You Will Make Mistakes

So it’s been a while.

We’ve been redacting mold, DIYing our basement living space back into shape after redacting said mold, and otherwise generally working on the house like crazy, while at the same time I’m rehearsing four (I think?) separate things and teaching.

One of the pieces in rehearsal involves this sheer & very sparkly thing in which I don’t even think I look like me, but I do think I look pretty darn good?

So, erm, it’s rather a lot.

I am bad at the kind of adulting that involves juggling four separate, unrelated rehearsal schedules and anything else, never mind that plus everything else. And yet, here we are.


This week I found myself in a frazzle because my brain momentarily decided to latch on to the idea that I might not manage to teach all of my students all of the absolutely correct technique they might need and ten years from now one of them might be in an audition somewhere going, “Oh, snap, I’ve been doing that wrong my entire life.

Case in point: my body wants all attitude turns to employ the same arms as renversé. I just can’t with my body sometimes, y’all. Also, the thing where I STILL put my arm too far back in second sometimes 🤬

And then I realized, like—yeah. That will probably happen. And, to be honest, it’s okay.

I wish it was possible to guarantee that 100% of what I teach would both be absolutely sound and absorbed perfectly. But isn’t, and it never has been.

My own technique has its rough spots (I mean, I don’t call myself “danseur ignoble” for nothin’). My own teachers have probably passed along some quirks, and I certainly came up with plenty of them all by myself.

That’s fine. I don’t resent any of my teachers for the shortcomings I have now; instead, I appreciate how hard they tried to teach me correct, classical technique. I owe my career largely to my teachers’ sound methods, partly to the good graces of directors who have the ability to look beyond my quirks, partly to my ridiculously good feet (still, lol), partly to my own work ethic, and a little bit to raw talent.

People rock up to auditions with all kinds of flaws, because nobody’s perfect. Even if that wasn’t the case, different directors like different versions of things (like: I paused today to ask Mr D whether he wanted our waltz turns to brush through twice or to brush to the front and petit développé/pas de cheval to the back, because both versions are valid and I’ve been doing a lot of the second one lately).

Even students graduating from the best, longest-established schools aren’t perfect. That’s one of the things I love about ballet: no matter how good we are, we can always continue to strive for perfection. The fact that it’s unattainable is immaterial. The practice is the thing.

Likewise, there is no such thing as a perfect teacher. I will make mistakes. I will explain things with crazy analogies that may or may not take root. I will miss some things and overcorrect others.

Here I am DRASTICALLY overcorrecting an échappé 😱 (Whilst simultaneously losing my right-side turnout 🤦)

In the end, I won’t be perfect, either as a dancer or as a teacher, but I suspect that my students will forgive me.

The important part is to teach, to the best of my ability, technique that is as strong and consistent as I can make it, and to continue learning both as a dancer and a teacher so that over time I can teach more effectively.

If I do that, I’ve done my part towards ensuring that most of the technique my students bring to the table will be strong and consistent, provided that the students also do their part, that the winds are favorable, and that, as they say, “the creek don’t riz.”

Because, y’all, I may be a somewhat teacher of regular ballet, but I’m wholly unqualified as an instructor of water ballet.

About asher

Me in a nutshell: Standard uptight ballet boy. Trapeze junkie. Half-baked choreographer. Budding researcher. Transit cyclist. Terrible homemaker. Neuro-atypical. 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 2021/09/18, in #dancerlife, adulting, ballet lessons, balllet, learning my craft, mistakes, reflections, teaching, work and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. If only all teachers had doubts about what they taught.

    I used to resent the clueless school teachers I had who spread their own ignorance to trusting students. Sometimes I knew they were wrong at the time – resulting in constant conflict and my reputation as a trouble-maker – but more often I learned much later that something I’d absorbed from them was complete nonsense.

    Ironically, the ignorance and hubris of ‘authorities’ was the most useful thing I learned about in school and I ran with it. My lucrative IT career consisted mainly of troubleshooting contracts where I’d been called in to tell everyone what they’d done wrong and lay out a plan for fixing it. My later activist career centred on criticising official experts – especially forensic scientists – and punching holes in their supposed expertise. I was even in demand at forensic science conferences for my scathing critiques of the profession; though forensic psychiatrists were far less tolerant of doubters and mostly tried to shut me down.

    Then I was hoist on my own petard.

    In the 80s and 90s I interleaved my IT contracts with 12 month stints of backpacking around Asia. A lot of that was spent in ashrams, monasteries, etc, initially learning then teaching meditation techniques, mostly vipassana and other mindfulness focused ones and especially those that could be practiced day-to-day as you went about your tasks.

    Then in 2012 I had an ego-destroying epiphany that shattered the smug self-image I’d built from my ‘superior knowledge’ in multiple fields. Among the many things I was now able to critically question about myself was my meditation practice.

    I discovered I was lousy at mindfulness. In fact I didn’t really know what it was. I’d been using rapidly shifting focus and concentration to get effects I’d attributed to mindfulness while steadily boosting my own ego and sense of self with it. It was self-deception I’d hidden from myself with my ‘authority’ as an expert teacher. For years I’d been teaching others my own wrongheaded techniques and methods of evaluating them. I have no idea how many I led down my own dead-end path in the conceit that I was passing on the benefits hard-earned wisdom and experience.

    I guess the Catch-22 is that even teaching the importance of ‘beginner’s mind’ is an ego-trap that denies the very thing it presumes to teach. But hey, what would I know? I doubt I’ll ever plumb the depths of my own ignorance and this comment is likely just another ego-echo arising from it.

    • A billion apologies for being so late with my reply to this, because as your words usually do, it really got me thinking.

      So much of this sounds familiar to me, though obviously my outward experiences were different. For me, at least, I did a lot of building walls of “superior knowledge” to keep at bay a world I that don’t understand very well, coupled with the sense that not understanding was some kind of terrible, exploitable weakness that would be found out and used against me. I think I must’ve felt, on some level, like if I did that long enough, I’d figure things out, and then I wouldn’t be vulnerable anymore? Who knows o.O

      Anyway. I’m slowly learning, two steps forward one step back, to feel okay not knowing everything. I’m trying to hold onto that, because it definitely makes me more like the kind of teacher I would’ve wanted to have and, curiously enough, also makes me realize bit by bit that the world hurts you whether or not you wear big stupid armor, and big stupid armor is really heavy and takes a lot of energy to carry around, so maybe it’s okay to take it off.

      That last paragraph, in particular, made me think a whole, whole lot, and ultimately … IDK. I think being aware of that paradox also lets you grow in spite of it, which clearly you’re doing and have done, and likewise, knowing that you (or, indeed, any of us) will probably never plumb the depths of your own ignorance sounds like a pretty good place to be, really. A kind of equanimity, I guess, where you proceed to do the work even as you know you can never perfect the work, or maybe even because it’s impossible to perfect the work?

      You guard against the ego while acknowledging that, hey, yes, it’s gonna pop up now and then, and you maybe laugh at yourself a little (KWATZ!) and keep balancing your unicycle on that wire.

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