Graceful Dancers

I just read a post today about graceful dancers and it got me thinking on this interesting topic. I believe people are born with grace; however, it is how the grace is developed, which makes a true ballerina. There are many dancers that are born with grace, but they do not know how to use their quality to their advantage and fullest. The best ballerinas are the ones that make dancing look effortless with their grace.

This post also mentioned how companies like ABT and The Royal Ballet have dancers that are “so careful”. After being able to watch both The Royal and ABT live, I agree with this statement. This carefulness all starts in the school. Many talented kids come from all over the world striving to be in that one company. They feel the only way they can have that chance is to fit the mold, be that certain companies’ “type” of dancer. These dancers lose their individuality trying to please their teachers and fit in with the other kids. Now-a-days these big name schools give report cards critiquing students’ technique-never is there a category for grace. They may feel like they are different and often times become self-critical of their talent. Some even lose their joy for dance by becoming so obsessed with being a certain type. It is not humanely possible for people to be the same, especially dance the same. In an art like ballet, dancers get it in their heads that they have to fit a specific mold in order to be accepted. Through this process, they lose unique qualities that they may have been specifically gifted with.

When I watch old videos of past ballerinas, the first quality I notice is their passion and grace. There is one dancer in particular who I saw the other day that epitomized that passion and grace so perfectly. I have never seen a dancer come close to her grace. Every detail, every movement, is filled with grace from her soul. She never had just one style, actually, she had experience with many different styles, from training in London, to dancing in Denmark and Berlin, and getting coached my French and Russian teachers, she was very well-rounded.

Another dancer whom I admire is Alina Cojocaru. She is grace in its full form. After several years mesmerizing audiences at the Royal Opera House, she moved theaters to The Royal Albert Hall to dance with The English National Ballet. In 2011, Monica Mason told Alina Cojocaru, the definition of a perfect aurora, that “her style was no longer “Royal Ballet style” and she did not want her as Aurora in the autumn run of The Sleeping Beauty”. The article in The Telegraph also tells us that Alina even doubts her own talent, “Look,” she says, “if my director calls me and says, ‘I don’t want you as Aurora because your interpretation doesn’t suit my production’, how could I respond to that? All I could say was, ‘What is wrong? Could you have come to tell me so I can work on it?’ But the decision had been made already for me not to dance.”

This rejection is not because Alina lacks talent, but because she does not suit the mold anymore. What is the mold? I find it funny how so many talented and graceful dancers leave their companies that they grew up with and trained at: Sylvie Guillem-Paris Opera, Diana Vishneva-Kirov,Alessandra Ferri-The Royal Ballet. Is it because they wanted to challenge their talent? Is it because their grace was shining beyond the mold?

Melissa Hamilton, one of the most graceful dancers I have ever seen, got rejected from The Royal Ballet School. She is now dancing many major roles as a first soloist with The Royal Ballet. Why is it that she did not get into their school then? Was her grace mistaken for weakness?

I know ballet is evolving, but let’s not lose the grace in it. What do you think makes a dancer graceful? To me grace comes from the way they use their feet, sing the music, and the way they carry themselves with elegance. Learning a style will not give a dancer grace, it is only used as a way to transcend a dancers grace. Ultimately, ballet is ballet.

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Willpower- Make it or Break it

We have the power to choose our friends, choose where we want to go, who we talk to, and what we do. Willpower is the quality that can transport us from hopeless and defeated, to confident and successful. We have the power to change our life everyday. This transformation starts with our mentality.

As we grow up, we realize that we are in charge of our own happiness. When we are little, most of our parents sign us up for every activity in the book, hoping that we will find our passion. They push us to do things we may not want to do, but their encouragement pushes us out of our comfort zone and in the end we turn out to like the one thing we thought we wouldn’t. We went into this activity having no expectations, but to possibly enjoy our time. We are older now and do not have parents or guardians signing us up for activities or encouraging us do things -they still are there for support-; it is now up to us to believe in ourselves and in our goals. Our expectations are higher and our choices seem alot harder. We wish we were young again, when the only expectation was to have fun. We now feel the pressure of time and competition. Naturally, peoples’ opinions matter more to us than ever before. We become shaped by other peoples’ and society’s standards, rather than ours.  Are we controlling ourselves, or are others controlling us?

Obviously, having willpower is easier to say then to put into action. As a dancer, I know that if we really want to pursue something in life, we must be determined and able to stand our ground no matter the circumstances. If we have the commitment and determination, we are already halfway there. We will face rejection, criticism, and discouragement, but none of that matters if we believe we can achieve. Taking that criticism and using it, will make us that much stronger. Although it is tempting to give up, people are intimidated by people who do not give in. Perseverance through an obstacle shows a real strength of character.

As a young ballerina, I face criticism everyday. There was one week where I cried everyday after my ballet classes. I am a perfectionist, which most dancers are, meaning I may take criticism or mistakes more harshly than others. Over the years, I have learned to control my feelings while being judged -the criticism made me stronger-, but I still do get quite sensitive. I have to understand that I chose a competitive field where we are judged by our body, mind, and ability. Not many make it as a professional, therefore, everyday is an opportunity to improve and prove your talent. There is not alot of support in the classroom, because everyone is fighting for the same job or role. The pressure put on a ballet dancer is so high that many talented dancers quit because they feel they do not have the mental strength to succeed. I believe this mindset is a universal reason for why people give up. Of course, if what we are doing affects our well being, than maybe it is time to find something new.

However, there are ways to change our perspective. When I feel stuck in the same routine, frustrated with my slow progression, I try to think of one thing I want to work on and think about in each class. Maybe it is to listen to the music more, or work on the expression of my face. There is so much already to think about in ballet, putting an emphasis on one aspect in particular, can really help me get more out of classes. I find when I get hard on myself my progression slows down because my mind is already at a place of defeat. How can we improve, if our mind is telling ourselves, we can’t? Know that everyone is capable of being better. We may not see results everyday, but the betterment is happening, because we are putting in the effort to make it. Do not be scared of the challenge, but face it and push through. No one becomes successful by shying away from risks. You have willpower; use it!

This can go for anything. Perhaps we are getting frustrated with the way things are going in our math class. We are studying hard, but still failing the tests. The temptation of giving up is looking better and better. We have the willpower to change our attitude. Talk to the teacher, ask for extra credit or advice. This shows determination to succeed and the will to do anything to get there. What teacher wouldn’t like a student who puts in the extra effort? Sometimes the teacher will be no help and leave it up to us to find the solution to our problems. This means slow down and observe ways in which our study habits can improve. Being patient with progression is part of the journey, as long as we are trying to progress, we will get there. Do not rush or get frustrated, that will only hold ourselves back.

Finding our inner willpower will help us to accomplish our goals. Learning from others will help us grow, but also learning from ourselves, because we know ourselves best. Do not wait for others’ approval or praise; we do not have time for that. We do have time to give them advice on our success! We need to take the initiative to make our desires come true. If we want to be successful at something, then we can do it! We are already one step there by putting it in our mind, now we must take action.