By Anagha Madhan and Aashaya Anand as seen in En Avant Magazine Nov-Dec 2022
Going to ballet class every week has been an integral part of our lives for as long as we remember. We couldn’t ever completely describe the ways in which it has moulded and shaped us, both physically and mentally. On days that we feel lost, a ballet class makes us feel a little more at home. It gives us a sense of comfort and familiarity. A lot of students share this feeling; ballet is healing and transformative. Everyone has their own connection with it. In this article, we try to share that feeling with you.
We live in a very chaotic world and yet, somehow, a lot of times, our lives are filled with monotony. Too much of anything can make it feel grey.
As a student, a lot of my time is spent doing mental work. It comes to a point where my brain is very tired, almost burnt out, but my body isn’t. This is what dancing heals me from, and to an extent, I think it heals any dancer in this way. In fact, dance has such a great effect on the brain that it is being used to treat Parkinson’s Disease, a neurological movement disorder. ‘There’s no question, anecdotally at least, that music has a very stimulating effect on physical activity,’ says Daniel Tarsy, MD, a Harvard Medical School professor of neurology. ‘And I think that applies to dance, as well.’ Dancing is also proven to reduce the risks of dementia! Dancing is good for the soul. In today’s world, the norm is constant mental work. As much as some people enjoy this, too much of anything isn’t good for us. Dance is a wonderful blend of quick thinking and physical activity; it refreshes us in the best way possible. Any dancer will agree that, yes, after class we are indeed tired, but we are also satisfied and much more active than when we stepped into the room before class.
Personally, I have a lot of days where my primary state of mind is ‘I don’t want to do anything.’ I think all of us experience slow days like these. Pushing myself to go to class and dance on such days completely turns my mentality around. While dancing I realise that not everything is that big a deal, and that things will turn out fine. We tend to get in our heads very often, and end up becoming our own worst enemy. Physical activity – dancing especially, since it involves body, mind and emotion – helps us focus on other aspects of ourselves, and changes our perspective in an immensely helpful way. Learning to look after ourselves is a massive part of our growth as human beings. When we learn how to root for ourselves, and put in the time and effort to heal ourselves, we feel larger than our day-to-day problems. Because we are – and we don’t realise this until we take time for ourselves to recover from difficult days. Dancing is an elegant way of doing this; it gives the human body a channel to do the most human things, feel the music, interpret it and move. And it feels as beautiful as it looks.
Ballet classes, for me, are on Thursday evenings. I live far away from the studio, which means I have to block out the entire afternoon and evening after school for ballet. When I tell people this, they usually ask me how I deal with that – a Thursday evening is such an awkward time, right in the middle of the week. The truth is, despite the weird placement of my classes and the amount of time that goes into attending them, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Ballet is excellent for both my mental and physical health. The former, because it allows me to channel my concentration and focus on something that isn’t school work. Extracurriculars like ballet, or this magazine that I write for, allow me to distribute my attention among a plethora of disciplines. It makes me a well-rounded human; someone who is capable of thinking on their feet even outside of the context of pen and paper. School work may be great for my mathematical and logical intelligence, but ballet helps enhance my kinesthetic intelligence, my spatial intuition, my musical knowledge, and my command over my body. In terms of physical health, ballet really is one of my only sources of dopamine due to exercise on a weekly basis. I’m an eleventh grader — I’m busy. I’m sitting at a desk for more hours a day than I’d like to. Even just stretching after and before classes makes a massive difference to my body.
Lastly, it pushes me to take a break. I’m someone who is terrible at taking breaks. When I’m working, I lose track of time and reality and the hours just slip away. This is why I try my very best not to bring school work to ballet, even though it’s in the middle of the week. I try to separate school work and ballet classes because I don’t constantly want to have the same type of work following me everywhere; it makes my life monotonous. Ballet on a Thursday evening gives shape to my week. In some weeks, it’s the only part that I can remember. It reminds me that I’m a human with a body that loves to move, a heart that loves music and a mind that loves to sew these components together. It heals me.