Be Fearless

With 20 years of ballet under my belt (or leotard and tights as it were) I have learned many life lessons from the art. Among them was one I learned from Mikhail Baryshnikov, a legend, who joined class one day. He was in the back with some of the male dancers who were showing off and telling him about how easy the lessons were. In response, he turned to them and simply said:  “You know how to give yourself class don’t you?”  The implication being that if you’ve already followed the lead and grasped a concept, then stretch further and push yourself to do more.

life lessons ballet

I’m obviously not the only one who learned lessons from dance. If you haven’t seen the Leadership Lessons from the Dancing Guy video that went viral (at 3 million views and climbing) you should watch it right now. Unless you’re already busy watching Contemporary Eric, in which case I’ll wait.

I like to combine my ballet lingo with the video lessons -- stay with me, this is going somewhere, I promise -- and condense it this way:

  • The petit-battement is that ridiculous move that looks as though the ballerina is using her toe to swat at an annoying fly hovering by her ankle. A leader needs to have the guts to stand alone, on life’s stage, and look absurd.

  • Why do ballet terms have to be in French? Say jump instead of jete for heavens sake. Be public and easy to follow. Give simple directions so that it’s not intimidating or confusing to follow your lead.

  • A pas de deux is a partnered dance. We move from soloists to partners when the prima ballerina is paired with another dancer.  Nurture your follower as an equal, making it clear it’s about the movement, not a solo. Being the partner takes courage and serves to catch the leaping dancer. We’re all encouraged to be leaders, but we also need people to catch us and help us balance.

  • The Company!  The rest of the corps turns this duo into a group where you have real momentum and beautiful cooperation.  It’s no longer risky to leap and those who chose not to join are the audience who will stand back and applaud.


If you’re a reformed-ballet geek such as myself, then you know of Miranda Weese, a NYC Ballet dancer who came back after a major injury.  I have a quote of hers on my desktop that reads:

“Try to be fearless, because fear can inhibit you and keep you from a life.”

Fear keeps us from acting because we worry that we might be mocked or ridiculed, letting our vulnerabilities hold us back. Yet in the end, the only thing that matters is what we learned from our experience. So, let go of worries and jump... or dance, if you will.



  • Misty says:

    Be fearless… I like it.. That’s something I really need to remember, especially when I am always consumed with fear of failing when I have an idea for my business..

  • Those are great videos, Heidi! I’ve watched Contemporary Eric before, from the first week it was seen in YouTube and he was funny but very effective dancer. It’s my first time to watch the Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy video and I admit, at first, it was hilarious, but when the third and fourth followers danced with the first two guys, I knew I was in for a leadership lesson myself. THanks for sharing these vids…Really eye-opening.

  • Marielle says:

    I used to dance ballet when I was in grade school, but stopped when I was in junior high, so basically, I’ve got minimal experience with the flats. Nevertheless, I always feel at ease and free whenever I danced, it’s like I’ve got wings ready to take off the moment I put on my ballet shoes. I guess that’s how freedom feels for me..

  • Aaliyah Jane says:

    I learn lessons in my everyday life, through interactions with my family and other people, even strangers. I learn that life has to be cherished every moment, and that you need to spend each day with the ones who matter the most.

  • I just saw the life lessons video. I thought it was an effective way of leading others instead of being the follower all the time!

  • Taylor says:

    Great life lessons, thanks for sharing them Heidi!

  • Tina says:

    I have also wondered about the French terms in ballet, I never got the answer from my teacher. But I did enjoy dancing during my 6 months of ballet, I felt light on my feet, it’s like my toes are pointing my to the right direction to follow.

  • Bridgette says:

    Be fearless, that’s actually my mantra in life. I don’t want to succumb to cowardice and fear of the unknown. I want to follow and be able to lead, too. Thanks for this inspiring post, Heidi.

  • Claire says:

    I used to dance ballet when I was in grade school and stopped eventually when I decided I fared well in the Hip-Hop department (like Channing Tatum’s style in Step Up) but I have to say, dancing had actually given me the freedom I wanted. When I dance, I feel like the wind is beneath my shoulders and I could dance all night long not minding my problems or anyone else for that matter.

  • MJ Walters says:

    I have learned that in life you must do the things you want to do, make the most of it because you’ll never know when it’s gonna end. Sounds melancholy, right? I thought so, too..

  • Danica Mills says:

    there’s nothing like facing the new day of challenges with a beautiful smile and a happy disposition in life. There’s nothing to be afraid of if one’s conscience is clear and goes beyond to help. That is what I learned.

  • Wena says:

    I think being fearless means going through a lot of obstacles and forgoing a mission without any fear of being a failure. That’s what I learn lately.

  • Krissy says:

    Come to think of it, I used to dance ballet when I was 10-12 years old but I never realized that most of the terms are in French. Now I wonder why do ballet terms have to be in French..

  • Danica Mills says:

    There’s nothing like facing the new day of challenges with a beautiful smile and a happy disposition in life. That’s what being fearless, for me, is all about.

  • Believe it or not, I used to dance ballet when I was a kid too, and it thought so much about discipline and determination, effort and dedication. It is in ballet where I realize that life is really about routine.

  • Leigh says:

    I learn about life and all it’s wonderful lessons as I live each day, like it’s my last day on earth. I don’t want to regret someday about things I wasn’t able to do or about what I shouldn’t have done at all.

  • Nancy says:

    Like what the troll said to Elsa, you must learn how to control; Fear will be your enemy. So I don’t want to let fear take over my life. Fear will surely complicate matters if not attended right away.

  • Gabrielle says:

    My greatest fear is death, I don’t think I could ever be prepared for that, nor my family. that is simply something I couldn’t think of now or in the near future. I’m afraid even thinking about it.

  • Francesca says:

    “Try to be fearless, because fear can inhibit you and keep you from a life.”

    I love this.. Very inspiring. I myself have a lot of fear, and it’s true that my fear keeps me from doing those exciting things I should have been doing with my life. Thanks for opening my mind with this.

  • Ellen says:

    Fear is what prevents us from doing something remarkable. Fear is what makes us all cowardly in life. I’d love to overcome that fear one of these days. Fear of heights is what I am going to make sure I’d overcome soon!

  • Susan Armstrong says:

    Oh it’s not easy to face fear, it can be daunting, nerve-wracking and chilling. I can attest to that. I have this eerie and strange fear of spiders and everytime I see one, even if it’s small, I cry and hyperventilate and would do everything to get away from it. Trust it, it’s not easy to face it alone. A support system may just be needed in these cases.

  • Arianne says:

    This is what I learned from my old man who saw me through every kind of fear that I experienced. Fear makes you immobile. Fear makes you see things that are not there. If you conquer fear, you can move, you can unsee the things that terrify you. If fear is conquered, you become strong and more capable of living your life the way it should be. Wise words, isn’t it?

  • Carmencita says:

    Wow! 20 years of ballet is a BIG thing! I remember when I was a kid, my mom used to enroll me in ballet classes but I never got to finish it because I ached all over, I wasn’t into so much pain at that time. I didn’t have tolerance. Now I have a daughter who has classmates enrolled in ballet and she’s interested. I guess I have to put off my fear and let my child learn and grow the way she likes.

  • Laurice says:

    It’s not easy being fearless… But I know that’s better than living all your life in fear and disappointments. One day soon, we have to gather up all our courage to face the consequences that tomorrow brings..

  • Elizabeth says:

    Face your fear, that’s the number one rule in life. No one should be bound to what they fear, but to conquer it, in order to survive. Just my two cents.

  • RoseAnne says:

    I think being fearless give you the power to control the fear that threatens you and gives you courage knowing you can protect yourself from any harm.

  • Raven says:

    Facing ones fear is the best way to condition yourself for when you are having challenges or difficulties in life. If you overcome fear, you’ll overcome the hardships that come your way. Just my thoughts…

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