Remembering the Combinations: Don’t Freak Out

I’m reading this great book, Raising the Barre: Big Dreams, False Starts, and My Midlife Quest to Dance the Nutcracker. It’s about author Lauren Kessler’s adventure into a professional production of The Nutcracker as a busy, successful, middle-aged journalist, teacher, writer, wife, and mother.

She writes about her experiences attempting to re-learn ballet after a long hiatus (she danced from age 6 to age 12) — including the challenge of trying to remember the choreography. Even at barre.

Of course, as a dancer, I could relate. Who hasn’t struggled to remember the choreo? Even, like, legit professional dancers sometimes struggle to remember the choreography.

There are days that it seems like the only reason we have higher cognitive functions is to allow us to attempt to remember the choreography (and to torture ourselves when, inevitably, we fail).

Anyway, reading about Kessler’s choreographic struggles reminded me how, back when I started dancing again — or, well, when I moved up to Beginner Class from Ballet Essentials — basically every class was like O G-D I CANNOT REMEMBER THE CHOREOGRAPHY I AM GOING TO DIE NOW.

And that made me think about how easily I nailed down completely-new combinations under a completely-new (to me) teacher last week in Florida, and how on the occasions that I find myself taking Beginner class or the Monday or Friday Intermediate classes, I almost never struggle at all anymore.

Even in Killer Class and Advanced Class, these days, I really only struggle when we’re working with steps that are new(er) and hard(er) for me.

And that, in turn, led to a revelation:

If you’re struggling to remember the choreography, don’t freak out.

It means you’re pushing the limits of your own comfort zone; challenging yourself with things that are new and hard, and that’s awesome!*

*Okay, sometimes it just means you’re having an off day.

So, basically, if you’re struggling to remember the choreo, it doesn’t mean you suck.

It just means you’re expanding your comfort zone.

Of course, fat chance I’ll remember that during my next Modern class, heh.

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About asher

Me in a nutshell: Standard uptight ballet boy. Trapeze junkie. Half-baked choreographer. Budding researcher. Transit cyclist. Terrible homemaker. Getting along pretty well with bipolar disorder. Fabulous. Married to a very patient man. Bachelor of Science in Psychology (2015). Proto-foodie, but lazy about it. Cat owner ... or, should I say, cat own-ee? ... dog lover. Equestrian.

Posted on 2016/10/11, in balllet, choreography, dance, mistakes, modern and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Right now, if there’s one dance thing I’d kill to get rid of, it’s that thing where I miss the first two steps of the combination, which then unsettles the mark for the rest.

  2. How have I not come across this book already?? It sounds perfect!!

    A while back I was really into reading dance autobiographies, but I had run out of book ideas.

    I’ll have to see if I can get my hands on a copy!

    • It’s great! You can definitely get it on Kindle, if all else fails! (or should I say, “failli-s”… No, no. I shouldn’t.)

      I need to get back to reading the dance biographies. Maybe start with a Fonteyn bio, since I read this summer?

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