The Balancing Act


Nina Leen, 1949

When I was in undergrad, I attended Florida State University.  While there, I participated in the FSU Flying High Circus where I performed in the Double Trapeze, the Mexican Cloud Swing, the Teeterboard and the High Wire.

One of the reasons I chose to try out for the High Wire was because the act terrified me.  Not because of the height – I loved being up high while swinging or spinning, but because I had to move SO slowly.  To stay correctly balanced while crossing the wire on top of my partner’s shoulders, while he rode a bicycle or walked on stilts required slow and purposeful movement; which was completely nerve wrecking.

Part of what scared me was that keeping in proper balance was critical to staying ON the wire and not falling INTO the net 20 or more feet below.  (Not to mention falling into the net from the high wire included falling with all of the other equipment that we used such as, the poles, bike, chair, stilts etc.)

Moving slowly, carefully and thoughtfully went against my natural state of being and therefore was a enormous challenge each and every time I climbed up the supporting poles to the small platform to practice or perform the High Wire.

Keeping in a calm and focused balance always seemed somewhat impossible.

Keeping in balance is still my greatest challenge.  In my day-to-day life, I find that focusing on balance is almost as difficult as walking on the high wire.

Likewise, I see this same challenge for my daughter and her peers; or any aspiring dancer for that matter.  Staying in balance is an enormous challenge ~ and this has nothing to do with balancing on her toes “en pointe”.

Up to this year, my daughter insisted on attending a “regular” school so she could keep her focus on academics in equal proportion to her focus on ballet.  This year however, she chose to give up her “regular” high school learning for that of online learning in order to dance as a trainee at her studio.

When walking the high wire, I would hold a very long balancing pole.  While holding the pole, it was imperative that I continued to shift the weight of the pole so as to try to keep the weight equally distributed 50% on each side of the pole. It would shift along the way; but the ultimate goal was to keep it as close to 50/50 as possible.

As I watch my daughter attempt to keep her focus equally distributed on ballet and academics, I see that maintaining a proper balance in both areas is more challenging than any trick I attempted while performing the High Wire.  She now spends her days, from 9 to 5 training with the Company, filling her days with her passion for dance.   So while “in theory” she continues to maintain an equal focus on academics, I know for certain if she were a wire walker, she would have crashed into the net many times this year already.

As she works so hard to maintain an equal distribution, or a 50/50 balance in both dance and academics, I see her balancing pole careening completely out of balance.

I wonder….can she or anyone in her position maintain dual focus and balance so as to make it to the other side of the proverbial “wire” successfully?

And while the answer to this question remains uncertain, I will make sure the net below remains strong and secure.

I would like to know she has a safe place to land.