5 perspectives on the life of a professional ballet dancer

What is it like to be a dancer? What do we strive for? What do we fear?

In my previous article, I wrote about my perspective of the pursuit of perfection in a ballet dancer’s life, and about what that might entail. I got a great response from all of you, but it made me wonder: “How would others describe their motivation for what they do? What do they see as their ultimate goal in being a dancer, and what might be some of their personal obstacles in the way of progressing towards that goal?”

So I decided to reach out to several friends of mine – each in different places in their life, different stages of their dancing career, and different kinds of ballet companies – to get an idea of just how our goals and obstacles in this dancing life might differ, and to see how they might compare.

Turns out there’s plenty of common ground in their answers. Let’s meet my contributors: Continue reading “5 perspectives on the life of a professional ballet dancer”

Why the ancient greeks are the best ballet dancers: a brief look at Stoicism

A few months ago, Sports Illustrated released an article entitled: “How a book on stoicism became wildly popular at every level of the NFL.” This article detailed how The Obstacle is the Way, a book about the benefits of applying the ancient greek philosophy of Stoicism to life in the modern world, has spread throughout the NFL, including football players and coaches alike.

I read this book last year, and I found it to be full of wisdom and good advice.

This ancient approach has implications for anyone to live their lives in an optimistic, non-cynical way, but it’s especially relevant for those in a world where every little improvement makes a difference. Practice makes perfect, yes, but only with the right mindset.

If this approach can help the football world, I figure we in the dance world have something to learn from it as well. Even if the two are worlds apart in the kinds of people they attract, both worlds are part of the human enterprise of pursuing perfection, both mental and physical.

Stoicism is a philosophy that understands that while perfection may be unreachable, there are ways to reach a little bit closer. Step 1: Get out of your own way. Continue reading “Why the ancient greeks are the best ballet dancers: a brief look at Stoicism”

You suck at dancing and it’s your own damn fault (part 1)

Okay, now that I have your attention: no, I’m not serious. In fact there are two lies in that sentence, both of which come from our own illusions about our selves and about our objectivity. Although both sides of this thought are wrapped up together, I’ve decided to split this post into two parts in order to tackle these two prominent myths we tell ourselves on their own terms.

Most of this article will be directed to those committed to making dance their profession, so I apologize if it becomes esoteric or uninteresting for you. Regardless of who you are, though, there should be something applicable here!

These two ideas contained in the title come to me relatively often in class, and I know it comes to many others in my profession. This is what we think when we mess up, and say to ourselves “I should be able to do that thing I can’t do! I’ve done it well before. What’s wrong with me?”

We feel like we should be able to do anything which we can envision and which we’ve done in the past, and do it well just for having thought it. Take pirouettes for example: how many of us base our sense of accomplishment pretty much solely on whether we are turning well in one class? If we turn well, good class. Turn badly, shitty dancer.

This is the first myth I’d like to take on. You do not suck at dancing. Continue reading “You suck at dancing and it’s your own damn fault (part 1)”