Boys who have, like my son, suffered time off of dance while they recuperated from dance-related injuries, should know they are not alone. Even the best dancers get injured, and they, too, hate sitting one the side while everyone else jumps and turns and pirouettes across the floor.
Sometimes it helps to hear what someone you respect has to say about the obstacles you face. That’s the premise of the book I’m writing about mentoring boys who want to become professional dancers. So, here are a few words from swing dancing champion Benji Schwimmer, the 2007 winner of So You Think You Can Dance, who told me during a two-hour interview that dancers get lots of injuries along the way to stardom and that these always make them feel depressed and helpless. Despite this fact, there are ways to move through these negative feelings and come out of an injury better than ever.
If your son is injured or has been, share what Benji has to say:
“Probably one of the most difficult times in my life was right after I had won
the United States Swing Dance Championships with my cousin, Heidi (Groskreutz)…I was teaching a class at a college, and I ripped my knee into shreds. I had all these bookings and shows planned throughout the year that I had to cancel. I was depressed beyond recognition. I thought, ‘Wow, I didn’t realize how fragile the human body is until that moment and how scary it is to be injured.’
That was a tough time. Eventually I had a surgery and had to get back on my feet and reclaim my swing title the next year. But I was out for seven and a half months, and that was definitely a very trying time in my life. I had to get back into shape and do therapy, but I came back like a bat out of hell.”
And you know what? He not only came back he reclaimed his swim champion title as well.
I reminded my son of this story when he was feeling upset up the recital and ballet rehearsals he was missing because of his hurt foot. He was concerned that he might be told my his instructors that he couldn’t perform. I told him that he simply needed to continue stretching and strengthening as much as he could until he could get out on the dance floor again and that he needed to continue going to class and marking the choreography to ensure that he would know the dance when it came time to actually perform it. And I told him he would have to work hard when he could actually dance again to get up to speed and totally in shape. If he did these things, surely he would be on stage with the other dancers when the curtain went up for both events.
It all comes down to how badly these young male dancers want that goal, how hard they are willing to work. (Unfortunately, often their age stops them from working hard enough, which deters them in many ways. But that’s the subject of another post.) If like, Benji, they will do what it takes to get themselves back onto the dance floor in tip top shape, they too can “win” whatever prize they desire. It helps, however, to know that someone understands their frustration.
The director of the ballet school, Lise LaCour, has offered to work with Julian herself, or to have Julian’s male instructor, Peter Brandenhoff, give Julian private lessons (for free) when he returns to dancing to help him get in shape. That will also boost his confidence, improve his mood and help him get back up to speed. I had already suggested paying for a few private lessons at Studio 10 with Keith Banks to get him ready for the recital (even though those lessons are very expensive).
As a parent, we have to do what we have to do to help these boys. They seem so rough and tough, yet they are really very fragile and sensitive.
I’ll keep you posted. One more week and then hopefully the boot comes off.