How can I prevent injuries when I’m rehearsing new
pieces most days and performing them at night? I’ve only
been a corps member for a few years, but my body is
starting to feel like a bag of bones.
—B.C., New York, NY
I’m not surprised that a demanding schedule is
taxing your body. A large misconception in the dance
community is that young performers can handle
anything, so they’re often given intense workloads.
Although you may not be able to control your rehearsal
and performance schedules, personal choices play a
significant role in your physical well-being.
Before a busy season, you can prepare by
balancing rest periods with cross-training and easy
classes, instead of “dancing yourself into shape” by
waiting until your company gets back to work. Once
your layoff is over, pace yourself by conserving your
energy when you can, since fatigue is the number one
cause of injuries. It’s also useful to take advantage
of any physical therapy services your company offers to
address early aches and pains and correct imbalances
before they leave you sidelined.
Also know that female dancers with menstrual
irregularities, which can delay skeletal maturity, are prone
to stress fractures. If this affects you, make sure you’re
strengthening your bones with proper nutrition. Be
aware that birth control pills have been found to mask
the problem without decreasing the risk of fractures in
female athletes who have an irregular cycle.
The Scared Understudy
Why am I scared of success? I’m understudying a lead
part in a musical, but my reaction is pure fear. I know
other dancers who are envious of this chance. Can you
help me conquer my demons?
—Cary, Hoboken, NJ
Yes, but you’ll need to identify the trigger so you
can deal with your fear. If you are afraid of
other dancers’ envious reactions to your
success, then it’s necessary to ignore
their negativity, which often stems
from insecurity. Be pleasant when
they are courteous and forget the
rest. On the other hand, if your
fear is tied to the possibility of
failing to perform to your potential
in a lead, it’s crucial to lower the
stakes. Assuming that your callback
was stellar (or else you wouldn’t have
been asked to understudy the part),
focus on the mindset that made it work
then and use it now.
Am I a Sellout?
Three small dance companies offered me a job. The
first wanted to give me good roles without pay until
someone left. The second (which I took) pays, although
the rep isn’t as good and the studios are in a mall! The last
was just a Nutcracker season in a nice company. Sadly, it
feels like I “settled” for money rather than artistry. Did I
make the right choice?
—Depressed Dancer, Midwest
While I appreciate your need for artistic challenges, it
sounds like you made a smart choice to pay your bills and
gain more performing experience. In the future, you might
consider training for a lucrative survival job during breaks,
such as headshot photography, massage therapy or Pilates
instruction—something that would allow you to accept
dance projects you’re interested in no matter the pay.
Meanwhile, let the first director know that you’re still
interested in the offer if a paid position opens up. You can
also keep auditioning for other companies. Dancers often
perform in as many as six companies during their careers,
according to research I published in the Journal of Dance
Medicine & Science. There’s no need to give up your
artistic aspirations or stay at the same company forever! n
AUGUST 2017 24
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.
Send your questions to:
Dr. Linda Hamilton, 2000 Broadway, PH2C, New York, NY 10023 n email: firstname.lastname@example.org
advicefordancers | BY LINDA HAMILTON