Tools for Greater Resilience in Dance

Today’s post comes from Wasatch II company member, Sasha Rydlizky. She shares some great tools with us about how to face disappointment within a dance career in a way that cultivates peace and personal growth.

I count myself as one of the lucky people in the world whose job is also their passion. I truly love what I do, and I am so thankful that I get to fill my days with movement, artistry, and collaboration. However, as incredible as being a professional dancer is, the reality is that a career in dance also comes with many challenges. Facing frequent rejection, inconsistent work, a lack of financial security, and general unpredictability are all staples of the world of dance and many other artistic endeavors as well. As I have been navigating the both joyful and complex waters of dance, I have found Stoic philosophy and meditation to be comforting and pragmatic tools.

Stoicism is an ancient school of thought from Greece and Rome 300 BCE. It is a practical approach to maximizing positive emotions and minimizing negative ones by employing mental exercises and reframing techniques. Meditation is also a timeworn practice, hailing from India and practiced as early as 3000 BCE. Similarly, meditation aims to reduce suffering by cultivating mindfulness. Today, both secular versions of meditation and modern Stoicism have become popular and accessible practices to help people achieve greater ease and happiness.

 In dance – and in life – it is not so much a question of if you will face rejection, but when. The question becomes, then, how you will relate to this inevitable part of life. Paradoxically, often things that are the hardest to overcome are also the things that often spur the greatest growth. Through the lens of Stoicism, obstacles are reframed as opportunities. They can be thought of as chances to grow, learn, and put Stoic practice into action. A Stoic would accept unfavorable events, and even welcome them as a chance to practice how they can meet them with ease. Meditation is also useful in difficult circumstances. When the inevitable negative feelings do arise, meditation allows you to fully feel and process your emotions, see them clearly, and respond wisely rather than blindly react. With practice, you may feel more equanimity and more empowered to deal with challenges. 

The uncertainty of an artist lifestyle can cause fear and stress, and here too stoicism can be of use. Stoicism employs a practice called negative visualization, where you intentionally visualize bad outcomes. Although this may sound counter intuitive, defining the fear is the first step to conquering it. Briefly thinking of negative events that haven’t happened also puts the good in your life in contrast to this imagined bad, and opens the door to gratitude. Meditation answers this dilemma in a different way by teaching the reality of impermanence in life- good things may not always last, but neither will the bad. Practicing meditation allows you to expect and embrace impermanence as conditions in life shift. 

These approaches have been enormously helpful for me to manage obstacles in dance and all aspects of my life. Now especially with increased uncertainty amidst COVID, Stoicism and meditation can be grounding forces. If you’re interested to learn more and practice some of these ideas, here are some resources I’ve used: — Meditation app with some talks on stoicism as well (if you have financial need you can email them for assistance!) — Podcast on mediation and subscription meditation app (if you have financial need you can email them for assistance!) — Talk about fear setting — Podcast and articles on stoicism