Advice for Dancers: Former New York City Ballet Dancer Linda Hamilton, Ph.D., Is a Lecturer, a Psychologist in Private Practice, and the Author of Advice for Dancers (Jossey-Bass). She Has Been Offering Advice to Dance Magazine Readers since 1992

By Hamilton, Linda | Dance Magazine, May 2004 | Go to article overview

Advice for Dancers: Former New York City Ballet Dancer Linda Hamilton, Ph.D., Is a Lecturer, a Psychologist in Private Practice, and the Author of Advice for Dancers (Jossey-Bass). She Has Been Offering Advice to Dance Magazine Readers since 1992


Hamilton, Linda, Dance Magazine


Six months ago, I underwent an operation for tendinitis in my foot. I thought the hardest part of my recovery would be the pain and the crutches; I wasn't prepared for catty remarks from other dancers. All I want is to be back on stage. I don't need this negative energy.--Confused Dancer, New York, NY

Ouch!!! While it's never easy to be injured, it can be especially difficult if you're a professional dancer. From a practical standpoint, a company dancer who's 'out' means only one thing--more work for everyone else. Still, this doesn't explain why many injured dancers feel like outcasts. I believe that the cattiness regarding injuries stems, in part, from the dance culture's emphasis on being stoic in the face of sore muscles and pain. Healthy dancers may also need to distance themselves from the real possibility that, one day, they too may be injured. The good news is that more dancers are learning how to care for their bodies. At New York City Ballet, dancers deal with injuries through educational seminars, pre-season screenings, and wellness consultations. My advice is to focus on your recovery rather than the negative vibes from others.

I am 5' 1" and curvaceous--think Jennifer Lopez. I do not have the body for ballet. However, I love modern dance, hip-hop, and jazz. How can I prepare for a company with a variety of styles, like Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater? Also, do you have tips on improving my flexibility and turnout?--Rebecca Joy Orlowitz, Narberth, PA

The best way to get into a dance company is to audition for their affiliated school. Why? Because the faculty will get to know you and hopefully recommend you to the artistic director. You'll also train in the specific styles favored by the company. The Dance Directory by Faith Shaw Petrides (currently out of print, but available in performing arts libraries) describes the repertoires of over 300 companies and provides contact information for their dance schools. As for improving your flexibility and turnout, it's important to set realistic goals, because these attributes have a genetic component. A physical therapist in dance medicine can help you develop a program of daily stretching.

I need a professional opinion. How much does following the traditional ballet dress code play a role in getting a job? My daughter, who is very talented, showed up for her first ballet company audition in an ugly black cover-up. She feels she is not as skinny as the other dancers, even though she exercises and watches what she eats. …

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