Medical Problems of Performing ArtistsMedical Problems of Performing Artists

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Problems, Challenges, and Opportunity through Aging of Performing Artists

Stanley E. Greben
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 14 Number 2: Page 85 (June 1999)

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Abstract: Over the past 40 years I have worked with 170 professional dancers, including students, current performers, and those who were no longer dancing. Of these, 125 (74%) were female and 45 (26%) were male; 139 (82%) performed in ballet, and 31 (18%) in modern dance. They ranged in age from 8 to 67 years when first seen.1
The fundamental treatment was psychotherapy, of a psychodynamic and integrative nature. Medications (antidepressants and tranquilizers) were used in 15%. Psychiatric hospitalization was required for seven (4%). Those treated came from three programs aimed at helping dancers:

1. The Health Consultants Program at the National Ballet School of Canada;
2. The Dancer Transition Resource Centre, a national organization formed in 1985 to help professional dancers in Canada to change careers when they were giving up dancing;
3. The Artists' Clinic, established in 1985 in the Department of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, a service designed to help both performing and creative artists.

Although this work had its origins in the dance world, it naturally led to numerous artists other than dancers who came seeking help from someone who had an interest in and knowledge of the artistic community, its demands, its gratifications, and its frustrations. Performing artists other than dancers have included musicians, actors, and singers. Creative artists have included directors, producers, administrators, writers, and composers. Although the large majority of the work has been with dancers, there are certain observations and conclusions one can make in understanding the situation of both performing and creative artists, in regard to the challenges and demands placed on artists by the processes of aging.
My conclusions are primarily from work with dancers, but the principles elucidated have application to many other performers as well as to creative artists who are not performers.

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