Ask Amy: Dance Through Doubt


Have a question?
Click here to send it to Suzanne Farrell Ballet dancer Amy Brandt.


I recently graduated from an intense program with a BA in dance that left me feeling burned out. I think I may be done dancing but would feel guilty quitting. How do I decide? —Joanna
Sometimes, the endless sacrifice and dedication that dance requires can get to be too much. I’ll admit, I’ve considered quitting during periods of deep discouragement, disillusionment or injury. And because being a dancer is such an integral part of our identity, it’s natural to feel conflicted when your heart’s not in it anymore.

Give yourself time; ride out these feelings for a while before you quit altogether. Often, dancers think career decisions have to be all or nothing, especially since they are short. But if you need to take a break, do that. It doesn’t mean you’ve given up.

While I don’t recommend getting completely out of shape, explore other interests. Take open dance classes in a low-pressure environment for a while so that they feel less like a job requirement. Trust me, it’s easier to rekindle your passion when you dance solely for your own enjoyment, rather than to impress a director, teacher or college professor. That’s what helped me when I was at my lowest point, and I eventually came to the conclusion that I wasn’t ready to stop.

Of course, you may decide that you’re not interested in pursuing a dance career. And that’s okay! While you may feel like you’re letting people down, remember that this is your life. There’s a big world out there, and it’s full of possibilities.



My grand plié in second position is so shallow that it looks more like a demi-plié. I think it may be due to a restriction at the front of my ankles. Is there any way I can get a deeper plié, or am I stuck with it? —Jillian

The majority of shallow pliés are caused by tight calf muscles and Achilles tendons, which regular stretching can remedy. But a small percentage of dancers develop a bony ridge of calcium deposits or bone spurs along the bottom edge of their tibia or along the front of their ankle bone. This inhibits movement. “It’s bone hitting against bone,” says Dr. Alan Woodle, foot and ankle specialist at Pacific Northwest Ballet. Another cause could be the shape of your ankle bone, or talus. When viewed from the side, the talus normally slopes downward from the center of the joint towards the floor. “That angle allows you to plié from the front of the ankle,” says Woodle. Some dancers have a horizontal talus, which lacks that slope, which means they experience a decreased range of motion.

Does that mean you’re stuck with a shallow plié? Short of surgery, yes—but adjustable heel lifts can help. Woodle recommends Sorbothane heel lifts (available from Amazon). “Heel lifts tilt the whole ankle bone downwards, giving an increase in range of motion in front of the ankle,” says Woodle. “They move the bony blockages away from one another, so you feel like you can plié deeper.” Try stacking two ¼quarter-inch lifts under both heels, and sew a ½half-inch strip of elastic along the back upper edge of your technique or pointe shoes to prevent them from slipping off. Wearing heel lifts may tighten your Achilles tendons, so be sure to do regular calf stretches.


I always psych myself out thinking each audition is the be-all and end-all of my dance career. How can I keep things in perspective? —Angie
A surefire way of making yourself anxious before an audition is to think of it as a life-or-death situation. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the “idea” of an audition: hundreds of dancers clamoring for one position, the intimidating director at the front of the room who’s ready to dismiss you at the first shaky pirouette. And, of course, getting rejected can feel like the ultimate judgment of your abilities. But an unsuccessful audition—or a string of them, for that matter—doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll never make it into a company. In fact, most dancers attend multiple auditions before landing a contract.

It’s easier to approach an audition acknowledging that much of it is out of your control. Keep in mind that directors see hundreds of dancers a year, and many factors go into their decisions that have nothing to do with you personally. I’ve had auditions that didn’t pan out because of my height, or because my movement quality didn’t match that of the other company dancers. Frustrating? Very. But if I took it personally I would have quit a long time ago. Arrive prepared and hope for the best—and be ready to keep moving forward if necessary.

Latest Posts


Complexions Contemporary Ballet's Tatiana Melendez Proves There's No One Way to Have a Ballet Career

This is Pointe's Fall 2020 cover story. Click here to purchase this issue.

Talk to anyone about rising contemporary ballerina Tatiana Melendez, and one word is bound to come up repeatedly: "Fierce." And fair enough, that's a perfectly apt way to describe the 20-year-old's stage presence, her technical prowess and her determination to succeed. But don't make the mistake of assuming that fierceness is Melendez's only (or even her most noteworthy) quality. At the core of her dancing is a beautiful versatility. She's just as much at ease when etching pure classical lines as she is when boldly throwing herself off-balance.

"Selfish choreographer that I am, I want Tatiana to stay with Complexions for all time," says her boss Dwight Rhoden, Complexions Contemporary Ballet's co-artistic director and resident choreographer. "She has a theatricality about her: When the music comes on, she gets swept away." Not too shabby for someone who thought just a few years ago that maybe ballet wasn't for her.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Joffrey Ballet

2020 Stars of the Corps: The Joffrey Ballet's Dara Holmes

A seasoned dancer, Dara Holmes' career with The Joffrey Ballet has consisted of a lot of heavy lifting in the ensemble. "As a new company member, I was onstage all the time," says Holmes, 28. "The older you get, the more you start to appreciate your body and want to preserve it. If I want to keep dancing and do bigger roles, I need to be healthy."

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Jeremy Kyle, Courtesy Laubacher

My First Month as a Professional Dancer in the Age of COVID-19

I moved to Eugene, Oregon, in August, brimming with nerves and excitement to launch my career as an aspirant with Eugene Ballet. After months of quarantining at home in Pittsburgh because of the coronavirus lockdown, transitioning to my new life on the West Coast marked a rapid shift. But in time, it granted me newfound feelings of security. For starters, the ritual of filling up my water bottle, packing my shoes and leotard, putting up my hair and walking into the studio reintroduced a much needed flow of normalcy into my life.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks