Movement, freedom, rhythm, accuracy, show. Dancing for spectators is delight and relaxation. But do we know how much work is behind a dance performance? Rehearsal hours, hard work, stress and effort to make every move impeccable are not included in the invitation to the show. Studies in recent years show that perfectionism in dancers is extremely dangerous for their mental health, as we learned from this article by Crystal Nicholls – professional dancer.
This is especially true for young dancers. Here’s how perfectionism impacts other aspects of their lives:
- Untouchable idols. At the beginning of the road, teenagers have idols that they follow closely. Not a bad thing, but combined with extreme perfectionism, they may end up having the sole purpose of resembling their idol. They thus forget to give themselves time to discover their own style and get lost in the fierce struggle to become someone else. They study their movements in detail and are dissatisfied with themselves when they make the comparison and do not look the same.
- I am not good enough. In this article published in Dance Magazine, we can read the testimony of a professional dancer who tells how after each show he was appreciated by everyone around him, but he could only think about the small mistakes that only he noticed. For this reason, he punished and isolated himself from friends and family. He didn’t feel he deserved their attention and company. In such situations, people end up preferring the company of their own thoughts, which are not friendly at all, and this can lead to emotional and mental imbalances.
- Closely related to those mentioned above are eating disorders. The body is the instrument of the dancer, and the standards in terms of weight are a controversial topic. The Guardian published an article on this topic in 2014, which is becoming more and more discussed in the media. If they do not meet the standards, young dancers develop feelings of repulsion towards their own bodies and refuse food, which they see as harmful to their careers.
- Perfectionism inhibits creativity. When we talk about artists, we are implicitly talking about creativity and freedom of thought. Under the pressure of perfectionism and ever-increasing demands, dancers no longer have the courage to try or innovate for fear of criticism or embarrassment. Their career is closely linked to creation, and without it they become robots that perform the required movements, without feeling them or enjoying the moment.
A study by California State University shows the dark side of perfectionism in professional dancers. Unrealistic goals and perceptions of failure can lead to anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder or depression. That is why it is important to talk about the problems that haunt dancers and not just about the beauty of dance. Performance is achieved with discipline and a lot of work, but these should not be confused with the neurotic perfectionism that tends to dominate the world of professional dance.
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