Have You Ever Felt Like Your Teacher is Criticizing You?
I'm going to dive right in and say no one is perfect.
When you enter a ballet class you become even more aware of that fact. You constantly hear general corrections like pull up, shoulders down, tailbone under, pointe your feet, and many more. Then, every dancer has those personal corrections the teacher gives to them, which seems like every day.
Everyone has those days where you can't seem to do anything right. The teacher is yelling louder and louder to motivate you or get you to do something your body does not want to do. Then you walk away defeated because you don't feel like you did any better then the day before. I know that feeling all too well. When ballet was the only thing that got me excited and motivated to wake up and get my day going, those long days were the hardest. It wasn't for lack of trying. I felt like I tried my hardest everyday. For some reason it didn't change the fact that I couldn't turn my leg out to 180 degrees. I couldn't seem to get my leg up higher than 90 degrees. I couldn't even master a clean double pirouette.
There's Only One Way Out of the Endless Downward Spiral
The answer is Jesus! The only thing that has helped me get out of that negative mindset is my walk with the Lord and the wisdom I gain from the Bible. We must first find our worth in Christ and not in our dancing. Then, we can look to places like Proverbs, a book full of life lessons, for advice. In different seasons, I have sometimes read a chapter of Proverbs each day.
There are many verses that address taking corrections.
These are a few that stood out to me: "For the Lord corrects those he loves," Proverbs 3:12a (NLT), and "To learn, you must love discipline," Proverbs. 12:1a (NLT). These and other truths from God's Word help us to remember that the motivation for a teacher's corrections is actually love, not criticism! Moreover, there is no possible way to learn - in anything - without correction and discipline.
Now I didn't improve overnight, but this mindset made every class more positive. Then I began to see small improvements. I still have days that make me feel completely inadequate as a dancer. However, remembering these truths from God's Word helps to brush off the destructive, negative thoughts and keep dancing. If I'm having a hard "turning day," I take a moment to mentally re-focus what I want to achieve. I stop worrying about completing the best double pirouette, instead my focus is on whether I was in a good position, was my passé high and turned out? Did I sickle my foot?
Here is a teacher's perspective on corrections:
We haven't given up on you. We believe you are capable of rising to the challenge and being so much better then you see yourself as being! If it seems like a teacher is getting frustrated with you, it is because she really cares. Take each correction as a gift. We as teachers want to share what we have learned and help you achieve greater things.
Finally, remember, not one dancer in history has gone through their ballet training and career without having a "bad day".
In fact, most of us have one once a week if not more! It is definitely not about having all "good days," and much more about how you respond to the frustrating ones. If you get discouraged, remember how far you've come. Thank God for that. Be vigilant with the thoughts you allow into your mind, don't give up, and receive corrections as a gift, not as criticizm. This will free you to actually apply those corrections, learn from them, and improve.
This post's author, Ms. Brette Benedict, is a Lead Artist with the Ballet 5:8 professional company, and is the Ballet Mistress for Ballet 5:8's Trainee Program.