What happens when a dancer is injured? What does it means for their bodies, their emotional well being, and for the companies they work with? AXIS staff and dancers share their experience sustaining injuries, replacing injured dancers, and planning a tour with a cast that changed mid-stream.
From the desk of Co-Founder and Artistic Director Judith Smith:
Dancers are the heart and soul of every dance company. Their bodies are their instrument and sometimes those bodies are injured despite all the training, conditioning and preemptive work that they do. For a dancer, that’s devastating. For a Company, we must first help them get the advice and help they need. Then we have to shift into problem-solving mode because there is the reality of ‘the show must go on’. This means doing the almost impossible-- finding a replacement (or three) who fits the part, can learn it fast, is available at the required rehearsal times and can commit to an already booked tour schedule. There’s a lot of pressure on the remaining company members and the new dancers to quickly learn the work, develop a repoire with each other and frankly, get things done! I’m extremely grateful to Sebastian Grubb, Brendan Bartel and Kevin Lopez who have come in to cover for Nick Brentley and have allowed our AXIS show to go on —to Israel and to six other cities this season. And, a huge THANK YOU to our fabulous dancers Nick, Dwayne, Julie, Keon and Sophie who have been rockstars in the midst of adversity.
From AXIS dancer Nicholas Brentley, on sustaining an injury:
In dance, the body is the instrument. As such, when its function is compromised by injury, it is also easy to feel like less. As dancers, we place a lot of pressure on ourselves to produce with consistency. Our schooling, training, experience and accolades lead us to believe we have reached a certain level in our craft and that our practice should reflect it. However, no one is immune to setbacks and injury has a great way of humanizing the dancer, prioritizing how one shows up in life over how one shows up in the studio.
I look at being injured similarly to how I look at auditioning. Both are excellent gauges for what needs attention. We don’t always know why injury occurs or why we weren’t cast. But, either way there is always something to work on even if it is doing less or resting more. In this time away from dance I am making an effort to observe more of it. Attending performances enables me to remain current with the community and feel like I still have a place within it.
From AXIS Guest dancer Brendan Barthel:
There are never any guarantees. Cross training and taking the time to warm up thoroughly and cool down properly after working greatly minimize chances for injury. Sometimes after finding enough time in the day between obligations to properly take care of oneself is challenging. My personal approach has been to train myself to become accustomed to a higher level of physical challenge than I am usually asked to perform at. In this way, I find that I have more energy and will be more mindful of my body during performance, but also have the slack to give my body whatever extra care it needs at the end of the day.
From AXIS Guest dancer Kevin Lopez:
When dancing through an injury could threaten our well being, then one must make the tough decision to take time to heal. As a dancer stepping in with AXIS Dance Company to fill in for a healing dancer, I have been happy to put in the work to bring my own spirit to this role, while still trying to maintain the integrity that the previous dancer originally created.
Covering for Nick has been a great experience. He was so welcoming along with the rest of the company. I felt very supported in translating the work into my body in ways that worked for me, which really showed me what AXIS is all about.