Advice for Dancers: When the Going Gets Tough

May 30, 2016

Should you quit your job if you hate your boss? Plus how to recover from a depressing breakup.

I accepted an offer with a studio company because I loved the rep. But the director has made me doubt my choice by going hot and cold with his casting and feedback. I’m not the only one who’s targeted, but work still feels like a living nightmare. I want to audition for another company but feel like a serious dancer would never quit. Does leaving a job make me unprofessional?


It isn’t unprofessional to quit your job when it’s a bad fit. Yet changing course can be difficult for dancers, who typically pride themselves on sticking it out when things get tough. This single-mindedness in the face of personal discomfort develops over years of training that rewards stoicism. Still, many professional dancers work for multiple companies throughout their careers. Success depends on your ability to adapt, whether this means looking for a more suitable company or even giving your body a break to help prevent burnout and injuries. There are positive opportunities out there. Don’t settle for anything less!

I’ve wanted to die ever since my boyfriend broke up with me. I’m performing in another state, and he cut off all contact without giving me a reason! I’ve been depressed for weeks and blame myself for not calling and texting several times a day. My therapist recommended medication, but I hate relying on a drug, and I’ve heard that antidepressants make you gain weight. Help!

—Lee, Los Angeles, CA

I’m so sorry. It’s heartbreaking when a romantic partner leaves you out of the blue. By refusing to discuss his motivation, he worsens the situation by making it more likely for you to assume it must be your fault. This type of thinking is a “cognitive distortion,” because you’re interpreting his silence as a negative reflection of your actions without any solid evidence. For all you know, he could have serious commitment issues. Although healthy communication is key to keeping a long-distance relationship alive, making multiple phone calls and texting every day is unrealistic, especially for a working performer.

I injured my fifth metatarsal when I sickled my foot on demi-pointe and fell while rehearsing a Graham piece. My doctor says I have a dancer’s fracture. The X-ray looks terrible, and I’m really worried.

—Ethan, New York, NY

While all injuries are upsetting, don’t let your X-ray scare you. Fractures of this type rarely require surgery and usually heal on their own if you wear a CAM walker, or walk-ing boot, for four to six weeks (you may also need crutches). It’s called a “dancer’s fracture” because it’s not uncommon to roll over the outside of your foot on demi-pointe. This can occur by accident or as a result of an unrecognized weakness, such as an ankle sprain that wasn’t fully rehabilitated. Immobilization is the treatment of choice for this injury, so you won’t be able to dance while it’s healing. Although you can use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, right after the injury to control pain, you’ll need to avoid them later on since they interfere with the inflammation necessary to heal.

To make your recovery less dreary, think of this as a chance to build up your upper-body muscles. You can also cross-train with methods like Pilates, as long as it doesn’t involve your injured foot. Once your doctor gives you the green light for PT, you can begin to strengthen the area around the injury, as well as your leg muscles that will have weakened from wearing the boot.

Send your questions to:

Dr. Linda Hamilton

2000 Broadway, PH2C, New York, NY 10023

email: [email protected]

Former New York City Ballet dancer Linda Hamilton, Ph.D., is a psychologist in private practice, the author of Advice for Dancers (Jossey-Bass) and co-author of The Dancer’s Way: The New York City Ballet Guide to Mind, Body, and Nutrition (St. Martin’s Griffin). Her website is