Strength training – for emotions?

In the ‘real world’ – the world outside of ballet – most people would consider me to be a strong person. In the ballet world, however, I have always been told I need to be stronger. I am not talking about physical strength; that, I have no problem with. I am talking about emotional strength, which is apparently an area that I am lacking in.

It’s interesting, how much stronger emotionally one must be in order to live in the ballet world. It’s not a bad thing – it’s just something not everyone is cut out for. It’s easy enough to gain physical strength; all you have to do is exercise often and before you know it you will be stronger. But I really struggle with knowing how in the world I am supposed to build emotional strength! Is it just something you develop as you gain more experience and wisdom? Is it something I will always have to work on? Is it even possible?

Don’t get me wrong – I am not a weak person! I just know that I could learn to better handle my frustrations when I’m in a position where I cannot let them get to me (such as, of course, in ballet.)

For example, yesterday I came into the studio only to find out that we were getting measured. It was not a pleasant surprise! And I found it difficult to focus in class after that because all I was thinking about was how much bigger my numbers were than everyone else’s, and it took a lot of effort on my part to just block that out of my mind and concentrate on my combinations rather than on my weight. I have gotten better, though – at least I didn’t cry! It used to be that I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from getting so upset at myself that I would completely break down and be useless for the rest of class.

Once, during a summer program, we had evaluations that included a meeting at the end, in which myself, the artistic director, the executive director, and both of my parents were in attendance (each student had such an evaluation). In this meeting, we went over my strength and weaknesses, my progress, their impression of what the future holds for me, what I need to work on, etc. My biggest correction? I needed to learn how to manage my emotions better and not let them show during class. Leave the emotions at the door, they told me, and I could get back to dealing with them after class. In class, I am to think of nothing other than my dancing. Ironically enough, I almost started crying when he told me that. I don’t know why! I suppose I felt guilty, and obviously he was right that I did not yet have a grasp on how to handle my emotions.

In next year’s meeting, I was much better. My mom told me that I had learned to deal with my emotions better when we left the room.

And yet, here I am, still trying to learn how to check everything at the door and leave it out of my mind while I am in class. Most days I have no problem with it, but it’s those occasional days here and there that I seem to need more work on it.

I had better get used to it if I want to continue my life living in the ballet world! Surprise measurements are something I need to learn to expect, because it’s not at all unusual! So maybe it’s all just a matter of sucking it up and getting over myself.

All of that aside, I’d like to say thank you once again to all those who have commented on my TDB 2011 post! I am unable to respond to each and every comment because that would skew my results, but some of you wrote some incredibly nice things about me, my dancing, and my blog, and I just wanted to say that it means so much to me! I really am flattered 🙂

Don’t forget to keep commenting if you haven’t already, and share the link to the post with others who can help comment, too! Click here  to comment on the TDB 2011 blog post!


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