A dancer’s first lesson is balance. From grounding your feet―heel, ball and toe―on the floor to having your body weight evenly distributed on them to lifting and floating on one leg or none, the firmness of your grip and the strength in your core keep you from quavering.
I was a dancer before I was an IB student.
But when I became an IB student, I became more of a dancer.
There were simply too many parallels between school and studio.
And every lesson in one was applicable to the other.
I was full of airy ideas in school and it helped to be part of an education programme that emphasized balance as a necessary prerequisite to developing a solid academic foundation and well-rounded personality.
As I moved along the IB and the wooden-flooring of a classical ballet studio, my body and brain failed me on a lot of days. It happens to us all. I simply couldn’t stay up one more night to turn in one more assignment in time and then wake up the next morning to stretch my arms out onto an arabesque. Somewhere amid such moments of weariness, we chance upon untapped reserves of physical and mental endurance that once exploited, take you through the assignment, the arms drills and then you know better and do better.
The Indian classical art form of Bharata Natyam has movements as precise as answers in our exams and assignments were meant to be. Knowing that we needn’t write a sentence extra than what had to be written translated into a mindfulness in me to make movements at angles and in lines that were complete, clear-cut and correct. As my body formed shapes and postures that were aligned and accurate, I realized I might have even discovered the most entertaining experiments for every geometry lesson at school.
“I was a dancer before I was an IB student. But when I became an IB student, I became more of a dancer”.
Step by step, I was now beginning to think in dance. My vocabulary developed from my need to constantly deliver crisper commentaries in economics, more nuanced interpretations of literature in English, a more sensitive look at history and the times humanity has traversed to come to be. Art is crisp, subtle and sensitive. When I danced, my movements, in addition to manifesting these attributes, had to have meaning and depth. Only that would make a spectator embrace its largesse, finesse and ultimately, our collective humanity.
A theory of knowledge (TOK) session revealed that I was fluent in a language that is probably the highest form of expression―dance. It incorporates reason and logic through thorough training in technique, emotion you must convey through your act, as you add movement to music and perception. Eventually, you begin to see the world differently as you navigate that space on the dance floor, lengthening and contracting, depending on the demands of choreography. It is a way of knowing, seeing, feeling and believing. To me, these are exactly what made it an equally powerful instrument for telling stories as the words I write.
It was in a similar TOK session that I made a final presentation on artistes, criticized for their wild interpretations and versions of classical art, who have found acceptance and adulation across the world. As a student of art forms embedded in tradition, I had a choice to make. I could let myself remain as open as my education has taught me to or draw up walls and close myself in. Ditching the latter was an easy pick. There is a way to be creative and classical. There is a way to let my imagination fly and remain rooted.
I stood at the barre one day after school, warming up with pliés, relevés, tendus and other limb extensions, when it occurred to me that perhaps the IB was a warm-up for the centre work I would eventually have to perform outside its nurturing periphery.
So long as I didn’t let go of that first lesson in balance.
Diploma Programme (DP) graduate Mythili Zatakia is a professional dancer and entrepreneur—founder of the SHOUT Network, an independent network for creatives and writers. Mythili received her IB diploma while pursuing her love of sports and the arts at the B.D. Somani International School, India. Give Mythili a SHOUT! by following her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
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