Ballet Dancer: Two tips beyond the tips of your toes

If you are a ballet dancer, or if you’ve ever studied ballet, you know the feeling that comes over you when you’re up “en pointe,” and you feel as if the sky’s the limit.  The energy swooshes up inside of you, and you’re pulled up, elevated, as poised as can be. You’re almost frozen in time … breaking free of earth’s gravity and ascending to greater heights.  Whether you’re executing an endlessly lengthened, glorious arabesque, or you’ve managed to stay up on your toes long enough to perform a series of pirouettes and fouettes, that sensation of height, energy, and control is like no other.  And of course, balance is one of the key elements that helped get you there!

I see a lot of parallels between life and dance, probably because of my own history as a ballet dancer.  I’ve learned that just as balance is crucial in dance, it is also vitally important in life.  Every day is a balancing act!

How do we achieve balance?  In my work as a psychotherapist, when I’m in session with dancers, musicians, actors, and other types of artists, a theme regularly emerges:  artists often struggle as they work tirelessly to perfect the artistic integrity of their craft.  It is very easy to get caught up in that one piece, that one performance, and focus can significantly narrow to achieve a masterful outcome.  This type of dedication, discipline, and concentration is required.  It is a given, and necessary for artists.  But what about the rest of your life?

Balance is key.  Balance is what can actually help you to excel artistically.  Here are two tips that may help you achieve balance in other areas of your life, beyond the tips of your toes:

1.  Pay attention to your relationships

Be sure to maintain contact with your loved ones.  It can be very easy to become isolated when you’re so hard at work on your artistic ventures.  Try your best to maintain contact with at least one close friend or family member in your social support network on a daily basis, if possible, to prevent increased isolation and to combat potential depressive symptoms.

I know, I know … schedules and rehearsing can all get a bit overwhelming, and it feels like there is no time for anything else.  But with constant developments in social media and other forms of communications technology, there’s really no excuse to not be connected:  our loved ones are closer to us than ever before, often just a click or tap away.  Stay in touch with the outside world!

2.  Increase your self-care efforts 

Burnout as a result of stress is common, and so is exhaustion.  Don’t let it wipe you out!  Instead, take control.  Be sure to replenish yourself by getting enough sleep, and by eating healthy, balanced meals.  Relaxation techniques, meditation, visualization, and breathing exercises can also help you to secure your equilibrium.

If you’re experiencing physical pain, don’t let it go unchecked.  We’re human, and injuries happen.  Sometimes, we’re prone to rationalizing to ourselves instead of listening to our bodies, because we want to keep going out of fear that our role will be given away, or that another opportunity won’t arise for us in the future.  Please don’t succumb to this thinking!  It’s much better to figure out what is going on with your body than to push through and possibly do additional harm.  Injuries are among the most common pitfalls in a dancer’s life, so please be sure to get any unusual aches and pains looked at closely by a doctor.  Prevention is key, so the sooner you consult with an appropriate health professional, the better!

What are some the things you’ve been doing that help you find balance?  Share your thoughts!


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