No dancer wants to be injured. The words "you can't dance for the next _____ weeks/months" are some of the most devastating and demoralizing to a dancer. But more and more these days, it looks like pain is part of the game. Very few dancers scrape by unscathed by the demands of the industry.
The first thing every injured dancer needs to know is that they have an injury. The second step is to admit it to yourself. Admit that you either need to modify steps, sit out for parts of class, or sit out entirely. Working through an injury that isn't just residual pain will make the injury worse. A dancer in my class recently was told she had a stress fracture in her tibia (shin bone) and not to do any releves, pirouettes, or jumps on that leg. She wasn't as careful as she should have been and ended up on crutches with a removable cast, unable to walk let alone dance, for 5 weeks. Your love for dance is not shown by how much you try to push through injuries. Your body is your instrument, and if you love what you do, you need to love and care for your body first.
The third thing is to know you're not alone. Probably 90% of dancers will have serious and temporarily (or permanently) disabling injuries, from small things, like twisted ankles and inflamed spinal disks to bigger injuries, like broken bones and torn tendons or ligaments. Like ABT soloist Sascha Radetsky wrote in his article in the latest issue of Dance Magazine, "an injury steals from the body and gives to the soul." What doesn't kill you will make you stronger. Don't lose your morale over not being able to dance. Take the time out as a unique opportunity to rest, rethink your situation, repattern muscles that have been working incorrectly, and to watch other dancers. I sometimes learn more from watching than I do from doing.
But obviously, as much as we love to show off our battle scars, no one really wishes to be in pain. The best way to prevent injury is to know your breaking points and catch bad habits early. If you have muscles that always tense after class, do not simply stretch every day after class. Ask a teacher why your muscles are gripping painfully - you may be doing something incorrectly that could lead to bigger problems. Don't overpronate your feet and ankles (an explanation) in ballet: this is a common mistake that can lead to ankle, foot, knee, hip, and back problems. If something hurts, stop and ask why. Don't keep doing the same movements and expect the pain to diminish - it won't. Respect your body as much as you respect your craft, or your craft will eventually wear you down.