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What Ballet teaches me…

If ballet is an art from, it is also extremely demanding physically. Dancers must regularly train their body in order to maintain a certain technical level. Through this training process over the years, there’s at least one thing that I learnt from my own experience:
The path to get to the goal may seem discouragingly long, but once we find the key, it often turns out to be easier than we thought.

Constantly finding the right sensations

After many years of training, dancers usually know what feels right and what doesn’t while dancing. For instance in ballet, we always work on the turn-out. Certain muscle groups are responsible for turning the legs outwards (for example the inner-thighs), and others not so much (the quadriceps). Dancers usually know when we are using the right forces or not while dancing. On a bad day, we may feel the quadriceps a little too much and we’d be annoyed.

The inner thighs (sartorius muscle), in Red.

These sensations come and go. When the muscles and forces are correctly coordinated, dancing would seem effortless, enjoyable. Otherwise, even a simple plié or dégagé would feel…. wrong.

The sweet sensations may leave you for a long period of time. You may feel dancing everyday with the wrong forces, developing the wrong muscles, doing the wrong techniques, and you would feel discouraged, hopeless, wondering whether those once-felt sensations would ever come back, or has the body changed, that physically it is not possible anymore. The goal would seem so far away from you and almost unreachable. “Why can’t I do it or feel it anymore!??”

Forcing on the wrong muscles

Because ballet movements are not quite natural, it takes time and effort for the body to adapt to them. When you are a ballet student, it is not so much of a big deal. Ballet teachers are there to accompany every student in this research. Whereas in a ballet company, with daily rehearsals and classes, we don’t really have the choice. Even when everything feels just wrong, we have to continue dancing. Certainly it doesn’t feel good, but as long as we don’t understand why, we have no choice but to keep dancing. It is pretty depressing in that case…

Waiting for the “key” to come…

Fortunately, the answer to the question, the “key”, would eventually come. It may be as simple as a correction given by a teacher, a stretch that we used to do but that we had not been doing anymore, and the right sensations, the inner-thighs, the technique, would come back altogether so instantly again.

When facing a seemingly insurmountable problem, instead of feeling desperate and discouraged, maybe have faith that a “key” would one day come?


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