Advice for Dancers: When Your Talent Disappears

November 30, 2013

I recently grew several inches. I’d hoped that being taller would advance my career by landing me partnering roles. For Nutcracker, I set my sights on the grand pas de deux. Instead, I was demoted to a demi-solo role—even though I did a soloist role last year. I feel like giving up. What should I do? —Dan, NYC

Don’t despair! Many young professional dancers experience growth spurts due to delayed maturation from intense exercise or a low body weight. I’ve known principals who grew as late as 21 years old. Unfortunately, your torso takes longer to grow than your legs and arms, and the muscles and nervous system also need time to catch up. (Your limbs may grow unequally as well.) These changes can throw off your balance, coordination, and control; decrease strength and flexibility; and impair technical skill. Pilates or Gyrotonic can help by stabilizing your trunk and pelvis and enhancing proprioception. Use this time to work on your artistry, so you’re ready for that lead role next year.


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Why do I need surgery after rolling over the outside of my foot in a performance? The doctor says it’s a Jones fracture. My bones aren’t brittle. How could this happen?  —Broken Foot, Los Angeles, CA

It’s hard to imagine that a simple misstep could result in a serious injury. Yet a Jones fracture requires special medical attention. Unlike a simple crack in the metatarsal, the long bone that’s connected to the little toe, you’ve fractured an area which has a poor blood supply. This makes the healing process uncertain. The nonsurgical approach involves absolutely no weight bearing for two to three months in a cast, using crutches and a bone stimulator. However, even with this strict regimen, you could end up with a nonunion. Surgery is the surest way to fix this problem. Most orthopedists prefer to operate right away, placing a screw down the shaft of the fifth metatarsal, which greatly increases the chance of healing. The other advantages of surgery are that you can walk in a cast or boot during the healing process and you’ll never injure your foot in the same location again. To ease the emotional stress associated with recovery, stay close to sources of support, such as your circle of family and friends, and try doing physical therapy with other injured dancers. Pursuing another interest can also make the time pass more easily.


As a teenager I thought getting a colorful bracelet tattooed on my ankle was cool. Now that I’m in my late 20s, it’s become an embarrassment. I hide it with thick makeup whenever I perform in bare feet, but I can’t understand how I could have been dumb enough to put something permanent on my body. What’s the quickest way to get rid of this thing? —Nicole, Newark, NJ

Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix for removing tattoos. But you don’t need to be so hard on yourself. People of all ages tend to believe they will feel the same way about their current choices 10 years later, mistakenly assuming that their likes and dislikes are fixed. This presumption, known as the “end-of-history illusion,” ignores the fact that we continue to grow and develop over time, even though we know we’ve matured from our past selves when we look back. Getting a tattoo that no longer matches your current taste as a performer is a perfect example of this psychological illusion. In terms of tattoo removal, the newer Q-switched lasers are widely considered to be the gold standard for all skin types (depending on the wavelength). Over a series of treatments, they shatter the ink pigments into smaller particles which your body slowly removes, thereby lightening the tattoo. The major contraindication for lasers is if your immune system is compromised. Be aware that it takes roughly 14 days for the initial crust to fall off after a laser treatment and seven to eight weeks to heal. If you rush the process, you increase the potential for scarring. Obviously, it’s best to schedule your appointments off-season. You may also need different lasers, alone or in combination, to remove resistant colors such as green, yellow, and white. Please ask about any possible complications with your doctor, as no treatment is ever one hundred percent risk-free.


Send Your Questions To:

Dr. Linda Hamilton

2000 Broadway, PH2C

New York, NY 10023

e-mail: [email protected]