Dancer Burn-Out: How To Handle It
May 18th, 2020 by Elizabeth Radabaugh
As dancers, we’ve all experienced burn-out to some degree. Burn-out is defined as the condition of pushing yourself more than your body can physically and mentally handle. Understanding how much is too much, and how to handle burn-out, is critical to every dancer, of all ages and abilities.
What is burnout?
The state of being burned out can be defined as a state of constant/unexplained fatigue, poor performance despite regular dance training, negative mood, and increased occurrence of illness and/or injury. More often than not, burnout happens in a myriad of professional and non-professional dancers as a result of lacking rest and recovery time.
Some of the most common causes of burnout include, but are not limited to the following:
- Emotional/physical stress
- Lacking nutrition
- Inadequate rest/recovery
To prevent and deal with dancer burnout, it’s vital for every dancer to understand their limits, and how overbooked schedules can directly impact dancer health wellbeing, and ultimately performance.
What are the signs?
When participating in rigorous dance training, it is essential that dancers make sure they don’t push themselves farther than one’s body can handle, and they are aware of and pay attention to the following early warning signs:
- A constant feeling of fatigue
- Excessive sweating
- Inability to recover following intense dancing
- Loss of desire and enthusiasm for dance (feeling of helplessness)
- Breakdown of technique
- Poor concentration
- Loss of appetite and loss of body weight
- Disturbed sleep often with nightmares or vivid dreams
- Increased need to visit the toilet at night
- Heightened susceptibility to injuries
- Increased sensitivity to illness such as colds and chest infections
- Increased anxiety and irritability
- Signs of depression
Preventing & Dealing with Burnout
#1: Make Sure To Recover And Rejuvenate
If you find you are overworking yourself, the odds of running yourself down become very high. To avoid dancer burn-out, you should take care of your body and make sure to dedicate as time on recovery, as you do on actually dancing. Doing so will help you enter the studio feeling energized, refreshed and ready to dance. To give your body the recovery it needs, try out some of these smart, simple recovery tactics during your dance breaks throughout the day:
- Take short naps.
- Listen to music.
- Roll out your muscles.
- Without shoes, lay down with your legs up to reduce swelling.
A combination of all the above exercises will help your body recover not only physically, but also mentally. If injured, making sure to give your body the time it needs to heal is crucial to not only getting back onto the dance floor but also in avoiding re-injuring your body. Taking part in weekly rejuvenating activities include massage therapy and acupuncture can also to help dancers recover.
#2: Get Enough Sleep
To make the most out of your dance training, you should try to get at least nine or more hours of sleep. Doing so will help the body recover, and will reduce fatigue. Getting enough sleep also gives your brain time to store routines and anything you may have learned during rehearsal.
#3. Eat Well
In addition to practicing recovery exercises and getting the right amount of sleep, dancers should also remember to eat well-balanced, regular meals, consuming healthy snacks in between mealtimes. This will ensure you get the fuel you need to dance.
#4: Establish A Personal Connection To Your Music
This tip comes from Skylar Smith, a dancer at the Boca Dance Studio in Boca Raton, FL. Take small pieces of the song you dance to and connect them to your own life. Doing this can make a piece feel more meaningful, not only to the audience, but also to you.
#5. Challenge Yourself
Don’t continue to dance the same dance. Try working with your choreographer to create a routine that challenges you. According to Hayley Cloud, co-director of New England Dance and Gymnastics Centers in Massachusetts and Connecticut, you should strive to work towards perfection.
“You shouldn’t have a perfect solo right away. You need elements to go back and work on—that way, you’re constantly growing throughout the season,” she said.
#6. Do The Research
This tip comes from Melanie Gibbs, co-owner of Boca Dance Studio in Boca Raton, FL, as well as the ProAm Dance Studio in Pompano Beach, FL. To avoid boredom, research the style of dance you are performing. Gibbs says that grasping an understanding of the history behind the kind of dance you are performing will provide you with a greater sense of purpose, which translates better when dancing in front of an audience.
“If you’re dancing to jazz music from the 1940s, do your research—go on YouTube and watch a feature,” says Gibbs.
#7. Set Reachable Goals
Setting goals during each dance rehearsal also helps give dancers purpose and meaning and helps avoid tedious repetition. For example, focus one rehearsal on dance transitions, and another on technical dance elements, and another honing in on music and timing.
#8: Find Inspiration Outside The Studio
Finding yourself lacking inspiration? Feeling drained, or in a rut? Give some time for your body, and your mind, take a break from the dance world.
Often, seeking inspiration outside of the dance studio may be just what you need to get yourself back on track. Whether it is you see a movie with your friends, read a book, visit an art gallery, seeking out other creative sources to draw inspiration from is crucial in avoiding, and dealing with, dancer burnout.
Genni Abilock is a writer for StarQuest. She loves baby carrots, SpongeBob, and playing Frank Sinatra songs on the ukulele.