Dancer Resource Dialouge: Lyssa Wopat, Performentality

Tell us about yourself:

I am a former professional ballet dancer turned sport and performance psychology consultant. Dance has been listed as one of the most demanding occupations in the world, physically and mentally. (Having danced professionally, I am no stranger to this)! We spend quite a bit of effort and time training the physical and technical aspects of dance, but we often don’t spend much time training the mental and psychological side. Yet, the mental aspect of dance can greatly impact what you are able to achieve, and the level of enjoyment you experience in your craft. I apply the research and evidence-based principles of sport and performance psychology in my work with performers to help them optimize their performance, mindset, and wellbeing. I do this by helping my clients identify and address the psychological challenges that may be hindering their performance.

Tell us about a story/stories on our page that stood out to you and why:

Many of the stories on your page resonate with me, but I think I connected to the story posted on June 24th most. This post was all about burnout… Lack of days off, dancing through pain and sickness, and pushing through the mental/emotional pain strife that some dance environments harbor. Among other challenges, I certainly dealt with burnout. As a young dancer, ballet and other dance forms were my outlet. I loved going to dance class, and I loved performing. Throughout my time as a dancer, however, I began to form maladaptive perfectionistic thought patterns, higher amounts of performance anxiety, fear that I would be replaced if I took time off for my injuries to heal properly, etc… The joy of dance was no longer there, and ultimately, I felt so burned out mentally that I decided to retire.

If you could send a message to that dancer(s), what would it be?

Get proactive about your psychological well-being! So many dancers I’ve spoken to initially wrote off their challenges as something that was an unchangeable part of them… I’ve heard things like, “I’m just not good at turning”, “I’m just a nervous dancer, nothing I can do about it”, “I can’t rest or take too many breaks”, etc.
The science shows that many psychological skills are developable… For example, you do not have to be born the most confident dancer, to be come a confident dancer. Sport and performance psychology is all about helping performers to develop a “mental skills toolbox” to help them handle and cope with the mental challenges they face in their performance, in the studio and on the stage. You are not alone in your challenges, and there IS something you can do!

How can your resource or community help this dancer or another dancer going through something similar?

I support dancers through remote 1:1 coaching as well as workshops and group sessions. In-person sessions/workshops can be scheduled if geographical dispersion allows. Please feel free to schedule a free, no-obligation 20-minute consultation using the link in my Instagram profile, or on my website. If I don’t seem like the right fit for you, I will refer you to one of the wonderful experts in my referral network.

Contact info:

Lyssa Wopat, Performentality, LLC
Instagram: @performentality

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