I was reading a post at BoysBallet.wordpress.com, called Being Billy Elliot that is from a story written by Nancy Stetson for the Florida Weekly that talks, about ballet dancer Stephen Hanna’s role in the Broadway musical Billy Elliot. Hanna plays the grown up “Billy.” The article describes a scene in which Billy is imagining himself as older and the two — the younger “Billy” played by one of three different dancers each night (Kiril Kulish, David Alvarez, and Trent Kowalik) and Hanna — do a pas de deux.
Reading this reminded me of a really valuable practice used by many athletes that our dancing boys can use to help them in so many ways — with their performances, competitions, technique, and general advancement in the art form. What is this practice? Visualization!
As I’ve said before, I’m a big human potential and personal growth proponent. So, I know or have used a lot of the tricks of this trade. However, visualization is one that has been used so successfully by so many athletes. And it’s so simple. You simply develop a really clear picture of yourself doing whatever it is you want to do successfully. If you want to perform your dance perfectly, you see yourself doing so. Or you imagine yourself in the spotlight taking your bow with all the people clapping and yourself feeling like you danced the best you’ve ever danced. If you want more flexibility in your hips (since this is an area in which boys’ bodies often are tight), you can visualize — or imagine — your hips being very flexible and allowing easy movement or the muscles stretching easily as you move and stretch. You can see the muscles like rubber bands or taffy… You get the idea.
I don’t know why I didn’t think of this technique before, but reading that article and seeing the picture of the older and younger Billy made me suddenly realize how easy it would be for boys (or girls) to visualize themselves achieving their dance goals as a way of helping themselves actually do so. This is not enough, obviously. They have to train and strengthen their bodies, but will help. It’s another tool in their toolbox.
If you don’t believe this works, ask some professional athletes. Or listen to some motivational tapes from Brian Tracy or any number of human potential and personal growth teachers in a variety of arenas (business, sports, spirituality). Or take my word for it. I did a fire walk once, and all we did for two hours prior to putting our feet on those glowing coals was visualize being on the other side with our feet in buckets of cool water. And guess what? I walked across those coals not once but twice without even the slightest burn on my feet.
Anyone can use this technique for anything. You can visualize yourself having a successful job interview or dance audition. You can visualize yourself having a good outcome to a confrontational communication with someone or to a conversation with your teenager about homework or grades.
There’s one caveat to this, however: The visualization is more effective if you can actually feel what it would be like to achieve the outcome you desire. If you can get a sense of being in that lime light with the applause and feeling like you’ve never danced better, if you can really feel the pleasure of muscles that are supple and flexible, if you can feel the relief of a communication gone well and the honest and love that were shared in the process, if you can feel the sense of achievement of landing a new job or being told your got the part after an audition. The key is to combine your thoughts of what you desire with the feeling of having it. In other words, while you are visualizing what you want, feel it as if it had already happened. It shouldn’t feel like an “I wish” scenario happening in the future but rather like something happening right now in this moment.
I hope Julian and I will be able to go see Billy Elliot while we are in NYC. We are in the process of looking for apartment sublets at this point (if anyone knows of one).