Go easy on yourself

Was just thinking about that safe feeling of being at the barre,
How it feels like no one can see you in your little space.
First you see the back of the person in front of you, battement battement battement and then you turn to work the other side and there’s the back of the person who was behind you. Gives you this cozy illusion that no one is ever facing you, no one can see you, you’re totally protected.
Even the teacher’s sharp gaze can’t always get you in your safe little spot, it feels like. He’s got the whole class to look at, you know he can’t see your every little move.
Except that there was that one time I sat up front beside Smirnoff and watched my own class, so I know how open the class is from the teacher’s point of view, and how you really can see every little thing.
But it feels so safe.
Anyway, a friend of mine came with me to class the other day. She’s been hearing stories about this ballet teacher of mine and wanted to meet him for herself.
And her take on him was pretty awesome, she said she’d expected frailty but the man she met had such a force in him, despite the canes.
Anyway, she sat up front beside Smirnoff and watched the class, he pointed out little things to her here and there throughout the class and afterward we were talking about class and she said she noticed something about how people treat themselves when they make mistakes:
She said some people would do the wrong move or whatever, and then just pause, relax for a second, maybe smile to themselves a little, and move on.
And then there were other people who would make whatever little mistake and they’d seize up and frown and she could see that they were being mean to themselves in that moment.
She said it was kind of hard to watch that harsh, self-angry moment. Didn’t seem very productive and kind of made the dancer’s whole body and posture and, like, feeling look prickly, even when the moment had passed.
I thought that was interesting.
I mean, sometimes I feel the urge to frown and shake my head just to broadcast that I know I’ve screwed up, maybe ward off a correction I think I already know and don’t need, but I guess the point is that all that stuff is more detrimental to the overall feeling of the class and my own performance of the barre than the original mistake ever was.
So anyway, Gentle Reader, maybe be kind to yourself?


About adultbeginner

Had my first ballet class Ever at the advanced age of thirty-two. Yikes.
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15 Responses to Go easy on yourself

  1. RO says:

    Wowww looking in the mirror right now.. I often do this to myself, that feeling of not being content with oneself because of a mistake in ballet class. Really annoying.. Our teacher always says to just go on and pretend nothing happened because when you teach yourself to curl up your nose or shake your head you will do it in the middle of a performance! I still need to learn to be kind to myself ;-)

    • Ha! I never thought about that! That a habit of scolding yourself could become an ingrained gesture and show up on stage. Wow.

      • RO says:

        Jup indeed… and the worst part is that she noticed it in our last performance. We went wrong with our entire ballet group but fortunately we continued dancing and made the best out of it, but our teacher said she could see the panic/frustration in our eyes the moment we went wrong, haha..

  2. abc says:

    Thank you for this post… I´m definitely in the frowning-and-being-mean-to-myself category. I know I shouldn´t, but it was me who made a mistake, so I´m angry at myself. Just saying take it easy doesn´t really help… Any tips?

    • I think it’s just one of those life skills, you know? Ballet class is always bringing out things that help me work out issues from real life, and things that work in real life are helpful in the ballet world too.
      Like, in this case, how do you respond when you make a mistake at your job?

  3. nicola lynde says:

    This is such a good reminder to be nice to ourselves. I’ve been fighting an uphill battle with my head placement lately and have definitely been mean to myself on more than one occasion. Thanks!

  4. Reece says:

    I only kick myself when I make an easily avoidable mistake, like letting my mind wander during class. When it’s just a goof I just smile and let it go, because if I spend much time thinking about a goof it often begats a cascade of easily avoidable mistakes.

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  6. gwenyth says:

    This is such a great piece. And a reminder of how amazing your writing is AB – perfectly captures a human moment (in the dance context) and gets people to reflect and maybe alter behavior for the better. I have always been a mean-to-myself kind of girl, but getting a lot better ever since I started dancing. Taking this with me to my next ballet class.

    And here’s a reminder of why we need to be nice to ourselves – to keep on going despite challenges!


  7. That’s such excellent advice – as an adult beginner, I am incredibly hard on myself. I have a difficult time during center – I can’t always keep up and I really get frustrated. I’ve walked off the floor before. I think I do it because I get embarrassed when an instructor has to help me break down the combination because I just can’t do it.

  8. Yvonne says:

    For me it depends on what mistake I make. I tend to smile about myself when I do some little mistake at the barre like closing the wrong way. But in center and especially en pointe I’m quite hard on myself. I want to do it right, also because I’m afraid I could injure myself if I don’t. Ever landed with the front leg stretched after a grand jété? Hurts terribly in the back. Or not stretching the leg enough when doing a pirouette on pointe….

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