Let's face it—dance is HARD, and in order to achieve your goals, you need to be committed to your training. "Still, there's a fine line between being committed and being consumed." Dancers can, and should, have interests outside of the studio.
Not convinced? We talked with dance psychologist Dr. Lucie Clements and two multifaceted dancers, Kristen Harlow (a musical theater dancer pursuing a career in NYC and Kentucky) and Kallie Takahashi (a dancer in her final year at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts), and got the inside scoop on how having hobbies outside of dance can inform your artistry, expand your range and help prevent burnout.
Dance Spirit: Are dancers less committed to dance if they have other passions?
Dr. Lucie Clements: Definitely not, in fact I would always encourage a dancer to have more than one passion. Having multiple hobbies helps you to maintain balance in your life, brings perspective, and will also bring lots of new skills into your life that will likely transfer into dance.
DS: What's the difference between a commitment to dance and an all-consuming obsession with dance?
LC: In psychology we call the distinction between commitment and all-consuming hobbies either harmonious or obsessive passions. A harmonious passion means that dance is in harmony with other activities, is associated with positive emotions, and we know that we would manage if we were injured. Essentially, this is where a person makes an autonomous choice to have dance in their life, and makes time and space for other things, too. An obsessive passion, by contrast, is one where we live and breathe dance, at the cost of other hobbies, possibly even friendships or relationships, and especially our own well-being. This sort of commitment could lead to what's known as a "controlled internalization"—we are dancing because we feel compelled to since we can't imagine life without it, rather than doing it because we love it. Always remember to check in and ask yourself if dance is in harmony with the rest of who you are.
DS: What are the benefits of having other hobbies and interests?
LC: Having lots of interests builds a broader self-concept, which relates to the way we label ourselves ("I am a dancer," "I am a swimmer," "I am a sister"), but also the values we hold most strongly (e.g. to be creative, to be kind, to be powerful). Self-concept is really key to our well-being, it gives rise to our evaluations of our self-worth and self-esteem. When a dancer experiences loss in dance, such as injury, a series of 'no's at an audition, or a long time without work, their self-concept could be wiped out if all they label themselves as is 'A dancer.' If all we have is dance, it can prevent us from coping during times of loss because that rejection or injury is taking away all that we are. Someone who has a variety of hobbies can draw on the other parts of who they are to boost their self-esteem and find purpose.
DS: Are there any risks associated with pursuing other interests that we should be wary of?
LC: Doing too many activities can lead to burnout. To keep burnout at bay, don't forget to make rest and self-care your hobbies too!
Here's What the Dance Pros Are Saying
Photo courtesy of Kristen Harlow
Kristen Harlow on the relationship between dance commitment and hobbies: "I believe dance can still be your favorite hobby, as you allow yourself to explore new creative outlets. That is the beauty of being an artist: We can use our love for art to try new things!"
Kristen Harlow on her own nondance interest: "My passion outside of dance is being a cake artist/baker! During the pandemic, all I wanted to do was spread joy, and because we couldn't be together dancing in NYC, baking became the next best thing for me."
Kristen Harlow on the similarities between baking and dancing: "Ever since I started Kristen's Kreations, I have realized probably thousands of different similarities between the two. Dance for me has always been my source of joy and motivation, and baking quickly became the same."
Photo courtesy of Kristen Harlow
Photo by @mediabyZ
Kallie Takahashi on her own nondance hobbies: "I love to sew and design my own clothes. Sometimes I will just do small alterations on old pieces that I already own, sometimes I'll buy something knowing I want to completely take it apart, or I will even start from scratch by picking out the fabric and dreaming up whatever I can imagine."
Kallie Takahashi on the lesson both dance and sewing have taught her: "Patience is everything. You aren't going to get it right on the first try, but that doesn't mean you won't learn something on the way."
Kallie Takahashi on the benefits of being versatile: "Expanding your horizons allows you to be a more well-rounded individual and gives you more outlets to express yourself. And who knows, the industry is so versatile, maybe that other interest will help you in your dance career in the long run—special skills and all!"
Kallie Takahashi models the pants she made.Photo courtesy of Kallie Takahashi
Ultimately, finding balance with dance and other hobbies might be challenging to navigate at first, but it is well worth the work in order to let your best qualities shine.