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Advice for dancers.

AN ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR AT FORDHAM UNIVERSITY, LINDA HAMILTON, PH.D., IS ALSO A LECTURER, A PSYCHOLOGIST, A FORMER DANCER WITH NEW YORK CITY BALLET, AND AUTHOR OF ADVICE FOR DANCERS (JOSSEY-BASS).

Why can't I stop comparing myself to the dancers in my class? I feel so paranoid about my dancing that I want to give up. My teacher tells me I could have a professional career, but I still feel bad about myself.

Anonymous

You're not alone. Many high achievers are extremely self-critical, judging themselves against others as they compete for roles, scholarships, or recognition. In small doses focusing on the competition can motivate you to work harder. Constant comparisons, however, undermine your confidence, creating feelings of insecurity whenever you fall behind. Remember: Everyone is different. Keep the focus on you. If you're struggling with certain aspects of your technique, look at them as problems to solve but never forget your strengths.

I read your column all the time and it's helped me a lot. Before, I'd stretch when I was cold, skip breakfast, and get by on six hours of sleep. I've been able to make positive changes that have resulted in more energy and fewer injuries. I worry that I'll go back to being unhealthy over the summer at American Ballot Theatre's dance program. I hear it's really intense and I want to be thin and make a good impression.

Healthy for the Moment

Summer programs can be extremely demanding, not only because of the course load but because you're in a new environment surrounded by a roomful of talented dancers. It's not unusual for dancers to go to extremes, living on grapes or working themselves to the bone, even though these behaviors always backfire. In contrast, every day that you eat right or get enough sleep, you're one step closer to becoming a professional dancer. Keep this in mind whenever you're tempted to slip back into your old habits. If you need to lose weight, see a nutritionist who can help you set up a healthy meal plan.

Help! I can't decide what to do. The company of my dreams just gave me a scholarship at their school with a possible apprenticeship in the future. Another good company (with a director I don't like much) has offered me a job. My mind says to settle for a sure thing. My feelings tell me to follow my heart. What do you think?

Uncertain

Find out if the company of your dreams requires dancers to attend its school for a year or two before being offered a position. If so, you may risk losing a chance to perform with them if you don't accept a student scholarship. At the same time, saying no to a firm job offer in a dance company is also risky business, especially in today's competitive marketplace. Fortunately, you don't have to settle forever on one company. My research shows that some professional dancers perform in as many as six companies over a decade. Besides gaining valuable experience by working with different choreographers and repertoires, dancers often find better performing opportunities by shopping around. Of course, it's always possible that you'll be happy where you are. The choice depends on how much risk you're willing to take.

Send your questions to: Linda Hamilton, Ph.D., at 2000 Broadway, PH2C, New York, NY 10023 and read her answers exclusively in Dance Magazine.
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Author:Hamilton, Linda
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2002
Words:566
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