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
Do anteverted hips always lead to arthritis? My doctors say I should think
about quitting ballet. Are they for real? I’m 22 and have trained in dance
since I was 7. That’s my career!
—Alisa, Brooklyn, NY
I’m sorry that your doctor’s advice caught you off guard. It’s difficult to
imagine ballet being harmful to your body at your age, especially when
the diagnosis involves arthritis. Having anteverted hips means that you are
“pigeon toed,” or born with hips that have more turn-in than turnout. This
makes you more vulnerable to injuries, such as a torn labrum (hip cartilage),
and may lead to arthritis and hip replacements down the road.
How have you gotten this far in ballet? You may have shallow hip
sockets that have enabled you to force fifth position all these years.
That could allow you to sublux, or move your hip partially out of the joint,
for more turnout. Or, like many dancers, you may be hypermobile in your
hips as a result of loose ligaments. Although you may be okay with these
shortcuts for now, forcing your turnout could cause injuries or degeneration
as you age. While I agree with your doctors that pursuing ballet with
anteverted hips is risky, you might consider exploring contemporary dance
techniques that put less emphasis on turnout. Your ballet training will give
you a competitive edge in terms of “line,” without the threat of possible
I did countless auditions this year with no luck! The best I got was a
scholarship at a dance school with a good company. Now I’m waiting to see
if they’ll take me on as an apprentice, or hoping for a position somewhere
else. I feel like I’m crumbling inside, and need weed and alcohol to lift my
spirits. I desperately want a place to call home.
—Feeling Hopeless, Washington, DC
I feel your angst. Waiting for a job to appear is scary, especially since finding
work isn’t simply a matter of having talent. Dance openings are always hit
or miss, depending on the state of the economy and the number of dancers
who retire within a specific company. While I understand your fear, resorting
to substance abuse will only increase any feelings of anxiety and depression
in addition to hurting your dancing. If you feel that self-medication is taking
over your life, please catch this problem early by contacting Project Know:
Understanding Addiction (888-287-0471; projectknow.com) or joining a
12-step program like Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous ( aa.org; na.org).
Meanwhile, give yourself credit for landing a scholarship at a dance school
that offers the chance of joining the affiliated company, while preparing for
the next round of annual auditions. You can also add more experience to your
resumé by checking out notices on your school’s bulletin board for showcases,
workshops with aspiring choreographers and short-term Nutcracker gigs.
Remember: Many successful dancers audition several times before landing a
I’m a theater dancer who’s been fortunate to develop a following on
Instagram with my daily photos. This has led to a possible paying job as a
makeup model with a big paycheck. Do I need an agent to look over the
—Instagram Newbie, New York, NY
You should always have a professional review any contracts. However, it’s
probably premature to look for an agent. Instead, I would recommend
contacting an entertainment lawyer, which can be pricey, or Volunteer
Lawyers for the Arts ( vlany.org). In the latter case, this nonprofit
organization offers pro bono arts-related legal services to low-income
performers in New York. If the jobs continue to flow in, ask a few of your
dance colleagues who engage in similar work for a referral to someone
who might represent your interests. Be aware that an agent’s primary job
is to find you work, whereas a manager focuses on career development
(although many agents today are opting to take on a more managerial role,
as well). Again, make sure you pass any contract for an agent or manager
by a lawyer before signing on the dotted line. ■
advicefordancers | BY LINDA HAMILTON
Is it safe to do ballet with anteverted
hips? And how substance abuse
could stunt your career.