Health & Body

Coming Down Easy

Any parachuter will tell you that the adrenaline rush that comes from jumping out of a plane is often followed by an intense feeling of let-down after landing. The same thing happens when you finish a big show. Performers of all kinds know there’s very little logic to those icky feelings that come creeping in the days and weeks after performance. You just did something extraordinary—shouldn’t you feel great?

The symptoms of post-performance depression vary widely: Some people feel sad, while others gain or lose weight. Some can’t sleep; others can’t stop sleeping. Many dancers feel worthless or can’t focus (even enough to read through this paragraph!).

During these in-between, lowdown times, NYC-based dancer and choreographer Miguel Gutierrez of Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People says his inner monologue is, “What’s next? What now? What happened? What do I do with all this time?” Though ups and downs will always be a part of a performer’s life, here are a few things that might help out when in-between-gig-ness has got you down.

Recognize the chemistry.

When you perform, a large amount of epinephrine (or adrenaline) gets released into your brain. This “fight or flight” hormone helps you dance to the best of your abilities. The levels of other brain chemicals (or neurotransmitters) such as dopamine and serotonin are also tweaked when you’re in an excited state. When you come down from that high, your brain holds back certain chemicals and boosts up others to get everything back into shape. In other words, some of the sadness you feel is part of your body’s natural rebalancing act. Factor in some emotional healing time, just like you would for a pulled muscle, and ease up on yourself.

Use time to your advantage.

Instead of seeing free time as a testament to your lack of success, it’s important to view it as an opportunity. When you’re in the thick of rehearsals and performances, it’s common to say, “If I only had a little more time, I’d…” Keep track of those things, whether they’re dance-related or not. Then when some downtime comes your way, you’ve finally got a chance to explore some of that stuff. Dancer Jennifer Dunne (currently appearing in Curtains on Broadway) says, “I use the unemployment time to really assess my skills and try to improve.” In-between time can be a great opportunity to slow down, check in with yourself and figure out where you want to go next.

Do something else completely.

Have you ever found that you get so obsessed with the next competition or convention that you forget that there’s a whole world of other wonderful things out there? Try devoting some of your in-between time to something entirely noncompetitive. Dancer Brittany Marcin, also a Curtains dancer, makes jewelry and encourages dancers to have other hobbies: “It helps to be a well-rounded person, which in turn makes you a well-rounded performer,” she says. Whether it’s taking a cooking class, learning Russian, exploring a nearby town or starting an herb garden, sometimes rediscovering the joy of doing simple, noncompetitive things will help you to step back and get a little perspective on your dancing.

Find out what she’s up to.

When you’re not performing, your old friend jealousy can tell you to stay 100 feet from anyone else who’s in the spotlight. Bite the bullet and go anyway. Broadway dancer and teacher Mary Ann Lamb (also currently in Curtains) says, “I love to see other peoples’ shows. The only downfall is it’s a Catch-22 because you don’t have much money when you’re not working.” Supporting your fellow dancers as they support you is not only generous (and part of what makes a strong community), it often inspires and encourages you when you’re down.

Go back to class.

Your Nutcracker performances are over and the holidays are upon you. What do you do after spending some quality time with the fam? Head back to class. Not only will it keep you in the groove, you might pick up some new steps. Albert Stephenson, a dance teacher at Circle in the Square Theater School in NYC, says that all dancers should go back to class after a show finishes in order to keep their body’s muscle memory firing. Find a class with a positive, encouraging atmosphere so you’ll feel comfortable jumping back into it, even when your spirits are low.

Volunteer.

It might take some research to iron out the details, but volunteering your talent is a great way to stay connected and help out at the same time. “I love to volunteer for choreographers who need help with new works. I also participate in benefits that raise money and awareness for different causes,” Marcin says. “You never know who you’ll meet.” Websites, bulletin boards and local papers are all good places to find out where you can volunteer.

Talk it out.

Both depression and pride can keep you from telling someone when you’re feeling down in the dumps after you’ve finished a project. Try giving your legs a rest and letting your tongue do the dancing. Tell a friend, fellow dancer, sibling, parent or therapist exactly how you’re feeling (but make sure it’s someone you can be totally honest with). Communicating what you’re going through will probably give you some insight. Former American Ballet Theatre corps member Erin Ackert says, “Misery loves company—that’s why professional dancers in NYC of all genres tend to gather at one Upper West Side spot when performing is thin: STEPS on Broadway.” Like most other dancers, Ackert finds that talking to people who are in similar situations makes her feel less alone.

Last Words

The fact is that if you love what you’re doing, not doing it doesn’t feel good. Since there aren’t any activities that we can do 24/7 (besides breathing), it’s important to realize that “in-between time” is a part of life. We need to accept it and remind ourselves that without it we couldn’t do our best during the “up” time. Of course, if you’re really in a funk, you should talk to someone as soon as you can, but if it’s that standard, post-gig “ugh” that we all know so well, go easy on yourself. Come on now…you did good!

Show Comments ()
Videos
Screenshot via YouTube

Kylie Shea is no stranger to showcasing her quirky take on ballet to the masses. The Instagram star continues to entertain us with her unconventional dance routines on pointe, be it on her social media platforms, in music videos, and even commercials. And her collaboration with the Canadian band MAGIC is one of our favorites yet. Dancing to their hit song "Expectations," Shea and the band's lead singer Nasri have a low key dance-off. The video starts out somewhat somber, but as things progress, Shea's sense of humor shines through—culminating with a fabulous scene that has her jiving in a tutu.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
@brittanytemple_ Bohemian And Barefoot Blog

From Mandy Moore to Boston Ballet, the most trusted professionals in the dance community are recommending Apolla Shocks. We decided to investigate further and learn more about the footwear company that has started a new revolution in the dance world.

The revolution begins

Apolla Shocks are everywhere right now. Your favorite dancers on "So You Think You Can Dance", on tour with "Shaping Sound", at conventions, in class, and on competition stages. These dancers are not just wearing socks. They are wearing Shocks!

What do all these dancers know that you don't? Why are they building such a strong and loyal customer base? To understand better, we asked some of the most trusted dancers, choreographers, and physical therapists in the dance community why they recommend Apolla Shocks?

Mandy Moore (award winning producer, director & choreographer)
"I wear Apolla Shocks when I am in the studio all day creating. They make my feet feel like they are on clouds! Who knew that a little sock could bring such happiness to my aching feet…"

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
Hayden Hopkins studying in the theater before transforming into Mystère's La Belle (courtesy Mystère 'by Cirque Du Soleil)

A full-time university isn't your only option for earning a degree. Enrolling in college part-time while pursuing a pro career is a challenge well worth the rewards.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Photo by Kate Glicksberg, courtesy NYC & Company

Are you more at home in the world of Rent, A Chorus Line, Cats, Oklahoma, or Grease? Take our quiz to find out!

Keep reading... Show less
Trending-posts
Shannon Mather's Body Love being performed at competition (photo by Art Lee, courtesy Shannon Mather)

When Shannon Mather choreographed Body Love on a group of dancers from her Mather Dance Company, a video of the work was so popular that it ended up going viral, garnering over a million views on YouTube. Set to a spoken-word poem by Mary Lambert on themes of body image, unhealthy beauty standards, and self-confidence, the piece resonated not only with competition judges (who placed the piece in the top three at Hall of Fame Dance Challenge), but also with the teenage dancers in the cast. "It spoke a lot to girls," Mather says. "I got so many messages."

Dancing to spoken word can be incredibly powerful, and help you stand out in a competition. But it comes with its own set of challenges, especially if you're used to having music backing you up. Here's what you need to know if you're thinking about tackling a spoken-word piece.

Keep reading... Show less
Cover Story
Class at the University of Southern California Glorya Kaufman School of Dance (photo by Ema Peter, courtesy USC)

If you closed your eyes and pictured dance paradise, what would it look like? Maybe you'd start your morning in rehearsal with a renowned contemporary choreographer, and then work on a dance driven by computer programming, and then run to a music video audition, and end the day discussing the impact of African dance styles on American pop culture.

Guess what? That dance paradise isn't just a dream. It's the University of Southern California Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, a young program that's already attracting some of the most talented dancers around—for good reason.

Click here to meet Alyssa Allen, Simrin Player, and Jake Tribus, three of USC's standout students.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Videos
It includes a peek at a chimney-sweep number that's giving us ALL KINDS of Newsies vibes. (Walt Disney Studios)

What could be more super(califragilisticexpialidocious) than a Mary Poppins sequel? How about a Mary Poppins sequel helmed by fabulous director/choreographer Rob Marshall and starring the likes of Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda?

Yup, Mary Poppins Returns is happening, friends! In fact, there's now a trailer out for the much-anticipated follow-up to the Disney classic, set to hit theaters December 18th. And from a dance perspective, the new film looks practically perfect in every way.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for Fun
Yes, the "workshop" ballet was just as life-changing as I'd been told it would be.

I have a confession. Until today, I had never seen the seminal classic Center Stage.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Videos
It includes a peek at a chimney-sweep number that's giving us ALL KINDS of Newsies vibes. (Walt Disney Studios)

What could be more super(califragilisticexpialidocious) than a Mary Poppins sequel? How about a Mary Poppins sequel helmed by fabulous director/choreographer Rob Marshall and starring the likes of Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda?

Yup, Mary Poppins Returns is happening, friends! In fact, there's now a trailer out for the much-anticipated follow-up to the Disney classic, set to hit theaters December 18th. And from a dance perspective, the new film looks practically perfect in every way.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
@brittanytemple_ Bohemian And Barefoot Blog

From Mandy Moore to Boston Ballet, the most trusted professionals in the dance community are recommending Apolla Shocks. We decided to investigate further and learn more about the footwear company that has started a new revolution in the dance world.

The revolution begins

Apolla Shocks are everywhere right now. Your favorite dancers on "So You Think You Can Dance", on tour with "Shaping Sound", at conventions, in class, and on competition stages. These dancers are not just wearing socks. They are wearing Shocks!

What do all these dancers know that you don't? Why are they building such a strong and loyal customer base? To understand better, we asked some of the most trusted dancers, choreographers, and physical therapists in the dance community why they recommend Apolla Shocks?

Mandy Moore (award winning producer, director & choreographer)
"I wear Apolla Shocks when I am in the studio all day creating. They make my feet feel like they are on clouds! Who knew that a little sock could bring such happiness to my aching feet…"

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Photo by Kate Glicksberg, courtesy NYC & Company

Are you more at home in the world of Rent, A Chorus Line, Cats, Oklahoma, or Grease? Take our quiz to find out!

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
Ellenore Scott posing in shoes from the latest Marc Fisher fashion campaign that she choreographed (courtesy Marc Fisher LTD)

It's the most wonderful time of year for fashion and fierce fall fashion/dance collabs are all over the place. But we had to pick our jaws up off of the floor after watching the new dancetastic Marc Fisher LTD footwear commercials. The shoe brand created one of the most compelling ads we've seen thanks to the fancy footwork of six dancers and the choreography of "So You Think You Can Dance" alum Ellenore Scott. We talked with the multi-talented artist to find out how choreographing for a fashion commercial compares to creating routines for live shows on Broadway, like King Kong (which opens Nov. 8th). Check out our interview where Scott shares tips on what you can do to also become a choreographer in the biz one day.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

Longer ballet skirts are having a major moment. We've seen them popping up in the Instagram studio clips of dance fashionistas around the world—from American Ballet Theatre's Isabella Boylston to The Royal Ballet's Beatriz Stix-Brunell to Berlin State Ballet's Iana Salenko. And with cooler weather on the way, we have a feeling we'll be seeing even more calf-length skirts.

Beyond being trendy, long ballet skirts give any studio ensemble a sophisticated prima ballerina vibe (hi, Natalia Makarova). Try out one of these long skirt options.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for Fun
Via Instagram

There's nothing we love more than a dance power couple, and ballroom stars Jenna Johnson and Val Chmerkovskiy are just that. Honestly, we stan the recently-engaged duo so hard! Here are 10 times they made our hearts burst.

Keep reading... Show less
How To

Diving into the competition and convention circuit with your studio's team can be an exhilarating experience. But it frequently comes with a steep price tag, including entry fees, costume expenses, and (especially) travel costs. "The remote location of our town means we inevitably need to travel to compete," says Mary Myers of The Dance Connection in Woodward, OK. "Dancers have to budget for gas, hotels, and food." When Nationals roll around, that travel bill can skyrocket with the added price of plane tickets.

All this money talk have your heart racing? Don't panic! A conservative budget doesn't mean you have to sit out the season. Here's how to get the most bang for your competition buck.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
The judges started the night off with their own performances (NBC via Newsweek)

This is it, guys. The answer to the question we've been asking ALL SUMMER LONG is finally here: Who went home with the $1 million dollar prize?!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

The fun doesn't stop after Showstopper's competition season ends. Join Showstopper this fall and winter for their 2018-19 Dance Conventions. Bring the whole studio or dance solo, but register soon so you do not miss out!

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Video

mailbox

Get Dance Spirit in your inbox

Sponsored

Giveaways