Mentoring the Next Generation Of Dancers / by Alexandra Pullen

Sponsored by Athleta. I received product and compensation, but all opinions are my own.

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Wednesday was National Girls & Women in Sports Day! I’m celebrating by showing you guys how i work with some of the students I mentor! My sport is ballet, of course :). The confidence, strength and character gained through physical activity and an art like ballet are the very tools girls need to become strong leaders—in their own lives and in the world. Everything i know about discipline, hard work, and body awareness stems from my ballet background. I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to pass that along to the next generation of dancers! It also gives me the chance to unlearn and reprogram anything negative patterning that I may have implemented from ballet in my past. It has truly re-ignited my initial passion for dance, and allowed my inner young dancer to blossom. My relationship with ballet has been tumultuous at best, but this process of passing on only the positive aspects has been so healing. I am able to reintegrate all of the good and let it wash over any negativity that came from the conditioning I received in the ballet world and company life. I know that following my bliss will ultimately enable me to find so much more freedom as an artist.


Having a role model to empower you to succeed can make all the difference in life—and in sport. My goal as a ballet teacher is to first and foremost to lead by example, and provide an example that i would want to follow myself. I also seek to reinforce the opposite of all of the negative stereotypes that exist in ballet culture. I try my best to be patient, use positive reinforcement (often), challenge my students, and encourage them to most importantly have FUN and enjoy the process. Being strict, mean, and harsh as a teacher feels unnecessary when you can achieve the same result by being upbeat and encouraging to your students. There have actually been studies done that prove that children respond more effectively to positive reinforcement—go figure! Like anything competitive, the ballet world can be dark...but there is also so much light and so many beautiful skill sets that can come from it.

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We love and respect ballet… but I also remind them not to take it too seriously all the time! After all, it is JUST ballet 😝The reality is, we aren’t curing cancer. We are merely honoring a beautiful art form, moving our bodies, and learning how to express ourselves through a certain means. There is no need to make every stumble or misstep a huge drama, when it is truly nothing in the grand scheme of life. That’s not to say that it’s completely irrelevant, but there is no need to become so obsessive about every little thing (which is often the norm in ballet culture—there is a fetishism of perfectionism in ballet that is completely counter productive).

I also shut down any kind of negative self-talk. Words or phrases banned from my classroom are things like: "I can’t,” “I’m not good at that,” “I’m to ___ to do that,” “I don’t get it,” etc. I ask them to reframe what they’re experiencing in a more positive way. If you say “I can’t do this thing,” you’re most likely not going to do that thing very well. Instead you can say, “I have a lot to improve upon this” or “I haven’t mastered this step yet.” Instead of “I’m confused—I don’t get it,” find specific places where you need clarification and ask for help. Dismissing something as too difficult or too hard for yourself can be really damaging— because you never give yourself the chance to prove your inner voice wrong. One of the most empowering things about mastering a skill is not only learning the techniques to arrive at a specific outcome, but learning how to direct your thoughts and energy in a way that supports you rather than works against you. These skills are applicable in any other facet of life and are so valuable.

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As a yoga instructor as well, I firmly believe in the benefits of implementing a meditation practice. Working with kids, I see an opportunity to start them young. Usually we only meditate for 3-5 minutes at the beginning of class or between barre and center, but the kids loveeee it!! My youngest (5-8) often even request it! We mainly focus on closing the eyes, breathing into our bellies, and picturing different colors or a happy place. It’s so fascinating because I can actually feel such a shift in their energies afterward. Even children are more free to express themselves through movement after connecting to their breath. I feel so lucky to be able to pass along these tools to these kids.

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Special thank you to my students Karis and Ramsey for being in this shoot!💕 We’re all modeling our new Athleta gear 😊🌈 And thank you to Athleta for providing us with these adorable matching sets! I’m so lucky to be able to work with brands whose mission is to inspire and empower women.