Carbs & Leotards: The 5 Stages of Being a Sick Dancer

By Jackie Weber

The 5 Stages of Being a Sick Dancer


We’ve all been there. You wake up in bed; your nose is running, eyes puffy, and your body convincing you that you simply cannot go on. You’re sick. Sick as a dog. It happens, you know, it’s winter, there’s a bug going around. You knew it was only a matter of time before you caught it (even if you were diligent about popping those vitamins and chugging that Emergen-C). While there’s never a good time for anyone to be sick with something, if you’re a dancer then you know that an illness can seriously throw you off your game. Think about it, a dancer’s source of income, or if you’re a student like me, source of a good grade, is his or her body. And some crappy virus with no regard for rehearsals, shows, or 8 AM classes is literally attacking that body. Here are the five stages and a few thoughts that every dancer might experience while paying his or her dues during the dreaded flu season.



1. Denial

As dancers we’re used to an inherent amount of pain. Fendus are no joke, am I right? So when the initial aches and pains of an illness enter the body, we immediately chock it up to soreness from the adagio that had us hold our leg to the side for an extra thirty seconds. Losing your breath a little quicker? Well that’s just because we don’t usually repeat petit allegro 5 times and beat all of the jetes. Runny nose? Oh it’s just allergies, the pollen in the air, and the extra hairspray in the atmosphere. No big deal. I can sniffle every time I spot my head in a turn, doesn’t bother me. This thing will be dry and clear by tomorrow.

2. Anger

Ok so now you’ve officially come to terms with the fact that you are ill. And obviously you just want to punch a baby and throw your pointe shoes against the marley about a thousand times. Your classes are ten times more difficult. It feels as if you’ll need a crane to lift your legs, and the cold sweats you get after class do not help whatsoever. Face it, you’re dancing has gone back to your fifth grade “I’m really awesome, but not that awesome because I actually look ridiculous in this technique” days. All you want is to get through one combination without heaving or coughing up a lung. If you’re the dancer that’s actually kind to her body and watches class, you’re pretty much just planning your suicide at this point. Every dancer knows the ultimate kryptonite is sitting out and watching a class of his or her peers. Talk about torture.

3. Bargaining

So you’re sitting there watching everyone make corrections and improve their technique while you’re up there against the mirror with your box of tissues and crappy ass topknot without bobby pins in it. The thoughts running through your head are something like “Wow. Really should’ve slept last weekend.” Or “Damn it, I knew I shouldn’t have shared my kale smoothie with Sally. That girl is always sick.” This is your fault. This illness is all due to your crappy decisions and complete lack of respect for your body. You must now deal with the consequences of your terrible and unforgivable actions. Sit, watch and loathe your life as your peers do four pirouettes and balance for ten minutes right in front of you. You deserve it, you filthy animal.

4. Depression

So by now all this self loathing has gotten to you and you’re officially Johnny Raincloud in the corner. All you want is to curl up in a blanket and dream of the days when your muscles knew how to flex and your eyes weren’t swollen like cheese puffs. Every leg extension reminds you of what used to be, what is no more. You’re a soft sack of sadness and not even the promise of a stretch class next week will cheer you up. Your meds “aren’t working.” And your nose, which you swore would be dry by last week, is still flowing like the Nile. I thought this was supposed to be one of those 48-hour bugs!

5. Acceptance

Your depression lingers still but you know what you have now? A clear view of exactly what you are. A sick dancer. You’ve accepted it. The only way to get better is to rest and drink lots of fluids. So you do this. You go home, you veg out on the couch and you drink your eighth bowl of soup this week. It’s a good thing there’s a Law & Order: SVU marathon on. Elliot Stabler always knows how to put you in a good mood. After about 5 episodes you start to realize this is the first time you’ve done “nothing” in quite a while, and big shock here: you kind of love it.

A word to all of my dancer friends, if you’re sick, you’re sick. Accept it sooner than you want to. The faster you do the faster you’ll get better (and be back in that class killing those fouettes and busting out those lateral T’s.) 

P.S. Here’s a great recipe for a small snack to eat when you have to take medicine that requires you to have something in your stomach (even though the last thing you want to do is swallow something solid).

The Mcgrew Sick Bread

  • bread
  • honey
  • cinnamon

Toast your dang bread, drizzle your dang honey on your dang bread, and sprinkle your dang cinnamon on your dang honey drizzled toast. 

Now in the words of Ms. Trunchable, from the ever popular movie “Matilda”...