Stress and Coping in Ballet

Ballet demands vs Sport demands

Did you know that the demands of ballet are similar to those found in competitive sport? Dancers must cope with extremely high physical demands placed upon their bodies, and often experience injuries.

Dancers are also expected to cope with huge psychological demands. These include managing the anxiety of performances, dealing with recovery from injury and coping with aesthetic demands.

Ballet injuries

Professional dancers have a 90% risk of injury. A significant amount of these (60-76%) are related to overuse. In an environment that often demands working through pain, the psychological and physical recovery of dancers can be hindered.

The links between injury rates and severity of injury have been explored through research. Findings suggest that trait anxiety (the stable individual differences in anxiety-proneness) and tension/anxiety were significantly related to injury rates. In addition, it has been found that tension/anxiety, anger/hostility, and total negative mood states were significantly related to severity of injury.

Types of stress

A qualitative study with dancers suggested that cognitive anxiety (the thought processes associated with anxiety) was the dominant type experienced. It was also found to be unhelpful (debilitative) to performance. On the other hand, somatic anxiety (physical symptoms of anxiety) was seen as helpful (debilitative).

How to cope with stressors?

There are lots of ways to cope with different stressors in ballet. Here are just a few:

  • Manage your body before your body manages you – listen to your body in relation to injury prevention and get professional treatment when you need it
  • Manage the interpretation of anxiety – be mindful of negative thoughts creeping in that may affect your performance; check, challenge and change negative statements
  • Proactive coping – think ahead to future stressors and plan ways that you can deal with them positively (e.g. managing self-talk, relaxation techniques, cognitive restructuring)

If you would like some support with your own performance, get in touch to see how we can help you.

Academic References

Nordin-Bates, S.M. (2014) International Association for Dance Medicine & Science. Resource Paper: Perfectionism. []

Walker, I.J. & Nordin-Bates, S.M. (2010) Performance anxiety experiences of professional ballet dancers: the importance of control. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 14(4), 133-45.

Yatabe K, Yui N, Kasuya S, Fujiya H, Tateishi K, et al. (2014) Anxiety and Mood among Ballet Dancers: A Pilot Study on Effects of a Medical Approach Involving Periodic Intervention. Ann Sports Med Res(1): 1002.

March 7, 2020

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