On Ballet and New Beginnings

I am not sure what exactly I was worried about. I guess I thought I would not be able to keep up with the others, that my ankles would wobble and my balance would be off. It has been over nine months since my last ballet class – work, social commitments and my wedding (yes, I got married!) took up more time than expected. But last night, I braved it and went.

To cut a long story short, my worries were indeed justified. My ankles did wobble, my balance was completely off and I did find it hard to keep up with the others. In fact, I got so mixed up during one of the exercises in the centre that I piqué turned right into the row of dancers behind me.

I felt like I was back at square one, the same place I had been when I first started this blog. And yet still, as disheartening as the prospect of starting over felt, I knew it also meant beginning a new and exciting journey.

As I watched my awkward moves in the mirror, I could not help but laugh – here we go again!

Bring on the sore muscles, tapped toes, messy buns and sweaty leotards – I am ready to do it all again!

Dear reader, thank you for sticking with me despite my long leave of absence. I’m starting over and I sincerely hope you’ll join me for the ride!

new beginnings 2

 

Do not stop

 

The end of the year is approaching fast and, as always, this has spun me into a deeply contemplative tizzy.

I’ve reviewed my resolutions for 2014 that I did not want to make but made anyway and now fear one of these coming on.

 

My dance goals don’t really seem to have progressed as far as I’d have wanted them to (I did make some progress though, which I am very happy about).

But at the end of the day, the quote below is a great one to remember, especially as an adult dancer.

Progress may come quickly sometimes and more slowly at other times but the important thing is to keep going no matter what!

This will be my mantra for the next few weeks:)

Goodness, can you believe there are only a few more weeks left of 2014?!

 

Dancespiration_3

Better than myself

I know it’s true, yet I find it so difficult to remember – comparisson is the thief of joy, especially in dance class.

We are  all different – with different body types, different talents and different difficulties. This week’s inspirational quote is a great one to remember if you compare yourself to others during dance class.

So during this evening’s class I’ll be trying to dance “better than myself” and spend less time comparing my progress to others. If this tactic was good enough for Baryshnikov, it should be good enough enough for me, too!😉

Quote by Baryshnikov

Do you compare yourself to others during dance class? If so, how does it affect your dancing and how do you stop yourself from doing it? I’d love to hear your experiences, so please share.

Top five breathing tips for dancers

For the past few weeks (since my last post on breathing), I’ve been focusing on improving my breathing during dance class. I’ve done some research and found a range of ways in which poor breathing can affect our dancing – some of it is pretty impressive (in a negative sense).

  • Poor breathing reduces the amount of oxygen to the brain, minimizing the effectiveness of our sense organs that detect balance and making us less stable.
  • Blockages in the nasal passageways can alter our aplomb as the body tilts forward to help open the airways.
  • (Adult) ballet dancers tend to hold their breath and tense their diaphragms, limiting breathing in their upper lungs. This shifts their centre of gravity to the upper chest making turns more difficult (I am so guilty of this!).
  • Improper breathing makes movements (especially in classical ballet) look rigid and less graceful.
  • Poor breathing also effects our energy levels and can decrease our ability to concentrate – yikes!

 

So, what can we do to improve our breathing, you ask? Here are a few tips I’ve been trying out for myself:

  1. Know thy self…and thy breath

The first step to better breathing is to understand your breathing pattern. From what I gather, each of us breaths differently – some have shallower “chest breaths” while others breathe deeply from our bellies. Spend a day paying attention to your breath, when do you breath most deeply/shallowly? Is your breath fluid, with uniformed inhales and exhales? Or do you hold your breath at certain times? Knowing how you breathe is the first step to figuring out how to improve it.

  1. Let go…

A big mistake I make when I dance, which happens to be common with many dancers, is sucking my stomach in. I’ve learned that not only does this limit your breath capacity (which means less oxygen to your muscles), it has also been shown to decreased hip flexibility and turn out! Make sure never to suck your stomach in, concentrating on tensing (stabilising) the core muscles instead. It also helps to imagine breathing “into your back” – imagine your breath is creating space between your shoulder blades as you inhale and try to engage the muscles just under your shoulder blades (Lattisimi Dorsi) to exhale.

  1. Slow it down and follow through

The goal should be to maintain a slow, steady and deep breath at all times. This means breathing fully in and, more importantly, exhaling fully, too. Many dancers (myself included) tend to forget to breathe out fully, again limiting the oxygen to the brain and making them look rigid. Slowing our breathing down can also keep us calm enough to execute complicated pas and combinations.

  1. Know when is best

Mme. R., my ballet teacher, has told us time and time again that you cannot separate the movement from the breathing that goes with it. There are very specific times in movements that demand an inhale and others that require an exhale. She taught us a simple trick to help know when to do what – breathe in when you’re going upwards and out when you’re going downwards. Simple, right? Now, if I could only remember to do it in class!

  1. Practice makes perfect

Yoga, Tai Chi, Meditation – there are numerous ways to learn how to improve breathing but a good method that can be done (for free) at home is “diaphragmatic breathing”. I’ll leave the explanation on how to do this to an expert – please watch the video below (demonstration starts at 2:23).

 

I hope these tips help breathe new life into your dancing (pun intended).

Let me know if they help!

 

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor. The tips listed above are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Seek the advice of a medical professional if you are worried about your breathing patterns.

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.