Jenni Wren is an established independent UK dance artist, choreographer and artistic director of Slanjayvah Danza. Alongside her artistic roles, Jenni is an educator, diagnostic and injury masseuse, director of KT Tape Dance UK and founder of the Leeds Injury Clinic (for dance).
Sunday, 2 March, 2014
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Dance and injury is a complicated subject, but having studied it intensively now for 9 years, it's not rocket science to me, it's become like second nature.
This blog is a reflection of a personal journey, but described for a purpose. For me it's been a complex story and tricky to know where to start.
My injury was not a secret but, strangely enough, at stages I felt ashamed at having it. It felt like an affliction. I've lost and I've gained. I've learned a lot and I have been encouraged to share what I have learned.
Hopefully over the next 6 months of this blog there will be areas that are pertinent to you, as a dancer, a teacher, a choreographer, you and your body and that will assist you. I'm not the only one who has ever been injured through dance, far from it. In fact, when you look at the figures, I'm one of the common statistics.
"The vast majority of dancers in our study had not only been injured, but had worked when injured or in pain. No dancer over the age of 35 was without an injury, and no dancer with more than 20 years of dance experience - keeping in mind that many dancers begin dancing around the age of five or six - was injury-free." (Dr Jen Tarr)
I've bored myself and other about the obsession of dealing with pain, of having to justify to myself and others why I can't do simple movements in dance without it hurting, descriptions of the incident, the never ending repetitive story, why there is fear, trying to explain what happens when it's not all working right, how I haven't felt connected.
No, rest doesn't help. Yes, I have tried this and that and even made up my own approaches to easing it all - daily exercise of mine to combat the "dancing with injury" pains.
But, this is not all about me. It's about you, it's about them, it's about how the dance industry is changing. But dance and injury is still a taboo subject combination that could benefit the industry by discussion being opened up a little further.
It's about the highly orchestrated dancer's body and the intricacies of its capacities, abilities, flaws, conditions, etc. The need for specialist treatments, therapists who understand the dancer's body, knowing where to find them, and treatments that might be available.
It's about dancers being validated for the knowledge that they do have of their own bodies and encouragement to find out if they don't - listen, feel, investigate. Some people are interested in the physical aspects, others the psychological ones. You want to know about the psychology - just ask.
Having worked with injured dancers for over 15 years as a dance masseuse, I've listened hard; it's part of my job, a bit like Sherlock Holmes. I do the investigations and figuring out of the fine details to understand what has happened for things to go wrong and then what needs to happen for things to get better, holistically.
I can't see inside a dancer but having worked in A&E pre my professional dance career, I do often visualise the body from the inside out.
Every dancer's body is different, as is the person, as is the spiritual DNA within us as beings which are our own fingerprints of existence.
Some know more than others, some listen more than others to the instrument they are trying so hard to finely tune and push beyond its known boundaries. If you don't know this, how can you question your physicians?
So, back to the point. In time and over time, the blog will discuss a variety of aspects within the complexity. I'm not the first or the last injured dancer and no, I didn't give up my career but rather moulded it around my remaining capabilities.
Though, how it took 9 years to get a medical diagnosis of my injury astounds me. In all that time, I didn't wait to "be handed" a diagnosis. I studied all I could, I analysed this body every single day, with every step I took. There were very few, if any, moments when it wasn't consuming large amounts of my attention.
By April 2013 I had diagnosed myself. By June 2013 I had sought out the best surgeon; a specialist in this area of muskelo-skeletal trauma.
This isn't an Oscar speech but, I do owe sincere thanks to my GP for her support in my determination to find an answer.
Also, thanks to the surgeon who believed me, even when all technical/clinical tests proved "negative". He successfully repaired my dancer's body and subsequently has changed my life.
Family, friends and colleagues have listened endlessly and comforted me, helped me through the hardest moments. I want to thank them and those who are supporting my current rehabilitation.
January 2014 - I have no pain in movement for the first time in 9 years!
The story continues.... I hope you will follow.
It all started in a rehearsal studio in Madrid.....