Dancer Mental Health Town Hall #2: when COVID-19 means it's over without closure

welcome to the dancer mental health townhall we are very excited to be speaking with you all about what it means when Kogan 19 means it’s over my name is Kathleen McGuire games and I am the founder of minding the gap minding the gap is on a mission to see mental health regarded with the same seriousness as physical health and dance culture and I’m very excited about this series that I am able to bring to you I think that in each of these I’m excited to bring a dancer to talk about the subject that we have at hand as well as a mental health professional and very excited to have with me today dr. Lisa Varla and Margaret Mullen from Pacific Northwest Ballet and so I am going to go ahead and ask them to tell us a little bit more about yourselves so Margaret why don’t we start with you all right um I am from Tucson Arizona originally I have been with Pacific Northwest Ballet for 12 seasons technically been here for 13 I was a professional division student before I joined the company for a year and I am about to conclude my 12th season and move on to other adventures after candy so this is my final year with the company I also host a dance podcast called beyond the bar and we also work on a documentary film we have two versions that were working on held no Dominion the Ian Horvath story hey that’s awesome thank you so much for being here Margaret thank you and then we how about you tell us a little bit about yourself sure thanks again for having me Kathleen my name is Lisa Varla I am a mental health counselor and a mental skills consultant based in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and I guess what you can know about me my doctor is in Sport and Exercise psychology and my Master’s is in mental health counseling so nationally board certified counselor and so a lot of the work that I do is considered integrative or eclectic sort of a combination of different approaches the goal of helping dancers and athletes be the best version of themselves yeah and so just to give you all some context of you know the relationship that I have with each of these fabulous women Lee and I connected shortly after my article why are we still so bad and interesting dancers mental health came out and she is actually as she just said here in Pittsburgh where I am and has since become one of my advisers for minding the gap and you know a dear friend and I’m very grateful for her contributions to this effort and then Margaret I kind of we have like a degree of separation as happens in the dance world I think and when I started following Margaret on Instagram was when I started really seeing the ways in which she’s really committed to helping other dancers and so I’m thrilled that you’re both here and especially Margaret for you to be willing to come and kind of evil nerble and share with us how you’re feeling and what you’re going through and all of this so just to all of our participants there are I have some quick quick what I want to say housekeeping that I need to do so really quickly we’re going to flip over here because I’m so good at technology okay there we go so this discussion is meant for educational purposes only and it is not a medical service if you’re in need of medical support please contact your primary physician for a referral or you can see some resources on the money and get webpage our guests today are representing themselves they’re not their affiliated organizations or institutions and please do also feel free to ask questions as we are talking you can do that in the Q&A Q&A feature or you can throw things into chat if you like if we cannot get to everything all the questions that we have then we will we will address them later this has just gone all kinds of wonky for me please okay here we so I think Margaret let’s start with you could you start by it you know you mentioned that this is the last of your season for you know of your time with can be can you talk a little bit about kind of you know the realization like when did you realize that potentially this like final performance with this company been with her over a decade wasn’t going to happen and how did you feel about that it’s kind of been a gradual process of realizing that

actually the first moment was in March actually when all of his first hit it hit so aggressively in Seattle’s so quickly and I know there’s been a lot of uncertainty about how long it would last for the severity of it kind of put it in the back of my mind that this might be kind of a long haul situation and for us it was the directors choice show a million anyway we ended up having to cancel that rep the day before it was supposed to open and so I was actually in a cast and never even made it on stage for a dress rehearsal so that was kind of a big moment and what having to be back backstage watching that moment was difficult this is my this was my last chance to get on stage and another David Austin ballet before I in my career and that felt very heavy because he’s his work has been a huge part of my career and it just kind of started snowballing from then from from there just a lot of the dancers I think sorry there’s some kind of garbage Chargers hope you can’t hear that too much but yeah I think for us we realize we saw the rest of the city shutting down and we knew that candy was trying to be optimistic about things like Gisele and the rep following but watching the city around us just going to lockdown kind of triggered those feelings pretty early on I had a full-on meltdown which needed to happen it was just kind of that release it was mid April I had a phone conversation with Peter goal my boss and we discussed we we finally had that discussion of it’s really not looking like likely that the final rep is gonna happen it doesn’t look like like that encore is gonna happen which would be my retirement performance from the company and what should we do what are we thinking should we turn a videotape something and after that conversation I think was around 10 o’clock in the morning I did be extreme shower crying moment just got off the phone and just needed to it was it was a release actually in a way that I hadn’t anticipated I talked to my friend and Griffiths on the phone the night before and we were talking through the two of us are they going company together different things we’ve been dancing together for a long time and I think I felt kind of weirdly if he’s talking to my friend I know yeah we’ll figure this out and there’ll probably be still something nice done at the end of the year but that conversation with Peter weirdly felt like my final moment it felt like this is this is it I am actually having this conversation with my boss or we are figuring out that we’re not gonna be able to get on stage again and Wow and I was not anticipating on hitting me that hard at that point I’ve been trying to prepare myself in various ways for it and also acknowledging that people a lot of people are going through so much right now and I have a lot of friends that are facing this same situation where their entire season was cut short and a lot of them their final season so I had friends that were already experiencing that so I think I can have this feeling well very soon people go through this and become and we’ll just gradually take it roll with the waves and then that that day it just and so really mid-april was the big one I mean I’ve had a couple moments since for its its hit me a lot but I think yeah that middle of April conversation was the biggest moment of yeah this is it like you’re no longer suspecting it like it’s it’s here now yeah so solely I’m interested from you what what is it about closure greatly what is it about this like desire that we have for closure and why is it so hard sure I think it’s a little bit different for every single person but in general I think we are creatures of habit even though our brain likes novelty right whenever I give my son a new toy it’s it’s very interesting for a few minutes but a lot of us really thrive on routine and predictability and consistency and so when you’ve done something for so long change feels really hard whether that’s that you’ve done something for 30 days 60 days or 15 years change is difficult even if you are a thrill seeker and a risk taker um because a lot of our day is the same when we get up what we put in the microwave for breakfast the clothes that we put on our backs and so um change is

really hard we’re all capable of it some of us manage it better than others but we have the capacity to do it so I think inherently change is difficult and so closure closure then would mean some form of acceptance of that change and by acceptance I do not mean approval and I’m not going to pin this on Margaret I don’t presume to know her we just met a few minutes ago but truly if you ask anybody you know would you have approved of this being the way that your season or the eary year that your career ended like no right like you wouldn’t have have given this the stamp of approval and said I want this and you do accept it because it cannot be any other way than it is so change is really hard and when the world says get on board because this is what’s happening um it’s really difficult and I think it’s totally appropriate to be upset or sad or relieved or any that combination there I also was when Kathleen you invited me to be part of this talk thinking back on the earliest forms of our understanding of people and really even before we had dance magazine or Dance Spirit before we had hieroglyphics on the walls we had oration we had we had storytelling and I know that a lot of the stories that I grew up with now I’m gonna date myself but the stories that I grew up with around dance for things like center stage things like Save the Last Dance things like step up and in all of these stories in all these movies in all of these plots the last 10 minutes is like the finale performance right it’s the thing that the protagonist has been working towards and they overcome this adversity and they groan and then it’s this beautiful performance that’s executed perfectly and everybody stands up and cheers and then the credits roll and I think that we all relate to storytelling and so we Mack on to that and we love that and we root for that and yet life does not always happen that way that’s why I think film while it can be very validating it’s also an immense escape from reality and so while there’s something cathartic and pleasing about it it can also be incredibly invalidating of what’s happening right now and so I think stories have a natural arc to them and when your story doesn’t go the way that most stories you’ve been told go that’s a lot of what we call cognitive dissonance right a disconnect between what you’re experiencing and what you think the world should be doing or how your life should be going so the predictability isn’t quite there and then lastly I think we create closure or closure is important because of the meaning we give to it and I’m going to insult all of the household pets for a moment and I do apologize in advance but I’m thinking back to when I was a kid and we would go to some sort of local affair or horse show and I would come home with Goldie right the gate name was always gold it’s a goldfish dream and Goldie would inherently die after a few days because Goldie is Goldie and for me that’s a very uncomplicated grief right in life that our goldfish will last a few days to a few weeks if you’re lucky maybe a few years and then Goldie will go down the toilet and we move on right we can we might say a prayer or we might I don’t know do something for Goldie and then when we move forward with our day right we don’t eat our pizza but I think that when something holds so much meaning when you’ve done something for a decade when it has been become entrenched it’s become part of your identity you can’t just flush that down the toilet and go eat your pizza like like Margaret was referencing that it’s appropriate to have these moments of intense feelings of despair of grief of frustration and confusion of joy of whatever it might be because it was so meaningful to you and so I think that meaning creates our reality and so there are going to be moments where your reality is I’m totally okay and there are moments where your reality is I’m totally not and so your job becomes pay attention and I think quote the need for closure tells us pay attention because there’s a need that is not being met you know when you’re talking about film and stuff I was thinking about and it’s funny I think didn’t center stage like like I said I’m dating myself I was thinking of The Sopranos and the way that that show ended and how furious people were because it ended there’s no closure it just was like what happened and you’re so upset because that’s like

not what it’s supposed to do for us I guess great so I you know I don’t I you said something early on that I really kind of clung to in my mind and that is this idea of like differentiating acceptance versus approval sure um I think that dancers naturally are will seeking right and that maybe that that distinction is a little harder for them mm-hmm yeah I mean I I think that what’s what’s difficult to grapple with is what’s happening right now is larger than ourselves and yet it is not selfish to focus on yourself in it I think that both can coexist we can be having a global pandemic and you can be having a pandemic within yourself that that both can happen simultaneously and and that while things I’ve seen a lot of tips recently about practicing gratitude right like at least Margret had 12 seasons right like at least I have food in my fridge at least I stocked up on toilet paper sure but at least brenĂ© Brown who is a very well-known blame and shame researcher you know she talks about silver lining it and how it’s it’s really a way that we don’t connect with other people with it we really need a lot more empathy in the world instead of sympathy and so she talks about the silver linings and the at least games and I think we miss an opportunity to say like both both are okay in that moment and so yeah for me acceptance versus approval is if any one of us can go back and say would you like a global pandemic or not we would all vote no and yet it can’t be in the other way like the global pandemic has happened and so as a result these are the ripple effects we don’t have to like it but it’s also not a problem you can solve and that’s the peace you know my approach has evolved over the years I think that in some instances therapists or friends or parents or whoever you’re leaning on right now can help you there are some problems that are solvable or some that are not unless anyone on this call has a doctorate in immunology and infectious disease you’re not going to solve the current crisis you can help it though by staying at home and wearing your mask and practicing good hygiene but you can solve the problem of do you want to totally disconnect from dance or not so taking online classes volunteering your time to engage in things like this so I think too when we attend to a problem that’s not solvable that makes us feel really out of control and like lights taken over but if we can work on maybe solving the problems that we can solve I think the mental skills piece can really help us they’re like controlling the control levels and the things that you can’t can you learn to tolerate them so you know as Margaret we’re saying they’re going to be moments where I accepted it my life feels like the ocean like the waves are gonna come crashing in and inevitably the wave will go back out and that’s sort of one of the differentiating factors between grief and depression would be right grief is sort of like the ocean that it comes and goes in waves sometimes they’re predictable and you can see it coming and you can see it picking up pace and picking up droplets and other times it kind of surprises you like you thought the wave was kind of small but it’s a lot larger whereas a depression we’re feeling a little bit more like it’s the backpack that you can’t take definitely something I want to dig into a little bit more as we discuss there as you’re you’re listening I don’t know is anything is that stirring anything in you in terms of your own experience and and if not that’s fine I didn’t it’s hard to know where to start with that because so many things yeah I it’s funny you mentioned the movie aspect of this but for me I would say that I think any dancer that has danced an irrational ballet company for any period of time in trade who searched for that kind of closure within the company because I personally have watched sense of being a PD 12 years worth of dancers having an encore performance taking the final bow Berry’s version you know various versions of that like very long careers very short careers full retirement moving to other companies all these things but that moment always happens and I think a lot of dancers are in that situation where not even like movie fantasy world it’s just your company has taught you that this is what is supposed to happen and I’ve been taught that personally for 12 years I have watched generations of dancers before me go through this moment and have that final experience so yeah it’s interesting it’s it’s for me it’s not even center stage partially you know it’s I

grew up watching us but really I have been trained to seek that kind of goodbye and it’s funny I just recorded on Monday an interview we’re trying to put together like a goodbye can be video for Ben and I which I appreciate its really lovely gesture from the company but it was it was a really difficult to record that I was just talking into my iPhone not talking to anyone and and that moment of the prompt of you know what would you like to say to keen B audiences I have supported you for all these years that’s so hard and I about that I don’t know if it’ll end up in the final version that I did when I was saying my video good that I say that it’s difficult I know I’m a dancer that feels a lot of energy from the house you know from the audience from my co-workers you know from my fellow dancers from the crew I’m very close to a lot of our crew members there was something I was seeking there for sure with like having that moment of being surrounded by them physically and feeling them and having the opportunity to say thank you and hug that because I’ve seen that done every year and I think I was attached to that for sure that idea because it’s just so so much appreciation around all those people that are gathered there should be a part of that with you or so yeah that’s a place for between yeah I mean I’ve said this repeatedly but I I’m gonna keep saying it because I think it’s true I mean it really it’s very akin to you know your final performance is coming and oh you just blew out your knee like the dance world is collectively injured right now right and I think that that is incredibly hard and I mean like on the one hand it is collective right so you have community around that experience but it’s at leas point like you can you can try and have all this empathy for everybody else but like you’re allowed to be alone in that in that sadness that this yeah that’s something I’ve talked to it’s my friend Josh spell a lot who I know you know wonderful therapist former dancer and I just actually had them on my podcast again which will be coming out soon to talk about a lot of this too we’ve been talking about it for the last couple months and it’s something he’s been through too but he keeps saying like Kenny we do seem to remember it’s not a competition and this is extremely meaningful does like this is at its core all I have wanted most in the world most of my life was to have this career and have it end is painful and I think at any in any circumstance at any time it’s painful so it’s that suddenly doesn’t just disappear just because of the global impact of all of this like all those feelings are valid and for a lot of us we’ve been doing that since we were four or five years old you can’t just like well but in comparison it doesn’t matter it you’ve you’ve been after this the best majority of your years on this earth so it’s not just gonna be like a oh well no it is not Goldie and and yeah if I can just briefly I just totally get behind that I this is a very opinionated statement but those who work with me knowing sometimes have opinions which is I really do not like the phrase we are all in the same boat we are very much not in the same boat we are all weathering the same storm in the global crisis sense but our boats look very different right some of us are like Tom Hanks in castaway some of us are on a nice big yacht and and everything in between and so I think for me it’s it’s reminding myself we’re all rowing in the same direction which is towards health towards wellness towards resilience but our boats look a lot different and I think it’s very appropriate what Margaret is saying which is you know you cannot compare one’s career to another’s career you cannot compare my pain to your pain it’s all real and it’s all different because we are different humans you don’t share a brain so you’re not having the same thing I just I just did an interview with an incredible psychologist named Joanne la flesche from she’s in Montreal I was interviewing her about grief and depression which is definitely something I want us to dig into but something we talked about in that interview that I thought was so so important and it’s what you’re saying to Lee is that you know everyone everyone could have lost the same performance right like everyone at P&V has lost the same performance you’ve

lost right like that performance is gone but the value of that performance true it’s completely different sure make sure those people and tell them it may be overt and like clear like in Margaret’s case like it’s completely understandable like that this was an important performance right but you know and for others like it may be a little bit more nuanced and not quite at the surface like what the value that performance was but you know the the volume of the grief is directly proportionate to the value of the loss right I mean so it’s possible to see one person handling the same same loss very well beside you just like why can’t I get it together right so we looking toward being proactive here like what can dancers do or in the circumstance of this loss what can they do to try and deal with this loss of closure a little bit better um they can do lots of things I think that if you treat to this as a loss of some sort what have you done before if you’ve had bosses in your life or transitions in your life so I’m not I mean certainly if you’ve lost a person you can reflect on that what that process was like because a lot of folks will say if dance was your calling it feels like a part of your personhood has been lost but even if it was something like moving to a new neighborhood when you were a child you had to say goodbye to the friends down the street or to your childhood home or maybe a job that you really liked it has been furloughed or that you left for other circumstances that I think you can get into what I would consider some of the creative coping strategies so whether that’s creating a time capsule so instead of focusing on the moments that you didn’t have what are all the moments that you did so kind of collecting them creating some sort of time capsule or a memory box or something like that to really mark the occasion of the entire career as Margaret was saying like the process not necessarily just the pinnacle of the career or the or the last bow journaling can be really helpful for folks like making things real when you put things down on paper instead of rolling them around in your brain like the hamster that won’t get off the wheel I think you can do things like focusing on transitioning those life skills that you’ve learned through dance into other passions so if discipline has been a big thing you know do you want to go to culinary school and be disciplined in that forum if you’re really still big into fitness and health and helping others would you like to become a certified personal trainer so I think finding other passions and transit in terms of transferring those skills scheduling time to grieve to be upset to cry to be confused it is okay you’re allowed and so for some folks it’s it’s the panic or the anxiety of I’m not really sure when this is gonna come up and so giving yourself permission okay on Tuesdays from 3 to 4 I’m gonna be sad about this and that’s okay schedule the time if you need it and and for many of us right now we do have the time so those are just some things that that you can do for me the biggest ones would be recognized your identity identity is very important while you may feel that you are a dancer feelings are not facts you were a whole he before you ever put on leotard and tights and shoes which means you can fully be human again so I think doing your best on your own time with or without a therapist or other support person to recognize that your identity is whole with and without dance it might not feel that way but you weren’t coming out doing jet taste so you can become fully human without dance so recognizing that identity I think is really important friendships while I know we’re all being physically distant I think we can very much be socially connected and I would encourage I loved hearing Margaret talk about connecting with other folks who were in similar positions and similar boats if we’re going to continue that metaphor I also really encourage especially young people to make friends outside of the dance world there are wonderful role models for other passions other careers other interests other ways to feel fulfilled and achieve really great things and sometimes the point is

that your friends don’t really care about dance not to invalidate your experience but to reflect that it is not the end of the world it is the end of something but it is not the end of the world and so that might be able to give you a little bit of lift sometimes when when you need it and lastly practicing mindfulness stop the chain that is stimulus-response that every time you think retirement you must try that there is there’s a moment in between a stimulus and a response where you have the ability all of us have the ability to take a breath all of us have the ability to say I want to feel different this time and practicing mindfulness practicing I’m having a thought what do I want to do with that thought do I want to attend to it do I want to solve it do I want to push it away what’s my urge telling me to do is this helpful is this harmful is this adaptive is this in line with my goals or values so what’s really and I’m not being paid by any of them but a lot of these apps are offering free trials or free subscriptions to practice a little bit of mindfulness or more formalized meditation simply just practicing some paced breathing once in a while to reconnect with that parasympathetic sympathetic nervous system so those are just some ideas I’m certainly I can share more but I want to be mindful of time but those are just a few those are great ideas and it’s interesting Susan Jaffe shared with me when I first met with her and told her what what minding the gap you know was you know this organization and she said I love that do you know what the gap is in meditation and she said the gap is the moment between the inhale and the exhale and it’s just interesting as you’re talking about this this moment that you have right and also kind of in reaction to what you’re saying you know as someone who has left dance quite a while ago and has developed an entire career and even multiple careers since then you know to anyone out there for whom like this really is it right like this really is the end it’s so not you know what I mean like it’s it’s this is gonna fall on deaf ears right now and I completely understand and appreciate why I thought I was nothing if I wasn’t a dancer I literally would have I thought that I would rather be deceased and not be a dancer but that’s how serious it was and my life is so full and I loved my life so much and I feel emotional even saying it but that’s absolutely true and also leave what you said about excuse me creating relationships outside of Dance and you know we as dancers like it’s a very your very ear very interesting person if you’re right like that’s fascinating like who doesn’t want to know what ballet dancer you know a contemporary dancer or someone a Broadway but I was really refreshing to perf end people who could care less that I was a dancer yes and I would have assumed that that wouldn’t have been good it’s right you don’t appreciate me but instead it was completely the opposite it was this oh my goodness like these people are here laughing with me caring about me zero care for the fact that I was a dancer so I think that’s brilliant advice appreciate that I think with the the rare exception of maybe billiards or golf which you can sometimes do into your 70s and 80s everyone hangs up their pointe shoes or their pleats puts down the basketball or turns in the hockey stick there is an end to everyone’s career with something that is so physically involved and so I mean for any dance teachers or parents especially on the call today I think it’s worth planning ahead not to be negative Nancy not to create anxiety but to know at some point you or your young athlete or perform will have an end and so making sure that that does not mean the end of like you said their identity but yet the beginning of something else so Margaret how how have you been since that as time is going by both very quickly and very slowly it’s strange staring at my calendar it’s right here that’s why I keep looking to the right yeah so I mean in that short amount of time thank you for being willing to share with us that you did have that just kind of total release of it you know how have you been handling this like how have you been trying to see yourself through this it honestly changes daily and I think that’s something important you remember from Rudy you’re not going to feel the same

about anything in your life every single day every day is a different day and we are more tired somedays and we are more agitated other days or we feel more calm randomly so it’s just we never you know we’re humans are very complex and interesting we don’t know how we’re gonna wake up each morning and feel but I I would say I’ve always been a very sensitive person but also I am someone that has spent a lot of time a very passionate about looking inward and really learning about myself I have been for a very long time and for me I know that I need to let myself feel my feelings when I have those moments I can see my mom is owned they call me of conversations I’m I have moments where I just I need to release it and I just I’m not even looking for a solution but I know if I don’t let myself live in that moment it’s I’m not gonna be able to make get over it I need to like go there in order to get past it and I think that’s a lot of people and it’s funny I was I’ve been going through a book recently it’s called welcoming the unwelcome and it’s a spiritual guidance book and it’s something that Josh and I have talked about to where it’s interesting I try to really check in with myself a lot and there is I think a tendency for a lot of people when they feel these really intense negative feelings to want to flee from them the more I resist that urge to flee and just sit in it and just let myself experience the real gravity of my own feelings the better I feel after the more I feel like I’ve had the moment I’ve looked them dead in the eye and I know what I’m dealing with and then I can take steps constructive steps to move on and so I’ve really been taking moments from for that and I have been a big boundaries person lately I have a luxury that maybe not all people have right now in the sense that I until the middle of June will have some leeway on how much I need to hustle financially where you know Kandi’s was able to get some support also Washington because we were so quickly affected by Kovan has been generally it’s not perfect but generally doing a pretty darn good job with unemployment trying to take care of local workers so all in all it hasn’t been awful awful for you know at least me personally I don’t like the other dancers yet we’re so kind of in this introduction phase where they’re Seattle’s trying to take care of us as they can in various ways and because of that because I’m expecting more of a hassle to you know pay the bills later I am taking weekends for myself I have set up an away message for my email over the weekends I tend to do a lot of different things I’m quite learned quite the workaholic a lot of the time and I realized that I’m you know I’m still I’m still breathing this and I just need to give myself time not to be bothered by other people or work when I don’t watch me and I and I crave quality time with my husband who works really hard during the week – or both at home working and we both need to shut off over the weekend like the emotional bandwidth is not large enough for us to just keep plowing it had every day of the week and so I’ve been saying no I was asked by a couple places if I would consider teaching online over the weekends I said no I said maybe in a couple months we can definitely revisit this as things shift and things evolved but as of right now until I get through the season until I get through my candy time where I’m feeling all of this and give myself time to feel all of this I’m not willing to give away my weekends for myself and for my husband and just to kind of just take the energy level down a notch that’s been really important to me but yeah I think I love everything that Lee said about just taking the time to find yourself I have been saying for quite a while now that I’m tremendously grateful that I went to Normal School I would have in the moment when I was younger I wanted to go away so badly early graduate early go to dance you know I was obsessed with I’m still obsessed with dance obviously like my I’ve built my entire career and other careers that I’m planning on around dance however it was wonderful long term to not be to be used to being around people that are not dancers and have friends that are not dancers and actually to this day most of my best friends I love my dancer friends too but most of my best friends aren’t dancers my husband is not a dancer most of them had no experience stepping into a theater when we became friends and now they support me you know all of my shows but it’s wonderful to experience other type people people that are doing other things during the day and to realize that your connection can be through the

human experience not just through your job and I when I think about like Who I am I have got I’m very proud of getting to a place where I really think more of qualities than you know my my resume I don’t think Maggie is or Margaret is a dancer and this and that I actually have become very in touch I feel with the kind of person that I am and I think that is helpful in moments like this and something I am as a nurturing person and it’s really made me passionate about leaning into that more during this time and trying to I’m working on getting out on cast episodes every week hopefully soon and in order to connect with dancers and help them through this and I think for me too I’ve been pouring myself into other work I was already doing I’ve been in an entrepreneur course or an entrepreneur mastermind for 10 months about nine months already and it’s a course that will continue through December that’s a whole nother part of my life that I’m really passionate about I’m passionate about business I hope to be an artistic director someday that is my that’s been my goal since I was nine was one day after I’m done dancing I will be an artistic director and for me in the moments that this becomes hard and overwhelming and I feel like I’m really stuck on how I feel about it and then kind of on the hamster wheel about those emotions it’s actually really helpful maybe helpful for me to think about that other goal because I think we’ve talked briefly about this cosmati but I think there’s a problem in the dance world I think most dancers have experienced people at the front of the room and various levels of authority that have not allowed themselves to heal about their dance experience and carry the emotional baggage and carry trauma and our innocence kind of haunted and perpetuate that kind of negative environment because of the trauma that they suffered and I am bound and determined to not be one of those leaders it’s really important to me so this has been a good exercise for me to think about you are experiencing this myself you were experiencing this trauma but what steps can you take you know forward in a positive way so that one day you are not bringing this into the studio with you that you are able to look at an answer in front of you those going through a retirement experience and not put your experience on to them and not make it this whole very overly convoluted my career and your career there one there not one everyone has helped is having their own experience and I want to eventually be in a place for him emotionally a mentally healthy enough to support other dancers independently from my own experience to really look at the big answer in front of me and what they need and be able to look at that clearly and help them definitively so for me that’s been a big part of my own personal recovery is just trying to think about how I would want how I want to be available to others one day and part of that is figuring out a way to heal and no I I was gonna say yay I wish I had I wish I bomb poms because I think there there are two things that really resonated with me in what you were saying which is the first comes back to this idea of mindfulness or of being present on purpose in this I use a lot of metaphors saying poor Goldie’s getting dragged through the night here but so thinking about you know those of us who drive a car or maybe there’s students on the call like learning to drive a car or maybe mom dad grandma are driving the car like the biggest piece of glass is the windshield right for a reason because it’s showing you what is right in front of you when you have the most control an opportunity to take in your surroundings and respond to them effectively if you get in a car and don’t try this but if you get in the car and you drive only looking in the rearview mirror so as Margaret’s referencing if you are so focused on your own trauma or your unhealed wounds or even from mental skills perspective to take the mental health out of it for a second that’s a thing you know that you just you have a skills deficit something that you’ve never practiced you’re not being present with yourself or the person whom you’re trying to teach or serve or love or whatever and we also do a disservice when we’re too far ahead right when we’re being too idealistic we’re being too anticipatory that kind of like our GPS system when it tells us you know in in 2.4 miles you’re

gonna turn left well a lot could happen in 2.4 miles so I’m going to prepare to turn left but my turn signal is certainly not on yet so that really resonated with me what you were saying is I’d like to be able to get to the point where I can be present with what’s in front of me without looking in the rearview mirror all the time we all look in the rearview mirror sometimes to help us park to give a reference point make sure we didn’t miss an exit and I think that that’s perfectly reasonable um but I really loved I loved that that he said and the second thing that was resonating with me because you have made some references to more of a spiritual reflection and I think that’s highly personal right some some folks will bring prayer into this or they’ll bring a spiritual practice into this or they’ll they’ll bring a pastor or Imam or something into this there’s an old Buddhist saying which has become more popular eyes more recently there’s a blog post on it too I think on Psychology Today that I can send to your way Kathleen but it’s it’s the idea that pain is inevitable suffering is optional and it’s sort of the concept of we’re all going to experience pain in our lives that’s that’s part of as Margot was saying the human experience regardless of whether you’re a dancer or you’re a grocery store cashier or you’re a mother of four it doesn’t matter you’re going to experience pain but the suffering is optional and that is do you focus on on your controllables do you acknowledge your self-talk do you set yourself up to be successful and adaptive and in the moments where you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel do you ask for help I think that that’s that’s really important like no one you don’t have to forget dance ever just like if you’ve ever lost somebody in your life or you’ve ever moved away from a childhood neighborhood you don’t ever have to leave those things permanently they don’t just disappear from your brain but take them with you get them in the car maybe put them in put them in the back or put them in the passenger seat or maybe they’re kind of like sharing the driver’s seat with you legally but break them but you can you can take those memories and those strengths and those life lessons with you but they’re not all of you and so kind of rolling it into the next thing so that you can keep driving forward in the interest of time I want to have one final topic I’d love to discuss with you both and by all means if anyone has questions if you have something perfectly and feel free to throw it into the Q&A and we’ll try and get to it but you know something I think that’s really important for people listening we’re going through moments like this in their life is is this distinction right between grief and depression and you touched on it a little bit earlier but I think it’s natural because the kind of symptoms of grief and depression can look so similar right and feel so similar yeah and I think that it is good and right and natural to check in with yourself and ask like is this grief or is this depression right to figure out how to react and what the way forward is so can you talk a little bit about a little bit more about kind of the difference I know you mentioned that the grief can feel a little bit more like waves and the depression is like this backpack that you put on yeah we were wearing and I even put it on but you’re wearing it yes yeah and I think for the our purposes today I’m not going to go into things like the DSM or whatnot but I think yes inherently since I’m apparently on the metaphor train today yeah depression is a lot more like a backpack that you can’t take off and so a lot of folks will describe that as going through life feeling like you have extra weight unrelated to a physical or medical condition so difficulty getting out of bed that is prolonged feeling sad for two weeks or more things like that life feels really unmanageable like you can’t do it with the functionality that you were doing it prior to the onset of it grief yeah it tends to come more like I said the ocean it comes in waves some of them are predictable some of them you can see but some of them you really can’t and I think what’s so challenging for folks is you can have both if you if you ascribe to the kubler-ross model of grief which you know that there’s a lot of evidence for and yet grief doesn’t happen in these nice neat phases that we read about in textbooks that but depression is one of the stages and so for a long game bargaining and acceptance and things like that so don’t I would encourage folks whether it’s for yourself or for someone else don’t get caught up in the semantics the idea is that if you’re feeling not like yourself and you aren’t quite sure how to get out of it or how to manage it then it is

time to ask for help and it might not be the first step might not be therapy I mean this is not a PSA for therapy you know it might be a mental skills professional someone who has education in sport psychology it might be a pastor it might be a spiritual leader it might be your mom your dad your uncle it might be your dance teacher so yeah certainly check out the resources that Kathleen has on the website but I think they both can coexist you can have grief and depression and also one can kind of cause the other and that’s what’s difficult to write is that prolonged grief can turn into depression and you may also be someone who’s dealing with depression and then on top of that you’ve got some grease happening so the best thing I can say is like I don’t know how many people go to the diet rest and say well when I go up on releve my third metatarsal kind of hurts and so I’m thinking there’s a hairline fracture there could you please give me an MRI like no one walks into the podiatry you walk in and you say my foots right like the podiatrist doesn’t expect you to diagnose yourself and so same thing with mental health same thing if you’re looking to strengthen your mental skills it is enough to say my brain hurts it’s enough to say I feel like my emotions are running my life it’s enough to say I’m so sick of crying it’s enough to say I don’t feel comfortable expressing what I’m feeling in my house that is sufficient there’s no golden ticket to get into therapy or into mental skills work or the like then you can just show up and say something feels off help you don’t have to worry about bringing your diagnostic code with you yeah and I think Lee and I have presented together in in person discussions and things with dancers in the past and I think a question we almost always get is how do I know I need to talk to someone how do I know it’s bad enough that I need to talk to someone and then because you know we have this you know is this notion that going going to therapy or seeking help in some other way writing is something you do in crisis right but it’s okay to seek help because you’re stressed it’s okay to seek help because you’re sad right so I I hope we can kind of normalize that for everyone here and I know Margaret talks about speaking with her friend Josh spell who is fantastic and a wonderful clinician and you know even in that friends don’t like that is help-seeking behavior to be like I want to talk to this friend I’m here to tell you like I have high tax relief in the middle of the night sometimes and it’s very much in the friend zone but it is sometimes very helps you can be easier right so I I just want to kind of try normalize that for everyone and then kind of before I go to that kind of wrapping it up thing here Margaret do you have any advice like two dancers who are in a similar situation to you you know especially the young ones I think do you have any advice for them right now yeah I know it’s such a it’s such a heavy thing everyone’s dealing with and as I like that you just mentioned that young dancers are facing this too especially I think a lot of dancers I think I’ve worked very closely with the professional division students of can be class after class for many years as a choreographer and I get to know them really well and they’re all very special to me and last year actually created I worked for all of them so I literally worked with the entire PD class so they were all my babies and I have been thinking a lot you know I have a different version of this closure moment I remember last year their final performance and just remembering what that was like as a PD myself where they were you know there’s so many different things happening at the end of the year for people some people are done dancing completely some people are going off to first job some people didn’t get a job and they’re trying to figure out what they’re gonna do next year some people are unexpected unexpectedly moving back home it’s it’s a hard time and I know they they craved that closure too and I think a lot of students you know graduating from high school that are you know also not going to continue dancing and growing up with you know my own group of dance friends seeing I had many friends that didn’t want to become dancers freshly but given all through

high school and then that was it and you know there was a special moment that last show for them there you know graduation performance is incredibly important to them and I I think I would just say that I completely agreeing that I am I’m a huge fan of therapy not to do my own PSA for therapy but I hope to I’ve I’ve seen a therapist or you know several therapists over the years different times of my life I think it’s important if you need you feel like you need that help and I’ve always become a stronger more well-rounded person because of it I know not everyone can access that very easily but there’s tons of online resources but also just you know giving yourself time to feel that this is OK I think you know that this grief needs to be had I think that is I know we’ve already said it but it’s my biggest piece of advice for all dancers is you know you cannot hope to move on from any trauma without facing it and without letting it you know take run its course it might be yours you might you know I’ve heard that from a lot of dancers that did not leave careers in such traumatic circumstances that they still have moments 7 10 years later where they’re like oh my god I’m a dancer anymore it’s just kind of it’s a complex relationship we have with this it’s very hard to walk away from and it’s very hard to have it pulled away from you and I hope that everyone will give themselves a grace to feel sad because I think that’s been one of the biggest things that I have seen and had people reach actually online about is the fact that there’s a weird element of shame as we discussed around feeling sad about something that seems trivial in the grand scheme of what is happening and we just have to realize that this is not trivial and also that you know I’ve mentioned that I want to be able to help other dancers that way but all all of us I know hope to live happy healthy balanced lives years from now once were through all of this you know with our family members with our friends with our partners with our you know the children if we have them you know it’s you you want to give yourself time to feel this so that it’s not the monkey on your back for the rest of your life and if you just try to ignore it because this seems worse it’s oh it’s always going to be with you I mean it’s going this experience will be with all of us regardless this is a big big moment globally this is unprecedented and we just need to give room for all the levels of grief that are happening or around this experience and so I think that would just be my biggest advice and I really really advise people to just let themselves be sad you know and that’s just saying that you should live there and if you feel like you need help get help and I think there is something to just like I said I get those feelings too it’s like it’s it’s not a great feeling to be sad you don’t want to run away to Oh a funny TV show or that but everyone’s fun you kind of just need to let yourself feel like I’m watching the Golden Girls that’s been fun I’m still gonna do that but I’m also still allowing myself moments to just feel sad and know that’s gonna come up and I think also treated to not get yourself a timeline on recovery around all of this – I think for me I’m one of my I just say my mentors for cars we’ve had we had very similar early life experiences and you know certain promise it’s been nice to talk to her because we view them at Kimora’s building blocks that await striking us down you know we’ve learned a lot from them they’ve developed us into the people that we are but a lot of that stuff you know from earlier in my life I see you know that was difficult I still think about it’s not that I’ve forgotten it or I’ve moved on and I’m immune to what any of that meant or things that made me sad everyone trying to go you know these things are always kind of with us but so don’t expect to that once if I tackle this now that’s it that’s I one grief like there’s there’s no just it doesn’t just disappear by just giving yourself Christ around like this is gonna be a gradual process and we just need to allow ourselves to feel it in my opinion saying well over a decade ago now I can tell you that that you’re right I mean it’s it’s I don’t know if it’s comforting or not but you know it’s a process and the thing is that I think it comes to visit you less and less often right but it just continues to exist on some way but that’s because what you did was important and that’s because what you did was valuable and if you walk away from it like the goat like though we’re gonna bring it home with one of your

metaphors late but if you if you walk away from it like Goldie from the carnival and what you did didn’t matter that much did it right so you know it’s it’s not then honor it right the way that you’re suggesting I do I’m gonna start to wrap it up a little bit I appreciate some of the comments that have come in like thanking our guests and truly like thank you both so much it means so much to me to have such incredible professionals and human beings willing to kind of stick their necks out and do a zoom public zoom call with me and Margaret to you in particular like thank you for for being willing to have this discussion and especially in the middle of all of it that’s really really huge and means the world I have no doubt you’re affecting a lot of a lot of people with that of course my timer just went off too but so I am going to this is the scary part where I start trying to share things again you guys so hanging in there with me so I’m going to go ahead and share this so these are the ways in which you can get in touch with us if you want to get in touch with me please just reach out to me you can send me a message on the minding the gap website and I can get it to her and then there are the ways to follow Margaret and her many facets of talents in her podcast and her documentary and all these other amazing things that she’s doing and I am NOT going to ask Margaret to dance but I do like to I do like to round this out this is something I want to do at the end of each of these I think that this time that we are all separated from you know the to dance and the ability to truly like be in a studio dancing or on stage you know this is the time to reconnect with why you started dancing in the first place and as someone who interviews people and dancers all the time I can tell you that you all started because you loved it you all started because it was joyful and as the mother of four-year-old I can also tell you that I watched that in real time so you know as much as there’s the opportunity to take all of these classes and do all these things I hope that you also will just take a moment to put on some really good music and just move your body and like feel that and feel how great that is so I’m asking my dancer guests each time if they could tell us what our dance for joy song is gonna be Margaret what did you think well I am a big fan of Kylie Minogue I think she’s a really incredibly resilient lady so I figured that would be a good fit for this it’s into the blue which is one of her more this is one of my workout songs sometimes I’m just you know extra thinking about today sounds excellent okay so hopefully the sound quality okay because I’m still trying to figure all this out but I’m going to put on into the blue and I want to say thank you to my guests for being here and thank you so much to all of you who came to be part of this discussion and here we go