For me, it seems there has always been an internal battle between control and ease; and that same kind of conflict has pervaded my mental state both in life and in dance. I've come to the conclusion that no matter how much you want and try to make something happen, injecting stress (and thereby tension) into the situation thwarts any hope of natural success. Some days are easier than others to remember this...
I'm going to be honest, today I faked a coughing attack and left a ballet class 30 minutes early; and I've spent the rest of the day feeling like shit about it. Normally in this type of situation I might actually convince myself that the coughing was real, that I left out of necessity, or out of courtesy to the other dancers, or any other kind of excuse I could find in some sad attempt to rationalize my actions. But not today, today I walked out of that studio and came clean to myself right away about what I just did, no excuses, I just failed and I was worthless.
Wow, I know, a little harsh right? But at 12o'clock today I was telling myself this and I really believed it...
I just couldn't get my shit together, I couldn't get out of my head, I couldn't stop spewing horrible mental insults at my reflection in the studio mirrors. I kept comparing my body to everyone else's in the room, convincing myself I don't have the stamina or grace or talent; and I could feel the tears coming- welling up and begging to make a scene, so I made my own pathetic little scene and coughed my way home to the safety and solitude of a hot shower.
I mean it doesn't take a genius to figure out that being in a room lined with mirrors surrounded by taller, thinner, people than yourself whilst trying to execute detail-oriented dance exercises is probably not the best environment for sorting through your emotional baggage. Basically I walked into a studio today where a ballet class was taking place and I mentally abused myself for an hour. Usually I'm pretty good at leaving my bags at the door, but today I brought it all in with me; my fears about actually dancing professionally, about proving to myself and others that the expensive degree was worth it, that I made the right decision moving to Switzerland... the list goes on and on.
Something I've struggled with learning in dance, but also in life, is letting go. It has taken me a long time in my dance training to learn that tension and strength are not synonymous, and not just on a physical level. Having the mental resilience to let go of everything that's holding you back and just do the task at hand is one of the most powerful skills a person can possess and one of the hardest to cultivate.
I'm sure you know by now that I'm the kind of person who's not very good at failing (I know that sentence is a bit of a catch 22, but hear me out). I set incredibly high expectations for myself, which I've always thought was a good thing, but when I don't reach those expectations I shut down and I shame and blame myself.
I'm only beginning to learn that if you leave no room for error, you also leave no room for growth; failing and picking yourself up and moving on and trying again are the secret cornerstones of success, and for all the steps forward that I've taken, I guess it's my time to take a few steps back... it's a work in progress.