I recently had the pleasure of joining Rachel Marchica and Nicole Testa on their Movement Toward Change Podcast to speak about dealing with dance injuries. Rachel Marchica is a fourth year BFA in dance student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst where her training is focused in ballet, modern, contemporary and improvisational practices. Nicole Testa is a senior at Boston University. She is working towards a concentration in accounting at BU’s Questrom School of Business is pursuing a minor in dance. You can check out the podcast directly on movementtowardchange.org, Apple Podcasts, or Spotify. And, don’t forget to check them out on instagram @movementtowardchange. Throughout this process I was continually impressed by Rachel and Nicole and I thought you might like to hear more about their story as well.
As a dancer, physical therapy has helped immensely. I would not be dancing today if it weren’t for physical therapy (and the wonderful physical therapists at Girl Fit!). During high school I suffered from multiple injuries, which took me out of dance for many months. Not only did physical therapy help me through those injuries, but it also provided me with the tools to help prevent new injuries from occurring. While I still have aches and pains, I am now better equipped to deal with them through a proper cross training, foam rolling, and stretching routine. Kate and the Girl Fit Physical Therapy team have taught me so much about how to take care of myself and also not to get stressed if something is feeling a little bit off.
I decided I wanted to be a dance major during my junior year of high school. For a while, dance was simply a hobby for me. It was something I did for fun after school. During my junior year I had a bad injury in which I was out of dance for many months. It was during my time away from dance that I realized just I how much it meant to me. Dancing is the thing that makes me feel the most alive, it connects me to something that feels much larger than myself. I felt that dancing in college would allow me to deepen my practice, and explore new forms. As a dance major, there is a lot of learning done outside of dancing itself. I have taken many theory courses where we discuss the history of dance, how to write about dance, how to choreograph a dance, and even how to do dance based research. Being a dance major has opened my eyes to the broad range of possibilities within the field. I initially entered college wanting to be a better dancer but am now realizing how much dance can be used as a catalyst for change within our society.
Dance has the power to create meaningful change within our communities. I reached a point where I felt that there was more to dance beyond the dancing itself. Technique is great. It’s wonderful to have a strong core or a beautifully pointed foot, but the real question is what are you going to do with that. How will you use it to make art? Dance has the potential to get people to think and to question their views. Within this questioning is where the true shifts take place. During the COVID pandemic and increased racial tensions, I believe that dance can be used as a tool to create change. When we think about the origin of dance, it began in tribes as a form of communication and community. This sense of community is the essence of dance that must not be lost but rather further cultivated.
You can support the cause by being an advocate for positive change within your own school or dance studio. Change happens with lots of small consistent steps over a period of time. If you are feeling injured, you can speak up and explain that to the teacher. If you want to be an advocate for the arts perhaps offer a class or a performance in a community where there is limited access. If you feel that a classmate is being mistreated, speak to the teacher and always be there to support your peers! Change happens when we all work together with a common goal.
The Movement Toward Change platform began over the summer when I organized an online dance intensive to raise funds for The Loveland Foundation. After the conclusion of the intensive, I realized I wanted to continue the platform and use it to create a resource within the dance community. The motto of Movement Toward Change is “Using dance as a means to cultivate community and start conversation.” I felt that the dance community was lacking a space to speak about the dance world from a “behind the scenes” perspective. There are many topics that are applicable to dancers but are often not talked about during class time or in the studio. I feel it is necessary to bring awareness to these important topics. I also want dance artists and professionals realize that they are not alone in their struggles. I co-host the podcast with my friend and fellow dancer, Nicole Testa. We are currently on our first series and interviewed experts about injury prevention and cross training. Our next topics will be covering mental health for dancers.
My biggest piece of advice would be to cultivate a sense of awareness and mindfulness in order to tune in and listen to yourself. As a young dancer there is a lot of background noise about how to exercise, eat, look etc. It can be really overwhelming! When you can take the time to bring a sense of awareness to how you are feeling, that is when true change can take place. It is important to realize that there is no one plan fits all when it comes to dance/athletic training. Also, reaching out and asking for help is OK. In fact it demonstrates a level of maturity. Whether it is going to a physical therapist if you are experiencing a reoccurring pain or seeing a mental health professional, reaching out is a sign of strength. My last piece of advice would be to remember that growth is a process. We are all learning as we go and our failures can be some of the greatest teachers.
You can subscribe to our podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify!
To learn more about injury prevention for dancers from the physical therapists at Girl Fit Physical Therapy in Newton, check out our recent blog posts on Tips on Injury Prevention for Dancers or Specialized Treatment of Young Female Athletes.
Kate Hamilton, PT, DPT
Orthopedic Clinical Specialist