What can you learn about ballet, creativity, and living a good life - from nine full back-to-back days spent in a spacious and beautiful ballet studio? When you are free to do anything you want?
Hello lovely reader, happy new year to you!
In the last article, I had proudly mentioned my acceptance into The National Ballet of Canada’s Residency Programme. In a nutshell: The National Ballet of Canada recently launched this program, which basically comprises 1-2 weeks of free studio time at the NBC’s home base on the lakeshore of Toronto.
So as a loyal reader to the blog, you may have noticed an unusually long gap since the last post. (Or not. I know. Life is very busy, especially at this time of the year, and ballet blog posts don’t get your Christmas shopping done.) Although if you follow me on Instagram, you know all about it (unless, the algorithm ~sigh~).
The story in a nutshell: In early November, an Instagram post by the National Ballet of Canada caught my eye….
So that pirouette thing continues spinning my head. For the first time ever, I had like two weeks in a row where I was consistently doing a double on the left side - a nice one even, not just getting around. But then last week I think I lost it again. It was better again today. So much for consistency.
There is an endless number of cues and corrections when learning and mastering a pirouette. From which one has always stood a bit out for me: Spotting.
What I have always wondered, from all the things you can focus on - how important is spotting when you are just learning a pirouette, or a double, or triple (I guess after that you got the hang of it, so you don’t need that question any more!)? And what actually happens during a spot, with your head, your eyes, and your brain? And if you know all that, how can that help you with learning to pirouette?
For a long time, I seriously doubted that the Pareto Principle could be applied to ballet.
This principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, states that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. It was originally applied in the area of politics and economics, but has come a long way since then. It does sound quite crude, and it certainly is not exact science. But it has been surprisingly predictive.
Could there be something like a late calling to ballet? And if so, how do you respond to it?
By calling I mean the quiet nudge to take your adult ballet beyond a hobby, beyond studio show cases - to becoming a dancer. Is it possible to become a ballerina despite starting at an age when professional ballerinas usually start wrapping it up?
I am aware that the conventional wisdom to this would be no.
Most of us have a pretty good idea of what it means to have the Learning Switch turned on or off. It is an actual change in the way your brain is working. You become more alert and you find yourself interested, suddenly grasping what you couldn’t understand before or being able to do something you couldn’t do before. - Anat Baniel (student of Moshé Feldenkrais) in “Kids Beyond Limits”
The ability to ‘learn how to learn’ is a big advantage you have as an adult. It means that you don’t always have to wait until you stumble upon success, but you can direct your efforts consciously and in a smart way - thus speeding up your learning process and get more easily through plateaus and frustrations.
There is once concept that I found quite profound in this regard.
Ballet can be so incredibly intimidating.
Especially when you start out as an adult. You have to not only learn the technical and artistic side of it - but also sort of “decode” the whole ballet party. Like: Knowing class etiquette. How to stand in pictures. What to wear. How to have conversations. Not to clap between groups during exercises. And so on. Being late to the party means you’re breaking into this whole world of rituals, traditions, manners, conventions, old networks and relationships. You’re basically learning a new language (even literally).
The front split is probably one of the most desired milestones for adult ballet dancers.
And there are probably just as many opinions and stretching recommendations for it as there are ballet websites on the Internet.
So here is to one more!
Basically, I want to add to add to the richness of split knowledge from the perspective of someone who:
started ballet at age 37, and not very flexible
was not born flexible, nor flexible as a child - and I never did any siginificant, deep stretching until my late thirties
Learning something new as an adult can often feel like you are just not smart/talented/coordinated enough to ‘get it’. Especially with something perfectionist like ballet, it can feel like only a few naturally graceful adults can expect results (those who won the genetic lottery, or who did gymnastics or figure skating as a child), while the rest of us has to settle for some sort of 50% version of it.
Alright, if you have followed my blog for a bit, then you know that I won’t give you the pleasure of indulging in this pre-neuroplasticity point of view. Hate to break the news - but we ALL are selected!