As a ballet dancer, I get a lot of corrections. In fact, I go to class and hope that my teacher takes time to correct everything I do wrong. After my day is done, I have a notebook where I write down every last piece of critique or advice that any of my instructors have given me throughout the day. Their thoughts are that valuable to me.

Some dancers have an incredibly difficult time when getting corrections. They see it as a teacher picking on them or criticizing their ability, which can really impede their progress. It can be frustrating to witness those people when you understand where they are in their mind and how far they’ll need to go to move past that mindset. We don’t go to class six days a week and push our bodies to their breaking point because we already have perfect technique, we do it because we know we have the potential to be better. However, being better often requires direction from someone who has already been in our (pointe) shoes. It requires acknowledging that we will always be stronger and weaker in some areas of our dancing, but that constant search for balance is what makes ballet an addicting art.

That is why I treasure criticism and corrections so much. I hold the highest respect for my instructors, as ballet is a horribly frustrating art for everyone involved. External rotation of the hips is something you can’t teach, it’s a feeling each student has to develop differently. I know I can be a frustrating student. I work incredibly hard, but I don’t have the best rotation or the best lines or the best back, etc. I do have a few things going for me, such as my superhuman hyper-extension and extreme passion for the art form. Despite my setbacks, I enjoy knowing that I will always have something to work on and strive for.

Ballet has brought me a lot more than strength and flexibility (although I very much appreciate those two contributions), it has also given me an immense appreciation for criticism and those who are willing to provide it. When I finally understood that a teacher will only give corrections to those that want to get better, I was so happy to hear “point your foot, Eloragh!” from halfway across the studio. It’s motivating that someone recognizes my hard work and wants to give me more opportunities to push myself.

I will admit that some teachers go so far. Last summer I went to Carlisle, PA for a five-week intensive ballet program that I did not enjoy. It was obvious that the teachers didn’t want me there, the administration was not willing to be flexible, and the technique was so extreme that I ended up injuring my lower back by rotating too much. If I had stayed another week, I could have crushed some of the smaller vertebrae near my tailbone. So, yes, criticism can go too far, but in appropriate doses, it can be an essential source of information and wisdom.

I often find myself being very critical of the work I do outside of ballet. Any suggestion of any slight adjustment in something I produced makes me question everything about the product. It’s more difficult – but increasingly important – that I apply my mindset of gratefulness towards criticism or corrections for any kind of work I do. I try to remind myself that if they didn’t think I could do better, they wouldn’t ask me to strive for more.

So, in some ways, I pity the dancers that won’t or can’t take corrections. They are limiting their achievements due to a fear of acknowledging that they are less than perfect. I was only able to start improving when I accepted that perfection is unachievable, but still something to strive for. When I find myself upset that I will never be a flawless dancer with beautifully refined technique, I remind myself of this quote by Michelangelo: “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”





Taking a Break

I needed a day today. I went to the studio and nearly fainted from heat exhaustion and nausea. I still got a lot done, just not in the scope of dancing.

It can be hard to give yourself permission to rest, but it will eventually become necessary. This is short and sweet, but I’m fatigued from this heat wave.


Dealing with People

Here’s the long and short of it: you’re going to have to deal with people. I’m suffering from some serious concentration issues right now, so lets keep this short.

I dealt with a complete ass today. He decided it was his job to police the grocery store self-checkout line. I decided it was my job to put him in his place. We both ended up angry and giving each other shitty looks, but that’s how it usually ends up.

Life is teeming with people who would rather stick their nose into something that really doesn’t concern them than mind their own business and go on their way. This dude was obviously one of those people. As I’m writing this, I wonder if I have already let him win by letting his actions bother me this much. But that’s not what this blog is about.

This blog is about how to deal with them. Just tell them off if you need to, other than that leave them alone. They don’t deserve your time, effort, or attention. You have much more important things to be worried about.


To – Do Lists

Over the course of my life, I have written many to-do lists. They are straightforward and easy to use while trying to keep track of my day to day life. Despite being one of the simplest forms of organization, I have never completed one.

That’s right, I cannot remember a single time I have finished everything on a to-do list. As technology and my work have grown, my to-do lists have become more sophisticated, but not more complex. I now keep my to-do list with my notes, calendar, and inbox in one tab. This type of consolidation has made my life a lot easier, but it has not made an impact on my inability to fulfill the tasks I give myself every day.

However, I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. I’ve stopped seeing to-do lists as an index of everything that absolutely must happen within a given day and more of a constantly growing and changing record. My to-do list is never complete because I’m always adding new tasks to it, often ones that come from wrapping others up. For example, I sent out an email today, which is something I was able to check off of my list. When the person who received the email responded to me, they gave/asked me to work on another task for them, therefore adding another job to my list.

It has taken me a while to come to this perspective. I used to be very hard on myself when I wouldn’t realize the full extent of these lists. Soon enough, I realized that I was still accomplishing a lot even though I wasn’t finishing the list. It’s good to remember that we will never see every dream we have ever had actualized, but we can sure see a hell of a lot of them come true. This principle applies to the smallest levels, even to-do lists.


Marché Atwater

Earlier this month, I wrote about the Westside Market in my blog Being Home and about how the different cultures of the market influenced my desire to travel. It’s become somewhat of a tradition for my family to visit a local market when we travel. Fortunately, Montreal has six, so I have plenty of overpriced produce to shop for.

All jokes aside, markets bring me a sense of peace that I don’t experience anywhere else. The closest people in my life often make fun of me for my love of grocery stores and supermarkets, but I won’t deny that I adore them. I especially love going to groceries alone, because I can just wander aimlessly and pick up weird foods for as long as I want.

I believe it comes down to a sense of individuality within a public space. Grocery stores and markets are wide open and full of people, but those people are all there for a similar but slightly unique experience. That dichotomy in-and-of-itself is what draws me into markets. I like knowing that everyone is there to buy their groceries, but I wonder what meal they will make or who is coming over to their apartment for dinner that night. I often stop to think about each individual that passes by me and wonder what thought propels their feet forward. What motivates them to continue throughout their day.

There’s a word for it: sonder. It sounds sad, and sometimes it may be, but I find it is more often a feeling of relation and understanding. It reminds me that our differences are truly the only thing that can unite us.


Sore and Tired

The first week of a ballet intensive is always the hardest. New teachers, new combinations, new schedules, and, of course, a new intense style of training. Today was my second day at Ballet Divertimento du Montreal and I am exhausted. I can’t wait to get through the next few days and relax on my weekend.

Being a dancer is really difficult. Most bodies are not built to withstand the positions that ballet requires. As I am sitting in my bed with my aching bones, I wonder why I love this so much.

The challenge is addictive. That’s the gist of it. I’m on a deadline, but I hope I can elaborate tomorrow.


Feeling Stuck

Sometimes, we look at big daunting tasks and feel like we will never achieve them. Right now, I am looking at the big daunting task of a four-week ballet intensive in a foreign country that will be taught in a foreign language.

However, I kick myself for worrying about achievement. What am I achieving? Completion? Completing the intensive won’t mean anything unless I give 100% of my effort as much as I can. Am I trying to achieve progress? Possibly, but that may not be measurable in just four weeks. So, why am I worrying about achievement instead of focusing on working to my full capacity every day?

I have a placement class tomorrow that will dictate what I focus on for the next four weeks. I know plenty of my technique is weak or poorly trained, but I won’t dwell on those ideas. My habit of constantly focusing on what I need to improve on is somewhat important but detrimental if not kept in balance with the reality of how much progress I have made. Tomorrow should be about how much I have accomplished since this time last summer.

It is hard to be kind to ourselves when we really want something. It is hard to remember that making mistakes or being imperfect is the epitome of humanity. Finding peace in the idea that you are meant to be flawed is comforting.