– Rachel Cossar, Boston

Ever since I was a child, I have been a mover. Whether it was through Rhythmic gymnastics or ballet, I always had a physical outlet through which I could express myself.

Following my career as a member of the Canadian Rhythmic gymnastics team, I moved to Boston to join the Boston Ballet as a professional ballet dancer. That was almost a decade ago.

Today marks a very important accomplishment for me. After a year and a half of being injured, unable to dance and with the future prospects of continuing my career as a dancer significantly threatened, I have successfully completed a full season with the ballet, injury-free.

After a year and a half of being injured […] I have successfully completed a full season with the ballet, injury-free.

About two years ago, with a career that was rich with opportunity and promise, my left ankle began acting up in a way I could eventually no longer ignore and power through. In an atmosphere of intense competition and excessively high level of physical exertion on a daily basis, taking a break is never viewed positively by artistic staff. As a result, you end up pushing yourself through pain you should be listening to – I ended up at a point where surgery was my only option, and a scary one at that.

I had the surgery a year and a half ago and was ready to power through like a champ, this was not after all, the first ankle surgery I have had. The procedure itself went very well and the doctors were optimistic. However four months out, I was still in considerable pain. Once again I was pushing myself beyond what my body could handle, all to meet up with the expectations I dictated for myself based on the norms of the ballet world.

In December of that year, I hit a wall. I realized that the approach I had used with success in past years was not going to work for this. I realized I was in need of a complete overhaul of my perspective – that if I didn’t, not only would dancing no longer be a reality for me, but everyday life would be painful.

After a month spent traveling outside of Boston, I started to piece together a new plan of action, one wherein my body was the leader, not my mind.

It was this change in perspective that saved me. It took me much longer to get back into what I held as being an adequate level of comfort in my dancing. On many occasions I worried that perhaps my body was simply no longer up for it. If this were to be the case, I knew I had resolved to listen to it.

Through a combination of patience, positivity and honesty with myself, I keep on the road I was paving, shutting out the expectations of others.

Through a combination of patience, positivity and honesty with myself, I keep on the road I was paving, shutting out the expectations of others. Class by class, rehearsal by rehearsal I began to feel more like the dancer I was used to being, but in a new light. It was a light which contained a more holistic outlook, wherein ballet was not the end all with all.

These gradual steps, multiplied throughout an entire season, had me once again performing with confidence on the Boston Opera House stage, among my peers and importantly, for my friends and family. To have experienced such a close flirtation with the prospect of never dancing again, every moment on stage was a blessing. A moment cherished for the unique feeling of elation I have only experienced through dance.

I do not know what awaits me and my career as we head into our much needed summer repose. Many opportunities and many challenges, I don’t doubt. But regardless as to what ends up happening, nothing will change the fact that I climbed back from a place of darkness and despair, to the bright lights of the stage. Perhaps most of all, nothing can take away the new relationship I have fostered with myself; one of attention, humility and thankfulness.

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