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Confessions of a Former Bunhead

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to see ABT's production of Swan Lake at Lincoln Center. Isabella Boylston was fantastic in her portrayal of the innocent, ethereal Odette as well as the sassy, sultry Odile. And Marcelo Gomes blew me away with the mastery of his masculine yet graceful technique. And the corps...they were on pointe! Their ability to move as one being and create such precise patterns on stage was enchanting.

By the time the curtain closed on the fourth act, I was itching to dance! Being that most of the companies I work for are on break and this is my off season, I turn to open classes as an opportunity to express my art. Needless to say, the performance had me inspired, and I couldn't wait to take class! Hence this uninhibited photo op. (And yes, I know my supporting leg is not completely turned out...but notice the shoes, guys;) 

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Sounds like a pretty normal reaction to a night out at the ballet, right? Sadly, this wasn't always the case for me. Instead of being inspired by the level of artistic and technical mastery, I sometimes used it as an excuse to beat myself up. I would get sucked down into the comparison game of sizing myself up against everyone on the stage. From the moment the curtain opened, I would slowly start to measure myself against this dancer's extensions, or that dancer's long legs, or her arabesque line..until I no longer was watching the art in front of me but was consumed by an endless stream of consciousness picking apart all of my flaws. I would walk out of the theater feeling worthless, dejected, and questioning why I was even a dancer in the first place, "Who would ever want to watch me dance when there are gorgeous dancers like that out there?" This usually resulted in some type of breakdown where I would spend months building myself back up to baseline. And baseline, meaning not threatening to cry every time I looked in a mirror, is not exactly living the lux life. Yeah, kind of the opposite of inspiring, right?

But that was the old version of me. The version that let herself be manipulated by the demons in her head; that let her self-worth be determined by outside forces; that didn't have the courage to value her own uniqueness. This Young Tanya used to believe that if she wasn't the best, then she was worthless.

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This weekend I refused to play that twisted game. I really was able to appreciate the artistry of these amazing dancers without comparing myself to them. I was able to separate my self-worth from the performance and just see it for what it was - art meant to inspire beauty and possibilities in this world. I was able to realize that these dancers' incredible talents don't negate mine, and the high caliber of their performance doesn't make my unique art any less meaningful. In fact, it has nothing to do with my worth as a dancer or as a human being. The only impact this performance has on me personally is showing me that art has a real power to touch and inspire a will to reach for beauty and passion in life. This all might sound like a little thing...but this distinction is huge for me.

And so, now I'm curious. Do you find yourself falling into this nasty game too? Especially nowadays with all the different forms of social media out there, we are constantly bombarded with images of everyone's greatest moments captured on film or in a photograph. It can be challenging to see someone pull off 10 pirouettes on Instagram and not feel bad about yourself for struggling to get your triple. So I ask you, do you use outside performances and social media to build yourself up, or beat yourself down? Maybe I'm the only one who has battled with this twisted mindset. But I find that hard to believe. So, how do you deal with the bombardment of images constantly coming into your line of vision? Are you even aware of how they make you feel? If they come as a source of inspiration and motivation for you...great...rock on, Sister! But if you find your demons latching onto them as an excuse to tear yourself down and hack away at your self-worth, then maybe we should talk;) Let's examine what purpose this is serving and how to turn it around to bring value to your life instead of destruction. Stop giving your power away to these demons in your head. You're worth more than that. 

Don't be afraid to leave your comments below...let's start to address these issues!

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