The Ballet Dancer’s Toe

Thirty‐three, thirty‐four, thirty‐five, thirty‐six… and she fell to the floor.

After thirty‐six fouettes, pain reached a new level, way beyond unbearable. Unbearable she could take any day of the week. To be a ballet dancer was never knowing absence of pain. This time it was different.

She would do whatever it took. Life wasn’t supposed to be like this. Finally she went to the doctor.

‘Couldn’t I just cut it out?’

The doctor looks at her with startled eyes. He seems to need some recovering before coming back to her.

‘You could. I wouldn’t do it though; I don’t think you would like the consequences.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘In fact, you would have to change your whole life to be without your big toe.

It is essential for your balance. Possibly you would no longer be able to continue to be a ballet dancer. Possibly another type of dancer, maybe. I dare to think you cannot do these ballet point shoes without it.

You could be the first in the world to do it, still a huge challenge.

Even walking won’t be the same.

Your identity will be changed, there will be a discovery will have to be made on “who am I without my toe?”’

She thinks furiously.

‘But why!? Why is it doing this to me? I just want to get on with my life!’ She exclaims.

‘I understand your frustration’ The doctor replies.

‘What I’ll ask you instead is what have you been doing to it, to make it so angry at you?’

‘Just dancing!’

‘Just dancing… Really?’

‘Well, the nail fell a few times. But it grew back every time.’

‘How many times, specifically?’

‘Four .’

‘Four. You lost your toe’s nail four times and didn’t think your toe needed some attention, some better care?’

‘No, it’s how toes are.’

‘No, they are not!’

‘I mean, ballet dancers’ toes are.’

‘Are they? All your ballet friends are at the doctor, right now, considering chopping their toes off?’

‘No. Just some of them… some stop dancing too because of the pain and the points.’

‘Ok. So what do the others do differently?’

‘They have such ridiculous patience! They bind their toes in bandages before each class, toe by toe. Then they clean them after each class and re‐do the process. It takes a long time.’

‘Hummm’ is his only comment. She continues:

‘And they’ve bought gel protectors to put inside the shoes, my teacher said it is for the weak, not for real dancers.’

‘Do you think that protecting yourself and your health is a weakness? That your teacher is thinking straight here?’

‘I’m strong! And I don’t have time for this ridiculous caring of small toes!’

‘Or patience?’

‘Or patience. I have more to do.’

‘When you don’t have time for your body, your body obligates you to create it. Your toe has been showing you something is not right. That it needs better care, that something has to change. Right now, it doesn’t feel safe. It feels like you will chop it off at the first chance you’ve got. So it is giving you pain. It is on defensive mode fighting for its own existence.’

‘What do I do?’

‘When you got here you told me you are willing to do whatever it took.’


‘Would you, even, be willing to let it go, the idea of cutting the toe off?’

‘Maybe, yes.’

‘Then, I won’t cut it off. I won’t do it because it would be irresponsible of me.

It would be the quickest and apparent easiest solution.

But the consequences could be life shattering. So I ask again: whatever it takes?’

‘Yes.’ She agrees, But she pouts.

‘You will have to be good to yourself. Not only to your toe. Stop the punishment. No dancing for a month, at the very list.’

‘A MONTH???! NO WAY! I have a performance and…’

He cuts her off. ‘A month. Yes. That is what it takes. Forfeit the performance. Then do everything differently. Eat carbs. Do yoga – with no shoes. Meditate. Build patience in every way you can. Challenge yourself in the areas you don’t do it as a dancer: being calm, being happy. Eat something for goodness sake! And then, take care of your toe, every day,

Four times a day. Change the bandages and clean it thoroughly as I’ll show you in a minute.

Soak it every time in hot water, “feed it” the right medicine I’m prescribing.

Also you will have to wake up every night, put an alarm for midnight, and repeat the process.’

‘Waking up? You are kidding me aren’t you?’

‘No, I’m not kidding. This is what it takes, and by the way, this is real sacrifice, pain for the greater good, not inflicting yourself unbearable pain over and over again purposelessly.’

She rests silently. The doctor continues…

‘The nail will fall again and, if you do it right, will regenerate once more. There will be pain, but the pain will diminish every day. By the end of the month you can go slowly back to dancing.’

‘Yey!’ She exclaims in a very small voice with false excitement.

‘I feel I have to tell you one more thing.’


‘You may find out you don’t want to continue being what you were until now.’

‘That is what scares me the most…’

‘I know Sweetie, I know…’

22 Orble Votes

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