Gilded Serpent presents
Dance Passion and Burnout:
Is It Time For a Dance Coach Or Retreat?

by Ma*Shuqa Mira Murjan

Recently, backstage before a performance, several well-known professional dancers discussed the effort it takes to "stay in shape and work at this dance profession". The common feeling was that there is an ideal standard of excellence that our audience expects of us which is difficult to sustain after awhile. Some find they dread performing, thinking that they must always surpass the quality of the last performance. Or they no longer find that wonderful ecstatic high from performing and hearing the audience responding to their show. Where has the passion gone?

Everyone who loves this dance experiences passion from it, but what can you do when the passion has dissipated? Have you reached a plateau with your dancing in terms of the excitement, motivational energy and that joyful high feeling that you get when you dance? What has changed? Why isn't performance giving you that lift from the doldrums of life? It may be that you are experiencing "burnout" and are mired in the sameness of dance. To overcome burnout, you must strive for new challenges. Just as in career management, it's important to have the assistance of someone who can support your plans for dance goal achievement. For dancers who want to grow into their own personae, consider seeking the help of a dance counselor and coach. Let's examine the needs of the dancer transitioning from taking classes and/or performing with a dance troupe
to becoming a solo performer.

There comes a time in many dancers' career that you find yourself at a plateau. The discovery may happen when you are performing with a troupe and you begin to realize that everyone in the troupe looks alike, dances alike, and knows the same choreography to the same tired old music. You could dance the numbers in your sleep, or you find yourself sleepwalking through the troupe performance. The joy of dancing has faded. If your comfort zone is intact, then you will continue to be satisfied as a member of a dance troupe because you are satisfied with your contribution to the beauty of a troupe performance. However, sometimes the support of your peers in the troupe provides a level of comfort but does not suffice in allowing you to grow and blossom into your own dance performance style. You may find that the performance venues and the limitations on individual creativity restrict your personal growth. When you begin to think about solo performance and are ready to "step out on your own", you may need the support of someone who can provide perspective, experience, contacts, and expertise to help you achieve your personal goals for growth and development.

When you have made a decision to take on the task of developing your individual performance style, you need a dance coach; someone who helps you develop greater self-understanding as you determine your goals for growth. She can help you identify your values, interests, dance style and special strengths that bring meaning and satisfaction to your dancing. A dance coach looks at your past and present history of skill development, performance and practice patterns to help you see how you might improve and develop your personal best performance skills.

A dance coach:
· Helps you understand who you are and what you want
· Asks "Why"
· Concentrates on exploring your options
· Encourages and supports you
· Helps you uncover unconscious barriers to performance
· Asks you to reflect and plan goals
· Goes at your pace, based on your initiative, motivation and interest
· Provides expertise
· Focuses on internal issues and goals related to dancing

You may ask, "What are some internal issues and goals related to dancing?" Some dancers struggle with the impact of their performance on their self-esteem, their opinion about their bodies, their dance identity, their real life identity, and sharing their need to dance with their partners. You can work on uncovering the unconscious barriers to performance through discussion as you experiment and continue to develop your dance style and personae.  You will discover a well of support from your enhanced self-esteem and support of your partner. Those inspired by Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and compelled to dance by Terpsicore, the muse that inspires creativity, know they must continue to dance. They love to, they have to, they want to dance. Dance is life, a part of living and energizes the rest of your life.

In the 70's movie Xanadu, Kyra was the muse Terpsicore.  She was the source of inspiration for an artist and 40's band leader, who were both "kissed by a muse". Kyra inspired, motivated and counseled these individuals to follow their dreams, to create a spectacular place for music and dance. Like the Greek Muse, Terpsicore, a dance coach encourages you to establish specific dance and related life goals which move you forward towards creative accomplishment in a timely fashion. Some teachers can provide counseling, but only a dance coach can work specifically with your individual development needs. She is pragmatic and supportive in approach, holds you accountable, and helps you take the steps needed to achieve your goals. Working with a coach requires commitment and an ongoing working relationship over a period of time. The coaching process provides you with motivation and inspiration.

A dance coach:
· Helps you move toward identified future goals
· Stimulates your creativity
· Asks you "how" and "why not" questions
· Concentrates on your agenda and future development plans
· Motivates and challenges you
· Helps you prioritize and implement choices
· Urges you to take action
· Holds you accountable and pushes for positive change
· Guides you to sources of information and experiences
· Focuses on external solutions and action steps

One of the most important aspects of the coaching relationship is the role of the mentor who enables you to move forward from your plateau. Highly important to the dance, the counselor, coach, and mentor role is a relationship founded in trust and commitment. It is not competitive. A mentor can provide valuable insights based on having "been there and done that" - so you learn from previous successful experience in the dance world. The key to the coaching relationship is the "how to" aspect of reviewing dance technique and developing your own individualized, unique performance. Through the feedback and encouragement of your dance coach, you begin to feel what looks attractive, exciting, interesting, enchanting, and beautiful; in essence what works for you.

To make the most of private dance counseling and coaching appointments, I suggest you carefully consider your dance goals and objectives. Review what you are currently doing and feeling when you dance. Reflecting on your current dance level and skills will help you work with your coach on a plan for individual, personalized coaching that will help you achieve your goals for improvement. To get the most from the session, you should be prepared to either perform in costume or view a video tape of a performance to get coaching feedback on your performance skills. A dance counselor and coach can help you focus on setting goals and designing a plan to meet your specific needs. Coaching lessons that follow may touch on some or all of these areas depending on your needs or desires at the moment.

A good coach can provide you with:
1) evaluative feedback,
2) assistance in practicing performance designs,
3) developing special performances for contests or special events,
4) advice on costuming to suit your dancing,
5) access to key dance resources, events, workshops and networks, and
6)  strategies for pursuing opportunities for dance.

How to judge whether or not dance counseling and coaching is good for you? Do you know why you dance? How do you feel after a private coaching session? Are you energized and crave even more dance in your life? How did it feel to dance after you made changes based on the feedback and supportive comments given by your coach? If you don't have access to a dance coach, you might want to consider attending a dance retreat.

If you are a dancer experiencing a plateau, loss of excitement in dance, but you know in your heart that you cannot give up dance; then you might consider a dancer's retreat that will revitalize you. Dance retreats give you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the dance so you can again experience excitement, creativity, sharing and learning. Discussion on a Bellydance list often references "the goddess of dance within us that compels us to dance" as the reason why we dedicate our lives to this dance. The
dance retreat to Athens, Greece in 1999 is planned to provide dancers with the occasion to reconnect with the goddess of dance within them. In Greece there will be exciting opportunities to perform in tavernas to different Greek bands. To renew, refresh and revitalize your body with massage, yoga and tai chi. The opportunity to reconnect with your partner in dance through partner massage, discussions about the meaning of dance in our lives, the spirit of creativity, and our connection to the dance. A dance retreat can provide you stimulus from sharing in joyful experiences of dance with partners and other dancers who seek to share in this process of revitalizing self-renewal.

If you are a solo performer who dances nightly in one of several and/or the same venues weekly, you may also face burnout. You might feel a lack of joy from your dancing. The faces in the audience begin to look the same and indistinguishable from night to night. You find yourself sleep-walking through your shows as you automatically use the same timeworn steps to your music. Even improvisational performance looks like staged choreography when the same gestures and facial expressions recur at key points in your music. You hardly notice the reactions of your audience to your specialty portions of your performance. To your audience, the prop you balance on your head looks like it's glued in place and your show is lifeless. The common cure for solo performer burnout is new stimulus that challenges you and gives you resources for adding to your "bag of tricks". Workshops, seminars, private classes and dance retreats are the antidote for the burnout tailspin.

If you are in a dance troupe, facing burnout, want to continue to be part of the group and are not prepared to develop as a solo performer; then you have the following options to avoid burnout that will drive you away from dance altogether.

You can:
· Work on developing even closer relationships within your troupe. Find a niche to provide special services needed by your troupe.
· Ask the troupe to work with a dance counselor and coach with the goal of revitalization
· Take on the role of the creative innovator in the troupe
· Design new costumes for the troupe
· Develop new choreography to a current routine
· Find the same music for troupe routines by a different set of musicians
· Suggest embellishments to the original troupe choreography
· Find exciting new music and develop an entirely different performance style.

The common element in burnout is the lack of inner fire, joy and passion when we dance. The cure for burnout is new stimulus, guidance counseling, coaching, new environments and experiences in dance. Ongoing continuing education is the key to continued growth and enjoyment from our dancing. Reconnect with your "goddess within" and experience the wonderful excitement and enthusiasm again. Remember to enjoy the performances of other dancers; to share your appreciation of the beauty, inspiration and joy that their performances give you. When we do so we share in sustaining the passion for them for ourselves. When we open our eyes and our hearts to share the joy of another dancer's performance, we also discover and experience new ground, and we renew our own passion for dance.

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