From gaining resilience to acquiring new languages, ballet has significantly shaped Abby Zhang’s life

Resilience.

Since she was six years old, freshman Abby Zhang has learned numerous skills from ballet—balance, grace, posture—in an attempt to perfect her artistry within the studio.

However, what is not outwardly revealed is that ballet has taught Abby much more than physical technique. Within her dance studio, she’s gained strength, both physically and mentally.

Within her dance studio, Abby has learned resilience.

“There’s a bunch of emotional and mental struggles in [ballet] that people don’t realize,” Abby said. “It’s a constant strive for perfection that can never be reached, and that’s kind of the beauty in it. You have to teach yourself how to be resilient.”

After her parents placed her in classes, Abby has continued dancing on her own behalf, finding comfort among the elegant music and beautiful choreography. Throughout her time spent at Michigan Ballet Academy, Abby has come to understand the difficulty of ballet.

To her, ballet should be considered both an art and a sport because it requires a blend of grace and physical strength. After slipping on her pointe shoes, she often encounters hours of classes and rehearsals, seeking excellence in each movement and step.

“[Ballet] is a constant strive for perfection,” Abby said. “That’s what makes it so difficult. You’re the person who sets your own limits. You can never be perfect at ballet, so you’re always improving and always bettering yourself and focusing on the little details.”

Abby’s perseverance for personal improvement is an effect of her love for ballet as well as her desire to do her best when performing on stage. Every winter, she dances in The Nutcracker, and every spring, she performs in another recital that changes with each year.

She is currently preparing for this spring’s presentation of Sleeping Beauty, and Abby will be the principal dancer, filling the role of Princess Aurora.

In order to achieve the success and development she’s reached, Abby has faced copious frustration while facing criticism from her teacher and herself. Comparison of her own skills with other dancers’ success has also propelled this frustration. 

“[Dancing] can be really hard mentally,” Abby said. “There’s so many times when you want to give up, and you hate everything about yourself. But that’s also part of what keeps you motivated because you know that no matter how good you are, you still have so much room to improve.”

However, there are specific moments that drive Abby through her mental and physical struggles. The resilience she’s gained from dance has helped her overcome her challenges and negative thoughts and allowed her to feel the gratification of her work.

Ballet has completely changed who I am, and I just wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for it.”

“[What drives me] are those moments when you can finally do a move that you couldn’t weeks ago and when your teacher finally tells you that you’ve done something so much better,” Abby said. “[Those moments] are just so rewarding that you know all of the pain and work that you’ve gone through is finally worth it in the end.”

To continue improving her artistry, Abby has attended a summer intensive program for the past few years run by the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Connecticut. The Bolshoi Ballet Academy is a highly acclaimed school in Moscow, Russia that has produced many well-known dancers, and this upcoming summer, Abby is thinking about going to Russia to attend a six-week ballet program.

In Connecticut, the ballet teachers only speak Russian, and many other students speak various languages; thus, Abby has learned how to speak Russian, atop of the other three languages she speaks—English, Chinese, and French.

Abby’s experience at the academy has allowed her to meet many new friends and make various unforgettable memories, and this opportunity is something she’s thankful for.

“It’s really an eye-opening experience to [attend the Bolshoi Ballet Academy] because it’s just so diverse,” Abby said. “You meet people who speak all of these different languages and who have come from all these different backgrounds. And you get to dance with them, and in the end, you all are doing the same thing. You all are doing ballet together.”

At the end of the day, ballet has strengthened Abby both mentally and physically, allowing her to not only benefit from dance within her studio but helping her externally in everyday life as well. It’s something of great value and enjoyment for her and has helped develop her character and life.

The music, the choreography, the experiences, and the close friends she has are all parts of ballet that have positively altered her life and cultivated her love for dancing.

“I love the thrill of it all,” Abby said. “Ballet has completely changed who I am, and I just wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for it.”