Why do some dancers excel faster than others? Maybe talent has something to do with it, but I believe that individual practice plays a larger role. You need time to focus in on the areas that are most difficult for you, to experiment with solutions, and solidify what you've learned. Class time is great for learning new steps, learning from peers, and gaining stamina, but it will never replace individual practice.
Every ballet class begins with plies. The plie is a time to center yourself, prepare your mind, and begin to warm up your body. But, with such a repetitive and seemingly easy exercise, it's easy to just go through the motions.
Next time you're in class, try these tips to help you get the most out of your class from the very beginning.
I was given the gift of very arched feet. This is just how they came. Ever since I was a very young baton twirler, I can always remember receiving praises for how well-pointed my feet were. I didn't understand why others couldn't point their feet the same way, because it was natural for me. "Just point them," I would say when my peers would ask how to point their feet like mine. In retrospect, that was probably not super helpful advice.
Nonetheless, the grass is always greener on the other side. As many of my teachers and peers have complimented my feet for their natural pointy-ness, I have had to work a considerable amount on the strength of my feet.
The year was 2007, and I was getting ready to start my senior year of high school. At the time, I was still living with my parents in San Diego. I had recently gotten an after school job as a medical billing assistant and had my own car. I decided that I wanted to start ballet. I don't exactly remember what the final catalyst was, or when I first became interested in ballet, but something compelled me to go for it.
I can't say that I remember the first class like it was yesterday, because to be honest, it was a blur of nerves, excitement, confusion, and joy. But little did I know that it was the beginning of a really exciting time in my life.
I've recently been inspired by Steven Johnson's book and TED talk and Netflix documentary on where good ideas come from. Good ideas don't come from individual Eureka moments, but instead from many years of cultivating a wide range of ideas. Over time, these ideas collide in different ways, and in these collisions, new discoveries are made. Things that didn't make sense previously can make perfect sense in light of new ideas and learnings.
Ballet is a great example of a time when this philosophy makes sense. It takes years to develop into a professional dancer, and in part, I believe that is because there are so many technical discoveries that one needs to make.
During my junior year in college, my ballet training was getting more serious. By then, I had nearly 3 full years of ballet training, sprinkled with many different styles of dance. I was studying computer science at Pace University, but really wanted to see how far I could take my dance training. So, I decided to apply for summer intensives.