Fired. But Why?
After working till exhaustion apprenticing at my dance
school’s company plus taking regular student classes,
I (and a few others) received an email from the school
director dismissing us without any explanation. I’ve tried to
schedule a meeting with her but haven’t received a reply.
Does this mean I’m not talented and should quit ballet?
—Devastated Dancer, Brooklyn, NY
I’m sorry that you’ve been left in limbo. Everyone
deserves an explanation when they’re let go. Otherwise,
it’s easy to jump to conclusions or blame yourself. The
director simply may need to give other students a chance
to apprentice. She might also have a policy about not
meeting with dancers who are dismissed, given her
workload. Still, her behavior shows little empathy. But
this doesn’t mean you lack talent and need to quit
ballet. My advice is to find another school where the
faculty cares about its dancers’ feelings.
Obsessed with WebMD
I’m constantly terrified about my health even though my
annual physical was fine. All it takes is an upset stomach
or a new freckle. Then I can’t eat or concentrate on dance
and waste hours checking myself, searching the web for
fatal diseases and insisting on lab tests. Knowing I’m a
hypochondriac doesn’t help. What can I do?
—Worried Sick, Boston, MA
The key is to stop the destructive cycle of worrying and
It usually starts in your
checking, because no amount of
internet research or lab tests will
reassure you. Hypochondria
is an anxiety disorder—
not the product of an
20s and flares up during
The more you worry, the
times of stress, and
the initial trigger may
be a medical scare or a
relative or friend’s illness.
worse your fear gets, despite
any evidence that you’re healthy.
Medications for depression or anxiety can help improve
your mood, and cognitive-behavioral therapy can teach
you to challenge assumptions and change behavior, such
as limiting health research.
For strategies about coping with illness (real or
imagined), check out Harvard psychiatry professor Dr.
Arthur Barsky’s book Stop Being Your Symptoms and Start
Being Yourself. It’s also useful to share your anxiety with
your primary care physician and schedule regular checkups
every few months rather than resorting to emergency
appointments whenever you become overwhelmed.
Can I Bounce Back
from Hip Surgery?
My orthopedist says I need hip arthroscopy to repair
a torn labrum from doing an upside-down split in
a contemporary piece. He says I’ll most likely be
able to dance again, but I’m worried. My best friend
had the same surgery and wasn’t able to perform
ballet afterwards. How risky is this operation? I’m only 28!
—Katie, New York, NY
All surgeries carry some risk. However, your youth and
contemporary focus make returning to a professional
career more likely, according to Dr. Douglas Padgett, a
hip specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New
York City. In his research with colleagues, he found that
younger dancers (whose average age was 30 in this study)
all returned to their careers after hip arthroscopy, while
those who didn’t were closer to 40 years old. Styles that
did not require an extreme range of motion also provided
an advantage: 79 percent of dancers in musical theater
and 73 percent in modern dance achieved success versus
60 percent in ballet. Professionals without degenerative
arthritis, bone impingements or shallow hip sockets (aka
hip dysplasia) also had favorable outcomes.
You and your doctor should take these factors into
consideration, because it’s possible to postpone surgery
and get by with physical therapy as long as the pain is
tolerable. The risk in waiting is that you may end up with
an arthritic joint and need a hip replacement later. n
SEPTEMBER 2017 28
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