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Why Dancers’ Mental Health Is Vitally Important


2 articles I’ve read recently have just got my blood pumping.

One highlighted how dance and the types of personalities it attracts (um, perfectionists…) are linked to higher incidences of eating disorders, which are the deadliest of all mental disorders.

And then just a few days ago, was the shocking story of a talented principal dancer from the Eugene Ballet in the US, who unexpectedly committed suicide, leaving a note for his wife on the door of their home.

Such devastating stories show how *vitally* important it is for dancers to take care of their mental and emotional health.

Because dancers are not only bodies and not only performers… they are human beings with feelings that need to be voiced and heard, validated and regulated, processed and resolved.

How is it that dancers can portray some of the most deep and intense levels of emotion on stage and yet all too often not be able to express and deal with their own emotions off stage in a meaningful way?

On stage there is choreography, guidance and feedback, but off stage most dancers are left to their own devices. And if perfectionists and self-critical personalities are often attracted to dance, their own devices may just be what destroy them.

How do you allow room for weaknesses when your expectations of yourself are so high?

How do you admit you have problems when failure must be avoided at all costs?

How do you share painful feelings when you don’t dare expose the fact you haven’t got it all together?

You don’t.

So dancers stuff their pain down somewhere deep inside and hope that it doesn’t seep out the cracks.  “Putting on a good show” takes the limelight instead.

Dancers smile when they are hurting and keep quiet when they long to cry out… They shift the pain over a notch and focus on food instead of feelings. They leave “no indication anything was wrong” when ultimately, so much was…

Admitting you feel depressed or hopeless or worthless or anxious or out-of-control is not an easy thing at all, especially for a dancer. And yet it is the first step to finding a way out of it.

There is a way out, there is a way to find some peace inside. But it takes courage…

So, dancers!

Open your eyes!

Start noticing the pain within you and in those around you and be daring enough to speak up, reach out, look after each other, or even be super-risqué and seek some professional support?

It could save your life.


My heart goes out to those dancers who are suffering right now (as well as their friends and family who suffer with them), whether it be from eating disorders or the shock and grief of losing a colleague & friend, or the many other forms of hidden pain that don’t always find their way into words. May you find your way.

Here to Help Dancers offers counselling, talks & workshops for dancers. 
If you'd like some support please do get in touch.

🙂 Philippa

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