Monday, March 4, 2013

Even Ballet has a Dip

                                                                                                                          photo of my own little dancer

First of all, yes, I am referring to Seth Godin's book The Dip. For the purposes of this post you should know that everything worth doing has a Dip. The Dip is the part in between being a beginner and being a master. It isn't much fun, but it's part of becoming the best. (And the book is definitely worth reading.)

It's always interesting to me to see when the Dip is going to kick in for students. It's not dependent on age or even years of training. It happens when a student becomes aware of just how much they've accomplished (usually a lot) but doesn't have the context to know how far they still have to go (always a lot farther).

The Dip usually resolves in one of three ways: 1) the dancer sticks it out and eventually reaches a level where things feel fun again. 2) the dancer decides that this is not worth the work and quits. 3) the dancer decides that the Dip is because the teacher is sub-par and they search elsewhere for a teacher who can skip them past this stage. 

I am against resolution 3.

Granted, some teachers are better than others. And not every teacher is great for every student. So I have no problem with you searching out the best teacher for you. But be clear about why you're looking around. If you're at a school with a good track record for producing the kind of dancer you want to be, you should seriously consider staying there. No teacher has a shortcut to excellence. The only way for you to become truly accomplished is if you do all the hard work along the way. All of it.

And "fun" is going to mean something different when you get through this. When you're first beginning ballet is fun partly because it's so new. You get new tights! New slippers! New leotards! You're learning new steps all the time. You're getting to know your body in a new way. But during the Dip you feel like your tights are dirty, your shoes have holes, you're sick of every leotard you own and you start thinking that if you have to hear about "using your plié" one more time you might scream. 

When it gets fun again part of the reason it's fun is because everything is familiar. The clothes, the vocabulary, and most especially your body. It's fun because it's part of you and there's nowhere else on earth like class. There is a freedom that comes with knowing what you're doing.

How much work does it take to get through the Dip? I can't say for certain, but I know that I did more than 30 glissades last week alone. It absolutely gets fun again, but the only ways out of a Dip are to quit or to push through.

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