Where do dancers find their motivation?
Finding motivation as a ballet dancer, at any level, can be something that occurs in waves throughout anyone’s career. After all, professional ballet dancers are known to be some of those most dedicated and determined people in the world. Have you ever met a serious ballet dancer that was not crazy motivated? Motivation can stem from a number of things; whether it’s from your teachers, from a different art form, from a friend or family member, from nature, or from personal exploration. Different stems of motivation can bloom into a variety of inspirations. For example, maybe taking a walk along the beach inspired you to approach improvisation techniques differently the following day. Or, a friend told you about an encounter she had with a stranger that changed her life, which in turn inspired you to open up to the world around you and improved your artistry. Motivation is therefore centered around a system of cause and effect, and we try to stay motivated in order to keep our careers fruitful and optimistic.
The first time motivation kickstarted my inner fire was when I began training outside of school hours with my coach, Erin Forrest, for international ballet competitions. Ms. Forrest and I decided to compete simply as a means of growth. We discussed competing, and decided working one on one was something I very much needed at the time. Having the pressure of perfecting a variation (or 3) with a time constraint, would force me to get the job done. Ms. Forrest was extremely demanding, giving a myriad of corrections in our hour, and expecting to see everything at least attempted the next day if not applied. For me, this meant “finishing” that hour and working for an additional hour in the hallway, asking questions and reviewing things that weren’t positively crystal clear. After the hour, which ended up being sometimes on the sidewalk if the building was closing, I went straight home and wrote my corrections down while watching the clips we had taken that day. The work was no joke, and it motivated me to be the best that I could be. It was literally as if I was handed rocks with diamonds inside every single day, and needed to mine the diamonds out pronto. I knew that if I could match Ms. Forrest, I would achieve improvement. This was all I wanted going into all the competitions. The environment she set up, the time and energy she gave me every day, and the support all motivated me to see how reachable my full potential really was.
More recently, I’ve used techniques such as brainstorming, meditating, and writing to inspire me and reignite that fire when I’m having trouble believing in myself. Joining a main company the size of mine can be difficult because sometimes you have to wait your turn. Often times for a production I am second or third cast for the ensemble parts, which means a lot of down time and waiting around. This past week, I’ve started something called a dream box which has a quote in it that states: “You can do more than you have ever imagined. If you really want something to happen… write it down on paper. Believe in yourself and your dream will come true! Wish it, dream it, [work for it], do it”. Manifesting your destiny and choosing optimism is going to attract positivity, while controlling your mental health and preventing you from a downward mental spiral. I like to write down overall goals for myself, as well as simple things such as a mindset or tactic that can lead me to skyrocketing. I like to watch videos of ballets I want to dance, especially when I feel like giving up. I also practice a lot in my free time, and I enjoy playing the music from these ballets while I work to inspire myself. This keeps the negative voices out of my head. I find that meditating can also be a great way to find a little more headspace and give yourself the chance to realize the overall picture. Putting things into perspective is very important. Looking for ways to feel grateful for what you have and how much work you’ve put into how far you’ve come is essential. As long as we stay happy and healthy while we keep putting the work in, improvement and fulfillment will follow. My teacher always used to tell me that the amount of work you put into your craft is equal to how good you will become. If you want to be incredible, you need to work like you are incredible! You are the boss of your own life, so keep finding balance and exploring different methods that work for YOU! Happy hunting!