Jenna Roberts on recovering from the injury that nearly stopped her dancing
From an interview originally published in 2010
'I didn't even jump, I just stepped forward onto the foot and felt something go,' says Birmingham Royal Ballet First Soloist Jenna Roberts, of the 2007 injury from which she has only recently recovered.
'It happened during the Stravinsky/Balanchine triple bill in early 2007. I've had a fracture before, and this felt just like it again. But afterwards, while it didn't get better, it also didn't get worse, so I wrongly thought that maybe I hadn't injured myself so badly. In the same programme we were doing Agon, and I love dancing that piece, so I ignored the pain and kept going.'
Completing the performances caused Jenna to mistakenly stop worrying about her foot. 'Once Agon was over, I thought, "well maybe as I got through that, I can get through the next piece". So I just kept going and going and going, one piece at a time. Before long 18 months had passed.' Even with the benefit of rest during the summer break, things had not improved, and Jenna found she could not ignore the injury any longer.
'I remember doing Raymonda Act III for the 2008 autumn season and thinking, "something's really wrong". I don't think I realised how bad it had got. It had been a fracture but because I had left it for so long it had become a great big hole in the top of my foot. It wasn't going to heal on its own, so I ended up having to have surgery.
'Even as I went into the operation the surgeon said to me that there was a real possibility that the operation wouldn't work, and that I wouldn't ever be able to dance again, and would have to find something else to do with my life.
'It was scary. I think the seriousness of the injury hadn't really hit me until that point, just before the operation. I had been in denial, believing it was all going to be okay. And thankfully, while the operation did work - they put two pins in my foot, took bone marrow from my hip and filled it in like putty - it was then followed by 12 months off, recovering and building up my strength with our Body Conditioning Instructor and the staff at the Jerwood Centre.
'And it was awful, it was hell. For the first couple of months I don't think I stopped crying. But thinking back to it now, it was a good thing, having that year off. You get used to not dancing, and you start finding other things to do. You watch a lot of shows, and you read, and you learn a lot about your body and how to deal with things. I was lucky in that it happened when I was young and I was able to recover. I began to dance again over the course of our 2009-10 season, although it was only in the final two months that I began to feel entirely normal again.'