My Thing: Confessions Of An Artist…Ballerina…Teacher…Work In Progress…& Human Being.

“It is comforting to know that I am not alone.”

I’ve always done the same “thing”. For years I haven’t wavered, wondered, or had to get creative (from being creative). It’s just the way my life has always been. I knew exactly what I wanted, how to get there, and what my most immediate plan of action was.

I have always been a dancer and a dance teacher…an active participant in the arts. However, I also always assumed that when the time came for me to move on to my next “thing”, I would know exactly what that should be and how to seamlessly transition. I thought it would be obvious how to achieve my next goal, and it would make me nearly as happy as performing…a close second, let’s say.

I’m still dancing now. It’s nowhere near the commitment and schedule I used to juggle as a performer, but I just don’t want to fully give up yet. I completed my first gig as a freelance artist last year and hope to dive into other similar ventures in the future (wink, wink). But in this new-ish phase of my life, there’s the nagging question, “what’s next?” I rack my brain frequently. For a few months this winter, the question kept me up at night. I’m always searching for answers and ideas that I might not have uncovered yet, in my quest for self. “What else can I do?” “What else am I good at?” “Do I want to go back to school?” And the ever practical, “Can I make ends meet, in the process?” I know what’s meant to be, will be, but I have never been the patient one who is willing to relax, loosen the reigns, and find out.

“There is also a huge…part of me that has been very afraid to come back to this place.  It’s hard as a perfectionist to admit when you feel so much less than perfect.”

 

I’m so happy to be back in this blog-space of mine, and I apologize for the huge delay. I have been at a loss..for time and for the right words. There is also a huge (more than I’d like to admit) part of me that has been very afraid to come back to this place. It’s hard as a perfectionist to admit when you feel so much less than perfect. But the further on I venture, I am able to realize and make peace with the fact that no one and nothing is perfect.

It is comforting to know that I am not alone. My professional life as a dancer has been spent surrounded by AMAZING, CARING, BRILLIANT individuals. As I reach a pointed toe out for the next stepping stone of my life, I know that I am not the first to make this type of journey, or experience the vast array of emotions that come along with it. Many of my friends no longer dance professionally, or, like me, are currently trying to figure out what’s next.

Admittedly, I still feel at a loss at times…overwhelmingly sad and disappointed. Supporting and sharing my knowledge with my students means the world to me, but I envy all the days they have ahead. Those terrifying, exciting, nerve-racking shows, auditions, classes…I wish someone had told me to truly relish in them…or at least that I had listened.

It’s scary not to know exactly what’s next. But for every confusing, difficult, heart wrenching moment when I miss the intensity of the life that I had, there is another moment in which I appreciate what is wonderful now. I still have “my thing”. I am able to experience ballet…What if nothing else makes me happy? {At least I’m still able to fly.}

Advertisement

Capturing The Good, The Bad, And Everything In Between

There are certain things I will never understand. I still find it frustrating and painful to juggle the concept of loss. Why must we lose people to another life beyond? About a month and a half ago, a dear friend of mine and an artist of the Charlottesville community passed away. I dedicate this post with love and gratitude to Keith Alan Sprouse.

Photographer Keith Alan Sprouse was a friendly and welcoming face at the Charlottesville Ballet throughout my first season dancing with the company. I remember him spending the day with us on a weekly basis, grande Starbucks cup in hand, snapping his camera throughout classes and rehearsals. It was fun to have a spectator for class, and having him there always gave me a little extra push to try to look stellar for his photos! On breaks he would chat with us, comment on our latest works and rehearsals, ask questions about the ballet world, and share his favorite images of the day. He was a positive, humorous, supportive, and motivating force in the studio, especially on those days when you feel like you’ve never actually danced a day in your life. Keith would remind us of our awesome feats and make it all seem a little less daunting.

In February of 2015, Keith offered to do a series of dance shots with any interested company members. Three close friends and I all signed up for ours on the same day. Keith let us try different poses, a variety of ensembles, and let us view photos take by take so we could really refine the shots. It was awesome having such a talented photographer to work with, but also someone so patient and encouraging throughout the process. Keith made me feel like a star that day, and I so cherish the images from that shoot. He caught me at my very best, and I am so grateful for that experience.

“…there is no filter for pure life.”

When I found out that Keith’s state was declining this fall, the sadness and regret flooded in, along with the “I hope” and “I wishes.” I hoped he would make it through, and I regretted not having visited and stayed in touch recently. What I really wished most of all, was that I had spent a few more minutes chatting with him when I saw him last.

No one ever said life was fair, but when I hear about the loss of a wonderful person like Keith, it’s so hard to understand. My heart goes out to Keith’s family and friends, and in honor of my friend I am trying to make a promise I know he would want me to keep.

Life is short. Too short to worry, to hesitate, or to dwell in anger or sadness. Keith was never one to worry or stress. He knew how to fully enjoy life and the company of others. I vow to try to embody this positivity myself. Keith, I will try to follow by your example. I cannot thank you enough for all of the wonderful memories you captured, and for the cheerful company and support you always provided.

A camera sees everything – the best, the worst, the mediocre. But there is no filter for pure life. Photographers like Keith offer us snapshots of the highs, the lows, and the in between. But how we fill in the dots beyond the camera is up to us.

Keith collage 2

Confessions Of A Work In Progress

“Confidence should not only be the result of compliments from others, but also the effect of a constant stream of compliments you give/allow yourself.”

It has been an unfortunately long time since I’ve attended to my blog. I admit that my neglect of this “space” is partially due to busyness, both work-related and social, but it is also due to fear of what’s next. I have done my best to give a significant push of energy to the start of 2017, however, as I consider possible change, fear, uncertainty, and self-abuse creep up on me. Although I have enjoyed my time teaching, working as a freelancer, and having an independent schedule, I suppose there will always be a part of me that misses the full time life of a company member. I earnestly admit that I AM A WORK IN PROGRESS. After all, life is no fun at all if you have nothing to truly live for or improve upon. Here are five aspects of my life I am currently trying to address…

1.) TIME – There’s never enough of it. Time constraints and the quick passage of time can cause me to absolutely panic, personally. I either don’t understand time correctly, or I just prefer to live on the edge constantly. Every day I promise myself I will leave the house at a specific time, yet every day I chronically leave ten minutes late. I’m not lounging around, or sleeping in, I simply want to cram in as much as possible before leaving for the day, and my over-ambition sets me up for failure. As a dancer, I have been trained to embrace every second, yet my pursuit leads to my demise.

Spare time, on the other hand, I find utterly intriguing and promising, yet I have a ridiculously hard time utilizing it. My high hopes of accomplishment can lead me to disappointment. I idolize the completion of the tasks that I avoid. This is when my procrastination and my fear take over-something I am always willing to work to overcome.

2.) FRIENDSHIPS – I have been lucky to have strong bonding friendships within the dance community all my life. As I continue to attend class at three different companies/schools, I still feel camaraderie whenever I step into a familiar studio. However, being a “free agent”, in and out on my own unique schedule, can make close interaction a bit more difficult. Many of my close friends have gone their separate ways, to other companies or onto other adventures, and I truly miss the energy of bonding and working together in the studio. But there are always opportunities for new friends, and what a joy it is to realize how many wonderful people I have already encountered in my lifetime.

3.) CONFIDENCEConfidence should not only be the result of compliments from others, but also the effect of a constant stream of compliments you give/allow yourself. Plain and simple (yet so hard to practice).

4.) HELP – When I teach, I always stress the fact that I accept and encourage questions. I think artists especially tend to stifle their questions, in order to appear sharp and quick. However, any teacher or choreographer will be the first to admit to you that questions are valuable and can actually shine a light on a dancer’s efficiency and complexity of thought in relation to movement, body, and music. Questions are good for you; don’t cast them aside!

It’s also 100% acceptable to have questions about yourself and your emotions (something I’m just discovering). It’s okay to ask for help from an impartial party. Talking to someone other than a friend, a significant other, or a family member gives us the opportunity to learn more about ourselves and fuel ourselves with self-knowledge for the fulfillment of future decisions.

5.) HAPPINESS & LOVE – Last but not least, I am forever learning how to find happiness in the little things, sometimes things that are not necessarily dance-related. It may sound like a dumb problem to have, but my life has been programmed to draw great amounts of joy from dancing. I realize more and more with each passing day, that I have so many other things to be joyful about. I love every day, even the simple motions (like cooking or having a cup of coffee); I love my growing strength (one year, six months strong, missing an ankle ligament); I love my boyfriend (the smiles, laughs, and love are endless); I love my family and friends; I love writing; I love working with kids; and I love teaching others about the joy of dance.

I am a work in progress, working to progress.

I'm not much of a jewelry fan, but anyone that knows me, knows I wear these four constantly. Two are brand new-they all have such a special message to me, I rarely ever take them off.
I’m not much of a jewelry fan, but anyone that knows me, knows I wear these four bracelets constantly. Two are brand new (yay birthday!)-they all have such a special message to me, I rarely ever take them off. ❤

Save

Save

The Joy Of..Teaching: The Brutal Honesty Of Children

“I have to appreciate the other 50% of ‘the moments’…I love to discover the love and the joy of dance…within someone else.”

I think I need to keep a more detailed notebook or journal of my memories and interactions with students and children. Some sort of a log guaranteed to provide for a “Kids Say The Darndest Things” excerpt. As a ballet teacher and a part time nanny/babysitter/childcare employee, I spend A LOT of time with kids. You’ve got to wonder if an excessive amount of time exposed to baby talk, mac and cheese, coloring, and children’s songs can somehow cancel out adulthood. However, when I’m not coloring with crayons or coming up with my best discreetly manipulative plan to convince a child to listen, I can’t help but realize how blessed I am to be guided by small humans from time to time.

Teaching young people is simple, yet highly complex. When I think about my job, I have very mixed feelings as to its difficulty-it’s a joy of course, but also not something that everyone is capable of. You have to be ready for a challenge. Just the sheer number of students you may encounter, depending on the situation, can be terrifying. They’re not all rainbows and sunshine. You’ll meet them all – the best of the best and the worst of the worst.

“…How blessed I am to be guided by small humans from time to time.”

"Plié Pumpkins" that my 6-8 year olds made in October. Instructions-draw a picture of yourself or a dancer in a costume..my student chose to draw me <3
“Plié Pumpkins” that my 6-8 year olds made in October. Instructions-draw a picture of yourself or a dancer in a costume..my student chose to draw me  ❤ (speech balloon-“I am Miss Liz and I like ballet”)

What I love the most, are the moments..the comments..the pressing and nonstop questions. I have heard it all – reasons for not being able to dance; excuses, excuses, and more excuses; detailed bathroom explanations; comments on my hair, clothing, makeup; detailed observations of whether or not I have a wedding ring; questions about stretching; and questions about pointe shoes. They also share their opinions on class material (critical eye brow raise) and give confirmations when something is indeed too difficult. I’ve been sweetly invited over to kids’ houses, and have heard musical observations and frighteningly accurate identifications of pop songs even in piano form…I really need to start writing it all down. Because it’s HILARIOUS. Pure, unadulterated life remarks. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Even when I hear too much information, or something completely unrelated to dance, I have to appreciate the other 50% of “the moments” – the appreciation, the wonder, the purity of excitement, and the effort. I love to discover the love and the joy of dance-the very same passion I have for this art form. Discovering it within someone else and watching them harness their passion and energy in order to progress, is absolutely wonderful. So if you’re a teacher (specifically a dance teacher, but the struggle applies to all teachers!) the next time no one wants to do an adagio or the baby ballerinas won’t listen to a word you say, remember that you are their hero. Even if just one continues to pursue dance, know that you have given them joy. In return they will give you the most brutally honest, refreshing view of life.

Save

Joy – PASS IT ON.

“If I can’t partake, I at least am grateful to be able to help…Thank you to my students for…help[ing] me feel the joy.”

My second Nutcracker season as “just a teacher” (I use that term very loosely because organizing and rehearsing Nutcracker magic is not an easy feat!) is well underway. I speak frankly when I tell you that it is a hard time for me. As a classical dancer and a die-hard fan of the Christmas season, the Nutcracker has always brought me such joy. Combining the bright and joyous sounds of Tchaikovsky, with familiar classical ballet, and excited audiences..it’s right up my alley. Despite the exhaustion that this time of year brings, I always have found it to be exhilarating. It’s a time to feel alive and strong and like a true professional (and knowing that each run of snow you burn just that many more cals).

Standing on the sidelines honestly tears at my soul sometimes, but helping my students to fully commit to and honor their roles within the Nutcracker is a pretty good substitute. I love to hear young Nut participants explain their role and the challenges of rehearsal when conversing with their peers, always brimming with pride and plenty of details. The cheerful “Thank you’s” I have heard after being commended on a job well done are pure and enthusiastic. The earnestness with which they approach their roles makes me such a proud dance mama. If I can’t partake, I at least am grateful to be able to help my ‘pride and joys’ put on a great show.

And isn’t the passing of joy (dance related or not), what the holidays are all about? Regardless of the impending holiday season, this is a time of change, a time in which civility and love matters more than ever.

I hope there are more dances to come. But for now, thank you to my students for working so hard for me. Your laughter and smiles are contagious and help me feel the joy. #thankful #blessed

Happy Thanksgiving from The J.O.D. Blog  ❤

thanksgiving-jod

Save

Hope And Strength

“I am concerned…but I am hopeful…and I am strong.”

…We’re all thinking about it. Election 2016…So I will do my best to lightly touch on the topics of the past week. I am just here to say what is on my mind and potentially on the minds of others.

{I am concerned.} As a liberal, a woman, an artist, and a supporter and friend of all races, nationalities, and sexual orientations, I worry what is next for the diversity of America. When and why did the idea arise that we need to selectively “take back” this country? America is alive and well! We all want America to be great, but why “again”? When did the greatness halt? Why is our consensual faith in America waning? There will always be laws and policies that require adjustment and adaptation, but it is impractical to expect all Americans to conform to a narrow minded set of ideals. That is not why we live in this country. Our differences are what make us so beautifully unique.

{…But I am hopeful}…my hope is scant (one week out), but without hope we will not get through this difficult time. I strongly believe that this change we are experiencing will push us to be proactive and to speak up for our beliefs and rights. Volunteer. Discuss. Be informed. Peacefully protest. The future of our democracy stands before us. The progress that has been made on behalf of many in this country, stands on the precipice of destruction. If we fade into the background post-election, we cannot hope to protect our liberties.

{And I am strong.} Hope must walk hand and hand with strength. While a hopeful outlook is crucial, it is an empty wish without strength and momentum. This will not be an easy time, but we must spark the change we wish to see and be ready to respond. We are the people. We are the popular vote. We are unique, capable, hopeful, and fierce.

Be ready. Harness your hope, find your strength.

The Joy Of..Teaching: Part Two

“…how I choose to communicate…determines if they will sink or swim…Sometimes the feeling is empowering. Sometimes, it’s downright overwhelming.”

Two full weeks of teaching have been completed. I’ve met new students, greeted familiar faces, and made beginning of the year announcements about dress code and “ballet buns”…but now the real work begins. I’ve seen what everyone can do, gauged the capabilities of my classes, and taken (mental) note of who needs what and why. There’s not much different about this year than any other year. I step into my sixth year of teaching fully ready to progress my young charges and take on any challenges they may present. As I crank out the class plans though, I know that despite the importance of the content, it’s how I choose to communicate that determines if they will sink or swim.

PC - Nina Staeben
PC – Nina Staeben

What I love about teaching (here it is…) is the difference I can make. Sometimes the feeling is empowering. Sometimes, it’s downright overwhelming. I could very well choose to play it safe each class. And not to jump on the defensive, but there are many out there who do not appreciate the work of ballet teachers. “What’s the big deal?” “Life goes on, right?” It’s true that the world does not desperately require teachers of dance. But whether I’m giving freedom to a child who needs to release excess energy, or prepping a professional dancer of tomorrow, I know that what I’m doing is important. And, furthermore, it is by no means easy. I could just be a glorified babysitter for my young students, but I would much rather take pride in the fact that I am able to control a room full of 4-year olds and hear them confidently shout out “plié!” and “relevé!” in reference to movement.

PC - Jen O'Keefe
PC – Jen O’Keefe

Some of my favorite teachers were the ones that demanded pristine technique, but also knew how to make class time an enjoyable experience. I truly believe that having a sense of humor is crucial. We’re all going to make mistakes, we may fall (heck, I do that quite often, sometimes tragically), but at the end of the day, we’re all in this together. This attitude is extra important in a studio full of young dancers. The more that children progress technically, the more information there is for them to digest, essentially. As the pressure to improve and expand their knowledge grows, I like to lighten the mood I guess. Just drilling away at tendus for thirty minutes isn’t necessarily helpful, but having a clear understanding of what we’re looking for and why and seeing a visual contrast between beautiful and just plain silly, helps make a difference the next time the students step into the studio. At younger ages, the contrast between “ballerina behavior” and just plain standin’ around pickin’ your nose cracks kids up. It’s a tool I can’t pass up, and I love a good laugh anyway, so everyone wins.

“I know that what I’m doing is important. And…by no means [is it] easy…I…take pride in the fact that I am able to control a room full of 4-year olds and hear them confidently shout out ‘plié!’ and ‘relevé!’ in reference to movement.”

Gifts from teacher-I take so much pride in making these-my most witty of gifts, shown here..
Gifts from teacher – I take so much pride in making these – my most witty of gifts, shown here..

Despite all the laughs though, I always want to set a standard of excellence for my students. With hands on corrections and visual demos, the goal is to help students understand the adjustments we are looking for, both visually and physically (or verbally-it depends on what kind of learner you are!). My Achilles heel of teaching, however, is talking too much and not wanting to let certain things go. The need to press on and cover certain ground always exists, but why put off until tomorrow what you can do today? There’s no time like the present-might as well fix that port de bras or take a deeper look into those pirouettes.

Birthday love <3
Birthday love ❤

Expectations and goals are fine and dandy, but what’s most important is actually dancing. Do I want to create the sharpest, quickest, and cleanest dancers? Yes!! (Please!) But I also just want them to enjoy themselves! They’re most likely there for a particular reason, and for a large percentage, it’s because they just love to move. They relate to dance and movement. It is a language that their bodies understand, and their time in the studio is precious to them. I can only hope that the advice I give, the jokes I make, and the encouragement I offer, are things they will remember and appreciate as they continue down their own life paths.

The Joy Of..Teaching: Part One

“Learning how to best teach others helped me understand how to further “teach myself” and refine my technique.”

When I started out as a B.F.A. undergrad at The Hartt School at the University of Hartford, I idolized my future life as a professional dancer. I knew that following the path of a B.F.A. was the best choice for me, to ensure further training, while also completing general studies and a college degree. However, I also assumed that after college, my life would prominently feature performance. What I didn’t realize was the passion I would find for teaching along the way.

Upon entering Hartt’s conservatory-style dance program, I was required to take a pedagogy course for my first year of studies. Working on technique in this in depth manner, not only gave me limitless teaching tools for future students but also for myself. Clarifying terminology, body positions, and arabesques from different schools of thought (for the crowd unfamiliar with ballet-there are some differences that exist in different schools of teaching; the three primary ballet syllabi being..the Vaganova method or Russian training, the Cecchetti method or Italian training, and the RAD method or British training), simultaneously helped me fill in any gaps in my training along the way. Learning how to best teach others helped me understand how to further “teach myself” and refine my technique. My college requisite quickly began to evolve into a future possibility and interest.

“…throughout my entire dance career, my teaching has kept me afloat. It is how I support myself. [without it] I simply wouldn’t have made it out alive.”

Setting foot on the pathway towards a dance career requires a “plan B”. Even the utmost profound confidence in one’s future as a professional dancer should be accompanied by a backup plan in case of personal injury. With knowledge of this fact as well as future financial realities, I realized a professional education in ballet pedagogy would be a valuable asset. So, after completing a full-year as a B.F.A. in Performance, I changed my game plan. A year older, a bit wiser, and cognizant of the possibilities at my fingertips (practically like receiving a double major in dance, all for the reasonable price of one degree!…cough, cough-college loans forever), I adjusted my plan and became a Ballet Pedagogy major instead.

Despite the internships, the observation hours, the consistent and ever-present Richard Glasstone articles, I wouldn’t change my decision for anything. (I think I may have read and discussed every single Glasstone article for my teacher Hilda Morales…“Some Thoughts On”…port de bras, epaulement, allegro…you name it, he thought about it…much to the disdain of myself and my small class of fellow pedagogy majors) I wish I had decided upon my path from day one, but at least I figured it out eventually.

As I write this post this week, I realize what a different time this is for me. I didn’t think I would ever encounter a time when I was only teaching (silly Liz)…or at least I have not yet ever felt ready for such a thing. But over the past year, and really throughout my entire dance career, my teaching has kept me afloat. It is how I support myself. If I had ever desperately tried to exist solely on my meager dancer wages these past five years, I simply wouldn’t have made it out alive. Teaching is my “B”. It is a way for me to be directly involved and to preach what I know. Although it is not me, personally, dancing, it’s pretty darn close.

Back To (Ballerina) School

“I love this time of year. I thrive off the thrill of day one.”

September looms before us as students, young and old, head back to school. The nights are a bit more crisp, school sales are underway, and Halloween decorations have somehow crept onto store shelves. Bear with me, because this all makes me rather nostalgic. A truth has hit me (and I accept it willingly, but need to talk it out of course): this is the first year of my life since I was five years old that I will not be “going back to school”, so to speak. Obviously, for 17 of those years, I was truly attending an academic institution of some kind. However, the past five years of my life I have started each late August with a “first day of school” as well. “Ballerina school” – five years of company life.

IMG_0919_2
Just another day at school – happy ballerina – April 2015

I know I’m not the only one that treats the first day back for the company season as the fantastic fresh start that it is. Just as a student preps with a backpack full of fresh notebooks, their coolest outfit, and the yummiest lunch, a dancer preps their shoes, their best leo, and the lunch and snack that will fuel their long day back. It’s clean slate time. Although not all mistakes may have been forgotten, the purity of summer allows even dancers a chance to unwind and be real people. The possibilities are endless now, there are new faces and old friends, spirits are high, and the road that is the next year of your life is laid out before you.

I love this time of year. I thrive off the thrill of day one. Freshness (I’m convinced I have a low grade case of OCD), new beginnings, organization, and plans, plans, plans. But this year is not like the rest. There will be no first day of school for me (for those of you who haven’t heard). It is not ideal, and, honestly, it makes me sad. But it’s what’s happening. A year ago today I took a fall (Balanchine loved dancers who fell, by the way). It was obviously a stumbling point, and it has caused me to stumble again and again, but I won’t let it be an end point.

“What if nothing else besides dancing makes me happy?”

I don’t know when I’ll have another opportunity to be on-stage…another opportunity to pour out joy and emotion and leave it there for the taking…but I know that the skepticism I have about the road ahead is okay and it’s natural. Sometimes this is where the true magic lies–in the unexpected.

I admit I am questioning things. Because I like to know what I’m doing…I like a good plan. Not knowing what I’m meant to do next is killing me. What if nothing else besides dancing makes me happy? (teaching dance makes me happy, but in an entirely different way-that’s a convo for another time…soon) What if there isn’t a replacement, a supplement for it? I’m afraid that I won’t be content with anything else…But I’m trying to figure it all out because that’s what I do. That’s me.

So to all my good friends who have started school – regular schooling or “ballerina school” – good luck. Put your best foot forward and plunge into the new.

To ballet company life – this isn’t goodbye, it’s see you later.

IMG_2208
“the true magic lies-in the unexpected.” PC – Wendy Grande

Namaste Turned Out

“…quiet the mind, peel away correction after correction, shun all self doubt, and embrace the desires of the soul.”

Namaste and welcome, to this week’s J.O.D. Feeling fueled and positive after some afternoon yoga today, I started thinking about the vast benefits of yoga for dancers. As the summer winds down and we find ourselves preparing for new classes (academic and/or dance), new schedules, and the rigors of our Monday thru Friday lives (or Monday thru..always, as some of us may experience), yoga is an excellent way to prepare for a return to the ballet barre. While aspects of this practice can be quite foreign to classically trained dancers, there are many benefits to the practice, even if only attending on a weekly basis. As movers we are reminded of the need to breathe, thoughtfully stretch, work alternative muscles, and search within ourselves for both mental and physical needs.

the outdoors + yoga = beauty & inner peace <3
the outdoors + yoga = beauty & inner peace  ❤

The main benefit of yoga for dancers is the consistent emphasis on breath and breath support. Lack of breath support in accompaniment with movement is a common problem for dancers of all levels. Without breath support (and more specifically-correct breath support), dancers can become fatigued and lose stamina quickly. It is common, during class time especially, for dancers to exhale aggressively after completion of a combination-a sign that the breath is becoming pent up within the body while dancing. Yoga, on the other hand, promotes constant movement of the breath-both in moments of stillness and motion. Although it takes a great deal of practice, really focusing on the breath can make the process of utilizing it much more enjoyable. Not only does yoga help to promote breath support, but it also introduces different techniques of breathing (i.e. – use of the diaphragm for strength and stamina of breath).

Yoga is also a great alternative and/or addition to traditional ballet stretches. Whether you’re practicing in the Vinyasa technique (more rigorous; flowing and connecting from posture to posture) or Yin (long-held postures, focusing on stretching the fascia and reaching an appropriate “edge”), the poses of traditional yoga practice are excellent formats for allowing dancers to stretch both the lower body and the less commonly used (for ballet technique) muscles of the upper body. Poses like “plank”, “forward fold”, “warrior three”, “standing split”, “frog”, and “supine butterfly” are all excellent for strength and stretch and physically come easily to the “dancer crowd”. However, the prominent, sometimes glaring, difference between ballet and yoga that presents itself, is the lack of turnout. I still find myself wanting to outwardly rotate my hips and most definitely my feet, for certain poses within the yoga technique. However, sticking to the traditional parallel is definitely more successful. Although we desire to stick to what we know physically, the challenge of keeping the hips and feet parallel strengthens different muscles of the body, ones that aren’t commonly used on a day-to-day basis as a dancer.

Peace, peace, peace.
“Peace, peace, peace.”

Now some may say that they attend yoga for one reason – good ol’ savasana – a chance to literally lay back, corpse pose style, and let the worries of the day melt away. This deeply meditative moment within the practice is truly important for artists. It is an opportunity to quiet the mind, peel away correction after correction, shun all self doubt, and embrace the desires of the soul. Even if savasana is the only thing that gets you to yoga class, keep it up, because it’s certainly a good reason to be there.

Kripalu yoga @ Tanglewood this past weekend - always a delight
Kripalu yoga @ Tanglewood this past weekend – always just what I NEED. PC – My Mom  ❤

Yoga is a fantastic pairing or temporary alternative (for injury purposes) to dance. Before ruling out the practice as something too anti-ballet, give it a chance. There is nothing else like it. Although there is a strong meditative, spiritual, and individual component, yoga, like ballet, is also a disciplined practice. Take the opportunity and lie back…breathe, rotate those legs inward a little bit more than you’re used to, and focus on you.