“A ‘yes’ mentality…is a fantastic thing, that will take you far, but only if the ideas and experiences you are accepting are benefiting you in return.”
Dance. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. This is how the majority of us are programmed. We have been spoon-fed the concept, since our attachment to ballet began. Every second counts-everyone knows that! It’s what I like to call “ballet brain.” It is obsession-all encompassing, life-altering dedication. Dance is an art form that you must cling to for dear life if you wish to succeed. If you loosen your grip and lose focus, even for a second, your chance is over. I commend this enthusiasm…until you realize that it has taken control of you. The pressure of a dance career and the lifestyle it requires can slowly damage us physically, mentally, and emotionally and leave a nasty scar if we’re not careful.
A “yes” mentality (that “ballet brain”) is a fantastic thing, that will take you far, but only if the ideas and experiences you are accepting are benefiting you in return. Dancers are used to going above and beyond, risking it all for a little or nothing back. Go big or go home, basically. But the key is not to consume yourself. Don’t lose yourself, the respect of others, and your respect for your art form in the process.
“Are you motivated by satisfying yourself or satisfying others?”
As a mature artist, recognize how you operate and whether or not it helps or hinders you. Although ballet is everything to many of us (totally me), don’t let it spiral you out of control. Ask yourself whether you still truly love what you’re doing or not. Are you motivated by satisfying yourself or satisfying others? If your answer is the latter to either of those questions, you may be at a tipping point.
No matter how many extraneous stimuli exist in your current situation, you should still love to move and be interested in advancing yourself as an artist, not as a competitor. If you have ten parts in a show, but you are devoid of any joy, you may be missing the point. Burnout isn’t just emotional and mental though, it can be a very obvious physical problem as well. An injury is not necessarily a warning sign of lack of inspiration, but it is the most natural way for your body to tell you “no”-the one thing we are incapable of as dancers.
Whether it’s physical or emotional burnout you suffer from, it does not by any means dictate that you should be finished as an artist. Sometimes a break is necessary (My very first blog post, April 2015 – “Ballet is like a boyfriend I verbally abuse and maybe even consider leaving at times…”), but it doesn’t have to be over. You do have to treat yourself well though. A holistic balance to one’s life and choices, will not only make you a happier person, but also a better artist. Then you are able to be the best, motivated by positivity and self-purpose, rather than discontent and self-doubt. When you are saying “yes” because you genuinely want to, you will thrive.
Our inability to say no, is our downfall. We give so much of ourselves, even when we feel like we have nothing left to give. Even if we say yes, everything else about us may be screaming no. Exploring what we need and why, only improves us as artists. Learning to make good choices is crucial. What we earn financially is no where near enough to compensate us for the sacrifices we make. There will certainly be a great deal of pain and heartache along the way, but don’t let it cloud your motivation. Do not lose your J.O.D.