Tag Archives: ballet class

5 Ways Dancers Can Build Their Confidence

Like a scary shadow, self-doubt has haunted dancers of all ages and abilities. Ballet dancers, in particular, tend to grapple with feelings of inadequacy. But take heart. Whether you’re a seasoned professional, or absolute novice, there are things you can do to increase your self-esteem and enjoy dancing again. Consider five ways dancers can combat self-doubt and build their confidence.

  1. Give yourself more credit.

Think about it—you could be sitting on the couch, or engaging in some other activity that adds nothing to your life. At least you’re doing something healthy and productive for yourself! Every dancer has ups and downs, but when you’re at a low point, remember that you could be somewhere else. And if you can’t seem to bring yourself to do this, allow me to do it for you: kudos to you!

Sensual beautiful girl near the window morning

  1. Set realistic goals.

Having trouble nailing those fouéttés? Maybe it’s because you can barely do a pirouette without falling off balance. Professional dancers are notorious workhorses, but even beginners can set the bar too high for themselves. Setting small, realistic goals for yourself will help you feel less overwhelmed. For instance, if you have trouble executing a double pirouette, why not learn to master a clean, single pirouette first? Even taking the time to do a proper warm-up can help you feel prepared for the demands of class.

  1. Focus on something positive about yourself.

We all have gifts. Maybe you have naturally stellar turnout, or picture-perfect arches. Instead of nit-picking all your perceived negative traits, focus on your positive attributes. Perhaps your strong points have nothing to do with your physical appearance. Can you get through allegro combinations without gasping for breath? Do you remember combinations with ease while your classmates struggle to retain instructions? The next time you’re feeling down, think about the one (or multiple) things about yourself that you love, or set you apart.

The hands of two classic ballet dancers at ballet barre on a white room background

  1. Don’t compare yourself to others.

The reality is, there will always be someone who can jump higher or turn faster. Depending on how far you go in your career, you will meet these individuals somewhere along the way. Instead of competing with others and fostering jealousy, focus solely on your own progress and develop good sportsmanship. Doing your part to promote healthy dynamics with your classmates will contribute to a positive learning environment that benefits everyone.

  1. Remember your reasons for dancing.

Do you dance for recreation? Fitness? Some dance because it’s their life’s calling. Remembering why you dance can increase your motivation and reignite your joy. Everyone feels a little insecure sometimes, but keeping in mind the factors that drew you to dance in the first place will help to mitigate the effects of self-doubt.

Don’t let self-doubt cast its dark shadow over your life. It can be easy to fall into a rut, focus on the negative, even question your right to be in the studio at all. Through consistent effort, and a good sense of humor, you can successfully shake that self-conscious monkey off your back.

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About the Author

Bethany Leger taught ballet for 7 years in Dallas, TX. She is the founder of Ballet For Adults, a site dedicated to educating adults about ballet at http://balletforadults.com/

A Dancer’s Guide to Gratitude

Today is a day where people across the country take time to express gratitude for the blessings in their lives; yet ballet dancers have a very different list than most. Maybe you’re grateful for that perfectly-broken-in pair of pointe shoes or the uplifting comment you received in class the other day…there’s always something to be grateful for.

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So have a little pie (really, just a tiny sliver) and read on.

The Ballet Dancer’s Guide to Gratitude

AmericanBallet

Barre exercises, the solid foundation upon which everything else is built, one step at a time…and brisés and ballonnés, and all of those shining moments where we get to defy gravity and fly.

Adoring ballet fans everywhere…because without them everything we do would lose context and meaning.

Lyrical music that speaks to your soul, sinks into your bones and urges you to move your body in pleasing ways.

Lifelong gifts of ballet: respect for the body and innate understanding of the benefits of discipline and dedication. And there’s the added benefit of stellar posture.

Every musician, composer and conductor who adds their own special ingredient to the melodious mix of sounds that prompts us to dance.

Teachers and all people who have cared enough to nurture, guide and shape who you are today.

 

Dancers who came before us, who led by example, who inspired us to dare to dream of following in their footsteps.

All theaters– whether humble or swimmingly opulent–the places where magic happens for everyone who enters.

New ideas and the people who take the time to contemplate and take action. Without them we would never have had pancake tutus, pointe shoes, or ballet academies.

Choreographic geniuses, those masters who continually reinvent the dance landscape, guiding dancers to take quantum leaps into unexplored territory and keeping audiences inspired.

Experts who make our bodies strong and put us back together when we tear ourselves apart, from podiatrists and surgeons, to massage therapists, Pilates instructors and yoga teachers.

Reverence for dance as an art form, one of the highest human pursuits, and deepest gratitude for those who recognize and support the arts to make it all possible.

Happy Thanksgiving! May your day be bright and joyful.

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How to Move Past Failure

During the time I was a ballet student at the School of American Ballet falling in class was one of my greatest fears. While the fear wasn’t necessarily rational (I never did fall in class) it lurked like a shadowy predator that I couldn’t shake off. The irony was that class was the place I should have been experimenting, pushing the boundaries, trying new things; if there was ever an ideal place to make mistakes, ballet class was it. Since then I’ve realized that fear of failure is more common than most people would like to admit, but it’s not just the failure itself that worries people. The idea of looking bad or foolish can be enough to keep us from even trying something in the first place.

No one wants to be the star of their own ballet blooper…. but everybody’s doing it–even the pros!

Recently I came across this quote and it was a game-changer:

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”  ~Winston Churchill

Success never happens all at once–it’s a process–and failures are part of that process. No one whips off a triple pirouette the first time they try to turn, nor is a dancer given a starring role the first day they join a ballet company (except for Claire in the new ballet drama Flesh and Bone). Yet each time we try, whether we’re successful or not, it’s a step forward. Churchill’s quote reminds us to use our failures as stepping-stones, to move from one to the next without losing enthusiasm.

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Better yet, move from one to the next…and keep on keeping on. There’s always a next step.

 

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Ballet’s Most Loaded Question

When I was a professional ballet dancer I often felt penned in by a strange irony: although I’d been one out of crowds of thousands of dancers chosen to dance with Miami City Ballet, I found myself often questioning whether or not I was any good. I was also one of a handful of students chosen to study full-time at the School of American Ballet, arguably one of the top ballet schools in the world. But none of it mattered–at the end of the day I never could tell myself I was an exceptional dancer because I never quite knew–not with the kind of certainty that lives in your bones.

The business of ballet is not about handing out compliments, praise, or even the occasional pat on the back. It’s more about repetition and the constant quest for perfection, with the end result (a successful performance) being the reward. When teachers and directors give feedback they don’t use the “sandwich technique” of giving praise, criticism, and then more praise. Ballet directives are straight meaty criticism, no bread (which is bad for the figure, anyway). Dancers learn to crave attention–even if it’s critical–because it’s often the only indication of a dancer’s worth.

Good

Even after I stopped dancing professionally I still wondered if I had been any good. That good old irony just wouldn’t get lost. There never were any answers, really. Only questions. Thinking about it was a fruitless exercise. The past was over.

I found a whole range of new ways to keep dance alive in my life: college dance companies, alternative nightclub performances, Sunday night World Beat Night with friends, African dance class in a church with jewel-box stained-glass windows. After a while I stopped worrying about whether I was “good” and just enjoyed these experiences.

Until last weekend.

I was headed into a Saturday morning dance class when I realized I had a shadow–a pig-tailed little girl in a polka dot dress. I smiled at her. “I like your pants,”she said. (Admittedly they are one of the groovier pairs I own). I thanked her and she continued escorting me down the hall. “Are you good?” she said, out of nowhere.

Ooo, kid, loaded question was my first thought. How to explain all of this stuff to her? But then I had to laugh because it didn’t matter anymore. So here’s what I said:

maybe.

Now that dance is no longer my job I dance because I love it–for no other reason–and that is a huge relief.