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Beyond the Barre: 6 Ways Ballet Made Me A Better Person

By: Felicia DeMatteo 5/19/23

When I started dancing again after taking a break, my goal was to just get back into dancing. During the pandemic I searched “beginner ballet” videos on YouTube and began following along every day. With my dance background being mostly hip-hop and tap, ballet was a huge change. I couldn’t ask the teacher questions through the screen. I then started taking classes in a professional studio and bought myself ballet slippers, having made the decision that I want to pursue this for me. As an adult, it is challenging to try something new you have never done before. Staying consistent with it and being motivated to continue are other challenges. You don’t necessarily need to have a goal or a reason. I didn’t know who I would meet or if the classes would be too difficult to keep up with. With consistency I found that doing ballet has unexpectedly changed me for the better and if you take a few ballet classes, you will see noticeable changes in yourself, too.

"I found that doing ballet has unexpectedly changed me for the better"

1. It has inspired me to realize my creative potential

I have always been a creative and artistic person, but getting myself to go to ballet class consistently turned into a step I didn’t know I needed in inspiring and unlocking other creative parts of me.

Part of that could be due to working full-time and daily stressors, but sometimes as adults we don’t take enough time to have fun or focus on the things we enjoy. Doing ballet consistently reminded me that it’s important to take time for my goals and to ditch the many excuses not to. Once I started designating time to come to class every week, carving out time in my schedule to do other creative things. I felt more motivation to put time into my creative hobbies and because dancing is creative, I found that I was getting a lot of inspiration for other creative endeavors, such as starting a small business. Even if you’re not necessarily a creative or artistic person, doing ballet will be enough to spark joy and maybe lift something inside you that was holding you back.

2. It promotes confidence

I realized after a few months of ballet that it was boosting my confidence in who I am and both my physical and emotional strength. In class we work on always keeping our chests lifted, legs straight and head upright which are vital pieces in performing movements with proper technique and maintaining balance. But these are useful tools that you can take with you wherever you go. For example, standing up a little taller and straighter when you walk and interact with the world will not only help your orthopedic health, but it also helps with the way you carry yourself, not being as affected by criticism, and respecting yourself and boundaries. Because ballet requires so much strength, working on it consistently will only increase the strength you already have and in turn will make you feel more confident and secure which are qualities that will stay with you throughout the day when you allow them to grow.

3. It encourages a growth mindset

In ballet, there is always something new to learn and something to work on, which is what makes it so interesting. There is so much to think about when it comes to proper technique and learning how to put the terminology into practice, which learning all of it is an artform. While learning all this information might seem stressful, sometimes the pressure we put on ourselves to succeed comes from feeling like we need to compete with others or maybe even ourselves, especially if you are someone that danced as a child. But the most important part of dance and anything you do in life, is to do it because you enjoy it and to go at your own pace. Dancing should be fun and enjoyable rather than stress-inducing. Since there is so much to learn, you can pick one small thing to focus on every day and remind yourself that you are there for you.

4. It combines art with exercise

Ballet is a good option for exercise if you’re an artistic person or if you don’t like the gym. It might not look like it from watching, but ballet works and strengthens every muscle in your body, increases heart rate, and makes you sweat. It is a beautiful art form and I always find that I feel like I had a good workout after class. It may seem that you must have the perfect body, be elegant, or be a certain age to do ballet, but those myths are not true. You can set your own goals if you want to, whether it’s to be a better dancer, to get fit or flexible, or to just have fun or learn something new. When you do ballet, you also have an opportunity to be in class with other people that you can learn from and get support from, which helps in feeling connected and with a sense of community.

When you do ballet, you become a part of tradition that dates to the 1500’s when it was first created. Continuing tradition is the only way to keep it alive. For me it feels special to be a part of something that is a huge aspect of artistic history with a group of women who also enjoy ballet. It is a great way to learn about a piece of history and to learn some French. If you’re someone who has an interest in the humanities and historical civilizations, there is no better way to learn about one of its traditions than to be a part of it. Ballet is also the foundation of all other types of dances. If you take another style of dance, you might find that everything makes more sense and stems from the ballet terminology.

There is a lot of balancing, jumping, and turning in ballet. Doing one thing with your legs and another thing with your arms might look easy, but it requires making new connections in your brain. Prioritizing accuracy over speed has helped me learn this and helps with not burning yourself out or putting too much pressure on yourself. Forming a mind-body connection is important and not something that adults always take time to do. Doing ballet with good technique takes a lot of practice and along the way you will learn what works for your body and what doesn’t. This for me has translated to me feeling more connected to my body and soul, trusting my intuition more, regulating my emotions, and simply being kinder to my body.

These are all aspects of physical literacy which is about progress and being in tune with yourself rather than perfection.

Now that I am a regular ballet student, these are six of the biggest changes or improvements I have personally seen in myself over the course of my dance journey. I have learned so many things from ballet to not only apply to other styles of dance, but to all areas of my life. When I first began, I was nervous and being good enough and having what it takes. But no matter what anyone else says about you, I realized that the only thing you need to “have what it takes” to do is to focus on pursuing the changes you want to see in yourself and to have the courage to challenge yourself.

I have found that doing ballet is not only fun and meaningful, but it has helped me see ways that I can grow into the person I want to be every day. There may always be someone better than you at ballet or anything you do, which might sound discouraging, but really, it is not about being the best, it is about enjoying life and being you.

Written by Felicia DeMatteo 5/19/23

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