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On Back to the Barre: Pain.

Ballet is pain.

You’re pushing your body to do things that don’t fit into the natural range of movement of a normal adult, and that hurts. Sometimes it hurts while you’re doing it: the stretch of a thigh muscle as you développé, the ache in your arms after (what feels like) hundreds of port de bras, or the fire in your toes from breaking in a pair of pointe shoes. And then sometimes the pain comes the next day, when you discover that you can’t walk down the stairs without looking like you’ve gained about 60 years in your sleep.

Photo Credit | Joe McNally

Photo Credit | Joe McNally

This evening I did a full two and half hours of ballet class. I did the first half of the Barre in pointe shoes (in an effort to break them in a wee bit), and we did a whole heck of a lot of jumping (which I’m definitely going to feel tomorrow). But, mostly it is good pain, and so that’s okay.

One of the things I love so much about ballet, and particularly this time around, is that it is a lot of effort, but it’s effort behind a mask of beauty.

When you see dancers on a stage they look like everything that they’re doing is done with the greatest of ease. We’re too far away to see the sweat that’s pouring off them, and we’re not waiting in the wings to see them stumble off with tiredness or injury, so we just see beauty.

The reality is that it is hard work. There’s always something to change, or a way to improve. Once you’ve got the hang of the arms, you’ve got to start thinking about the feet, or the head, or the shoulders, or the hips. It is frustrating in the fact that nothing’s ever finished, but it’s also fun, because you do see yourself improve (albeit slowly).

And, despite all that pain, it is sort of relaxing, because for two and a half hours every Thursday, I can’t think about work, or what I’m reading, or food, or a conversation I had that morning, or what I’m going to do tomorrow, because I’m too busy thinking: elbows down, pull up your core, turn out your back foot, point your toe, loosen your shoulders, look up, remember to spot, or any number of other movements that I’m trying to perfect. There’s no time for drifting or wondering or pondering; just pure, clean, uncomplicated movement.

And that is definitely worth the pain.

In summary: preparing to walk like an old lady tomorrow.


This entry was published on January 31, 2013 at 10:16 pm. It’s filed under Back to the Barre and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

2 thoughts on “On Back to the Barre: Pain.

  1. From one dancer to another, beautifully said. It’s a power that only ballet dancers know. Rewarding Pain that can fulfill every once of your being. To be able to move with such grace and fluidity is much like flying with God himself. The essence of dance defines me. Thank you for reminding me of my gift and sharing yours.

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