Caitlin Clarke, talks about her negative ballet training mindset and explains her difficulties in finding work in ballet companies.
Ballet training mindset
Since starting full time dance at age 14, I had always been told that I had great potential. What a hopeful word that was! Thank goodness, because it meant that I was doing something right. The more it was spoken, that hopeful word eventually turned into a hopeless one. So in my mind, that was all I was going to be, less than.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is great quality in working towards improvement. Little did I know at that young an age, this small seed of inadequacy would grow into all-consuming vine, weaving itself into my way of thinking, being and dancing. This was my sole outlook on my life, whether it had to do with how I was dancing, what my body looked like or what kind of person I was. I began to no longer see the positives that made me the unique dancer or person that I was.
My only desire was to be everything that I wasn’t. This desire infested itself into my eating and exercising habits, which allowed me to feel that I finally had control, yet led me onto dangerous paths. For the first time, I felt empowered. In my own twisted way of thinking I took every bit of attention that I was gaining as approval of these new religious habits I had adopted. I was not less than something, I was something. Even comments from peers saying ‘Caitlin, you’re so skinny, gosh I wish I had your legs.’, felt good and fed my addiction.
When I was 17 years old, I had the privilege to be a part of a Pre-Professional
Program. During that year I acquired an injury to my little toe (of all places!), which halted me from dancing for a fair amount of time. Still striving to retain my fitness and ability while not being able to participate 100%, I felt a shift in attention from some of my teachers.
Feeling as though I was lost in the crowd of the other dancers around me, at the end of that year I was unsuccessful in obtaining a contract, although I am still unsure as to why. I found myself back in that negative mindset believing there was nothing significant about me.
Ballet company auditions
Over the next one and a half years, I travelled everywhere within Europe to audition for companies. That was if I was invited of course. Every place requiring pictures and videos within their applications meant I was literally putting myself on display for them to decide if I had what they needed and if I fitted into their ‘mould’. Enduring wave after wave of rejection, I began to arrive at a point where I actually started to believe that I was in no way, shape or form, sufficient enough. Even when I did receive an invitation, the ability to stand out amongst 400 other girls was next to impossible.
After four months of endlessly applying for jobs, Europe started to feel extremely far away from my home in Australia. There was not much to look forward to anymore and I felt rather worthless after numerous failures. I found myself resorting to obtaining control in the one area that I knew had worked before. ‘Maybe a company will hire me if I’m super skinny’ I would think. There was no sense of purpose or belonging. There was no joy and I was lonely. I wasn’t even sure why I was dancing anymore, because it had actually robbed me of anything that might have been remotely positive in my life.
Returning home deflated but not defeated
I travelled back to Australia because I neither had anything left in my bank account or the capacity to keep trying. Purely with the incredible support of my family and the refuge of my home, I decided to start again. Not only because I realised I needed to, but because I understood that it was okay to leave everything I’d known and start again. I was full of hope and anticipation for what was to come. This time, however, my thought processes made a shift. I no longer looked at all the things that I wasn’t, because I could finally see all the things that I was, and still could be.
Read the second part of Caitlin’s story in a few week’s time.
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