My epiphany came when I was either in my late 20’s or just into my 30’s, I can’t remember when exactly. Apart from the years I met and married my husband, most of the others merge….
I walked into one of the many bootcamp style gyms in Cheltenham, and there on the wall were the words,
“Don’t wish for it, work for it”.
A great motivational sentence. Seeing that there in huge letters not only made me squat deeper, burpee faster, but in that moment it dawned on me that for pretty much the length of my training as a dancer, I had mostly wished for my dream, not really worked for it. Don’t get me wrong, I did put effort in. However that part of me that should have committed my whole life and self to reaching my goal just didn’t kick in. I happily had a decade long career but from that revealing moment, I’ve had to make peace with the fact that had the penny dropped sooner, or had I possessed an in-built sense of what was required, my career could have taken a different and probably better path.
Becoming a dancer requires discipline. Full stop. There’s no way around it. You need to step into the studio ready to work and take on every general correction as if it was given to you personally; to work to adjust the positioning of your body, deepen your technique and gain strength to repeat it, the improved version, in the following moment, day, week, year. Combine that with a strong mental discipline, artistry and an ability to perform without inhibition and you have yourself the recipe to take your hobby onto the next level.
Contrast all that hard work with the innocence of my little girl who has recently been introduced to the visual spectacular that is ballet. She now asks to wear a ‘ballet skirt’ daily and loves to twirl around. She’s already nailed the ability to dance without inhibition – her twirling and jumping efforts are somewhat clumsy but she doesn’t care and as her mother, at this time, I don’t want anything to burst the bubble in which she truly believes she can dance.
However, dance and discipline simply can’t be separated and so as a dance teacher and mother, I am somewhat conflicted. For many dance schools (the good and the bad), all too soon classes can become less focused on fun and more about preparing for exams, ensuring the standard is high enough to ‘achieve’ for the reputation of the school. And as the mother who is frequently late or forgets the things requested from nursery, I can quite empathise with the Mums and Dads who may feel the pressure when they arrive in a rush, hoping they have both ballet shoes, uniform, socks (a pair is always good!) and that their child has neat enough hair. But forsaking the teaching of sound technique and etiquette for fun is, in my opinion, simply unforgivable. And ultimately, there comes a time when commitment and respect for the art needs to be demonstrated, whatever the motivation behind taking classes.
But for now, as the mother of a twirling, dreaming toddler and as one who would have benefited from a little nudge to discover the right mindset, the traditional road feels too narrow. Yes, many at the top of their game seem to have been born with a thirst for the discipline that is required but others have gone on a journey to find it. And so I would just like to think there could be an alternative route. One that strikes a balance. One that allows a love of dance to come first and flourish to sustain the hard work ahead. One that allows a more gentle process of growth at the beginning and some space for parents to feel a little less pressure to be uber ballet Mum or Dad. Just for now anyway.
As for me and my conflict, I will continue to smile and encourage my dreaming, twirling toddler and hope that if the time comes, she will have gently discovered that dreams are to be worked for, not just wished for.
A Sponsored Guest Blog from Anna Ledford, owner of Anna Ledford Dance School in Cheltenham.
Anna lives in Cheltenham with her husband and toddler. She divides her efforts between mothering, trying to keep house and running her business. Baby number two is cooking and should be ready to meet the world in a handful of weeks. She loves to follow on Instagram, but almost never posts herself.
You can visit the website for Ludford Dance School here and find out more about ‘Toddle‘ the fun filled dance class for baby and toddlers or follow them on Facebook. You can also visit Anna’s instagram page here.