inspiration

Dance Fearlessly

You can’t step trepidatiously in dance. If you do, that step will be sure to fail you. The only way to be successful in your dance (aka life) is to step confidently and boldly – despite whether you feel dumb. And you can’t wait for someone to tell you exactly how to move. You need to take the initiative yourself, trust your instincts, and know that only you can move the best way for you.

Here’s a easy-to-follow dance-cardio combination to “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke for you to do just that!

I break it down for you first and then I dance it out wholeheartedly. : )

What scares you? What are you on the fence about? Let me know below!

And more importantly let’s kick those fears to the curb and conquer!

 

When are you grateful?

Is it just at Thanksgiving dinner? When you earn that promotion? When you land that dance gig? What about being grateful for the crap in your life? What about being grateful for the parts of your body that you wish were leaner, thinner, or simply not there? What about being grateful for that argument you had with your director or boss? What about being grateful for when your dancing or life doesn’t quite go as planned? What about being grateful when you are struggling with a physical injury?

All of the things that come into our lives – good, bad, and even ugly – are gifts for us. Whether they appear to be gifts that are welcomed (yay promotion!) or are completely undesirable (yay injury!) we have attracted them into our lives and they have found us. (Yes, I absolutely believe in the laws of attraction and the power they hold within this beautiful and crazy universe).

However difficult it may be when something unfortunate comes up to bat, we navigate it with infinitely more grace if we swing some gratitude on it first and foremost. And why not? There is always something to learn. Adversity has its way of blessing us with lessons a hell of a lot more bluntly than Success.

This past week I had a “comeback” performance with Parsons Dance at the Brown Theatre in the Wortham Center in Houston, Texas. The company was double booked (a beautiful gift for a dance company – too many shows!).  There was an afternoon performance for autistic children that the current company couldn’t be present for – in came the retired Parsons-back-up-crew to the rescue! Those autistic children and their families have been dealt a different hand – one that will provide them unique, beautiful gifts and advancements all the same. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel immense gratitude for the state of my body and mind and how it has supported me through my life and career.

How quickly those of us who are in “good” health forget how lucky we are. How quickly we forget how amazing our bodies are – how resilient, how capable. I haven’t always treated my body with love and respect, yet it has never failed me.

Heck, I’ve starved it at times; I’ve hated on parts of it that didn’t meet the ridiculously perfect and unobtainable bar I’ve set for it; I’ve danced the hell out with it and didn’t stretch it; I’ve neglected it of the TLC of massages and baths when it was screaming at me; I’ve trash-talked to it.

Amazingly enough, it has always healed itself miraculously. It continues to stick with me after all the abuse I’ve given it.

If your body is so capable despite neglect and abuse, what is it (and are you) capable of when you are grateful for it?

Don’t let yourself suffer through poor health before you appreciate the glory of your body right now. Hardship and physical set-backs aren’t needed to be grateful for what you have right now (However sometimes they sure can speed up the process for some who can spin the positive despite them).

The more you are grateful for what you have – body and life – the more beauty, prosperity, and abundance flow right back to you.

So, before you dance, be grateful. Before you workout, be grateful. Before you create, be grateful. Before you eat, be grateful. Before you pay for something, be grateful. Before you move from your bed, be grateful. Before you rest your eyes at night, be grateful. Say it aloud to yourself. Dance your entire next class or performance with gratitude.

Share with me. What are you grateful for? How has throwing gratitude on your body and life helped you?

Go on…Be a dreamer!

I am a big time dreamer.  It might behoove me to come down to planet earth from time to time, but I rather not tie myself down to a world of logic alone.  When I dream, I get excited.  I feel alive.  I feel like anything is possible, and from that mindset, it’s the truth.

Yet…I haven’t always operated from this place and my guess is I’m not alone.

How quickly have you squashed your own dreams, or let someone else do the squashing?  If something makes you feel alive and excited, then operating from this place is useful.  It is your beautiful job to keep on dreaming, even when logic, yourself, or others are tempted to bring you down to earth.  All those childhood songs have it right! You should listen to those quixotic tunes more often, rather than dismiss them as child’s play (Seriously try it.  Walk down the street with a tune from Space Jam blaring in your headphones and you’ll feel like you can conquer the world with a smile).  There is something wise and unadulterated in youth that is worthy of fostering through all of life – and I’m advocating dreaming as one of the worthiest.

Ok, before you think I’ve whimsically and unrealistically lost my marbles – here’s some pragmatism to back up the theory of dreaming and unleash its potential to you for your own benefit in your dance and fitness practice – here on planet earth.

I believe in the power of dreaming because I’ve lived the alternative.  I would oscillate back and forth in my mind about what I could and couldn’t do.  I had wonderfully supportive parents who told me I could be whatever I wanted to be when I grew up.  I believed those words and knew in my soul my passion was to be a professional dancer.  However ridden in my dogged belief, self-doubt crept.  I had some teachers who harped on me with comments delivered as problems in need of fixing.

“With turnout like that, you are never going to be a dancer.”  “Your legs are a real problem; we need to elongate those lines.”  “It is hard to make a life for yourself as a professional dancer.  What’s your backup plan?” 

Inherently those opposing beliefs, spoon-fed to me from outside voices, caused teeter-tottering internal moments of blissful boundless potential and joyless stagnating impossibility.  I would walk into a room and sometimes discount myself because the physiques surrounding me gave the allure that those dancers were highly talented.  I became acutely aware of all my physical shortcomings and it’s what I saw when I looked at myself in the mirror.  Additionally I questioned if I was going to reach the level of success I dreamed of as a performer when audition season was slow and opportunities seemed lacking.

Then something started happening.  I realized that dancers who had a body that gave off the appearance of all the potential in the world didn’t always deliver on par with their physical gifts.  Physical prowess is just a vessel where expression and artistry are harbored, where the mind has the power to generate it.  I excelled in picking up movements and adopting them as my own.  No one could limit my mind.  I knew confidently that if I mentally understood and could visualize a movement, it was only a matter of time, and often it didn’t take long, to then make it a physical reality on my body.  I began to trust my harnessed power of putting my mind behind my movements – both immediate dance moves and career moves – to achieve any results I truly desired.

When I dreamed more and limited less, my dancing – and happiness – soared.  Things changed when I visualized myself executing each little movement with sinewy length and openness.  These moments gifted me that ultimate level and quality in my dancing, and it started to naturally shift my body’s outside physicality.  There’s a general belief out there that what we are given is set and fixed, but there is more malleability and transformation available for us.  Now I’m not saying my legs are hyperextended or my turn out rivals that of Misty Copland’s, but those thoughts don’t even cross my mind.  Furthermore, my legs have become straighter in their musculature and my turn out more rotated and accessible.  Standing in fifth position went from a place of immobile “crunchy” hip flexors and a horribly stuck anterior tip of my pelvis to a place of glorious opportunity for movement.  I used to hate wearing tights since they seemingly highlighted my “imperfections,” but last week I wore fitted leggings to an audition and felt awesome.

I don’t have problems with my physicality that need fixing.  I have all the potential in the world to execute whatever movement I desire to accomplish, and my body has the capacity to change in support of these desires.

I’m channeling R. Kelly’s “I believe I can Fly” – “If I can see it.  Then I can do it.  If I just believe it.  There’s nothing to it.” 

That is freedom.

Ok.  I’ll get to the important, concrete details about dreaming, visualizing, and believing that tends to be left out of all this fluffy chatter.  (It can’t just be all Space Jam and singsongy starry-eyed melodies, or I’m just preaching a one-way ticket to la-la land without any plan of attack!)

It is not all fluff.  The operations of the soul are real.  The brain has amazing potential – much of which has barely been fully realized.  The words we speak first to ourselves, and then outwardly to others have energy and life to them.  They are as real and as tangible in our life as the legs we move with.  They create ripples of energy.  It is your choice whether you make ripples of positivity or negativity.  You need to brainwash yourself and rewire your subconscious towards the positive.

Awesome.  How can you do this?  (Disclaimer:  I’m continuously working on this myself, but here is what I’ve gathered, and you can continue to follow me as I use this method for my future gain!)

For starters, get clear about what it is you want.  Don’t just think it.  Write it down.  Be specific about why, how, where, and when.  Write about how a life like this feels.  Put a date on when this dream is a breathing reality.  Read it to yourself aloud.  And then read it again.  And again.  (I mean, how fun is that!?  You get to dream up whatever your heart desires and then believe it into reality!)

Here’s my latest dream – that is written in my journal, exists on a vision board that hangs right near my bed, and is also recorded as a voice memo in my phone (Call me crazy, I’m good with it!).  I listen to my own voice recording first thing in the morning and those are the last words I speak to myself before my head hits the pillow.  Here’s an abridged version:

I am a forever-inspired performer and teacher.  On March 3rd (My 31st birthday!), I am dancing on the Broadway stage and have a thriving business of my own with $100,000 in my possession.  My body is physically primed allowing me to reach new physical heights – great flexibility and higher and quicker jumps and footing.  Living Dance has a dedicated and involved community – reaching 5,000 followers – and inspires artists and women through dance and dance-related fitness.  I teach workshops and private sessions to get dancers and women moving passionately and at their ultimate potential so that they can obtain the results they crave.

Next, listen to your internal dialogue.  Which way do you skew (positive or negative)?  What’s the tone of your internal voice (optimistic and kind, or pessimistic and demeaning)?  Then you immediately replace any negative thoughts or tone with a positive one.   I doubted whether I wanted to put the specific dollar amount to my dream in writing for the public to see.  What if that level of financial abundance doesn’t work out for me?  What if people think I am crazy?  I felt a little silly proclaiming something that might seem ridiculous and impossible.   Oh hi there fear and self-doubt.  You have zero ability to zap my dream away from me; I’m choosing boldness and confidence instead.  The specificity and vocalization of these dreams are important.  That doubtful voice I heard as I typed proved to me that I could still believe and trust more in the deserved monetary compensation of my efforts.  There will not always be teachers or others around you that bless you with the gift of seeing more in yourself, but you absolutely can become more aware when those around you are speaking words of limitation.  I beg you to hear them, value your dreams and beliefs more, and discard them.  And then you should do yourself the favor of replacing those limiting words, with boundless ones all the same.

It’s not enough to just think, visualize, or dream about your desires.  Feel it and be emotionally invested in your dreaming.  When you infuse your desire with emotion, your subconscious starts to become infiltrated.  When your subconscious, or your soul, doesn’t believe it, that’s when those second-guessing voices creep within yourself.  Don’t get mad when they do, it takes time to switch deep-rooted thought processes.  Approach it with a lighthearted, fun curiosity.    Bottom line, just don’t be like the majority of unfortunate souls who walk around thinking, “How nice it would be if I was in great shape!” Or, “What would feel like to have that kind of career?”  You are then missing the valuable element of emotional attachment, and you will not be gifted with the change you are capable of obtaining.

Use your imagination.  Not only because it’s fun, but because it is seriously useful.  I envision myself taking class in the ultimate fashion.  Sometimes I have a larger vision in mind – I’m taking ballet class as if I’m live on the Broadway stage.  Sometimes I have a more immediate vision – I close my eyes at barre and envision my body executing the movement to a tee, or do the same thing – but with my eyes open, thank god – in center.  All I know is that it is wondrously fun and physically rewarding.

Lastly and essentially, take action on your gut impulses and the external opportunities that arise from this dreaming.  Dreaming and visualizing is great and all, but if you keep squandering the thoughts that pop up in your brain about what you can do to make them happen or generate excuses for not taking the opportunities that would advance you closer, those dreams are going to escape you.  Applying this in a class setting – whether you are dancing or performing a fitness regimen it is extremely rewarding because you are immediately taking action towards your ultimate physical goal.  As those of you who have graced the stage know too well, if you are thinking about your wobbling foot on the floor, you will be sure to keep up that wobbling and have it dictate how the movement goes moving forward.  If you think that plank pose is the hardest exercise ever, it will continue to defeat you.  If you think of yourself as overweight or out of shape, odds are you will yo-yo back and forth with fad diets, your weight, and confidence.  Be mindful; when your thoughts waiver, so does your body!

The dreaming mindset is one essential step in obtaining the results you truly desire.  You can execute a quadruple pirouette, get down to your ideal weight, or land a job.  It will take commitment, focus of mind, and patience, but if you honestly and diligently put it into effect – and ultimately take action to your internal impulses and external opportunities – it is fail proof. The sky’s your limit.  No, I’m serious.  Dream big!  And then, dream bigger! I’m doing it.  Why the hell wouldn’t you?!  If you believe yourself, you’ll get what you want!

Leave a comment and let me know what your big dreams are!  Immediate or long-term, I’d love to hear.

Multitasking: is it taking over your dancing and life?!

Multitasking is our modern-day nature and pride.  Technology is continuously coming up with ways to make it easier to do anything and everything with such ease, and subsequently at the same time.  We can finally conquer all we desire each waking day because we have immediate access to the world at our fingertips (and now even our eyeballs:  google glass hitting Diane Von Furstenberg’s runway)!  False!  The readiness to multitask is a curse.  To multitask by definition reads, “Often used of humans in the same meaning it has for computers, to describe a person doing several things at once.”  Is this really something we want to do?  Do we want to operate the way a computer does?  Those machines burn out for crying out loud, and now, operating like them, so do we!  When we divide our attention we are not doing one thing well.  I find my ability to finish a blog post, get to class early to go over those moves I’ve been dying to perfect, choreograph that piece I’ve dreamt about starting, and pick up choreography swiftly all gets sucked away, minute by minute, to my quietly nagging iPhone that never lurks too far from my side.  And worse yet if it isn’t the technology itself, it’s my brain that now almost seems hard-wired to operate on over-drive mode, my mind constantly bobbing from thought to thought comparable to the Internet I have grown to adopt so openly.  My attention span and patience to sit with one idea sucks.  And why is “turning off” so damn hard?  When we dance, we strive for efficiency of movement – the only way we developpé our leg to our ear is if we only use the muscles we need and let the ones that prohibit our wishful concussion a back seat.  What is our potential for efficiency if we can streamline our thoughts, and release our “mental” hip flexors? …in the studio and in our lives?

Let’s start in the studio before we take on our lives, shall we?

How many times are we at barré and doing the combination with the teacher, except we don’t know what they are going to do?   We move our body and play mind-reader with someone we don’t know.  How effective is that?  Or worse yet, we move our hands when the exercise is ultimately done with our feet, while we also predict what this stranger will do.  Or my personal favorite – how often do we stretch our hamstrings, think about the rotation of our inner thighs from the exercise prior, concern ourselves about our weak something-or-other, our PT appointment that we have to run to directly after class, and contemplate our life’s purpose, all while our favorite teacher just gave a tendue combination?  Then we arrive in first position with our left hand on the barré and we think, “How the hell does this start?”  Maybe if we do one thing, say, listen and absorb the combination only, we will actually get the combo.  Then when we have a second later we can devote all our attention to stretching our hamstrings, rather than just hanging over a dead-leg thrown on a barré.  It is impossible to stretch effectively while  simultaneously learning movement.  It is impossible to get to PT while we do tendues.  It is stupid to concern ourselves with our next career move while we attempt mastery of our degaggé.  Our productiveness in all of these areas significantly improves if we absorb one piece of information at a time.

We  are looking at teacher without seeing teacher.  

Looking is not enough.  Seeing, focusing our undivided attention, brings our level of productivity up another notch.  We are capable of digesting a combination after seeing it demonstrated the first time.  Why not?  It’s just a series of tendues and pliés in a more or less predictable pattern that we’ve practiced for the majority of our lives.  The more we see, the quicker we absorb the combination.  Then when the teacher does it the second time (for those poor souls who were doing their to-do lists in their head the first time), we add a layer of artistry that takes our dancing to the next level.

Now when I play teacher, I do a similar version of this mental multitasking.  I can be teaching and simultaneously distracted with multiple thoughts.  “Is that how that next combination starts?  Is this musical selection working? Are people comprehending what I intended?”  This all takes me away from seeing each one of my dancers more clearly;  understanding how they work, what motivates them, what challenges them and why, what their tendencies are, and where their bodies hold tension.  Seeing my students allows me to help more on an individualized level.  One thought at a time brings forth a more articulate, perceptive, and productive teaching methodology.

And going a step further, when we learn choreography, how much do we see?   How much can we focus our attention on what is solely important at that moment to the person leading the room?  I can distract myself with thoughts of sequencing when I should take a step back and see that the choreographer isn’t stressing the exactness of steps at all.  Their vagueness shouldn’t be a source of frustration but something I can see, and then adopt in my learning style and subsequently my execution, to better suit the purpose before they give that correction.  And vice versa, as a choreographer, can we see how dancers learn the movement and guide them to see the integral essence being created?  If we distract our mind, there is no way we can possibly juggle this level of thought.  If we can’t get to this level of thought, we are missing out on a beautiful layer of depth and therefore, productivity and creativity.

Now if we aren’t already dying to get to this level of efficiency and attention in the studio, we should at least crave it to streamline our lives. Just think about how much time we can earn when we fully devote ourselves to work effectively on one thing at a time.   Limit distractions, delineate time to focus solely on one idea to see if it works before bouncing to the next one and not getting one solid thing accomplished.  We don’t need our iPhones, Gmail, or Facebook to write that term paper.   We can’t research new dance companies holding auditions and talk to our loved ones on the phone.  Odds are we yes them absent-mindedly or end up buying shoes off of Gilt instead.  It is virtually impossible to walk and text successfully.  I typically look like a drunkard.  It is more time efficient to stop, send a text, and then continue on walking.  Instead I insist on spilling my tea on myself, take about 5 blocks to text 3 words, and nearly break a toe while navigating uneven New York pavement.  (Hell, we need those toes!)  I can sit in front of the T.V. and eat dinner and then finish everything on my plate, and feel completely unsatisfied;  I didn’t taste my meal.  How many times do I have to re-read the same paragraph over and over again because I didn’t digest a lick of it?  I am too busy jumping thoughts, or paying attention to the cutie who just got on the bus.  How many times do I attempt to go to bed, but then keep checking my iPhone when the light goes off just to wake in the morning craving an extra half hour of sleep?  And for crying out loud, I don’t need my brain when I do the dishes.  Let’s turn off when we can so we can be refreshed when we do need our minds to work for us.

Let’s use technology when we need it and designate time for it, rather than have it cloud our lives at large.  We don’t need to respond to that text immediately.  Set new standards.  Spend time well, doing one thing at a time.  If we do one thing only, we feel more satisfaction from completing it whole-heartedly.  In turn, we gain some precious time to conquer those dreams that lie in our journals untouched.  We gain a deeper level of artistry.  We gain beautiful, unadulterated moments with our friends and lovers, granting them the full attention we all deserve.  Check out less and stay tuned-in more.   Look less and see more.   Kill mental and physical multitasking once and for all!!!

I attempted to check my iPhone 18 times while I wrote this.

I have 33 pending drafts of articles saved to my computer that I started to write but never finished.

The Weight of 20 Pounds: A Battle Worth Fighting

I wish I could say I wasn’t plagued by the upsetting dancer-with-eating-disorder cliché, but unfortunately life decided to teach me a lesson instead.  (Don’t you just love that?)  My struggle reared its ugly head while in the middle of my college career, but its origins started way before then when I would nitpick more than just my technique in the mirror as a dance-crazed teenager.  Perfection was what I was after, and I thought I found the surest path to get an extra inch closer.  In reality, those shedded inches were traded for self-deprivation, not only of my physical being, but of my inner pride.  Quite the shame.  Here’s my story, to help abate yours or nip it in your perfect size tush before the seed is even planted.

As a type-A girl who strives for perfection I took control over one more element in my life to achieve a skewed version of greater success.  In entire honesty, I never felt I was restraining myself from food.  I never felt I was even trying “that” hard to lose weight.  My goal was to get into good shape before my next semester at college, and to me, good shape didn’t exactly refer to stamina or strength as much as it did to appearing more “dancerly.”  In the summer months prior to my junior year at Marymount Manhattan College, I was enrolled in a summer course in nutrition.  The class opened up my mind to a better, healthier diet, but, go figure, I took those lessons to the extreme.  I started actively reading labels for more wholesome ingredients and became tediously aware of serving sizes.   All positive health improvements, but only when followed with an air of casual knowledge rather than intense absolutes.

Upon my return to Marymount, teachers took note of my more slender figure.  “Christina you look so thin, don’t lose any more weight please.”  Being told I was thin was a compliment to me.  It brought a devilish smile to my face when someone acknowledged my deteriorating figure.  While I didn’t actively change my newfound eating habits, I continued to slowly lose more weight.  In my head I just thought I was maintaining the slender figure I had proudly achieved.  However, instead I was wasting away and achieving the not-so-sexy skin and bones look.  Let’s set the record straight – I was extremely thin, too thin, by anyone’s standards.  Probably around 100 pound on my medium-build, 5’5 frame.  Yet it remained easy for me to see someone with a more severe case of anorexia as sickly; where their bones were all you saw protruding harshly at rigid angles to form a horrid semblance of a natural figure.  Can you cry, “Denial?”  I was convinced there was nothing wrong with my body, that I didn’t have any disorder, and my pitifully constrained dinners were what someone who performed with their body should have been eating.  I wonder, scared to think how far away I was from this extremeness.  Probably not as far off as I thought; my mental delusion was on par for diving into the deep end.

I stopped listening to my body’s gauge of hunger and analyzed my meals as if it was possible for them to be graded.  It was the realization I really ate at least 4 servings of hummus and crackers in a sitting without hesitation, eagerly going back for seconds, that spawned the desire to shift some habits.  Additionally, I would try not to eat too close to bed time;  possibly allowing myself to indulge in some carrots or some other veggie if I was ravenous and felt like I couldn’t make it through the night.  (Couldn’t make it?! All I was doing was sleeping, but I obviously put myself on such an impossible regimen.)  It was valid to strive for diversity and nutrients in my diet, but it was critical to ingest the calories I as a dancer burned during the day to be prepared for the physical work required.  Any time I absent-mindedly stuffed my face with trail mix or some other pathetic “bird-like” semblance of a meal, guilt ensued.   Then I would try to compensate at the next meal, to ease the guilt away.  How sad to be so pre-occupied with the cyclical thoughts of food, eating, and guilt when there were so many other more productive, positive, care-free thoughts to be had.  I was taking my own life away from myself when I thought I was taking control of it.

The most tragic part?  I felt great.  What more do you need to continue with a downward spiral?  I felt on top of my dance game, when I was truly at the bottom.  I no longer had to hop, wiggle, and squat my way into my skinny jeans fresh out of the wash, and the thought of “Do I look fat in this?” was relieved from my concerns because I was aware I was thin, just not aware I was too thin.  This was the kicker; the fact that I knew I was skinny allowed me to take class in a freer state of mind and ride the wave of my deformed, yet positive view of my body.  I would be in my pink tights and proud to stand in an arabesque facing entirely profile to the mirror.  I didn’t have one thought of, “Ugh, that low belly and thigh are a bit unfortunate.”  Perfect!  I was free to think about sailing around effortlessly in a promenade, luxuriating in my épaulement, and smoothly accentuating whatever turnout I could muster with a sense of hard-earned contentment.  To top it off, I didn’t get my period for 9 months.  While I knew in the back of my mind this was bad, I would be lying if I didn’t say it was glorious to be cramp and bloat free. (To be bloated at 100 pounds seems like an impossible feat.)  I wish I could have added crabby to the list, but while I don’t particularly recall feeling temperamental while in this fragile state, I cannot imagine a body without enough fuel fostering a peaceful mind.

This entire time, I thought I was doing good for myself – caring for my instrument and being performance ready.  What made me come to the realization I was off my rocker?  My parents were scared for me and were near tears when they came to see me perform.  They told me they were going to get me help and that I needed to put on weight.  Seeing their urgency about an issue I thought didn’t exist, especially to warrant their extreme reaction, made me reconsider.  I also honestly knew in my gut not getting my period was my body’s way of shutting down and not functioning as a woman’s should.  Gratefully, the intervention was something I was willing to accept.  I did have concern for my optimal health and the repercussions of losing bone density and being at risk of injury, potentially greatly halting my dancing career all together, horribly frightened me.  Almost as much as (heaven forbid!) putting on some weight.

Gradually seeing the poundage creep on to my scrawny frame and maintaining a sense of self-pride was the most challenging aspect of the struggle.  Losing the weight and controlling my appetite was easy.  Five extra pounds, on the other hand, felt like I was wearing a balloon suit while doing pliés at the barré.  One of the hardest things for me was to get accustomed to having boobs again.  And by boobs, I am referring to my lovely A-cup chest.  Having these mounds of excess flesh with a mind of their own attached smack in the front of my body was hard to grapple with while I stuffed them into the same leotard that once housed essentially just my nipples.  A woman with a chest didn’t exactly measure up to this fantastical, adolescent dancer image I conjured and idolized, making my breasts a source of agony and symbolized me being out of shape rather than simply a beautiful woman.

Along my road to recovery, I became heavier than I was before I was sick.  I intuitively felt I would need to go further in the opposite direction, before I could balance myself and feel at my healthiest.  I let this new heavier body, limit my dancing.  It disabled me because I didn’t feel prideful.  It was a distraction that took me out of the work and into the mirror, concerned with the appearance of movement rather than the movement itself.  The honest truth was my mind hadn’t made as much of a shift as I had believed and hoped; I still critically judged my body.

It is this mindset, so prevalent in dancers, that serves as the initiation to take drastic measures to senselessly curb food intake.  So you need to cut the cycle in your thought process.  

While muddling through this mental shift, I had a nauseating number of helpful conversations with my loving and patient mother, but I will never forget her once uttered words I vehemently disagreed with, “This might always be something you struggle with.”  Excuse me? Always?  Absolutely not.  In a beautifully unpredictable world filled with ever evolving minds, nothing remains constant and people never cease to amaze with their capacity to change, adapt, and shift through the obstacles of life.  If my mind has done a 180 degree turn around when it comes to everything from boyfriends, education, Freudian philosophies, tofu, and the Muppets, then there is absolutely no reason why a mental shift around proper eating habits isn’t possible.  So the words “you might never like the way you look,” and “this will always be an issue” is the biggest pile of crap I’ve ever heard.

Now how do you start this shift?

I did see a therapist to help sort through the emotional turmoil and wrap my mind around the seriousness of the issue.  It was helpful to acknowledge all the thoughts and relationships I had growing up that nurtured this twisted mentality.  Honestly however, I didn’t feel our sessions were extremely insightful, and ultimately she encouraged me to fulfill the work I needed to do on myself.  After a few weekly sessions, I let our time together go and kept an introspective gaze on my reoccurring thoughts.

I repeatedly recited to myself, “I have to fuel my body and this is me and it’s beautiful.”   Various self-loving mantras under a protective veil of inner patience would immediately follow any critical and harshly guilty digs to myself.   I reminded myself of the stunning power in a womanly figure and began to believe the asexual, prepubescent look was not all that and a bag of chips (let’s be real, it was no chips!).  The clothes that once sagged on my wilted tushie had a field day with the comeback of my bubble butt.  Me, on the other hand, initially gawked in the mirror, not so proudly and with a tinge of disgust, before my womanly sass and ass eventually became too much fun to not saunter and flaunt in the heyday of my early twenties.

Nevertheless, in the guts of this mental battle, life threw me tests.  A phone call from a director, chatting about an upcoming season asked me if I planned on getting in shape for it.  “You know. Slim down.”  In complete defense mode, I claimed I didn’t need to and wasn’t willing to drop pounds and sacrifice my health.  A proud moment for myself.  The harsh reality – I wasn’t in my best shape.  However, negotiating the thin line between healthy eating habits and obsessive, pre-occupied ones was too sensitive a debate for me to embark upon at the time.

Ahh! The challenge of being a performing artist.

While performing a visual art form, there is a need to be physically fit.  Some companies (not all, and this should play a part when deciding where you work) are known for maintaining a physical aesthetic, and to ignore this fact would be unrealistic.  The physical work done on a daily basis in the studio prepares our bodies for the strength, stamina, and flexibility necessary.  Sometimes the work is enough to maintain a lean and strong physique, and other times as a performer you have to step up your game when an important show is coming up to make sure you feel your best.

Yes, you take class in front of a mirror all day long.  Yes, you are there captiously sharpening your technique to extreme levels of excellence, and those critiques can sneakily enter your perception of your body.  When are you done striving for the perfect figure and instead enjoy the one you’ve been blessed with?   When the meticulous training and body affliction is all you focus on, you are not dancing.  You are merely moving and fretting.  You won’t get in better shape from worrying tediously at every moment.  There has to come a point when the look of the body is disassociated from the movement, and the beauty of the dance take over.

Let go of compulsive premeditation about meals and issue yourself freedom and an open mind to thoughts of significance.  Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full.  Eat what makes your body feel good and function at its optimum.  Or don’t, and then fully indulge and enjoy!  Tacking on any guilt with eating something less than nutritious or eating too much of something is absurd.  Food is pleasure and is to be savored.  Being mad at oneself only perpetuates the ugly cycle of emotional eating.  Don’t get upset at yourself.  Laugh at its ridiculous reoccurrence, grant yourself patience without judgement, and let it go – no matter how long this lesson takes. To unleash your fullest capacity as an artist and simply as a happy person, navigating a health relationship with food and your body is a battle worth fighting.

Cut the crap and get inspired people… and keep it that way.

It is in our job description as dancers to provide inspiration to the masses.  The arts are seen as the part of our culture that uplifts people out of the looming malaise our society is said to sit in (hate that…get off your butts people and do something about it).  Art makes you think outside of yourself and pulls you out of your mundane daily grind and can allow you to think about things differently, be moved.  The artist being the vehicle behind the work is the hub of this inspiration.  Furthermore, as dancers, our art is witnessed through our bodies and expressions.  So venerable, so exposed, so terribly clear when inspiration is absent, and consequently, so much beautiful potential to impact others.

 

As dancers, when we are in that special place, lost in the moment, we can feel immortal, not of this earth.  The music starts, the dance begins, and we get enraptured within it, miraculously performing steps that just seep out of our limbs while our soul goes on a journey that doesn’t give us the reality check until it’s over, be it the music stopped, or the audience applauds, or we simply realize the steps for the piece are finished (that’ll do it!).  We have this gift to share.  It is our responsibility to share this gift and have it manifest itself as inspiration for others.

 

Now how do we, as inspiration givers, keep this inspiration going ourselves?  Particularly when the practicalities of life (insert excuse #523 here) take over and we find it hard to get to that special place?

 

Inspiration comes and goes.  Being an artist and living in the waves and wakes of inspiration, it’s proven itself helpful to have my big future goal clear and in the forefront of my brain.  Then, setting tiny little goals for every class and rehearsal acts as stepping stones towards this ultimate desire.  Knowing I want to open my own business within the dance industry down the road helps me be the best dancer I can be now, helps me take class with clear intentions, helps me work that much harder because I can see the ultimate payout.

 

Point being, when class, and just as equally your five-year plan, is this focused you have an agenda of which to grow and learn.  You are not thinking of your degaggé the same way you did the day before since it is looked at through a new lens.  Attending class in the first place has a larger purpose to obtain that goal of perhaps dancing with your dream company.  You can accomplish this level of tremendous growth outside of an educational realm because now, even better, you get to be your own teacher.  Perhaps you take class this week and are focusing on your relationship to the music, taking space, or maybe just letting go a bit more and enjoying yourself instead of being such a constipated thinker.  Whatever your reason for taking class, do it intelligently and purposefully.  Then see where you will end up one year down the road.  Without an agenda, a purpose, a goal, you cannot grow and inspire at your upmost potential. Don’t just show up to class, or the audition, or the performance.  It is not enough.   It is not enough for that audience member who came to be uplifted.  It is not enough for your parents who supported you following your passion perhaps when they came from a household that didn’t allow it.  And it is not enough for that little girl sitting in the front row who’s dream it is to be on stage.  (Yes, I went there.  On board yet?)  But most of all, it is not enough for you.  Don’t sell yourself short.

 

Let’s be brutally honest here.  It is not easy to get your butt to class, let alone be inspired for your big dreams while contemplating if this deflated industry is enough to support you financially and artistically.  I’ve questioned my career decisions with dance and the arts (and at times with some shame in that however unfortunate and unnecessary).  It is not always simple to dance; if your artistic side doesn’t feel fulfilled on a large enough level, then the financial sacrifices we make are no longer justified.  These are practical and wise thoughts, but we can allow “real” life to complicate things and serve as excuses for attacking our long term goals and keeping on a daily inspired pathway.  It has been these woes primarily that kept my mind wandering form a livelihood in the arts and shadowing my potential. (No thank you!)

 

Let’s be simple about it.  If you love it.  Do it.  And stay strong when life makes you waiver.  When we chose this profession, or it chose us, we did not come to it for security or pragmatism.  We came to it because of how it made us feel – for the push, the sweat, the odd love of burning foot tape to our broken feet (yes, masochists), for the support from an audience, for the rush on stage, for the camaraderie of others dancing with us.  We can’t just follow the money and security and leave our passion behind….that would make us sheer mortals rather than inspirational superheroes.

 

I had an eye opening conversation with an incredibly smart, slightly socially awkward (of course…), science engineer in the coffee shop a few weeks ago.  I’ll admit to feeling a bit out of my league while hearing about his fascinating but somewhat technical description of having game-changing insight on a mishap of a space shuttle mission.  He felt compelled to write his story on how this mishap could have been prevented, why it happened, and how he knew about it before the launch, only to know it couldn’t possibly work, and how the high powers that be wouldn’t pay his insight any attention.  What an incredible story to tell!  This happened over a decade ago and this very intelligent man was still questioning whether he should take the time to write and share it.  What a waste of time – write it already!!!! I could tell he was aching to do so – clearly, you don’t just tell people this full story within the first five minutes of meeting them without it impassioning you and constantly running circles around your brain.  So when I asked him why he hadn’t written it, he raffled off two common and perhaps sound excuses. – 1.) Who would read it (meanwhile I have this pea size blog!) and 2.) would this story ever reap any profit for him?  I told him politely that he was crazy and he had to write it.  Call me foolish, but money and notoriety follows passion.  He has no idea where his story can go unless he writes it.  He could get it published in a trade magazine, a journal, asked to talk publicly about it, asked to mentor other engineers in similar circumstances.  The opportunities are endless…..if he writes it.  Are you willing to risk a little to write your passion and win big?  You have to do what you are zealous about, sometimes foolishly and completely lacking any practicalities, to allow your fullest potential to surprise you.  Maybe you’ve managed to slip off the wagon a bit and let your story lie dormant.  That’s ok, but stop wasting time.  Let the time passed be what jump starts you back into gear.  You can start over and fresh at any moment.

 

Dance like you did when you were a kid.  When doing the economical and sensible were the furthest from your concerns.  When you didn’t have bills to pay and your main concern was whether Eddie in the third row in Social Studies liked you.  Dance for something again.  Give it meaning and give it purpose.  Otherwise, why the hell would you do another grand plié with burning thighs, another pass across stage while the wind is knocked out of you, another knee crawl with bruised shins?  You need a reason to do the piece better this time than the time before, for yourself and for the audience who came to be enlivened.  So set a single personal goal this week, this year.  Be specific.  Carve your own path to stay inspired and leave the excuses for mortals, us dancers are such superior beings (yes, waft that nose in the air).  And if you can’t find a good enough reason to foolishly pursue your childhood dreams (lame, and probably bs), do it for your grandma who always wanted to live on stage but let her damn feet get in the way….poor mortal.

 

 

Thank you my Fairbanks dancing all-stars from Alaska Grown who reminded me why I love what I do every time I saw you.  Thank you my science engineer for reminding me even smart people can be foolish.  Thank you Jared for keeping my big dreams in constant reach every day.  Thank you Melissa Ullom, Steve Vaughn, Elena D’Amario, Eric Bourne, Ian Spring, Jason Macdonald, Sarah Braverman, Abby Silva-Gavezzoli, Lauren Garson, Leeann Ramsey, Kate Scarpetowska, Liz Koeppen, and David Parsons for being my family and the generous artists you are who keep me going;  it’s an honor to share the stage and studio with you always.  And (tear, tear, sniff, sniff) thank you Mom and Dad for letting me be a dancer from day one.  And yes, I proudly accept this Oscar.    

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