The lucid ramblings of a ballet teacher
I have always loved to dance. This bug caught me early on in my life. I announced to my mother at the age of three that I was going to learn ballet. Unfortunately in our area at the time, no-one would take children under 4. So I had to wait patiently. But once I turned 4 and I was able to attend my first dance lesson, I was completely in love. I am thankful to my parents that they indulged my obsession and I learned ballet, tap, character, jazz, contemporary, ballroom and Latin to varying degrees of proficiency. I immersed myself in the disciplines, music, performance, repetition, practice and bewitching world of childhood dance tuition. I was the ultimate consumer of all of these offerings and I truly thrived in the pursuit of all things dance. The love of dance has never left me. Even when I tried to walk away, I was drawn back. The barre, to this day, still feels like home.
But here on the other side, no longer a ballet student, my awareness of what dance has brought to my life replaces the simple childish knowing that I needed to do it.
It might seem strange that the dance studio was my safe place. When school was rough, when life was unpredictable, when things didn't go to plan, the studio represented safety. The barre felt strong and dependable in my hand. My mind could let go of the day and it could immerse itself in the movement. My body knew the steps and would instinctively pick up where it left off last lesson. The worries of the world didn't matter for that hour.
Obviously dance taught me from a very young age what hard work feels like. Granted I was not working in a coal mine, but some days after a particularly gruelling session I walked like I did!
The attention to detail in ballet is second to none. The difference between right and wrong can be a matter of millimeters. To completely give over to studying such an exact art form for an extensive period of time requires abundant repetition, incredible focus, dedication and even long- suffering. These skills that I sweated out learning in the dance studio have served me well in my various jobs , volunteer
positions, business opportunities as well as personally.
I learned what it means to persevere in the dance studio. I suffered from undiagnosed Coeliac disease for most of my childhood. I spent years and years in severe pain. I remember lying down in the car on the way to the studio, too sick to sit up properly. Once I arrived at the studio, the pain was simply ignored. I would do my classes with energy and enthusiasm, then crash again on the way back home. I certainly don't advocate this behaviour now that I am a mother. But it helped me survive and thrive in what could have been a disastrous time for my mental health.
I also remember playing a lead role the last time we danced at the Toowoomba City Hall. This concert was so much fun and we worked so hard. However I was suffering from shin splints in both legs. When I wasn't on stage I was resting with tens machines on both legs. But on stage, no-one knew. I was able to keep dancing and having an amazing time despite the pain in my legs.
I could continue to go on and on about the other benefits that dance brought to my childhood and thus into my life. I haven't yet mentioned the time-management skills required to dance each night and still complete school work to a high standard, the ability to accept failures and keep going and to accept challenges with optimism. But I don't want to bore you with more of my story.
I do however want to tell you that I grew up in much simpler times. The pressure from school never followed my home on social media. The out of control world I was escaping from didn't include terrorists and online predators. And words like self-harm were not in our vernacular let alone an epidemic. Dance was a lifeline to me in a happy and secure childhood. How much more important are these endeavours now when the pressure is so much worse, the dangers more real and the world infinitely more complicated.
Here on the other side, as a 'Mummy consumer', I am passionate about my kids enjoying a balance of engaging, difficult, fun, creative and physical extra curricular activities. I want to afford them the same opportunities I was given. I want to ensure that they learn more than just their ABCs. I want them to use these opportunities to develop strong internal resilience, strength of character and self belief. I am burdened to see the next generation of dance students thrive in life, not just survive.
Dance opens up a world of magical possibilities, imaginative characters, beautiful routines, exceptional skills and transports us from the hum drum of the everyday.