“Epsom salt baths, ibuprofen doses…Tiger Balm…a good ol’ bath of ice cubes…Oh and, no pressure, but don’t forget to get an adequate amount of sleep too…So much to do and barely enough hours in the day.”
Part of the joy of adulthood is having a job you can push aside at the end of the day…no homework, no papers to write….a job that pays your bills and also allows you to live a comfortable lifestyle. You can clear your mind, socialize, eat, drink, lounge, whatever your heart desires. Many careers do not allow for this though. Especially when your passion is your work. One of the most intrusive of all careers is a dance career (or any sports career for that matter…dancers are athletes). Although your pointe shoes may be drying out for the day and you’re no longer wearing tights, when you get home (tough luck…) you’re still at work.
Life intrusion number one is cross training. I can’t begin to tell you how many times people have said to me, “you don’t have to go to the gym, you’re a dancer! You exercise all day!” Uh, news flash, yeah, I still need to go. Am I on the clock when I go there, no, not at all, but for all things strengthening, toning, or endurance, that’s the place to be when you’re not in the studio. If you’re a regular at your gym and there’s a local ballet studio or company that resides nearby, look around for the ballet buns and French twists-you may find more ballerinas there than you expected. They’re not trying to lift Olympic amounts of weight, and they’re not running as fast as lightning, but they’re workin’ it for sure. Their bodies are their tools – being fit is basically (/definitely) a work requirement.
“When you get home…you’re still at work.”
Okay, so you’ve been to ballet class, you’ve completed rehearsals for the day, you put in some cross training time at the gym, time to relax! Almost. Maybe it’s just me, ‘cause I’m not as young as I used to be, but I also need to spend some time stretching, even outside of the studio. Ever since my ankle injury, extra (and absolutely necessary) physical therapy exercises, stretches, and foot rolling have all become essential to my success once I’m back in the studio the next day. And although it makes me cringe the entire time, rolling my legs and back out with a foam roller, massage stick, or Lacrosse ball is a pretty important task to keep up with too. Okay, that has to be it, right? Wrong! Don’t forget Epsom salt baths, ibuprofen doses, vitamin supplements galore, plenty of protein, Tiger Balm and other muscle salves, and a good ol’ bath of ice cubes and ice water for your feet and ankles! Oh and, no pressure, but don’t forget to get an adequate amount of sleep too…and abide by an appropriate diet. So much to do and barely enough hours in the day.
The combination of daily dance requirements and extracurricular activities required of a professional dancer is enough to make one’s head spin. How can you possibly make room for anything else? Although there’s immense value to be gained from all of the things listed above, you can never downgrade the importance of supervising your mental health. If you do nothing else on your time away from the physicality of dance, at least relax or heal your mind. While it is essential that we leave our everyday problems at the door of the studio, you must also allow yourself the chance to leave work at work, even if just for an hour or so. Is the job of a professional dancer a traditional “nine to five”? Hell no. But no matter how many beneficial, therapeutic or athletic activities you take on in addition to your studio time, you still have to give yourself a break. The state of mind you are in has nothing, and yet, everything to do with your performance at “work”. Clean the slate each and every day and start anew. You owe it to yourself.