The Key to Success: Showing Up

My former acting teacher, John Dapolito and I were talking about our students and what makes them successful. He was remarking that the ones who succeed are not necessarily the most talented. He said those who are the most successful, those who “make it” are the ones who do the work, but don’t attach to the results. He said they just keep going, consistently showing up, time and again, getting better as they do.

I’ve seen the same in ballet class. There are dancers who have excellent past training, and exceptional natural gifts who say they love my class, but rarely show up. A year or more may go by betfore I see them again, and when I do, they haven’t danced, they’ve gained weight, gotten out of shape, and lost abilities along with their confidence.

Then there are other dancers who may not have the training or even the natural gifts, but they have a stick-to-it-tive-ness that keeps them coming back to class regularly. These are the students who get better and better!

I often tell my students that showing up is the hardest thing to do, and yet, it doesn’t involve skill or talent or even special genetics. In the case of our studio though, it does involve some stairs. 😁 (Not those pictures above though!)

But why is showing up so difficult?

Well, fear of course, but my theory is, the people who show up are not attaching to their results. Whether they have a great class or they mess it all up, they don’t let either outcome affect their day or their ego. They simply have a good time. Getting better is merely a byproduct,

Now, look, don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t been to class in awhile. This isn’t a flogging fest. Life happens. I get it. Schedules change, People get busy (or have babies!) We are all hard on ourselves — and I think that’s the reason why we aren’t dancing as much as we want to be. We want to be perfect or forget it. So what can help?

  • Find a buddy in class to show up for each week, so it is about showing up for her, not you.
  • Pack your ballet bag, don’t think too hard about what happens when you arrive, just concentrate on getting there.
  • Don’t attach to the outcome of class. All those thoughts: “Will it be too hard, too easy, will that crazy amazing girl show up and make me feel totally inadequate.” All the crazy-making thoughts–let them happen, but don’t pay too much attention. Fear is what keeps us safe. And you know another word for safe? Boring! (And not dancing!) Go to class!
  • It will take time to see results, so be patient with yourself – looking for results is the wrong intention. Instead pretend ballet is a game and the only rule of the game is to have fun! Because in the end, isn’t all of this supposed to be fun?

I remember going to my first class with John years ago. I had taken his acting intensive and he said I could join his Master Class. I was so intimidated. I knew there were actors in there so good they could chew me up. I was scared but excited too. I went all the way down to the west village, found the building, climbed the stairs and walked with trepidation down a long dingy hallway. I was so nervous that I hadn’t allowed myself extra time. Still, it was a minute or two before 7pm. I put my hand on the door and the door was locked. Locked! I checked the time. I didn’t yet know John’s policy to lock the door before 7 when he saw everyone was there, and that he didn’t let in latecomers until after the first scene, about 20 minutes into class. I should have knocked–he hadn’t started class yet! Or I could have waited until after the first scene work. But instead, I turned tail and went home and came back the following week—but I showed up! You can too.

~ Sarah

Starting March 1, we are starting a new no lateness policy! See our website for more details and I hope to dance with you soon! Interested in taking brand new beginner ballet? Let me know! Liberatedmovement@gmail.com I’m looking at dates for the next workshop. Or come to my open level classes. Tues 7-8pm and Sat 12-1:30pm

17 comments

  1. Sarah, I love this. I am not a dancer (sadly), but I think it applies to so much in life; definitely creative pursuits. I was interviewed recently for a literary journal and was asked it I believe in Writers Block. I said no. I think that inspiration and process come from developing a practice. The more I write, the better I get ,and it has nothing to do with divine inspiration, talent or education. Some days what I write is crap, but it isn’t about it always being good, it’s about the showing up and the doing.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. ‘don’t attach to the results’ Wow. So true. I don’t dance, I mean in front of people, but these words also apply to my life as a writer, and I am so glad I read them. Often I don’t show up because I am lost in self-doubt and instead think about lack of results rather than just writing. Well, that’s kinda pointless, isn’t it? Thanks for this post, it was the slap in the face I needed! Have a fabulous weekend, Sarah!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for reading! I wrote this for me too! One thing they don’t tell beginners is that one of the key skills is watching and mimicking the body shapes. This is actually the skill you are perfecting. Hmm. Guess I should write another blogpost! Hang in there and have fun!

      Liked by 1 person

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