I had joined Carolina Ballet as a corps member for a year when Dan Duell and Patricia Blair from my old school, Ballet Chicago, asked me to come perform as a guest Balanchine's Rubies... I was beyond excited to dance such a fun and sassy part! I asked my director, Ricky Weiss to coach me for it as it was HIS ballet with the New York City Ballet. It was also a big chance to prove myself to him and hopefully be seen in a different light. You know that feeling when you're new in a company, you have so much drive and want so hard to do well. I felt very fortunate to rehearse privately in the studio with him. However those rehearsals came on top of our own shows. I had that difficult place in a company when you do the corps first cast and learn soloist or principal parts second cast and since you're new, EVERYTHING is new. Needless to say, I was exhausted.
I remember launching in that second entrance of the ballet's opening, propelling myself so high for a huge turn in passé jump and, SNAP. A huge rush of what felt like boiling water traveled my calf and I couldn't even put my foot down anymore. A few minutes later, a constellation of bruises painted my skin (even worse than that picture...). I had torn my calf at a grade 3 for the first time...
From then on, they became my nemesis... In my career, I have probably had 8 or 9 of them, left and right, Soleus and Gastroc, medial and lateral.
The problem with muscle tears is that the body repairs the torn area with scar tissue which is way less flexible than the original muscle fiber, it then starts a vicious circle if you're not conscious of it and don't modify your approach.
From my experience, a few causes became evident:
- The kinds of ballets you do (lots of jumping, fast movements, fast weight changes),
- Emotional sensitivity and lack of sleep (less recuperation time & wrong mindset to restore muscles),
- Time of your menstrual cycle (a few days before my period, I have observed a significant muscle weakness),
- Lack of proper warm up prior to rehearsal, especially after a long break,
- Being overworked and overwhelmed by rehearsal or performance load,
- Tightness in hamstrings and/or lower back (which I've understood much later).
BUT! MY MOTTO ALWAYS IS: THERE'RE SOLUTIONS TO ANY PROBLEM!!!
Remember I'm a closeted Mac Gyver.
I am no doctor or physical therapist let's be clear here, but I have gathered what worked for me:
- Acupuncture or trigger point needling with a licensed therapist of course,
- Taping for the specific muscle with the help of your therapist (and kitty love),
- Ice the first 24h then contrast therapy, hot then cold, to create blood flow (and kitty love),
- Massage and rolling it out ;), I'm French, AS WELL AS your hamstrings and glute muscles,
- Sciatic nerve flossing:
- Lean Whey protein and BCAA supplements for fiber repair,
- Arnica in pellets and in cream AND my favorite: Sportenine,
- Rest of course combined with lots of water, great healthy food with Vitamin C, Omega 3...,
- And when you come back from it, very carefully and slowly under the OK from your therapist, it's a sneaky injury, I always found that calf sleeves were of great help:
Zensah brand pictured here.
I have to say my worst experience of this injury was everyone's nightmare: right on stage...
I had been waiting to perform Serenade by Balanchine the whole 2017-2018 season. It came in April. I was Russian Girl (I think it's the hardest part), danced every rehearsal like it was a performance to get all the feels I could from it. My first show came about April 27th, my number, I had visualized it for months (I'll do a post on that too), I felt weirdly transported from the first notes of Tchaikovsky music. I did the first 2 entrances, went on to that really tough 3rd one (with the solo and pirouettes) everything went the best it EVER did, while exiting the stage, I told myself, smiling, "you can relax and just enjoy the rest". I jetéed off into the wing and on the push off felt a ZING. I knew exactly what it was... But you know what? I finished the ballet. I said to myself not even this could take it away from me. I did it on pure adrenaline and will power. I came on to bow half-limping and then hobbled off. I collapsed on the floor and burst into tears. My family and friends were trying to congratulate me not understanding why I was crying. They hadn't even noticed I was hurt... I couldn't walk afterwards. Only 4 weeks later, I was on stage doing Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty as my final performance in Raleigh, NC. So keep on fighting!!! Hopefully now with new tools... :)
If you have any questions, message me! And please get advise from your physical therapist!
Last photos by @newtim and @nathanrichardsstudio