Sunday, October 10, 2010

I am the dancer I always wanted to be...

Can I do as many pirouettes as I used to when I was younger? No.

Can I jump as high as I used to? No.

Can I beat or do allegro as fast as I used to? No. Of course not. All of these things diminish with age. But other things improve: my adagio has more expression, my extension is higher, my stamina is just as strong. I have learned where to cheat! I have learned when to stop, or pause, or let my body rest.

I have learned the most important lesson of all: I appreciate my body and what it can do - at this moment. To mourn the loss of speed and height and power is a waste of time. Better to understand and appreciate what I can do and keep doing it. As we age, our bodies change - our centers of gravity change, our ability to point and plie lessen - but we can still dance.

Plus I have an advantage over younger dancers - and my younger self: I have no ego, no need to compete with others. I dance for myself. Yes, certainly, I am vain to a degree, as all of us are. I want to look good, long and lean. But to worry about others, about what they can do better than I, is - again - a waste of time. I know so many dancers my age who are crazy about the "other" in class. They attempt to compete with teens who fly through the air. This is futile. Those teens don't even know my friends exist.

I also know my body better than younger dancers. After all, my body and I have been around a lot longer; I've had a lot more time to get to know it, to experience what it can do and can't, what looks good on it and what doesn't.

And for this reason, I am the teacher I always wanted to be. I feel like I can finally see in others what they can't see in themselves. I can see what their bodies can do before they can. And I want them to be the best dancers they can be. I don't compete with them - I have no need. A teacher who competes with her students has very low self-esteem.

A good teacher wants her dancers to be better than she is. A great teacher makes them better than she is. I am good; I want to be great.


Anonymous said...

i need a "like" button that i can click, like FB.
thank you good teacher.

Utheruff said...

Dear Leigh:

This actually made me tear up. You are such a fabulous teacher and this is a beautiful little essay.


BalletLA said...

Thank you, Inge and Rachel. I appreciate that you took the time to read this.


jody said...

I love this post Leigh and makes me so happy to know that my daughter is in amazing hands!

BalletLA said...

And you too, Jody! I love to see mothers and daughters dancing! Thank you.