Jump to content
Ballet Talk for Dancers to close ×
Ballet Talk for Dancers

Keeping ambition and perfectionism in check

Recommended Posts

Okay, I am really struggling to maintain a balanced perspective in ballet lately. You know how their are people in church who sing out of key and don't know it and they just seem happy as a lark? Sometimes I wish I could pursue ballet with just a little bit of that ignorance. What is so annoying is that I know that I don't know, and I can't seem to get it. I have the determination of a runner which really gets me in trouble sometimes. Ballet technique is just so aloof to me, even after 2 1/2 years. It makes it difficult for me to know whether or not I should just use my determination to continue taking basic classes to work as correctly as my body will allow me, or if I should just accept things I just can't seem to change and go on to the next level. I know that there is probably middle ground somewhere in this.


I just have a hard time setting a plan and sticking to it over a longer period of time, especially if I don't know I will actually get the intended result. I also need to consider other areas of my life, keeping my expectations reasonable about ballet. I just want to set a plan in place that really works over the long haul. This becomes difficult because I have been given permission to take more advanced classes at my school, but I am just not sure if I am ready for them although I have participated in all of them. The fundamentals just don't seem to be their for me to work properly although some classes fundamentals more than others.


On a better note, I have also been given permission to take the level 4 class with the pre-teens. The teacher is a master teacher, absolutely amazing. I am gaining confidence in her class because of repetition. I intend to take five classes/week. The level four class is at my level. What should I do with the other four classes if I really want a strong foundation. Should I continue to take 2-3 classes below my level? Sorry for ranting but any encouragement would be welcome.

Link to comment

What you wrote struck a chord with something my primary teacher once said.


Basically she said that (these are not her exact words; I can't remeber them any more :) ) in ballet you cannot wait for the basics/fundamentals/technique to be perfect in any one thing before moving on to do more difficult material, because they will never be perfect. Even the star professionals are not technically perfect. (although they are very, very good)


I understood this to mean that repetition is necessary to master something in ballet, but also that there will be a point of disminishing returns for that repetition - and later after that, a point of neglible returns. For continued progress, new impulses are necessary when the old ones cease to stimulate.



Link to comment

I find that technique continuously 'clicks' into place in my body and my brain. Since starting ballet nearly ten years ago I can now do some things without thinking but others still require a lot of concentration and my body still won't do what my mind knows it should be doing. It is frustrating, but it's also rewarding when you do accomplish a bit of technique, and can then wonder why it seemed so difficult in the first place.


It's also much better to dance 'out of tune' but with confidence, than to be too nitpicky about getting it right all the time.

Link to comment

When I clicked on your thread I thought it would be something that I have been struggling with lately--aggravation that I am not progressing faster. I have enough stress in my life from college without being stressed about ballet too, but, I am a perfectionist by nature and sometimes I can't enjoy ballet for what it is--a wonderful break from studying and homework and instead just see what I can't do instead of appreciating what I can do. I have tried to make a conscious decision to not let ballet be a source of stress in my life; it is easier said than done, though, especially when a career dancing is my dream career from childhood.


Your teacher saying that you are ready to move up to the next level tells me that you are ready for the level 4 classes. You sound like you don't feel ready. So, I would take a few lower classes, and a few level 4 classes, each week until you feel like the lower classes aren't doing enough for you, then gradually go into just level 4 classes. This could take years or months--it is all up to you. You can progress at your own pace. Sometimes I enjoy taking a lower class, because you can really focus on placement/turnout/carriage of the arms/etc., and think less about remembering the combination. I also like taking a lower class because there is less pressure, and you can be the "star student" that does everything very well! :wacko:

Link to comment

The beauty of dance is you always have another chance to do better. That chance is tomorrow. You must believe that you can always dance better tomorrow. Then work carefully and systematically to do so. Over time, you WILL dance better, and there's no need to worry about how things are working today. The key is getting on a good path of consistent improvement. 2.5 years is not very long.

Link to comment
Guest Dancing Duranie

As long as the perfectionism isn't taking over your life I wouldn't worry about it. We all have things that drive us. For me, one of those things is the desire for perfection. Sometimes, and it is extremely hard for me to do this, I just have admit that it's a state that will most likely not be achieved by me......not just in ballet, but in life in general. I don't like to admit this and spend most of my time trying to deny it. :green:


Let's just put it this way, none of my co-workers know anything at all about my medical condition. But they've all picked up on it and made remarks about it. It is that noticable. If you get to that point.........then you've got a problem finding the balance between the ambitious side of yourself and the side seeking out perfection.


Also, it is a futile exercise to try to introduce a long-term plan into one's life. I tried to do that for many, many years. Now I make short-term, attainable goals, and feel a great sense of accomplishment after achieving them. I came back to ballet with all these grand ideas of what I wanted to accomplish by May. I have now revised that plan to what I want to accomplish during tomorrow night's class. Perhaps setting short term goals would be better than trying to put something long-term into place. Say like, "instead of setting 'x' long-term goal for myself, my goal for the next month of classes is to work on turnout, or placement issues, or turns, or jumps, etc." At the end of the month sit back and evaluate how well you achieved what you set out to do at the beginning. Say your goal was to really get the barre exercises down pat and to feel comfortable doing them. At the end of the month........have you met that challenge? Then for the next month make another goal........to really work on your pirouettes and do good, solid singles on both legs. Then evaluate. If you suceeded, great! If not, then you have pinpointed a weak area which needs more time devoted to it. Does this make sense?


Anyways, hope I helped a little. :(

Link to comment

Thank you all for your feedback. I believe I am beginning to gain a rhythm that works for me again. It is interesting how challenges in other areas of life tend to exacerbate my perfectionsm. Ballet becomes stress when other areas of my life become stressful. I have been in the process of making a big decision regarding transferring to another doctoral program. Ambition and over-compensation tend to be my default defense mechanisms when I am dealing with difficult life decisions.


I am learning that, paradoxically, ballet becomes more meaningful to me when it becomes less to me, when it takes its rightful place in my life. When it becomes too important, when I stake too much of my personal value in it, I become a slave to it and my life is miserable.


I have so much to dance about in life - a wonderful boyfriend, great friends, purposeful work, a meaningful relationship with my God. Dance is a celebration of life when I am able to keep it in perspective.


The challenge at my school is that, as others have mentioned regarding their struggles, there are few classes at my level. The intermediate classes assume you danced growing up and the basic class never progresses past the first year.


I am only able to take the level four class one day a week, so I have decided to work on the things I learned in the level 4 class in the basic class 2-3 days/week, spending 10 minutes after class to work on new vocabulary and adding beats to the jumps during the class. Beyond that, I have the option of taking the level 5 class with the teenagers or the adult intermediate class or a combination of these. Although the adult intermediate class is too advanced for me, I am going to take it because I am learning a great deal about placement and alignment in that class. I will save the level 5 class for a few years down the road.


Thanks again for your feedback.

Link to comment
I am learning that, paradoxically, ballet becomes more meaningful to me when it becomes less to me, when it takes its rightful place in my life.


I am, incidentally, feeling exactly the same at the moment.

Link to comment

Being a reformed perfectionist myself, I have come to understand that there is a big difference between the general pursuit of excellence and being perfectionistic. Sometimes people say perfectionism helps you perform better. Here's my take on it:


Perfectionist: Have difficulty accepting their own failings and are hyper critical of themselves and others. They are generally unhappy if situations and performances are not ideal and can't enjoy themselves in the midst of that starck reality. Mistakes are seen as failures and a source of frustration and corrections as a criticism. Seeing areas that need work creates situations of greater and greater frustration and leads to a general lack of motivation. Their own growth is not calculated by the small improvements made (because they may not even see them ) but by their judgement of their ability against what their perfect ideal is.


Pursuers of Excellence: Have a vision of what the ideal is and practice attaining to it despite possible repeated shortfalls. Mistakes are seen as opportunities and windows to possible new growth. Corrections are seen as helpful gifts because they provide those new opportunities. They can enjoy themselves even if they are not perfect because it is not just about the being good but about the striving towards excellence. The joy of the pursuit is intrinsic to their continuing their efforts to improve, along with seeing that their improvements are expressed in an ever increasingly artful way.



Personally, I'm about half and half. I'm kind of hard to be with when I'm having a grouchy perfectionistic day but I dance better on the other days when I can laugh at myself and get up and try it again. Believe me, though, I've had a hard cry in the wings when I goofed up my perfect dance, got mascara all over my white apron. I needed someone kinder to me than I was to myself to help me get over it. Ballet is not for the weak in heart! :shrug:

Link to comment
Guest Dancing Duranie

Egads! I'm about half and half too, spinbug. I used to be totally perfectionist. I was actually diagnosed 4 1/2 years ago with obsessive compulsive disorder though, so that explains a few things in my case. :shrug: I take medication twice a day and have been doing well. I still have my days too, though, where if the least little thing goes wrong it will send me into a tizzy. Like today......everything was fine until around 4:45pm at work. Then I noticed dust on my computer monitor. Everywhere. I flipped and went on a psycho little cleaning spree during my last 15 mins. of work. :blushing:


And then I have my days like yesterday where in ballet class I was really relaxed and totally into it and not even caring about the mistakes I made. When I feel on my tush during a pirouette I started cracking up laughing at myself.


What was the difference between yesterday and today? Only the chemicals in my brain seem to know.............. :shrug:

Link to comment

spinbug, what you said makes a lot of sense and I think we'd many of us do so much better if we remembered the difference and tried to emphasize the pursuit of excellence more. I know I would, at least.

Link to comment

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...