Steven Loch with fellow soloist Leah Merchant in William Forsythe's New Suite (Angela Sterling, courtesy Pacific Northwest Ballet)
Recently, there's been a noticeable push for more education and support surrounding mental illness. And while every industry can benefit from this shift, it's especially overdue in the dance world. "We need to get rid of the stigma," says Nadine Kaslow, a psychologist who works with the dancers of Atlanta Ballet. "The fact is, when you have an ankle injury, you go to a doctor; when you have anxiety, you should go to a therapist."
Kaslow emphasizes that most disorders are treatable and episodic, and if dancers get a proper diagnosis and therapy, they'll feel better—which in turn will improve their dancing. "There is no question that physical performance is linked to mental health," Kaslow says. "If your mental health is not in shape, you're at an increased risk for injury and won't perform optimally."
Sarah Pippin assisting in a convention class at New York City Dance Alliance (courtesy NYCDA)
To her high school classmates, Sarah Pippin was a regular girl: a good student and a friendly face around campus. But on the weekends—at dance competitions and conventions across the country—Pippin was a bona fide celeb, adored by her fellow competitors and faculty members alike.
By the time she graduated high school, Pippin had racked up major accomplishments, including performances with Janet Jackson and Shaping Sound, a role on Dance Spirit's own reality series “Road to Nationals," titles such as New York City Dance Alliance's National Mini, Junior and Senior Outstanding Dancer, and, most recently, a college scholarship on behalf of Dance Magazine through the NYCDA Foundation.
There's no doubt that Pippin, now a freshman at The Juilliard School, is among a rising generation of competition and convention stars. And while “celebrity" isn't a term they'd give themselves, you know who they are. These dancers are adored by legions of real-life fans hoping to watch and dance alongside them, not to mention the thousands of social media followers ready to double-tap everything they post.
Being so popular on the circuit has its perks—traveling every weekend, internet fame, working with big-name choreographers—but it also comes with its share of struggles. Here's a peek at what it's really like at the top.