Written by Bethany Armistead

Everyone has their talents. Some are musicians, some are artists, and then there is us – dancers. Ever since I was a young child, I loved to dance. I began taking ballet classes at the age of five. I took other classes in the meantime, but ballet was by far my favorite. After three years, my family decided to move to China. That definitely threw a wrench in things. I didn’t dance for five years after that. I missed it. However, I don’t have to miss it any longer. A ballet studio in Xiao Zhai offers ballet classes for young men and women of all ages. There is one difficult thing for foreigners: it’s all in Chinese. Don’t let this stop you, though. Learning ballet in another country in a different language is hard, but it is not impossible.
I have been studying ballet at (Xi’an Ge Wu Ju Yuan) in Xiao Zhai. The instructions are not only in Chinese, but also French. Neither of these are my native languages. The teacher speaks French because many of the terms in ballet are French as a result of its movement to France where the dance was improved and fine­tuned. Many people know that French and Chinese are not similar languages in any way. This makes learning the steps and knowing how to fix mistakes even more confusing than it normally would be. Don’t lose heart just because of this, though. Dance is a universal language. The language barrier may make it tough, but that is no reason to decide against taking classes in a foreign country. Instead, a language barrier gives a person the push they need to work harder and focus all of their energy on something they know is worth it. People often take the easy things in life for granted, and having to struggle twice as hard to learn something is a good lesson. By focusing all one’s energy on understanding and following instructions, think of how much better that person could be than everyone who does not listen to corrections and instructions as intently. If you look close enough, there is always a benefit to struggling.
Taking an extracurricular in another language is also beneficial to language learning. By taking dance in Chinese, my Chinese vocabulary has expanded phenomenally.
Honestly, dance class is much more exciting than reading a textbook and learning grammar in Chinese class. Learning is quite a lot easier when you are enjoying it. By spending time doing something that I enjoy, I can improve both my language and dance abilities at the same time. Conversation vocabulary is also involved in taking classes in building relationships. My classmates see and understand a side of me that a lot of other people do not.
We stretch together, dance together, and complain about our blisters and muscle cramps together. I always learn new words and expressions from these conversations that I never would have otherwise. I have been given a chance to grow close to so many amazing girls by taking ballet in Xi’an. I’ve learned about Chinese pop artists, slang, high school culture, and many other conversational topics that can be used to further relate to anyone here in Xi’an.
I want to encourage any foreign dancers who feel lost here in Xi’an to give these classes a try. Don’t worry about the language. Think of it as an opportunity to learn.