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What I Learnt While Crashing a Ballet Class

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I’ve always wanted to be a ballerina. Ever since I watched those early Barbie movies like The Nutcracker and Swan Lake, I’ve dreamt of putting on pointe shoes and effortlessly gliding across the studio (or stage). My dream was very, very short-lived and features a slightly scarring back story. However recently at University of Johannesburg, I discovered (more like just saw a poster) that there are free lessons available at campus. Obviously this immediately attracted my attention but I had many questions as well. Luckily, through an assignment I finally got my chance. I got a great interview with the wonderful ballet instructor, Professor Catherine Botha, beautiful pictures and a chance to see what the class entails. I also picked up a few amazing tips that can help me (and you) in everyday life, even if you don’t plan on becoming a ballerina.

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  1. “If you don’t dance, even if it’s just quietly in your own apartment at night, you’ve lost an aspect of what it means to be human.”- Professor Botha

 There is no better way to say that. It is no secret that ballet, and more broadly dance, is an art and art is expression. Dance allows one to move their body in new, different ways that allow you to let go, to free your body and to express yourself. Dance is one of the simplest expressions of freedom for both your body and your soul. It is something that we all need more of whether it is through ballet or one of the many other disciplines of dance.

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  1. Ballet is not just for girls!

 Botha started these classes as an active transgression. In her classes, there are both male and female students who also very in age and race. The classes aim to include anyone who wants to learn ballet and enjoy the experience rather than focusing on previously established stereotypes regarding ballet.

“Ballet is something that everyone can do,” said Botha in explaining why she chose to start these classes in the beginning of 2015. According to Botha, anyone can learn ballet and excel in it. To prove this point, Botha continues to challenge the boundaries long-established with ballet.

Click here to learn more about how Botha is doing this.

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  1. Ballet is hard work

 This is a no-brainer obviously but what inspired me the most is how these ballerinas handled it. They picked up the moves relatively fast, they executed them perfectly and when they didn’t, they just dusted themselves and moved on. It was beautiful to watch and incredibly inspirational. I wish that I could continue like that… Laugh off my mistake, try again and become better. Yes, ballet is hard but what I realised is that if you want to do something badly enough, then no matter how tough it gets you will continue to stick it out and eventually succeed.

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  1. Ballet is about learning: not only the discipline itself but also who you are and what you can do

 Who would ever think they could just take ballet at age 18 and blossom into wonderful dancers over a span of about 3 years? I definitely would not have thought it possible but that did not stop Botha and neither did that stop her students. Through the process they have tapped into something pretty wonderful. Ballet helps open the mind and push the boundaries of what you can do or rather what you thought you can do, according to Botha.

It has many challenges that help build character and gives a new kind of awareness and strength that flows into the rest of your life. “Being able to practice dance while you’re doing whatever it is that you’re studying broadens your horizons, changes your perceptions of space, of your engagement with others. You know, it really changes you as a person,” said Botha.

Moral of the story… Dance is so much more than just moving your body.

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  1. When you give from your heart, you will win hearts.

 This is something I learnt from Professor Botha instead of just watching the class.  Botha does not charge for her classes as she considers this her way of giving back to the community. She explained that the university was also kind enough to allow her to use a studio for free. This is really wonderful because if they had charged her then she would have had to charge for her class to pay for the studio fees. Botha also has two other teaches that have helped her by teaching the two other classes on different days that are aimed at absolute beginners and students with bit more practice, the intermediate classes. They also do not charge for their services.

This allows the ballet classes to reach more students because most students do not have it in their budgets to include ballet classes. Botha started with a vision and due to her passion and kindness, people have helped her to achieve her vision as well as expand on it.

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I learnt a lot from this classes that has changed my perspective. Firstly, dancing, even if it is not ballet, will help you in many ways so dance! Dance when your sad, dance when your happy. Dance slowly or dance fast. Just dance and feel the difference it will make. Secondly, do not give into stereotypes and do not let them stop you from doing whatever you want to do. Break the boundaries and the stereotype and rule the world. Thirdly, put in the hard work! It will all be worth it in the end. Whenever you feel like you could not possibly continue, just try. You can do anything you put your mind too. Fourth… dance! Move your body, become aware of it and learn more about. It will help you grow and it’s benefits will flow into every area of your life. Lastly, be kind and give whatever you can because it will make a difference. Anything you are willing to give, no matter how small, can make a really big difference in somebody else’s life even if you do not realise it.

Picture credits: Nadine Ramdass

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