When I started The Pointe Shop, I worked 7-day weeks, 10-hour days, then went home and worked some more.
But I never felt overworked.
I realize now that it was years of ballet training that gave me the discipline and the drive. Like other dancers, I grew up going to ballet class every day after school. Weekends and vacations were filled with rehearsals and intensives. And we never knew what boredom felt like.
There are so many things we learn in ballet class other than ballet itself. We approach life with a kind of class and discipline that is set apart from the rest of the world.
Here 5 things ballet taught me about life:
- Discipline: “I can’t. I have dance” is a very familiar phrase to a dancer. Ballet trained dancers are expected to show up to class and rehearsal on time with proper attire, hair and attitude. We rarely miss class and we’re expected to work hard and give our all in every class. Ballet trainees do not have seasons. Starting in January, there is YAGP, then summer intensive auditions, the spring show, summer intensive, fall show, then Nutcracker season… then it starts all over again. It is a year round commitment and dancers have to make sacrifices for the love of their art.
- Patience: Progress is incredibly difficult to notice. And there are few things in life more frustrating than a bad turning day. You come into class every day, you work hard but you don't see improvement. You feel like no matter how hard you try, you will never get that extension or that extra rotation in your pirouette.
- Grace: If you ever had a Russian ballet teacher, you can work with anyone. Ballet teaches how to take criticism with grace and gratitude. Ballet can be harsh and critical but dancers understand that constructive criticism comes from love and do not take offense to corrections. We also learn to maintain composure under pressure. Slip during a performance? Get right back up and continue. We develop thick skin to handle anything life throws at us.
- Respect: It is a rare and beautiful thing to step into a world of old fashion etiquette. As soon as we step foot into class, we are held to a different standard. There is deep respect to the teacher, the accompanist, fellow dancers and yourself. In a well-trained ballet studio, there is virtually no talking, chewing gum, yawning or slacking off. Dancers are expected to work hard the entire class and pay attention to the instructor. This kind of respect will set dancers apart in any aspect of their lives.
- Love: We have the ability to get lost in the moment and transcend to another place. We learn how to truly love and express through the art form. At the end of the day, we sacrifice our lives because we love it. We would rather miss out on other parts of “normal life” because we would much rather be spending it doing what we love.
There is a reason why ballet dancers are a species all on their own. We approach life with discipline, patience, grace, respect and love. These lessons drive us to succeed in any aspect of life. It teaches us to live life in its entirety and understand that anything worth loving is worth working hard for.