Former New York City Ballet dancer Linda Hamilton,
Ph.D., is a psychologist in private practice, the
author of Advice for Dancers (Jossey-Bass) and
co-author of The Dancer’s Way: The New York
City Ballet Guide to Mind, Body, and Nutrition (St.
Martin’s Griffin). Her website is drlindahamilton.com.
Dr. Linda Hamilton
2000 Broadway, PH2C, New York, NY 10023
I’m in rehab for a badly sprained ankle and feel guilty if I do anything fun.
The PT exercises are a bore, but I get anxious if I skip one. I feel trapped
and lonely. How can I get out of this rut?
—Chloe, Boston, MA
I admire your grit, yet boredom and loneliness can create stress, making
rehab much more arduous. It would help if you reframed having fun or
socializing as an important aspect of your recovery. Did you know that
people in rehab who have a good support network of family or friends are
less likely to get depressed and lose their motivation? Having fun is also a
great antidote to burnout, both during recovery and when you return to
dancing. Knowing that these activities are an asset should help you embrace
them as a necessary part of your routine. Remember, perfection is an illusion.
It’s fine to leave out certain exercises occasionally or take a day off. All you
need to do is be mostly consistent.
What can I do to fend off a super-competitive dancer who just joined the
company? She builds herself up by name-dropping her rich connections and
puts me down for minor differences in technique or style. Even though I’m
also new, I know I’m a better dancer, but I’m starting to lose confidence.
—Intimidated, Philadelphia, PA
Try to keep the situation in perspective. Remind yourself that your colleague
has no power over the course of your career, let alone your talent—which
may intimidate her! Signs of insecurity often include bragging and putting
down others. Fortunately, you can keep your confidence intact and maybe
even extinguish her negativity by not engaging with her when she’s acting
unprofessionally. Instead, focus on your own work and seek out the company
of positive co-workers who buoy your spirits. Although this dancer may never
be your friend, you can strive for a more professional working relationship by
reserving your attention for moments when she’s behaving maturely. In the
meantime, just try to be courteous and take the high road.
Are dancers retiring earlier? Most of the performers I see appear to be in
their 20s and early 30s. I freelance and want to dance as long as possible.
Any tips to help maintain my longevity?
—Justin, White Plains, NY
The most important thing you can do is take care of your body now. While
current dancers are more prepared to retire thanks to beneficial services
like Career Transition For Dancers ( actorsfund.org/careertransition), major
injuries can push out performers in their prime, even at the age of 30. Why
so young? Today’s eclectic choreography is significantly more demanding—
think dance meets extreme sports—due to its melding of a variety of
techniques, which puts added stress on the body. Smart work habits are
essential for longevity. You can begin by seeking medical help if an injury
persists beyond five days. Getting an annual orthopedic screening can also
prevent serious problems by identifying when remedial therapy is needed to
correct an underlying weakness or tightness from a prior injury. Such therapy
can also help you more skillfully adapt to your changing body over time.
Finally, an individualized cross-training program that enhances your unique
physique, combined with adequate nutrition and stress management, will
increase your chances of remaining injury-free. For more specific information
on creating a wellness plan that’s right for you, check out the book that I co-authored with NYCB, The Dancer’s Way: The New York City Ballet Guide to
Mind, Body, and Nutrition. ■
advicefordancers | BY LINDA HAMILTON
I Hate My
How to deal with a bad apple
at your company, plus tips for
keeping injury at bay
A competitive co-worker
may be annoying, but they
ultimately have no power over
the course of your career.