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The love — how it starts.

In the beginning, dance is about joy. You love to do it, so you take more classes and spend more time in the studio. At some point you may decide you’re going to pursue it professionally because the love is just that deep. 

Many dancers experience a time when their perception of their body is skewed. This happens in puberty for a lot of young women. This can alter your relationship to your body and dance in massive ways. Sometimes, a loss of joy begins at this point and stays with you through your dance journey and career. 

A life filled with dancing should be joyful! Even if it’s your job, there should be more joy than pain. If you’re in physical, mental, or emotional pain as you pursue dance, something is off, and it may very well not be you.

take a break

What it feels like when you might need a break.

There are a lot of possible indicators that you need some time away from dancing. If you’re struggling to feel inspired or excited for classes and rehearsals, that’s a big (often first) sign. 

You may not feel the same motivation to push yourself in class. It’s possible you’re engaging in coping mechanisms outside of dance that don’t feel particularly positive. You might be turning to food for comfort (this isn’t always a bad thing). Or, you might be disengaging from other things in your life that typically bring you joy.

A lack of balance in your dance-life experience can be a signal that your current dance pursuits aren’t serving your well-being. This may be temporary, or it could signal a need for longer-term change.

When you’re not the driver of your goals.

It’s possible you got in too deep because of the love your parents had for your dancing. Maybe it was the thought of everything your parents invested that kept you going.

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If you have natural facility, it’s possible your teachers favored you or pushed you more. They might have inspired you to go pro without it really being about what you want. 

A life in dance really isn’t sustainable when it’s about everyone else. You have to be the driving force behind your dancing. Your own growth and passion have to be the things that motivate you. Is it possible for those things to wane and for you to still be on the right path? Absolutely! A feeling of heaviness around dance does not necessarily mean you have to quit forever to be happy again.

But you might need to give yourself time and space to figure out what will reignite a dimmed flame.

When you’re not fulfilled.

If you get into this career and find it’s not living up to your expectations, you might not feel fulfilled. 

A decision that’s made at such a young age might be based in fantasy over fact. 

The truth of this career is that it’s very hard. Dancers are often underpaid, undervalued, and mistreated. All of that being said, you can find fulfillment in dance, but you might need to shift a lot about your approach.

If you’ve only experienced one company or a single dance environment, it might be worth exploring other companies.

It’s also worth considering whether you’ll be able to find fulfillment elsewhere. Reconnect to why you started dancing in the first place. What was it that made you want to pursue dance as a profession? The environment and people around you will have a big impact on how you feel about dance.

A lot of dancers tell me they can’t imagine dancing if they aren’t doing it at their highest possible level. As someone who has transitioned into a more recreational space with dancing, I can assure you there’s tons of joy and fulfillment to be had with that shift. 

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Before you can find fulfillment, you have to prioritize your well-being and joy. 

Should you move on completely or take a break?

This is not an easy question, and the answer is definitely dependent on lots of individual factors. As scary as long breaks can be, it’s something many dancers would benefit from. If you decide you’re not ready to be done, you can return to dancing professionally — even after a long break. Taking 3–12 months off doesn’t have to end your career. 

Having taken a significant break from dancing (I didn’t step foot in a studio for a good 2–3 years) and returning with more joy, self-assurance, and even experiencing more technical growth than I had before, I know a break doesn’t have to be the end. Since I started working with dancers back in 2015, I’ve seen other dancers take time away and come back stronger mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Through coaching, you can gain clarity around your career and work through the food, body image, or life-balance challenges you’ve been facing. If you’re contemplating a break or ending your dance journey altogether, schedule a coaching consultation to see how coaching can support you to take your next steps with confidence.

When it’s time to move on from dancing…or at least take a break.

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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