The Need for Feedback

ballet teacher correcting young ballet girl at the barre

Image from Dibujos Fotos Imagenes

So how much dedication is good for us? When successful people are asked for advice, they often say some version of, “Stay true to yourself. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.”

I really disagree with that. If you don’t sing well and are therefore denied your dream role in a show, why continue believing you sing well? Would it not make more sense to get a better singing teacher and practice more effectively?

Certainly, there are many people who stayed on their path and are now famous for their work. But there are likely many more who tried to stay on their path and are out of work, depressed, etc., because they didn’t achieve success. How do you know if you’re on the right path?

Feedback. After over 20 years in dance, I can tell the difference between helpful feedback and harmful:

Helpful: “If you want to get that kick higher, do these specific exercises five times a week.”

Harmful: “You’ll never get that kick any higher. You don’t have talent.”

The first one gives you the option: if you want to be an amazing dancer, high kicks are required. If you want high kicks, follow this exercise routine…If you’re not prepared to work that hard, then perhaps you’ve chosen the wrong path for yourself. Wouldn’t you prefer to know that earlier rather than later?

I chose not to dance professionally because the price was way too high: tons of practice, rehearsals and filmings until 2:00 a.m. (so I was told), living in Toronto away from most family, and endless rejection. Ballet companies were out of the question – I’m 5’9″ and therefore well over 6 feet en pointe. I was then and am now about 150 lbs. I don’t think any man would want to lift me! I at least had the height for chorus work. (Crazy for You in Toronto in the 90s required all chorus members to be at least 5’8″ without heels. I easily met that requirement.)

The second type of feedback is hurtful criticism. Certainly in a field like dance, there are some physical limitations. Proper feedback, though, will help you overcome or compensate for those limitations. I could never bend my back in half backwards, but I was an excellent tapper. In fact, I had a backbend in one tap solo right at the opening. With the proper arm and neck alignment, it looked great and I think I only went back 90 degrees. If I’d gone down to the floor, I think that would have looked really freaky.

Here’s my advice: “Stay true to yourself, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it, but be open to feedback from the right people.”

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