I took my first ballet class when I was four years old. At that time, the big draw for me to keep coming back were the tutus and pointe shoes and that someday I could wear them. I don’t remember asking my mom for classes but I’m so grateful that even though we were pretty poor, I remember always being in dance classes. I became obsessed with ballet around nine years old and read every book on the subject I could get my hands on at the library. I decided I wanted to be a ballerina but due to the time, effort, and true dedication (if you’re serious about a career, you basically have to give up “normal kid” activities), I quit. I also wanted to fit in in junior high and ballet was definitely considered uncool. I have always regretted that dumb decision I made when I was thirteen years old. Throughout high school I danced again and was on the high school dance team, but I was still longing for ballet. When I got to college, I got back into classes and started performing with the college ballet group. In my first big stage performance with the group, I blew my knee out and I thought I was done for good (that’s a whole other story for later!). Ultimately it was yoga and then belly dance that gave me safe, grounded ways to move and feel artistically fulfilled.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]…without them I’d be trying to give from an empty well.[/pullquote]
Dancing and yoga are the two things that help me quickly become present and connected to my body. Performing can be so wonderful when I feel like I’ve connected with the audience. Even though dance is temporary (unlike a painting or sculpture) I can always remember the amazing moments.
As much as yoga and dance help me to be present, they also are an escape for me. When I’m extremely overwhelmed with day-to-day life stuff or emotions, sometimes the last thing I want to do is get on my mat or turn on my music. But when I do, all the stuff that’s dragging me down energetically and emotionally disappears and I feel a lot better about life once I just let go.
Ultimately, the benefits of dancing and my yoga practice are what I need emotionally, and I can’t imagine my life without these two practices, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I love the physical benefits. I feel strong and powerful when I get into a pose I thought was impossible or nail a move that seems like only the gifted can do. Dance and yoga have taught me patience with myself and that persistence and being present are the keys to the physical benefits. Recognition of these efforts is always great too; there’s nothing quite like it when a student says “that was the best class ever!” or when someone in the audience tells me how much they enjoyed my performance. But even without recognition, I would still have to have my dance and yoga practices. I believe we make the world a better place when we can take care of ourselves. Like the saying goes “we can only take care of others when we take care of ourselves,” or “you can’t give from an empty well.” This is why I cannot imagine life without my yoga and dance practice, without them I’d be trying to give from an empty well.
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