Also known as, My Ballet World – Week 3
This week was really about control and I believe that this is the appropriate theme for the year! I love really beautiful, perfect technique. I am of the belief that there is no true artistry without a foundation of skill. I realize that there is a whole school of thought that it’s perfectly okay to sacrifice technique in favor of some amazing bravado. I’m not in that school.
We are in control of our bodies. Not everything, all the time. Sometimes this fact saves us and sometimes it is our downfall. When I am in ballet class, I am in control of my body. There are lots of things that I can’t do; there are things that are outside of my range. At the same time, I do have a range of possibilities; my body is still capable of more than what I did yesterday, what I was capable of last month, last year. I am perfectly capable of more. It’s my decision to be the best dancer that I can become and then to work to do better tomorrow than my best effort today. Wasn’t it Baryshnikov who said that he only strove to dance better than himself?
First steps to becoming a dancer that has control:
- Learn to use the mirror. I’ve talked about this before, the dreaded mirror. It’s interesting to talk to “real” dancers who have been looking in the mirror since childhood. They don’t understand the same dread of the mirror because they know how to use it properly as a tool rather than an instrument of torture. The rest of us, however, will do anything to avoid looking at our own reflection. I have begun to realize that it is an incredible tool, the ability to watch your own movements, your own lines and make corrections. I am beginning to learn how to look at myself as a dancer and not as a girl who can be made to feel bad about how she looks especially in tights and a leotard, who will continue to judge herself harshly for ridiculous things like being short.
- Find my leg and get on it. This is my number one job. Get on my leg by myself. These are my two legs, they are short, but they are strong. There is no reason why I cannot balance while standing on one leg, this is not rocket science. The more I tell myself that it’s a hard feat that is beyond me, the more that I doubt that I can do it, the more that I make it an issue. It’s not an issue; I can balance well, no wobbling, no wiggling. I can balance. I will balance strongly. It’s my leg, no excuses; I will get on it every time.
- I will not over complicate things. I have a bad habit of over thinking just about everything and making it at least ten times harder than it is. My awesome teacher has said to minimize movement in order to maximize impact. That is, clean up the technique! Beautiful movement doesn’t require a bunch of complications. Ballet is actually a very clean, pure art. It does not need me to throw in a bunch of nonsense to clutter it up. In law enforcement, we are taught that in moments where panic would be a normal response to rely on training and continue to do what must be done. There it is. Stop analyzing and start relying on good training.
Well said! I relate to a lot of what you are talking about. It would be so great to use the mirror just as a mirror, not as a torture instrument. Sometimes I am successful in this endeavor. Sometimes not. Also, just as in ballet, it is my job to get on my leg in ballroom too. Most of my issues arise when I don’t get there like I’m supposed to. And yes, I agree with you. Technique is king…in my mind only possibly second to the ability to move people emotionally…but generally that is facilitated by having a foundation of excellent technique. Keep up the great work, the great writing, and the sharing. I appreciate it! -Stef
Thank you, Stef! I firmly believe that the more we are able to use the mirror as a tool for improving our dancing skills, the more we will be happy with what we see in the mirror! I agree with you absolutely, a foundation of excellent technique allows a skilled dancer to indulge in the artistic side of dance. Even at my very basic level, I find that when I am learning a step, I have to focus on the step itself. Once I’ve got a handle on the movement, I can them dance the step to the music. It’s a completely different thing to feel the movement, to dance the step! I see the difference even in my own face (in the mirror) – learning a step, my face speaks of concentration; dancing a step, my face beams happiness.
This is my third week in (2 classes a week – bout to bump it to three) and now I’m starting to use the mirror. Different world entirely.
Thanks for reading and commenting! Isn’t it just! I avoided the mirror like the plague for the longest time and now I can see what an error that was. Hurray for three classes a week! I’m looking at my schedule for Feb/Mar and crossing my fingers for four to five a week – I hope, I hope 😀
Love! I always, always, always hated looking in the mirror for many reasons – largely that it dashed my illusions that I looked even a vague semblance of competent 😉 But I learned eventually to not freak out when I looked up and caught sight of myself in the mirror and that, actually yes, it was useful to notice little things and go ‘eep, best fix that really’.
Oh and don’t get me started on getting on my leg… augh! Why is it so *hard* to be in control of your own legs?! I don’t understand!
Thanks! LOL, I know that I look a whole lot better in my imagination that I do in the mirror 😀
I’m coming into the belief that we are not nearly as in control of our bodies as we think! We are not usually very conscious of how we stand, sit, walk… which is why so many of us have hideous posture. Even just rolling through the feet has been a wake up call to the fact that I never paid attention to heel-ball-toe movement before. I never would have imagined balancing on one leg to be such a big deal, but then how often in my life have I actually tried to do it? Not so much as it turns out. Not too sound to mystical but the awareness of self is one of those things that ballet brings to a person that is both humbling and illuminating. Ballet really challenges us to be aware of our bodies in a whole new way!
I’m having similar insights at the one-year mark of classes, namely, that I have one leg that is “on” and one leg that is more often that not “off.” Talk about frustrating. It’s like they belong to two different people! Been reading your blog for a while – thanks for sharing and keep with it!
Thanks so much for reading and joining in the conversation!
My teacher always points out that things will mostly likely be harder on my non-dominant side which means that it’s time to work a little harder, ha! One of the great things about ballet is how much it works both sides of the body evenly so that hopefully my weaker side will eventually (or sort of) catch up with my dominant side 😀
Wonderful post! 🙂