The actual list of the benefits of ballet is endless, but I have found the truth of possibly one of the most profound gifts I have received from ballet: hope.
When people think of the benefits of dance, the obvious ones come to mind, such as strength, endurance, tenacity, discipline, etc. But issues of the heart tend to be obscure, and they seep in when we don't realize it. It's not until an unexpected crisis appears that we discover what our hearts are made of and how we have been trained to believe.
Absolutely nothing about ballet is instant gratification. From the very first lesson, children learn what the goal is, and then they begin the lifelong path of trial, error, trial, error, trial, trial, trial, small victory, oops, error again, trial, trial, more victory, more trial, and on it goes. The only thing that keeps us going is the hope of what could be - the hope of what we desperately want to be. That hope has been developing in our hearts slowly over the years because the goal has stayed front and center.
When I was a little girl, my grandmother would tell me about her escape from Russia during the revolution. With her nine-year-old son in tow, she crawled under barbed wire, swam the river into Poland, and finally ended up at Ellis Island in New York. I remember asking her, "Grama, how did you DO that?!" She would answer in her heavy Russian accent, "Vell, I chust kept putting von foot in front of the other!" She had a goal, and her hope wouldn't die.
Many years later, I was dancing in the final performance of our season, and I was extremely ill with the stomach flu. I had lead roles in all three of the ballets that evening, and there were no understudies. In the final ballet of the evening, in the last exhausting movement, I felt so sick and weak I kept telling myself, "One more step, and I'll have to run offstage…ok, after this next step, I am definitely running offstage. Just one more…" I thought of my grandmother taking just one more step. The hope and the goal enabled me to "one more step" my way through to the end.
All of us have goals, and by the grace of God He puts hope in our hearts and strength in our souls, and we are able to push through when we never thought we could.
So, yes, ballet does teach endurance, perseverance, teamwork, confidence, flexibility - so many things. But when you need it most, you discover how it has taught you the greatest gift of all - hope.