My last post gave you the link to some fantastic tips for ballet class from my Awesome Ballet Teacher. So here are some more tips based on things that I’ve learned in class with my Awesome Ballet Teacher and things that I’ve been working on lately. Maybe some of these things will resonate with you.
1. Jump into the deep end; quit wading in the shallow end.
I’m very guilty of hanging out in the shallow end. I’ve really been trying to deal with that. Yeah, we’re all concerned about looking crazy and making mistakes but to tell you the truth there is nothing to be gained from staying in the kiddie pool. We’ve got to try, to take some steps to the music and see what happens. The only way to understand what you can do and what you need to work on is to do it! Think about mistakes this way: what you mess up spells out exactly what you need to work on. If you never try, if you never make mistakes, you will never know what to do next, what to work on in order to improve! So let’s jump in and see if we can swim, we aren’t alone, we won’t drown. We will make mistakes, it’s okay, we will learn from them!
2. Breathe and push through, remember “just that.”
My Awesome Ballet Teacher likes to remind us to continue to breath through our movements. He tells us that when we are tired to keep breathing and try to relax into the movement. I sort of thought he was a lunatic when I first heard this. How in the heck can you relax and hold a crazy hard position! Then I discovered that when you really get there you find your zen and you really can just breathe into it and sort of relax. Insane, I never would have thought. Another of my Awesome Ballet Teacher’s favorite things is to give us the instructions for an exercise and then follow it with the phrase “just that” which usually causes us ballerinii to give each other the eye. Yeah, right, just that! Truthfully, we usually make it out to be so much harder than it is… I always throw in extra steps or a hop or two when in reality, it should be “just that.” So, guys, keep breathing, push through, and remember it’s “just that.”
3. Make friends and team up.
I’m a pretty solitary person. I’m not one who has a problem spending a lot of time by myself. But I have to tell you, ballet friends are the best! You are the best! It’s really nice to make friends in ballet class; it’s great to have friends to talk about ballet with, to mull class over with, to contact if you couldn’t make it class but want to hear about it. It’s great to have people to cheer you on, to help you out when you need it, to be right there sweating and dancing with you. P.S. you know what I’ve discovered??? Want to find the most interesting mix of people you have ever encountered in one place??? Go to an adult ballet class! Incredible. Really.
4. Just one more… “while you’re tired.”
I don’t know about you but I’ve always thought of a rest period in terms of minutes – a lot of minutes all together! But rest periods in ballet come in disguise, it’s that moment that you get to hold a position or stretch and reach through your body. It’s also those few, little, tiny seconds (okay, okay, it’s probably a whole minute or maybe even two) between exercises. Interestingly enough, its by design because you know what keeps your energy up? Moving. Not resting. You start to rest, you start to cool down, you start to slow down, you want to stop. Keeping the energy up means that you must keep moving, keep the body warm, breathe deeply to oxygenate yourself, and push through. Yeah, you’re tired, I’m tired… but ballet class isn’t over until the applause! Keep going, keep moving, stay warm, one more while you’re tired.
5. Acknowledge yourself.
I’m not sure if it’s culture or upbringing or a myriad of social and psychological issues but we have a tendency to look down on our accomplishments – to see what we haven’t gained rather than the progress that we’ve made. Why do we look at the one mistake as glaring and discount any and all compliments? Why do we focus on our limitations rather than acknowledge our courage, our efforts, our love for ballet? I don’t know but we all of us need to stop doing that. I acknowledge your incredible dedication, your hard work, your individual beauty and you need to acknowledge it too. I have good focus, I work hard, I am thoughtful in my working process, I have progressed and I acknowledge myself. Your turn…
6. Honor your work.
Going hand in hand with acknowledging yourself, recognize your work! I really hate when someone says they have had a bad class. Ballet class is a wonderful place, it’s a wondrous time. You went to ballet class! Mistakes happen, especially if you are learning something new or pushing yourself to go farther. What’s so bad about that? Nothing. We are not always “on” that’s normal. Every body has an off day. Get over it. You know what’s worse? A day without ballet class. If you work hard in ballet class then be proud and happy in your work. If you didn’t work hard, then maybe you should rethink going to ballet class. Not to be mean, but let’s all be honest with ourselves. If you are burned out or just not that into it, don’t do it. If you aren’t enjoying ballet class maybe you need to step away from it for a bit. But if you love it, some of that applause at the end of class is for you, for your work! Honor your work and applaud it.
7. Tolerate ambiguity.
Do you have a great teacher? If you do, trust him or her. If you don’t, find one. Period. As you learn, sometimes things don’t make 100% sense. But if you have a great teacher as you progress, things start to fall into place and it makes sense. I don’t love every single thing in ballet class, I hate certain movements. I don’t understand the need for frappe at all. But as I learn to do more in center, more actual dancing, I begin to see where all the barre work makes sense and is totally necessary if I want to be able to dance. Furthermore, dancers are all individuals so even though we’re all in class together, we are all progressing at different stages and our facilities are unique. Sometimes there’s an amount of ambiguity in instruction because different people need to address things a little differently. Go with it. A great teacher will let you know what you need to do when you’re ready to do it. Its okay. You don’t need to understand everything right this minute.
8. Ask for help.
But if you really don’t get it – ask! If something hurts or doesn’t feel right – ask! If you don’t have a clue what to do, where to put your arm, which foot to move – ask! Don’t monopolize class or interrupt the flow of things, but ask for help. You can ask before or after class, you can call, you can email, Facebook, or Twitter. Taking notes after every class is a great practice and jotting down notes is a great way to remember what you have questions about. If one of the more advanced students in your class is doing something awesome, ask them about it! Your ballet friends can be a great source of information and help. Don’t just wallow in your frustration, if you need help, ask.
9. Acknowledge the struggle.
Ballet is hard. I repeat, ballet is hard. And it gets harder! There is very little that is natural about ballet. But we love it don’t we. Every little thing is hard and yet we love it. When we acknowledge the level of difficulty we are able to appreciate our hard work, our dedication, and applaud ourselves because, dang, what we just did was tough! We can forgive ourselves a few mistakes because ballet is really, really hard! Don’t forget that… what you just did was way cool because ballet is hard!
10. Let love lead the way.
Love it or leave it. We love ballet. I love ballet. I love the music, I love the movement, I love the sound, the feeling, the pain, the sweat, the discipline, the freedom. I go to ballet class because I love it. Nothing less. Love leads me back to ballet day after day. Let love lead you where you need to go.
All will be well ~ Let’s dance.