Darla Davies: Who Said I’d Never Dance Again?
Bianca: If you could tell us a little bit about your book. How did you decide to put your story into a written form and inspire others?
Darla: I was having great success as a top Pro-Am for the past several years and then I had a groin ache in my left leg that went down the whole leg. I was seeing chiropractors, doctors and all kinds of doctors to try and heal this. Nevertheless, it became quite apparent that I was headed towards a hip replacement surgery.
After I wasted time with the chiropractor doctor and the orthopedic doctor, a friend of mine got me a special referral to see this retired surgeon. He was a former chairman of the Orthopedic Section at a large hospital and a world-traveled researcher. He pretty much told me the same things as the other doctors: I should put off hip replacement surgery because at 50 years old I was considered too young (hip implants are supposed to last only 15 years).
So this wise expert offered me no sympathy nor solutions. I told him I was anxious to get back to ballroom dancing competitions and he told me that I would not be able to dance again after the hip replacement surgery.
Bianca: We can come back to “doctor Wise” a bit later on. What I would like to know about a bit more is how you started dancing and how did you fall in love with it?
Darla: For many years I have been a competitive equestrian and I was jumping horses. I had no interest in anything else. I did play a bit of tennis and golf. There were some events with ballroom dancing on TV but I just wasn’t interested.
When I was around 40 years old I was sort of getting burnt on the whole equestrian scene. One day I turned on the TV and I think it was the World Latin Championship. I was completely mesmerized.
I was really attracted to the body movement to the music and how the body interprets the music. Of course, when you’re a beginner you just learn the steps and the timing. It was a long evolution from a beginner to an advanced dancer.
Bianca: And how did the partnership with your now-husband Jim Maranto start?
Darla: I first met Jim at a dance camp. I was a beginner, just taking some classes. He was a really good teacher and a two-times Professional American Smooth champion. About a year later, I was taking lessons at this little studio in Charlottesville, Virginia and they invited him to be a guest instructor because we had some of his teaching videotapes. I took a couple of lessons with him and we just fell in love and started dancing together. He basically taught me everything I know about dancing.
Bianca: Moving the discussion towards the medical aspects, what advice would you have for people who might think they have a hip problem?
Darla: Too many doctors and medical professionals don’t really understand the classic symptoms of a hip problem, like the chiropractor who told me “Oh it’s definitely not your hip”.
I want doctors to be honest with patients and not mislead them to believe that drugs, physical therapy or steroid injection are going to magically fix the severely deteriorated hip joint. Sometimes the only solution is surgery and the only magic that’s gonna fix the problem is the scalpel in the hand of a skilled surgeon.
I really want patients to know that they don’t have to suffer from chronic pain for many months or years. If you have severe groin pain go get an X-ray. Then, find a doctor who’s experienced and has the knowledge and confidence to tell you what is possible after the surgery.
Bianca: Ballroom & Latin is such a different sport and someone who does not know much about it might not take it seriously. Do dancers need a special type of doctor that has more knowledge about this sport?
Darla: I definitely think one who is intuned with athletes and sports medicine would be more informed, but this “doctor Wise” that I went to has been all around the world doing research on hip replacement. I would’ve thought he would’ve been the foremost and utmost authority on the subject, but he was clueless.
Then, when I went to my surgeon in Arizona he said: “Yeah, your X-ray is terrible and you have to get a hip replacement, but I’ll have you dancing again in no time”. He knew what is possible and the other one had no clue.
By choosing the right doctor I became a US Champion 1 year and 10 months after my surgery.
Bianca: How can we deal with depression when your body does not work in your favor anymore?
Darla: You have to make a plan and stay positive. I studied sports psychology quite a lot and I’ve learned that you can use your mind to overcome negative thoughts. This is exactly what I did during my recovery from surgery.
You have thoughts coming into your head like: “Oh my gosh, look at me now. How am I ever going to get back to dancing like I was before? I had surgery, I can hardly walk”.
I always had little goals – baby steps to move forward each day like little exercises in my hospital bed. I’d look forward to seeing what I can do next and I’d refuse myself to look back.
Bianca: What story inspired you the most in your recovery period?
Darla: Oh, I was looking up all the athletes who’d had hip replacements and got through it or dancers who‘d had things happened to them but made it back to the dance floor.
I was particularly impressed with an ice skater, Rudy Galindo, who had won a national title before he had two hip replacements. He went back to perform, doing his double jumps in shows.
I thought that this is so impressive! If this guy can get two hip replacements and then go back and skate on the ice, jump in the air and land on that skinny little blade, then I can certainly get a hip replacement and dance on a wood floor.
Bianca: My favorite part of the book was when you talk about the moment you returned to watch the Ohio Star Ball after your surgery and you realized that your weakness can make you stronger. What can a dancer who has never been injured learn from this episode?
Darla: You just always have to turn a negative to a positive. People might think: “Oh my God, she just had a hip replacement, she must’ve lost her strength. She’ll go out there with a titanium hip against all those strong ladies”.
But I thought just the opposite: ‘I got this strong new hip that is made of titanium, I’m like a bionic woman!”.
I've started dancing when I was 9 years old and it has been a part of me ever since. I love to surround myself with everything dancesport related. Now I get to experience the world of dancing through a writer's lens.