When I was a young dancer, social media and youtube were not what they are today. I got my dance inspiration from dvd’s and even vhs tapes (ok, now I’m showing my age). I watched The Turning Point, The Red Shoes and ABT’s Variety and Virtuosity on repeat.
These recordings provided some incredibly gorgeous inspiration, hello Susan Jaffe, Paloma Hererra and Leslie Browne.
I also had the privilege of seeing NYCB perform live quite a bit. We had a friend with 2nd row orchestra season tickets who regularly couldn’t make it to performances so he gave us his seats free of charge – amazing!!
My city ballet inspirations included Wendy Whelan, Alexandra Ansanelli and Miranda Weese. So much gorgeousness and talent, I absorbed as much as I could.
However, there was not the consistent inundation of images and ridiculous talent that you as dancers are surrounded with now…no 15 – year old prodigies posting 6 –pirouette videos or insane feats of flexibility and strength on instagram.
I don’t even remember watching youtube much until after college, and even then it was old videos of the classics (Makarova, Baryshnikov), not YAGP gold medal winners a decade younger than me and (seemingly) infinitely more talented.
Inspiration is important.
Find dancers you admire and take in what you can from them. Learn from their quality of movement and find motivation to work on your own strength and form.
Consider the dancers you’re surrounded by daily. These are likely your peers or at least technicians of a similar caliber – if you’re dancing next to them in a ballet company, there’s a reason. Let their beauty inform your own.
Let the dancer who provides your greatest inspiration and motivation be YOU.
The dancer you look at in the mirror everyday; let her be your biggest motivation, competition and inspiration.
Remember where you started and admire how far you’ve come.
“When I step on stage, I do so not because I think I am the best, but because I want to give what I have to give.”
Give what you have to give for your audience AND yourself.
See your growth, improvement and talent. Remember the very young ballerina who used to try and emulate Balanchine or Russian technique even though she was never formally trained in either (and remember how silly she looked…maybe that was just me).
Remember the moments of fear when she went to her first big summer program audition and worried she didn’t measure up. Notice the certitude you’ve developed since then.
Or, the times she totally psyched herself out because the girl standing next to her had some really impressive pre – class stretches going on (the doubt those super bendy folks could instill was pretty incredible).
Don’t forget the joy of that first summer program acceptance letter and the little boost of confidence it provided.
Believe in the growth you’ve achieved. The difference between the uncertainty of those first few pointe classes and the strength and comfort you now feel on your toes.
There are ups and downs in the dedicated pursuit of this art form. If we don’t cultivate a loving relationship with our work, and ourselves we can become bitter.
To maintain the joy, focus inward. You are beautiful and talented and unique.
And always, always remember:
“Don’t waste time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind…the race is long and in the end it’s only with yourself.”
~Baz Luhrman, The Sunscreen Song