I’m convinced that my most valuable life lessons have been learned in dance class. My last dance class was no exception, and gave me a new perspective on the way we look at creating balance in life.
It was a sunny Saturday morning at my favorite, local ballet class. The room was filled with dancers across all different levels; some ex-professional dancers, some long-time dance enthusiasts, all of us just happy to be there, spending a morning moving our bodies. We’re a cheerful bunch that have been taking this Saturday morning class for years. Halfway through our barre exercises, we were doing rond du jambes (a circular motion of the leg), and ending the exercise with a balance in passe (a balance on one leg). Ending in a balance at the barre allows the dancer to find their center, taking the hand off the barre, often raising the arms overhead, and balancing in releve on the ball of the foot.
As I began my balance, my mind went through the mental checklist that I’ve been practicing for a lifetime: ground the energy of the ball of the foot down into the floor, pull up in the hip, connect the lowest abdominal muscle to the spine, pull up through the stomach, let the ribs fall down, sternum up, chin up, shoulders down, arms elongated, fingers relaxed, oh, and breathe. Lengthen, lengthen, lengthen, get higher, taller, listen to the music, and put the foot down and soutenau (turn around). The interesting thing about balance in dance is that sometimes it works beautifully, and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s as much emotional and mental as it is physical. You learn after a lifetime of dancing that some days are just better than others in the balance department. As we finished the balance exercise, our beloved teacher, Melinda, commented, “I love the stillness of balance. It’s so quiet."
And it struck me. In ballet, balance is still. It has an energy and the motion is flowing through the body, but in balance, you are doing one pose and you are staying there. You’re not rock hard or rigid in the balance, as that would create a “timber” effect. But, you are staying in one position and staying present in that single pose.
In life however, when we talk about balance, especially for women, we are talking about a balancing act of doing many, many things, often at the same time. Be successful, be smart, work hard, make money, be a great mom, be sexy, stay in shape, be a good friend, be spiritual, be beautiful, be creative, practice self-care. Don’t do too much of one thing and neglect the others. In this definition of balance, the dancer of life can feel like she’s juggling many balls in the name of balance.
See? I’ve got this balance thing down….juggle, toss, juggle, toss….I’ve totally got this. I can do it all. I won’t miss a beat. I won’t gain a pound. I’ve got my sunscreen on. My kid’s in advanced math. My business is profitable. My bed is made. I helped with the science project. I coordinated the carpool. I hired my first employee. I’ve got it. I’ve got it. Juggle. Toss. Meditate. Exercise. Juggle. Toss. Volunteer. Juggle. Toss. Shit. I dropped a ball. Damn, they’re all dropping. God damn it. There are balls everywhere…where am I going to put all these damn balls? Can’t anyone hold one just one f-n ball for me? I can’t do this. I’m not doing anything well. Aaaaargh.
Been there? Yeah, me too.
So, when I thought about what it means to balance in dance class, I wanted to apply that definition of balance to my life. Be still. Focus on this moment. Do this one thing. Check in with your whole body. Breathe, relax, lift up, higher, higher, elevate, and then put your foot down, and try it again. This time from the other side. Accept that some days my balance is better than others. Sometimes one leg is stronger than the other. And, you start to notice some patterns. It always works better when you breathe. Having a soft focus seems to help. Grounding down and elevating up at the same time creates an energy. Connect with your center. Wait, these sound like good rules for life.
So, my amazing community. Let’s redefine balance and live balance through the metaphorical dance lens. Stay grounded, yet elevated. Find your center. Breathe. And, remember that some days, it’s easier to balance than others. Come back to the barre, find your balance, and begin again. This time on the other side. You’ve got this.