Support in the Dance World
We call the dance world a community, but are we always treating it as such? I feel as if within the dance world genuine and personable support has been lost a little bit, almost as if support has become materialistic. An example of this is when we only cheer for people when they get called out in a class or when they do a perfect leg, instead of cheering them on in those moments AND behind the scenes when they are struggling or maybe just not having the best turn day or something like that. It seems to me that the unity that dance was made to bring to people has been lost because of the idea of “perfection”. Within competition dance especially. Which, granted, it’s COMPETITION dance. So it’s going to be hard and really competitive. But even then we can still be personable and support each other through the embarrassingly bad days while pushing each other to become better in a positive way. This means we have to not only cheer for each other on the dance floor, but off the dance floor too. And especially during class. Dance class is all about making mistakes and becoming better. Not being perfect. And I feel like within the dance world that has really been lost and it’s created this toxic sense of competition in classes. The only time we should be competing against each other is on the stage, not in class. This means we should be doing everything in our power to make everyone in class comfortable so that they can put themselves out there, make mistakes, and become better. Instead of feeling judged and not worthy due to the expectation of perfection within the studio. We can do this by building friendships with our fellow dancers outside of the studio, talking to new dancers who come in and making them feel loved and welcomed, checking up on each other and helping each other out from sharing hair ties to comforting each other on really hard days. Materialistic and conditional support is fake and toxic and does nothing but hurt the atmosphere of a studio. This includes favoritism and superiority within teams/studios! It only hurts, it doesn’t help. We can be competitive creatures and still genuinely support every dancer NO MATTER their level and their bad days, onstage and off!
Let me start by saying that I feel like the true meaning of dance has been lost. Dance was first created to enhance culture/art and create unity among people. Not to compete for the highest leg or the front spot in a combo class. The idea of being the best and being perfect has consumed the dance world to the point where I feel like it’s become mentally draining for most. Dance is about creating stories and I feel like the expectation of technical perfection has overridden this a little bit. For dancers it almost feels as if because the expectation of perfection is so high we can’t enjoy dancing until we meet those expectations. Which then takes the fun and joy out of it. Almost like we can’t be appreciated as a dancer until we reach perfection or that certain leg. So my dancer friends, I want you to know that you can show up here on offstagetalk exactly as you are. Whether you aren’t very flexible, have biscuit feet, struggle with memorization, can’t get your leg above hip height in seconde position, whatever your struggle may be, you are welcome here exactly as you. Because dance is about enjoyment, storytelling, and self improvement, not perfection. You are loved exactly as you are in and out of the studio!
Let’s Talk Burnout
Burnout is so common within dance yet it is never talked about and it SUCKS. Burnout is the feeling of being emotionally (and maybe even physically) fatigued due to overwork or stress. Dancers will often find themselves wishing to quit or give up dance for good, not wanting to go to class, or just loosing all interest in dance as a whole. It can often times feel like being in a relationship with someone while slowly falling out of love with them but you’re trying so hard to reignite the spark but feel hopeless. This feeling SUCKS and can often times feel scary as well because us dancers dedicate our life to this one art/sport and then to have a feeling of wanting to quit? It’s terrifying and stressful. Burnout can last a short while or a long while, either way it’s not fun. If you are going through burnout you need to know that it’s okay to lack. If you’re struggling emotionally/mentally with dance that does NOT make you lazy, that makes you human and worthy of extra extra love during that time. What’s important during a burnout is to go easy on yourself while keeping up the work to reignite that spark. This work could be meeting up with friends and choreographing a peice for pure fun, trying out a new workout plan or class, or maybe even engaging in another hobby and getting your mind off of dance a little. Try things that remind you WHY you do dance and what made you love it in the first place. This work takes time too, so don’t feel stressed if it takes you a few months of miserably chugging along in dance class while doing the work to come back to your love for it. You need to remember that you started dancing for a reason and that you fell in love with it for a reason, and that reason is worth fighting for. Another thing to think about while doing this work is to look around you. Is there something that is external that’s damaging your relationship with dance or blinding you from seeing your love for dance? Are you unhappy at your studio? Having friend problems behind the scenes? Or maybe you’re stressed about school or family or work and that stress is spilling into dance. Whatever the external problem is, if there is one, you need to identify it and make a plan to fix it or make it better. To sum this all up, burnout is common and it’s not fun. However, you CAN get through it. Start the work to reignite the spark and go easy on yourself. Lacking in dance when you’re emotionally struggling does NOT make you lazy. Keep miserably chugging along and fighting for that reason. Love yourself extra through this fight, YOU CAN DO IT!
Okay dancers, let’s talk about body care. With all that we do it’s SO important to consistently take care of our body. This includes sleep, hydration, food, exercise, and rest time too. Stretching before and after exercise, drinking enough water, eating foods that fuel you, sleeping enough, AND also giving yourself a day off every once in a while and allowing yourself to have freedoms is crucial. These are the basics that keep us dancers healthy and going because yes, we are constantly dancing and moving but we can’t do that well if we aren’t taking care of ourselves.There are so many different ways to implement body care. You can cross train, do yoga, carry a water bottle with you, pack your own lunches/dinners, use muscle rollers and pain relieving creams, take vitamins or supplements, buy good warmups and shoes, and stick to a sleep schedule (which is something I’m working on). Some dancers even use things like PT and acupuncture. It’s all about finding what’s best for you because the possibilities are endless for body care. Now with all of this, I really want to dive into the idea of rest days and being able to listen to your body as a dancer. Because no matter how determined and strong we are, we need to acknowledge our body’s state with honesty. And yes that means listening to injuries and going about our training in a safe way, no matter how much we might want to push through. And even when you aren’t injured It’s important to listen to where your body is that day. Is your body feeling exhausted or tight and needs a long stretch session before you head out to class? Or maybe your body simply needs a day off to recuperate (which will also help spark some motivation mentally). I think us dancers feel as if we need to constantly be dancing and constantly be training when in reality, your body will feel and do better if you allow it to stop and breathe. Don’t get me wrong, working extra hard and being on a grind feels great and can be super beneficial, but after a while it will become harmful. So try and listen to your body and decide what it REALLY needs, not what you wish it needed. Like for example, during competition season I up my training outside of the studio, and I often find myself dragging through a boring routine and becoming stressed out during that season. So I’m starting to make it a point to allow myself a few days off sprinkled throughout that season so that I can stay happy and healthy mentally and give my exhausted body a breath. And doing this doesn’t hurt my progress, it actually helps it! Because during the rest of my time training my body and mind is rested so I can go harder and be more focused. Rest days and listening to your body is a crucial part of body care that I feel is not talked about in an open manner enough, so here I am talking about it! So dancers, make sure you are building a body care routine that makes you feel good and helps you happily dance more!