Migraines affect more than a billion people worldwide. Despite their prevalence, migraines can be unpredictable and debilitating, and can present unique challenges, particularly for dancers.
How can studio spaces become more inclusive of neurodivergent dancers? Jennifer Milner, Madeleine’s mother and a dance and Pilates instructor, says that it’s important to create space for individual needs. This can be as simple as respecting when dancers don’t feel comfortable being touched, or when they may be having what Milner calls a “red button day”—when stress, anxiety, or other stressors make corrections and critiques difficult to receive.
Social situations, especially those that are new in some way, can present difficulties for someone with SAD, Hyde says, so attending a new class, joining a company, or attending an audition could be an extra challenge.
What steps can dancers take to care for their bodies now, so they can have both the career of their dreams and a life without pain in the future? Three dance physical therapists share seven ways dancers can care for their bodies to help ensure a better future.
Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a mental health condition characterized by an obsession with a perceived defect in physical appearance. “When we talk about body-image issues in dancers, we often talk about ‘I’m fat’ or ‘I don’t like my body’ as this sort of generalized thing—BDD has to be something very specific,” she explains.
Daylin Williams, who dances with Wasatch Contemporary Dance Company’s second company, Wasatch II, and teaches dance at Cedar Valley High School in Utah, has struggled with depression since age 13. Dealing with mental illness while pursuing a dance career has presented unique challenges. “There have been days where I was in rehearsal and I had to leave the room and go cry in a changing room,” she says, “because I felt overwhelmed and was struggling with medication changes.”
Mental health led the conversation at the International Association for Dance Medicine & Science’s 2022 conference, held at the University of Limerick, in Ireland. The 32nd annual conference was exuberant, with 492 dance medicine specialists, researchers and teaching artists attending in person and an additional 152 participating virtually
Before Hannah Emory was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), she says that, despite her passion for dance, she felt like she just wasn’t cut out for it. After receiving her diagnosis and finding treatment that worked for her, Emory has connected with her dancing in a new way, and is now pursuing a dance degree at the University of Limerick in Ireland, in addition to performing with Ohr Dance Company and developing her own choreographic projects.