All of us have monsters in our lives that need to be tamed. Some of our monsters are phobias, some are bad habits or obsessions, some may even be a bad attitude towards a co-worker.
One of my monsters is the inability to relax and do nothing; workaholism. I’m sure I’m not alone, but the fear of boredom can be isolating. Ballet dancers tend to be workaholics, because if you miss a class or rehearsal, there’s a good chance someone else will get your part, or you’ll get out of shape and not be able to even DO your part. There’s a saying in ballet — “If you miss 3 days, you know it; if you miss a week, EVERYONE knows it.”
The problem with never taking a beak is you run a higher risk of injury and emotional burnout. That can put you out for much longer than a week. Then you get depressed from a prolonged injury, and the burnout can block your vision as to your future and how you proceed further down the road.
Dancers need a break. They need a guilt free, no pressure time away to allow recovery from physical stress and to remember why they do this in the first place.
I once received a late-night phone call (long after midnight) from a fellow teacher. I was sound asleep, and she could hear it in my voice. She asked incredulously, “Were you asleep? Wow, it must be nice!” I felt so guilty that I came up with a lame excuse for trying to get more than five hours of sleep. Why is it a contest or a status symbol as to who can exist on the least amount of sleep?
I refuse to do that anymore! I did get caught up in it years ago, and now I don’t know why. We do go through seasons when unavoidable circumstances prevent perfect sleep habits or small vacations (school exams, caregiving for a sick loved one, raising small children, etc.) but lack of rest and recovery time is not how we’re meant to function. In reality, it’s an abuse of your gift, because we can’t be at our best productively unless we are at our best physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. This is NOT an excuse for slacking off and disregarding the diligence and work required for life as a dancer at a professional level. However, refusing to care for your gift is putting it in jeopardy.
Some directors will take advantage of someone who is willing to sacrifice their health for more roles and extra dancing. However, that’s really no different than a serious opera singer screaming and yelling at a football game every day, or a musician using her sterling silver flute as a crowbar. If a flute is stored in a case with a velvet lining when not in use, then dancers can take care of their bodies with a break now and then to prevent injury. There should be no shame nor guilt in being wise and appreciative of your gift. Take an occasional break, you need it; it’s not only okay, it’s required.
THEN dance on.
Robin Conrad Sturm is the primary ballet instructor and Executive and Artistic Director of the Northern Virginia Dance Academy and the Asaph Dance Ensemble.
Robin recently won InsideNoVa’s Best Author in Prince William honors and also writes a blog. Contact her at Northern Virginia Dance Ensemble: www.nvdance. net/wp/ or call (703) 330-5227.