It’s Always Something

One of the concepts that teachers and dancers need to learn to balance is encouragement with corrections. Ballet is particularly picky when it come to the technique, and since it is executed by humans, it will never be perfect. Never. But that’s okay, because part of the excitement and challenge is to see how close we can get. Of course, since art is subjective, people will argue over who comes closer to that elusive concept. In reality, we can all rest in the fact that no one will ever be perfect, because the standards constantly change anyway!

I was working with a dancer in a private class recently, and as we worked on adjusting this and that, she said in exasperation, “It’s always something!” Well, it IS always something. Just as one body part is adjusted, something else goes out of whack. When that’s fixed, something else needs to be tweaked. When that’s fixed, we add something else to the list after the adjusting, tweaking, and putting the “out of whack” back in. And so it goes.

 I find that it’s so parallel to life. Every day, in every situation, there is something to tweak, adjust, and put back in place. All that re-adjusting is making us more aware and stronger for what lies ahead. Whether it’s a family crisis, health issue, or mastering that difficult variation in the new ballet, learning to adjust helps us analyze the problems before they become even bigger issues. Hopefully, and MOST importantly, being perfect (whatever that truly is) should never be the goal. For a dancer, being fluent in speaking through your art is the goal.

The fact that there is always something to fix shows that there is constant traffic going on. There’s constant effort, constant trials, and then constant triumphs.

Busy roads, like one’s technique, constantly need attention. They are never perfect, but they do lead the way to where you want to go. The only way to get where you want to be is to constantly fix and re-adjust. It’s not a weakness to need constant fixing – it shows strength to keep working and moving forward.

Dance on.

Robin Conrad Sturm

Staying in Tune

There is a picture being circulated around Facebook. It’s four little girls in ballet class; three are standing at the barre listening to the teacher. The last little girl on the right is hanging upside down on the barre, obviously not paying attention. The caption reads: “Be the girl on the right!” It is a cute picture, and little kids definitely have shorter attention spans. There have been many comments and “likes” regarding that picture – All of the comments have been ones of support and humor, such as, “Oh, that would always be me!” or “ALWAYS be the girl on the right!”

So here’s my issue. I really do agree and firmly believe that teachers must recognize unique and individual talents in their students. I also agree that forcing children into an artistic discipline that’s obviously something they hate is wrong, pointless, and fruitless. 

However (and it’s a big HOWEVER with a capital “H”), the art of self-discipline is getting ready to go down for the third time. It’s barely responding to CPR. Every teacher I know is complaining about it. Entitlement is alive and reproducing at an accelerated rate, yet everyone seems to be laughing and supporting the concept of “being the girl on the right.” Frankly, If I had a classroom filled with “the girl on the right,” I would end up having to close up shop. Dance is an art based on self-discipline and refinement of technique. Yes, self-expression and and freedom in doing so are important, which is why I can write a possibly controversial article without my friends hating me. But if “the girl on the right” truly does not want to take ballet, or violin lessons, or do whatever it is that is not a love or passion, then she needs to find out what truly is the love or passion, and stop climbing on the barre and disrespecting the teacher and other members of the class. No one should ever applaud lack of respect. Don’t confuse creativity with rudeness and bad behavior. If that “girl on the right” actually did that more than once in class, she would quickly become “the girl on the bench.” As teachers, we devote our lives to instilling character and integrity in our students.

Imagine an orchestra playing a Beethoven symphony. If one of the musicians decided to go rogue and be “creative,” the conductor would have a few choice words, and the musician would have a pink slip. He would deserve it. Even if one instrument is out of tune, it ruins the concert. That’s not creative, it’s just, well…bad.

Ok, ok, you’re probably thinking by now that I don’t have a sense of humor – that I don’t have a sense of fun, and absolutely no sense of thinking outside the box. Well, you’re wrong. I really do have all those…senses. But I also have a sense of purpose when it comes to MY passion, which is teaching my students how to develop theirs. No “girls or boys on the right,” just students who have learned how to learn.

Dance on.

Robin Conrad Sturm