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 ()
Ayo &Teo incorporate cotton swabs in their dancing to bring awareness to blood caner (courtesy DoSomething.org)

Rapping, dance duo Ayo & Teo may still want "ice on their wrists so (they) look better when (they) dance," as they're 2017 chart topping song, "Rolex" says, but the two are featuring a more unusual accessory in their recent dance routine: The cotton swab. After teaming up with DoSomething.org for the Give A Spit About Cancer campaign, Ayo & Teo are encouraging people to join the national bone marrow registry and donate marrow for those suffering from blood cancer.

Keep reading... Show less

Looking for your next audition shoe? Shot at and in collaboration with Broadway Dance Center, Só Dança has launched a new collection of shoes working with some pretty famous faces of the musical theater world! Offered in two different styles and either 2.5" or 3" heels, top industry professionals are loving how versatile and supportive these shoes are! Pro tip: The heel is centered under the body so you can feel confident and stable!

Health & Body
Lealand Eve

As a teenager, contemporary dancer Eveline Kleinjans felt like nothing she did was good enough. Auditioning for university dance programs paralyzed her: “I was so focused on every move I made and what people would think that I wasn't able to be free, to be myself," she says. And her intense perfectionism had real repercussions. “I'd get negative feedback saying, 'We don't see you.' "

Perfectionism is extremely common in the dance world, because dancers hold themselves to terrifically high standards. It's easy to get a little discouraged when you aren't improving as quickly as you want. But there's a difference between healthy self-criticism and an unhealthy obsession with perfection. How can you tell when your drive to be better has crossed the line—and what can you do to get back on track?

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer

Partnering is hard enough as it is: You're trying to untangle technical snafus and synchronize your movements with those of another dancer, not to mention building the delicate trust required to catch and be caught, lift and be lifted. Throw a hostile or uncooperative partner into the mix, and you might wish you could take a pass on pas de deux. But don't give up! We asked the experts for tips on how to solve partnering's "relationship problems" as gracefully as possible.

Keep reading... Show less
Artyon Celestine and Paige Glenn showing their lift skills (photo by Kristin Glenn, courtesy Glenn)

Yes, they're quite possibly the cutest dance duo since, well, ever. But put Paige Glenn and Artyon Celestine onstage, and it's immediately clear they mean business. That was apparent to millions across the country last summer, when Artyon and Paige's unbelievable extensions, fearless turning, and infectious energy propelled them to the quarterfinals of "America's Got Talent." They've also appeared (together or individually) on "Little Big Shots," "Lip Sync Battle Shorties," "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," and "Access Hollywood Live"—not to mention the competition titles they've won as a pair.

"Simon Cowell came backstage during 'AGT' and told us, 'Go out there and do your best. They're going to like you.' "—Artyon
Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Showstopper's National Finals Opening Number Performance

Showstopper has been making its impact on the dance world since 1978. Before then, dancers didn't have a stage to perform on, the opportunity to learn from peers, or a competitive outlet like most sports. Debbie Roberts recognized this missing piece in the dance community and that is how America's first and longest running dance competition, Showstopper, was born. Debbie taught dance for over 26 years and owned and operated her own dance studio for 20 years. She is now the owner and National Director of Showstopper, along side her husband, Dave Roberts. Dancer, teacher, business owner, author, and mother, Debbie has made dance her life's career.

Keep reading... Show less
Cover Story
Photo by Lucas Chilczuk

With several Shaping Sound tours and TV credits like "So You Think You Can Dance," "Dancing with the Stars," and "Boardwalk Empire" to her name, you wouldn't expect Kate Harpootlian to be refreshingly down-to-earth. But that's exactly how she is: As soon as you start talking to the gifted dancer and choreographer, it becomes clear that she doesn't take herself too seriously. And she's happy to tell hilarious stories to prove it. (Ask her about the time she did a Mr. Peanut impression when Mia Michaels asked her to improvise, or the time she starred in a Japanese makeup commercial and had to do grand pliés wearing one pointe shoe and one flat shoe.)

That mixture of humor and grace is evident in Harpootlian's growing body of choreographic work. Her one-act show Better Late Than Never, for example, which premiered last summer, has a jazzy, West Side Story vibe, offsetting heavier moments with touches of whimsy. "There's always a balance in my work," Harpootlian says. "I want to use humor to balance out the darker aspects. It's like one of my friends once said: 'You make me laugh, and then you make me feel bad for laughing.' "

Keep reading... Show less
Popular

Winter is drawing to a close and you know what that means -- It's time to really kick this year into gear! Move U has done the research so you can find your best match, look good, and feel great this season with a twist unique to your team! Here are five looks to put your performance on the map in 2018.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
Screenshot via @portfolioglobal on Instagram

We already knew Taylor and Reese Hatala can do anything. After all, they're both incredibly versatile dancers capable of serving up some serious face. And now the super siblings can add another title to their resumé: that of fashion magazine cover stars.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
Sofia Wylie (photo by Dave Brewer, courtesy Disney Channel)

Last week Disney Channel star Sofia Wylie released a behind-the-scenes look at the making of her YouTube dance series. Along with some stellar dancing, the video shows the dance community featured in her "4k Dance Series" and the things they've learned from being a part of the dance project. And though the project features dance, we love that it also emphasizes supporting and building up fellow dancers.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Want to Be on Our Cover?

covermodelsearch-image

Video

Sponsored

mailbox

Get Dance Spirit in your inbox

Sponsored