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 (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.


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.


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.


Effort vs Efforting today

What are your thoughts on the definition of effort? What about the act of efforting? Is there a difference? Is one more positive and/or more productive than the other. . .

Lately, dancehealthier has been doing a bit of research and cognitive thinking on whether there is a clear difference, and whether that difference – if it exists – is pertinent in everyday life. Yup, dancehealthier is going deep today.

The Still Point

Photo Credit: Philip Koenig

Effort is the result of attempt that often times is forced and strained, in order to make something happen.

For Example, on a physical level sometimes our body tells us, by a particular sensation, that a specific action is painful. Regardless of what our body is telling us, we still do it anyway. Therefore, we are doing everything in our effort to make it happen, ignoring what our body is trying to tell us.

A mental example of forced effort is making yourself act happy (or saying you are happy) when really deep down, you are pissed and/or sad (or anything but happy).

In both these examples, your conscious decisions could be made due to impulse, denial, perfection, or impatience. However, it is essentially important to remember that forcing effort is a part of human nature.  It’s okay to be imperfect. That’s the important part to identify with. Accept your behavior, and start again.


This is where the breakdown of efforting occurs. Efforting concentrates more on the idea of consciously being aware of how one really feels in more of a relaxed and realistic manner.  Efforting depends on digging down deeper into your subconscious, taking account for your own self-care, and accepting the truth.

A way to practice in the dance studio:

Next time you try for another piroette, think to yourself in a calm way, “do it, do it, it,” versus anxiously and innerly forcefully yelling at yourself inside, “DO IT, DO IT, DO IT!”

It’s not always possible to not strain, yet relax, but check whether you are aware of how you talk to yourself. With time this awareness, and efforting the ability to start again, will help you along your way in a more stress-free and positive manner.

Kansas City Photographer - Aaron Lindberg

Kansas City Photographer – Aaron Lindberg

Feel free to comment your thoughts or ask any questions by commenting.

Thanks for your attention today and remember to always dancehealthier.

4 ways to rejuvenate after a performance weekend

1, 2, 3, 4. . . not 5, 6, 7, 8.

Now looking at Alice in Wonderland in my rearview mirror.

4 Ways to rejuvenate after a performance weekend. 

1. Laugh at yourself- @ getting older.  “Pan, who and what art thou?” he cried huskily.
“I’m youth, I’m joy,” Peter answered at a venture, “I’m a little bird that has broken out of the egg.”
J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

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 2. Watch beer coffee being made. Roasterie (KC) Rocks my world – everyday.  And yes, this really means I’m not talking about beer. ;)

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3. Listen to calming playlists on Spotify.  Alexi Murdoch @alximrdch, you sound sooooo fine today.

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4. Yoga – Grounding. Breathe it out. Remember what is important. Start fresh to a week off. Follow Sage Center for Yoga & Healing Arts on FB.  Inspiring place to be & one amazing owner.

photo copy 2Remember to dancehealthier.  & go ROYALS!



It’s everywhere.  Anytime.  Infinite.

A step. A swipe. A push. A nod. A smile. A grab. A tap. A shake. A word. A reaction. An action. A calmness. A flow. A tear. A chop. A scoop. A current. A complacent answer. A grind. A order. A fast hand typing. A carry. A creation. A lookout. A pickup. A gesture. A taste. A heartbeat. A breath.

I observed these particular movements on my coffee break from Septime Weber’s rehearsal day of Alice at KCB.  Then I sat back & thought. . . Why is movement so interesting?

What makes a dancer’s movement contagious, or subjectively liked more than another? Just like at the coffee shop, movement which has purpose – a clear determination – flows & has a sense of appeal.

If you dance & are reading this or do anything that includes movement – everything – I want you to think about why you do what you do.  Believe in it and move with a sense of confidence.  If you are wrong you will soon learn.  Pick it back up, fix the problem, and keep on moving forward.  One movement at a time.

Here are some images of movement.  Beautiful movement from one position to another from our festival show, Kansas City Dance Festival (KCDF).

I hope you all have a great rest of the week!

photo 1KCDF dancer (2014) Gabriel Davidsson.  Photo credit: Paul Garcellano.

photo 3 copyDancers: Molly Wagner, Kaleena Burks, & Tempe Ostergren. Photo Credit: Paul Garcellano

photo 2Dancer: Gabriel Davidsson.  Photo credit: Paul Garcellano



I know, it has been awhile.  But, I must say that I have been recently motivated by a trip to Blakely Island, a private Island in the San Juan Islands.  From a deck, each night I was privileged & VERY thankful to overlook beautiful sunsets & the horseshoe shaped (& well traveled) Orcas Island.

Many parts of this trip were personally motivating, but in particular, for today’s case I will share I few of my adventures.

Fresh garden. Check. Green house. Check. Seafood caught that day. Check. A chef for a brother. Check. An ocean. Check. 2 fresh water lakes. Check. A four wheeler and dirt bikes. Check. Lookouts. Check.  Hikes. Check. Rocks, shells, bouquets, books, instruments. Check.  No mosquitos. Check. Wood fires. Check. Kayaks, rafts & Swimming. Check. Oysters, king salmon, prawns, octopus, clams, black cod, crab. Check. Oxygen. Check. Beer, lots of beer. Check. A five year old (Henry) as a pack leader. Check. A family member & amazing woman (Lindy) responsible for a wonderful home away from home. Check. A family to share this with. CHECK.

Now please know, that this home commune on Blakely wasn’t an easy feat & didn’t happen over night. Instead it has taken years of planning & living out a lifestyle of doing. Making a garden, creating a green house space that could facilitate growth of plants & vegetables that do not grow in a cool/cold Puget Sound climate, a wood shop to make essentials, places/things for rest/adventures/peace, & hunting and gathering doesn’t come easy.  Yet it is FUN, exploratory, purposeful, and not to mention, so healthy, refreshing and SCRUMPTIOUS.

I plan to share more with you, but for now please enjoy some pictures of what I mean & challenge yourself to pick a tomato, plant seeds, swim in a pond, breathe fresh air, &/or find a local butcher.  It’s a start to forming a healthy and purposeful life.

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 Puget sound look out spot & Lindy’s A Frame.

photo 2 Chef Marlow’s on the whim, man made Smoker.  Now permanent to Blakely Island.

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 Big Sis’s salad made straight from the garden located out the back door, 30 steps to  the left.

photo 1 copy 3 Mama Marlow enjoying Lindy’s green house by throwing a tomato to Pa Daddy-O  TMarlow in the AM.

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 North Beech.

photo 3 copy 2 Orcas Island.  I followed the arrow.

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 The night of following the arrow led to this.  Chef Marlow yet again.

photo Lil bro, Chef Marlow, taking a break & being bad A*#!!!


 Pyro boy time.  Looking at . . .

photo 5Puget sound. Orcas Island.

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 The bus. The path to a wonderful place. One filter.