This edition of the monthly message series was inspired by a moment in a ballet class several weeks ago. I was attempting a rather complicated turn sequence across the floor when my friend/instructor Angelina mentioned that I looked really calm. As I was turning, my reply sort of just fell out of my mouth: “What other choice do I have?”
That is not the answer I would have given a few years ago, or maybe even just a few months ago. “Calm” isn’t really in my most basic nature. I’m prone to worry and I tend to get overly emotional, generally over things that don’t matter much in the long run. For a long time, this manifested itself in my dancing, as well. Because I wanted so badly to be a good dancer, I was almost constantly overworking. This created lots of excess muscular tension, limited range of movement, and a strained performance quality. It also made for a lot of frustration and periods of time when dancing was just not very much fun. We all go through periods when we let pressure, anxiety, fear, and doubt control our dancing – and our lives outside the studio. Today I challenge you to take a calmer approach!
I’ve learned, over time, that to be calm is something I can choose, in both dance and in life. And in both cases, it’s usually the best possible choice I can make. Choosing calm helps me to focus on what is most important in my life. It is easier to prioritize the essential things in life, like family, friends, health, faith, and happiness, when I am coming from a place of calm, rather than one of worry, stress, and emotional fragility. In the studio, choosing calm allows my to find my most natural alignment, ease and efficiency of movement, and authentic performance quality. Difficult combinations, like that turning phrase mentioned above, became a lot less scary when I began to approach them from a place of calm. I’ve also found that keeping calm in the studio helps me more clearly assess my own dancing, and handle corrections and feedback with grace.
The world, generally, does not lend itself to calm, and neither does professional dance training. It’s not easy to choose calm, but it is possible. Some of the techniques I rely on to cultivate more calm in my life and dancing are:
- Deep and conscious breathing before, during, and after classes, rehearsals, and stressful moments (in through the nose for 4 counts, out through the mouth for 4 counts)
- Using the mirror sparingly and with lots of self-love (this goes for life as well as while dancing!)
- Positive thinking and self-talk, rather than self-deprecation and jokes at your own expense (it’s cheesy but it works!)
- Engaging in meditation, prayer, journaling, long walks, or other quiet, purposeful practices that help you focus, connect to yourself, the world around you, and something bigger than yourself, be it God, the universe, etc.
- Supplementing dance training with yoga, Pilates, gyrotonics, or other movement practices that emphasis breath, body-mind connection, full body connectivity, and deep body awareness
- Be conscious of how you may or may not compare yourself to others. Take pride in your personal strengths and gifts, without worrying how they compare to other people. Know that the world (in and out of the studio!) needs your unique voice, talents, and artistry!
I can’t say that I choose calm 100% of the time, but I’m making a more conscious effort to do so. I invite you to come along on the journey with me!