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Ballet And Discipline

By Laetitia Bouffard Roupe

“One, two, three, four…stretch your knees, point your toes!” said the instructor at the Paris Opera Ballet School.

The Paris Opera Ballet School is one of the best ballet schools in the world and its focus goes far beyond the technical aspects of ballet.  It teaches you about all aspects of life. Everything it teaches, including discipline, is at the elite level. Thinking back, my time at the school clearly made me who I am today.

At school, everything had to be perfect and teachers were paying attention to every detail. There was no room for mistakes; no dangling strand of thread from point shoes, delicate make-up only. No hanging hair allowed – I had to use a ton of hairspray! Nothing was left uncontrolled or unprepared.

When people see how much sacrifice and pain children training in professional ballet go through, they may wonder why parents invest so much time and money in their child’s dance training. But, training in ballet on a professional level gives you training for life!

It teaches you discipline and discipline is one of the essential ingredients of a successful life.

It is very difficult to talk about an elite ballet school without mentioning competition; one goes hand in hand with the other. From age nine, I had yearly dance exams that determined whether I would be able to stay for the next year. Every year students worry about whether or not they will pass. There are a limited number of places each year, so it’s not enough just to be good, you have to be the best. This competition makes it really difficult to build trust or any kind of friendship with members of your class – and girls can be mean! Yes, all the stories about students sabotaging each other, putting glass in the pointe shoes or pre-cutting your shoelaces so they break at the last moment, it’s all true! The competition is always on.

It wasn’t enough to just be a good dancer to be selected for the next year. You also had to be great at “normal” school.

We also had to study the same French, Mathematics, Geography, History, etc, that other French children learned.  Traditional school children have a full eight hours to cover the program but we only had four hours a day. And here’s where discipline comes back. Children who grow up dancing must master time management.  We had to use our time for homework in a very strategic and productive way. We acquired skills in balancing, prioritizing, multitasking and making sacrifices. Our education would have been incomplete had we not learned discipline.

Being part of a school like the Paris Opera Ballet School builds your confidence quickly. When you are 10 years old and you need to perform on one of the oldest and biggest stages in the world, in front of thousands of people who have paid a high price for their tickets, you better be sure and have the conviction of what you are doing! Knowing your choreography and where you are entering from are just a few aspects. Not to mention you are also sharing the stage with the biggest stars of the moment! Confidence is a must.

A disciplined lifestyle will help you prevent injuries and suffering.  You obviously can’t go through years of professional dance training without muscle pain and possible injuries. Ballet is such a strict and rigorous way of dance. It goes against every single anatomy and gravity rule.  Like the proverb says “No Pain, No Gain!” Taking vitamins, applying creams, icing or heating, are all just little daily actions that will help your body to last longer and with less pain.

Taking care of your body and having the self-discipline to go to bed early enough to help your body rest and recover is also extremely important.

When I was young and living by myself in the dorms of the ballet school, no one was there to remind or push me to take care of myself, I just had to do it!

Anybody who has tried to be disciplined at some point in his or her life knows how tough it is. When you know a disciplined person you tend to respect them. If you are disciplined, you will gain respect from others.  Others may see your self-discipline and consider you an example for their own lives.

After all the years of training, discipline is just part of me! I apply it every day and I’ve found that it has played a key role in my journey towards success.

Contrary to common belief, self-discipline does not mean being severe towards yourself or living a limited, restrictive lifestyle.  Self-discipline gives you the power to stick to your decisions and follow them through without changing your mind, and therefore, is one of the major requirements for reaching goals.

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