Monday, October 29, 2012

Life lessons from ballet class: It's not how you look, it's how you dance!

We all do it to some extent: you walk into that adult ballet class, look around for an unoccupied space at the barre, and notice the other people warming up while you make inner assessments of who "looks like a dancer."

"That woman in front of me, with her sleek French twist and sinewy arms, is surely a brilliant dancer. The one to my right – I sneak a look at her as I stretch out over my legs – is arching her back, and between her shoulder blades I can see the tiny bumpy ballet muscles sitting just under the skin. I feel instantly intimidated, and make a mental note not to stand next to her at the barre. Comparison is the thief of joy, and if I dance next to these women, I’m going to get mugged."

But this wonderful article by Chloe Angyal sums up the honest truth: looks can be deceiving and simply because someone does or doesn't "look like a dancer" doesn't mean a thing once the music starts and the bodies of all shapes, sizes, and ages start moving.

"In the classes I take in New York, there are women who are shaped like dancers, all lean and long and willowy. When they walk into the studio, my instinct is to feel instantly intimidated. But then they start moving, and they’re totally outclassed by the chubby woman next to them. She doesn’t look like a dancer, but she has ten times the grace and strength they do."

If you or anyone else you know has felt intimidated or uncomfortable with the idea of trying a ballet class or any other dance/exercise class, this article states what many of us in the grown-up ballet community know from our own experience: it's not what you look like, it's how you move and how you feel.  One of the most naturally beautiful movers I have ever seen in an amateur dance class was a middle-aged woman who otherwise would never be mistaken for a dancer; she was nearly completely invisible until she started to dance, and then no one in the room could take their eyes from her...she had that intangible ability to transform through her movement. Models look stylish when they are posed artfully and statically in front of gorgeous backdrops after hours of professional styling, but a dancer can look fluid, graceful, and otherworldly simply by moving across the floor of a stark empty room in her practice clothes regardless of her age, height, weight, build, body shape, skin color, hairstyle, etc. if she has movement quality and embodies the inner joy that dance seems to impart.

Angyal also extends this lesson from ballet class and challenges us all to examine how we make assumptions about a person's appearance, our own included:

"We live in a culture where body size and shape are considered indications not just of what a person can do, but what he or she is worth. We see a slender woman and see discipline and fitness. We see a fat woman and see greed and illness. It’s a snap judgment we make, one we rarely stop to evaluate. It’s also often wrong. 
The truth is, you can’t know much about a person just by looking at them. You can't know much until you let them dance."

Read the entire article's a good one:

Happy dancing and enjoy the movement :)