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 accepted an offer with a studio company because I loved the rep. But the
director has made me doubt my choice by going hot and cold with his casting
and feedback. I’m not the only one who’s targeted, but work still feels like
a living nightmare. I want to audition for another company but feel like a
serious dancer would never quit. Does leaving a job make me unprofessional?
It isn’t unprofessional to quit your job when it’s a bad fit. Yet changing
course can be difficult for dancers, who typically pride themselves on
sticking it out when things get tough. This single-mindedness in the face of
personal discomfort develops over years of training that rewards stoicism.
Still, many professional dancers work for multiple companies throughout
their careers. Success depends on your ability to adapt, whether this means
looking for a more suitable company or even giving your body a break to
help prevent burnout and injuries. There are positive opportunities out there.
Don’t settle for anything less!
I’ve wanted to die ever since my boyfriend broke up with me. I’m performing
in another state, and he cut off all contact without giving me a reason! I’ve
been depressed for weeks and blame myself for not calling and texting
several times a day. My therapist recommended medication, but I hate relying
on a drug, and I’ve heard that antidepressants make you gain weight. Help!
—Lee, Los Angeles, CA
I’m so sorry. It’s heartbreaking when a romantic partner leaves you out of
the blue. By refusing to discuss his motivation, he worsens the situation by
making it more likely for you to assume it must be your fault. This type of
thinking is a “cognitive distortion,” because you’re interpreting his silence
as a negative reflection of your actions without any solid evidence. For all
you know, he could have serious commitment issues. Although healthy
communication is key to keeping a long-distance relationship alive, making
multiple phone calls and texting every day is unrealistic, especially for a
Sadness and tears are a normal reaction to loss, but chronic feelings
of self-blame and thoughts of death are associated with major depression,
a potentially life-threatening mood disorder. While psychotherapy should
help improve your mood, antidepressants often jumpstart this process by
balancing chemicals in your brain called neurotransmitters that affect your
emotions. Taking them is not a sign of weakness. However, you need to share
your concerns about relying on antidepressants and gaining weight with
your doctor. In the latter case, there are certain medications that minimize
this potential side effect. If you feel particularly desperate, call the National
Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) and go to the nearest emergency
room if you’re afraid of self-harm.
I injured my fifth metatarsal when I sickled my foot on demi-pointe and fell
while rehearsing a Graham piece. My doctor says I have a dancer’s fracture.
The X-ray looks terrible, and I’m really worried.
—Ethan, New York, NY
While all injuries are upsetting, don’t let your X-ray scare you. Fractures of this
type rarely require surgery and usually heal on their own if you wear a CAM
walker, or walking boot, for four to six weeks (you may also need crutches). It’s
called a “dancer’s fracture” because it’s not uncommon to roll over the outside
of your foot on demi-pointe. This can occur by accident or as a result of an
unrecognized weakness, such as an ankle sprain that wasn’t fully rehabilitated.
Immobilization is the treatment of choice for this injury, so you won’t be able to
dance while it’s healing. Although you can use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories,
such as aspirin and ibuprofen, right after the injury to control pain, you’ll need to
avoid them later on since they interfere with the inflammation necessary to heal.
To make your recovery less dreary, think of this as a chance to build up
your upper-body muscles. You can also cross-train with methods like Pilates,
as long as it doesn’t involve your injured foot. Once your doctor gives you the
green light for PT, you can begin to strengthen the area around the injury, as
well as your leg muscles that will have weakened from wearing the boot. ■
advicefordancers | BY LINDA HAMILTON
When the Going
Should you quit your job if you
hate your boss? Plus how to recover
from a depressing breakup.
Although any injury can be a setback, a
“dancer’s fracture” shouldn’t require surgery or
sideline you for too long.