with Minding the Gap Founder Kathleen McGuire Gaines
Alison and I chat about Minding the Gap, a mental health advocacy group for dancers. We also chat about the importance of identity, the prevalence of shame based motivation and simple steps that studios and dance companies can take to promote a healthier environment.
I love speaking with young dancers and I was moved by this project and Emi's fantastic questions. This is the first part of our conversation where Emi and I talk about my background, navigating through mental illness as a dancer, as well as an introduction to the stigma surrounding mental health in the dance world.
In part 2 we talked about supporting someone who is struggling with their mental health, as a friend or parent.
“Becoming a dance writer has helped me face my own dragons in some ways — my own feelings of loss. Really, when I’m trying to come up with what I’m writing about, I’m asking, ‘What do I wish I had known? What do I wish someone had told me?’"
In this episode, we go behind the screen and talk about all things mental health. We unpack what resources to add to your toolbox, Kathleen's viral Dance Magazine article 'Why are we still so bad at addressing dancers' mental health?', speaking to yourself with kindness, and Minding The Gap’s plans for developing a mental health program for dancers
Margaret and Kathleen discuss, among other topics:
The results of a survey on dancer's top mental health concerns (eating disorders aren't even in the top three!). Why it's in the dance world's best interest to change its culture around mental health for the better, including some interesting statistics about just who it is that makes up the majority of dance audiences. Ways that dance companies and management can better serve their artists' mental health needs without breaking their budgets
Kathleen talks about how depression isn’t simply weakness, that shame is a terrible motivator, and how encouraging and informing correct coping strategies can make all the difference. She shares her desire to reduce eating disorders by addressing the underlying mental health issues, and reveals why it’s so important to have one specific phone number ready in your phone for sharing.
Sherrill and Kathleen talk about mental health in dance and being the founder of being a start-up
For years after Kathleen stopped, she believed she just wasn't strong enough to have continued in the field. However, now she sees that the real reason why she had stopped dancing was because she had been dealing with a major depression that could've been treated, if only she had the tools to acknowledge it. So, in 2018, Kathleen quit her job to focus solely on growing, Minding the Gap, a social good organization dedicated to seeing mental health treated with the same seriousness as physical health in dance culture. Her organization intends to give the support, tools, and awareness all dancers, dance teachers, and directors need to continue growing this art form positively.