I went to the Dancers Connect conference on Monday which was in Dortmund this year. It’s an event held annually ‘by dancers for dancers’. This year it was open to all professionals in Germany. It allows us to come together and discuss our working situations in order to improve the dance community. I decided to attend out of curiosity. Turns out I learned more than I expected and I’m so glad I went. It was really eye opening and it gave me so much to think about.
There were 5 sessions altogether but we could only choose two. I went to one called ‘wrapped up in passion’ by Shelby Williams and ‘psychological paradoxes’ by Florent Cheymol. These two presentations focused on the mentality of dancers which I found extremely interesting. It made me realize how caught up we get into this art form that we don’t realize what it does to our mental health.
Yes, we’re lucky we get to do what we do. But that’s no excuse for us to let ourselves “be used”. We get too “wrapped up in passion” that we cross that line where our mental health suffers. Unconsciously but willingly at times when we choose to ignore our own needs because we don’t want to put our careers at risk. We’ve sacrificed so much for this profession, to be where we are. Maybe that’s why we’re often too afraid to speak up for ourselves. Our “worth” gets neglected for our passion’s sake. We tend to put our profession above our feelings. As a result, our mental health suffers and we’re not even aware of it.
That’s what we learn from a young age anyway. Growing up in the dance industry is tough. Nothing should affect us, we’ve learned to shut our emotions out. We’ve been told to not let our surroundings get to us. What happens outside the studio, stays out. We’re taught to not get into our minds because ‘all we have is now’. We give in to what’s handed to us so easily. Stressed? Unhappy? In Pain? There’s just no time nor any room for it. The career is so short that we want to make the most out of it because our bodies can only handle so much until a certain age. Maybe that’s why we all feel so pressured to push and push that we ignore what really matters. Obviously our physical health but most importantly our mental health. And that’s something we’re going to continue to live with when our time is up as dancers.
I know so so many dancers who fear life after dance. The future is a tough subject for dancers in particular, some claim they can’t live without it. Breathing and living dance, some people’s lives revolve around it. It’s great living in the moment and not worrying about tomorrow, but fearing it is something else. Especially because we can’t go on dancing forever, not professionally… unlike many other professions or hobbies that can be enjoyed ’til we’re grey and old.
I’m well aware that dancing isn’t a very healthy… option. Physically or mentally. These two sessions definitely gave me more knowledge and has made me more aware of this dance bubble I’m in on a daily basis. It was a very successful conference and it was just amazing to see dancers come together to share situations at our workplace, aiming to improve our environment within the studios but also within ourselves. Nobody can help us as much those who can relate to us, those who know exactly what we’re going though.
We barely touched the surface of the subjects we discussed. There’s sooo much more to talk about, the conference should have been a week long!
-> Dancers Connect’s Instagram