My Dance Story

jana meerman ballet

Three years ago, the day before my 16th birthday, I attended a Ballet Cuba master class downtown Vancouver. I had tickets to watch them perform Don Quixote two days later. It was probably the most intense and incredible master class I had ever had the chance to attend. It was everything I ever wanted a ballet class to be - exciting, fast-paced, and challenging.

Near the end of the class, we had an across-the-floor jump combination filled with large and complicated steps. As I went in for a grand jeté using every ounce of power I could find in my legs, I felt my lower back wince on the right side. I thought nothing of it, because injury and pain were as common as breathing and blinking in the world of dance.

In the week after that class, I found myself in more and more pain and consistently unable to complete moves that I normally found easy. I ended up sitting down for more of my regular classes than I was participating in.

So I went to physio and for an x-ray and for a CT scan and then back to physio and to a sports med specialist and to my GP and then to chiro and to acupuncture and some weird place where they put suction cups all over my back. By this time I had missed far too much dance and it was April.

In frustration, I went back to physio who suggested one last option. I was sent to get nuclear radiology involving an injection to 'light up' my insides. And after everything - including many people telling me it was 'just a muscle spasm' - we found hairline fractures in two of my lower vertebrae. My L4 and L5 in my lumbar spine, some of the body's most fragile bones, were broken.

My life was thrown into chaos. I had been dancing since before I have coherent memories. I was dancing up to thirty-five hours a week in every range of style my studio offered. I had recently performed as the lead in Coppelia and had numerous awards, scholarships, summer schools and accolades under my belt.

But suddenly, I was injured.

Determined to get back into it, I spent three mornings a week at physio, continued to try and dance as much as possible, spent all summer in the gym (after having to turn down a place at the San Francisco Ballet Summer School) and tried to get my body sorted. By the end of August, I was able to take a full class and even performed in the end-of-summer performance at my studio. The school year started - my freshman year at university - and I was back in classes and rehearsals for the Nutcracker.

Not even a month had passed since I had started dancing again, when I was going over steps for the Dance of the Snowflakes. I turned a corner to begin a turn, when I crunched over my left ankle. I collapsed to the floor, weak with pain.

The following day I went in for x-rays. A chipped bone, a torn ligament and a dislocated ankle put me into an air-cast for six weeks with the first two on crutches. Somehow and for some reason, dance was not working anymore.

I threw myself heavily into the university life and dance became a complicated thing too delicate to be faced. I tried taking classes at the beginning of December but that was a week before the winter break meaning that I had only managed a week of classes in three months. By the time January rolled around, I had been on and off for almost a year and I just didn't love it.

So I quit.

I put thirteen years of blood, sweat and tears behind me. I gave it away because staying hurt a hell of a lot more than leaving. I regret it. If I could change the past, I would do so in an instant.

Find your passion. Life needs something to fuel it, and you need something worth waking up for. Whatever it may be.

Believe in yourself. I'll never know if I could have made it had I believed in myself enough to keep going following setback after setback.

Don't give up on your dreams. My dream was to dance in San Francisco or Paris and now I'm going into my fourth year of university without a damn clue as to what I want in life. If you want something, go after it and don't let anyone stop you.

But above all, love yourself. No matter how much you've let yourself down or how much you think you've let everyone else down.


1 Comment

  1. Lot
    May 12, 2015 / 1:22 am

    Your article made me get goose bumbs. What an inpiring article to share with the world.
    I think you really love to explore the world, so please wake up every morning making plans to see another beautiful place, and find yourself another passion! I would really really really like to hug you right now! Much love, Lot

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