I kind of have a reputation among my friends as “the girl who doesn’t take class.” Without my companies being in season, I maybe took 4 or 5 ballet classes all summer. This is not something I’m necessarily proud of, but something that has happened as a result of my training that allows me to live the life I want to live. But, I should clarify a few things so you don’t get the wrong impression.
I’m not saying technique class isn’t important or that you shouldn’t take it regularly. There is definitely a skill set that can only come from practicing the specific movements through repetition in class or rehearsals. When my companies are on break and I don’t have regular rehearsals to practice these ballet skills, I definitely notice I’m not at the top of my game. Right now, after taking most of the summer off, I need some time to get my “ballet legs” back and don’t expect my dancing to be at its peak.
Side note: This is okay! We need downtime in order to level up! Progress doesn’t happen in a straight incline. It has an ebb and flow where certain time frames dip in performance level in order to spike up higher than ever before later. Dancers are notorious for expecting themselves to be in top condition 365 days a year. But, you can’t be at your peak performance state constantly or you’ll burnout when you need it most, like Nutcracker season. You have to allow for recovery and downtime to build up the resources and energy you need to get to your next level. In order to make this work for you so you excel in your dance career, you strategically plan your training so your peaks coordinate with your performance schedule.
For me, this is a necessary trade-off for my happiness. After being in the ballet biz 30 plus years, technique class started to be something I dreaded. It felt like a terrible obligation, something that cut into my enjoyment of life rather than added to it. The 2 or 3 hours it would take to commute to the studio, warm up before class, stretch afterwards, shower, etc., was crimping my lifestyle. The frustration, boredom, and anxiety around squeezing in a technique class every day to keep myself in ballet shape started to far outweigh any positive benefits the class might have provided. There were just too many other things in life I wanted to spend my time on.
But, I still loved dancing and wanted to perform. So, I found a different way of training with my Bulletproof Ballerina system. The beauty of this cross-training system is that it keeps you in ballet shape with much less time commitment. Instead of spending 14+ hours each week in the studio taking technique class every day, I can train twice a week for 30 minutes and be ready to jump back into rehearsals when my fall season starts up.
Here’s another example of how this cross-training can supplement technique class. One of my Bad Girl Ballerinas, who happens to enjoy taking technique class, can’t take consistently due to her work schedule. She is able to take class for a period of time to where she feels good about her technique, but then she’ll have to take a two week break from ballet when the demands of her job get too intense from time to time. When she is able to return to class, she would have to endure that initial “suck” period (that period where everything feels awkward and awful after a layoff…like you’ve been away from ballet for 10 years instead of 10 days) for several days before she would feel caught up to where she left off before her break.
After she started Bulletproof Ballerina training, she noticed that “suck” period practically disappeared. When she went back to dancing after her regular 2-week break, it was as if she didn’t take time off at all. Her newly built strength and supplemental training kept her on a level where she could handle the demands of ballet even though she wasn’t practicing it regularly.
All of this is to say that if you enjoy technique class, by all means…take class. If anything, supplementing with a cross-training method will just allow you to enjoy class more by focusing on your artistry rather than just struggling to do the steps. But, if you are feeling like a slave to your ballet where you are forcing technique class while missing out on other things, there’s a different way of training that can give you the freedom to design the life you want. You shouldn’t have to choose between taking vacations and spending your time doing things you enjoy…or staying in ballet shape. The beauty of this cross-training system is that it gives you the freedom to do what you want with your time. This is true lifestyle design at its finest.
(P.S. I’m lounging on the beach in Cabo San Lucas right now sipping margaritas and munching on chips and guacamole as you read this…practicing what I preach😉)