Thursday, September 29, 2011

Stay Motivated to Dance

One of the hardest things when you start dancing more and more is to stay motivated. You'll start getting up in the mornings and finding yourself dreading ballet as much as you used to dread math. You might be more irritable and easily frustrated in class, or you might not try as hard as you used to. You start to lose your enthusiasm. You lose sight of why you started dancing in the first place.

How do we prevent loss of motivation and eventual burnout? I've never been at rock bottom of a burnout, but here are some things I do to keep myself excited and stimulated for my future:

Watch dance, as much as you can, whatever you can, whenever you can
Go to the ballet, go see a local company's performance, check out free shows in your area online, go see university shows, support local school and studio shows. If you can't get there in person, go to the library, rent from Netflix, borrow, or buy DVDs of performances. Be like me and stalk Youtube. Keep learning, even when you're watching, keep growing. Sometimes you can learn more or be more inspired from watching than from doing the same old thing.

Have other hobbies
This is a big one, because no one can eat, sleep, and breathe for only one thing in life. Even if it's just to listen to music on your iPod between classes or to read a magazine or watch mindless TV (guilty pleasures!). One word of caution: when choosing how to spend your down time, keep dance in mind. Don't go and climb a mountain (unless you're super-experienced) or bake cookies (unless you intend to give most of them away or you have more willpower than I do) - you might hurt yourself more than you would have in class!

Dance by yourself in your room or go out and dance socially with friends that you remember that dance isn't just a profession, it's also a way to have fun and de-stress! I love to put on music after my shower, hang upside down to dry my hair (stretching!), spend a little time stretching, and then have a little personal dance party. If you're cooler than me, maybe you can go out dancing...just don't kill yourself in your cute sky-high heels.

Do relaxing yoga or get a massage
Treat yourself sometimes. Detoxify your body and mind in a way that keeps your body lubricated but relaxed. If you're lucky enough to have friends that can do massages, offer to give them a massage if they'll reciprocate.

Read dance literature
Sometimes we get stuck in a rut of our own dancing. We forget to broaden our horizons. Learning about what other dancers do and other companies will keep dance a fresh topic for you, as opposed to a stagnant, narrow subject. There's always new things happening in the world of dance - Dance Magazine is a great resource, or you can look at their website. From there, you can read dance criticism, borrow dance anatomy/history/whatever you want books from the library, read reviews of dance from newspapers or blogs.

When you're feeling down, blue, or depressed, dance it out
Or stretch, or do jumping jacks, or something movement-related to get your blood pumping. One of the reasons you likely dance (most dancers will agree) is that moving feels good to you. So, if your body feels good, your mind can't be far behind. Have you ever noticed that you'll go to class in a bad mood and feel better by the end, or maybe you haven't even thought about what was stressing you before? Moving and dancing will get adrenaline and endorphins flowing, which means that your body is chemically cheering itself up, and your brain will react to that! Also, if you start to dance when you're sad/depressed and you keep feeling better after, your mind will start to associate dance with feeling good, and dance class (technique even) will seem less of a burden.

Make an inspiration board or find beautiful dance pictures
I started collecting pictures and quotes of dance that I loved this summer. When I'm feeling a little lost in my dancing, I look at those pictures or read some of those quotes, and I feel so empowered that sometimes I start crying. I'm not telling you to look at pictures and sob your heart out, I'm just saying that that's the power dance has over me. I always feel better when I think about dance from a fresh perspective, maybe your favorite images and sayings will empower you too!

Remember what got you into dance in the first place
Why are you still dancing? When people ask me why I dance, I say that dance is my freedom. That's a personal opinion, you can love so many things about dance that will make it worthwhile for you: you can love performing in front of an audience, how it makes you feel, or maybe you enjoy taking on different characters and impersonating them. Make a physical list of why you love to dance and stick it to your ceiling so you can read it every night before you go to bed and every morning when you wake up. Ask yourself why every day, because once you start to consistently answer with an "I don't know", it may be time to change or tweak your career path.

Remember that it was your choice, and you can change your mind
If all else fails, dance was your choice and it's rarely, if ever, too late to change your mind. You can change majors or go back to school (or night/online school). If you're still in high school, think long and hard about why you want to go into dance. Even in college, you can double major (make sure the school you go to supports this - if it's a BFA program, it's unlikely) or minor (again, check with the school). And remember that being a dance major in college doesn't mean you have to dance professionally - from there you can move on to Laban studies, physical therapy, Pilates/Yoga certification, massage, sports/dance medicine, technical theater, photography and filming dance, costuming, designing, criticism/writing, and just about anything else you can think of. Dance has its fingers in many fields, you can do other things and love dance just as much.


  1. Learn to love what you are doing so that you’ll never lose enthusiasm. It’s hard to do something that you really have no passion for to start with. Go where your heart is!