The Beauty of Ballet:
5 Life Lessons
By Shannon Asher
Photo by Rosalie O’Connor
Ballet is a funny thing. It takes a very patient individual to respond to ballet’s precision and discipline, mastering the relentless repetition of positions and combinations. Understanding and appreciating ballet takes time; it takes passion. For those longing for the barre, Craig Black, veteran Aspen Santa Fe Ballet company member, holds an open-level adult ballet class where you’ll get more than just ballet instruction. For us mere mortals, ballet is a metaphor for life. Here is our list of the top five life lessons learned from ballet class.
1. When your world is spinning, focus on one thing.
In ballet, it’s called “spotting.” In life, it’s called “surviving.” When it’s impossible to keep your balance, keep your eyes focused ahead. You might just stay on your feet. When the work load or competition seems overwhelming, focus on improving one thing at a time. It is better to put your energy towards completing one task perfectly, as opposed to doing three tasks half-heartedly. Giving up and getting dizzy will get you nowhere.
2. The importance of finishing a task
Ballet can be extremely frustrating and daunting at times. The perseverance required to stick with the repetition of a ballet class is what sets one dancer apart from another. Ballerinas don’t have the opportunity to start a combination and then give up halfway through. Whether one feels confident in the steps or not, they must execute the combination to the best of their ability with a smile on their face until the music ends. Create a habit of finishing everything you start.
3. Listen intently. Constructive criticism is crucial.
Sometimes listening is more important than sharing. It is important to know when to speak and when to listen. Ballet dancers hang on to every word and every correction their teachers offer, trusting in their authority. Not receiving corrections in ballet class is considered an insult. The moment teachers stop giving corrections is the moment they stop caring. Ballet class is a wakeup call that we are not perfect and that is perfectly okay. Being “present” and hearing what others have to say is a vital life skill that fosters teamwork.
4. Take many steps. It’s the little things.
It’s not going to all come together at once. Just like ballet, things take time. The more steps you take, the better the results will be. A student can’t expect to become a prima ballerina by taking a few classes a week. Showing up is not enough. Putting in the overtime will pay off in the long run when the time comes to hit the stage for your big moment.
5. Smile through it.
In the ballet world, bad days are no excuse. It is expected of every student to leave their baggage at the door and walk into the studio with a smile and a positive attitude. Reassuring rituals rooted deep in a ballet class will stimulate the mind to move towards the next step in the routine. Barre to floor, slow to fast, flat to pointe, ending in a deep curtsy to the teacher to show respect and gratitude.