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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Combating Frustration


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Weirdly, I've always been known as somebody who is one of the "smarter" people around me at school, taking honors classes and picking things up fast and such, and, until I met dance, most things came relatively easily to me.


For whatever reason, all that "intelligence" goes away once I get to the studio. I have a good memory for things the teacher says, and I learn choreography mostly pretty quickly, but It takes me much longer to physically understand technical steps and do things properly. For example, I still am barely able to do a releve to passe on pointe at the barre (I started in August) without overly relying on the barre, and am just now getting the hang of comfortable balancing in sous-sus with my arms in fifth en pointe.


I'm a late starting dancer (started at 10 years old, now almost 16), and sometimes I get very discouraged as I look around my studio. I am placed in our 6th level (of 8, but the first four are all beginner levels), which averages dancers ages 11-13. I'm four years older than most of my best friends at dance, but despite this, I'm nowhere near the best. I also take some level 5 classes to reinforce my technique, and I can definitely see that I am more advanced than most of the 5s, but most of the 6s are much better than me! I feel awkward when I watch myself dance, my arms are messy and I have no idea how to make them less so, and my flexibility and strength are not where I want them to be but I don't know how to improve beyond where I am.

I think the biggest catalyst for this current "round" of frustration began with a couple comments from girls I am less close with, who dance at my level (one is a first year 6 like me, one is a second year). The first year asked me "why is it that you are so awkward when you dance?" and later implied that we were given different expectations (she worried about getting quadruple pirouettes while my triples still aren't clean, and she still claimed to be behind "all of level 6"), and the second year "jokingly" said that (in a conversation about our respective talents) she could dance and perform, implying that I could not. Since then, I've been more aware than ever about my lack of ability as a dancer but with no resource to combat it, and I've just been getting even more frustrated with myself after every class, and as a result I can feel my self-image (especially relating to my figure and lines) suffering.



How do I stop with this being frustrated with myself and start just focusing on improving, and how to improve? Especially the awkwardness that just seems to permeate all of my dancing! I have plans this summer to very much intensify my ballet training, but that's a long time away and I don't want to go through this year disliking myself as a dancer when there are definitely things I can do (that I just don't know yet!) to improve myself.


Any tips you can give me on getting past this roadblock to focus on improvement and actually just improving would be very welcome. Thank you!

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Well, the first step is recognizing that you are allowing someone else to provide that frustration. What might be her motive there??? Hmmm. :o


I would suggest that you totally disregard remarks like hers, and focus your energy on what you need to do to improve the things you want to improve. Everyone has to learn and work at their own pace, and some things come easier to some people, and others need to work harder and take a bit more time. Getting frustrated is just a waste of energy, as the energy is going into negative thinking instead of into the work. :)


Sounds simple, and I know it's not, but, it is doable!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I am having the same exact problem right now. I started when I was 3 (10 years ago). I got en pointe sometime in February and I can't seem to do very much of anything well right now. In other words, I know your pain.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Please don't be discouraged! If it's any consolation, I can relate. Girls my age in my studio (I don't go there anymore, but still refer to it as my studio) are moving onto bigger and better things, while I'm stuck with os trigonum in both ankles and no solid way to fix it yet. I've always been behind with my weak and flat feet, but I've learned to look past it.


Not all dancers are born perfect, and it's determination and your conscientiousness that gets you far!


For the awkwardness, perhaps you can get past it by observing. Understand what is the "right" or rather the not awkward way to dance. Observe your classmates, learn from them. Maybe watch youtube videos of professional dancers; I love Svetlana Zakharova's port de bras.

Strength can be worked on with pilates! Arms can be messy, or "noodley" without the strength to hold them. For this, you'd need back and arm strength. I recommend doing planks on your elbows(which can help your core too!), paying close attention to a wide back and holding it flat (meaning your shoulder blades lay flat and don't stick out).


If anything, you have to focus on yourself. I used to almost cry at the end of each day, complaining to myself and whining about how I'll never be as good as the others.


The one thing you can never forget is that you dance for yourself.


I dance because I love it, and because it's my passion, not to be better than everyone else. Spend time focusing on one thing instead of doing everything at once, work on your pirouettes for a week or a month, your arms, your plies, your head. Do abdominal exercises before bed each night (a strong core makes a better dancer!). Make it a routine! Stretch every day, breathing into your splits rather than pushing.


A dancer isn't born overnight! I wish you the best of luck! :)

Edited by katrie
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