March 26, 2024

Ballet – Dancers’ Diary

About the Author: Suzanne Wagner
By Published On: March 26, 2024Categories: Ballet, Blog Daily

Ballet – Dancers’ Diary

The Days of a dancer are filled with chaos and joy. Discipline is a word that is intrinsically required on all levels. It scope is required to be vast and absolute.
To say, ballet is exhausting is the understatement. There are days when you have class, rehearsals, and performances.
And there are moments when you know that even that is not enough to sort out some tricky choreography.
In the studio you are required to “just do it!” No muss and no fuss. But every dancer knows when we have not hit the mark or that our expression of some pieces of choreography was substandard.
Sometimes that comes from watching videos of your performance and you shudder in disgust at what the audience is seeing compared to what you think you are presenting.
More often than not, it is because one is disgusted with one’s inability to handle a technical challenge and as a dancer, we feel we lose the flow and are not in alignment with the intention of the character or the technique.
That is when dancers sneak into studios after hours to practice and sort out the technical glitches and get a pattern of flow and confidence into the muscle memory by dogmatic repetition.
Only if one can do the same segment in a ballet a hundred times by yourself in the studio … can you then begin to let go and trust the body to do what it has been told and trained to do, which then allows the soul to find that elusive place that is the magic.
Only when the body is to be fully trusted can the character fully emerge and take over the heart and soul of the dancer.
To do that, often a dancer needs to be alone to sort it all out.
I found that early in the morning or late at night … were the best times to work those things out. When the studio is empty, there is no pressure to perform for the choreographer or the ballet mistress. In the silence of an empty studio, one’s frustrations can be let out without any retribution.
Dancers have a persona of being cool, calm, and collected. But nothing could be further from the truth. Inside we are a stampede of horses, needing to run, to fly, and to find. Most dancers do not know what they are seeking other than that level of perfection in which for a precious moment, all things move in unison and finally … there is peace.
In that empty studio, I could become a blank canvas for me to express my deep-seated emotions that cannot find a way to be expressed in the normal rehearsal scenario.
In the emptiness of the studio, it is only you and your reflection. The mirror is an honest and fierce truthteller. When I am by myself, I can take steps apart, piece by piece. I can break them down to the smallest equation and discover where I am not fully in my feet, my heart, my legs, or my nerves. I can feel the gaps when the nerves of my upper body and lower body are out of sync or alignment. I can feel where my body is numb and not fully engaged.
We know how we want something to look like. We know what we want a piece of choreography to feel like. Getting those two parts to unite can (in moments) be horrifically challenging.

People think that dancers just do classes, rehearsals, and performances … and then they go home. But there are many other things that are required of us, if we are to master difficult choreographic sequences and challenges.
Class and rehearsals are often not enough.
If one does the late-night private rehearsals and still is not feeling as if we are able to express a quality or consistency, the next step is to integrate some sort of core training, whether that is with a balancing ball, Pilates, yoga, stretching and relaxing completely the muscles, to chiropractic, acupuncture, and massage.
There are times when I would look in the mirror and see how deeply tired, I was. Certain levels of exhaustion are so extreme and have built up over such a long time … that one can see in the mirror that you are just not fully in your body, gapped, numb, and unpresent.
I can watch a dancer on stage, and I know when they are about to make a major mistake. That is because their energy is either dragging behind their body or their soul energy is dragging the body. When the gap between the body and the soul gets to a certain level, that is when big mistakes happen, and sometimes catastrophic things happen.
It is why watching certain levels of dancers can be quite unnerving and stressful. When a dancer is flowing, one can feel it through the audience. When it is not, there is an underlying tension of trying. Trying is a mental game and is an indication that the mind does not totally trust the body.
When the mind and body are aligned, there is a graceful ease. That is the space in which magic lives and breathes. That is what every dancer longs to feel and touch. That is the place where every dancer knows that in the places of sublime surrender and balance between the human self and the soul’s essence that one can find that illusive gift, peace.

There is nothing like the quiet in a studio when you are by yourself. A studio feels like a familiar hug to any dancer. The ghosts of all those that have passed through these spaces still lingers. One can feel the powerful grace and determination that has infused the walls, the floors, and the very air in such rooms. And it gives permission to a dancer to try again.
I remember the endless hours sorting out small aspects of choreography and to look at how something appears in the mirror. In the emptiness the frustrations can be expressed with no one to judge. In the emptiness I can let out the truth of my own insecurity without needing to be strong or feeling as if someone will use my weak moment against me at a later time.
In the emptiness, it is just me with my own quest for perfection while facing the very human reality staring back at me in the mirror.
In the studios of my past, I see my flawed self … searching for magic.
In the studios of my past I am forever young and bursting with hope.
In the studios of my past, I see the power of my determination, the discipline of my mind, and the commitment of my powerful heart.

~Suzanne Wagner~


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