Monday, May 27, 2013

Diary of a Dancer: Entry 1, Post-Performance Depression

This is a new series here on the blog. It might be weekly, it might be monthly, it might be sporadic, but I'm going to write it. I just finished a production of A Chorus Line, a show that highlights the amazing things that dancers do for love and so I feel compelled to put all of these thoughts and feelings into words. I'll be covering many different topics in my "Diary of a Dancer" series from the sappy to the serious, but what I am striving for above all is honesty. It's a terribly difficult thing to be a dancer, but it's also a beautiful thing, and I think we are all special because of it.

Today we are going to examine something that we all go through, but we don't always talk about, and that is post-performance depression. Imagine building a house for weeks or months, and then the whole bottom falls out of it. This is what it is like for a dancer when a show ends. You work tirelessly, put the rest of your life on the back burner, sacrifice your body and your emotions, and then it just ends. When you do something that feels so right and makes you feel so good about yourself, it's hard when it's not there because there is a void. This is the nature of the artform-shows cannot go on forever-but that still doesn't make it any easier. I think what make it so hard is that you rarely know when your next show comes along, though actors and other artists experience that as well. However, what makes dance so fleeting is the fact that our bodies don't last forever. I've never met a dancer who hasn't dealt with injury and when it comes right down to it, we are all only one serious injury away from never dancing again.

This might sound depressing, and it is, but oddly enough, it also teaches you how to live in the moment. A Chorus Line is the first time I've danced onstage since college, nearly three years ago, but I've never appreciated a performance opportunity more than this one. I've known, for the past three years, what it feels like not to dance and I never want to go through that again. I had honestly started to believe that I didn't need dance in my life anymore, but I was very wrong. I will always be grateful to A Chorus Line for reminding me that dance isn't something I "want" to do. It is something I "have" to do.

Because this experience was so personal for me, both because it is my all time favorite show and because it brought me back to dance, it will be one of the hardest to get over. I will take away amazing memories, and most importantly my renewed love of dance, but that doesn't make it any easier. When you are a dancer and your show ends, it's hard not to lose your sense of purpose. When the audience is gone, and the lights, music, and costumes, you are left with yourself. When you feel most at home on a stage and that is gone, it is very difficult to find your place in the world again. It always hits me hard, so I certainly don't have a cure for it, but what I have learned over the years is that the best shows and the best dancing experiences come to you when you need them the most and that brings me great comfort. My day job is not in the arts and that has been very difficult for me to come to terms with. I had become robotic and cold, but A Chorus Line saved me from that, and helped me to find myself again. Yes post-performance depression is very real and no, I don't know when I'm going to dance again, but what I do know is that I WILL dance again and and that, something that I could not convincingly say four months ago, is what will keep me going.

If you have experienced these feelings or something similar, leave me a comment below.

I will end this post here as I will end all of my entries and say that being a dancer takes our guts, our emotions, and our soul, but we're willing to give it again and again, wholeheartedly, just for one more chance to dance.

Dancingly yours,

1 comment:

  1. I liked this post a lot. I felt the same way about acting and I just got back into it not too long ago. I kind of quit after high school (three years ago) and didn't really think I'd ever get back into it then last year I did an audition for a musical got cast and had to turn down the role because I wound up moving away for a summer job then this year I was at a oneacts festival and saw a poster for a youth theatre festival that was holding auditions and wound up auditioning for them and a few days later I got a call from a director offering me a role! Now we're full swing into rehearsals and I've never been happier! I'm actually blogging about my adventures!