Performing Arts Medicine, 3rd ed.Medical Problems of Performing Artists

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Psychological Issues in the Clinical Approach to Dancers

Bonnie E. Robson
From: Performing Arts Medicine, 3rd ed.: Chapter 20 © 2010; page: 381

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Abstract: Despite the positive effects associated with physical activity and dance, young dancers, especially ballet students, report low self-esteem, feelings of humiliation, apathy, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and hopelessness. Research has focused on the stresses that exist in the training and in a career in dance that account for this pathological change, including the intensity and length of training, personality factors of successful candidates, and the high level of competition. It is a long journey from the first creative movement class to a career as a professional dancer. A developmental approach is used to illustrate the mental health issues and stresses for the student, professional dancer, teacher, and artistic director. Young student dancers quickly learn to identify as dancers, and teaching styles can affect the young dancer's artistic and psychological development. For adolescent and university-level dancers, body image and self-esteem are developing, but also emerging are patterns of disordered eating, poor nutrition, smoking, and depression. Professional dancers are faced with living away from home and friends and entering a highly competitive and hierarchical ballet company. As the dancer ages, transition to life after dance becomes important.

Last Updated: 6 / 2010

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