Martina Chavez Rehabilitates from Injury

Interview and photos by Brook Manning

Ballet dancers are not only artists, but also athletes whose agility, stamina and strength are tested on a daily basis. For OBT soloist Martina Chavez the risk of injury became a reality last fall. Two days before opening night, while in the middle of rehearsal for Napoli, she landed in plié and heard her knee pop. Now, with surgery and months of rehabilitation behind her, Martina shared some thoughts on the recovery process, shedding light on her dedication and determination.

Martina Chavez, recovering from injury

How did your injury happen and what exactly was the injury?

I was rehearsing the Tarantella from Napoli. The section I was dancing was very fast and as I planted my foot and turned to go in the opposite direction I felt my knee shift out of place. I tore my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and had an ACL reconstruction using a cadaver graft (donor tissue is taken post-mortem then transferred to the patient).

What has been your strategy for preventing injuries?

I usually try to roll out tight muscles (a self-massage technique that applies pressure with a rolling motion) on my own but if that isn’t enough I get physical therapy, massage or acupuncture on those areas of the body that are giving me problems.

Martina Chavez, recovering from injury

What is the process for a company member when they are injured?

You first report the injury to artistic staff then get assessed by a physical therapist. If there is significant damage you will be sent to get an MRI or an X-ray and to have the appropriate doctors diagnose the injury.

What is your typical day like in the company and how has your routine changed during this recovery period?

My daily routine has changed drastically. Now I use a heating pad in the morning to warm up my knee and get it loosened up because it’s very stiff when I first wake up. When I get to the studios I spend 15-30 minutes before class warming it up on the stationary bike and doing exercises on the Reformer (an exercise machine used in Pilates training). Once I’ve taken all that I can of class, I head back to the gym and continue with cardio and/or more strengthening exercises for my knee. After that, I head to whatever rehearsals I have that day. When I wasn’t injured I didn’t need to spend as much time warming up my body but now I need to get my knee functioning as best I can before I try to dance.

Martina Chavez, recovering from injury

What challenges you now? What major goals are you still working toward?

At the moment, everything is a challenge. I’m halfway through my recovery so there are still some movements I’m unable to do. I’ve come a long way from where I started but I still have a great deal of work to do. My main objective right now is to come back stronger than before. Once I do that, I can move on to loftier goals.

Is there any advice you have for other dancers who are going through the injury and recovery process?

Recovering from an injury is always difficult. You just have to stay positive and focused and most of all be patient with yourself. All of those things are much easier said than done, but you don’t have any other choice if you want to get back to dancing again.

What have been the positives of your experience since your injury occurred?

The positive side of this injury is that I have the time to focus on strengthening other areas of my body that have needed attention. I also have the opportunity to focus on my technique and to retrain my muscles to work in a more efficient way.

What would you have done professionally if you had never become a dancer?

My dream job as a child was to be a homicide detective…I’m not really interested in that line of work anymore though!

Martina Chavez in George Balanchine’s Agon. Photo by James McGrew.
Martina Chavez in George Balanchine’s Agon. Photo by James McGrew.

Which roles have you danced that have been your favorites and which roles would you still like to dance?

I love dancing in contemporary works that challenge me to reach the full limits of my range of motion and push the boundaries of how I use the space around me. I’ve always wanted to do In the Middle Somewhat Elevated (a ballet by William Forsythe and an OBT company premiere in the upcoming 2016-2017 season), and my goal is to come back stronger than I was before so I have a real chance at tackling that ballet.

During Martina’s recovery OBT’s administrative staff has benefited from her generous help with various projects. OBT audiences can look forward to seeing Martina return next season! Subscriptions for OBT’s 2016-2017 are on sale now. Find out more HERE.