The Importance of Mental Wellness for Dancers
by Kristin Deiss
“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.” -Dance Spirit, August 2019. Read the article below to learn how and why Danscend is meeting this need.
How often do you talk about your physical health?
You might catch yourself mentioning muscle aches, cramps, and soreness to your family or casually discussing old or current injuries with friends before class.
You also most likely talk to your dance teachers about how something is feeling physically so that you can get the feedback necessary to improve.
All of this is fairly routine, yes?
Now, how often do you talk about your mental health?
Do you ask for help when you're feeling anxious or stressed? Do you discuss with friends, family, or teachers how to best cope when struggling with negative self-talk and body image?
If your answer is no, or even sometimes, why do you think that is? Perhaps we feel uncomfortable talking about it. Or, maybe, we don't even realize that we are feeling those ways in the first place.
While dancers spend hours every day training their bodies and honing their craft, little to no attention is paid to training their minds as well. Add to that the fact that dancers are consistently being told to “leave it at the door.”
It’s perhaps not surprising then that a survey, conducted by Minding the Gap, in which 899 dancers were asked a variety of questions regarding dance and mental health, revealed the following:
- 75% of dancers responded that they have dealt with a mental health challenge at some point within the past five years
- 73% said they would most likely, or not at all, reach out to dance teachers or directors if they were going through a mental health challenge and 44% indicated that they would most likely not feel comfortable reaching out to family or friends
- 81% believe that the dance community does not do enough to address mental wellness
When dancers spend the majority of their time in an environment that prioritizes physical health over mental health, it’s no wonder then that such high numbers of dancers experience mental health challenges and that they don’t feel comfortable discussing them.
The mental wellness of dancers needs to be addressed, and both students and educators need to be given the tools to do so.
This is why Danscend was created.
After Michelle Loucadoux and I worked in the dance education field together for seven years, we realized the strong need for mental wellness awareness and training in the dance industry. Not only did we see the need in our students, but we saw the need in ourselves as well. And as we began coming to terms with our own experiences and struggles as dance professionals, we created a resource we wish was available when we were beginning our dance careers. Through Danscend, we hope to not only improve the lives of our students, but to also change the dance industry for the better.
Danscend’s mission is to bring mental wellness to the forefront of dance training by providing a space for education, application, and community to dancers, educators, and professionals.
It’s time to end the belief that the industry is not doing enough to address the mental wellness of its dancers. It’s time for all of us to be part of the solution.
Join us in our efforts to foster future generations of healthy dancers inside and out by heading to danscend.com and checking out the tools and resources we have available.
Together we can create a safer and more supportive dance community.
How do you help to support and nourish your mental wellness? What do you think would happen if we all worked to achieve this common goal for both ourselves and the industry as a whole? I’d love to hear from you! Share by dropping a comment below!
Kristin Deiss is a dancer, educator, yogi, healer, and mom trying to live her best life through helping others improve theirs.
She holds an MFA in Dance Performance and Choreography from Tisch School of the Arts at NYU and is a certified yoga teacher, Reiki Master, and Integrated Energy Practitioner.
Kristin is currently the Commercial Dance Chair at Hussian College Los Angeles, the co-founder of Danscend- Mental Wellness for Dancers, and writes about overcoming failure on Stir the Sage. For inspiration, laughs, and cute pics of her toddler, follow her on Instagram.