Dance Intensives: Coping with Burnout
No matter how well you prepare, sooner or later you’ll reach a point where all the information becomes overwhelming. Your tired brain can’t seem to keep up, your attention starts wandering, and you become increasingly frustrated with each new technique that gets piled on.
It helps however, if you can spot it coming. Any of the following signs are red flags:
- Muscle fatigue
- Wandering attention
- Loss of coordination, or balance
- Trouble hearing the instructor, or your peers
- Gaps in memory, or difficulty recalling choreography
- Irritability, or negative thinking
If the symptoms are relatively mild, I encourage you to keep going. Stay in the class, keep working as best you can. It’s a dangerous habit to let yourself be defeated when you start getting tired, since all good dancers have to push through a little exhaustion now and then.
Mental exhaustion is one thing, but negative thinking can strip away all your desire to continue if you let it: You have to break the momentum. When she’s really incensed, my wife sometimes imagines herself screaming and carrying on like a mad woman. Turns out it’s really hard to stay mad while giggling to yourself.
Other distractions can work well if your body is holding you back; for example, by hyper focusing on your breath, the teacher’s voice, or anything else. If you can only do a little, do that much – your body is absorbing more than you know.
All this is not to say you should kill yourself pushing through your body’s warning signs: If you’re really starting to get dizzy, or lose focus, it might be time for a short break, and maybe a sugary snack to keep the energy levels up (you DID eat well today, right?)
Ultimately, you know what your body needs, so treat this as a guide, nothing more. Burnout happens eventually to every dancer that pushes themselves, but it’s often only a few steps away from the breakthrough you’re looking for.
About the Author
Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 18 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. His passion for dance eventually led him to blogging and the World Wide Web. Ian currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada.