The discipline of ballet training; The possible effects on long term mental health: Guest Post by Terry Hyde

Here is a Guest Post for you today! Psychotherapist, Terry Hyde MA, MBACP (registered), who danced in the 1960’s and 1970’s with Royal Ballet, London’s Festival Ballet (now English National Ballet), West End Musicals, Film and TV writes about MENTAL HEALTH. Putting both of those careers together, Terry has a fine understanding of what a dancer needs. 

Terry carries out therapy sessions via skype. To get in contact with Terry please write her at counsellingfordancers@mail.com (please note the English spelling of counselling).

The discipline of ballet training; The possible effects on long term mental health

In this article, I take a look at the potential links associated with the long-term mental health effects from traditional ballet training. How can you be affected  by ballet training from an early age?  Can this really have a positive or negative link to your mental health in later life?

Ballet is an extremely demanding discipline; it requires dedication, determination and talent. In the past, it was acceptable for the teachers to shout at, and even at times use physical force on students in classes.  They would roughly pull, push or twist their students bodies into the correct position during the classes. Thankfully this style of teaching is no-longer accepted, there are much better ways to motivate and inspire the student.

If you are reading this and are or were a dancer, it’s likely that you started to learn some form of dance from an early age. Perhaps it began as a hobby to burn off excess energy; your parents may have taken you to help with your posture. Some of you may have had a ‘stage-parent’ who sent you to classes to fulfill their own frustrated dreams.

If you fall into the latter category, you may already realise how debilitating this situation can be. As a child you may well have found yourself wanting to do the things that your friends were doing but because there was an underlying fear that you would lose the love and approval of your parents, you continued to dance. This can leave you feeling that you have missed out on parts of your childhood as a result.

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Photo Credit: Renee Scott

My personal history

I started training as a ballet dancer at the age of five in the mid 1950s and retired from dancing and performing in my early 30s. Although I loved my career as a dancer, I’ve seen that the effects of the training methods and the discipline required, can leave some individuals with long-term problems with their mental health.

When I started dancing, I knew instantly that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Many other children feel the same passion and continue taking classes throughout their childhood, teenage years and beyond.

Life beyond performing

From a practical perspective, the discipline I learned from ballet has carried me through my whole life.  Throughout my performing years and into businesses that I ran, and now into my psychotherapy practice. Now I’m  using my experience to help other performers deal with the stresses and strains of their profession,  whether they are still performing or have retired.

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Dancer: Former Principal dancer of Cincinnati Ballet. Photo by: Peter Mueller

I still have some obsessive traits from when I was told that “this is the only way to perform this step and that’s the way you are going to do it”.  This has made it easy for me to learn new things and always eager to “get it right”.  In some people this can result in the development of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), as they strive to “get it right”, the knock-on effects of this are anxiety and low self-esteem due to not being able to “get it right” in the demand for perfection in their performance.

Mental health issues

A number of other mental health issues arise from the performer’s “need to be perfect”. In addition to anxiety, low self-esteem and OCD many performers suffer from eating disorders and struggle with loss and grief due to not being good enough to start a career, or having to end a promising career due to injury. As performers, there is always a level of  instability due to insecurity of lack of work.  The list goes on.

Good nutrition is now being recognised as an important aspect of maintaining good mental health.  Click here  to hear about some research into how nutrition can help some mental health issues.

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KCBallet supporting with blue!

Blue, Blue, Blue. Everything is blue here in Kansas City.  Helmets, hats, jersies, city lights, fountains & everyone today at Kansas City Ballet sporting the Royals! KCBallet loves to not only support the Kansas City Royals but also our beloved city which is eluminating a whole lot of the color blue.

KCBallet wishes The KC Royals good intentions, hope and SUPPORT.  Get it ROYALS.

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Going Down the Rabbit Hole at KCB

It’s a rainy day today in Kansas City, but there is an abundance of color passing, flying preparing to fly, hanging, swinging, growing, shrinking and being bountiful. Kansas City Ballet opens Septime Webre’s, Alice in Wonderland, a week from this Friday, so that means that the dancers are preparing both physically & mentally for the big week ahead..

I asked a few dancers of KCB what they are thinking about the week before the big opening:

Sarah Chun – Performing the leading role of Alice: “I’m trying to put all the pieces together, so I’m comfortable and confident in the role.”  Those “pieces”include rest time, costume changes, and transitions. This week, more than ever, she has been focusing on character development by finding nuances throughout the ballet that match her style of dancing, but most importantly portrays Alice’s character.

Charles Martin – Performing the leading role of the Rabbit and Tweedle Dee: Charlie explained that he has been concentrating on getting comfortable with the costumes plus having to perform difficult choreography (turning, jumping, partnering). Playing the rabbit, he has also been bringing to life his interpretation of the character even in the smallest transitional scenes.

Hannah Keene – Performing a Rose, a Twin, a Card & 4 little Flamingos: Hannah is a new dancer at KCB and she has been doing a terrific job.  She has been focusing on fitting into the new environment, and “fitting” into the established group.

Amanda DeVenuta– Performing a Rose, a Twin, a Card & 4 little Flamingos: Amanda is focusing on her energy expenditure & gauging how to pace herself so she looks her best throughout the long rehearsal days, which she hopes will translate into the shows.

Enjoy a few pictures I took during the AM’s rehearsal.

photo 4 photo 3 photo 2 photo 1Be Sure to Check out KCB’s WEBSITE for TICKETS.  They are going fast so be quick!

New York City =’s Mad Dash

Talk about a mad Dash. Wake up. Make hotel coffee. Shower up. Change. Add a lil’ makeup. Dash down 38th Street. Pick up more coffee, a scrumptious baguette, hardboiled egg, & orange juice. Oh, I forgot the h2o. Dash to the subway. Take the 1 express train to Steps on Broadway. Take class with Nancy Bielski. Have a wonderful motivating conversation with Nancy after class. Stretch & exercise. Eat my banana & drink more h2o. Run into Erica Periera, soloist of City Ballet on Broadway. Late but worth it, so, mad dash to Long Island City & get fitted for Freed pointe shoes.  Yes, people I said Freed. Time to eat lunch then off to Gaynor Minden, my pointe shoe provider since I was 18 17.  MAD dash to Chelsea on the Subway to GM. Exchange photographer email addresses so I can officially become a Gaynor Minden Artist. Give Gaynor Minden employees HUGE hugs and dash to meet friends for dinner. Of course late though, because I reunited with Matthew Prescott, danced with him for Cincinnati Ballet & Suzanne Farrell Ballet, in the middle of a Manhattan intersection. Have no clue which one. Laugh with friends and dash to the ever so posh & famous Boom Boom Room for a great view.

photo 4 copyDash.  Subway world.  People watching.

photo 1 copy 2Boom Boom room.  Beautiful view.

photo 2 copy 5I thought I spelled chlorine.  I was right.  This is a hot tube.

photo 5Manhattan times with friends.

 

 

 

Dreaming

Putting one step in front of the other is sometimes all a person needs. As dancers that’s what we programmed to do. Subconsciously we constantly move. One step, two step, three step, four.

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Even in our dreams, right?  That is in some way the beauty of it all.

Have you ever had one of these dreams?

  1. A dream when you pirouette 8,9,10 times.  Maybe for some of you that is a realistic feat, but to turn that many times for myself is a dream in the making.
  2. A dream when you go over those steps in your head over and over again. Jeté pas de bourreé. Jeté pas de boureé. Jeté pas de boureé.  Or maybe realistically, something a bit harder on the brain.
  3. A dream where you dance exactly the way you wish to be.  Positive visualization of our dream of perfection.
  4. A dream when you miss an entrance because you can’t find the stage door.  One foot in front of the other and the door appears.

Have you had dreams like these?  Or maybe other dreams similar? Feel free to tell us here on dancehealthier.

Any dream interpreters out there? How do these dreams correlate to our being?  dancehealthier would love to study these unconscious realities.