These Famous Dancers Are Talking About Mental Health—and We Thank Them for It
Recently, our friends at Dance Magazine posted a thought-provoking article about the dance world's inability to address dancers' mental health. It was one of their most-read articles to date, and it encouraged dancers, parents and teachers to share their own personal stories.
That group of storytellers includes some very high-profile dancers, and we're especially thankful for their courage. We hope that their willingness to discuss such a personal issue will help younger dancers feel comfortable talking about mental health as well, and hopefully help lead to better support systems within the dance community.
Here are two big names who've been open about their struggles.
When Keone and Mari Madrid performed "Darkness and Light" on "World of Dance" a couple of weeks ago, it was clear there was a powerful story behind the routine. A few days later, Mari wrote a blog post about the meaning of the dance and how it reflected a difficult time in her marriage with Keone. She admitted that she's been dealing with depression since age 15, but had tried to keep her negative thoughts to herself. It wasn't until more than a decade later, when Keone couldn't provide the support she needed on his own, that she opened up and sought help. We recommend you read the entire post, but the ultimate takeaway is that there's no shame in mental illness:
"To anyone dealing with depression and not thinking that it's worth it to keep going, to deal with the burden of living. Don't. Give. Up. Don't be opposed to reaching outside to get help and to keep searching for the right help. For what is going to be effective for you. And if you love someone who struggles with mental health, don't give up. Continue to love them, to search for how to support them through these waters."
Sydney Magruder Washington
Sydney Magruder Washington lists many titles in her Instagram bio: professional ballerina, Brown Girls Do Ballet mentor, wifey—and mental health warrior. At age 11, she was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), followed by subsequent diagnoses of major depressive disorder and panic disorder with Agoraphobia. On her blog, The Black Swan Diaries, she writes that as a child she used to hide her diagnoses, until she came to the realization that they're nothing to be ashamed of. In an article on The Mighty, "Dear Ballet Community, We Need To Start Talking Openly About Mental Illness," Washington discusses how the ballet world expects you to leave your mental health issues at the door, writing them off as character flaws when that's clearly not the case:
"Mental illness isn't baggage you can check on your way out of the country for your company's annual tour. Trauma doesn't wait politely for you beyond the threshold of the studio while you focus on engaging your inner thighs in rond de jambe. Mental illness and trauma bulldoze their way into every crack of your life without your permission and make it difficult, sometimes impossible, for you to even do the things you love most in the world. But most teachers, artistic directors and choreographers don't account for that."
Washington is a vocal advocate for support systems and open communication among choreographers and teachers, and she hopes to change the perception of what living with a mental illness looks like.
Dance Spirit is beyond excited to announce the first round of 2017 Future Star winners! Every year, DS partners with competitions to recognize dancers with exceptional presence and ability. The second round of winners will be featured in our January issue, so stay tuned!
You're obsessed with class videos. We're obsessed with class videos. The passion, energy, and talent showcased in these clips, which give us an insider-y peek at the commercial dance world's hottest classes, are totally irresistible.
But at what point does the phenomenon go from being a good thing to a bad thing for dancers and the dance world? Is the focus on filming distracting from the work dancers are supposed to be doing in class? Are overproduced videos presenting a dangerously misleading picture of the dance world? Is the pressure to be a class video star becoming too much for dancers to handle? These are some of the questions A-list dancer and choreographer Ian Eastwood—no stranger to the class video himself—has been asking on Twitter. And they've sparked a lively, important debate.
Getting corrections from our dance instructors is how we grow, and as students, it's important that we do our best to apply every correction right away. But sometimes—whether it's because we're in physical pain, or have a lot on our minds, or are just not paying attention—those corrections don't sink in. And from a teacher's standpoint, giving the same corrections time and time again gets old very fast. Here are 10 important corrections dance teachers are tired of giving. Take them to heart!
Our favorite drama-filled, dance reality show may have ended this past fall, but "Dance Moms" stars Chloe, Kalani, and Kendall aren't about to let that end their dance careers. In fact, these dancing kweens are taking their moves to a city near you with their Irreplaceables Tour! The girls are going all out for the three-week dance production, which is taking them across the country. And these dazzling dancers aren't just content with showing off their dance skillz—they want to pass along their tips and tricks in a dance workshop where they'll lead fans in stretches and dance routines from the show.
Dance Spirit caught up with Chloe, Kalani, and Kendall to find out what they love about tour life and where they see themselves five years from now.
When most of us think of The Nutcracker, we imagine a growing Christmas tree, dancing mice, and a little girl named Clara (or Marie) traveling to the Land of Sweets. But companies around the world have been reinventing the holiday classic, changing the storyline or adding their own spectacular sets and characters. To get in the Nutcracker spirit this season, check out these out-of-the-box productions.
Aspiring ballerina Katarina Jakimier, a Dallas, TX, native, was just 12 when Dance Spirit first featured her, highlighting the innovative pointe shoe recycling program she created in her community. Now 16, Jakimier is still studying ballet intensively—this past fall she started training at the John Cranko Schule in Stuttgart, Germany—and is still on a mission to make the world a better place. Recently, she founded the Silver Swans Ballet Program, which allows senior citizens in retirement homes to experience the magic of ballet, and to reap all of its health benefits. Here, she tells us how the initiative came to be. —Courtney Bowers