In this month’s Spotlight we catch up with retired Royal Ballet dancer Terry Hyde, a successful and well-known UK-based Psychotherapist. Terry actively campaigns for honest proactive discussion and more understanding of mental health and wellbeing in the UK dance industry.
As government restrictions regarding live performance continue, Terry has transferred his services online supporting dancers and actors with virtual workshops, talks, one-to-one sessions and free support.
You are a retired Royal Ballet dancer. What was it like to be part of one of the most famous ballet companies in the world?
I honestly didn’t think about what it was like to be in The Royal Ballet at the time. Training at The Royal Ballet School, it was just a progression. I think back then in the 1960s, there wasn’t the ego status that there is nowadays.
You launched Counselling for Dancers in 2017 how did this come about?
I had been a practicing psychotherapist since 2010, when a retired dancer came to me for therapy in the Summer of 2016. They had just been discharged from a psychiatric unit and needed follow up care, which the local Health Trust didn’t provide. They finished their sessions with me in the Autumn of 2016 and I thought then that this is what dancers needed, someone who understands them – their mindset, what they went through in training and in performing. I spent a few months at the end of 2016 researching for counsellors or psychotherapists who specifically treat dancers and couldn’t find any, so in January of 2017, the Counselling for Dancers website went live.
Can you tell us a bit about your services and why they are important?
The importance of my therapy practice for dancers is that I was a dancer, both from a training and performing perspective. When dancers come to me for therapy, if they have previously had therapy, they would say that the therapist didn’t understand them and didn’t have a clue about their lifestyle and the hardships it entailed. It is the same with my interactive workshops for vocational schools and dance companies, the participants trust in what I am saying because I have been there, done that, and worn the t-shirt.
In Spring this year, I will be launching an app to help support the mental wellbeing of dancers. It will contain information on mental health symptoms, so that they can be recognised for early intervention, techniques to use to help overcome these symptoms, relaxation and breathing exercises as well as meditation and journaling advice. In addition, I have guests to give talks, who are experts in other fields of dance science, nutritionist, endocrinologist, strength and conditioning coach and a hypermobility doctor.
My book on self-care for dancers, will be published later in the year.
COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the performing arts industry. What have you been doing to help dancers who have not been able to perform since March 2020?
I have offered free therapy sessions via social media platforms and am regularly invited to contribute to podcasts and live radio interviews.
I have presented workshops and appeared on dancers’ podcast panels talking about having a positive, flexible mindset. I’ve explained ways in which to look after themselves during the pandemic but to carry on the self-care and change old habits that, allegedly, helped them through their training or career in the past.
It’s not only dancers, The Actors’ Centre also invited me to present a free workshop for their members.
Before the pandemic hit you were travelling across the UK and Internationally hosting workshops and seminars for dancers – both students and professionals. Has your work been well received?
The workshops were very well received, many of them invited me back, but then the pandemic happened, and everything changed. I deliver my workshops online now but it’s not the same as being in a room or studio with the dancers.
Have you met any famous performers during your career?
I worked with many famous performers during my career with The Royal Ballet including Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev. I also worked with Michael Crawford in the West End Show ‘Billy’ for two and a half years, Tommy Steele in a Thames TV Special and Barbra Streisand in an ITV Special. For those from Italy, I performed with Raffaella Carra in a tour of Italy and finished filming the show in Athens, Greece.
Away from your business what do you like to do to relax?
Vegetable gardening. I have a 40’ x 15’ glasshouse, which keeps me busy. Thanks to COVID, I haven’t had to travel, which has given me more time to keep on top of things in the glasshouse.
Lastly, what advice would you give to anyone who is considering a career in dance, especially at this time?
Enjoy your training, if you don’t enjoy it leave because it becomes more difficult as you go on. It’s no good doing your training to please someone else, a previous teacher or parent(s).
A true grit resilience is needed, both physically and mentally. Assert your feelings to those who don’t treat you the way you would like to be treated or spoken to. Other than that, enjoy life, don’t get wrapped up in show business, make friends with people outside of dance. Dance doesn’t last forever; you need to start thinking outside of the dance box from when you start your professional career.