10 Tips to Beat the Ballet Blues
Every dancer goes through times when you get stuck in a rut, you lose your motivation to dance, to improve, to try… Nothing seems to be working and you’re literally just going through the motions. This can be really frustrating and depressing, especially if your ballet master or teacher is also frustrated with you.
1. Play with a child
Play with a child under 5 years of age (or a cat or a puppy) and have a good laugh. When you start feeling down at ballet, picture the child or animal in your mind and remember how you felt. Allow that feeling to come out in your dancing.
2. Go on a “mindful” walk
Take a 5-10 minute walk around the neighbourhood before going to the studio. Notice your senses: what can you see, hear, taste, touch, smell; are you tense or relaxed, warm or cool? Don’t judge yourself, just be curious. Notice the light, nature, architecture & people you see. Be on the look out for beauty and inspiration.
3. Apply a positivity filter
When you are feeling flat, most dancers focus only on the negatives. So, use a positivity filter to only allow thoughts about the things you like about yourself or are doing well. Look only for positive things in the mirror, no matter how small or big: perhaps your port de bras has a nice flow, or you held a killer-balance at the end of adage, or you managed the first pirouette without falling over. Ignore all the other things you could improve on or correct, and just focus on the positives for a whole class (or try a whole week!)
4. Use the qualifier “…until now”Every time you hear yourself saying in your head:
- “I never…” (e.g. I never remember the exercises)
- “I always…” (e.g. I always fall off balance in that step)
- “I can’t…” (e.g. I can’t do a penchée)
Add these powerful words at the end of the sentence – “…until now! ” From now on, anything is possible.
5. Ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?”
Make a list of the reasons you started dancing, why you wanted to become a dancer & what you love about ballet. These big picture dreams can get out of focus when dancers are down. Pick one to remind yourself of when you get stuck and see how you can develop that aspect of your dancing more.
6. Listen to your body
Know that this is a phase and you will come out of it. Sometimes you are in a rut because your body just can’t keep going at the pace you have been. Listen to your body. Ask yourself, “Do I need to slow down, to rest & recover?” If so, plan ways and times this week to refresh and recuperate.
7. Eat lots of fresh food
When the Ballet-blues hit, it’s easy to get into comfort eating – fresh fruit & vegetables help to stimulate your mind & body and make you feel more energized (then you also avoid adding feelings of guilt to your already depressed mood!).
8. Chat with someone outside of ballet
Chat with a sister/brother/good friend from outside of ballet about your problems at ballet and listen carefully to their perspective. They just might help you see things differently or at least cheer you up and take your mind off things.
9. Read the news
Read the news or visit charity websites such as charitywater.org or cbm.org.au and read up on the big issues facing so many people in the world today. It can be both inspiring and humbling to know that what’s going on in the ballet studio (or in your head!) is not the biggest issue in the world.
10. Keep at it
Every artist experiences periods of “writer’s block”. Remember, Michelangelo took 4 whole years to paint the Sistine chapel, I am sure he experienced at least some impatience, frustration and days when he did NOT want to brush another stroke during those years, but the end result was well worth the perseverance.
One caution: if you are experiencing significant depression and lack of motivation, or if your ballet-blues last longer than 2 weeks, please see your doctor or a counsellor for further support.