It happened two weeks ago. We were doing this beautiful and rather challenging adagio in center, to the left side, leg up and in grand ronde de jambe... When I kind of lost my focus, my control and my balance. Normally, it's not a big deal. We're not machines, mistakes happen, and it's all part of the dance, right? But that time, I got this sinking feeling... And with it my confidence flew out of the studio. It's a hole I've been in before, and one that's damned hard to climb out again. Even though I recognized the feeling and knew that I should have axed it right there and then, I could not. But why? I had been counting the hours to be in that class again, it was my day off and Madame was teaching. It should have been ballet bliss, because usually, it always is.
What I had not taken into account: I was exhausted from a long eight-day working week, which included a four day expo out of town. After working weekends, you normally get a day off, but I was in the office on Monday - but not before an early morning root canal appointment. Torture. The next day, I dragged myself out of bed, because the mind is stronger than the body, and went to morning class. Noticed that my left foot was a bit painful around the peroneal tendon, but not so bad as to stop. The following day, while sliding my other foot to the back, I pinched a nerve right at the base of the big toe. It felt like going over a cheese grater. Oh, and to top it all off, I've been having another bout of positional vertigo. When I tilt my head to the right (like you would in a cambré), the room goes spinning for three seconds or so. It's all very annoying - but there are really no excuses. Either you stay home, or you work to the best of your abilities. What you do not do is give up.
I lost my confidence. Somehow I came to the conclusion that I suck. We have all been there, we even make jokes about it - because bad days happen to everyone. Sh*t happens. When I should have kicked myself into the butt and focused on class alone, I was giving myself a hard time instead. Even though I was still getting corrections. Praise too. The next day I thought, let's have a fresh start - but I kept falling back into my hole. One bad day turned into a bad week, and I knew that I was heading for trouble. That's when my teacher stepped in; it was time for an intervention. I'm very lucky that way. She knows me well enough, and told me exactly what I needed to hear. It was a private conversation, so no details here, but I will tell you that it was firm and kind. It lifted the fog off my brain. Not all at once, but I made the extra effort. I've been feeling my normal self since. Happy to be in class, no matter what.
Here's what I've learned: If you are walking-dead tired but still long to be in class, go easy on yourself. If you are achy, sore or are suffering from minor ailments, and still feel you have to be in class: don't push it. Don't expect to be your usual strong/balanced/good at turns or whatever it is you're usually good at. Do not compare yourself to the girls with the highest extensions or most flexible bodies, or whatever it is you don't possess. Remember that we are each unique. Appreciate all that you can do. Listen to your body. Breath. Most of all: be kind to yourself.
I have this one teacher who has a very special talent of creating a happy class environment. When Madame makes her rounds along the barre, every student gets positive feedback, a "good" here, a "bien" or "beautiful" there. Madame is also very demanding, and gives a great deal of personal and detailed corrections. Guidance too. She really sees everything that you do, and everything that you could be doing. I swear she has some kind of sixth sense. Maybe even x-ray vision. Seriously, I love her classes. I feel that she not only sees the present me, but also the dancer that I'm capable of being... Which made me think. Why be so damn hard on myself, when my teacher is so kind and positively encouraging? In the end, we can only dance with our own bodies - and we should not let doubtful minds get in the way. Believe in yourself. Know that you can.
Painting above by Katya Gridneva, 1965.