As an adult, I’ve never really one for Black History Month. For one, identifying with only one month being the time to celebrate the history of people who look like me in North America always felt off. This is still history, and should be celebrated all the time, incorporated into mainstream education all year round… but I digress…
I’m trying to find my balance with honoring Black History Month and taking this time to HIGHLIGHT Black excellence, because, like I said, my heritage is something I am proud of. I live and celebrate my uniqueness and culture every month of the year, in my own way. So today, I am taking the time to share with you 3 lines of thinking that I believe deserve some highlighting this February to help inspire you to learn more about celebrating Black in dance and holistic health:
1- Dancers come in all shapes, sizes and colours. All over my social media feed, I’m starting to see more of this and I am in LOVE. Now, I grew up in ballet, so that is still the predominate style on my feed. It is beautiful to see the strides that dancers such as Alvin Ailey, Michaela DePrince and Misty Copeland have been able to accomplish in the last decade alone. It has truly been an inspiration for young artists to pursue their dreams and know that there is a space for them in this world. A new step in the right direction now is to make sure they feel properly supported by their health teams to ensure they can keep going.
2- There is still a history of under-reporting injury in dance, and it only compounded with the misrepresentation of healthcare for Black people. As many as 90% of dancers will sustain an injury throughout their career, whether it is from chronic overuse or a traumatic incident. Within a year, one study showed that 42% of teenaged dancers sustained at least one injury. This was across a variety of dance genres (including ballet, hip hop, ballroom and Irish dancing) and probably underestimated because the majority of that goes unreported. Combine these facts with the landscape of our healthcare system underestimating the pain of Black patients AND the difficulty Black dancers have to make it in the industry… there needs to be a change. You always here “representation matters” and it really does. Making sure that Black dancers and athletes have a safe space to talk about their health and someone who understands both their experience and their goals is key to making sure they have good healthcare.
3- Vitamin D is a very basic and yet under appreciated nutrient that can make a significant difference in your overall health. This is a vitamin (and hormone!) that has been linked to improving your mood, stamina, bone strength and ability to recover from an injury – all very important to the average dancer. You might be asking, though, how is this related to Black in Dance? Well, did you know that darker skin tones tend to have lower levels of vitamin D in their system compared to lighter skin tones? That’s because it needs UV light (sunlight) to get activated and usable in the body. Although our dark skin is great for protecting us from burning in the sun, it also prevents us from absorbing enough light to get active amounts – that’s why supplementing is key.
I write this to share my own experience within the dance world and hopefully let other dancers understand they are not alone. If I had the knowledge that I know now when I was a young aspiring dancers, who knows how far I could have gone and how many injuries I wouldn’t have had… This is a perspective that isn’t shared as much. Coming into my own as a doctor for dancers and athletes, I want to make sure you know that, if you share this perspective and want to celebrate more Black in dance, you’ve got someone on your side.
Love and Wellness,