Plank series on the Cadillac: Exercise Show & Tell

Here is an Exercise SHOW & TELL entry for you this lovely Monday.  Oh, Monday! Who doesn’t want a little motivation to start the week off right?  This exercise accomplishes a great deal. . . Whether you are looking for summer abs, stronger arms land/or empowerment this Pilate Cadillac exercise is right for you.  Give it a try but please have a spotter close-by!

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  • ABOVE is your STARTING POSITION!
  • Grab onto the top parallel bars of the Cadillac with Grippies in place so your hands don’t slip.
  • Carefully place one foot up at a time, making sure your entire foot/ankle is off the the edge of the the trapeze bar with springs.
  • USE ASSISTANCE to find proper plank position. Hold for 10 seconds!

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  • From Plank position drop the pelvis down to reverse pike (making the letter v). Flow the movement back to plank position (STARTING POSITION).
  • Again hold the STARTING POSITION 10 seconds.

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  • Leading with the sternum bone lift the chest allowing your spine to curve. Make sure you are aware of pushing your legs down on the trapeze bar with springs.
  • Flow the movement back to plank (STARTING POSITION).
  • Once completing the full rep of movement then workup to repeating 10 times!
  • The only holding point in this exercise is a 10 second hold in plank!

 

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Finding your Healthy Dancer Self, led by Dr. Nancy Murdock

This week a team of health experts (or on the quest to be) led by Dr. Nancy Murdock; professor and Department head at University of Missouri – Kansas City. I was invited by Nancy join her team along with Rachel Coats; soon to receive her bachelor’s degree in Psychology, and Monica Oh; Ph.D psychology student at UMKC. Together the 4 of us are in the midst of teaching students attending Kansas City Ballet Summer Intensive, a series called Finding your Healthy Dancer Self. We learned a lot from this experience and we hope that the students learned something too! Here is one exercise we shared with the students, which I thought you might like too! The exercise was on positive visualization. Use it before an event that you are anxious or nervous about. Research shows that with practice, positive visualization can benefit you both viscerally and mentally. I hope you find it useful!!

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Benefits of Visualization:

  • Enhances learning and motivation
  • Enhances self-confidence, helps to visualize success
  • Create coping strategies in stressful situations
  • Enhance focus, concentration and self-discipline
  • Visualization practice empowers and centers you for performance, allowing you to enter deeply into the present moment and harness your true potential.

Here is a script for you to follow: Give it a go!

Relax and close your eyes. Take a couple of deep breaths. Take another breath and just let it go gently, but as you do shrug your shoulders and let your arms relax.

Now you are feeling calm and relaxed. Your whole body feels relaxed and heavy.

Now allow your mind to drift to the day of the final summer program showcase performance (or fill in your own event). Allow your mind to drift over the different movements until you get a feeling, a tension, some sort of emotional reaction.

Imagine yourself performing the combination to the best of your ability. See, feel, and experience yourself moving through the actions in your mind as you would like them to develop. Freeze frame any move that does not feel right, rerun in slow motion until it feels right.

Now, imagine the dancer you want to be, and see yourself moving with ease. Focus on how clean your lines are. Continue to visualize how much control you have with every combination you perform. You can see it in your mind, you can hear the music playing, and you can feel your body executing the sequences with detail.

Picture now, that you have finished the performance. See yourself feeling confident and gratified. You are feeling proud of yourself for your accomplishments. This feeling of success and accomplishment is so wonderful, you want to perform again just to experience it all again.

Enjoy the feelings of success.

Begin to wake up your mind and body…. returning your awareness to the present.

Wiggle your fingers, feeling your hands and arms reawakening.

Wake up your feet and legs by wiggling your toes.

Shrug your shoulders… turn your head from side to side…. feel your body waking up.

When you are feeling awake and alert, you can return to your usual activities, feeling energized, motivated, and confident.

A Dancer’s Personal Definition of Health – Not Wiki’s Version

Integrating dance & health cannot be done without the use of collaboration.  Twyla Tharp quotes, ” A clearly stated and consciously shared purpose is the foundation of great collaborations.”  The ideas, opinions, and words from people on both sides of the integration is key to the purpose of dancehealthier.

I asked dancers, “With dance in mind, what is your personal definition of health – Not Wiki’s version?”  

Jermaine Maurice Spivey – Currently with Kidd Pivot.  Past dancer with Cullberg Ballet and attended Juilliard.

  • “Hmmm, good health physically is totally related to good mental health.  I would say knowing when to take a break contributes to good health.  A vacation gives the mind a break from dance, giving space to focus on other things all while giving the body a chance to heal.”

Kelly Yankle:  Current dancer with Ballet Met, BFA holder in dance from the University of Cincinnati, and past dancer with Cincinnati Ballet.

  • “It is a shame that often times it seems tough to be in “good health” as a dancer, when it should be quite the opposite.  A dancer’s body is constantly being critiqued and utilized, therefore comes a huge pressure to look a certain way – thin.  But being thin does not necessarily mean being in “good health.”  Being in good health is also not just about the physical aspect.  There is a mental and emotional aspect, which also proves challenging at times for a dancer.  It is such a high stress job.  To be in good health we have to eat the nutritious foods, but still treat yourself too.  Don’t obsess of dieting and weight.  Moderation is key.  Accept yourself. This is the only body you have.  Take care of it.”

Kara Zimmerman: Current dancer with Joffrey Ballet.  Past dancer with Pacific Northwest Ballet and Cincinnati Ballet.

  • “I think “good health” in a dancer’s life is more of a mental issue than a physical one.  Once we are in a good place in our minds, the rest falls into place.  We must be happy, confident, and peaceful within ourselves. . . and find that difficult balance between working hard, fighting for what we love, and going too far and taking it to that “crazy” unhealthy extreme, that eventually kills a dancer’s spirit.”

Dwayne Holliday: Current dance critic and writer for Dance Europe.  Past dancer with Deutsche Oper Am Rhein, Theatre Ulm, Milwaukee Ballet and Cincinnati Ballet.

  • “I feel a productive way to view health is a cycle where each leg provides appropriate positive feedback to the system.  I.e. the way we view ourselves bolsters our desires to take care of our bodies, which then encourages us to eat well, which gives us the energy to move and explore our bodies and minds, which then naturally (I believe) increases our chances of having a positive view of ourselves.  It is naive to assume that our thoughts and feelings don’t have physiological mechanisms.  Therefore, if we want to have proper mind/spirit functioning, we cannot ignore the physical vessel in which these mental actions occur.  Health, if this to be accepted, can be defined as the balanced relationship between mind and body, with neither riding the coattails of the other.”

Looking at the big picture of these definitions, what can be said?  Do non-dancers agree?

**Thanks to all dancehealthier readers and subscribers for all of your support so far. If interested, you may subscribe to dancehealthier at the right hand side of the homepage.  You will only be e-mailed when new posts are published. Dancehealthier also has a facebook page.  To check it out, and like it, click HERE!  Feel free to make a comment or contact me via e-mail at dancehealthier@gmail.com.

A Deeper Look into a Dancer’s Perspective – A Dancer’s Profile

Enjoy this week’s Conversation Sunday – Behind the Scenes entry, all in fun.  A dancer’s profile, with a wrap up with why she feels the integration of dance and health is vital.  Click here, if you haven’t had the chance to take a look at NCDT’s dancer, Anna Gerberich’s profile at dancehealthier.

Name:  Kathleen Rae Thielhelm
Vocation:  Dancer with Bejart Ballet Lausanne
Defining moment onstage:  I have two moments, but I can tie them together! The first was when I was 17, at the Joffrey Midwest Workshop. I performed my first pas de deux, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by John Magnus. I can still remember the feeling of that night, consciously realizing that i let myself go somewhere else while performing, becoming someone else, and loving the feeling. The next moment, to which I still shake my head in disbelief about, was in 2010, when i performed on the stage of The Palais Garnier of L’opera de Paris. Opening night, a starkly pure and extremely challenging pas de deux, which I found out I’d be dancing that night with another partner an hour before the curtain went up! There wasn’t time to panic, and it’s still surreal remembering how I willed myself to not only make it through (on the 5-degree-raked stage) but to experience the moment – with my partner, with the music, all while allowing myself to go to that freeing and trustworthy place.  It may sound a bit exaggerated, but that night was the culmination of so many things; it will always be such a beautiful memory. :-)
Favorite Style: Classical/Neo-classical — more specifically, anything with a story! I don’t think I could name just one! I’ve enjoyed interpreting Tudor and Bejart works the most, for the meanings and musicality choreographed into each movement, or stillness.
Inspiration: Honesty – in art and in life – my family, my teacher
Favorite Dancewear Brand: I wear newer brands, but i’ll admit most of my favorite leos are oldies-but-goodies… :-)
Favorite Energy Breakfast: Lately, it’s been a glass of orange-carrot juice, some fresh bread and butter, an Actimel with my daily fish-oil pill. And, yes, coffee is a necessity.
Day-off: Here at Bejart Ballet, we work 6 days a week with Mondays off.  So on those Monday’s I relax and unwind.  I do this either by productively finishing errands/chores, taking a walk, going to the park with friends, or enjoying the beautiful swiss scenery! Just depends on my mood!
Blow off steam:  Venting with a good friend, having a good cry if necessary, taking a walk/explore/get lost (if in a new city), and singing loudly to music in the privacy of my apartment
Integration of dance and Health:  Personally, as I get older, I enjoy the things I’ve come to learn through experience about my own mental and physical health, along with my dancing.  As with anything, the more information you have, added to your intuition and self-awareness, the easier it is to fine-tune our body.  As dancers, our bodies are our livelihood!
Doing next:  Since it’s the evening of my day-off, I intend to finish up some laundry, make myself a nice dinner, and enjoy a glass of wine. Any further into the future would be speculation!

Stay tuned for this coming Movement Wednesday post on Progressive Muscle Relaxation. Also, click here if you have not checked out last Sunday’s Q&A session with Royal Danish Ballet dancer, Shelby Elsbree.

Thanks to all my readers and subscribers for all of your support so far.  If interested, you may subscribe to dancehealthier at the right hand side of the homepage. You will only be e-mailed when new posts are published – nothing extra.  Feel free to make a comment or contact me via e-mail at dancehealthier@gmail.com.

Fall Inspired Warm-Up

“My advice is to never short change your Warm-Up.  It will preserve you.  It’s your one body, and if you take care of it, it will serve you well.”  – Jimmy Cunningham

It’s a crisp, fresh, and purely blue skied day here in Kansas City.  My first few steps alongside the brisk air, with Maddie by my side, was the perfect reminder that it is indeed the first weekend of fall.  This reminder of cooler times ahead, brought me to think of an interview I conducted with a friend, Jimmy Cunningham, on the subject of Warming-Up for a dancer’s tasking day of work.  I tend to admire the things I’m not so good at, and one thing I lack is moving fast in the morning!  I lived with Jimmy for 5 weeks before packing, repacking, and repacking my car up again, in a desperate attempt to fit all that I had left for my move to Kansas City.  I’ll never forget the time Jimmy and I shared together that day, as we struggled to figure out how the heck my bike rack could safely hold two bikes for a 10-hour journey.  We both laughed a lot despite our frustration, especially after realizing how easy it was to use.  Anyway, Jimmy never left a minute after 8:15 a.m. for 9:30 ballet class, usually the time I would walk downstairs for my first cup of coffee.

One weekend morning, I asked Jimmy about his daily morning pre-workday Warm-Up.  I thought I would share some of his thoughts with you.

  • Jimmy allows 45 minutes everyday for an adequate Warm-Up.  That means he wakes up, showers, eats and gets there!
  • A Warm-Up has been ingrained in his head since he was young and still training.  His teacher reiterated to her students that warming-up was a necessary and crucial part of being a dancer.
  • Typically he starts his Warm-Up with theraband exercises for his feet.  Jimmy explained to me that he started this habit because if distractions cut his time short, than at least his feet and calfs were warm and ready.
  • The rest of his Warm-Up occurs in a series from head to toes.  His theory is to “awaken the body, one part at a time.”  First he wakes up his neck, then his shoulders, his back, etc.
  • Jimmy also likes to gradually work up from small movements to larger ones within his Warm-Up.  He explained that moving smaller (less range of motion) warms the intricate muscles up first, allowing the blood to circulate throughout the body.  Jimmy quoted, “You really pay attention to your body, the flow of blood, the releasing of muscles, before you lift your leg or move in full range.”  
  • Jimmy said those few days that he doesn’t get in his full 45 minute Warm-Up, he feels it mostly in his legs.  He said, “There is something horribly uncomfortable about having to force those first few fifth positions.”
  • I asked Jimmy if his Warm-Up was at all mental for him.  Without hesitation, his answer was yes!  It is important to remember that time dedicated to warming up is just as important for our minds as it is for our bodies.
  • Jimmy also said his Warm-Up is not set in stone.  Depending on what he is working on, or what show he is getting ready for, he varies it up.  Before a show he likes to feel loose, free and elongated because everything in a show tightens up.  The adrenalin has less chance to take over.

We all work differently as dancers, but by sharing one dancer’s idea of a proper Warm-Up, I hope to motivate you to think of your own theories, your own ideas, and sequences, which help to make it “your way.”  Feel free to share your own ideas.  A little advice never hurts.