Step one: It is going to be okay! There are millions of people on the planet and a very small percentage of them actually become prima ballerinas. Most of them are beautiful, fabulous people, born with phenomenal musicality and naturally spectacular feet. So you’ve come to terms and now you can admit it, you’re burnt out. So now you’re here in this weird place… You have had countless hours of technique class from brilliant people and performed all the right classical pieces and danced in lots and lots of recitals. You’ve been to intensives and you have all the audition dates and times for all the best programs in the country. And, if you have to put on another pair of pink tights and wrap up your hair anytime in the near future you might just freak out and throw your pointe shoe across the room because you’ve had enough.
Step two: Just take a breath and think it through. Ballet is all-consuming. Literally and physically. Needing a hiatus from it can be the best decision you will ever make. You will either miss it…. Or you won’t.
When you leave a company, leave your studio, go to college, and stop taking class you’re body and soul will communicate how you really feel.
Some dancers can quit walk away forever and never look back. They can be comfortable with saying, ‘yeah I used to be in ballet…’ End of story. I know girls that danced on their dance team in high school or participated in competitions on squads that have never stepped foot in a studio since. To someone like me, that is incomprehensible. I discovered that I need to be a part of the art form in some capacity. Whether it’s teaching, taking class weekly, or sitting in the audience. Ballet is in my blood and I can’t deny it. You have to ask yourself, “Do I miss it?” And you don’t have to answer yourself in the midst of a burn-out right now, give it 6 weeks, or maybe even 6 months. If you miss it, you’ll feel it in your bones. You’ll accept that no other activity gives you the satisfaction that ballet can. Maybe you transition to yoga or Pilates, even a Zumba class to stay in shape, but you may realize that nothing gives your soul satisfaction the way ballet can.
Step three: Remember that there are consequences for taking a break. If you are expecting a career in a company I do not recommend following the advice in the above paragraphs. As you probably already know, the ballet world is competitive. If you don’t accept a scholarship, company contract, or paid performing opportunity, there is a chance you will never experience another offer. I’m not trying to scare anyone… It’s just the honest truth. The ballet world keeps turning during injuries, set-backs and yes, burn-outs. It’s just the nature of show business. Those dancers lucky enough to have the focus and health to maintain a brilliant career are nonetheless remarkable. We all try to hold onto whatever aspect of the dance we can, as long as we can. But it is fleeting.
The important thing is find your joy, if it’s in ballet, you’ll know it. Try and snag a few days to unplug, unwind, and relax. Get some sleep and see a non-ballet movie with a non-ballet friend. Seek out advice from a parent, close teacher, or friend. Just keep in mind that if you ask someone with little knowledge about ballet, they may not fully understand. (Or worse yet, might give steer you in the wrong direction with noble intentions.) Remember you’ve already come so far, through all the pointe shoe blisters, sore tendons, slips on stage, and demanding teachers you’ve made it farther than a lot of people your age. Trust your instincts, they know what to do and remember that everything usually works out for the best!