Had an interesting conversation with a ballet classmate’s mother last week. She mentioned that she wants her daughter to stay in her current level for another year rather than moving up to the next class.* Meanwhile, I am supposed to move into Ballet Tech, which is nearly the most advanced class in the studio. I will be in over my head in that class whereas the young lady might have an advantage in her class, having been through it before. It made me wonder which position is preferable. The class I was in this year has been “too easy” for me in a cognitive/intellectual sense. I learned the difference between effacé and croisé 30 years ago and never forgot it; even things like conventional patterns of steps (e.g., doing barre exercises en croix) have stuck with me so I found the choreography in that class really manageable. The physical exertion, however, was challenging at times and I know it helped me a lot to build strength & flexibility–especially for pointe work, which is a big part of the reason I chose the class in the first place. Next year I’ll be at the bottom of the totem pole in every sense, being asked to do things that may be beyond my capacity both mentally and physically.
I’d rather be over-challenged than under-challenged but I know it will be a…er…challenge [cripes, who’s editing this stuff?] to be in that higher-level class. Everyone says You Shouldn’t Compare Yourself to Other Dancers but the reason everyone has to keep saying it is that everyone keeps doing it! Being in class with 9- to 13-year-olds afforded me a break from Comparison Disorder because measuring myself against girls practically four times younger was genuinely pointless. I can sit here and tell myself that measuring myself against girls 20-25 years younger is equally pointless, but the part of my brain (hint: most of it) that still thinks I’m 17 will not buy it. Plus, the comparisons are useful if they make me push myself a little harder.
It’s ego-building to be a big fish in a small pond but ultimately it wouldn’t improve my dancing, so I am pleased (to say nothing of terrified) to be moving up next year. It will require me to keep a slightly closer eye on my sanity. And to work on my splits. And to get a grip on pirouettes. But that’s all to the good.
*Props to that mom, en passant, for taking a constructive look at her daughter’s development instead of going the cliché Ballet Mother route and insisting on her advancing no matter what.