Dealing With Setbacks as a Performing Artist - Part I

By Rati Pednekar

Injuries, rejection, stereotypes and stigma - performing artists face a number of setbacks throughout their careers. Whether you want to maintain your body or find new avenues of work, there are plenty of tips and tricks available online. In this article, we’re taking a look at how you can manage your mental health during times of struggle.

I say ‘taking a look’ because there’s no one right answer. Each person requires a solution unique to them, a piece of their own puzzle. Therefore, we have curated five stories about setbacks from different performing artists. We are publishing them as a series and hope you’re able to find some inspiration from them.

Here’s Part I!

Anatomy of a Dancer

As an aspiring dancer, there were already a few things in Bhakti Makhija’s way — a rigorous training schedule of seven days a week and a general view drilled into her that dance is not a suitable career and. What made this pressure and self-doubt worse was the fact that she didn’t fit a certain body type. The very essence of her talent, apparently, didn’t look a certain way (read: thin, tall, small bust size).

Bhakti talks about returning to dance after a relatively long break and with relatively more weight. She found herself working twice as hard as most people to train her body to move. But intense body-image issues came anyway. Not having the time and money for the nutrition and fitness training required by a professional dancer meant she had little control over the situation.

“It started out as something internal but when the outside world shows you exactly what you’ve been thinking about yourself, when they validate your negativity, it becomes even worse.”

Certain choices were made that had more to do with how she looked than how she danced. Although she had a strong inner circle of friends, other dancers weren’t as quick to offer support. Both internal and external pressures took a toll on her, making her wonder if this was worth it after all.

So how did she overcome this setback?

“The internal workout against the stigma would last all my waking hours. I’d journal a lot. I love journaling, so it helped. There were also a few special people in my life who’d give me a good reason to not give up every time I wanted to. Especially my sister. I’d sit with her and watch all my dance videos and those of others too, to remind myself about why I wanted to dance in the first place.”

Bhakti insists that it has always been a mix of things and never one thing alone. Over time, she also came to understand her body and its needs better.

She found a balance between maintaining her physique alongside dance training. And it worked! Not only did she find herself becoming stronger and healthier, but her self-esteem rose while her self-doubt shattered. At present, she uses a combination of weight training at the gym, running daily for 30 minutes, and her regular dance training.

“So, find your own sweet little way to balance your physique training with your dance training. They are partners, you cannot do one without the other.”

She urges other dancers to take time out from their training to do a different form of exercise, whether it be weights, swimming, boxing or so on. Naturally, the journey isn’t linear. Even today, it goes up and down.

“The failure rate is more than the success rate and you need to be ready to accept that. I’ve failed so many more times than I’ve been successful at maintaining this growth as a person. So many times I’ve even given up, but always bounced back. And that’s the important thing. Take your time but come back to it.”

This was Part I of our Dealing with Setbacks Series. Read Part 2 to learn how dancer Lakshmy Ramakrishnan dealt with having a physical injury.

Editorial Desk

Editorial Desk