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Adapt Ballet to Your Body

Not Your Body to Ballet

Are you tired of feeling like you have to rip, tear, and grind your body to fit the ballet ideal?

Well, it doesn't have to be that way.

It's time to make ballet fit your body.

One of the major benefits distilled from the Bulletproof Ballerina system is the mind-body awareness and appreciation for your uniqueness. I’ve said this a million times in the past, but what do I actually mean by this?

Well, let’s start with you as a baby ballerina. From the moment you step foot in the studio, you are bombarded with messages of what the “perfect” ballerina should look like – long lean lines, 180-degree turnout, six o’clock penché, ideal chest and hip proportions, extensions to your ears, delicate features, dainty hands, high arches, etc. You’re taught to relentlessly fight for it all. And, you’re made to believe that if you just work hard enough, you can achieve this idyllic image of ballet perfection.

For years you are trained this way – with your teachers constantly pushing you for more, images on social media creating continually higher standards to reach, and famous role model thoroughbreds rising to the top to idolize. Nobody stops to tell you that we are all engineered differently. Even though we all have the same bones, muscles, and connective tissues…the way they are all put together varies greatly from person to person. And, especially in terms of the ballet ideal, nobody tells you that some goals you are tearing yourself apart for might actually be physically impossible for your body.

For example, I was constantly being told to pull my ribs in throughout my training years. No matter how hard I tried to cram and crunch my ribs in (to the point of jamming up my entire upper body and losing its mobility and grace), they still stuck out. Yet, more was demanded of me. I was obsessed with “fixing” this for years and am certain it took time and effort away from my creativity and other aspects of my art. It would have saved me so much struggle and shame had someone taken the time to examine me and say, “Ya know what? You just have a barrel-shaped rib cage; so your ribs are going to stick out more than normal. But, that’s okay. You’re just going to have to figure out how to work with it in your dancing.” Now, that is a concept I can work with…as opposed to, “No, that’s wrong. Try harder. Do it again until it's 'right'.”

I mean no disrespect to teachers here. I’m not putting the blame on them. They have a certain aesthetic to uphold with their teaching, and they are responsible for the education of many dancers all at once. Plus, they are entrusted with the difficult job of preserving the integrity and beauty of ballet. But, if you are the type of person (like me!) who is not motivated by this tough-love teaching strategy and tends to turn it into something destructive against yourself, you are going to have to find a way of dealing with it. The responsibility is on you to figure out your own body, what you can and can’t do, and what you need to do in order to adapt ballet to your unique structure. After all, it’s your body…so, it’s your responsibility to make peace with it and learn how to operate it at its highest potential.

That’s the beauty of the Bulletproof Ballerina training and the mind-body awareness that it fosters. You learn about your unique body – both its limits and its positive aspects, as well. For example, I have a long Achilles and can melt into a super deep demi-plié. I also have deep set hip sockets that prevent me from getting anywhere close to 180-degree turnout or super high extensions. But, these “flaws” have never prevented me from getting a job or making an impact with my art. It's my own mental demons that held me back in my past. 

The key is learning how to work with your body to accentuate the things you do have and, perhaps more importantly, to stop fighting against your body as you attempt to mold yourself into this ballet ideal. No matter how hard you work, you are never going to be able to attain something that is physically impossible for you based on your genetics. This stubborn, naive push to achieve the impossible just takes precious energy away from your art and leaves you in a powerless, self-deprecating state.

Recognizing your limits with this mind-body awareness isn’t an excuse not to work hard. You still work very hard…but you work within your capacity. It's the subtle distinction that allows you to say:

Okay, this is impossible for my body due to my bone structure. But, let’s see how I can do it in a way that fits my unique body.

Verses the mindset:

This is still wrong. I’m going to keep grinding, tearing, ripping my body apart until I fit the mold of ballet perfection.

See the difference? The first mindset gets the work done, gets you to your next level, and empowers you. The second destroys you, mentally and physically, and leaves you frustrated, unfulfilled, and broken.

That’s what my Bulletproof Ballerina system is designed to do. That’s what I want it to do for you. It gets you in touch with your body so you can figure out what is unique about yourself. And then, with your newfound confidence, you craft your own unique version of the art by finding workarounds that allow you to conform ballet to your body…instead of your body to ballet.

Personal Note:

Now, at 36 years old and over 3 decades into my dance life, I am just now starting to really enjoy my art. After fighting and hating my body for years, I finally realize that all these “flaws” are not flaws or things to be ashamed of, but things I have to learn to work with as I adapt my version of ballet to my body. I've had to let go of the “ideal” to appreciate my unique art. Although I may not be the perfect ballerina, I still have a successful, fulfilling career and have never found myself without an opportunity to express myself through my art. I say this not to brag, but to give you hope - to show you that you don't have to be perfect or the best in order to make your art worthwhile. If you have a gift you want to share...you can find a way to make it happen.

Photo credit: Pia Moore

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