Ballet dancers glide elegantly and effortlessly across the stage, balancing all of their weight on the tips of their toes; Irish dancers pound powerful rhythms into floor and leap high into the air; breakdancers spin on their heads and slide on shoulders without a passing flinch. There is a pause when watching dancers perform and thinking, that has to hurt. While it is part of the professional dancer criteria to continue through pain— from the minor irks to unbelievable damage— dancers rarely come clean about just what it takes to make it, and fake it through the pain.
During her audition for the English National Ballet, Jennie Harrington remembered hearing a crack. She continued through her piece, and after all but losing it in the dressing room with other ballerinas, she was given a bit of advice: “Keep smiling – it lifts you up. Otherwise you cry.”
The dance world is an unforgiving one. Time away from the floor renders a much more difficult comeback in such a physical act, as opposed to singing. Doctors are the first ones to say that dancers should take a break and let the injuries heal. Dancers know that some light chastisement is coming and typically stay away from seeking medical advice altogether: “I’ve never seen a podiatrist,” admits Begoña Cao, who is 26. “I’m too scared. And too embarrassed.” This is the unseen world of dancers.
Side note***: Save yourself some trouble and do NOT google “dancers’ feet.”