Quotes to Live By is a blog series I'm doing taking some of the most important things anyone has ever said to me, sharing them, and then explaining why they're so special and important. Hopefully you can find some truth in them the way I have.
When I was 14, I had the unique opportunity to study ballet twice a month with Galina Panova, former Prima Ballerina at the Kirov ballet company, and currently the department head of the Ballet program at East Carolina University. She had to be in her 60's, dancing en pointe with us like she was just as young as we were. Just her dancing was an inspiration.
She coached me on one of my favorite pieces, Fokine's Dying Swan. Her version of coaching involves walking around me in circles and yelling at me in Russian, sounding very angry, and then after the dance saying "Good, good, very nice." It was very confusing.
But at one point, during all the russian screaming, she popped out this piece of wisdom as well.
Do it right or don't do it at all? Well, okay then.
It seemed a little harsh at the time, but in hindsight, it's brilliant.
Panova was operating under the understanding of muscle memory. When you do anything at all, your body stores the movement as muscle memory. After a few times of doing it exactly the same way, it becomes locked-in and will be done that way every time. But what if you do it wrong?
Every time you do it wrong, you need to do it right 4 times to make up for it, to replace and override the muscle memory.
That's why dancers train for so many years.
So when you are going to do something, physical or otherwise, do it correctly the first time, so you don't have to retrain and override those muscular memories.
This can, of course, be applied to much more than ballet. Do it right from the beginning so you don't have to go back and correct it. If you're going to do something halfway, you might as well just... not.