It's a question I've been asked hundreds of times since I stopped dancing over a decade ago. My answer has changed over the years as my own understanding of what lead me to walk away from greatest love of my life has become clearer.
"I had some injures," I would mutter nervously for the first few years. This seemed like the answer people understood most. Then it became, "I was just not very happy." Finally, as I passed into my 30s, I began telling the uncomfortable truth: "I quit dancing because of untreated depression."
Dancers looking to increase their flexibility rarely think about their upper backs. But this common place of tension could limit your neural mobility.
"The mobility of your back, especially your upper back, is very important when thinking about the mobility of the nervous system, fascial system and flexibility in general," says leading dance physiotherapist Lisa Howell in her Front Splits Fast Program. "If your upper back is very tight, then the nerves and fascia that lie along the spine can get restricted."
Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers in Santuario. Photo by Robli Photography via kyld.org
Just as the Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers reached an emotional moment in an April performance of Santuario, inspired by the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, the fire alarm began blaring. Timed as it was with the actual reenactment of the shooting within the piece, most of the audience remained in their seats expectantly, thinking this was part of the show. But the onstage fog effects had combined somehow with the humidity in the theater so that there was a real need to evacuate until the fire department could give the all-clear.
An actual break in the action like this—where the lights come up and you're forced to file out into a parking lot—is probably one of the most extreme distractions dancers could encounter during a performance. But thinking about how to refocus can help you prepare for any wardrobe malfunctions, prop flubs, lighting miscues or other onstage stumbles that could happen in the middle of a show.
After getting promoted, I threw myself into nonstop dance classes, cross-training and rehearsals during breaks. I thought it would help me get stronger, but now I'm exhausted and unable to enjoy dance. Where did I go wrong?