February 4, 2012

Set Yourself Free and Dance

I have this recurring bad habit of being my own worst critic. I find too many faults when I should be seeing strong suits. I get hung up on body issues when I really should be happy that I have actually quite nice lines. And I can get terribly frustrated if I feel that I'm starting to fall behind. I can set my bar so high that it becomes impossible to reach, which is a sure way to set yourself up for failure and disappointment, big time.

When we come to class, we come equipped with certain images in our minds. All the ballets we have seen, and the beautiful dancers who perform them. This inspires and motivates us. We want to be part of that world, in whatever way we can.

Years go by. Thousands of lessons go by. I learned, even found out about strengths I never knew I had. But with all the experience and added knowledge I became more critical of my dancing, and more demanding. As did my teachers. They pushed, corrected and coached me. Still, I thrived with the attention I was getting. Difficult steps? Tricky combinations? Hah! I was up for the challenge!

That's when I hit my plateau. Stop on the progress. Challenges became obstacles to stumble over. My confidence is currently at an all-time low. This is hard for me, and not my usual ballet is a short-cut to happiness post. I talked with my teacher about it and we agreed that I need to re-set my attitude and take a breather. Not make any more demands on myself, but enjoy what I already do well.

Sometimes it's better to forget about perfecting your technique, about pushing yourself and being 100% all the time. Let go of everyone's expectations, including your own. Be happy with less. Listen to the music, breathe, be present in the moment. Set yourself free and dance!


  1. That's something I need to learn how to do too! I'm way too hard on myself. I think most dancers are.

  2. You are probably right. Dancers learn very early that there is always room for improvement and that "perfect" is something you strive for but can never reach.

    Fortunately you need not be "perfect" to dance beautifully! :)

  3. yours is the only blog i've ever followed, Johanna. it's because it seems like you speak the thoughts that are in my own head. last week i was feeling very pitiful, and thought to myself 'why do i continue to do something that makes me so upset? doesn't 'recreational dancer' imply that this should be fun and make me feel confident? why do i love something that makes me cry so much?" and then you write "I set my bar so high that it becomes impossible to reach." I do that too. it's so hard to lower it tho, to allow myself to be less than perfect, even tho i recognize i am far from perfect! but to accept, and acknowledge, instead of constantly dismissing and criticizing, is difficult.

    1. Shannon, I do understand you very well. I can be very hard on myself, thinking that I have to get every exercise just right. But you know what, nobody can be that good all the time. Even pros have their bad days!

      Today our teacher told us not to view class as a failure just because you mess up one or more exercise. Instead focus on whatever went well, or on what you enjoyed the most. These moments tell you what you have learned already. And the "failures" tell you that you are learning still. In ballet you are never done.

      Lowering your bar and your expectations does not mean you're giving up. It means setting smaller goals and enjoying the progress even if it comes in baby steps. Remember that everything adds up in ballet.

      Respect yourself, be proud of your accomplishments. And never ever stop believing in your potential! Last but not least: if you f*** up, there's always another chance, and another class to try, try and try again. You live and you learn, right? :)

      Sending you a warm virtual (((hug)))


To That Special Ballet Teacher

To that special ballet teacher, who not only teaches you about technique, but helps build your confidence, nurtures your inner artist, ...