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Dancer Health During the Pandemic

Chelsea McGowan, RCC (Registered Clinical Counsellor) at Anderson Performance Clinic, talks about the impact of the pandemic on dancers, and suggests some strategies for self-care:

There are complex personal intersections that affect our ability to cope with a world-wide pandemic. We have all had access to different resources and safety nets based on who and where we are — these divides and commonalities have been illuminated, and will continue to be. It is imperative to include and name these differences, especially within the context of ‘wellness’, as not only do we have different access to wellness resources but different ideas and values around it.

Within the dance world, there has been a great sense of loss of community, access to space to create, an outlet to process emotions and stress in the body, and possibly a loss of ability to experience your body in the same way. In speaking from my experience and what my clients have shared with me, not only has this pandemic been painful in and of itself — but there can be a resurfacing of past pain, and in turn old coping strategies. Some areas of mental health that I have seen a recent increase in are depression, anxiety, panic, isolation, stress, loneliness, numbing/dissociation, disordered eating, etc.  I think it is important to recognize that these responses are very human, and to be diligent around reducing associated shame that may surface.

When it comes to caring for yourself, again I would like to emphasize that this does not look the same for everyone, and safety comes above all else.  Here are 5 key strategies I would recommend:

  • Connecting with others in whatever capacity is available, and if possible sharing your experience.
  • Safe and compassionate movement — this can help move stress and tension out of your body.
  • Accessing online therapy or support; many therapists are offering reduced rates during this time. (Including us.)
  • Do things that give you pleasure! Pleasure can be incredibly calming and healing for the nervous system.
  • Practice self-compassion. Notice if there is a judgment or criticism around how you are getting through this time, and see if you can shift it towards curiosity!


Chelsea McGowan is a Registered Clinical Counsellor who holds a Master’s Degree in Counselling Psychology.  Her experience ranges from specialized eating disorder treatment centres, mental health and risk management counselling services, and years of private practice with a range of clients from elite athletes, performers, and professionals.  She offers reduced-rate sessions (in-person or online) for dancers and the dance community at Anderson Performance Clinic at Scotiabank Dance Centre.

Founded by physiotherapist and performance coach Stuart Anderson, Anderson Performance Clinic is a multidisciplinary clinic designed to deliver premium, integrated therapy, offering in-house and remote online sessions to help clients optimize their health and performance.  All clinicians have 10-20+ years of clinical experience, in many cases as lead clinicians at the highest level of competition and performance, including the Royal Ballet (London), Ballet BC, Olympic Games/Commonwealth Games, Div.1 / Serie A football, Cirque Du Soleil etc.

Services include:

  • Physiotherapy / IMS
  • Registered Clinical Counselling
  • Mental Performance Coaching
  • Osteopathy
  • Registered Massage Therapy
  • Gait Analysis, Brace and Orthotic Prescription
  • Neuro-functional Dry Needling / Medical Acupuncture
  • Movement and Orthopaedic Screening Assessment
  • Conditioning and Rehab Exercise