The tools of our trade

As regular readers are probably aware, I fund my dance hobby with a job in healthcare. I’m trained as a nurse (though currently I have a nursing job that does not involve directly caring for patients; I’m behind-the-scenes… in the wings, as it were!).

I had become a nurse just a couple years before resuming ballet and I found that this bank of knowledge gave me a whole new appreciation for the things my body can do. So much of our time as dancers is spent focusing on what we can’t do, but when you look at what we’re given to work with it’s pretty amazing that we can stand up and walk, let alone plié, grand jété, and stand on our toes.

It also gave me a new appreciation for how important it is to care for this tool we’re given. A lot of what we do in ballet isn’t entirely natural (hello, turn-out). While unnatural doesn’t inherently mean dangerous, it can be harmful if we don’t approach it in the right way.

This is why I’m such a fan of people like Lisa Howell and Deborah Vogel who spend much of their lives helping us understand how to get the most out of our bodies. The demands of ballet are constantly increasing and with that the risk of injury increases, as well. Whatever level we’re at, professional or amateur, we need to take care of ourselves if we want to continue enjoying ballet in the studio or on the stage!

If any of you are as interested in this as I am, but don’t want to embark on a new career, I’ve got a free (!) course for you! HarvardX (yes, that Harvard) just opened a MOOC (which stands for Massive Open Online Course) called Musculoskeletal Anatomy. Here’s their trailer on it. Fair warning: there are some brief shots of human cadaver dissection at about 1:15-1:45 — medical students learn anatomy by dissection, so if images of surgeries or that fetal pig you had to dissect in high school made you gag, this might not be the course for you. But if you can handle that (and keep in mind that the cadavers are people who made the choice when they were alive to donate their body for this purpose because they felt strongly about contributing to medical education in this way) this is a cool way to learn more about how our bodies work and how injuries may be evaluated and treated.

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