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.


Sunshine and Longer days!

I spoke to my big sis yesterday during our weekly Sunday Face Time chats and she exhausted the conversation early to get out and enjoy the rays of sunshine.  She lives in Alaska and was gloating over the longer days becoming more noticed.

This coming weekend we spring forward and  although we lose an hour of sleep – who cares, right?! An extra hour of sunlight moving closer to solstice day creates hope for the cold days to end (although here in KC we have had a seriously mild winter)!

What does longer days of sun mean for you? Here are my favs!

  • Flowers, flowers and more flowers!
  • Walks and hikes for a much greater span!
  • Corn hole and beer – just saying!
  • Vitamin D – healthy immune system!
  • Fresh fruits and Veggies!
  • Green Grass and Parks!
  • Water Slides, Water Parks, Water Rides, Water Fountains, Water Polo!

Now looking at the bottom right corner of my computer I see that it’s just March 6…Yikes, I may be a little overconfident here, although back to my point…Spring forward is this weekend so mark your calendars and sunlight feel free to shine on through!



The Swan DREAMS project with Aesha Ash!

Today, I share with you a story that instills grace, discipline, advocation, and hope! Today’s DH post is about Aesha Ash, retired New York City Ballerina, and current founder of The Swan Dreams Project. It’s nice on a day like today, after such a tragic TV crew shooting, to read up on someone who is famed for making a positive impact in our world. So read up on something positive today. . .

By: Aesha Ash

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 3.42.31 PMOne of my goals, even before beginning a professional ballet career, has always been to change the demoralized, objectified and caricatured images of African-American women and girls. My desire is to show the world, all while reminding ourselves, that we too can command poise, grace, elegance and beauty-we too can be beautiful swans. As a professional ballet dancer, I used my passion as a vehicle to spread this message as far and wide as possible. Like many others may have experienced, the need for such positive self-imagery amongst young African American women is greatly needed. A need which also transcends ballet. Take the NY Times article where televesion critic Alessandra Stanely mentioned how actress Viola Davis didn’t fit a ‘classically beautiful’ image. Not only the ballet world, but society in general has a difficult time viewing most women of color in a classical light.

Photo Credit: Thaler Photography

Photo Credit: Thaler Photography

Upon retiring, I was saddened that I could no longer try to make a difference in the way women of color are viewed through my active participation with a ballet company. There was this heaviness and void that I carried with me until after my first child, a girl, was born. I began to look back on my career and feel that I had unfinished business. Business that I felt was important to take care of, not only for myself, but for my daughter. I began to think about ways in which I could continue to spread a more positive image and change the perspective of how African-American women are viewed in society and in media. I was quickly reminded of a photo that inspired me throughout my training at the School of American Ballet. It was a photo of then African-American dancer Andrea Long (now Andrea Long -Naidu). At the time Andrea was a dancer with NYCB and the photo was from her years as a student in the school. This image was so inspiring to me, as she was the only dancer of color in the photo. It was a powerful remider that becoming a ballerina was indeed possible. Whenever I felt downcast and alone, I would look at this image and immediately find the strength to carry on. Thinking back on those moments, I realized right then and there that I had to use photography. Thus began my creation of The Swan Dreams Project.

Photo Credit: Thaler Photography

Photo Credit: Thaler Photography

Through the use of imagery and my career as a ballet dancer, I want to help change the demoralized, objectified and caricatured images of African-American women. I also hope to promote greater involvement and increase patronage to this beautiful art form.

Photo Credit: Renee Scott

Photo Credit: Renee Scott

How can you help?

By purchasing an image you are helping to spread not only the message of The Swan Dreams Project, which is one of hope and possibilities, but you are utilizing the power of imagery to inspire. Pulitzer Prize winner, Eddie Adams, whose photograph helped change Americans attitudes towards the Vietnam War once wrote, “still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world.” For myself, it was an image of Andrea Long-Naidu on the wall of The School of American Ballet that empowered me as a young aspiring ballerina. Images do indeed have power, and what we don’t see sends as powerful a message as what we do.

Photo Credit: Renee Scott

Photo Credit: Renee Scott

I hope these images will stand as a reminder that all things are possible. Beauty and grace are not limited by race or status—they are boundless, limitless.

Dare to be

Dare to be:

When a new day begins, dare to smile gratefully.


When there is darkness, dare to be the first to shine the light.

When times are tough, dare to be tougher.

When love hurts you, dare to love again.

When there is injustice, dare to be the first to condemn it.

When something seems difficult, dare to do it anyway.


When life seems to beat you down, dare to fight back.

When there seems to be no hope, dare to find some.

When you’re feeling tired, dare to keep going.

When someone is hurting, dare to help them heal.

When something doesn’t work, dare to try it again.

When all you want to do is give up, dare to keep moving forward.

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When another is lost, dare to help them find their way.

When a friend falls, dare the be the first to extend a hand.

When you cross paths with another, dare to make them smile.

When you feel great, dare to help someone else feel great too.

When the day has ended, dare to feel as you’ve done your best.

Dare to be the best you can be – one step at a time.

Dare to dancehealthier.


1st Photograph: My family.

2nd Photograph: Alexander Peters from Pennsylvania Ballet before Rubies Pas de deux.

3rd Photograph: My parents steeeeeeeeep climb.  They are over 60, I’ll just say!

4th Photograph: Myself before my last entrance. Retirement. Four Temperaments.

Keep moving forward

As dancers, we tend to always ache for something more. That “more” varies at different levels and changes with time and space, taking the shape of a bell curve, or may be best described as a “roller coaster ride.” Dancers are dreamers, unconventional, creative, motivated and driven people. A dancer’s expectation is to grow artistically throughout their career, which inevitably changes their everyday life outside the studio. We seek things, more and more and more. Because when that “more” is felt, it makes you feel a rush.  A rush of adrenaline.  A rush of euphoria.  A rush of serotonin. Mostly, a rush of accomplishment.  With accomplishment comes confidence. With confidence comes more and more and more.

Unfortunately, the reality of the “roller coaster ride” sets precedence and the low times are inevitable. However, it is important for the dancer to experience the low times so he/she can appreciate the better times that much more. The more a dancer can understand this concept, the easier things will be for them. Ultimately, handling the hard times and pushing forward, or in other words, defeating your own defeat is just as much of an accomplishment, if not more, than being handed a silver platter at all times.

Remember though to not be so hard on yourselves and believe in yourself no matter what. When you can find your own happiness, regardless of what is happening around you, then life will be much easier for you inside and outside the studio.  It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. Listen to yourself, believe in yourself, and keep pushing onward and up. In dance, but most importantly in your own life. Lastly, surround yourself amongst people who believe in you and your believe in other people too. People need you just as much as you need people.


Need a good book to read: “Wild,” by Cheryl Strayed, A walkabout of reinvention. Read this review by Dwight Garner, from the New York Times. (I heard from a lil’ birdy that it is being made into a movie).

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