I read this article the other day and absolutely love it.
“If you don’t feel challenged, it’s because you’re not doing enough. Ballet should never feel comfortable. Comfortable is lazy! If you’re comfortable when you dance, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. 100% is not enough. You have to give 200%. One tendu takes years of hard work and will never be perfect. Everything in ballet is a challenge.”
It took me a while to for the above to ‘click’. While training for my Grade 8 exams, my teacher kept saying that I looked like an easy dancer and that I didn’t seem to be putting in enough ‘work’.
I didn’t understand then – and I’m not even sure I understand now. Isn’t the whole point of ballet to make things look effortless? Isn’t it good that I appear as if I’m not exerting myself? I’ve since then come to take it as my teacher meaning that I wasn’t pushing myself enough. I thought to myself, okay, since I’m seem to be dancing too easily I’ll dance with effort. I’ll exaggerate everything, I’ll make sure I feel my muscles and I’ll put in work!
I suppose it paid off, as my attempts resulted in me finally engaging my muscles (though I can definitely do more), feeling the resistance in my pliés, using the floor in tendus and expressing myself more in the centre. I can definitely credit the dances in the Grade 8 syllabus for increasing the range of movement in my head and upper back, and for drilling in the need to perform – rather than simply execute – the exercises.
I’ve definitely benefited from this knowledge. I think I get more out of each class I attend – if achy muscles are an accurate indication. It’s also the reason why I stay away from classes where the teacher doesn’t mark through the exercises first – this happens in classes where the same exercise is done week after week, and new joiners to the class are completely lost.
It’s kinda nice too to know that there’s no such thing as perfection in ballet. As much of a beginner you may be, there’s comfort in the knowledge that even the professionals at the top of their game are striving for the same thing as you are: to give their 100%, and a little bit more.