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How Genetics Impact Your Dancing

Thoroughbreds vs. Motor Morons

Compared to the tiny amount of thoroughbred dancers out there, the ones gifted with the genetics that make them ideal specimens for the physical requirements of dance, there are many more of us that have to really fight to make peace with our bodies...and fight to make our bodies work for our art.

Human beings run the gamut from natural born athletes to motor morons (this is not meant to be an insult...it's just meant to illustrate a point). The naturals, or thoroughbreds as I like to call them, are born not only with the desired bone structure and musculature but also with the neurological wiring that makes everything they do efficient and precise. Their neural pathways are so methodical that their bodies get the job done with minimal wasted effort. In other words, their bodies just know what to do, giving their movements the appearance of effortlessness and ease...the epitome of grace in a ballerina.

On the other side of the spectrum, the motor morons expend a lot of energy figuring things out and trying to overcome something called antagonistic motion - the tendency of all the muscles involved in a movement to over-contract unnecessarily. The neurological information traveling down from the brain to the body doesn't carry clear signals as to what needs to happen with the musculature so as to create efficient movement at the joints. This is what makes movements appear jerky, uncoordinated, and strained. As a result, much energy is wasted fighting against their own bodies.

Of course, with training and practice, these movements can be improved upon as the body learns how to sort through and organize the information coming to it through its neural pathways and find the connection to its physical coordination. But, the thoroughbreds don't have this to compete with in the first place. Their neural pathways are much less congested, and their physicality is already optimally primed for performance. They don't have to waste time and energy figuring it out.

Most of us fall somewhere between the two extremes. I say all this not to put labels on us or to whine how some people have it easier than others. And, I'm certainly not implying that the thoroughbreds have it "easy;" they still work incredibly hard to hone their craft. This is all meant to illustrate how different we all are. Even though we have two arms, two legs, and similar anatomical components, the details behind them can vary greatly. And, this is exactly why it can be so harmful to compare yourself to other dancers and not appreciate the uniqueness of your own body. Genetics play such a major role in terms of what you have to overcome and are so distinctive to each individual dancer.

When you start the comparison game, you inevitably expose yourself to all kinds of threats that will take you further from your goals and dancing potential. I am far from being a thoroughbred. My short legs, barrel-shaped rib cage, and deep hip sockets make classical lines extremely difficult for me to attain. The younger version of myself would compare my body to others and wonder what I was doing wrong. I was gripping, grinding, and destroying myself trying so hard, yet I didn't look like the primas in class. In my quest to "fix" what was wrong with me, I gravitated towards destructive practices that gave me a false sense of control and competency - anorexia, compulsive exercise, bulimia, obsessive habits, etc.

Far from giving me the success I was looking for, these practices took precious focus, creativity, and energy away from my dancing...and came close to taking my life as well. It wasn't until I found a new way of training that allowed me to accept, appreciate, and understand my uniqueness that I was able to let go of this useless, destructive comparison game and all my vices that went along with it. By training in a method that fosters a mind-body connection, teaching you how to enhance your neural pathways and access full-body coordination, you learn how to work with your body, rather than fight against it (a.k.a. motor moron style).

That's why having the physical tools that allow you to not only transform your body but also to make peace with your uniqueness are essential for a successful and fulfilling dance career. These tools allow you to tap into your training potential without wasting energy on both physical inefficiency and the mental and emotional drain from viciously hating yourself when you don't measure up. What does this mean for you? You get to the next level in your art and find real happiness and fulfillment in your unique body, whether you were born a thoroughbred or not. We all have an art to share and a story to tell through our dancing. I want to help you feel confident sharing yours.

If you are interested in trying this Bulletproof Ballerina training for yourself...the On Demand (online) programs can be done anytime, anywhere. Or, if you live in the NYC area, I'd love the opportunity to work with you one-on-one to help you reach your physical and artistic potential...and learn to value your uniqueness.

Photo credit: Steve Vaccariello

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