Coming Back Stronger

Coming Back Stronger – by Emily Gunter

One of the things I’ve always feared most as a dancer is injury. Our bodies are our instruments, our tools, our livelihoods. The human spine is essential to modern dance and has an incredibly mobile architecture allowing us to bend, twist, lift, lean, curve, arch, and rotate. It’s incredible, until it’s not. I had reached an extreme level of pain which landed me in surgery last fall. I am now ten months post-op from the surgery on my lumbar spine for a severely herniated disc.

The initial weeks of my recovery from surgery and the months that followed were indescribably hard for both my body and mind. It felt incredibly isolating. I couldn’t bend, twist, or lift for six weeks and consequently lost all of my muscular strength and flexibility. My glutes, quads, and calves that had been trained for over a decade for a modern dancer’s work were gone and I felt weak.

I have been working with a wonderful physical therapist for close to a year now. She was a dancer herself and has incredible insight for training and strengthening the muscle groups dancers need for their work. Most of my exercises focus on strengthening the glutes, hamstrings, adductors, ankles, and lats to increase stability, mobility, and flexibility of the joints and muscles supporting my spine. I feel like I’ve built a brand new body with her guidance!

I continue to practice my exercises, listen to my body, and lean on my support system with each new day. I am not the same dancer I was before my surgery. I am stronger. I am smarter. I am more confident. And most importantly, I am no longer in pain. It has taken a great deal of time, space, and support to conquer the physical and mental hurdles of my injury, but I’ve finally come to a newfound sense of confidence in my body that is making me excited to create new work and perform again. I am eager for this new season, my third season with the company, though it sort of feels like a second take at my “first” season in a way and I’m determined for it to be a great one.