As we’re coming up on the 8-year anniversary of The Whole Dancer, I wanted to share the current approach I take in supporting dancers. The truth is, it has evolved over time and will continue to evolve. The more I work with dancers, the more I discover more effective ways to facilitate change. Many dancers benefit from adjusting the approach to food, body, dance, and life.

This post will share some of my current approach and how it’s changed over time. As more research is done in the areas of behavior change, sports nutrition, and food relationship, my approach shifts to best support you. Even if we never work together, this post will provide actionable takeaways. You can begin to implement on your own today.

whole dancer approach

A Whole Dancer Approach to Food

When I started The Whole Dancer back in 2015, my food mentality was a bit more strict. I had gotten to a point in my own personal evolution where I was able to prioritize nutrient-dense eating in a non-obsessive way. It felt balanced for me, so naturally when I worked with dancers, I wanted to encourage the same nutrient-focused approach. 

However, many dancers aren’t ready for that step right away. Or even in the first 6 months of our work together. The first priority has to be to improve your food relationship. You have to relate to food in an easy, nonjudgmental, inclusive way before you can start to make any intentional sports-focused nutrition changes.

When a dancer gets to that place of ease, freedom, and inclusion with food, then (and only then) can they start to make dietary changes that support optimal performance. Otherwise, the changes won’t be sustainable. 

Food Action Step

Do some journaling. Ask yourself some honest questions: 

How would I describe my food relationship? 

Do I allow all foods to be a part of my eating plan?

Am I trying to focus (perhaps before I’m ready) too much on nutrient-dense, sports-performance nutrition? 

What are my motivations for the way I eat?

The Whole Dancer Approach to Your Body

Cultivating a more supportive self-image through self-love and self-care has been a key part of The Whole Dancer from the beginning. In fact, it was perhaps one of the biggest things I thought dancers were missing in their lives.

If you want to improve your body image and all of your activities are centered around dance, it’s time for a shift. A lot of people who do body-image work see neutral as the end goal. I firmly believe you can aspire to and achieve radical self-love and a positive body image, even as a dancer. 

Check out this related post :   Results from The Dancer's Best Body Program within a week!

Over the years, I’ve had the honor of sharing my insights on developing a supportive body image in Pointe Magazine in a couple of articles:

What’s become undeniably clear over the years is that improving body image is a process. There’s no quick fix. You have to be intentional and create a practice around supporting a more positive self-image each and every day. 

Body Image Action Step

Commit to The Whole Dancer Body Image Booster each and every day. You’ll find a guided audio here: Body Image Audio

The Whole Dancer Approach to Dance

Your dance pursuits can and should be joy filled. I think the biggest thing that has shifted over the years for me is I’m less likely to stay quiet if a dancer’s environment is clearly toxic or not supporting them. It’s usually clear within a single conversation if a dancer might find more success in a different company or school, and I always ask the questions that allow a dancer to find the right direction or change for their needs.

Having coached dancers in schools and companies small to massive over the years, I’m confident that you can find a job or training program where you’ll thrive. However, it might mean making big changes and shifting your perspective on where you’re dancing now.

Your dance life is relatively short considering most dancers still retire around 35 (though more are pushing beyond that number). There’s no reason to suffer through it. Life as an artist should be fulfilling and even fun! If you feel like you’re constantly trying to get someone to notice you or to like you, odds are you’re not in the right place. 

Dance Life Action Step

Do some journaling. Ask yourself these honest questions:

Do you feel supported in your current dance environment?

How do you think it would feel to be in a supportive dance environment?

The Whole Dancer Approach to Life

The Whole Dancer approach to life is all about balance. This hasn’t changed much over the years, but the process to help you achieve a more balanced life has gotten much more clear. Some important notes on balance: It’s completely personal, it changes over time, and there may be periods of time where things don’t feel very balanced at all.

Check out this related post :   Dancers Who Work with a Coach

When you’re able to make food choices with ease, you’ve built body image resilience, and you have a happy dance experience, you’ll have an easier time feeling balanced in life as a whole. There are a couple activities I work through with dancers consistently so they can gain clarity around what balance means for them personally. 

First, we do some vision writing. This post talks through what a written vision consists of and why it can be so powerful. At some point in the coaching process, I’ll recommend working through a dancer’s balanced life exercise. This encourages you to look at things like relationships, health, career, joy, and more to determine which non-dance areas of life could use some attention.

Balanced Life Action Step

Consider a few key areas of your life: career (this is likely dance even if you’re still pre-professional), physical activity, spirituality, and relationships. 

How fulfilled do you feel in each area?

Which area needs the most attention?

What action might you take to feel more fulfilled in that area?

The way I coach dancers has shifted over time. My goal has always been for you to reach your goals around food relationship, your body, dancing, and life in happy, easy, sustainable ways. Over time, I’ve seen countless dancers find great success with this approach. 

Dancers often say to me they’ve worked with nutritionists or mental wellness professionals, but they didn’t tie together these areas in effective enough ways. I’m always expanding my knowledge to be able to help you approach your life with energy and impact so you can get the contract or promotion you want and build the career of your dreams.
If you’re ready for a bold step towards a more balanced approach to dance and life, sign up for a complimentary coaching call! Here’s the link. I can’t wait to connect with you.

The Whole Dancer Approach

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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