A monochromatic pattern of ballet dancers on one leg with their arms raised

How Ballet Inspires Me to Move

I don’t discuss it much, but it often hurts me to move. Typing is fine (except when my wrists are flaring). But standing and walking is always an effort. Just about every day when I do my exercises, I experience pain but I do them anyway (within a certain pain threshold) because they help me to keep as healthy as possible.

Throughout my life, movement has been connected to pain. As a kid, I’d sit on a bench and watch kids climbing the jungle gym or throwing balls and marvel that they weren’t screaming in pain. On the contrary! They were laughing with joy!

Ballet inspires movement for RA

So it’s ironic to contemplate my love for ballet. I cannot do any of the moves and they all look excruciating but, yet, I love to see a ballet and revel in the beauty of the movement. It’s not just the beautiful costumes and movement that I find inspiring: it’s the joy on the dancers’ faces and the knowledge of their passion for it. Those dancers also experience pain, but it is one that they embrace because they love their art and have a deep dedication to learning and performing their best.

I’ve learned enough about ballet to know about broken toes from standing on wood-tipped ballet slippers. I know about the stress fractures and the strain of training their bodies to do the impossible. It takes mind-blowing amounts of discipline and dedication to perform the craft of ballet.

Loving ballet despite bad joints

And it shows! When I attend a performance I feel my eyes widen at the leaps and my big smile at the turns and gestures. I may be aching with rheumatoid arthritis all over my body, but I am soaking in the beauty of the ballet. When I leave the theater, I want to leap for joy! I almost feel like I could float like a ballerina.

I know ballet is not in the cards for me. But I do enjoy dancing in my own way, with my peculiar wriggle. I put on a zumba video at home and go to town. So what if I have to pause it to catch my breathe and take sips of water! I can channel the dance and find some fun in moving even when it hurts.

Ballet: a pleasant reminder to move

I love how going to ballet makes me feel—how it lightens my heart and reminds me that movement isn’t all bad. When I’m feeling crummy with my RA, it is easy to start believing that moving is bad for my bones, even when I know this is not true. Pain becomes a deterrent that I have to fight and argue with all the time. But ballet reminds me that movement can be both—that it can be beautiful and also painful. It’s not all bad.

Channeling the beauty of movement

Not all of us are graceful. And I fall into the clumsy and awkward group. But movement is still my friend because it keeps my joints going as much as possible. I need all the encouragement that I can find to keep moving. I may not be a ballerina, but I can continue to do my exercises for my RA and stay as healthy as possible with my illness. I’m not auditioning for any ballet troupes, but I will be attending the ballet again.

I like being someone who can be aware of my limitations, yet appreciate the gifts and artistry in others. I like being able to find joy in someone else’s beautiful dance and ballet performances. I like experiencing beauty even when I am personally feeling terrible. Soaking in some ballet is an inspiration to keep on moving, if in my own way.

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