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Advice for dancers.

Why does having a bad dance class have to be such a bummer? I messed up a ballet combination today and can't let it go. I keep thinking about all the other dancers in class who noticed that I messed up, and it makes me feel like a complete failure. If I didn't love dancing so much I would just quit.

Lame Dancer

Saratoga, NY

Do you know any dancer who hasn't had a "bad" class? It happens to everyone, including superstars. The reality is, physical abilities vary on a daily basis. Fatigue, growth spurts, anal anatomy are just a few of the factors that can affect your performance. Rather than tearing yourself apart, why not play detective and use an off class to learn something useful? Look at the specifics of the situation (like a difficult combination) and discover why it proved to be taxing. Perhaps it's a new approach that requires practice before the steps fall into place. If you suspect the problem has more to do with your anatomy, an orthopedic screening could be helpful. You can find a screening protocol that works for dancers of every technique in my book The Dancer's Way: The New York City Ballet Guide to Mind, Body, and Nutrition. Meanwhile, try to remember that ups and downs are a normal par of the training process. Messing up one step or one class is not the end of the world. Join the crowd.

Is it weird to resent my sister's insistent need to copy everything I do? She takes the same tap classes, workshops, and even socializes with the same friends--mine! My parents think I'm being selfish when I complain, but I can't take it for much longer. I'm 18 years old and want my own life! Am I wrong to feel this way?


Dallas, TX

In my mind, there are no right or wrong feelings. It's more a matter of trying to understand the problem and find a solution. Why would your sister be shadowing your every move? There could be many reasons, from her possible shyness (perhaps she relies on you to break the ice) to a family dynamic that supports members staying close together. Either way, neither you nor your sister have much breathing room to find out what it's like to stand on your own two feet and develop an identity before you leave the family nest. It would help It all of you could discuss the situation in a safe environment with professional guidance. Speak to your parents about going to family therapy.

I don't dance as much as I did, but I still often get ingrown toenails on my big toes soon after I cut them. Any ideas for possible reasons and solutions?

Footsore Dancer

Madrid, Spain

Unfortunately, many dancers struggle with ingrown toenails and may, unknowingly, make them worse. Overly narrow shoes can be a cause. You might want to think twice before wearing tight pointe or designer shoes. Another, more common, reason can be cutting your toenails too short anal rounding the corners. This lets your shoes push the flesh over the end of the nail. It's best to cut your toenails long and straight across So the corners protrude slightly at the sides to protect your toes. Of course, if you continue to have foot problems, please see a podiatrist.

After a long, frustrating bout of visiting doctors who could not explain why I was crippled by exhaustion, I finally got diagnosed with Chronic Epstein-Barr Syndrome, which I gather is the same as mono. I'm now resting and drinking lots of fluids until I return to normal. Can you tell me why it took them months to figure out my illness? Also, how is this different from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Down for the Count

Miami, FL

If you're confused, so is the medical establishment. While lab tests can usually spot infectious mononucleosis, it takes a specialist to make sense of the results. Other illnesses can cause extreme fatigue, and 95 percent of adults in the U.S. carry the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), usually without symptoms. In fact, EBV causes mono in only 35 to 50 percent of infected teens and young adults. It is highly unusual (but not impossible) to develop a chronic case of mono that lasts for six or more months. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), on the other hand, has no reliable test and is diagnosed through a process of elimination. Still, a recent study in the journal Pediatrics suggests that infectious mononucleosis may be a risk factor for CFD, at least in teenage girls. One promising note for the future (in terms of diagnosis) comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which found that CFS is associated with three genes that affect the body's ability to handle stress.

Obviously, a correct diagnosis is crucial, given that treatment for mono requires rest, whereas chronic fatigue often benefits from moderate exercise; alternative therapies (such as a message and psychotherapy), and dietary changes. The bottom line for both illnesses is to find a physician who is familiar with fatigue syndromes. Your state or local health department can provide an appropriate referral.

Former New York City Ballet dancer Linda Hamilton, Ph.D., is a psychologist in private practice, the author Of ADVICE FOR DANCERS (Jossey-Bass), and co-author of THE DANCER'S WAY: THE NEW YORK CITY BALLET GUIDE TO MIND, BODY, AND NUTRITION (St. Martin's Griffin). Her website is


Dr. Linda Hamilton

2000 Broadway, PH2C

New York, NY 10023
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Author:Hamilton, Linda
Publication:Dance Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2010
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