What Ballet has Taught Me about Myself

As I’ve mentioned a couple times already (and probably will mention a couple more) I am really the most horrible ballerina the world has ever seen. I can’t be graceful. I can’t be pretty. And no, for the billionth time, I can’t turn my feet out any more than I already have!

I kind of hate ballet, to be honest. I’m really and truly terrible. That’s not just me being self-deprecating–that’s just a cold, hard fact; there is a mirror in the studio.

As much as I hate it, it has taught me quite a bit about myself.

1. I get frustrated and give up really easily

By the end of my first ballet class, I was basically ready to cry.

It doesn’t take a lot to make me cry, so this might not be saying much, but I get so frustrated so fast. Intellectual-wise, everything comes fairly easy to me (except for math; I don’t count math). Physically? Not so much. I have always known I was never going to be a professional athlete when I grew up–the first time I joined a school sports team was also the last–but I always had this dream of being a ballerina. I would watch the Firebird with my dad all the time when I was little; every year at Christmas, we would go to the nutcracker. I’ve wanted to be a ballerina since I was little.

Well, turns out professional ballerinas usually start out really, really young.

When I did terribly that first class, I was basically ready to quit right then and there (after my mom had spent 100+ dollars on gear, boy was she pissed). I was so frustrated with the fact that I couldn’t get my feet to turn out, couldn’t hold my arms right, couldn’t even do a plié–I wanted to collapse in a pile on the floor.

But the teacher was not having that. If I ever dropped my arms in frustration, she would just give me this look like, “Seriously? I’m so disappointed in you.” And I’d lift my arms back up again with a sigh. Because of being forced to persevere, I’ve gotten way better.

Not good, but better.

2. I really am terribly cocky.

I knew going into my first class that it wasn’t going to be a cakewalk, of course. I knew I didn’t really have the right muscles developed and that I was going to have to work at it to be good.

I entirely underestimated how complicated ballet is.

Seriously, there is so much more to it than just holding your arms up and pointing your feet. There’s a reason people spend their whole lives training to become ballerinas. Ballet is really freaking difficult and I have so much respect for dancers.

It was a really humbling experience. I went in to that first class knowing I had a lot to learn, but I didn’t go in thinking I’d make a complete fool of myself. I was and am probably about the worst in the class. But I know that I am improving and I’m really trying to take everything the teacher tells me to heart. I’ve never had an authority figure as strict as a ballet teacher, so all in all it was kind of refreshing.

Well, refreshing in a sort of terrifying way.

3. I don’t handle criticism well, and I constantly put myself into situations where I won’t be brutally criticized

Exhibit A: Speech and debate.

I know I’m not the greatest speaker to have ever lived or anything like that, but I’ve always been sort of a word person. I really and truly do not get stage fright. I mean, I do, and then I just choose to ignore it. So while I am criticized, it’s all entirely constructive, and usually mixed in with a fair amount of praise too.

Exhibit B: Cross country

Remember that sports team I mentioned earlier? Yeah, that was cross country.

I’m an awful runner. I am graceless and ungainly and quite frankly idiotic-looking. I have plenty of speed but absolutely no stamina; it’s sort of pathetic, in truth. That’s why, after a few practices, I gave up on cross country–and sports–for good. I just could not stand being so much worse than everyone else and showing no signs of improvement.

So in my first ballet class, when the teacher told me I was holding my arms wrong, I was honestly shocked. Couldn’t she see I was doing the best I could?! Well, my best really wasn’t good enough.

Any ballerinas out there? Ever had one of those giant realization moments that totally changed your outlook on yourself? Other thoughts? Let me know in the comments.

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3 comments

  1. Totally agree! I felt the same way, and still do at times. You just got to stay strong and keep dancing. As long as you are satisfied of your accomplishments, you will take those criticisms and use it to keep improving 🙂 Chin up, tuck in that bum, and show your best port de bras (arm exercises) I think you are doing great, keep going 😉

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