On April 9, 2011, the School at Steps (SAS) in New York City held a “Healthy Body Workshop” for their students and the public. A number of professionals in the wellness world in NYC spoke on topics ranging from “occupational hazards” (Dr. Linda Hamilton) to yoga and meditation for dancers (TaraMarie Perri).
New York City Ballet principal Jenifer Ringer was also there to speak to her own experiences with staying healthy both physically and mentally. It was a wonderful event and one that all dancers, students and professionals would have benefitted from attending.
Here are some of the take-aways for those of you who couldn’t be there.
- Alternative/Supplementary Training: Yoga and Meditation
TaraMarie Perri, dancer, yoga instructor, and founder of Mind Body Dancer, spoke about taking the things we already do well as dancers one step further, like body awareness. She engaged us in a breathing and body scan exercise to allow the mind and body to check in with each other and take stock of emotions as well as tensions. Once you are comfortable with the practice, it only takes a few minutes and is a great way to start your day, getting your mind and body in harmony.
Taking up a meditative practice like yoga can bring important things to your dancing that aren’t usually focused on in dance training. Mindful breathing, a sense of calm, and a mind-body awareness will enhance your connection to your artistry as well as your technique.
It can take time to become comfortable with a new form of movement, so don’t give up if it feels strange at first. Let your body and mind get used to thinking and working in a new way.
- Occupational Stress Management in Dance
Dr. Linda Hamilton, clinical psychologist, spoke about a number of physical and emotional stresses common to dancers and how to manage them. The main idea was that dance training can be stressful and no one expects young dancers to just “deal with it.”
From the quest for perfection to the physical strain on your bodies, there are therapies, coping strategies, and techniques to put your health and well-being at the center of your experience. One good one I like is reframing any negative talk you have in your head in a positive way. You’d be surprised how much it changes the outcomes in the studio, not to mention your quality of life.
Another good take-away here was that 70% of injuries occur after 5 hours of dancing. As dancers, we are often trained to think that more is better, but this not true when it comes to physical activity. Repetition causes fatigue and fatigue causes injury.
Try not to get stuck in this negative cycle. Instead, try alternative forms of exercise that work other parts of your body and mind (like yoga!). This statistic is also good to keep in mind as we move into summer intensive season. We want to work smarter, not more.
Tune in to the next post to hear the take-aways from Dr. Price, an orthopedic surgeon who works with dancers, and NYCB principal ballerina, Jenifer Ringer.
Photo credit: OzRock79