Failli. I first heard the word a few weeks into the beginnings of my ballet training, age eleven. It was one of the few French terms for which my classmates did not have a quick and easy translation–plié was to bend, tendu to stretch, but failli? All I knew was that it was a transition step, one with such importance as to have a unique, elegant name of its own. Failli took on an aura of mystery for me in my early training, when I was obsessively researching and categorizing every bit of information I could find about my newfound passion.
Funnily enough, transition steps are the ones that often fall by the wayside between intermediate and advanced dance training. They are the ones that connect the ‘important’ steps, after all. But, in the words of one of my favorite contemporary teachers, you have to learn to dance “the dance of no transitions.” The idea is that no one step is less valid, less vital, than any other. In the dance of no transitions, how you get from one big thing to the next is as important as getting there.
Last week I found myself contemplating how this might apply to my life outside of movement sequences. New York City has been in that odd place between summer and autumn, where you aren’t sure whether stepping out in jeans is a good idea or exactly what to set your thermostat on. My yoga teacher pointed out that as the seasons change, we have to adjust with them, and that leaves us with a choice: Do we “just get through” this potentially awkward patch, or do we take this transition with as much care and attention as we do the highlights?
Transition steps are important in dance because they are what set you up for the big, noticeable steps. If a transition lacks attention, the movement phrase as a whole becomes disjointed and less than fulfilled. In life, how we treat ourselves–our bodies, our hearts, our brains–in times of transition sets the tone for the season that is to follow.
Here, dear reader, is my challenge to you: as the heat of summer bleeds away and the crispness of autumn rolls into place, take time to notice the in-between steps. Maybe you’ll set yourself up for something amazing.
[P.S. One of my colleagues tells me that in certain contexts or turns of phrase in the French language, failli can mean nearly or almost falling. Food for thought.]