For many of us, whether professional or amateur, dance is a passion that we devote a substantial amount of time, energy, and money to. We engage in training, travelling, and practising to make our dance closer to our perceived ‘ideal’. However, for some of us, we end up burning ourselves out because we push too hard too often. We start losing motivation (and then get mad at ourselves for that decreasing motivation), which can eventually cause some of us to depart from the scene entirely.
One of the biggest contributors to this burnout is that many of us don’t permit ourselves the space we need to rekindle our love of dance. With that in mind, here are 5 things that are perfectly OK and acceptable as a tool for managing dance burnout.
1: Focus on enjoying an event – rather than extracting full “value”
This is not meant to imply that events are not fun when you do extract value. However, many serious dancers attend weekends with a mentality towards competing or training a lot, and then staying up all night social dancing. While this is a very useful approach to many events, sometimes it is useful to permit yourself a ‘vacation’ event where the goal is to relax and rediscover your dance joy – instead of milking every possible opportunity from the weekend. Maybe that means reducing the number of workshops. Maybe that means forgoing a private, or sleeping all day so you can dance all night. Or, maybe it means taking the social dancing easy because you really want to focus on the daytime activities.
After all, even if you paid for a pass, it doesn’t mean you must do every single thing on the schedule. For example, go to dinner with friends instead of doing two more workshops, or sleep during the late-night social dancing. It’s ok. Or, sleep through the busy primetime and get that one really solid hour of late night dancing. For some people, this may also mean forgoing competitions or performing. For others, it may mean only competing and performing.
Doing less but structuring your weekend in a way you enjoy is often far more rewarding than trying to get every ounce you can from the weekend.
2: Not treating everything as a training opportunity
For hardcore dancers, we often are on a constant quest for self-improvement. This is sometimes at odds with our enjoyment and self esteem – especially if we are in the middle of a tricky dance plateau. Sometimes, it’s OK to relax on hardcore training for a bit in order to remember why you like dancing. Maybe you arrange to take a week or month off of classes so you can focus on just doing some social dancing.
Now, that doesn’t mean that the time off is going to transform you into a better dancer. Sometimes breaks help people relax through a block. Other times, they keep you at the same level, but don’t really change your dancing. The purpose here is not to trick yourself into thinking you know it all. Instead, it is to give yourself a brain-break to relax away from structure and find enjoyment, which can revitalize you for diving back into more intense training again.
3: Not constantly burning the floor at socials
On the flip side, some people go through phases where they just really want to train instead of social dancing. This is also completely fine. After all, when social dancing starts feeling like an obligation, it’s often wise to take some time to find your craving again. Once that feeling comes back, it can be a powerful tool for finding your dance floor mojo.
4. Saying “No”
Whether it’s an opportunity to teach or just a social dance, it is OK to let yourself say “no”. You don’t have to be mean about it, but your autonomy is important, and you are not suddenly a bad person for expressing what you do or don’t want to do (even if some people make you feel that way).
For artists and staff, this includes events that don’t meet your minimum needs. For example, room, food, or pay requirements.
5. Asking “stupid” questions (ESPECIALLY applies to newer teachers)
As you progress in dance, you will start noticing new details that you never considered before. For example, is it more effective to execute this movement in neutral, compression, or extension? Is my rate of weight transfer on this step correct? Or even: am I doing this basic correctly at a fundamental level?
As we improve, a lot of us become more scared about asking technical questions because we fear it will make us look like we are an imposter. This is especially true for newer teachers, who often have a great investment in proving that they know enough to teach. However, it is your responsibility to ask those questions because it’s the only way to improve. Whether it’s to your peers or your coaches, those simple questions are important.
Further, most teachers recognize that those “stupid” questions only get asked when a person has reached a sufficient awareness of their dance to identify the smaller gaps in their knowledge. And, it’s completely reasonable to realize that you missed something foundational as you were learning originally, or that you just never really thought about because it worked… until you had to explain the right way to do it, or use it to execute something else.
At the end of the day, it’s completely OK to ask the stupid questions. It will make you a better teacher and/or dancer – and also won’t make the person you’re asking think any less of you.
(Bonus) #6: Take a hiatus
Sometimes, some people need to take a hiatus from dance to rest, recover, and rediscover their passion. While it’s always sad to see an experienced dancer go away for a while, it’s OK. This doesn’t mean that all your investment is worthless. It means that maybe you need to switch focus for a while. If you need it, take it.
Find ways to enjoy your dance. Take the breaks you need. Set your boundaries. Ask the stupid questions.
For any dancer (and especially the super-hardcore ones), it’s important to set up an environment that puts you in the best position to enjoy this passion long-term. Burnout is real, and expectations can lead to issues regarding your feelings of self-worth or value. But, by setting up an environment that puts the focus on your goals and your desires with dance, you can recenter yourself and keep the dance passion alive.