I have had a long term relationship with ballet. My first ballet class was in second grade at Hampton Roads Civic Ballet with Ms. Lisa. For a very long time, ballet was the only form of dancing that I enjoyed. I loved the repetition, precision, exactness, the universal language and expectations. In many ways, ballet was probably not a healthy activity for my type A personality. I am naturally driven, focused, and disciplined. I needed a less structured activity that encouraged flexibility, creativity, or relaxation. The way I was taught ballet was focused on learning the names of steps and how to execute them the right way. I felt very uncomfortable making any decisions in a dance class. Now I find that very ironic as I feel that dancing is about an awareness of the body and making choices about how to move and then directing the body according. I did not have a thought process as a dancer- it was about muscle memory and how movement looked in the mirror. I had a total disconnect from my brain to my body, and was so frustrated when my body wouldn't cooperate. I wanted to be the best, perform the best roles, out jump, out turn, out kick everyone else. I wanted it so baldy, and the tension showed in my dancing. I was constantly being told to relax, yet I had no concept of how much I was forcing my body. I was often closed minded as student, refusing to believe that my body wasn't build with amount of fake turn out I was using or that perhaps my future in dance lay elsewhere. I lived in a world of concrete right and wrong, yes and no, this or that, and I think ballet encouraged my tendency to dig in my heels, stubbornly refusing to admit that there were more than one way to do something. It was my way or the highway.
These days, I wish I could break up with ballet. I rarely enjoy a ballet class, and am hyper aware of my bad habits. If I do take class, I want a beginning level class to move slowly and redirect pathways in my body. So I rarely end up in group ballet classes, and instead get my dose of plies and tendus in my own practice, alone in a room without judgement and mirrors. While I am not big into taking ballet class right now, I have found myself teaching a lot of ballet. My summer teaching will include ballet for children ages 5-10 as well as adult ballet. In the fall I am currently scheduled to teach Continuing Ballet at The University of Iowa where I will be a student again- working towards my MFA. Given my history with ballet, I have been really struggling with how to approach class. I know I will find myself writing about the process, and I always start with an evaluation of what has or hasn't worked in my own training history. What did I love about ballet as a child? What did I hate? What made me return to classes day after day? How did dancing make me feel? How did my teachers make me feel? What do I remember learning? What memories are the brightest and clearest? How did my own personality and baggage affect my learning?
I have addressed these questions before, and will continue to consider my own training history. What do I value as an artist and how do I share that within the confines of ballet- a tradition rich with history, aesthetics, and point of views?