Jurgita Dronina: Road to Recovery
March 24, 2020
This March, Principal Dancer Jurgita Dronina was set to return to the stage to make her debut as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet following an injury that kept her from performing for a year. Unfortunately that was not possible because of cancellations due to the COVID-19 outbreak. In this interview, the acclaimed dancer shares how she managed the journey to recovery. Jurgita, and all the National Ballet dancers, look forward to dancing for you again when it is safe to do so.
Tell us about your injury and road to recovery.
The challenge with my injury was that it wasn’t acute or the result of an accident. I gradually developed an atrophied calf, which got so bad that I could barely stand. Neither MRIs nor other scans could determine the cause or diagnose the problem – all the results were clear, so I had to have exploratory surgery. My vascular surgeon almost laughed when he discovered what was wrong – my popliteal artery had slipped and was too tight to the bone, so it had to be released and placed accordingly. All the symptoms finally made sense – when I was standing on pointe, my compressed artery was cutting off blood flow to my calf. It was definitely a complicated case but a rather easy fix and surgery lasted less that an hour. Despite the simplicity of the surgery, it was frustrating to lose a lot of time. I'm grateful to have been surrounded by just a dedicated and supportive team who took the time to solve the puzzle of my injury and brought me back to be performance ready. After my stitches were removed, I was able to put on pointe shoes the very same day – I was so happy! I did barre and some pirouettes on pointe and after I remember standing in the middle of the room and crying. That's a moment I will never forget; I could not believe what a year it had been. I never thought that I wouldn’t be back and I feel stronger now than I ever was.
What did your year away from ballet teach you?
I would be lying if I said it was easy while I was off. It was horrific – the waiting time, the doubting time. I kept myself busy, but it was difficult to put ballet aside and dig into self-education and self-discovery. I took a leadership and management course through Harvard Business School and I started a business management course at London Open University. I partnered with a young Lithuanian clothing brand called Bosaddo and started my own clothing line with the mandate to support and mentor the most gifted, but less fortunate, dance students globally through my foundation. And I read, a lot! I relished the chance to clear my head and think about my future ideas, second career and next steps – even though I’m not close to retiring. This was my first time off due to injury and I thought the comeback to dance would feel more alien. Physically, I feel stronger and, interestingly, having to step back gave me the opportunity to get rid of old habits that I never had time to fix. As devastating as it was to lose a year, during that time I experienced incredible personal growth and I feel like I’m a completely different person in the studio and in life.
Jurgita has been keeping busy and staying in shape at home by taking class each day in her basement. She has also been teaching class virtually, both on her Instagram as well as on the National Ballet's Instagram feed. You can take Jurgita's class on IGTV below.
This article was originally published in Preview, our quarterly publication for our donors.