The Perfect Recipe for Burnout

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?

—Broken Spirit, San Francisco, CA

It sounds like your promotion triggered an excessive drive to excel, but you're not allowing sufficient time to rest and recover. This is a recipe for burnout. If you continue this rigorous schedule, you may also find that your technique declines and that you're more likely to get injured. What can you do? While denial is the major coping mechanism for overachievers who develop burnout, you've taken a positive step by writing to me and acknowledging that you aren't superhuman. Easing up on your regimen can help you rebuild your personal resources. I also recommend that you make time for activities that have no purpose other than your enjoyment, spend time with friends, and ask for help when you need it. Take several 15-minute breaks throughout the day. Not only will your body thank you, but you'll rekindle your flame to perform.

Send your questions to Dr. Linda Hamilton at

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Ballet BC dancers Tara Williamson, left, and Darren Devaney in RITE by Emily Molnar. Photo by Chris Randle, Courtesy Ballet BC

Why Do Mixed-Rep Companies Still Rely on Ballet for Company Class?

In a single performance by a mixed-rep company, you might see its shape-shifting dancers performing barefoot, in sneakers and in heels. While such a group may have "ballet" in its name and even a rack of tutus in storage, its current relationship to the art form can be tenuous at best. That disconnect grows wider every year as contemporary choreographers look beyond ballet—if not beyond white Western forms entirely—in search of new inspiration and foundational techniques.

Yet dancers at almost all of the world's leading mixed-rep ensembles take ballet classes before rehearsals and shows. Most companies rarely depart from ballet more than twice a week and some never offer alternative classes.

"The question, 'Why do you take ballet class to prepare you for repertory which is not strictly classical?' has been in the air since Diaghilev's time," says Peter Lewton-Brain, Monaco-based president of the International Association for Dance Medicine & Science. "What you're doing onstage is often not what you're doing in class."