Lessons that Ballet teaches you, that books don’t

Devang Bhanushali advanced, Ballet, beginner, dancers Leave a Comment

“Don’t her jaws hurt?”, I think to myself, the first time I meet Amelia Jane, our Musical Theatre teacher.  As soon as she enters the class, she greets us with a smile, so genuine and full of life, that for the first few seconds I am oblivious to the happenings around me. And the smile stays while she speaks about her plans for us; when she animatedly shares her ideas about  characters and even when she crazily dances her way to Footloose music, until we call it a day.

She is a Ballet teacher.

Ballet, after all, is another dance form, you may think. Well, as a college student, I was one among those who thought Ballet was too alien to those in this part of the world. Nevertheless, since dance in any form always kindled my interest, I set about knowing a little more about it. Girls in pretty dresses, dancing around on  their toes, swaying their hands this way and that way and doing a jump here and there, was exactly how I described about one of the online videos on Ballet I saw during that time. And how confident was I in attempting to stand on my toes, only to hurt myself in the process.

Frustrated and angry, I stopped reading about ‘how to do a ‘pointe’ (I learned the technical term because I thought it would sound fancy when I told my classmate how I could do one). If I had the patience to read a little further about how ballerinas practiced for hours , even with their gnarled and calloused feet to perfect the pointe, I would have known the many years of hard work ,dedication  and sacrifice these dancers make to smile through that pain. I would have realised then, that Ballet was more than just any dance form.

annapavlova

Anna Pavlova in ‘Dying Swan’

Education

Years later, when I started researching on the role of life skills in a child’s education, those Ballet lessons or rather the failure to learn then, came back as a teacher. Yes, these ballerinas swarm around the stage like swans, with grace and poise, like it was a child’s play. But once you tore down that pretty princess mask, you found individuals pushing themselves, their body and mind, striving for excellence. Because nothing less than that would do.

They learnt not to give up the first time they didn’t  get on pointe, (like I did)  or the second time when they hurt themselves or even when there were blisters on their toes from all that hours of practice. Lessons of hard work, patience, grit and resilience got naturally ingrained in their minds. Delving into the history of famous Ballet dancers (such as Anna Pavlova) ,  there was always a page on how these dancers made no compromise when it came to perfecting their art , dedicating a minimum of eight hours or if not more to practice even when they were accomplished and well-known in their fields. There, I had learnt my first lesson-there was no shortcut to success or to getting those Ballet steps.

Ballet lessons

Making informed decisions is one essential life skill we all  need in our paths  to success.  But what has that to do with Ballet, you may ask? One phrase after the other, Ballet involves a series of progressive steps, creatively choreographed and perfected to a tune, which requires those who are doing it to have a clear mind, to take decisions about completing one act before  the  next. In theory, it sounds so simple but one wrong splits or a turn can completely turn an otherwise perfect ballet performance into utter chaos , often causing injuries to the dancers.

Especially when it comes to group performances ,which is often a space of possible conflicts and perplexity , it is the clarity of the mind to make precise movements that makes the audience go ‘wow’ to a perfectly synchronized ‘pirouette’ ( where dancers whirl). Ballet teaches you to critically think and develop a sense of self-awareness as well as  understand the world around you. Lessons in self-control and respecting each other’s space are essential for these dancers.

Competitive world

But let’s face it. The world out there is becoming dangerously competitive. There is no dearth of talent. And there is always someone who puts in equal amount of hard work or more. If so, then who finds success in life? If you look around, success has always been with those who are willing to constantly adapt, unlearn and re-learn in their lives. If you develop an eye for detail, innovate and perfect your skills, you will always find yourself ahead of the pack.

It is no different for Ballet dancers, I am told. Their lives are a series of learning, choreographing, re-learning and perfecting their performances pieces, constantly on the lookout to bring creativity in them.They lead a well disciplined life , carrying with them an indomitable spirit and willingness to give their mind and soul to dance, despite all the pains they may have to endure.

Yes, Amelia’s  jaws might be hurting. But it might be a routine she developed with all those years of practice-to smile on stage despite the pain she may have to endure. But  she seems at ease. Perhaps, for her, it has become a way of life. And as for me, it is a lesson I am learning from my Ballet teacher.

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