surgeries, he flew to Melbourne, Australia, to begin what would become 14 months of rehabilitation. He shares snapshots of his recovery on Instagram.

2. Steven McRae: The Royal Ballet

Last May, principal dancer Steven McRae announced he would be taking time off to tend to an injury and get surgery. He stressed that he will be working hard to get back onstage for future seasons. His Instagram has since been filled with motivational posts detailing his recovery process.

3. Lauren Cuthbertson: The Royal Ballet

In early June, principal dancer Laura Cuthbertson announced she would not be finishing The Royal Ballet's current season due to an injury. In her post she apologizes to the audience and her partner for having to bow out early, sharing the feelings of guilt and responsibility dancers naturally feel when having to take time off.

Teachers Trending
Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy. Photo courtesy Dance With Me

Listening to Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy riff together makes it crystal-clear why each has mastered the art of partnering in the ballroom—they've long been doing this dance in real life as brothers and business partners.

Along with their "Dancing with the Stars" pedigree (and a combined three mirror-ball trophies between them), Maks and Val (and their father, Sasha) also run Dance With Me, a dance company hosting six ProAm Dancesport competitions annually and running 14 brick-and-mortar studio locations across the U.S.

Last year, the pair launched an online component, Dance & Co. The online video platform offers beginner through advanced instruction in not only ballroom but an array of other styles, as well as dance fitness classes from HIIT to yoga to strength training. "DWTS" fans will recognize such familiar faces as Peta Murgatroyd, Jenna Johnson, Sharna Burgess and Emma Slater, along with Maks and Val themselves.

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Teaching Tips
@jayplayimagery, courtesy Kerollis

In the spring of 2012, Barry Kerollis was abruptly forced into treating his career as a small business. Having just moved cross-country to join BalletX, he got injured and was soon let go.

"I'd only ever danced with big companies before," the now-freelance dance-teacher-choreographer-podcaster recalls. "That desperation factor drove me to approach freelancing with a business model and a business plan."

As Kerollis acknowledges, getting the business of you off the ground ("you" as a freelance dance educator, that is) can be filled with unexpected challenges—even for the most seasoned of gigging dancers. But becoming your own CEO can make your work–life balance more sustainable, help you make more money, keep you organized, and get potential employers to offer you more respect and improved working conditions. Here's how to get smart now about branding, finances and other crucial ways to tell the dance world that you mean business.

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Teachers Trending
Courtesy Oleson

American dance educator Shannon Oleson was teaching recreational ballet and street-dance classes in London when the pandemic hit. As she watched many of her fellow U.S. friends pack up and return home from their international adventures, she made the difficult choice to stick with her students (as well as her own training—she was midway through her MFA at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance).

Despite shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders, she was able to maintain a teaching schedule that kept her working with her dancers through Zoom, as well as lead some private, in-home acro classes following government guidelines. But keeping rec students interested in the face of pandemic fatigue hasn't been easy.

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