January 20, 2015

Quality, not Quantity

Quality, not quantity. How many times have you heard it, and still felt frustrated because you can't developpé your leg past 90 degrees or turn multiple pirouettes? Today, we had an adagio/stretch exercise where the last developpé a la seconde turned facing the barre. On my right side, it's a struggle every time. I try to lift my knee as high as it allows, but when I extend the leg, it feels jammed. Like something is pushing it down. I've had this problem for as long as I've been dancing. I work, do the best I can, but there's been almost no progress. You can understand how one might give up trying... Especially when the body feels tired, and the barre that I'm facing has a mirror behind it. There are times, when I don't like to look at myself. My mirror image shows my struggle, and it's not pretty.

I was so frustrated today, lifting my leg up, feeling the effort but not seeing the result, that I gave up. My mind was telling me: "What's the use, you will never have a high developpé, where's the fun in trying?" But it's no way to dance... You have to give your body and mind a fighting chance! Because when you practice halfhearted, it shows. The movement loses conviction, it becomes something that is in-between. Not ballet, not anything really. My teacher, she noticed. Of course. And she gave us (me) the Talk.

It is about quality, not how high you can extend your leg. Not even professional dancers have their extensions always up to their ears (although my teacher does). When you are well placed, a developpé is beautiful at any height. Also, it's not just about the destination. The journey is equally important. The way your foot leaves the floor (through a high demi-point), touches the shin at coud de pied, caresses the leg all the way up to your knee, stays pointed while you lift the knee, making room in your hips, engaging your core, stretching and turning out the working leg, keeping the back long, then extending, elongating, breathing, reaching out...

Work on your technique and your strength as much as your body and life allows. But as you dream of greater heights, do not lose sight of what can be beautiful right now. Make every developpé count. And please, never feel it's worth less just because it rises low. The lines you draw with your arms, feet and legs - they have no limits.

I have no picture of me in developpé a la seconde, but this is a good stretch for it.

- Johanna

January 19, 2015

Dancer's DNA

My DNA dictates that I do not have a beautiful body for ballet. My hips are too wide, my popo too square, my thighs too round, my arms and hands not graceful enough. My DNA dictates that I lack turn-out, hyper-mobility, and that my arabesques will always be low. My DNA dictates that I will never look like a ballerina. Well, to hell with those dictators!

My DNA has given me a strong body. It has muscles, legs that jump and stretch and toes that point. It has arms for port de bras, and fingers that can flutter like leaves in the wind. It has a rhythm and a heartbeat and lungs that breath. I can dance with this body.

My DNA dictates that I have a brain, and it has made up my mind a long time ago: my heart is in ballet.

So what if you and I lack the facilities and looks of a professional ballerina? It is not relevant when you dance for yourself. Our DNAs are unique, and if it makes us stands out in a crowd, let's carry it with pride and joy!

If you have a dream that dictates you must dance, then that is the only dictator you should follow.

xoxo - Johanna

This short post was inspired by Misa Kuranaga in SK-II's new ad campaign #changedestiny.

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, ...