Do you make a beeline for your spot on the barre as soon as you walk in the studio door? Perhaps you feel that your balance will only work if you’re wearing your lucky leotard. If this sounds like you, fear not! There are ways to overcome the trap of unhelpful rituals and build healthy habits that ensure you get the most out of your ballet class.
Allowing an item of clothing to rule your technique is giving far too much credit to an inanimate object! Everyone likes to feel good in what they wear to their ballet class, but if that has a slightly obsessive feeling to it, then it’s time to reassess. Special leg warmers really don’t have any bearing on how well your pirouettes worked!
Try to only choose ballet attire that makes you feel good. If you are not comfortable in what you are wearing, then maybe it’s time to let it go. If you love everything in your ballet drawer, then it really doesn’t matter what you are wearing, and your work will be about your performance in class, not that swanky headband – even if it is amazing!
If this sounds like you, then it’s time to be brave and make a change! Always standing in the same spot might seem like a good idea to begin with, but it can slowly become a crutch. If left unchecked, you may find that you are unable to concentrate or engage fully in your class if standing somewhere else. The more you change your position at the barre (and in the centre!) the more adaptable you will become. It also means that having a good class is determined only by the work you put in, not the place where you are standing.
If you feel that the challenge to stand somewhere else might be too much (and you’ll know if that’s you!), then be kind to yourself and move incrementally. Changing your spot by one space each ballet class will soon have you standing on the other side of the studio. You may even give the centre barre a go!
Some of you may prefer the ‘ripping the band-aid off’ approach, and if this is the case, treat your new spot in the studio like an ever-changing adventure.
Continuing to mark the enchaînement until your teacher starts the music is distracting and panic-inducing. This habit will drive your teacher crazy! And it’s not at all helpful – it creates a last minute scramble to be ready when you do hear the introduction playing.
If you don’t know what you are doing, you are better off asking for clarification and then standing tall, ready to move with the music. A good starting position for every enchaînement will serve you well throughout your class. Being disheveled at the start of the enchaînement has only one outcome – being disheveled all the way through! It’s impossible to pull yourself together whilst the music is playing, especially if you don’t feel confident to start with. Be ready! If you’re going to go wrong – you may as well do it with confidence and technique, at least that way you will still gain some benefit!
Ah, the front line in the studio – a spot that is spurned by most! The reasons of not standing in the front line are usually to do with the feeling of being exposed. The two most common thoughts are 1. You think everyone will be watching you, and, 2. You think you don’t know what you are doing.
The sense that everyone is watching you can be a powerful one to shake. The truth of the matter is that everyone is usually so worried about their own work that they don’t have time to critique you. When in the studio we are the centres of our own universes, your lovely fellow student doesn’t really give two hoots about how well you executed your arabesque – they were too busy making sure their own arabesque was up to scratch! Letting go of your fear and being proud of your work, even on a rough day, will help you to step forward.
If your reluctance is to do with not knowing what you are doing, then standing at the front is the perfect way to practice your working memory. If you go wrong it doesn’t matter, just try to pick the enchaînement up again. Remembering enchaînements is a skill, and like any skill it requires practice to improve. And if anyone copies your mistakes, they are the ones more likely to receive a sharp word for not thinking for themselves!
Unhelpful studio habits are easy to fall into. It’s important to remember that your studio work is reliant on how you are dancing in that moment, not an external object or idea that only creates barriers. It’s important for you to give yourself credit when you deserve it, and to work harder when you know you need to.