Dr. Friedrich’s Dancing Life

I grew up in the studio at the Westside School of Ballet in Santa Monica, California, where I trained under a former New York City Ballet principal dancer and a former soloist with Britain’s Royal Ballet. Westside Ballet alumni dance at companies including NYCB, American Ballet Theatre, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and The Joffrey. Ballet holds a special place in my heart and in my life — in terms of movement, it’s my first language.

I knew I wanted to keep dancing as I got older, so I majored in dance (and English) at Barnard College, Columbia University. I branched out into jazz, Graham and Taylor modern, dabbled in flamenco, and continued performing. I immersed myself in dance history and interned at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Ultimately, I graduated with departmental honors for my dance thesis on anxiety in pre-professional dancers.

I’m a dancer wondering about therapy. What does this mean for me? 

In my training as a psychologist, I learned about factors that can lead to problems like depression and anxiety, and I realized that there can be parts of our experiences as dancers that lead us into unhelpful ways of thinking, no matter how much we love to dance. You spend hours looking in the mirror for imperfections, and sometimes that critical voice takes over and won’t go away. You may compare yourself to your classmates or colleagues, or you may compare yourself to the person you were yesterday, or last year before an injury. You may hold yourself to standards that can be close to impossible, and sometimes you blame yourself when you don’t meet them. You look to others to validate your worth, because their approval can advance your career.

If you dance, you know these are only a few of the mental hurdles you face every time you walk into the studio.

Getting practice with how you think about yourself and your work can be as important as time spent on the dance floor. Together, we can look at the thoughts and experiences that are getting in the way of living and dancing in a way that feels good. I work with dancers in all stages of their lives: pre-professional and professional dancers, as well as dancers who are interested in exploring their next career. I know that dancers have unique needs and unique challenges, and I can help.

There are days and moments when dancing is better than anything else in the world, full stop. And then there are moments when it can be one of the toughest things there is. If you dance and you’d like someone else with you in the wings, please get in touch to see how we can work together.