Mental Health, Covid-19, & the Dance Teacher

Mental Health, Covid-19, & the Dance Teacher

When I think about my dancers, I think…Graduations…Gone! Proms…Gone! Schools…gone! Friends…gone! Dance Studios…gone! Dance Teachers, Dance Coaches, & Dance Instructors…All Gone! The world of every dancer across the entire world has been turned upside down. My heart bleeds for them. Everything they’ve worked so hard for such as recitals, dance competitions, plays, and several other dance events, all cancelled. In the blink of an eye, everything had disappeared. Many dancers have found themselves alone at home while moms & dads are either front line essential workers or working from home in another room to keep life as normal as possible. Some may even have lost their income. From a dancer’s perspective, like distant learning, ZOOM has been their saving grace when it comes to dance classes in the comfort of their homes. Many dancers and their teachers are now having to adapt to a new normal due to a terrible Covid-19 Pandemic. They’ve all asked before our virtual sessions started, if they are ever going dance outside of home again, see me again, compete again, or even get to have class in the dance studio again. I didn’t have an answer because of this invisible and unpredictable enemy.

Social media has shown how most parents all over the world were extremely supportive and admired every studio and dance teacher that made the decision to move forward to train and provide as much normalcy as possible for their kid in the midst of the world being made to shelter in place. Some were not so supportive and their dancers suffered through boredom and isolation after all the TikTok videos were posted and made viral, after the online school work was completed, after all the food was eaten, and sleep was caught up. Those parents made it very clear in many Facebook groups, virtual chat boxes, and to one another in the comment sections of all social media platforms such as Instagram videos, Instagram live, and even Twitter retweets, that they didn’t want any part of the fight because they felt as if the quality of care and training that was sacrificed for their dancer was different and was ready to call it quits by simply not interested in adjusting to the new normal as the entire world had to embrace. I felt in my heart, as I read some of the comments, that some may not have been happy with their studio/coaches before the pandemic and it made it easier for

most to simply walk away from their perspective studios. Everywhere is not for everyone. I totally agree and I’m very supportive of dancers and parents being in a place of happiness. It’s okay. If that’s your story, say it, own it, and let it be just that! I also read from the heart that there were many dancers that wanted the outlet to see their friends, still engage in physical activity with their studio, and wanted to have the hope of returning to normal, but was unfortunately not granted that opportunity.

Every session that I’ve started out with was about their mental wellbeing before any virtual dance classes started. I let them know how much I had missed them. Several of them had pressing questions that no one had an answer for. For example, “Why will some people still get sick and die, even if they are following the rules?”

The mental health of several dancers and us as their teachers has been my thought process. Dancers are resilient. Dance Teachers, and Studio Owners are also resilient. We as dancers & teachers instruct and lead by example through our confusion, our pain, lack of needed income as independent contractors, and many other discomforts during this ordeal. However, this time we are still teaching and our dancers all over the world are still dancing, but mentally (while all isolated and sheltered in place) not all in a resilient way. I love what Barry Kerollis stated, “But the challenge with the resilient dancer mindset is that we don’t always think through our expression of toughness beyond the world of dance.”

There is no pretending that there isn’t an evil, yet invisible sickness out there waiting to attach itself to our physical organs that not only keeps us healthy and alive, but that we have no immunity to. We can’t teach that away. Our dancers can’t dance that away no matter how many classes we have. NO matter the new normal, it’s still there. The thoughts about our safety, our health, our businesses, our income, and the what ifs when it comes to our dancers, our families, our friends, and oh wait, personally we can’t forget about ourselves…is a bigger deal than we’ve all ever experienced. We dance, we teach, but anxiety as a human being first is ever present. I’ve learned that having anxiety or thoughts about the fate of my future is not a bad thing, however, one must practice mindfulness in terms of how we handle it. No one has an answer, because we are all in this together. Our doctors are trying to figure it all out. Because of my faith, I am able to live with the hope and surety that I will come out on top of this. I can’t help but think of all of the frontline essential workers and their mental health. Mental Health just may be a future pandemic of its own.

I had a corporate job and still taught dance. I was highly respected in my corporate career and currently in my teaching career as a dance teacher from my dancers, their parents, studio owners, and my peers. I took a faith jump and pay cut with the support of my family and some friends so that I can live my life to the fullest and walk into my purpose of pouring my time, talents, and energy into the world through dance. Now as a fulltime dance teacher, my faith is keeping me working to be the best me during this pandemic. My career seems to be over because what I do in hindsight isn’t considered an essential and needed job that many will fight to keep abreast along with their own financial hardships, and it’s understandable. So where does it leave the dance teachers, dance instructors, and dance coaches? Where does this leave me and my mental health? Will I continue to battle leaving the corporate workforce too soon? Will I have to end it all and go back into the work force? Will I have to fight to stay sane? Will parents have enough income to send their child back to training as they rebuild their own lives? Will they have the income once this is over and will attempt invest in their kids again? As a Hurricane Katrina survivor that knows all too well how things usually plays out during a rebuilding process, if/when you survive tragedy, it could take years to gain life back again. That is, if you choose to fight hard and long enough to get it back.

  • Mental Wellness is the key to remaining resilient above this pandemic. Although the unanswered questions above are there, below is my new norm of daily living and maintaining proper thoughts through a pandemic that requires isolation due to shelter in place orders:
  • Understanding that one may never receive the answers needed to comfort the discomfort. One must come to terms with not knowing how you will get to the light at the end of the tunnel, but know that you will get there!!
  • Understanding that my finite mind will never understand the infinite thoughts of my HIGHER POWER that I serve. Knowing that in faith, HE will take care of me, my family, my friends, and our lives.
  • GET UP at the same time every day, make your bed, use your bed at night for sleep only and don’t wear your pajamas all day every day. GET UP!!
  •  Get fresh air. Never remain indoors. Sheltering in place does allot you to open your door, sit on your deck/porch and people watch with music or silence. Get sun and fresh air!!!
  •  Though I know that my virtual classes and my income from that is short lived, I must continue to do what I love even once the virtual classes are over. Dance like no one is watching, or dance like everyone is watching.
  •  Take virtual exercise classes. There are several free virtual classes. I’ve taken several tap classes, jazz classes, exercise classes, and ballet classes outside of temporarily teaching my own whether in the house or outside on the deck. Get your blood flowing and your heart rate up. There are several exercises to get your energy level up and change your mood. I know by experience!! A mandatory shelter in place doesn’t have to be a mandatory bondage.
  •  If you have kids, or nieces or nephews that’s dwelling in your living quarters during this ordeal, become as innocent as they are by enjoying your days without a worry.
  •  It’s ok to remain abreast but STAY AWAY FROM THE NEWS/SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE PANIC!!! Everyone that is giving advice on what to swallow, and how to live your life during these uncertain times are not medical professionals. It’s usually a repeat of things you’ve already freaked out about! Stop inhaling the panic!! No fear!
  •  Attend an online worship experience of your choice. Spiritual nourishment is just as important as physical, emotional, and mental nourishment.
  •  Phone/Facetime a best friend to talk about what you’re feeling and don’t forget listen to what they’re feeling if they choose to talk or tell you that they’re okay when you know that they aren’t. Remember, we are all affected whether the same way or not!! We are all in this together!!
  •  Seek virtual professional help, i.e. Online/Phone Therapy. If you don’t need it, know that it’s available to you and keep it in your back pocket.

Dance instructors can be resilient beyond the scope of dance. Resiliency is also making sure that you are mentally stable enough to create a stable life for yourself even when your life & wages completely changes. Hurricane Katrina has taught me this!! Enemies in life, including Covid-19, can’t take away your resiliency. Just create mindfulness to reassess what it means for you as a leader when there is physically no one to lead. Where will you channel your resilience? Take this time to grow, build an even better dance curriculum, become a stronger dancer, and a better leader. Fear during such a pandemic is okay, it shows we are all human but please remember to be resilient. I hope to be a better me at the end of it all. Remain highly respected in all you do. Happy Dancing! Happy Teaching! Happy Winning!


Kerollis, Barry, March 19, 2020. During COVID-19, Dancers Must Reframe What It Means to be Resilient.

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By: Nykisha Banks

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