Enjoy each step

Good evening, dear reader!

We’re halfway to the weekend so I think some mid-week inspiration is in order to get us through.

The quote below from Wayne Dyer will be on my mind during my ballet class this evening.

It’s so easy to forget to enjoy each moment when you’re concentrating on your turnout, port de bras, your alignment, the exercise you are doing, not falling on your face, etc.

But it is so important.

I wish you all happy dancing and lots of joy in every step that you take during dance class (even the incorrect ones)!

Inspiring dance quote from Wayne Dyer.

It’s Friday lets… get inspired

There is great power in our breath and people have known this from ancient times.

From the ancient texts of the Old Testament to the yogic discipline of Pranayama – throughout the ages, breathing has been described as a source of life, power and creation. The word inspiration, for example, has its root in the Latin word “spiritus” which means breath. In other words, the magical force that moves us to create was equated with the act of breathing.

The real power of breathing first became apparent to me during a special floor barre class I took with Mme. R. We had finished the challenging class and were “cooling down” with a series of breathing exercises that Mme. R. was demonstrating. We were breathing deeply and moving slowly to some relaxing music. I remember enjoying it and Mme. R. asked us to close our eyes to allow ourselves to fully relax.

When the exercise was over, I opened my eyes to find the other people in my class in various emotional states – a few of them had been moved to tears, some looked absolutely exhausted, others, like me, looked utterly blissful and calm. Mme. R. ended the class by telling us “I’ve done breathing work with many dancers before and it affects different people in different ways. Don’t worry if you’re feeling emotional, it’s normal”.

It’s not a surprise that breathing can have such an effect on our emotions – just paying attention to our breathing patterns on an average day can show how the two are inextricably linked. We breathe deeply when we feel safe and relaxed and our breath shallows when we’re scared and anxious.

The evening of the class, Mme. R. sent us a write up about breathing in ballet. Below are a few excerpts:

“In the beginning there was breath. Breath is life, movement… You have to teach breathing as part of movement.”

“The very first movement taught in dance class is how to breathe air in, to fill up the lungs, and then to exhale, allowing the body to fully stretch. Your arms have to look like they’re ‘breathing’; your legs have to look like they’re ‘breathing’. There’s a definite reason why you inhale when you do and why you exhale when you do…”

“Ballet is as much about posture as it is about movement. Though the movements are disciplined and require strength and stamina, the breath is critical to maintaining a relaxed and gentle appearance.”

“… performers of all kinds experience nervousness before stepping on stage – it’s part of a human’s natural flight-or-fight response. To counter this rush of adrenalin, the shortness of breath, the nerves and the unfocused mind, it is important use conscious breathing…close your eyes, ‘see’ your breath, and pay attention to yourself. Like any sort of meditation, you start becoming aware of your breath.”

Am I not lucky to have such a wonderful teacher?!

 

It’s Friday everyone…let’s start becoming more aware of our breathing and get “inspired” in the truest sense of the word!

Have a great weekend!

Taking a breath before the jump

On ballet and taking space

“Don’t make yourself small”. Mme. R. shut her eyes and opened her arms widely to show me. “You have to use those long arms!” Something about the words “long arms” didn’t sit well in my stomach and for the rest of the class I struggled to concentrate.

If you saw an old photograph of me from my primary school days, you would recognise me instantly. I was hard to miss. I was skinny, tomboyish and tall – taller than most of my other classmates. I was never bullied for my height but, as is the case with most children, I didn’t like being different. I wanted to be small and “cute” like the other girls in my class. So over the years, I formed habits, mostly subconsciously, to help make me seem smaller. I slouched my shoulders, bent my knees ever so slightly whenever photos were taken and generally did all I could to take up less space.

Then puberty hit and my growth spurt stopped and suddenly I wasn’t the tallest girl in class anymore. But while I felt more comfortable with my height, my old habits still prevailed.

When I started dancing seriously again a few years ago, I came face-to-face with these subconscious behaviours. Slouched shoulders are a no-no in ballet class, as are bent knees (aside from the plies of course) and taking up space with long elegant lines is what one is meant to do. When my teacher mentioned my “long arms”, she hit a nerve that was still raw from my childhood days. She meant it as a compliment but in my mind’s eye all I could see was a lanky kid who didn’t look quite as “cute” as the other little girls.

We all know how body language changes our internal state – people who are open-minded tend to have more “open” body language and vice versa. So I began to think about what my body language was saying about me and my internal state. Why am I so afraid to take up space? Do I not feel I deserve to? Or is it just a result of social conventions of “femininity” (“women should be small”)?

The past few weeks, Mme. R. has been trying to get me to lengthen up and take up more space. She keeps telling me to use my long arms and make myself “bigger”. This, I guess is another case of how dance can ultimately lead to self-acceptance and a better feel of who we are.

I know many people who were tall kids/are tall adults who have all developed their own “creative” ways to make themselves seem smaller. What would happen if we deemed ourselves worthy of taking up the “space” that is rightfully ours?

Something tells me that if we let our bodies unfold, our minds and hearts will undoubtedly follow.

Dance helps your body and mind unfold!

11th October, 2014

As I stepped forward into the light, it was like entering another world.

All I could see were my fellow dancers on stage and all I could hear was the music. This, I thought, is WHY…

Why I’d rather go to rehearsal than go for a night out in the town; why I’d rather spend my money on leotards and pointe shoes than high heels. This is why I dance.

We had our first performance as a company on the 11th October. It’s hard to believe that a year has passed since we first began working on the choreography and now it’s over. I feel so grateful to have had the opportunity to perform with such a wonderful group of people. I’ve learned so much about myself as a dancer and as a person and I’m finally not afraid of improvising in front of strangers (this is a biiiig step, believe me)!

I spent the whole day after the performance in a daze – trying to re-live the experience of dancing on stage. Up until then I had convinced myself that performing on stage was not that important. That going to class, improving my technique and having fun were all that counted. Now I’m not sure if that’s really true.

I know it’s subjective – some people “need” to perform on stage and others are content with “performing” in class alone. On the 11th of October, I realised I belong to the former group and I can’t wait for the next show.

 

Three dancers performing on a stage with arms outstreched.

A group of dancers on stage performing

I return to you

Hello everyone! It’s been a while, I know.

As a peace offering, I’m sharing an excerpt from a poem I wrote a while ago – the words seemed fitting.

Thank you so much for sticking around despite my being M.I.A.

The flowers are for you, too.  :)

 

I return to you

I return to you

With a quick and loyal stride

I return to you

Like a splendid roaring tide

I return to you

For I never should have gone

I return to you

Unashamed of what I’ve done

Still I return to you

Flowers for you!