Ballet state of mind

I’m starting a new type of therapy, which is scary and exciting and hopeful.

I’m just at the stage of having initial assessment appointments. Which can be hugely stressful – I couldn’t even tell you how many times I’ve gone through this stage with all different types of talking therapies. And, although it was hard, and exhausting, I feel like it it went pretty well this time.

One thing which I’m turning over in my mind is how my therapist was interested in my ballet classes. Therapists want to know that you have interests and that you are getting exercise, and ballet has been a really positive thing for me in this regard – not just in my general everyday life, but as a thing I can bring to therapy and say Look – I am doing this positive thing.

But this therapist said to me – I am interested in your doing ballet. Because it seems to be a very exacting discipline, and a very self-critical one.

Now, I have thought a lot about the psychological aspects of dancing, and I hope to think a bit more about them on this blog, but this was something that had never occurred to me. Sure ballet is a discipline, it just is, but I had never thought about the critical aspect of it. I don’t necessarily see this as a negative quality – but even looking in the mirror and self-correcting needs a critical eye doesn’t it? If we were not able to be critical of ourselves as we dance we would not be capable of much improvement, I feel. In a sense I mean critical here in a way similar to literary criticism, noticing and analysing and improving. But there is a sense in which criticism is scary, hard to accept, maybe hurtful and destructive at times. Most of us must have noticed the difference between teachers giving constructive criticism and the kind that feels destructive, for instance.

I wonder how this resonates in my life. I am an intensely self-critical person, to the point of being destructive. Maybe this is a reason for being drawn to ballet? But, more importantly, maybe ballet can help me model more positive ways of being self-critical?


I met a lot of very interesting and lovely people at Dance is the Word’s opening session on Saturday. The day was led by Donald Hutera, dance critic for the Times, and featured Emilia from the Ballet Bag and staff from ENB, covering writing questions, giving us insights into working freelance, discussing blogging strategies and giving us all opportunity to talk about our dance background and what we wanted to gain from the course. I even got to work through some blogpost ideas in a group – really valuable and something that the lone blogger doesn’t often get to do!

One of the most interesting writing questions for me was concerning confidence and giving opinions. As I come from an academic writing background, I’m fairly confident in my own critical judgement and I think I can be very opinionated –  and also willing to back up and discuss my views. This is of course in a thesis-writng context, and one of my worries is about translating this into a blog-writing, reviewing, journalistic context.

A good number of people expressed concern, not just in finding confidence in their own views, but about backing up negative opinion, and how to write about negative reaction to a piece. This is a very current concern for me, and I think something that is compounded by fora like Twitter, where it seems we’re all in contact with each other whilst not knowing anyone at all. Although I feel secure in making a value judgement on a piece, my query is around is how to express this properly, especially in a blog that is by its nature instantly accessible by anyone.  I’d never be rude or destructively critical about anything, however I’m acutely aware of my position as an amateur writer in comparison to the well-respected practitioners I’m critiquing.

I guess the only way to find out what works is to write, and maybe make mistakes, and write some more. Just as judgement on dance pieces is instantly tweeted, reaction to your writing can be just as quickly fired off. It feels a little bit like entering into a fray, but hopefully a constructive, rather than a combative, arena.


Dance is the Word

I’m very excited to be able to take part in Dance is the Word 2014, a dance writing course run by the English National Ballet.

I got my confirmation through this morning, and the course starts on Saturday with writing workshops with some well known and respected dance writers, both print critics and bloggers. We’ll be attending and writing about the Emerging Dancer Awards, with opportunities to talk to the dancers themselves.

Hopefully I’ll be able to blog in a personal capacity about my experience and thrash out some writing questions with you lot! Keep your eyes on Twitter for updates and photos!