I have to continually remind myself that dancing isn't about the tricks you can do. The mark of a "good" dancer is not determined by how many pirouettes you can pull off, how high you can whack your leg, or even how proficient your technique is. Sure, that stuff can help...but, it doesn't mean you are worthless in your art if you can only do two pirouettes instead of ten.
It can be so easy to get overwhelmed by all the tricks and continually expanding talent out there on social media platforms, in the studios, and on stages across the world. While it's exciting that the art of ballet continues to advance and push its limits beyond what was possible even a few years ago...it can be crushing when you are trying to compete with it. First of all, you have to realize that there is no fair way to compare yourself to others because we all start from uneven ground and embark on unique paths. Some are born with amazing genetics, while other will struggle with their bodies no matter how hard they push. Some are fortunate to have received high quality training from a young age, while others piece together scrappy knowledge on their own. Some have the resources to devote more time and money to their art, while others have outside responsibilities on their shoulders that they must address. My point is that we all walk unique paths; so what good is it to compare yourself to someone else's completely unrelated life? I'm not making excuses, just showing it is an unfair and futile practice.
Sure, we have to compete with each other for jobs. But, those decisions are out of your hands. The few jobs available for dancers are often not given out to the most deserving dancers anyway. There are many factors that go into this decision process, and talent is only one of them. And sure, you want to win over the audience's approval, and so you compete to look fancy for them. But, this is another thing you cannot control. Art is subjective, and their opinion is rightfully theirs. It has nothing to do with you and your worth as a dancer. So, stop trying to impress them with tricks and bravado. If all these factors are out of your realm of control, why worry about measuring up to others when it has no bearing on your actual worth and talent?
What does the audience really want? Here's a hint, it's the same thing you really want; the same thing that will bring you true fulfillment in your dancing. They want you, or more accurately, a connection to you - the pure "you." Not some fake persona you are trying to uphold to impress them. Not this "prima" you feel pressured to be. Just you. Dancing has the potential to be a window to your soul, but many of us have lost that connection in our pursuit to be the best and compete with others. I challenge you to find it again - find what makes you special. Most likely it is not a "look" or a trick that you are after...but a feeling. Call it happiness, love, fulfillment, presence, transcendence, flow...whatever it is that makes you want to dance in the first place. It's these emotions coming through your movements that have the potential to create a real impact with your art.
Here, I'm playing with what I call Flow - the ability to control and manipulate your body with a seemingly effortless, full-body coordination. Obviously, I can't levitate on stage, but I aim to achieve a similar look and feel when I dance. It's the transition steps that I like to put my mark on. Yes, I keep pushing for more with my technique, but I've learned not to beat myself down by playing the comparison game. Judging myself against and trying to compete with the rising talent out there is far from motivating. It actually causes me to shutdown and hide my art for fear of not being good enough - the exact opposite of what I need when trying to reach my full potential as an artist.
When you start determining your worth by measuring yourself against others or an ideal image of what you think ballet should look like...you are setting yourself up in a game that you cannot win. There will always be someone to compete against, someone to beat. You will never find satisfaction or fulfillment in your art because you'll always be searching for it outside your self.
The dirty little secret is that you are already "enough" just as you are, and you have nothing to prove to anyone. You became an artist because you had something to share through your dance. So, stop comparing yourself to factors that have no actual bearing on your worth, and start shamelessly sharing your unique art. Find what makes you special.
What sets you apart with your dancing? I'd love to hear what makes you unique! Share below or send me an email!
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