The day I overcame comparing myself to Principal dancers

I remember getting ready for my first ballet competition ever, at the age of 13. I was working on Raymonda’s pizzicato variation, one of my favorites, and Olesya Novikova’s performance, guesting with La Scala Theater, was my inspiration. I wanted to dance just like her on the competition day. Needless to say, I was quite disappointed when I watched my performance video and realized that it did not look anything like the idea I had in mind.

It’s common to feel pressured and think that the only way to win a competition, pass an audition or get a job in the dance industry is to reach a Principal dancer’s level when we’re still students. 

We forget to keep a very important thing in mind: all those Principal dancers were once students, just like you, and worked many years before getting to where they are now. It is vain to compare yourself with someone who has more experience and has been a professional dancer for years and years when you are still studying, it would be like comparing an elementary school pupil and a Nobel prize winner.

Margherita_Venturi_by_David_Elofer.pngI fully overcame comparing myself to Principal dancers when I came across this episode of Margherita Venturi’s interview where she talks about dancing the role of Henriette from Raymonda at the Paris Opera Ballet School performance. Margherita’s point of view helped me put things into perspective and watch professional dancers’ performances from a different angle.

My teacher used to ask me those questions: “How old is this dancer to whom you’re comparing yourself, and how old are you? Now, by how much do you progress in a year? If you multiply this progress by the age difference, could you realistically reach this level? If yes, then keep working towards your goal, if not, it’s time to reassess the situation. And under no circumstances it is time to feel bad about not having this level of art mastery yet.”

When you admire a dancer, find how they were when they were still in school or when they just started their professional career. Notice how, in most cases, their evolution was gradual and progressive. Identify which qualities other than their dancing skills (such as persistence, curiosity, dedication) led them to where they are today and acknowledge that they did not get from student to Principal overnight. It’s a journey…

How did they not lose faith? They most probably kept believing in themselves and their abilities, which is one of the five behaviors of successful dancers.