I always wanted to dance. Growing up, I wished to be enrolled in ballet but at the time, my parents couldn't afford to send me. My older sisters had gone before me but financial fortune was not on my side. Once I hit high school and my parents could afford it, I started classes right away. When I went to college, I took more classes but still, I wasn't good enough to make a living from dance so I eventually stopped.
But ballet is just so beautiful, it didn't matter to me if I was the best or the worst. It felt great doing it. So finally, after a divorce, two moves, health issues, and a year from hell, I signed up again for an adult ballet class.
For just one hour a week, my financial stress, single-mom woes, dating dilemmas, ex-husband hassles, and other life stuff just melts away. My noisy brain is silent and strictly focused on assemblé, battement, and more. Every motion has my complete attention. I can't bother to be sad, stressed, or think about the 50 million things on my to-do list. All I can be is in that very pose or position, whether in center or at the barre. Ballet's beauty goes beyond the confines of the classroom; there are so many life lessons I have learned from my time dancing.
1. When in doubt, point your toes
With a point of the toes, just about any foot, thing, or motion looks beautiful. When we feel like crap in our lives, which we will at some point or the other, pointing those toes, holding your poise, and striding forward will help us barge through the most isolating and scary times of our lives. I have never felt more alone in my life than perhaps this last year. There have been so many times I just needed to point, poise, and walk on — and I did.
2. Turnout a little more, even if it's hard at first
Obviously you're not supposed to be in pain by turning out those hips, but developing a turnout does take time and practice. And of course, you want to do it the right way to avoid knee injuries. This involves strengthening and finding flexibility in your hips.
Flexibility is tough . . . in life. Pushing yourself to go with the flow even if it's just by a hair can be hard, especially for a Type A person like myself. But accepting what is and gracefully adapting to changes that are out of our control can make life easier. There were so many things this year that were out of my control and it was hard because as much as I wanted to change things, I couldn't. I had to learn to just push my flexibility both mentally and physically.
3. Your supporting leg must be strong
When I first went back to dancing, my supporting leg was killing me. Partially because my abdominal muscles weren't strong enough yet, and partially because my legs, while muscular and fit, weren't used this way in ages. That said, your supporting leg must be strong in order to hold your body up with grace and charm.
In life, your "supporting leg" is your friends, family, and loved ones. I mentioned before how I never felt more alone than this year, but I forgot to say how I also never felt so much support from my team of friends, loved ones, and even some of my daughter's teachers.
I was sick twice. I lost a job. A contract job didn't get renewed. I moved. I was financially strapped. I took on the bulk of my daughter's care . . . the dance of life was a Gothic misery in many "acts" of this season. My supporting leg held me up so the rest of me could do what I needed to do for my daughter and myself.
4. Everything comes full circle
Life is circular. What is in fashion, goes and comes back. Love dies and then love begins again. Life ends and life starts suddenly. Like the circular movement of the leg, Rond de jambe, things come back around again. This means if you are struggling, eventually, things will turn in your favor. Does this also mean that struggle will also reappear? Yes, that's life though. Things always get better. Things always come full circle.
So keep doing your best and being your best and eventually, others and life will notice it! When my daughter struggled after both her dad and I moved, I felt like she would never feel settled again and it was discouraging. Some days I wondered if it would ever get easier. Indeed, it did. Everything came full circle and I found my daughter to be herself again, despite my doubts and negative thinking.
5. Sometimes you've got to move like a cat
Pas de chat is a dance step that resembles the way a cat jumps. Sometimes, you've got to be quick, light on your feet and cover that distance. This means making quick decisions, getting out of troublesome situations and being somewhat unable to "catch." Life will throw everything at you. You will lose a job when you least expect it. You will be left at the altar. You will be also offered big opportunities and risks. You need to know how to jump like a cat, making decisions that could be huge or very small.
6. Be in the front
Your leg or arm might be devant, right in front of the body. You may have to put yourself in the front. Whether it's to get a job, meet a love interest you're crushing, tell a person how you really feel, take a risk with money or a move, or what have you, you have to sometimes be right in the front. As shy as you might be or as anxious, we all have times in our lives in which we have to be devant. In the front.
When I needed help this year with my daughter for child care . . . when I interviewed for a new position . . . when I had to deal with lawyers and divorce drama . . . I had to be in the front, advocating for myself and when needed, my girl.
These are just six life lessons I got from ballet, but there are so many more. There is no greater moment in life than that moment in which your body moves in ways you hadn't imagined before, both at the barre and center stage.