Every Saturday, I often passed by a studio filled with ballerinas. With a coffee at my right hand, I would sit at the bench near the side entrance and watch them do their routine. Clad in old leotards, threadbare tights, torn leg warmers and tight bun, these dancers would start with the basic relevés in first position and branch off from there. Somehow watching them makes me feel like I-am-truly-dancing. The way they glide across the stage in a series of graceful leaps and powerful spins and the way they make dance look effortless, literally took my breath away.
Feeling the elation of watching the dance movements, my hands finally found its right position. With a pen and a journal, I began scribbling words, phrases and ideas that at first are absurd. It goes on and on like pirouette movement; swirling in circles, blending in with the music and creating illusion of splendor until it finally makes sense.
Here are life lessons from a ballet class.
As soon as the ballet master enters the room and claps his/her hands shouting “PLACES”, ballerinas line up and get into their toes to start with their routine. Four hours more and it is the same movement they are practicing. Obviously, discipline is not only their way of enduring things but a strong yearning to meet and obtain the desired results. It means learning to focus, using critical thinking skills and working hard to get the combinations of exercises and routines to create sequence. The reality that ballet is so precise, demanding and hard is also the reality that pushes them to hours and hours of practicing and perfecting their craft without a single complain. Taking a cue in from it, dancers’ discipline is a perfect example of learning how to lead our lives. Throughout history, we always find that discipline has been the common denominator of those who achieved anything worthwhile and meaningful in life. It is also the common ground of ordinary people who have achieved astounding levels of success. Discipline is like the defining fire that shape and mold people to be successful. Though most people think that discipline is about punishing oneself, I see it in a different light. I think it is having the wisdom to live life the way it should be by defining your goals, training your mind to go through with what you start doing and focusing on the life you really want. It may not be easy but I guess suffering the pain of discipline is better than suffering the pain of regret and disappointment. As one saying goes, “No life ever grows great until it is focused, dedicated and disciplined”.
2. GRACE UNDER PRESSURE
It is grace that makes every movement, every performance, and every little nuance of the ballet absolutely exquisite. And it is also grace that gives courage to ballerinas to do the most complex dance sequences and combinations with seamless joy after a nasty fall. Yes, I am talking about grace under pressure. I have seen a lot of major on-stage-mishaps and I can’t help but admire ballerinas as they get up on their toes and continue to dance like ‘the mishaps’ did not happen at all. ‘Nasty fall’ is a brutal sin in the dance world but I am pretty sure that what most people recount is not how dancers fall but how they stood up and danced their way to the end. Because life is not always happy and joyful and sometimes things go out of our control and turn really ugly, the importance of grace under pressure cannot be underestimated. Though it may not be taught overnight, little by little it can be learned. Instead of panicking, we could take a deep breath, think clearly, never give up and stay at the top of our game. We could also think ‘neutralize’ by moving on, focusing on the opportunity ahead and working on what is really important. Sometimes, we think too much of how we are screwed up and how badly we were hurt (I am not an exemption to this). But screwing up is not the real deal, our reaction and how we deal with our so-called nasty-fall is what matters most. Like what all ballet master says “keep movin’ …. keep moving”- somehow it makes sense.
Dedication takes passion, and talent manifests passion. When we see ballet dancers we see from the start that they are incredibly dedicated to their craft. They are full of passion and love of the art form. Their passion is the compelling force that draws them to practice more, to quickly translate verbal and visual instructions into most exquisite dance performances, to be creative and to excel. It consumes them, defines them and continues to redefine them. Knowing your passion is like knowing your purpose and meaning. It is navigating the virgin territories of your life, finding your calling and exploring it to reach your potential. I guess passion is found when work, commitment, and pleasure all become one and nothing seems to be impossible. Seek your passion and you will be surprise of how it defines you.
Ballet dancers are flexible not just in body but also in mind. Because they deal with a lot of changing rules and structures and ballet teachers constantly revise their choreography to suit a theme and music, large chunks of flexibility are required to adapt to their ever-changing situations. Like us, we live in an environment that constantly changes. Constant development is the law of life. So the ability to bend but not break, to twist and turn but not be tied is what we should acquire as we go on with our journey. Life is fast paced and rapidly changing. What was cool yesterday might be lame and stupid today. Sparkling new and shiny is just a day away from old and rusted. Everything is bound to change so we must adapt to life’s moments and be prepared for changes because there is more to come.
5. TEAM PLAYERS
Ballet is never a solo event. It is a collective and collaborative effort of dancers and of team players. Notice how dancers rely on their peers for support, feedback and advice and how they usually feed off the energy of those around them and school each other on the correct technique and movement. They set aside their personal goals and differences and find common ground to achieve more. Knowing how to be a team player is one of the valuable traits we have to learn to be successful in work or whatever field of endeavor we may take, simply because no man is an island and no one is self-sufficient. Remember, team work allows common people to attain uncommon results. Who wants to be uncommonly well? Be a team player.
Probably, the senseless combination of words and the absurd linking of thoughts must have made sense after all. Here comes my sister. What an amazing show.