Ballet Life Lessons


Out of the blue, my daughter announces that she is going to be a ballerina with the confidence and assurance only a four-and-a-half-almost-five-year-old brings to the table. It’s a declaration I imagine many moms of preschoolers hear at some point, but it brings a wistful smile to my lips and a flood of memories just the same.

I started ballet classes when I was five years old, shortly after telling my own mama that I was destined to be a ballerina in much the same way. I kept with it for ten years and experienced some of my best and worst times through them. I learned some important life lessons in dance, these are my favourites.

1. When in doubt, a bun is always the answer. Whether it’s an interview, a night out, a work day or a Tuesday, rocking a bun always looks like you put some care into your appearance. Clean, polished, classy, easy. And since it takes approximately 26.3 seconds to pin one in, it’s deceiving. Appearance may matter, but time is short!

2. There will always be someone stronger, more graceful, better composed, and more practiced than you. And that is ok. It doesn’t make your work toward strength, grace, poise, or skill any less valuable.

3. Healthy toenails are way underrated.

4. Learning to be light on your feet takes years, but comes in very handy in household where children are sleeping.

5. The phenomenon of groups of women who spend hours together each week cycling together is not a myth.

6. It takes thousands of hours, literally, to become an expert at something. At 5 years old I had no concept of the commitment required to become a ballerina, I just wanted to be in shows with the ribbons and the tutus. But I learned as I watched and tried and failed and succeeded.

7. The movements in dance and life that appear effortless are often the result of years of practice, pain, and work. That’s what makes them beautiful.

8. Speaking of all that work, there is nothing in life that compares to the feeling that comes from finally nailing a movement pattern or skill that you have practiced for years.

9. Even years after being able to leap and twist in the air like a feather caught in the wind, your legs and dreams will remember.

10. If music is the way emotion sounds, dance must be the way emotion moves. Get lost in it.

11. When it comes to ballet, British ladies do not fuck around.

12. All bodies are good bodies. A person’s shape tells you nothing about their ability to leap, glide, pirouette, float.

Ballet gets a bad rap when it comes to body image, and sometimes that is justified. I had my share of tough teachers. But the lessons and friendships I still carry far outweigh the harder moments.

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