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The hardest aspect of being a ballet dancer

Ballet is a constant quest for perfection. It involves a delicate balance between the athletic and the artistic and demands discipline and dedication.

The hardest aspect of being a dancer for me is ‘letting go’. I find it challenging to lose control and completely surrender to the movement.

Classical ballet technique requires constant analysis and concentrated bodily awareness. Every position is precise; each step is structured in a specific way. Ballet has to look easy but it requires both physical and mental exertion. Those who study ballet are tasked with learning and demonstrating correct placement – which is difficult – and remembering and executing demanding routines. Yet, as tough as ballet is, as dancers we must always make it appear effortless.

No matter how good your technique is, if you do not trust yourself and cannot ‘let go’ you will never push yourself enough to achieve your full potential. A tendency to over-think can inhibit me in ballet class. I have learnt the importance of throwing caution to the wind and just ‘going for it’ but it remains a struggle some days.

Dancing represents freedom to me in the sense that, when I am in class, it is all I have to think about. Still, achieving total liberation is hard. Sometimes, multiple pirouettes or the very fastest allegro (jumping) sequences do not go as well as they could – and I know it is because I am thinking too much.

A desire to do my very best, a determination to improve and a yearning to learn as much as possible means I can get frustrated with myself if I do not feel I have succeeded. We learn by practising and the repetitive, focused nature of ballet class appeals to my fairly academic persona. Still, ballet has taught me that I can do my best without over-thinking things.

My very best dancing is evident when my head is clear and I just enjoy the moment for what it is – I love the ‘empty-headedness’ I get when I can just immerse myself in an intense ballet class!

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