Jeanette Delgado in George Balanchine's Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2

Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Miami City Ballet

Post-Performance Blues: How to Deal with Disappointment After the Curtain Comes Down

The curtain falls, the costumes are packed away. Dancers say good-bye to the choreography, the adrenaline rush of being onstage and the special camaraderie of performing together. "You put your heart and soul into a show and then you're like, 'That's it?' " says Miami City Ballet principal Jeanette Delgado. "You hope you'll get to dance that piece again, but you can't know for sure."


One thing that makes live ballet so special is its ephemeral nature. Dancers come together to create a world that exists only onstage, and they neither give nor experience exactly the same show twice. Time spent performing goes so fast compared to the long hours spent rehearsing—the abrupt end of the magic, artistic alchemy and companionship at the end
of a performance run can leave dancers feeling adrift.

Similarly, they can also feel a sense of loss and regret when they don't think they've performed their best. "It's hard
to let go of something you feel didn't go as well as you would have liked," says Delgado. Either way, how do you manage post-show blues once the curtain closes? We spoke with Delgado and two other professional dancers for their best strategies for combatting these emotions.

Letting Go of a Role 

Finishing a performance run can be especially bittersweet when you've become attached to a particular part. When Pennsylvania Ballet corps member Sydney Dolan made her debut as Myrtha in Giselle, she felt overwhelmed with happiness during her curtain call. "But the moment I sat in my chair at my dressing table all the endorphins seemed to float away," she says.

Alabama Ballet's John Mingle finds that dramatic explorations of ballet roles can be one of the hardest things to leave behind. "Last season, I felt that I really got to know Madge from La Sylphide during the rehearsal process and performances," he says. "When it was all over, I was sad that I probably won't meet this character again for a long time."

John Mingle with Carolina Marques in Alabama Ballet's Giselle

Melissa Dooley, Courtesy Alabama Ballet

To move forward, Mingle likes to relive memories by listening to the ballet's music and watching videos of the performance. "It's really nerdy and I haven't admitted this to many people, but I wean myself off of a show in this way for several days after- wards," he says.

At the same time, Dolan believes it's beneficial to find ways to naturally distract yourself. "Go read a book at a coffee shop or have a good dinner with friends," she says. "When you're alone, you get trapped in your own head. Talking with dancer friends who are going through the same thing can be cathartic."

Looking ahead to what's next also works. Mingle says that anticipating the upcoming rehearsal process—regardless of the role—helps him move forward once a performance run is over. Dolan agrees: "You worry that the experience you had will never come again, but that is overthinking. As a professional, you're always working on something new."

Performance Regrets 

When post-performance blues arise because of a bad show, you may need to take a different approach to handling them. Delgado recalls a recent performance: "I was in pain, the music felt slow and the steps felt heavy. Someone who had coached me was in the audience. Afterwards, I was alone in my dressing room and I cried."

Her spirits lifted when her ballet master offered her support, which helped her realize that the way she felt a performance went wasn't necessarily how the audience felt. "It helps to surround yourself with people you trust," says Delgado. "People who can let you know that you did a good job or who can help you tweak what went wrong without negativity."

Sydney Dolan as Dewdrop in Pennsylvania Ballet's The Nutcracker

Arian Molina Soca, Courtesy PAB

She also recommends watching the other cast from the audience to get a fresh perspective. "It reminds me what's magic and beautiful about what we do," says Delgado. "If I do see a little wobble or mistake, I realize that it's just two seconds of the ballet, and I remember that it's not about those little things." She adds that it's essential to pay attention to your inner dialogue in the studio to avoid being too hard on yourself after a show. "If you're always negative, you won't be able to suddenly flip a switch when you're onstage."

When Mingle feels down about his performance, he tries to remind himself of special moments during the show, such as when he and his dance partner smiled at each other onstage and were better able to relax and enjoy their dancing. "If you dwell on what makes you sad, you can change the way you perceive the performance and its potential as a growth experience," he says.

Embrace Your Blues 

Your passion for ballet is what causes post-show letdown in the first place. But look on the bright side: That passion, says Mingle, "means you really love what you do, and you can't succeed in ballet if you don't love it."

Dolan believes that post-performance blues can actually enhance your gratitude for performing. "They allow you to appreciate the memories more," she says. "If you went into performances knowing beforehand how much you would miss them, you would better enjoy and savor every moment."

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When School of American Ballet student Alexandra de Roos was 8 years old, she placed a collection box at her dance studio for others to donate their gently used dancewear. De Roos, now 17, has since turned that single collection box into a nonprofit organization that aims to minimize economic barriers in the performing arts with free dancewear and classes.

De Roos' organization, Peace Love Leotards, has collected about $2,600 of new and gently-used dancewear and $2,000 in grants and donations since formally launching in April. Dancers or studio owners can request items through a form on the organization's website.

"I knew that dancewear was really expensive and that a lot of students might not be able to do the thing that they love because it's cost-prohibitive," de Roos said. "I really wanted to create something to allow people to have the same experience of the love and joy of dance that I've been so grateful to have."

After SAB shifted its winter term online amid the COVID-19 pandemic, de Roos decided to expand Peace Love Leotards. She reached out to dance companies, resulting in partnerships with brands including Jo+Jax, Lone Reed Designs, RubiaWear and Wear Moi.

"To have them be like 'We want to help you with this and we love this idea and what you're doing is amazing,' that was really exciting to me," she said. "It was very heartwarming."

Jordan Reed, the creator of custom dancewear brand Lone Reed Designs, said she has donated seven items to Peace Love Leotards with plans to donate more consistently every quarter. Custom leotards often retail at higher prices, but Reed, a former Houston Ballet corps member, said the one-of-a-kind clothing offers an "extra bit of confidence, which can go more than a long way in a dancer's journey of training."

Paul Plesh, a sales director for Wear Moi in the United States and Canada, said the company donated 11 leotards after finding Peace Love Leotards' mission to be "commendable." Joey Dowling-Fakhrieh, the founder and creative director of Jo+Jax, said dancewear "can make a significant impact on a student's confidence, as well as how much they enjoy the process of learning dance."

De Roos has worked to expand Peace Love Leotards, Inc. rapidly in the past few months, but she first created the organization at eight years old after participating in a mentorship program with competitors in the Miss Florida and Miss Florida's Outstanding Teen pageants. The pageants, which are part of the Miss America Organization, require competitors to have personal platforms they advocate for as titleholders. As a competition dancer, de Roos instantly thought about the cost barriers to dance when wondering what her own future platform would be.

De Roos said she and her young classmates often outgrew nearly brand-new dancewear, so she approached her studio's owner about placing a collection box at the studio.

Barbara Mizell, who owns Barbara's Centré for Dance in Florida, said she was unsurprised by de Roos' proposal. De Roos always had "such a way of pushing herself and she never forgot those around her," Mizell said. As the box filled up, she distributed the dancewear to others at the studio, local schools with dance programs, and the local YMCA.

"When they could start to see that it was providing happiness for others, then it was almost like the kids couldn't wait to donate," Mizell said.

Nearly a decade after the Miss Florida organization inspired her to launch Peace Love Leotards, de Roos is now a titleholder herself, as Miss Gainesville's Outstanding Teen 2020. Her new mission for Peace Love Leotards is applying for grants, and she has already received a $1,000 grant from the Delores Barr Weaver Legacy Fund that will be used to fund a Title 1 school class.

"The whole organization behind Peace Love Leotards is the dancers," de Roos said. "Being able to help the dancers that are in need and being able to think about the dancewear that they're going to be receiving or have received has been truly amazing."

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