For some dancers, work never stops. It doesn’t matter whether they are physically present at a rehearsal hall or not. These dancers clock in early to write that choreography, make arrangements for clothes, skip lunch to finish a creative planning conversation on the phone and again stay back till late, waiting for approvals and what is finalised for a show. Weekends, when they should be having a hot cup of chai in the morning, sipping chilled beer with friends in the evening or even having a dinner table conversation with family, are mostly spent resolving show and stage issues. We label them as ‘workaholics’, ones who get a buzz from working under intense pressure. It doesn’t matter whether the pressure is real or not; work addicts put themselves under constant pressure because that’s the only way they can function.
Such dancers themselves call them ‘dancaholics.’ Well, it might sound good and a think to be proud about to some but I feel balance is important. I do understand when a passion like dance turns to work, it does not feel like work at all. One enjoys each moment of it. I have been through this grind so can relate to the dancaholic dancers.
But in the long run, it can be harmful for the dance not just physically but mentally too. Psychotherapists call such dancaholic people as ones who have traits of Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD). It is said that a dancaholic craves for the sense of achievement and it is driven mostly from insecurity and perfectionism. For a dancer like this work of dance is far more than just a source of income, it often eclipses everyone and everything in their lives.
I was reading a few studies from the West that said addiction to work is no less than addiction to alcohol. It affects a dancer’s emotional and physical wellbeing. On one of my show trips to Japan, I remember Japanese calling a workaholic person ‘karoshi’ which means ‘death by overwork.’
I have seen a dancer who is fully engrossed and submerged in his work neglects people close to him. Such a dancer does not think relationships that are closest need the most time. Many-a-times even if they are close to their families, their minds are preoccupied with dance. After working very hard all day and almost all night, they are so tired that they have no stamina for any activity outside work. So it can become a vicious cycle for such a dancaholic person.
I feel such a dancer is not able to balance the professional and personal life and this inability to balance the two leads to grief from family which reinforces the idea that dance work is an ideal way to escape from personal conflicts.
Being a dancaholic can be very dangerous for a dance lover. Such a person has little or no opportunity for a social life and thus, may not develop social skills. Dance is a field where people skills are important, so best is to go out often and meet people. They are also unable to relate to people outside work or even their family because you are working even at home. They become one-dimensional and blinkered in their outlook which amounts to lack of creativity and inability to build lateral thinking skills. This can lead to stagnated work for many with which I mean similar looking choreographies, moves and steps. Others when they see the work on stage, they will soon say this they have seeing you do for years now. They are also prone to a lot of stress which, many-a-times in turn, leads to ways to destress through addictions such as smoking, drinking and caffeine. Finally, all this affects their physical and mental health and that is when the downfall begins.
So how can a dancer who is dancaholic find balance in his or her life? What can be done to make sure that equilibrium is maintained and it still does not affect the work and the profession? I feel the best is to choose your life pattern yourself and not be governed by others. Harness habits and skills that allow you to make your own rules in this rat race of dancing. Avoid talking work over lunch and dinner. We all work hard for good food so remember respect it when it is in front of you. Enjoy the moments as this is what you have been working for all these years. Switch off your mobile on Saturdays and Sundays, keep weekends for yourself or if weekends are busy days due to shows and events, fix a day during the week when you will do this. And then, do not worry about being left behind. Gradually, reduce dance work hours. By this, I do not mean compromising on the quality of work and dance. And most importantly, make sure you refuse to feel guilty when you are not working or dancing. Also develop skill sets and an attitude that allows you to finish work within 10 hours. Do not stay back just because your co-dancers are doing so.
Recently, I read that a UK-based voluntary organisation had organised a “Go Home on Time’ day. The main aim for them to do so was to bring to light that long hours of work be it at office or related to art can impact family and personal life. This campaign encouraged people to make a conscious decision to have at least one day in a week when they would leave all that they were doing on time and spend time with family or just by themselves, doing things apart from work.
I have seen young dancer working like crazy these days. My only advice to them is that dance is a field where we have to keep thinking and sharpening our skills all the time. If we do not take care of our mental and physical self, we will burn out soon and our beautiful god-gifted career will end sooner than we will realise. Weekend is here so remember to switch off your mobiles and have fun so that you can keep dancing forever.
Sandip Soparrkar is a World Book of Record Holder, a well-known Ballroom dancer and a Bollywood choreographer who has been honoured with National Achievement and National Excellence Award by the Govt of India. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org