I pulled up at my son’s school on Friday to pick him up and take him to dance just in time to see him jump up onto a fence with his right foot and land back on the ground with — your guessed it — his hurt left foot. I was livid. I wouldn’t talk to him for the first 15 minutes in the car. Then, when I finally did open my mouth I told him to quit dancing or at least go tell all his dance teachers to forget about having him in their recitals and ballets in May and June.
What was he thinking? He wasn’t thinking. He admitted it. And what was I thinking? Taking him to fancy sports doctors and all? Sometimes I think I’m crazy.
The good news is that at Ballet San Jose School the ballet mistress and school director, Lise LaCour, is concerned about Julian’s recovery process — and having him ready for the end of the year ballet and showcase. So, she has not only asked her best instructor and only male ballet teacher, Peter Brandenhoff, to keep an eye on Julian, and she has requested that Julian come for extra classes. The extra classes seemed like a pain in the patooty, and Julian isn’t too crazy about it. We were a bit worried about him overdoing it and getting hurt again, which would not be good, but we’ve seen the logic to Lise’s approach.
By attending extra classes last week to do only barre work, Julian has been strengthening muscles he will need to do the jumps and turns he can begin doing a little bit this week. This week, he will continue doing extra barre work while he starts across-the-floor exercises (one out of every three times the others do the exercises). Next week, he’ll increase the amount of across-the-floor work he does (every other time the others do the exercises) while continuing to do double the barre work. As the week progresses, if his foot feels fine he can even do a little extra across-the-floor work, meaning that he can do some of the exercises in the extra class as well. Little by little, he will get stronger without hurting himself (hopefully).
He is doing all of this in a jazz sneaker at this point, mind you, to protect that small bone and growth plate on the side of his foot. He will dance in that for four weeks before going back to his normal jazz and ballet shoes. For hip hop, he is wearing regular street shoes or sneakers.
The other part of this good news comes with the extra attention Julian is getting from Peter Brandenhoff. For years, I’ve been trying to explain to Julian that when he does barre work he has to do it as if it is an isometric exercise. I’ve shown him with my arm the difference between raising my arm with no resistance and with a lot of resistance, with the muscles loose and the muscles tight. Somehow, he never got the message. However, Peter spent some time with him last week as part of his recuperation and watched him do his barre work very carefully. First he simply corrected his technique. The, he showed him how tightly he had to hold his muscles with each move and even when holding a position. Julian came our of class dripping wet — for the first time! He’ll never be able to take ballet class again and be able to tell himself he’s working hard unless he works like that.
That made me as a mother the happiest! Yes, I want him back in shape so he won’t get hurt. Yes, I want him ready to perform in his end-of-the-year recital, ballet and showcase. More than that, I want him to improve and to excel, and the lesson he learned from Peter will help him accomplish that. He wants so badly to be a good dancer, and he spends so many hours at the ballet studio. Yet, he doesn’t seem to improve as much as he or I think he should. Now he should see that improvement come in leaps and bounds. At least I hope that’s what we’ll see.
Of course, he could again stop thinking and then he’ll either just forget what he’s been taught or get hurt again. That’s a boy for you.