Here’s the message the ballet world teaches you:
If you just focus enough on your ballet (work hard enough, endure enough pain, spend enough hours training, sacrifice enough of your body & life to ballet), you can achieve anything. You can look like your idols. You can dance like the best of the best. You can get that 6 o'clock penché, extensions up to your ear, and ideal arabesque line. You can become that perfect ballerina with enough focus and dedication.
Here’s why that’s bullsh*t:
We’re not all built the same way. Our genetic structure & neurological wiring vary greatly from person to person. And if you’re not the .001% of the population born as a thoroughbred dancer…you’re never going to look & dance like_____(insert ballet idol here)_____ no matter how hard you work & how much you obsess over ballet.
So, if you’re not the .001% of thoroughbreds out there, what does this mean for you? Are you destined to just accept your fate and be mediocre? Give up and settle for where you are at? Stop trying to improve your ballet?
No. That’s not the case at all. This blog post is not meant to discourage you. It's meant to prevent you from destroying yourself & your passion for ballet.
If you get wrapped up in the ballet world's message & mindset that you can achieve anything if you just work hard enough... being the hard-working, self-motivated, slightly obsessive, Type-A individual that you are (i.e. most dancers), you will kill your body, self-esteem, & passion for dancing in your pursuit of ballet perfection.
Trust me. In my younger years, I was brutally harsh with myself in ballet class & caused so much damage mentally & physically that I gave myself PTSD. (I still get a repulsive emotional reaction when I take class to this day...it's pretty messed up!). I remember almost passing out from pain every single class. I destroyed my hip sockets trying to force positions that were anatomically impossible for me. I just kept thinking that because I didn’t look like that perfect ballerina…I must need to work harder and endure even more pain. But the harder I tried to look like someone else, the more discouraged I became. I couldn't imagine working any harder, and yet I still felt so inferior in my dancing. How was I ever going to make it? How was I ever going to feel confident & proud of my art? It felt hopeless.
Turns out, I was focusing on the wrong things. My mindset was backwards. I was focusing all on ballet & trying to stuff my body into the ballet mold...when I should have been focusing on understanding my body and how to express my art through it.
Ballet technique takes a long time to learn and the repetition of class can be very useful for teaching that technique. But at a certain point, after you've learned the bulk of what you need from ballet technique & notice your progress stalling, you need to switch your focus. Otherwise, your only option for improving requires doubling down on your efforts in ballet class and becoming increasingly more frustrated and discouraged trying to achieve things anatomically impossible for you. Working harder & enduring more pain are not going to make you a better dancer...but they might end your career faster!
Try shifting your focus to mastering your body instead of perfecting ballet. Understanding your unique body, how it moves, & coaxing the most range of motion, power, & control out of it is what allows you to perform at your highest potential. This shift gives you something you can make real progress in -- goals you are actually capable of achieving.
I'm not saying you should never take ballet class or that it's not useful. But if you're not a thoroughbred & class is all you are using to level up, you are going to make yourself miserable & likely destroy your love of dancing. This is exactly why I developed my Bulletproof Ballerina cross-training system. This allows you to use your cross-training once or twice per week to focus on optimizing your body. Then, when you take ballet class you can actually enjoy the art of it and apply all that confidence & strength gained from your cross-training to your dancing.
Learn to use your body in a way that helps you express your art. Don't have the best arches & bone structure in your feet? Find ways to draw the focus elsewhere. Don't have the long lean lines of a gazelle? Focus on shaping your body through your musculature. Can't get the extensions you want because your deep hip sockets impede your range of motion? Learn to manipulate the rest of your body to create an illusion of higher extensions.
So what if your body's not perfect for ballet. It's your job to learn to work WITH it instead of fight against it. Your art depends on that focus and willingness to shift from obsessing over ballet to mastering your body. Not only will that mindset shift save your body...but it will save your passion for dancing as well.
PC: Marc DeGeorge