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Ballet Talk for Dancers

I make comparisons...does anybody else do that...?


Guest Giselle83

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Guest Giselle83

I'd like to hear some adult dancer's thoughts. Are you competitive? Do ever make comparisons between yourself and other students' skills? Many kids might do this, but what about adult dancers? (me being still something in between at 19yrs)

 

I know that you should never do it (that's what I was always shouted at when I started ballet classes) and concentrate into working on your own goals.

However, I have this shameful problem. I always try to be 'better' than my 'neighbour'. Meaning that during these years I have danced, I always, always made sure that my arabesque and a la seconde was little bit higher than the girl next to me. Yup, it resulted me nice strenght and good extensions too. But it's irritating me. How could I stop doing this? :-( I compare myself especially into girls that I know have been dancing same amount of time than I am. Of course other girls who have danced more are better than me, to them I dont mind making comparisons.

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Giselle - maturity!

 

We all try to compare and contrast our skills with others, we all like to outdo, outdance, out shine anyone.

 

What happens when you get older is that you realize that it does nothing but stroke your ego, which is o.k. for assisting you to work harder, but unhealthy at some point where it is excessive and leaning into the vanity arena.

 

It is a tendency for most humans to want to be the best, to be on top, but when we get older, especially in ballet, we don't have the baggage of worrying about getting into some hot company, plus we have a full life with other things to worry about. For many adults, we tend to transfer our one-upsmanship to our children or our careers.

 

It is really unhealthy behavior ultimately, what is better to focus on and much saner is knowing that you are pushing your potential to its own maximum - you are a unique individual and comparing yourself to what another can do or could do is not helping you grow one bit. It is better to do a check of your own potential and ask yourself if you are really making it blossom to its maximum capacity. It should not matter how you compare to others, other than to see if you are learning at their level - for your OWN information.

 

Be aware that this feeds your need for approval and ego strokes when someone says how much better, how much higher, how much more wonderful you are in comparing you with someone else, and this is a prescription for future unhappiness and leads to personal unfullfillment when you compare yourself to others.

 

From the perspective of a 48 year old. For what it is worth, since you asked - my honest reply.

 

All the best!

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This is the old, OLd envy question -- Mama told me it was bad to resent others' good fortune but OK to wish for such things for myself....

 

In class, I've stopped wishing for better estensions, or snappier frappes, or rounder ronde de jambes than other people's -- I've moved on to wanting their standing legs and efficient spotting techniques....

 

But seriously, I do watch other people in class a lot. FOr one thing, I love to see beautiful dacning, and on days when I'm not dancing well myself, I just watch everybody else and enjoy what there is to see. Which is relaxing, and since most of my difficulties cme from too much tension, it HELPS.

 

There IS something else I can say for making comparisons-- there's a kind of emulation I can USE -- How does Susan figure out the weight transfers in petite allegro? I ask myself or how did Xiao prepare for that balance -- she made that look so easy. (I've learned a LOT from watching them solve those small problems -- from Xiao in particular I've learned, "GO THROUGH MIDDLE FIFTH if you possibly can, unless the teacher specifically set a different path for the arms.... it puts my ribs where they need to be....)

 

Trying to see if I can learn to use my HEAD like some of the dancers I admire pays off. Sometimes I actually ask them; sometimes I can see what it was they did and just incorporate it myself.

 

Teachers will set problems for you, and it helps to see how people solve them -- our great teacher Sally Streets will OFTEN set a combination the point of which is to teach you different ways of doing the same step -- the grand allegro will have 2 grand jetes -- the first one you'll need to land so you can keep going forward, the second you'll need to land on a dime, or even with your weight slightly back, so you can change direction and chasse backwards....

 

She'll also give you rhythmic problems, so if you catch the rhythm, it's actually easy to do the step... this morning she gave in hte center a tricky set of piques where there were 2 coupes in a row, so it was up down up down up down DOWN UP- if you GOT that, the steps weren't hard, well, they were hard, but they weren't SO hard... and in fact, they were fun....

 

Also this morning we had a very quick petite allegro with failli-assembles that were SO quick it helped to do the assemble almost like a brise, so you'd go to the leg in the air, which let you get up and back down in time for the next thing...

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I think a small amount of healthy competition can be a good thing, if all people in the class are on the same approximate technical level and have approximately equally good bodies for ballet. (Otherwise it can be a recipe for injury) I believe different things motivate different people and a small amount of competitiveness can make a certain type of person a better dancer by making them work extra hard. :)

 

Competition is healthy as long as it is good-natured and does not turn into envy and jealousy. If a person feels happy for somebody of their own skill level who manages to do a thing better than them, then the competition is probably healthy.

 

In my book, the amount of competition is small if it does not hinder dancing. Attention should be directed to doing things as well as possible, not to comparing oneself to others. Often also the way head is used and the direction of gaze is set in the combinations, and watching others at the expense of looking where one is supposed to be looking is seriously disruptive. :)

 

On the other hand, by seeing how others are doing we measure our own stengths and weaknesses, and are able to evaluate ourselves. We can also learn from what others are doing and corrected for. I think this is one of the reasons why we take classes, not private instruction. ;)

 

I'm not very competitive, but I have a serious (and since last week, also forbidden) love affair with the mirror. :rolleyes: I think many of the associated problems are the similar.

 

Päivi

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Admiring other dancers' strong points can even make you friends!:)

 

If you notice something that you like about the way another dancer does a temps de fleche or something, why not say so? "Say, that's really neat, how you do that step, how do you do that? Where did you learn?" The chances are VERY good that your colleague will be pleased, even flattered, and spend a little time with you, showing you something that will help you! All the while, s/he'll probably protest, "It's just something that Mme. X used to give all the time, until they about came out of our ears. I really don't do them the way she wanted them!"

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Guest Giselle83

hello! thanks for straight and honest advice!

I have many friends in class, in fact I'm friend with anybody. I always hide carefully the fact that I'm comparing myself to others.

 

I have no problem encouraging other girls, that have danced less than me, especially the younger ones or girls who have longer past in ballet. But when it comes to girls with similar training past, it's very hard to admit if they happen to do something better than me.

How could I change my motive (=be better than others) to practise really hard into more healthy motive? I feel like reaching my own goals isn't enough....

I feel so bad inside cause I'm the only soloist this spring, I feel like I achieved it in 'wrong way' :-(

Should I admit my competitive nature to my class mates? would it help anything?

 

ps. Päivi, I know your school, it is a very good one!

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it depends on your social group --

 

In Berkeley Ca, where people are pretty open about everything, the level 7 girls make jokes about getting some t-shirts printed up that would say "I'd rather be C+++++n"...

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(This is not very ballet-related any more, so moderators please delete if appropriate.)

 

I think we should not dwell on how bad we are, but instead concentrate on striving towards the good things. Most of us have a part in our personality that we do not particularly like, but we just have to learn to live with it and make the best of it. In most cases I find there is a way of turning a trait I do not like to something I can live with.

 

Päivi

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Guest Anders

I think you should enjoy the opportunity to shine as a soloist, and not worry so much about what motivated you to end up where you are. I'm afraid you'll hold back if you let your personal doubts affect your performance. Sure, your attitude may be considered imature or vain, but it got you where you wanted, so more power to you! We all have aspects of our personality that we need to work on, but you shouldn't let that deprive you of the joy of celebrating your accomplishments. You go!

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I tend o agree with Andres --

 

especially since I've just ben seeing our new version of Don QUixote in San Francisco -- bot h Kitri and Basilio are AS CHARACTERS total show-offs -- so the dancers get to unleash that side of htemselves, and hte ones who were BEST at it, and most successful, were the ones that incorporated that aspect of a dancer's motivation into their portrayals... and hte ones who were repressing themselves didn't make hte characters come to life--

 

SO I say, remember, it is good for your art to keep your emotional side be RICH in feelings, not just hte pale, nice ones -- don't let it overwhelm you, but DO let yourself feel it --

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Competitiveness is a psychological trait that is somewhat related to achievement orientation. They are not exactly the same but they tend to go hand in hand. And people vary in their competitiveness. Some of us are good at competing and enjoy it, while others could care less. Males tend to be more competitive than females too.

 

I do think competitiveness decreases with age, but am reasonably sure that competitive people remain relatively competitive throughout their lives.

 

I do think competitive people face something of a crisis when they begin taking adult ballet classes unless they just also happen to be very very good. Ballet technique is difficult to learn and acquire. And it is much easier and more efficient to learn it at a young age (to me that means teen years). So in many instances, the competitive adult beginning ballet is faced with the situation of not being very good relative to others in the class. This is a major problem for competitive people because competitive people tend to avoid situations where they are almost sure to lose or which they perceive that they lose. Consequently, competitive people tend to quit, taking on some other endeavor for which in their minds they are more suited.

 

Personally, I think the competitive adult ballet student needs some type of strategy to survive this sure crisis in his or her mind. That and a certain amount of foolish stubbornness to continue. I think the first step in developing a strategy is to at least recognize your competitive nature and its likely consequences. Beyond that, we have our own strategies.

 

I admit to being competitive in nature. I’ve evolved a strategy for dealing with that competitiveness. It has kept me going for many years now and I can honestly say that my enjoyment constantly increases despite being an absolute klutz. But inside I still would like to be the most skilled person in class.

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Dear Garyecht,

 

WOuld you kindly reveal (at least some of) your strategy for dealing?

 

It would be interesting, and maybe even helpful to me -- I absolutely agree with your assessment about the difficulties for adult beginners, that was true of me ath t beginning, and pretty much still is -- Sally gave a petite allegro hat stumped me absolutely -- how MANY ways could you get it wrong, coupe on hte wrong foot...

 

It would be good to have a strategy for pulling out of a downward spiral --

 

this morning's combination was in fact SO tricky that even former professional dancers were putting their feet wrond, so I could cnsole myself by noticing that, and I've been thinking about it ever since... But what to do IN CLASS when you get out there and suddenly find that your feet don't know you.

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Paul—here is what has worked for me. I’m not recommending that anyone else follow my strategy, as I do think it is best for everyone to find his or her own.

 

1. I knew that people who learn high skill activities later in life don’t learn those activities very efficiently, so I knew in advance that I wasn’t going to be very good. So I decided to broaden my experience rather than to concentrate it. I consider myself a dancer rather than a person who does just ballet. That means right now I’m taking jazz and modern classes in addition to ballet. Turns out that I feel much better in jazz and modern than I do in ballet, so those classes feed my ego. I still either go to ballet class or practice ballet on my own 5 days a week.

 

2. I found comparisons that were more appropriate for me. Given all the people who take ballet class, it is clear that I stink. But if you consider just those people who are in my age range, I look a whole lot better. And if you consider those who are in my age range and who have my experience level, I look better yet. I feel comfortable with that group. Of course, I don’t really know a sole who is in my age range and who has my level of experience, so I am guessing a lot. The idea is to compare yourself (no matter how hard we try, we can’t completely stop comparing ourselves to someone or something) to others who are comparable to us in terms of age and experience.

 

3. I try to concentrate on improvement. I actively think about improvement and make that a focus of my practices. In a practice I will take one, perhaps two, technical points and actively concentrate on just those as I go through the various barre and center exercises. The more I focus on technical points, the less time I have to think about comparisons with others. I try to do the same in class, but find it much more difficult to do there.

 

4. This isn’t so much a strategy as it is a personality characteristic. I’m rigid by nature. I just keep going to class. And just by doing that I’ve come to accept my place relative to others. I know that no matter what I do, I am never going to be as good as the 25 year old who took ballet throughout her teenage years. I certainly would like to get to that level, but have no realistic reason for being able to get there.

 

As I said, I’m not recommending any of these things. They just happen to work for me.

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Guest Giselle83

hello! and thanks for many posts, it's been interesting to read them. While reading I understood many facts about myself. however I'm not still quite sure how to deal with this competitiveness in future. See, till about now I was considered a talented dancer, even I'm a so called 'late starter'. Yes, it has been easy to catch some basics quickly and my body is naturally very flexible and so on. BUT, after dancing 6 years, I'm not progressing anymore so fast. You can imagine whatta stupid crisis I'm having. Now I should start doing some serious work in order to get into more advanced level.

whatta complaining this post has become! However I'll try so hard to work on this competitiveness. thanks for all helpers! :-)

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