Professor Beatrice Capote felt a kick in the back of her leg while dancing onstage at Alexander Kasser Theater this past February, not yet realizing she had suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon.
Capote, a professor of theater and dance and member of Camille A. Brown and Dancers dance company, was performing in the opening night premiere of “Ink” at her alma mater when she experienced the injury. Without any serious injuries prior to this, Capote was unsure of how to handle the situation. She was unaware of what had actually happened to her leg, so she kept dancing.
“I went from a mentality of thinking ‘What is happening?’ to ‘Can I keep going?’” Capote said. “Eventually, I realized that I couldn’t continue.”
Capote remained on stage as her level of pain grew. Instead of fully dancing her solo, she reverted to gestures. She continued to tell the story that her character was to portray. Her passion and commitment for the art form was evident.
After exiting the stage, her tears were inevitable. She was immediately rushed to the hospital where she was given her diagnosis. A simple kick amounted to something much greater. Her foot was unable to point or flex and her tendon was useless.
Capote underwent surgery to speed up her recovery. Physical therapy will begin soon, but it may be a year until she is able to fully dance again. Despite the obvious frustrations that can come along with a passionate dancer’s sudden inability to dance, Capote is taking this time to learn more about herself mentally, physically and spiritually.
“I’m learning to listen to my body more and more,” Capote said. “I’m working on appreciating it.”
Listening to the body is extremely important for all dancers, as many often overlook or disclaim any pain. The body is a dancer’s instrument and needs to be handled with care.
Sophomore dance major Taylor Wade has witnessed many performers improperly tending to their injuries.
“Dancers tend to ignore their injuries because they are scared of bad news that would limit opportunities to dance,” Wade said.
This is an ongoing issue for dancers everywhere. Although proper care can eliminate further and more serious injuries in the future, the performing artists only ever want to hear good news.
A larger problem that Capote now faces is dealing with this injury in the classroom. Capote teaches dance at Montclair State and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. She performs full out to allow her students to see how things should really look. However, she must set a different sort of example now.
“Now that I have to sit down to teach old-school I need to be more articulate with my words,” Capote said.
It may be a hassle, but Capote is taking this as an opportunity to learn, channeling the knowledge she is gaining in graduate school. Her current students, many of whom are dance majors at the university, are eager to have her back at the front of the classroom during her recovery period. She is an inspiration to them.
“I spoke with her about what she has gone through, how she has come out better and stronger and how she has been able to find herself,” said sophomore dance major Amanda Kowalski. “This was really amazing and inspiring to me as a dancer. ”
An injury is a setback for any dancer, but growing from such a trial is an admirable feat — one that Capote is clearly undertaking. She may have to put some of her artistic projects on hold, but she is certain that she will come away from this experience stronger.
“These things happen and if you need to let go or step away from things, that’s okay,” Capote said.