As I previously mentioned in my Getting to Know You Blog Hop post, dance has played a huge part in my life. I took lessons from the ages of 3-18, made many life-long friends, and performed the lead role of Clara in The Nutcracker alongside the man who would later become my husband. Although I’m not currently dancing any more, I’ve retained a deep admiration and love for the art form.
I don’t just enjoy dancing and watching others dance; I also enjoy reading about it as well. That’s why I’m proud to participate in this book blitz for Wish, Grier Cooper’s debut novel about an aspiring ballerina contending with the struggles of dancing and living with an abusive mother. As part of this blitz, hosted by Xpresso Book Tours, Cooper is here to share a manifesto on the rules of ballet.
The Rules of Ballet: A Manifesto by Grier Cooper
Indigo’s ballet teacher, Miss Roberta, is very outspoken about a lot of things, including personal hygiene and what dancers should and shouldn’t do outside of ballet classes. Since she was a professional ballet dancer herself, she knows what it takes to be a ballet dancer and how hard it is to make it. This is the manifesto she shares with all of her ballet students to help guide them:
Humans are naturally lazy and dancers have to work hard to overcome this tendency. Take a moment to look at the average person’s posture and you’ll see the truth in this statement. Most of us shuffle through life in the default setting: with our shoulders hunched over and our heads down.
There is always room for improvement. If you think you are a good enough dancer, you’re wrong! Ballet is all about reaching perfection–your own version of perfection. There is always something to fine-tune or something new to learn.
There will always be someone who is a better dancer than you. This is a difficult reality to face but sooner or later this is true for all dancers, whether it’s due to skill or age. My first ballet teacher used to tell us to never get comfortable or cocky because there would always be better dancers out there. You have to stay sharp and constantly push yourself if you want to reach the top. The good news is hard work and persistence pay off. Work to the best of your abilities and you will forge forward.
It takes hard work and discipline to get ahead. It also takes ironclad willpower, indestructible courage and ridiculous levels of confidence. But hey, no one ever said it was going to be easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it.
If you can’t take constructive criticism, you are in the wrong place. By the time you reach the professional level of ballet, you are not only able to handle criticism, you live for it. Ballet dancers eat up “corrections” like most kids chow on candy because they know if someone takes time to make a comment, they think you’re worth it.
If you are too tall, too fat or too lazy, pick a different career. As stated before, this is not a career for anyone not prepared to work their butts off. Although the physical ideal in ballet is slowly changing it’s still a much tougher road if your body type doesn’t match what ballet companies are looking for.
The love of dance brought you here and it will carry you through your career. Every dancer you see on stage today started with love of ballet in their heart and the dream to become part of the magic onstage. That love is what keeps dancers going day after day, sometimes working through pain in various forms. But ask any dancer if they love what they do and you’ll get the same answer: Yesssssss!
Ballet is equal parts dedication, inspiration, and perspiration. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart, either… or for anyone who minds getting sweaty.
The human body is a dancer’s most important tool and our biggest challenge (see Rule #1). As mentioned above, the human body is naturally lazy. Dancers have to fight hard to overcome this tendency. Since top fitness is part of the job description, most ballet dancers spend every waking minute keeping their tools in prime shape, either taking classes, doing supplemental training like Pilates, stretching or going for a massage (although this last activity is far less likely).
Ballet involves sacrifice (of certain dangerous activities…including and most especially boys). If you do the math you’ll immediately see why this is true. If x, the dancer, spends almost every waking moment in a ballet studio that leaves y hours left to do anything else. In this case y=0. But all kidding aside, there are certain activities most dancers don’t do because of the risk of injury or because they will develop the wrong muscles: skiing, horseback riding, and circus arts, just to name a few.
Whether you are a ballet dancer or not, you probably have your own manifesto for life. May it guide you well. Even if you don’t resonate with Miss Roberta’s manifesto, do take her advice and wear deodorant.
About the Author
Grier began ballet lessons at age five and left home at fourteen to study at the School of American Ballet in New York. She has performed on three out of seven continents with companies such as San Francisco Ballet, Miami City Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet, totaling more than 30 years of experience as a dancer, teacher, and performer. She writes and blogs about dance in the San Francisco Bay Area and has interviewed and photographed a diverse collection of dancers and performers including Clive Owen, Nicole Kidman, Glen Allen Sims, and Jessica Sutta. She is the author of Build a Ballerina Body and The Daily Book of Photography.
Win a Copy of Wish!
I’ve got not one, but TWO great giveaways for you today courtesy of Grier Cooper and Xpresso Book Tours. One reader will win an e-book copy of Wish, and another will win a prize pack of the following items:
- Collection of dance films (Mao’s Last Dancer, Save The Last Dance, Center Stage)
- $15 iTunes gift card
- e-book copy of Wish
Both giveaways are open internationally to anyone age 13 and above. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter forms below.