Ballet Lessons: Fear of Falling
At LBS, I have the privilege of working with a number of really good teachers. Even though we’re doing the same basic stuff (it’s all ballet, after all), they all teach a little differently, and that means that their classes amplify one-another.
Recently, I had a class with Claire — the same really sharp teacher who stuck a finger in the middle of my chest and said, “Lift this up and forward!” and sort of instantaneously corrected a major postural fault. That solved a lot of problems for me, though I still have to work on it consciously all the time, and sometimes I even over-correct.
Somewhere around the middle of the class, after we finished a bit of across-the-flooring with a turn, Claire said to another student, “You almost went for a double there, didn’t you?” The student in question agreed that, yes, she had.
Claire then said something very much like, “You guys should always go for the double, if you feel like it. The worst thing that’s going to happen is maybe you fall over. You can either be careful and go for the single, or take a risk and go for the double and you might fall — but you might hit the double! Or, you know, you might miss it a thousand times, but then you’ll get it, and you’ll have it.”
I wish I could remember her words more exactly. The point she was making is that you’re never going to do a double pirouette until you try to do a double pirouette — and that falling isn’t that big a deal.
No matter how badly you want to do something, you’ll never succeed until you try — and you can’t let fear get in the way.
This isn’t to say that you can’t be afraid. Bravery isn’t the absence of fear — it’s being afraid and taking the leap anyway.
In the ballet studio, as in life, people fall down sometimes when they try new things. Injuries occur once in a while, but almost anything worth doing involves some degree of risk — and as far as I know, none of us have died of humiliation yet. At least not in class.
In real life, I guess people do sometimes seriously get hurt or die as the result of actual falls. However, I think the fear of falling itself does a lot more damage — the fear that makes us not get up and do the things we dream about doing.
In ballet, we address this possibility by reaching for moves that are just beyond our grasp: once we have a single pirouette nailed, we reach for a double instead of shooting for 32 fouettés right away!
The student who almost did a double pirouette in our combination went on to hit several as class continued. She looked thrilled for herself, and I think we were all thrilled for her.
In real life, we can do the same thing. If we can set aside the fear of falling, we can stretch our comfort zones a little at a time, and if we do, sometimes we’ll find that they grow by leaps and bounds.