I love birthdays. They are such a reflective time. A chance to evaluate how far you've come, the mistakes you've made and (hopefully) learned from, and where you want to go in the days ahead.
Getting older doesn't have to be a dreaded thing of impending doom. It should be something that is celebrated for the opportunity to gain more wisdom & experience.
Unfortunately, our culture has lost the appreciation for aging gracefully. We feel so much pressure to appear unrealistically youthful with all the anti-aging marketing, products, & procedures.
But the truth is, there is a beauty to getting older.
Not only do you understand things about life that can only come from the passage of time and accumulated experiences, but you understand things about your body & its innate wisdom that can only come from a deepened relationship that requires time.
As a dancer, this is especially important. And yet, dancers are the worst at not appreciating the opportunity that comes with aging. We tend to think we are washed up in our late twenties. With all due respect, you don't even know who you are in your twenties. How do you expect to have the capacity to create real art? You need time and experience to deepen your artistry...add richness to your physicality. And you need your physical body to hold up long enough to stay in the game & apply that richness to your art.
That's what I'm here for -- to help you preserve your body for the long-game.
So, here are a few key lessons I wish could have told my younger self that I want to share with you. Hopefully they help you on your journey, wherever you may be on your path.
1) Sacrificing yourself (body/time/energy/happiness) for ballet won't make you a better dancer.
This will just make you miserable and most likely despise ballet.
2) The-more-it-hurts-the-better-you'll-get mindset... WRONG.
Not a path to success long-term.
3) Thinking people will like you if you're "perfect." WRONG again.
People will like you if you're nice, real, vulnerable, fun, genuine, respectful, hard-working, authentic, warm, light-hearted, kind. Now those are some high-class qualities to work for and channel.
4) I tried to get better at ballet by focusing harder on ballet...when I should have been focusing on my body.
Trying to get better at ballet by focusing harder on ballet has diminishing returns at a certain point. True it takes a long time to learn the nuances & technique of ballet. But once you know the majority of the syllabus, you can only make incremental improvements by purely studying ballet. Instead, focus on your body -- optimize its physicality & potential TO DO ballet.
5) The way you train for ballet in your late twenties will not look the same as the way you train in your teens and early twenties...which will not look the same as in your thirties...or forties.
I think many dancers hit a crisis point in their late twenties (or slightly earlier/later) where they just can't keep up the pace they've been running at in their earlier years. Not only that...but this is when they start to notice all the hard work NOT paying off (the "diminishing returns" thing we talked about above). In fact, it may even appear the harder you push and more you do...the worse you get. This is where injuries occur and body pain seems almost at a peak. Plus, you start to get tired of devoting every waking second to ballet. You just don't have the time or energy to devote more and more in your attempts to get better.
This is the point where most dancers throw in the towel...thinking they are washed up. But what if someone told them they didn't have to keep up their usual pace? What if someone told them they just need to train differently & adjust to what your body needs in its current state? Would this prevent dancers from giving up before they've had their fill or realized their potential in their art? Most definitely -- I've been there and came out the other end...still dancing.
6) Be as efficient as possible with workouts. Instead of getting better by doing more...get better by doing better - quality over quantity.
Drop me a note if any of this resonates with you. I'd love to hear your thoughts and reflections at your current stage wherever you are on your path.
PC: Javi Alvarez @javialvarez.co