More Advice For Grown-Up Dancers
FOR GROWN-UP DANCERS
Wennerstrand, CSW, DTR
Copyright Anne Wennerstrand
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"I was talking
to my friend on the phone the other day, a working girl who used
to be a theater director and still has a hand in the arts, and she
asked me how I was. When I responded that I was so busy I couldn't
see straight and barely felt like I had time to breathe, she responded
with a somewhat gentler version of, 'that's why I left the arts.'
I am 29 years old and have been doing the job-on-the-side/ dance-on-the-side
thing here in New York since I was 25. (Before, I was working in
the "real world," and totally miserable.) I wanted to talk about
the issue of TIME. Even though my jobs are pretty much part-time
(and as a result I live hand to mouth) I still feel as though I
am insanely busy and barely have time for a social life (which I
somehow manage to fit in). But I never really feel like I have time
to relax, do the things normal people do when they come home from
work. I am currently choreographing and self-producing my own work,
so when I come home from 'work,' my real work is only just starting.
I barely feel like I have time to be writing this. I do manage to
take care of myself, but I feel as though I'm constantly one screw
away from losing it. I don't want to leave the arts for a 'real
job,' but I also don't want to be this busy for the rest of my life."
expresses a frustration to which I'm sure many grown-up dancers
can relate. In this age of restricted opportunities, funding, and
space, and ofsoaring costs of living, dancers not only have to be
superb in their art but must be veritable Zen masters in terms of
how they relate to time and money. The reality in dance is that
there never seems to be enough time or money, yet dancers are the
most creative people I know in terms of managing both. It can be
very helpful to take the time and really deconstruct what is making
us feel so "busy." Be conscious of how much we communicate "being
busy" to others as our natural state of being. Notice how many people
respond to the question of "How are you?" with "I'm so busy." There
may be a few of us who feel that if we're not insanely busy, we're
not trying as hard as we can to succeed in our art form. Or, we
may have an unexamined belief that being "busy" means being in demand
or successful. Unfortunately, if we have these beliefs we are actually
undermining our ability to be healthy, whole and productive beings
We all need
to accept that finding balance in this area of life takes work and
requires taking inventory of just what our expectations are for
ourselves. Even if we feel "taking an inventory" is the last thing
we have time for, it is essential in creating a more fulfilling
dance life. We may need to re-prioritize what we do, who we do it
with and how much money and time we are WILLING to spend on things
we care about. Looking at what it is we are really trying to accomplish,
we may also need to come to terms with the facts that there are
limits to what we can do and that our personal resources are not
inexhaustible. Taking inventory of our true wants and needs, we
may find that we can simplify our lives in small ways that make
a tremendous difference. Taking an inventory means thinking carefully
about what kind of quality of life we have, what we want to do and
have to do, and perhaps consciously choosing to give up certain
things. This does not mean having to leave dance to get a "real
job" unless that is what you consciously choose to do. (See
Advice for Grown-Up Dancers, "When Are You Going to Get a Real Job.")
It can also be helpful to shift your frame and think about your
whole life as your "real job" instead of compartmentalizing dance
as something less "real" than other livelihoods.
Wants Versus Needs
think that this all sounds good in theory and STILL feel as though
time has control over you versus your being in charge of it. I suggest
that the first step in curing "time stress" is creating a sense
of personal agency by declaring to yourself that you are in fact
CHOOSING to do things the current way in which you feel so busy
you can barely breathe. Once you understand that you have chosen
something, you can than work to make changes or make better choices.
It is often said that "time is money," so a discussion of time management
must include questions regarding your relationship with money.
some questions you might ask yourself in thinking about a better
relationship to time: (Try to be as specific as possible in thinking
about these questions for yourself.)
Do you value
time that feels hectic and rushed or would you prefer to feel like
you have more time?
it feel like not to tell people how busy you are?
how much money per year do you need to make?
of living situation do you need to be in?
time and money do you need to develop artistically (taking class,
see performances, etc.)?
of people do you need in your life and how much time do you need
to cultivate relationships?
time do you need for your basic human needs?
time do you need for resting and recharging your creativity and
Do you find
yourself resentful of people or things in your life that demand
or things can you learn to say no to?
being chronically underpaid in your non-dance job?
Do you need
to gain some skills so you can be paid better for the precious time
you do have?
work with people in creating time journals of their typical day.
Dancers are sometimes shocked when they realize EXACTLY how they
are spending their time. Keeping a time journal in which you enter
each activity you do and the amount of time you spend doing it is
a worthwhile investment of your time! You may find out that you
spend more time than you realize doing things which you could choose
has a private psychotherapy practice in New York City and is available
for individual, group and organizational consultation. To read more
about Anne, please visit the "Contact Us"
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