Keone and Mari Madrid on "World of Dance." Mari has opened up about her struggles with depression. (NBC)

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.


Mari Madrid

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.

Latest Posts


Because there's never been a better time to binge-watch "Bunheads" (via Freeform)

5 of the Danciest TV Shows Streaming Right Now (and Where to Stream Them)

We're about two months into #SocialDisDancing, and let's be real—while we all wish we were spending every spare minute stretching, cross-training, or taking online classes, sometimes we just need to Netflix and chill.

We figure, if you're going to be watching TV anyways, why not make it dancy TV? After all, watching pros dance on-screen is basically dance class homework...or at least we'll say it is. Here are five of the danciest TV shows for you to watch—and where to find them.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Larry Saperstein on "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series" (Disney+/Fred Hayes)

Celebrate National Tap Dance Day with "HSM" Star Larry Saperstein

Happy National Tap Dance Day, friends! We're marking the occasion by catching up with one of our favorite talented young tappers: Larry Saperstein. The "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series" star began taking tap classes at 12 years old, studying at the American Tap Dance Foundation, where he quickly discovered his love for the art. These days, he's putting his skills to good use as Big Red on "HSMTMTS." (Who could forget that iconic moment at the end of season one where he broke out into a tap routine that shook us all!)

We chatted with Larry about why he loves tap so much, and why the art form needs more and better representation in the dance world (and the world world).

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

2020 Dance Grads: We Want to Put You on Our Cover!

Hello, all you members of the great Dance Class of 2020. With the world on lockdown, this hasn't been the graduation season you expected. You likely weren't able to go to prom; your commencement ceremonies have probably been delayed or canceled; and you might not have been able to take your planned-for final bow onstage.

Since you're missing out on so much, we'd like to give you a virtual ovation, to recognize all you've accomplished. And what's the highest honor we can bestow? The cover of Dance Spirit!

Here's the plan:

  • If you're a high school or college senior dancer, use this form to submit your information and dance portrait.
  • Each day during the month of May, we'll create a digital Dance Spirit cover starring one of you, chosen at random—31 covers in total.
  • At the end of the month, we'll create a "commencement video" featuring even more of your submitted dance photos.
  • 100 of you, selected by lottery, will also receive free one-year subscriptions to the print magazine.

Merde, 2020 graduates, as you dance your way into the future!

High School and College Senior Dancers: Submit Your Photo Here

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search