I'm sure you've heard this quote before:
"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result."
These words are often credited to Albert Einstein, but as it turns out, he might not have actually said them. But, that doesn't really matter here. What matters is the idea these words represent.
Especially as dancers, we get stuck in a routine of doing the same things over and over again while expecting different results. You wake up each morning and jump on that hamster wheel to run through the same class schedule, the same pre-class rituals, the same exercises, the same eating routine, the same stretches that you did yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that in hopes all that effort will help you improve in your ballet. The only problem is those activities that are supposed to make you a better dancer didn't actually make you a better dancer yesterday, or the day before, or the day before that (or so you think because you still despise yourself and hate your dancing). But, you keep exhausting yourself running through this routine because you feel pressure to keep up with your competition.
This makes you unhappy, unfulfilled, and tortured in your art (to say the least!). You keep trying so hard, putting everything into your art, but it still isn't "good enough." So, you vow to be even more diligent with your same routine the next day. This cycle goes on and on until you wake up five years later and realize you are no further along than day one, despite all your self-torture and efforts.
If you are unhappy with how things are going, if you want different results, you need to change something. Embrace experimentation. Try something different. Shake things up. But, stop banging your head against the wall doing something that doesn’t work.
On the other hand, you can’t change things up randomly, either. Well, you can, but you then can't expect any organized results from that process. Treat your body like an experiment. You have to be consistent enough to see if something works. If not, adjust course and keep experimenting. If things seem to be going in a positive direction, stay on it until things stop working again. It’s a fine line between knowing when to change and when to stick with something sometimes.
But, the key is remembering to listen to your body. The kiss of death comes from blindly following along with something, whether it is a routine you've imposed on yourself with your obsessive mindset or one you feel pressured to follow because that's what your competition is doing, and losing touch with your body in the process. You have to develop a relationship where you nurture and respect your body as you work towards your peak performance state - not subject it indiscriminately to rules and regulations that aren't built off your unique needs.
Getting to your next level requires constant experimentation and observation. Listen to your body. Trust and respect what it is trying to tell you. Don't be afraid to train different. Seek guidance from a guru. And, realize you are the only one in control. You have so much untapped power over your life and body. You just have yet to realize all that power lies in your hands. Your body is yours to play with, but with that power comes the incredible responsibility to respect and honor your body. So, treat it kindly.
Photo credit: Rachel Neville Photography