I am, without a doubt, one of the world's worst ballet dancers. Well, that might be an exaggeration--I just started, earlier this academic term, and so I'm not expected to be able to do what the ballerina in the above picture is doing. At least, what her feet are doing, anyway. At any rate, I'm still learning, and in consequence I do some very odd things while practicing.
The thing about ballet, of course, is that even if you know it takes excruciating amounts of hard work to be able to perform like the famous dancers do, it looks so effortless and beautiful. With sports, you can typically see the athletes' sweat and effort as they run for the goal or whatever it is that athletes do--ballet dancers, on the other hand, have to exert essentially the same amount of effort and still make it look beautiful and free. Still, you (by which I mean I) have no idea exactly how much work it involves until you actually try to do it.
All the same, in the short time that I've been trying to learn, I have become acutely, and sometimes painfully, aware of how much hard work and dedication it must take to be a professional dancer. Never before has the fact that all my muscles are quite connected to each other been so obvious as when, upon attempting to do a simple tendu, I find that I actually have to use other parts of my body in order to correctly slid my pointed foot out onto the floor--because you can't just blissfully slid your foot out. Instead, it has to resist up against the floor until the last possible minute, keeping your entire leg tense and in control, while making sure that your hips remain even, pelvis not tilted one way or the other, and the arms--heavens, don't make me mention the arms.
Still, it's wonderful--even for a beginner/non-dancer-person like myself. In that simple tendu or releve, I am more aware of the way in which my body works than I am throughout the entire rest of the day. I have utter, complete control over those moves that I can do well--and the ones that I can't will come in time. Ballet is something for which you can't help but work hard, and the faded, now-strained threads on the bottom of some of my socks testify to it.
Strength is not always outward and obvious. There are, at times, strengths that do not appear like strength, because they run deep beneath the surface.
Here, for example, is Elisabeth Maurin. She looks as though she's suspended in mid-air effortlessly, simply hopping up on her toes for a moment or so with no pain whatsoever. In reality, it takes incredible strength to do what she's doing in this image for even a few seconds.
This is the kind of beauty that has to be worked for, and some of us (coughmecough) will never look as lovely while dancing as Ms. Maurin does up there. The point is, however, that it is not effortless--it was something she strove for and sought, working hard to get there. The things worth doing in life are seldom easy and painless, and more often than not involve enough suffering to make us wonder why on earth we're doing what we do. But, at the end of the day, some things are just worth striving for.