On ballet and the left side

Echappé, pas de bourrée, glissade, assemblé. Echappé, pas de bourrée, glissade, assemble. Sissonne failli, sissonne fermé. Pirouette, pirouette, pirouette (and BREATHE).

I was feeling giddy, breathless and happy at my favourite Wednesday night class with Ms. R. Or, as I like to the call it, the “no-time-to-think-class” because everything moves so quickly.

We had just finished a tiring combination and were exchanging smug glances of satisfaction when our teacher uttered those daunting words:

“ok, now let’s try the exercise from the left”.

We all knew it was coming, but that didn’t help.

Those words always send my mind into panic mode. I feel like I’m being made to write a complicated essay on the spot, but backwards. My mind is already engaged with the difficulty of the essay but then I also have to think about writing everything backwards?! It’s daunting to say the least.

I’ve spoken to dancers from various walks of life, professionals, amateurs, teachers, students – every dancer seems to have a “bad side” or a “weaker side” where they feel they have less control. For me it’s my left side and I’ve grown accustomed to never really expecting much from my attempts at “left-side exercises”. They always feel less controlled and are less fun to execute.




We all lined up at the other end of the room to start the exercise from the left. Smugness had disappeared and anxiety had taken hold.

The music started.

Echappé, pas de bourrée, glissade, assemble…

The first group danced across the floor.

Echappé, pas de bourrée, glissade, assemblé…

The second group followed.

… Pirouette, pirouette, pirouette (and BREATH).

Relief. We’d made it to the other side of the room.

I wish you could have seen our faces and compared it to how we looked after doing the exercise from the right. It was literally like night and day.

Ms. R. noticed and said “Why do you all hate doing exercises from the left? Do you think it looks worse?” There were nods all around.

She continued. “That is not true. I think you actually do better from the left. You are all more focused, more dedicated and you take more care of your placement. It’s all a matter of perception, ladies!”.

I had never thought of it that way.

Was I performing worse on my left side because I dreaded it so much?

I guess it’s like everything in life – perception is key.


What if I tried enjoying “exercises from the left”, what difference would that make?

I’ll find out in tonight’s class 🙂

8 thoughts on “On ballet and the left side

  1. Hahaha I recognize this feeling SO well..!! You finally have it, you know all the moves, you can execute them perfectly, and then…….. Left side. BRAIN MALFUNCTION!

  2. There are a couple of steps I do worse on the left. But my pirouettes as a rule are better on the left because I don’t put as much pressure on myself.
    One of my teachers always tells us not to think about it as going left, but another opportunity to do the combination better.

  3. Once, I had so many difficulties doing an exercise from the left, that I finally decided to pretend my left foot was my right foot. It did work, but when a friend drove me home after class and asked me for directions I kept mixing up right and left.

  4. My class always starts combos to the right, then does left second as well. I’ve always wondered how we would fare if Madame decided to go left FIRST for a class . . . would we then think the right was our bad side??

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