Ballet class is a place where technique is strengthened and lessons are learned about one's self as a dancer. We repeat common exercises to tone our bodies, gain further mastery of new steps and develop a keen sense of artistry. We fall, we learn intricate combinations, we push ourselves to be better than the day before.
But class doesn't always turn out to be this way. I can remember countless times where I've spent the barre and center focusing mostly on the dancing of my classmates. Sizing up their bodies, technique, artistry, expression, strength, whatever—it was all too common. If a classmate could nail a turn and I couldn't, I automatically assumed that I was a horrible dancer. If a friend was getting attention by a guest choreographer at a master class, jealousy would consume me so much that I couldn't take advantage of the opportunity to improve.
It wasn't until I began dancing in college that I started to focus more on my own personal growth. In a more mature and less competitive atmosphere, ballet class became a place where I wasn't turned into a bunhead clone, but where I worked on becoming a better version of myself. Every dancer has something to offer that others don't—and focusing on developing your own strengths will get you further than being consumed by comparative weaknesses. The best dancers turn all of their focus to their own progress instead of wasting energy on being jealous or self-conscious. Don't hold yourself back. At the end of the day, and at the end of class, the only dancer who matters is you.