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Ballet Talk for Dancers

going backward


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In short—yes. And I think that pretty much applies to every person. I always called it “dancer’s depression.” Some relevant points:


1. Development isn’t linear. By that I mean you just don’t constantly improve. You improve, you regress, you stay the same. With persistence and patience over the long haul, you improve, but in the short term you can be in any of these mini-cycles.


2. Personally, I believe these mini-cycles are independent of what you do. Your body seems to decide what cycle you are in, and there is little you can do to influence it. Patience and persistence are the only things that work.


3. Knowing how development works is helpful in that you know that some bad times are bound to come. Consequently, they are easier to shake off mentally. It also helps to have a strategy. My strategy for ballet, was always to concentrate on modern or jazz for a while, until I seemed to come out of my ballet funk. Always thought that was a big advantage to doing more than just ballet. Change in emphasis is often good for the mind at least.


4. Eventually you are going to hit a pretty much permanent plateau as far as development is concerned. After about 8-10 years of study, from a technical perspective, your improvements are gong to be miniscule. I think you can continue to develop artistically, or in terms of enjoyment and fulfillment, but at a raw skill level you are just about done.

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Not to mention that the more you learn in ballet, the more your eyes are opened. I find sometimes my rate of absorbing what I should be doing will out-pace my correct execution... so things I thought I was doing correctly a while back have been revealed as incorrect and I feel like have I back-slid down a mountain.

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onyx, have been meaning to respond to you. In short, yes, I'm sure we've all been there. Part of the trouble is as nicoal says, that the more we learn about ballet, the more we realise we are *not* doing. It's a perfectionists art. But also, as garyecht says, improvement is simultaneously cyclical and synchretic. And then once you get something, you think 'yes' only to realise that it's not yet consistent - something else to add to the list of things to keep working on. But really, and one of the hardest things for me to keep in mind, is that improvement in ballet often happens in baby steps. It's really easy not to notice the little things we are doing better, or we have corrected, etc. Sometimes, I try to remind myself - even if I've just fallen out of all my turns or something - that it's okay, because I was spotting better or my shoulders weren't as tense or whatever... you know? I'm rambling (as usual...), but sending you big hugs!

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I've felt like this before. My teacher told me once that I had a good class. I looked at her and said...."but i feel like Im just getting worse." She explained that in fact I was improving because I was now aware what I was doing wrong. Once you obtain more knowledge and you have a better "eye" for ballet you realize how "bad" you used to look. Your mind is also ahead of your body and kinda gets it before you body does. The way I look at it is like...."well...I feel like I look worse...that must mean that I'm not far off from really improving."

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It is a natural progression that as you study more, your standards rise (sometimes disproportionately :shrug: ). At first you might have been satisfied to 'get the step'; now you expect to 'do the step well'.


I am always admonishing my students (youth, pre-pro & adults), "I am not telling you to lower your standards, but don't show me your disappointment while you are dancing..." :shrug:

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Whatever you do , don't walk away. You loved ballet enough to be a serious student before, and enough to come back to class. It is a part of your life and even( and I am not saying that is the case)if you do not reach your former level, you will still miss it if you leave. I feel the same way a lot- I have taken class since college and even tho I was never considered an advanced student in any way, I know I use t o do things better then too- I remember when I used to turn like it was nothing , I had ballon, my jumps were higher and I was just better all the way around. ( now I am having problems with brises, when before they were nothing to do). If your teacher said you have leveled off, it might just be that you have only leveled off for now- you may still see improvement as time goes on.

And even if you don't, enjoy the dancing for itself. No matter how bad I do in class, I just keep at it. I would never give it up.

Edited by onyx
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Pink tights, it's sometimes so misfortunate to have had a previous ballet "career" to compare ourselves to because we can be so critical of ourselves. I know it can be difficult , because I myself can be hard on myself, but try and enjoy ballet just for the sake of doing it and not for reaching a standard of perfection that is so frustrating. One has to be able to accept the "not so perfect" consistently and at the same time not let the realization of it keep them from working on it. Know it's not the perfect ideal but enjoy doing it anyways while you're working on it. Otherwise, you'll let the frustration get the best of you and get burned out. Don't give up!


I'm lucky in that I started ballet as an adult so I have nothing to compare myself to. But...everytime I see myself in the mirror I still recall when I was so slim...If I could only fit in those pre-baby clothes from college! See, we all do it to some extent.



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And let's face it, after a few classes, ballet's more interesting than aerobics! :D

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As a late starter, i know about these cycles as garyecht puts it :yes:


Also being a perfectionist does not always help but does give us the challenge we desire.

Sometimes i feel so insecure about how i might look - then i try to convince myself that its probably not half as bad as i imagine :blushing:


Other times its all great and i know and understand what im doing is right and even good occaisionally - for a late starter anyway!!


Somehow no matter how badly class goes i come away feeling refreshed, happy and more determined not to make the same silly mistakes the next time :P

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Try to simply enjoy ballet. Don't worry about your progress and you will surprise yourself in class :yes:

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I know several retired professional dancers that now teach, and keep saying they want to go back to class but always add the "but I have to get in shape first ' or "I don't know if I could do it anymore". These are the same people who demonstrate steps and combinations in the classes they teach and you can imagine how well they do them. I think it is the same thing with them that is with us to an extent - that they will compare what they can do now to what they could do when they were dancing professionally and are even more afraid than we are to go back to class. Which is really sad, because they must still really love ballet and we could all learn so much from watching them in class.

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