It Wasnít Just A Twisted Ankle
Written by Tan Zijin
Recently I received a call from a friend, "Hi, Zijin, do you still attend the Saturday class? What time is it again?" I felt a surge of laughter bubbling in me, waiting to explode, but I still managed to reply in my normal tone. "I havenít attend any ballet classes for ages, didnít you know what happened to me?" "Yes, I heard that you sprained your ankle." Unable to contain myself, I burst out laughing.
How I wished it was only a sprained ankle. But it wasnít. It was every dancerís nightmare. Never in my 13 blissful years of ballet have I come across any major injuries. I have always been cautious; I never risk any chances. Warm-ups before classes are essential, any dancers knew that. I would faithfully go through a series of plies, fondus, rises, and etceteras before class starts.
I still remember that unfortunate evening. 18 November 1998. It was a Wednesday, nothing special, just like any other day. I did my usual routine of warm-ups, which lead into the familiar Advanced plie music. Everything went well until we started Grand Allegro. There was one thing unusual about that day, everybody was in a "talking" mood. We stopped for what seemed like 15 minutes to talk about life and dancing, didnít realise time had flew by. When someone bothered to look at the clock, it was already 3 minutes to ĎReveranceí. The teacher thought she could just chip in one last Allegro exercise. I had already cooled down after that long rest, but I didnít give a damn, after all class would end soon, there was no time to warm-up anymore. Needless did I know, my one little misjudgement is going to change my life forever.
My mind began to project images of that historic moment in slow motion. I was preparing to leap, and when both my feet left the Harlequin floor, I heard a sickening snap. It was as if someone had suddenly decided to release an overly stretched giant elastic band. I couldnít feel my left leg at all, my brains were rushing emergency impulse to my left leg, but it just wasnít responding. Unable to support my landing, I collapsed to the ground. I lay sprawled on the floor. Motionless. The next thing I knew, my agonising screams filled the studio. The pain was excruciating. It was my knee. I couldnít move it at all. Everybody rushed to my aid. One of them placed a bag of ice over my left knee. I was still recovering from the terrible shock. My dad was beside me, horror and shock were written all over his face. He must have heard my earth-shattering screams. The ice numbed my knee temporarily. With help, I struggled to my feet, and hovered towards the exit. Putting on a brave face, I limped out of the studio, wondering when will I ever step in again.
I discovered that about one third of my left kneeís ligaments were severely torn. It was devastating news. With a tight bandage around my injured knee, and my inability to bend it, I have to make several adjustments to my daily routine. The whole process was painful both for my family members and me. Imagine having to do everything with a straight leg. Walking up a flight of staircase was one of the hardest tasks, and at that time I really wished I were living in a single storey house. Going to the washroom was extremely challenging. I think Iíd rather not elaborate on the details.
Faraway I heard a voice echoing. "Zijin, are you still there?" I quickly gathered my thoughts. "Yes, Iím here. Actually it wasnít just a sprained ankle, itís my knee, I tore my ligament. Donít worry. Iím much better now."
It has been three months now. My knee has recovered, though not 100%, but deep down inside I know things never be the same again. I am grateful that I can walk again, I shouldnít complain. It will still be a while before I overcome the recently developed phobia for knee injuries. I do not want to walk through that terrifying nightmare again. I have a deep passion for ballet, but now that feeling has somehow been taken over by fear. Every muscle connecting each limb to perfect the whole system in our bodies are our assets. As dancers we should take every precautions necessary to protect ourselves from any unwanted injuries be it a blister or a sprained ankle. So to all you dancers out there who are still alive and kicking, I have only one message, cherish the fact that you can still soar high above and defy Newtonís laws of gravity.