Tips for the Overwhelmed

Ballet is a complicated thing.  That’s what makes it so beautiful.  Plus, there’s a lot of pressure to get better – friends with ear-high extensions and quadruple pirouettes, competition with amazing feet and crazy flexibility.  And then there’s your teachers, who go around every day and tell you what you’re doing wrong.  Life is crazy when you’re doing ballet.

There are so many things to think about during class.  I recently wrote up a spreadsheet of all of the corrections I have gotten just in March that I wrote down in my notebook.  There were 183.  WOAH!

So, the purpose of this blog post is to help keep you from getting overwhelmed with all of these things to think about.  Let’s get right into it.

Strategy: Goal setting

One way to get around this is to set a goal and work towards it deliberately.  It’s actually more similar to setting a focus point, which we’ll talk about next.

If you have a goal, say, to do a triple pirouette this week, the process of achieving that goal is going to go down the following way:

  1. Recognize the goal, write it down, and get it in your brain.  It’s really easy to totally forget about your goal once you’re actually in class and dancing, so that’s why it’s always helpful to write them down.
  2. Make it specific.  Go for something easily achieveable but out of your comfort zone.  For example, a goal of mine could be to not come down off pointe during my double pirouettes en pointe.  A double pirouette is something I can do, and something in the curriculum for my pointe class, but it is still something I can work on further.
  3. Do some conditioning and adjust your routine.  Research a little bit to find out what kinds of exercises will help with whatever your goal is.  Add them to your exercise regimen for the week and don’t skip them.  The beauty of it is, at the end of the week, you can totally cut them out.  But, if they help you, you can keep them in!  It’s really flexible.
  4. Do some more research.  Watch some good YouTube videos and read some good blog posts (ahem.)  The more tips you can collect on whatever you’re trying to achieve, the better it will go.  Maybe there’s one key visual you haven’t found yet, or one exercise that will totally save you.  Go research!
  5. Practice, practice, practice.  So, the week has begun and it’s time for you to achieve your goal.  First, focus on the components of the step at barre.  For a triple pirouette, focus on your balances, the strength of your ankles and calves, and the plié that you use. (is it robotic? stiff?)
  6. From there, move onto the step itself.  If everything at barre is coming along nicely and you’re feeling confident, go ahead and try it.  Now you can find the specific things that you’re messing up.  It’s easier to find what’s going wrong when you’ve examined the components.
  7. Reflect.  At the end of the week, jot down your goal and what you thought about the process in your ballet journal.  Did it go well?  Not so well?  A learning curve?

Here’s an example of this entire process as a goal for achieving triple pirouettes:

  1. Wrote “This week’s goal: Triple pirouette” in my notebook.
  2. Made sure that I could still do a triple pirouette and it wasn’t impossible, it was just a little bit out there and not in my comfort zone.
  3. I looked up hamstring exercises and calf strengtheners.  I did these in my warm up routine every day along with a spotting exercise.
  4. I watched Kathryn Morgan’s “Improving Pirouettes” YouTube video and read the blog post on Goulet Ballet.  I then wrote down all of the information and thought about it.
  5. I practiced balancing in retiré and examined my plié at barre until I felt confident I had the components down.
  6. When I started the turns, I realized that my arms go further down than they did at barre.  That pulled my chest forward and threw me off my leg.  I did it again and it felt much better.  I did a triple.
  7. I wrote down in my notebook how I thought it went – really good!  I learned a lot and examining the components helped me realize what I was doing wrong.

So, we just went through the entire process of setting and achieving a goal.  Now, how does this relate to being overwhelmed and solving the problem?

Goals focus your attention on a step and its components.  It’s not so specific, if you do the process correctly, that you can only focus on one thing and you’re overwhelmed during everything else.  The many components of the step make the goal much more versatile.

Strategy: Setting a focus point

As I said earlier, these two strategies are pretty similar.

A focus point is a group of corrections that you focus in on.  Instead of a certain step and its components, as in a goal, you will focus on your placement throughout all combinations or your turnout.  Another example would be to focus on being all the way over the ball of your foot.  Again, they are versatile things that give you something to think about during all of the combinations.

With either of these strategies, it’s important that you aren’t so focused on your goal or focus point that you forget to accept and practice other corrections that your teachers give you.  Still be versatile and flexbile.

Thanks for reading!  See you on Wednesday.

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