I was a little girl with visions of ballerinas dancing in her head. I begged for dance lessons and my parents finally gave in when I was about 8 or 9 -and a very conveniently located studio was found. I took classes for a year or two and that was it. I believe the convenient studio closed and my parents did not consider dance lessons a priority. I left home for college at 17 and immediately found my way into dance classes at school. These were mostly modern dance, but that love of classical ballet stayed with me. For many years and through several moves I managed to find adult ballet classes.
Though I continued to study ballet recreationally I clearly needed a career that would support me. Initially it was an interest in working with injured dancers that set me on my current career path. I became a physical therapist and did start working with some dancers whose problems can be quite complex at times. My sense was that I needed to add something to my “tool bag” that took a more holistic view. I joined a Feldenkrais ® training looking to enhance my professional skill set, certainly not for any sort of self-knowledge or transformation.
Yet lying on the floor doing all those Awareness through Movement ® lessons in my training I could not help, but to learn lots about how I moved- and where perhaps I got in my own way, if moving with ease and grace was indeed a desire. I surprisingly found out that some relatively minor, but chronic sacroiliac pain became far less frequent as I learned to let go of holding my abdominal muscles engaged and slightly elevating my ribs- habits that may well have had their roots in my ballet training. Not only was I developing professional skills, but also I was becoming an expert on how my own body worked in a way that I had not in all the years of dancing. Movement should feel good and free of any unneeded muscular effort.
So after the first long segment of my training I decided to take the rest of the summer off from ballet classes as I thought they would reinforce some patterns I was trying to change. Come Fall I never went back. As much as I had enjoyed ballet, it didn’t feel right for me to do anymore. I had developed a body-based expertise in knowing what really made sense for me- as well as developing tools to share that with my future clients.
No, I don’t think classical ballet is “bad”- and that people shouldn’t study it. I still love to watch it. Even more I love to work with ballet dancers on how they can do that amazing stuff with less strain on their bodies. I help them move a little more from the “inside out” instead of just looking at shapes in a mirror.
And I use those same tools with all my clients helping them to explore and find movement that makes sense for them so they can become their own best experts when it comes to activity choices.
MORAL OF THIS STORY- Despite tons of academic study about movement and what can go wrong- and quite a bit of dance training, it was not until I immersed myself in Feldenkrais that I really learned what it means to move well and to make choices that are truly good fits for me. This is the gift I can now share with my clients.