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Mentors are Invaluable

I’ve mentioned many times, in one way or another, the importance of a mentor for dancers.

Some dancers are very lucky and work one on one with a coach or teacher. This person often becomes a guide for them throughout their career and life.

For some of us (myself included) those mentors don’t crop up til later.

Make it part of your job to find a mentor.

These are people who can give you advice, listen to your struggles and understand what you’re going through. They’ve been there.

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Me and Sara

A mentor may be someone who is a friend but usually has a bit more experience than you.

Navigating the landscape of a professional ballet career is not simple. The fear that you might not make it is nagging.

Some days will be full of doubt.

You won’t always find the support you desire in your peers or friends. Dance friends are still your competition and non – dance friends will never fully get it.

One of my most helpful, supportive and wonderful mentors was my friend Sara Sardelli. After dancing in Louisville, Sara moved on to Sarasota Ballet where she moved up quickly through the ranks to Principal Dancer.

We were at Butler University at the same time. She was a year ahead of me and exceptionally talented.

I was in awe.

We became fast friends. She appreciated my dry humor and sarcasm and I was just grateful to have someone older to share the ins and outs with me.

After graduation I ended up at the same ballet company as Sara.

Again, I benefitted from her willingness to share with me the politics she had already uncovered and the connections she had made.

One day after a particularly stressful rehearsal I had a breakdown.

It’s one of those moments in life I’ll never forget because I felt so overwhelmed by inadequacy.

As I cried in Sara’s car I imagined she had no idea how I felt. She was so much more talented than me. I was totally shocked when, at the end of my tearful self – mutilation she told me:

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“I know exactly how you feel.”

How this was possible baffled me but I believed her when she told me her first year with the company was equally distressing.

Your mentor will be able to tell you, “I get it” and sometimes that’s all it takes to feel a little bit better and to realize you’re not alone. We’re all in this together.

Find a Mentor
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Jess Spinner

Jess is a former professional ballet dancer turned Holistic Health, Nutrition, and Lifestyle Coach for high level dancers. She founded The Whole Dancer in 2015 after identifying a greater need for balance, wellness and support in the dance world. Since The Whole Dancer was founded, Jess has worked with 100's of dancers worldwide at top companies and schools. She has been featured in or written for Dance Magazine, Dance Teacher Magazine, Pointe Magazine, and Dance Spirit Magazine.

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