How do you handle pain?

  • Claudia Moore / Photo by Tamara Romanchuk

We asked a handful of practitioners across the country how they deal with, work with and otherwise live with the pain that goes hand-in-hand with a career in dance.

I take hot baths and keep moving – slow and easy, like water. Stopping just makes it worse for me. If I need help, I go to mitzvah wizard Ann Tutt or an amazing physio at the Sports Medicine Specialists. I’m not into drugs. ~ Claudia Moore is a performer and the artistic director of MOonhORsE dance theatre, which hosts Older & Reckless #29 May16th through 18th, and she is part of the new collective Cloud 9 along with Karen Kaeja and Sylvie Bouchard. Their inaugural performance run takes place in Toronto from June 26th through 29th.

Joshua Beamish / Photo by David Cooper

I travel a lot so I’ve collected a handful of therapists – a physiotherapist in NYC, a registered massage therapist in Kelowna and a chiropractor in Vancouver. I see each of them every time I’m in their corresponding cities, resulting in a bicoastal buffet of pain treatments. ~ Joshua Beamish, artistic director of MOVE: the company, shared excerpts from Pierced and a new work at the National Incubator Artist-in-Residence presentation May 18th and 19th at the American Dance Institute in Rockville, Maryland.


Louise Lecavalier / Photo by Ursula Kaufmann




As dancers we have the opportunity to learn to cope with pain in the best way. Every day we increase our knowledge of the possibilities of the body and mind – we learn to live more intelligently with the inevitable failures of the body and discover and test new solutions. ~ Louise Lecavalier will be at Festival TransAmériques in Montréal June 6th and 7th with her new work So Blue.


Simon Renaud / Photo by Omer Yukseker


I often ask a friend to massage the painful zone with Traumeel or Voltaren. If it’s still bad in the evening, I take a hot bath with sea salts. ~ Simon Renaud presented his new work Les Reines Orphelines in a split bill with Kate Nankervis, May 16th through 18th at The Citadel in Toronto.


Tony Ingram / Photo by Becki Peckham

I understand pain and what it means when I feel it. If I could recommend anything to other dancers, it’s to learn the basics of how pain works. Don’t fear pain – stand in its face and overcome it. ~ Tony Ingram, dancer and registered physical therapist, is currently writing his Masters thesis on chronic knee pain at Memorial University in Newfoundland.


Allara Gooliaff / Photo by Susanna Gordon

I do not handle acute pain very well and have never performed with an injury or chronic pain like so many of my brave colleagues. If I get injured, I rest and seek treatment. It’s a fairly simple strategy because I plan to dance and create interesting movement for a very long time. ~ Allara Gooliaf is artistic director of Three Left Feet in Calgary and will be dancing in Tziporah Productions’ the space between us June 19th through 22nd at Dancemakers Centre for Creation in Toronto.



Myriam Allard / Photo by Lydia Pawelak



I handle pain by breathing and by trying to not let the pain take over my body and mind, to allow the movement to keep flowing as much as possible. ~ Myriam Allard is a flamenco performer and choreographer with La Otra Orilla in Montréal.



Jennifer Morse / Photo by Gary Ray Rush

The most effective way to deal with my low back pain is staying consistent with my back exercises and my training. In addition, I go to Tokyo Shiatsu Clinic every two weeks for shiatsu and acupuncture treatment. ~ Jennifer Morse, co-director of Tsingory Dance and Music of Madagascar, is dancing a new work by Random Dance’s Alexander Whitley as well as McAskill Crescent by Deborah Lundmark in Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre’s Vector[s] show May 24th and 25th at Harbourfront’s Fleck Dance Theatre in Toronto.

Sergiy Diyanov / Photo courtesy of Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada

I rarely get an extreme pain but, if I do, I take anti-inflammatory medicine internally, Japanese ointment externally and avoid taking hot showers - cooler body temperature lowers the inflammation. Lately, I apply ice before going to bed for ten minutes. ~ Sergiy Diyanov, senior dancer with Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada, performed with the company in Intense 3 at the Fredericton Playhouse on May 11th and Ghosts of Violence at the Capitol Theatre in Moncton, NB on May 13th.


Self-portait by Freya Björg Olafson


Maintaining an active lifestyle has been crucial to pain management. I find a range of motion that does not aggravate and helps establish my ability to move comfortably without fear. Finding good providers and working with people who know my body over a career has also been fundamental. ~ Freya Björg Olafson will perform an excerpt from her work HYPER on June 1st at Winnipeg’s School of Contemporary Dancers 40th Anniversary Gala Celebrations.



Related reading >> The Mind is a Medicine: Healthy Perspectives on Pain by Lucy M. May in the May/June 2013 issue


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