Ballet class has a wonderful way of teaching me important life lessons, each and every class. But I haven’t been going to class for quite a long time and I’ve missed not only the dancing but the wisdom that seemed to come out of every session. The other day I realized that I have learned a very essential lesson in regular life that will lead me back to ballet class. How is that for a reversal of wisdom! I sometimes teach a university course in management. In this class I like to give a writing exercise where I ask students to challenge their definition, thoughts, and ideologies about success. It can be a really difficult exercise because as much as some vague idea of success surrounds so much of our lives and as much as we use the word, we so rarely spend any time at all trying to understand what we mean. Since it’s my exercise, it’s one that I’ve done and thought through quite often – except when it comes to ballet. I’ve never really considered how I define being successful in ballet. I want to learn well and I practice hard and carefully. But what does it mean to me to be successful? There have been several reasons why I’ve been reluctant to go back to class. Lingering issues with my injury is what I usually tell people but it’s definitely more than that. Self-image, feelings of starting over yet again and the inadequacy that brings about, a lack of direction and goals, have all been eating away at the passion that I’ve had since the very first class I had with my awesome ballet teacher. It occurred to me as I was grading “success” papers that I did not have an idea of what kind of success I wanted with ballet, if at all. Did I really want to go back? What did I want out of going to class? What did I want from me? What does success look like in ballet class, not just for an adult ballet student, but specifically for me? Here was a chance for my regular life to influence my ballet life and I was a bit amazed that I still feel like I have a ballet life even though at this point, I really have not been going to class regularly in two years. TWO YEARS!! I do want success in dance – I want to return to the pure pleasure of working hard, sweating a lot, and smiling from ear to ear at the end of class. I want to dance with my head and my heart. Success is had, day-to-day, class to class, in each tendu, plie, and glissade. Yes, success in dance is for me.
I skipped class for the first time (I’ve not taken that many) two evenings ago and now you offer this. Thank you for making me think about what drives my desire to attend and realistically what is a measure of success for me.
Thank you for reading, Ken. I’m glad the post resonated with you!
I have been thinking about success recently, too. I know adult dance students who perform in public, and they are not bad. I performed on stage when I was younger. Probably I still could, but I do not really want to. People ask me: so-and-so is dancing at …-Café, so why don’t you? The answer is: so-and-so loves to be the center of attention on a stage, but I do not. I do not like the stage enough to put in all the work to prepare a performance, and if I did it half-heartedly, I’d make the audience (and myself) feel bad. At the moment, while I am struggling with some personal issues related to dance, I’ll go for the little things, such as a smile and a nod from my teacher if I do something reasonably well.
I know other adult students who perform as well. I think if a person really wants to do that, they certainly should aim for that goal. I have zero desire to dance in public. Maybe that will change but for now, dancing is it’s own reward as long as I feel like I can be in a place that makes me happy, where I can learn, and feel supported by my teacher to do my very best. Right now, it’s all about finding the enjoyment and fulfillment again.