Dancing With Painkillers

Tue 5th May 2015, 09:24

Emma O'Kane
©Healy Racing Photos
BLOG POST 11. April 2015. The first day of rehearsals for Jockey has finally come! I have been gearing up to this day for months, literally. I've had a big obstacle to get through with recovering from a back injury. The past four months for me has been a slow and arduous recuperation. Every day I have been diligently doing my core rehab exercises that Liz Kent set out for me back in January coupled with a gradual progression to a more advanced program from my physiotherapist in Dublin, once I was ready for it. Aside from that I have been doing a lot of general fitness, stretching and strengthening as long as it didn't hurt my back. It has been a case of one step forward, two steps back, but you have just got to keep at it, rest if your body is telling you to and start a fresh when you can.

My fitness regime involved a lot of floor-work. It hasn't been easy but a positive outlook is vital and I've tried to remain optimistic throughout. You can't be getting fit on a new job/production; you need to be fit going into it if you are to be dancing eight hours a day, 5/6 days a week, which is a normal dancing week for a professional dancer. I have never taken so many painkillers in my career but I really needed them. In general I never would, it is not a good practice to be dancing with painkillers, it's a false reality.

Thankfully, those days of recuperation are behind me, and I now begin to manage my injury so it doesn't reoccur. There has been some light at the end of the tunnel, Helen O' Sullivan (once again, the great saviour and connector of jockeys and the racing industry) has organised lessons for me on a simulator with Warren O' Connor, ex-jockey and Classic winner who is training to be a Jockey's Coach. When I first rang Warren in January to cancel my first lesson because of the injury, he sympathised and really understood. It was good to talk to someone who knows. Proof, yet again of the similarities in both careers. As soon as my physio gave me the go ahead I was down at RACE for my first lesson with Warren. Lessons with Warren are for me are an important part of this research and a physical introduction into the world my Grandfather loved so well. I find riding short a lot easier than long. Warren is impressed with my riding style, I didn't even know I had one! It's clearly an attribute of my dance training. Warren is a natural coach, always encouraging, which is key to success in my opinion. He's a stickler for technique, which I completely respect. My dance training in Russia didn't allow for anything other than perfection. I can't believe how physically fit you have to be to ride in a race. Warren gives me exercises to do to build up strength in my hands, wrists, legs and arms. Which I do every day, I'm a good student and I love the challenge.

After my third lesson, I went with Sarah Jane, who is designing my costume for Jockey, to meet Kathleen Kennedy who makes the racing colours and silks for the entire industry. Sitting in Kathleen's office/workshop is a great behind the scenes view of another aspect of the racing industry. We chatted with Kathleen and mentioned a horse called Red Cardinal that my Grandfather Phillip sold to America in 1960. Without further ado she invites us to look through her copy of The Benson and Hedges Book of Racing Colours. There is great delight when we discover the colours of the silks of Sir Brian Mountain, who owned Red Cardinal. This has opened a whole new vista for us in the making of Jockey. In terms of storytelling a small find like this can have a huge wealth of meaning. The colours, claret and lilac are plain and beautiful.

So I'm entering into rehearsals with a renewed vigour for Jockey, a thrill about being fit enough to begin rehearsals and to continue my simulator lessons. I really feel like I'll be on that racehorse soon!

Book your tickets for Jockey at Carlow, Newbridge, Dublin and Bray! Special €10 group discount for Carlow on 15th and 16th May if you quote DANCE.

Next week: back to the Curragh, tic-tac, and more rehearsals!

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