When You Get There, Part 2

But first, Hi! And I survived Nutcracker, and it was great, and Happy New Year, and Jeez. Now, on to the next thing.

We all focus a lot on where we’re trying to go, and that’s a good thing. It’s good to allow for the possibility–even the probability–that you might wind up somewhere else entirely, but it’s pretty helpful to have a destination in mind when you set out. Also, like, a basic plan; a loose map that allows for the likelihood of dragons, uncontacted peoples, and so forth. Even if your plan is to explore uncharted waters, after all, you still have to get there somehow.

So that’s an important thing, and a good thing, and helpful up to a point. Specifically, the point at which you reach your destination, and need to move on to Phase 2 of whatever the Grand Plan is … and, curiously, there are precious few resources that explore what happens after you forge a path through whatever obstacles to reach The Far Shore.

And that, I think, represents an enormous growth area for idiots like me who write blogs about setting completely ridiculous goals and pursuing them.

As such, I present the first of my observations: when you get there, you will still be you.

If you’re socially awkward, you will still be socially awkward. If you’re shy and bad at integrating into established social groups, you’ll still be shy and bad at integrating into established social groups. If you’re a slow learner, you’ll still be a slow learner. If you’re prone to bouts of depression … well, you see where I’m going with this.

When you get there, you will still be you.

In other words, your weaknesses, your struggles, and your blind spots disembark with you on that Far Shore.

So, of course, do your strengths, your victories, and your stunning insights–but I think we all assume that anyway. Besides, our strengths are less likely to create problems for us once we Get There. We tend to visualize success, and it’s a good strategy. But, just as the classic fairy-tale ending, “…And they lived happily ever after” omits the likelihood that Cinderella, though kind and brave and all that, has no idea how to comport herself at court, visualizing the success of reaching a certain end-point (say, working for a ballet company) omits the reality of living with ourselves once we’re there.

I’ve been quiet for the past several weeks because I’ve been trying to figure how to square this circle. I remain a sensitive, shy, touchy introvert with enormous, gaping holes in his training. I still have difficulty processing spoken language. I am physically flexible, but mentally not-so-flexible. I am good at adapting to physical challenges on the fly, but not great at coming up with workarounds for more abstract problems because, ultimately, I’m not really good at thinking*.

*Boy, is that a topic for another post.

So I guess that’s my introduction to Danseur Ignoble, Phase 2: going forward, I’ll continue to explore the process of learning to be a dancer, but I’ll also examine my weaknesses as they intersect with my life as a ballet dancer. I hope that in the process, I’ll be able to reflect on my challenges and possibly brainstorm some strategies for coping with them.

As such, here’s the plan–the tentative plan, because hey, this is me we’re talking about–going forward:

On Mondays, I’ll post about a challenge I’m facing in my work that stems from my own personality: how it impacts my work, both for the worse and for the better, and how I’m dealing with it. From time to time, I’ll also check in with other dancers and creative people about similar challenges they’ve faced in their own careers (Are you reading this? Would you like to be one of my interviewees? Let me know in the comments!).

On Saturdays, unless we have a show, I’ll write about technique. If we have a show, who knows? I’ll try to make it on Sunday, but I’m more likely to sit around letting my brain leak out my ears.

The Monday posts will probably be grouped under the Ballet Lessons heading; the Saturday posts will be grouped under Technical Notes.

I will, of course, totally fail at this from time to time, but I figure having some kind of goal is better than having no kind of goal.

I’m not at all certain that any of this will help me address my challenges in helpful ways, but I figure it probably can’t hurt. And, of course, the insight that I’m still me, and that my major life challenges won’t magically evaporate just because I have somehow fumbled my way into a ballet company.

Still, reflecting does usually help, and writing helps me reflect. So here we go: off onto a new adventure. Ish.

About asher

Me in a nutshell: Standard uptight ballet boy. Trapeze junkie. Half-baked choreographer. Budding researcher. Transit cyclist. Terrible homemaker. Getting along pretty well with bipolar disorder. Fabulous. Married to a very patient man. Bachelor of Science in Psychology (2015). Proto-foodie, but lazy about it. Cat owner ... or, should I say, cat own-ee? ... dog lover. Equestrian.

Posted on 2019/01/02, in #dancerlife, adulting, adventures, ballet lessons, balllet, learning my craft, life, work and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Great blog entry! You had some quite insightful points. Youre right, no one ever talks about the part two…I hope you have a Wonderful New Year figuring things out and sharing with us on your blog! It was an enjoyable read! Best of luck on your journey from a fellow blogger and artist,

    ~lillian @ http://www.theoccupiedoptimist.com

    • Thank you! I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels like Part Two is woefully neglected ^-^’ I’m looking forward to exploring it further … and also to checking out your blog ^-^

  2. Thanks for the new post, and Happy New Year! I am such a neophyte dancer i guess my first goal is to learn how to work my way through the simplest of combinations without goofing up. My teacher scolds me for making fun of myself when i forget to close back when i close front, eg. It must be concentration, but being a complete beginner there is SO FRIGGIN MUCH to concentrate on. I keep telling myself “It Gets Better!” Cheers. Matt

    • Thanks, and Happy New Year to you! It does get better–and don’t worry, a lot of it has less to do with concentration than with wiring new motor patterns into your brain. Over time, it’ll naturally (and then your teachers will introduce new versions of steps that don’t follow the pattern ^-^’).

      In a way, learning ballet is like learning to walk all over again–your brain doesn’t have the program built up yet, but little by little it adds new information, adapting and correcting as it goes along. Just as walking comes to feel natural, eventually the basics of ballet will start to feel natural, too.

      IMO, making fun of yourself is a pretty good strategy–it sticks a mental flag in the bit you’re struggling with, but isn’t inherently negative. Just make sure you also notice what you’re doing right!

      If you haven’t done this yet, I’d recommend having a go at concentrating less during some combinations. Sometimes actively thinking gets in the way of the nascent motor patterns. Make up a little song as a mnemonic to help you remember the steps (I just mentally sing the names of the steps in time to the music), mark the steps once or twice, but when you do the combination, try to put your rational mind off to one side and just try to let your body play. If you close with the wrong foot front or do the wrong step or to the wrong direction, just slosh on to the next thing as best you can without thinking too much. It might mean doing a crazy little switch-foot or even just doing a step on the wrong leg sometimes, but it can help you get our of your own head, which is really useful where ballet is concerned.

      This might not work for you, but if it does it should help your brain strengthen its stored motor patterns so you’ll more quickly reach the place where the first basics become automatic.

      Cheers, and merde ^-^

  3. PS: I feel it’s probably helpful to add that professional dancers mess up all the time, so you’re in good company!

  4. mandertoncharternet

    Asher– THANKS for the feedback! Your comments and encouragement means a lot to me. I SO want to “get my feet under me,” and as a very late beginner my analytical/logical mind is often a hindrance. I do love my homework, when I take a whirl at reenacting new sequences that challenge me. It really helps me integrate them when i can work without anyone watching me. Last night, e.g., I was trying to recall the sequence i got lost in last week. My instructor made a note for me in my note book, so that helped, but first i had to figure out what the heck her note meant! Her note was “PB Tendu, F-S (CBack) B-S.” Google and my memory helped me crack the code (5th, demi-point front, demi plie and battement tendu (or did we really do a degege?). Anyway, i got the step sequence down, now i just need to build confidence to quicken up the steps a bit. Arms and Head? Well, one thing at a time. … … …

    Ballet is so friggin much fun. I will miss it over summer. Maybe i can find a short summer camp that will work for beginning adults with just a few month’s work under their belt (or should that be “in their belt”)?

    • You’re most welcome, and it sounds like you’re using some really great learning strategies! Half the time, when I take notes, I have to decipher them as well … because I can’t read my own handwriting ^-^

      Most of the adult intensives that I know of welcome new beginners, and some even offer a track specifically for new dancers, which I think can be really helpful.

      I need to sit down and round up all the adult intensive links I can find again–I try to do that every year, though I don’t always succeed (ugh, time management! ;P)

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