Molly (from Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre) mentioned in class how mistakes in ballet are very different from mistakes in school. In the latter, you can erase and start again. The whole point of tests and homework is to get things right. Whenever I take a test – I triple check my answers to make sure I didn’t make a mistake. There’s a review period and then a presentation period. In ballet there is the same strive for perfection. There is a constant review period (working in the studio) followed by a presentation (show) but part of that perfection is knowing how to make mistakes work. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – a good chunk of being a great dancer is being confident (not cocky) and just committing to what you’re doing – whether or not it is right. If you don’t know where to put your arm, decide where it goes and commit to it being there. Own it and only people who know better will know that it’s not quite right but jee golly don’t you look good doing it that way :).
I think the real world should take some hints from ballet. We are taught to be afraid of mistakes. We are taught to be ashamed of them. What if I fall flat on my face? What if they think I made a mistake? We can’t take criticism and everyone has to be right. What is this obsession with rightness? What is it to be right? To err is human; to forgive, divine. Funny that. If we only accept and acknowledge perfection we are denying humanity and forsaking our chance at the divine. My mother told me about a “horror story” she heard where a woman had a great job in accounting but decided to up and move to NY to pursue something in music. She struggled for years and then ended up going back into accounting. Where is the horror in this? She tried something, it didn’t work out so she moved on. GOOD FOR HER. Maybe she’s happier now in accounting. Maybe she’s going back into accounting till she figures out another “silly thing” to try. Who knows? But this shouldn’t be labeled as a horror story. Her decision shouldn’t be labeled as a mistake.
In some academic classes we were obligated to show our work during HW and exams. Many people grumbled about this and were annoyed. WHY? We are used to our work being black and white, right or wrong. Showing your work is an opportunity to show your understanding as well as your gaps in understanding (probably more important for the teacher) but it is also there to let you make mistakes and not be completely penalized. It’s about glorifying the JOURNEY and not the destination. They were on to something. They must have been ballerinas.
Ballet teaches you to commit, teaches you to continue working and not to focus on the mistake. Can you imagine watching a show where everyone stopped and started each step over again until it was ABSOLUTELY perfect? 1. It would be BORING 2. We’d never get through the show. I’m not saying that ballet doesn’t want you to be perfect because that’s obviously not the case. It just gives you the tools to work with mistakes rather than be stunted by them.
Ballet teaches you about life. Whether or not you know what the hell you’re doing, keep going, keep moving, and finish with a smile. You’ll work on the things you effed up in the studio but for your performance – for your life – it’s your solo. Make it a good one.