Monday, 17 December 2012

Time off?

It's the time of year when everyone gets sick, pretty much without exception. As I type this laryngitis currently has me sounding like a chipmunk with a 20 a day habit. It's also one of the busiest times of year for performers; Christmas shows and New Year Galas mean you're going to have to get off your ass and into the theatre whether you feel like up to it or not.

You know the famous story of Gene Kelly recording Singin' In The Rain with a fever of 103? Well that's pretty much taken away any excuse for dancers to take time off due to sickness. Thanks Gene.

Dancers are pretty terrible about taking time off anyway, which most of the time is a good thing. Passion and perseverance create good artists. I never understand people in any line of work who are always willing to jump on the first excuse to take a break. For performers - whether dancers, musicians, or actors - there's always reluctance to take time off; either due to practicalities of leaving a hole in the cast, not wanting to let others down, fear of missed opportunities or just really really not wanting to not perform for a night. I've rarely known anyone to take a night off without at least a sense of resentment.

One thing people always seem to forget, and this is specific to dancers and physical performers, is if you're sick and performing you're more likely to make mistakes, and mistakes mean you're more likely to injure yourself - or someone else. Going into work feeling a little off is one thing, but if you're burning up and light-headed how much control do you have over your body? If you feel the room is spinning I wouldn't trust you to lift me. I know friends that have refused to take a night off so have just settled for throwing up side-stage and getting on with it. Good on them. It's your job, so you do it. Just be sensible about your limits. You're still human, as much as you might plead otherwise, so if you're really sick, just give your body a break. If you're taking a personal risk, or causing one to someone else, it can cost you more than one night. Take a challenging lift out for the night, be willing to adapt your part, speak to the directors about anything that's going to be problematic. Whether you take time off or go on to perform, you're better missing a night than missing a full season with a broken ankle.

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