Words of wisdom from Susan Jaffe: Don't cheat yourself

September 21, 2008

One of the great things about being in a college dance program is the opportunity to interact with some amazing professionals. Most recently TCU brought in Susan Jaffe, former ABT ballerina, for a teaching and choreography residency. I listened to Ms. Jaffe speak at a question-and-answer session while she was here. I’ve been fortunate enough to listen to and work with many important artists here at TCU, and sometimes it can be intimidating. But Ms. Jaffe, though she spoke with eloquence and authority, was so approachable and, well, real as she answered questions.   

I listened with fascination as she described the biggest change in her career: moving from constantly telling her body what to do to listening to her body. At one point she had such terrible tendonitis that she had to change what she was doing, and after a period of time working with a physical therapist she had re-trained her body to dance more truthfully. She worked very hard to gain the concept of 50/50, that is, working with equal weight on both feet, no matter how difficult that may be. She laughed as she mentioned the nickname given to her by fellow ABT dancers, the “granola ballerina.” It didn’t matter how tempting it was to cheat in order to make her dancing look better, she would only dance from a natural, organic place.

I had to reflect on my own training: How many times have I cheated to get my leg higher, or look more turned out? And perhaps the little cheats I make to help myself for the right now will only hurt me in the long run.   

Just something for all of us to consider as we approach our next ballet barre.