By Tanya Trombly (@bulletproof_ballerina)
Photo credit Rachel Neville
I was never meant to be a ballerina. My genetics did not give me the “perfect” ballerina body. My short limbs and athletic build are far from the long graceful lines that are desired in the ballet world.
Nonetheless, I had an incredible passion for dancing and worked hard to be the best I could be. Unfortunately, my attempt at being “the best” involved decades of torturing myself with eating disorders, perfectionism, compulsive exercise, and other self-destructive behaviors. I thought that if I suffered enough for my art, sacrificed my body and happiness, surely I would be rewarded with success and finally feel “good enough.”
But, all that effort and pain only brought misery…even after I had established a “successful” professional career as a ballet dancer. I was still chased by those mental demons telling me I wasn’t good enough. That not only prevented me from being happy with myself and my ballet, but it actually made me start to despise ballet. I had it all backwards. I was killing myself to please someone else, to impress some undefined entity out there. Once I finally realized “success” required my own approval and fulfillment first, things changed.
My mindset shifted from fighting against my body to working with it. Instead of trying to stuff my body into the ballet mold, ripping and tearing at my joints to reach ballet perfection, I started to learn and appreciate how my unique body works and used that understanding to improve my ballet technique. Instead of trying to deplete and destroy my body at the gym, I started to use cross-training as a means to preserve and enhance it.
Enter my Bulletproof Ballerina experiment. I stopped forcing myself to take ballet class every day and started lifting weights with a specialized technique that felt different than any exercise I had ever done. It made me feel powerful and enhanced my mind-body connection. My focus shifted from quantity of training to quality of movement. Instead of brutalizing my body, I was optimizing it.
I expected my dance career to suffer from breaking away from the traditional training path. But, far from suffering, it actually reached an entirely new level. Everything improved – the height of my jumps, my speed in petit allegro, my extensions, balance, pirouettes, coordination, and control. It was like I hit a warp zone in my ballet technique. I was training less but found myself with more ability for ballet technique than ever before.
From this new cross-training method, I realized that STRENGTH was the secret weapon I had been missing all along…and, not only physical strength but mental strength, as well. By learning to love and appreciate my body and ballet, flaws and all, my enjoyment and expressiveness in my art was heightened to a level I had never experienced before. I found myself unafraid to take risks and show myself to the world through my art, which had a huge impact on my performance and my ability to connect with the audience.
This is the value of finding a cross-training method that build you up rather than break you down. It encourages you to develop a new relationship with your body and art…not one based on rigidity and abuse, but on passion and strength. By learning to work with your body, enhancing the things you have control over and adapting to the genetic features you can’t change, you gain a confidence that is undeniable in your self and in your art. And, that is priceless. That is what you deserve. That is what gives you fulfillment in your art and in your life.
For more information on Tanya and her Bulletproof Ballerina method of cross-training, visit: