My struggle with the “bad side” began as early as I started working on my splits as a 6-year-old kid. I remember noticing how the right leg always felt more flexible, while the left was tighter and stiffer. I also remember how I loved easing into that right split, making it seem easy and natural, while I was neglecting the other leg, just because it wasn’t as good.
The situation got worse as ballet training became more serious and intense: I quickly got to meet my bad foot, my bad arm, my bad supporting side, my bad balancing leg and last but not least: my bad pirouettes side. I was convinced that everything I labeled as “bad” could never improve since it was simply bad.
I developed a strong fear that prevented me from enjoying ballet classes and, even if I knew that this mindset was, for sure, not going to help me succeed, I did not know what to do. I was experiencing anxiety and shame whenever I was asked to show pirouettes to the left, balances on the right leg, multiple relevés on the left foot and so on.
Instead of wanting to work on my weaknesses I was neglecting them and hiding them. At the same time, I also knew I was not improving and I was very frustrated. Being negative was seriously holding me back.
After a talk with one of my teachers, I realized that what we define as “bad side” is nothing more than the side that needs more focus. And, at times, it turns out that our “bad side” is the result of a compensation for another part of our body that is not doing its work. This reminded me to think of movement as a whole and not just one body part, one of the anatomy principles for a dancer.
Switching from a negative to a positive mindset immediately started to provide results. Turns to the left? Let me concentrate: “if I can do it to the right, I can do it to the other side as well!” Finding balance on both sides? Let me transfer the sensation I have on the left to the right and there I am!
All it took was giving a new name to the “bad side”. Whenever I tell myself “this is the side that needs more attention” I am driven to put more effort and more focus into it, instead of beating myself up after a single mindless try.
Following this piece of advice allowed me to overcome some of the obstacles I was facing in my dancing. It also gave me a boost of confidence and faith. I like to use the same strategy whenever I am letting negative thoughts take over by turning them into something positive and encouraging. It works!