3, 2, 1… Smile!

Things have been pretty busy here – my first Christmas away from home, increasing responsibilities and opportunities at work, finishing all the admin for my PhD (finally got my paperwork through on Wednesday – I’m officially finished!).

My concentration face during class - I promise I'm still enjoying myself!

My concentration face during class – I promise I’m still enjoying myself!

Amidst all this I’ve been taking lots of ballet – class six days a week at two studios with five teachers. It makes my schedule a little hectic at times (big understatement) but I wouldn’t swap it for the world. It took a month or two for me to shift my ‘style’ to match my teachers (i.e. one teacher likes me to keep my weight more forward that I’m used to, one likes me to finish my pirouettes with my arms in second etc).

Since then, I’ve been focusing on various parts of my dancing and I’m pleased to say I’ve seen some good progress. There was one shift in particular that I made before Christmas that has had a huge difference on my dancing: smiling!

It’s really easy in class to get sucked in by an exercise and become really focused. When this happens to me I tend to end up with a ‘concentration face’ – I end up looking pretty serious and slightly scary at times! Further, there can be times when you mess up a combination, end a pirouette badly, or get your feet tangled during petit allegro – this usually results in a grimace or a scowl directed at yourself.

One of my favourite photos of me dancing (in the Swan Lake Pas de Trois from a gala in 2013)  - and I'm smiling! Sort of...

One of my favourite photos of me dancing (in the Swan Lake Pas de Trois from a gala in 2013) – and I’m smiling! Sort of…

I’m not saying that I look miserable every second of a ballet class, far from it. I’m generally having an amazing time and often can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be. So it seemed a shame that wasn’t being shown (and I felt bad that teachers didn’t see how much I was enjoying class – although hopefully they realised that with my profuse thank yous after class). So in December I decided to concentrate on smiling.

What was the effect? I danced much better! I think the main reason for this is because it has helped me relax in class. I’ve had the correction to relax a lot in class recently and I definitely find I’m more relaxed when I’m smiling.

So that’s my tip for this post – next time you’re in class take a few moments before each exercise to think about smiling. It doesn’t have to be a massive grin throughout (although I’m usually about that happy!) but a little smile can help your dancing a lot. Do you have any similar tips? Share them in the comments below!

Hopefully I’ll have the next blog post out soon – how to memorize combinations in class! Let me know if you have any tips to share…

Until next time, keep on dancing!


P.S. I was totally honoured to be included in Adult Beginner’s Blogroll of Ballet Dudes this week – a list of totally awesome blogs by dudes who dance. Check it out – and if you’re not following AB then got on that right away, she’s awesome! (I should know, we fought the Rat King in the NYC Subway once…)


  1. Being somewhat of a ham, in class I usually pretend I’m onstage. What is (classical) ballet if not making the difficult seem effortless? Also, it’s mind over matter. Smiling through a tough move (hello, holding balances forever) gives it new associations, like a pleasant “I can do this!” instead of a scowling “ugh, here’s that awful move again.” I have to credit one of my teachers for that last bit: she would see us clenching our faces just before balances or pirouettes, and told us to instead breathe, relax, and think “this is the easiest thing in the world!” :)

  2. Dude, huge congratulations on being all done with your PhD, I mean, speaking of things to smile about in ballet class.
    Funny thing about the Concentration Face, I see it even in the baby ballet class my two-year-old takes. Grim grim faces, and then afterward shouts of joy and “Mama Did You See?!” and you realize Oh, wow, they were enjoying that!

  3. I find the struggling face more helpful when it comes to improving, it keeps the focus I feel. Though I always try to remember to smile, I’m always amazed to see other people smiling, they look great !


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