I have frequently heard my teachers talk about the importance of getting to class early to warm up. I always assumed that this was to physically warm up my body – to ensure that my muscles were warm and ready for class. What I never realised was how mentally important that warm up time is…… until I didn’t warm up!
A few weeks ago, I had to travel from work to the other side of Melbourne, then across town again to Mitcham for a 6:30pm class. Due to the ‘delightful’ Melbourne traffic, this trip took a lot longer than planned. I ran into the ballet studio with exactly two minutes to spare before class started! This left me barely enough time to put my shoes on and quickly find a spot at the barre.
I am typically at the studio at least 20 minutes before my class starts. I use this time to stretch, have a chat with my classmates and watch the ballet DVD playing in the waiting room, or observe the class before mine. I never realised how this time mentally prepares me for my ballet class. By the time I start class my brain has switched from thinking about work or what I need to get from the shops on the way home, to thinking about stretching my foot along the floor in tendus and to not to sickle my foot when it’s in dégagé derrière.
On that Tuesday night when I sprinted into the studio just 2 minutes after I arrived, I was not mentally prepared (or physically for that matter!). Instead of giving my full attention to my teacher, Kate, as she demonstrated each exercise, my mind was wandering. I did not feel at ease, as I normally do, when the music starts and the exercise begins. Barre was half-over before I really settled into class and focussed my mind! My ballet time is SO precious and every minute in class should be a joyous means of continuing to build my technique, but in this class, I wasted my learning opportunities.
For me, it was the wake-up call that I needed to get to the studio with time to warm up before every class. I need that time to prepare my body physically, but more importantly I need it to prepare my mind as well. My body coped on that Tuesday night without a warm up, but my mind did not. I highly encourage you to get to the studio with enough time to fully prepare both physically and mentally for every class. You might find it makes your focus in class a little bit easier. As we cannot chat during class, the ‘before’ time is also a great opportunity to catch up and make friends with the people in your class.