Category Archives: Dance Studio

Top 5 Dance Compensation Patterns That Cause Injuries

Hosted by the Dance Training Project

Knowledge is power. A cliche saying, but as per it’s cliche nature, it’s because it’s legit.

As dancers we rely primarily on kinesthetic intelligence, and a fundamental pillar of knowledge, for us, is having heightened body awareness. In my humble opinion, one of the most important things you should be aware of to keep your body in business for longer is of what your compensation patterns are. What are your cheats? What are your default settings? It’s knowledge that can help you perform better technically and keep you injury free.

For starters, dance requires you to compensate a lot. To create the beautiful spirals and balances, in awkward positions, with extreme ranges of motion, you need to cheat a bit. It’s impossible to do these extraordinary physical feats AND stay perfectly aligned- neutral, symmetrical, balanced. The illusion of perfect balance and grace demands the creation of muscle imbalances.

Even at the mental level, to accomplish these cheats you have to go to a different place- A mental place that says, “Hey, this position isn’t normal and kind of feels bad, but it looks pretty cool so I’m gonna keep doing it!”. Again, it’s just my humble opinion, but I think this mindset is the PRIMARY compensation pattern leading to injury: The brain compensating for every muscle. Overriding the concept of what is “best”. Is it heightened pain tolerance, or physical fitness?

So while dancers pride themselves for having heightened kinesthetic intelligence, perhaps the prize jewel of said intelligence is the understanding of how to get into a mental state in which the body’s able to completely ignore signals of pain and discomfort in order to optimize acute performance (which becomes a huge issue if you’re into this state so deep you can’t get out). I’ve heard of this referred to as being in a “limbic“, or “sympathetic” state. But that’s a discussion for another blog post (because it’s super interesting).

The purpose of today’s post is to bring your attention to some common compensation patterns many dancers use. There is power in knowing how YOU specifically tend to cheat accomplish challenging dance moves. The secret weapon is that knowing your cheats allows you to reverse them.

But if your compensations are helping you dance, why try to reverse them?

Knowing that dance requires compensation patterns, it is better, safer, and more productive to perform these compensations starting from a more neutral state than from a positions already riddled with muscle imbalances and dysfunction.

This is stuff I wish I knew when I was 12, before the lower back, hip, neck, and hamstring injuries that eventually forced me to slow down.

Reversing postural dysfunction and movement compensation patterns can be as simple as adding a few specific exercises to your dance warm-up/cool-down, and embracing a balanced full-body strength training program.

5 most common  compensation patterns in dancers

Maybe you recognize some in yourself. Or have you tuned them out? We already know the brain can screw stuff up (as mentioned above) but after the brain’s ability to tune out pain, the king of dysfunction is…

 

1. Breath holding

Holding your breath causes the diaphragm to contract, and stay contracted, in an attempt to give you stability. Because your diaphragm isn’t supposed to be used primarily like an “ab”, this can cause any number of other muscles to function poorly, though most commonly it’s the core muscles (abdominals, QL, psoas, glutes and more…).

In dance, if something is hard, you’ll probably hold your breath to make it easier. Breathing is always a good place to start if you’re unsure what your cheats are. We all hold our breath and often the diaphragm is KING of dance injuries.

The picture below is nice because it shows how the diaphragm has fascial connections with the psoas and the abdominal wall (making it very easy to compensate for their functions…)

 

2. Forward head alignment

I am guilty of this right now. Sitting at a computer is the devil.

In a dance setting, dancers who lack core strength to stabilize their bodies will often compensate by holding their head slightly forward causing the muscles of the neck to tighten up and act as a “core”. Much like the diaphragm is not an ab, the neck muscles are not abs and should not be working harder and be getting more toned than your real abs (TVA, obliques, rectus abdominis, etc.).

I have assessed many dancers who cannot activate their TVA without help from either the neck flexors or extensors. You can tell who these people are because their necks look JACKED:

Just check out that sexy hypertrophied sternocleidomastoid. Looks like someone’s core is in her neck…

Forward head posture can also be indicative of glutes that do not activate properly- Using the weight of the head as a counterbalance rather than stabilize with the muscle that actually keeps you from falling on your butt (dem glutes).
3. Excess lordosis and anterior pelvic tilt

Don’t have core  and hip strength but need to lift your leg higher? Don’t have glute strength but need to propel yourself forward? Arching your lower back will help you do those things (the illusion of, anyway). It will also help increase your chances of back pain and hamstring injuries, so I don’t recommend lumbar extension and anterior pelvic tilt as a means to perform athletic movements.

Getting stability from excess lower back extension is another sign that the abdominals, glutes, and other important muscles aren’t activating properly. Also can cause and/or exacerbate compression in the hips, SI joint and spine.

Another thing dancers tend to do is to arch from the lower back rather than the upper back to do back bends.

In the picture below, notice how her lower back is SMUSHING, and upper back stays nearly flat. Looks impressive, but I doubt she can activate her core or glutes, and I’d guess she’s dealing with some mad back, hip, and/or shoulder pain, and some difficulty breathing from her diaphragm.

 

A bendy ball of disaster compared to the backbend below. Check out that sweet upper back and hip extension without excessive lower back compression. I bet she’s breathing, too.

 To continue click here

Questions To Ask Yourself While in Ballet Class- By Edward Villella

Via:  Dance.Answers.com

 

Edward Villella wrote, “What’s so wonderful about ballet is that it’s mind-driven physicality. It’s almost a Greek ideal of body, mind, and form.” He wrote this because dancers understand that ballet is as mentally strenuous as it is physically strenuous.

Ballet requires the mind to be as sharp or sharper than the body, because must anticipate what is coming next in the music and in the movement. The entire time you are dancing, you are asking yourself questions, listening to the music, feeling the accents and prompting the body for movement.

It is important you are asking yourself the correct questions while in class. You do not want to practice wrong, as famous Jazz dancer Luigi warned against. Practicing incorrectly or sending yourself the incorrect messages will only hurt your dancing and potentially open you up to injuries. What questions should you be asking yourself while you’re at the barre and center?

What Aches Today?

What Aches Today?

Every day, we have a “new body.” What we mean by this is that you may have certain aches or tightness and that differs from day to day. From the very start of ballet class, you want to start your mental assessment of your body. What hurt today? What feels tight today? This knowledge of your body helps protect you throughout class and it always informs you on what to work on. For example, you know if you’re experiencing tightness in the quadriceps, that you may be pulling from the incorrect place. This tells you to focus more on inner thighs as you work.

Do I Feel Warm?

Do I Feel Warm?

As the barre exercise progress, you should begin to feel incrementally warmer with each exercise. Ask yourself if your body is adequately warming up. How your body feels serves as a gauge of how hard you are working. As a reference, you should be sweating by degages and definitely sweating by rond de jambe. Assess where your body feels warm and where it does not, then mentally focus on sending energy and warmth to the corners of your body that may still feel cold. Engage those muscles, sending blood to them, and breathe into tight muscles. Warming your body up properly will help your dancing be better and stronger but it will also prevent injuries. See: Understanding Exercises at the Ballet Barre

QUOTE

Someone once said that dancers work just as hard as policeman, always alert, always tense, but see, policeman don’t have to be beautiful at the same time. -George Balanchine

How is My Alignment?

How is My Alignment?

Check in with your body alignment. Are your shoulders and hips square? Is your pelvis anteriorly tilted? Are you tucking your pelvis too far in? Are your shoulder scrunched up, sending tension into your neck? If your answer is yes to any of these questions, you need to re-adjust. Standing in any of those positions will send tension throughout your body and it will make the movement more difficult. You will feel as if you’re forcing the movement.

Start with the top of your head and mentally check in all the way down to your toes. Make sure you understand what muscles you are engaging. For example, engage your back muscles in order to hold the shoulders still and the arm rounded. Engage your abdominals in order to find your neutral pelvis.

You also want to check your alignment while you are moving. For example, during a plie you want to make sure your knees are over your toes and not leaving forward. When extending the leg back to arabesque, you want to make sure that leg is behind you and not leaning out to the side. You also want to make sure your shoulders remain even. Constantly be aware and asking yourself: Where are my shoulders supposed to be? Where are my hips supposed to be? Where are my knees supposed to be?

Am I Breathing?

Am I Breathing?

When our body is doing difficult work, we tend to want to hold our breath. We wrongfully think that holding our breath will harness the power we need to push a little higher or get us through quicker movement. But this is incorrect thinking.

Breathing helps send oxygen to our muscles, which we need in order to complete such physically demanding work. Learning when to inhale and exhale in ballet will help us harness the energy we need and it will naturally make the movement better. Remind yourself to breathe through each exercise, using the breath as a way to fuel the movement. We are not dancing under water, and we shouldn’t treat our bodies that way. Keep breathing. See: Breathing Exercises for Dancers

Is My Weight Out of My Heels?

Is My Weight Out of My Heels?

While we are standing, it is easiest to shift our weight to our heels because that is our strongest position. It takes less muscles to keep our weight in our heels. But this is incorrect in ballet.

You must keep your weight out of your heels and shift it forward into your toes. This keeps your muscles engaged and it allows you to be prepared for any quick shifts of weight from one foot to another. Ballet teachers call putting the weight in your heels “sitting back.” It looks relaxed, and a teacher can tell your muscles are not engaged. You cannot “sit back” in ballet because your muscles won’t be prepared to do the work asked of them. Shifting your weight forward readies your body, prepares your mind and frees your body up for the quick shifts that happen constantly in ballet.

Am I Rotating From the Hip?

Am I Rotating From the Hip?

Hip rotation is so important in ballet. Think of your hip like a Barbie doll’s hip. Barbie’s hip rotates around in the socket. Your hip has the same power, and you need to understand how to use that power to your advantage. Forcing rotating from the knees will lead to injuries and potential surgery needed on your knee. Do not force your ballet positions of the feet if that is not your natural turn out.

To find your natural turn out, standing in parallel first position. From your hips, start to move your toes outward. Go as far as the toes will go, and when you stop feeling movement in your hips, stop. This is your natural turn out and it is where you should be working. Placing your feet in the position first will force you to rotate from your knees, which is bad. Constantly assess where your turn out is and where it is coming from.

Where is My Head?

Where is My Head?

Using the head and shoulders in ballet is called epaulement. It is what makes dancing beautiful and not simply just technique. It is the cherry on top of the ice cream. It is easy to forget epaulement while dancing because you are so focused on the exercise and executing it correctly. But, technically, the exercise isn’t complete without epaulement. Practicing where your head, shoulders and torso go is important to the wholeness of your dancing.

There are two fundamental positions of epaulement and those are croise (crossed) or efface (shaded). For crossed, the head should be toward the foot in front. For example, if you’re standing in fifth position facing the left corner of the room with the right foot in front, the head should be turned to the right shoulder. For efface, the head leans toward the opposite shoulder of the foot that is extended. For example, if you’re standing in fifth position facing the left corner of the room with the left foot in front (or extended), the head will be turned to the right shoulder.

Ballet takes massive amounts of physical and mental work in order to have everything done correctly, on time and beautifully. The questions mentioned above are a quick way to run down your thought process to make sure everything is in place. If you ask yourself these questions every class, you will see yourself start to understand your body and the movement more and more. With practice, you will become a stronger and more aware dancer.

 

Blacks in Ballet: Delores Brown and Raven Wilkinson

Know your history know yourself!!!

Raven Wilikenson
Raven Wilikenson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Delores Brown
Delores Brown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a clip from a documentary that tells the stories of how two Black women entered the world of ballet in the 1950s: Delores Brown, and Raven Wilkinson. Being from Philadelphia I had the pleasure of taking class a few times with Ms. Brown and one of m y first ballet teachers was Marion Cuyjet. In fact Ms. Cuyjet was the person who told my father that I should got to Pennsylvania Ballet School because I could be a ballet dancer, so I have been personally touch by this portion of history.

cuyjet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marion Cuyjet

 

 

When you hear some of then things that Ms. Wilkinson had to endure as a member of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo…it is maddening and amazing. To think of the personal strength and determination that it must have taken to go out on that stage every night, or travel through the southern states…They are both aspirational and inspirational…

 

Body Hero Whitney Thore: In Her Words…

Whitney Way Thore
Whitney Thore is an on-air producer for Jared and Katie in the Morning on 1075KZL, where the Fat Girl Dancing YouTube video series was born from the creative minds of her coworkers. Click here to listen every Monday thru Saturday from 6am-10am. You can also check out Jared and Katie in the Morning on Facebook and YouTube!

 

I never set out to be a voice in the body-positive movement. In fact, as recently as a year ago, my most significant life goals hinged solely on losing 200 pounds so I would fit into a body deemed attractive and acceptable by society.

I desperately wanted to have a body that gave me permission to do the things I loved, like dance in public, and a body that gave me permission to outwardly be the person I was inside: a confident, quirky woman with endless goals and dreams.

My quest for this perfect body started at age 10 and eluded me for the next 19 years, creating an uphill trek through self-doubt, eating disorders, polycystic ovarian syndrome, weight loss, weight gain, and towering waves of depression.

I hit rock-bottom more than once, but I didn’t quit my life. I kept living and I kept dancing.

A co-worker urged me to film myself and put the videos on YouTube in a series called “A Fat Girl Dancing.” One of my videos went viral and my inbox exploded with messages from all over the world from people saying that watching me dance had made them cry or changed their life. This was overwhelming to me –- and very telling of the society we operate in.

It took me years, but I have finally made peace with doing what I love. Whether I’m thin or fat or somewhere in between, I won’t stop dancing. While some are OK with it and some are not (I try to force myself not to scroll through the YouTube comments), one thing is obvious: it’s different. It’s different and it’s shocking, to some degree, but it shouldn’t be.

Now, at age 29, the path has finally leveled. I’m arriving at a place of self-love. Cultural norms, societal pressures, and the whims of the fashion industry do not define my worth as a woman or a human being. My intelligence, personality, talents and contributions do not fluctuate with the numbers on a scale. I am unwaveringly ME.

The same goes for YOU. No matter WHAT you’re struggling with, embrace what you have to offer, love yourself right this minute and start affecting positive change for yourself and others.

No excuses. No shame.

—Whitney

For more information on Whitney, and to join her No Body Shame campaign:

http://nobodyshame.com

A Fat Girl Dancing, Whitney Thore’s: No Body Shame Campaign

Whitney Way Thore
Whitney Thore is an on-air producer for Jared and Katie in the Morning on 1075KZL, where the Fat Girl Dancing YouTube video series was born from the creative minds of her coworkers. Click here to listen every Monday thru Saturday from 6am-10am. You can also check out Jared and Katie in the Morning on Facebook and YouTube!

Whitney Thore is a body hero. Not because she is “Fat and Happy” or because she is a “Fat Girl Dancing”. She is a Body Hero not because of what her body is but who she is in it. Thore became a internet sensation when her Fat girl dancing video went viral sparking entertainment and news outlets to carry her story.

Whitney now 350 pounds was once 130 pounds and a dancer in college. However at 19 when she started putting on weight regardless of eating healthily, working out and dancing. It wasn’t until she was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome, that her wight gain was explained.  This diagnosis brought with it the harsh reality that she might never have her previous smaller body back, this might have devastated some but Whitney took it in stride:

I think that she is inspirational and aspirational. I think that one of the things that we can take away from Whitney and her story is that we have to be careful not to judge. People might be tempted to look at her and assume that she is lazy, overeats and does not work out and yet that couldn’t be further from the truth. She lives a healthy lifestyle, dances eats well and yet has this hormonal disorder that effects her body in a very visible way. We [people] should not be so quick to judge…
Her spirit and her no Body Shame Campaign is exactly what we need. Whether is is not shaming someone because they are “too” big or “too” thin (because that happens as well) it should always be- first and foremost about health, and appreciation of what ever we are gender, race, size, shape, form. We are all worthy, and we are all ENOUGH, just as we are.

 

Be your Own IT Girl

Walk past any news kiosk and it’s clear what’s hot, the face of the it girl splashed on the majority of the covers makes that all too clear. In the eighties we had glamazon Cindy Crawford, the Nineties waif Kate Moss, now it’s Paris, Lindsay and Halle. Like Pavlov’s dogs we set out in a mad frenzy to become her, doing the best with what we’ve genetically been given and what we can financially acquire; hot haircuts, wedge heels and the right length skirt and the bag of the season. If it’s within our budget we could add or remove unwanted fat and place it where they say it should be, lips, breasts, or booty. However when the look of o’the day is beyond facsimile we have no recourse but to await the next season, like playing roulette we hope the little ball lands on something closer to what we naturally are or can successfully feign.
For years I have shed my clothes in dressing rooms and looking around me I can’t help thinking that when it comes to dance and aesthetics, I have the very same feeling as looking at Vogue, nauseously inadequate. I discerned that directors are like fashion editors; choreographers designers and we the dancers, are models. Some are touted for their facility, some for their artistry and quality while others are simply the muses. The dance world moves at a slower pace than fashion but whether we like to admit it or not it’s still based on aesthetics. Looks do count, not for everything but they certainly help. I think of Gelsey looking at Suzanne wondering, “What does she have that I don’t?” it wasn’t talent. Speaking of Balanchine, he single-handly created the paper-thin hair flowing look that had girls fearful of cutting their hair and made Tab one of the four major food groups.
Alas the wheel spins again. Today the millennium ballerina has breasts, junk in her trunk, spiky hair, an Afro and even tattoos. Of course there will always be the it girls for whom roles are created and ballets designed around, likewise there will always be her counterpart, the often unappreciated ox who remembers the counts, know all that parts, can be thrown in at a seconds notice, neurotically working to be it, hoping against hope that the golden girl will twist her ankle and she’ll get her shot and like an old MGM movie she’ll go from chorus girl to star over night. But this is not the movie The Company and Neve Campbell fell out in the end anyway. I suppose its just better to remember why we dance in the first place, the love of it, and somehow make ourselves it girl in our minds, whether we are way upstage on quarter or in the dressing room waiting for her twenty minute solo to end. Personally I exact my revenge at the gala with my irresistible charm and infallible fashion sense, spotlights don’t always shine on stage, I carry mine with me!

That’s my two cents you can keep the change.

Tips on How Not to Get Cut at an Audition

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Pointe Magazine:

Company Life: Don’t Get Cut!

Candid audition advice from a dancer who’s been on both sides of the table
By
Published in the February/March 2010 issue.
Theresa Ruth Howard dancing with Armitage Gone! Dance

Photo by Julieta Cervantes

I remember it clearly: I was 8 years old, on the way to audition for Dance Theatre of Harlem’s two-week engagement of Doin’ It. While pulling on my tights in the back seat, to my complete horror, I discovered an inch-wide run on the upper thigh.

 

For 188 of the 200 children who tried out, the audition ended in heartbreak. Yet despite my holey tights, I made the cut. Oddly, I wasn’t nervous that morning. It may well have been one of the last times that pinning on a number didn’t fill me with anxiety.

 

As dancers, we train to dance, not to audition. You worry about the height of your leg, your weight and how many turns you do. But you seldom think about your “energy” or authenticity as a person. Yet years later, when I helped run auditions for Karole Armitage, I learned that these elements are what make you stand out in a sea of bodies.

 

Let me let you in on a dirty secret: So you think you can dance and that is what it’s about; well, it is, but that’s not all it’s about. While I wasn’t stunned by the politics behind the table, what surprised me was how many of the deciding factors had nothing to do with the dancing. You’d be shocked at what gets discussed in those hush-hush huddles. There is the girl who, despite the “general” comment to stop looking in the mirror, keeps peeking at herself. Then there’s the guy who thinks he has an “in” because he knows someone in the company, but forgot that the last time they worked together he got fired for partying too hard.

READ on to get the Tips!!

Dancer Madeline Crawford – Her Body Story- (her secret to success- her Dance Journal)

mad

This is Madeline Crawford, a Junior at Professional Performing Arts School in New York, she is also my student in the Ailey School Junior Division. Two years ago Maddie became my student and recently we began to work together privately to address some of her alignment and technical issues. Through our sessions we managed to break down and break through some of her issues which in turn has begun to change her body. I wanted to sit down with her so she could tell her story. She not only has changed her diet, and her body (both by losing weight and by working differently in the studio) but her dedication to the work and how she approaches it has made her progress this year blossom. Plus she FINALLY really did an assignment I gave her class a year ago and is now reaping the benefits!!

 

madtutu 1
Maddie in 2011
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Maddie 2013

 

Here is a  guide to how to write a Dance Journal from Maddie 

How to Write a Dance Journal by Madeline Crawford

Get Organized

Purchase a nice medium-sized notebook that will fit in your bag and is visually appealing, so you’re more likely to use it. Set a format for yourself. If a teacher is giving you a format, use that as inspiration but only write what you think you will benefit from. For example: I never write compliments down very often because, while they help my self esteem and show improvement, I probably won’t benefit from looking back and reading about a good pirouette at barre I did or a well-placed Penché. Unnecessary sections of a journal make writing in it more tedious and less enjoyable.

For an easy format, use this:

Date:

Technique:

Teacher:

Corrections:

 

You can even throw in things like “Personal Goal” or “Class Concentration.” But don’t get too lofty with what you want to write everyday. A dance journal can feel like homework some days- an overwhelming amount will make you not want to do it at all. You could even just write down the date and corrections, making your notebook as succinct and purposeful as possible. *(I do think that keeping track of your compliments are important for balance, it can show that you are not a complete mess. Also your successes are just as valuable a learning tool as your failures, when you succeed you have to know why and how it replicate it *T’ruth)

 

Listen

If you’re the type that hates getting corrected, it might be time to change your mindset. This isn’t easy to do and it’s difficult to hear about something that you feel confident in.

For example: You may have naturally high extensions. If a teacher says to cool it down for the sake of hip alignment, you may feel belligerent and stubborn, not wanting to take it. But the only reason they say this to you is to keep your body healthy and refine your technique, not to hurt your ego.

Also remember that not every teacher wants the same thing, so while you may have to keep your leg at 90º in Teacher A’s class, Teacher B may allow you to kick it however high you want. Blocking out your teacher’s corrections won’t help at all, if you haven’t listened to them, you won’t have anything to write, and therefore you’ll never learn. It’s nearly impossible to remember every correction all your teachers give you during the week but every word helps you.

 

Find Patterns and Set Goals

Though not every piece of information you receive will be in your journal, you start to recognize a correction if several teachers say it to you. You may have heard “quicker spot” on Monday, you could have dismissed it or forgotten when it comes to writing everything down. But if another instructor says the same thing on Wednesday, it will click that you’ve gotten this before and it’s time to apply it. On Saturdays, on my way home after my last class of the week, I start a page that says “Weekly Review.” I collect every repeated correction from that particular week (or previous weeks if it’s something I really have to work on) and write on that page “Patterns in Corrections.” To clarify- if not only my Graham teacher says “deeper plié,” but also one of my Ballet teachers, I write down “deeper plie,” so that I know it’s something to focus on. I then read through all the patterns and choose one or two things to make my “Focus of Next Week.” In order to make sure you’re following through with each week’s goal, also write “Last Week’s Focus.” Record whether you did well with your goal or if you have to keep working on it. These corrections aren’t limited to what an instructor says to you! If you yourself can see that there can be improvement on a certain aspect, include that in your journal as well. If you’re constantly saying to yourself “I could have drawn that out a bit more,” or “I need to breath through all my balances,” then don’t wait for someone to say something to your. Make it happen!

 

Absorb

Make it a weakly ritual to look at your journal and read your weekly focus. Try to even look at it before every class. 2% of the work is writing notes down, it’s up to you to bring it into class and start to apply it to your dancing. If you repeatedly hear “energy through your arms,” it doesn’t count if you just have it written down, you have to absorb the correction in order to improve. Typically, when I make something my weekly goal, I tend to not hear hear the correction from teachers anymore, so it was effective. But always keep all corrections in the back of your mind. Just because someone hasn’t commented on it in a while, doesn’t mean you can forget about it. There’s muscle memory, but sometimes you will have to consciously tell yourself what to do.

 

Be Consistent and Don’t Get Lazy

I have plenty of days where I don’t feel like digging out my journal and meticulously writing every detail of class. There are definitely blank pages in my notebook, where I planned on writing but only got as far as labeling “technique” and “teacher.” This is inevitable- some days you won’t feel inspired and won’t have the motivation to put extra effort into something that it’s mandatory. No one is making you write the journal except yourself so it’s easy to slip up. It may be a nuisance to write about every single class, every single day but there won’t be much improvement if you don’t impel yourself.

 

When Do I Write It?

AS SOON AS POSSIBLE! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put off writing until the next day (or the next week) and have completely forgotten every detail of the class. If you’re taking more than 2 classes a day it’s easy to blend classes (and even teachers or techniques!) together. Sometimes you have to force your self and maybe even sit down after class, right outside the studio, and write.

 

What If I Don’t Have Anything to Write?

Some days you won’t get corrections! There are always teachers that yell combinations at you instead of actually giving you useful information. It’s your job to make classes like those into sort of experiments. Concentrate on all the corrections that you’ve already gotten. These classes can be good, depending on how you look at them. Don’t waste a single class! Sure, we all have bad days but don’t let your lack of respect for a teacher affect your improvement. Do you want to slack off for a full 90 minutes or do you want to turn that time into useful learning time? Also, remember that every class correction is a personal correction. If a girl behind you is being told to lift her elbows in first, don’t look at yourself in the mirror to see how good you look your new leo. Look at yourself in the mirror to see whether you need that correction too. A teacher can’t always get around to everyone, so make sure you listen to everything they say for your own benefit.

 

Don’t Get Scared

Sometimes I look over a week of notes and freak out about the amount of bullet points there are on a page. Of course, it’s always good to get a correction from a teacher- it means they’re paying attention to you and want you to improve. But sometimes you can get nervous about the crazy about of stuff you have to work on. Just remember- this is the reason you’re writing in the dance journal, to improve. Most of these are tiny corrections, though. Your comments in class reflect your improvement. Instead of hearing major corrections that can take years to work on (articulating feet, higher extensions, stronger core muscles), the corrections shift to tinier things that are crucial but only a more advanced student can comprehend and absorb. I’ve noticed that I’m getting even more corrections than I ever was earlier in my training. Also, all you hear from professionals is that they’re constantly learning, they’re always something to work on. It’s important to keep in the back of you’re mind that corrections are necessary to succeed.

 

Dance Journals Aren’t For Everyone and Do Your Own Thing

You may have intensely great memory so you don’t have to keep a notebook. You may have tried it, and have found no benefit. Maybe you’re not the type of learner that can handle writing everything. Dance journals don’t have to work for you, plenty of great dancers probably never wrote anything down. Also remember that pictures can help, if you’re a good artist. You can even try your own format, don’t feel limited.

 

Have Fun!

Yes, it can sometimes feel like boring work to write about dance, when you’d rather be actually dancing (or sleeping or eating). But try to put a positive light on your dance journal- thinking of it as a real, almost academic study to help you overall, instead of punishment.

 

Mutable Mirror: How Psychoanalytic Studies in Academia Transformed my Dancer’s Perceptions of my Body – Sarah Friedman

Mutable Mirror: How Psychoanalytic Studies in Academia transformed my Dancer’s perceptions of My Body

By Sarah Friedman

People with body dysmorphic disorders often check themselves in mirrors because they believe they have physical flaws.

 

I am currently a student at Barnard, where I study English Literature and Art History. Because of my background in dance, I focus on the notions of representation, performance, aesthetics and self-image as I explore these two forms of expression. This past semester in a class called Feminism and Postmodernism in Art, taught by Rosalyn Deutsche, I was particularly influenced by an essay by Jacques Lacan called The Mirror Stage, which describes the connection between a child’s first experience seeing his or her reflection in the mirror and Identity formation.

Jaques Lacan is a French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist who made significant contributions to post-structuralist theory, feminist theory, philosophy and literary theory. I found The Mirror Stage, Lacan’s first major contribution to psychoanalysis, particularly influential because it acknowledges a major conflict present in identity formation; the conflict between the sense of identity that one derives from his or her visual image as perceived in a mirror, and the sense of identity derived from internal, emotional sensations. This was a conflict that haunted me during my 18 years as a dancer.

When I became serious about dance in middle school, the mirror was both my best friend and my worst enemy. I often found myself awestruck by what I was seeing and became absorbed in some specular, two-dimensional sphere that had absolutely nothing to do with my physical body moving through real space and real time. Often times, when I felt completely disjointed, uncoordinated and confused, my gaze would shift to the mirror, as if I were in search for a sense of wholeness and coherence in a moment of pervasive uncertainty and self-consciousness.

My obsession with the mirror makes sense according to Lacan’s The Mirror Stage, in which he argues that we are primed as infants to search for a sense of identity and mastery over the world around us through the act of looking at an image of our body that is coherent and seemingly complete, yet external to our real physical bodies.

More specifically, in The Mirror Stage, Lacan theorizes that children pass through two stages of development; the Imaginary Order and the Symbolic Order. He defines the Imaginary Order as a pre-linguistic stage in which an infant gains a sense of coherent identity from the symmetry and wholeness of its reflection in the mirror. As Lacan states, this specular image is appealing to the infant because it “is given to him only as a gestalt, that is to say, in an exteriority in which this form is certainly more constituent than constituted.” This self-as-image identity, or as Lacan calls it, the Ideal-I, counteracts the child’s fear of the fragmented body, created by “the turbulent movements that the subject feels are animating him.”

However, this “gestalt” evades the true form of the body, as the real body is constituted of various minute fragments that form larger body parts that perform disparate functions. As such, after 18 months of life, the infant gravitates away from its specular image as means of understanding his or her identity. As an infant begins to accumulate language and passes into the Symbolic Order, the child’s identity becomes shaped through its relation to others in linguistic discourses, which last through adulthood (i.e. law, kinship and marriage). In this stage, although the person’s conception of the Ideal-I is reified as an impossible desire, this conception does not cease to assert itself in the person’s mind.

It follows that my own tendency to look at my specular image for a sense of wholeness and to escape uncomfortable physical sensations of fragmentation and incoherence is consistent with Lacan’s theory. However, there also came a point when this mirror image ceased to be a source of comfort and transformed into my worst enemy. The image that I saw reflecting back at me never matched up to my own impossible standard of perfection, which existed only in my mind in the form of a mental image. The mirror always reflected a Sarah that wasn’t turned out enough, wasn’t long-legged enough, wasn’t thin enough, wasn’t a good enough of a dancer to become a professional.

As I reflect back on my dance career, I realize that a lot of my unhappiness resulted from the fact that I was torn in three different directions in the pursuit of understanding my own identity as an artist.  I felt compelled to stay physically present in my body, yet whenever my physical sensations bordered on incoherence and fragmentation, I sought to understand my body visually by looking into the mirror. However, the mirror was fundamentally unsatisfying, because the reflection staring back at me didn’t match up to the mental image of perfection that haunted my psyche. I was tortured, trapped in a vicious cycle that led me down a dark emotional path of bodily hatred. There reached a point where I couldn’t stand this conflict any longer, so I quit dance.

As Lacan suggested, it is within our nature as human beings to search for a sense of coherent identity and mastery over our bodies through the act of looking to an external image of ourselves. Moreover, I think all women in society are tortured by the notion of  “the perfect body,” a notion which, much like the mirror image, doesn’t exist in reality, but is trapped inside of all of our minds in the form of a mental image. I think many of us gain an understanding of the world around us from magazines, television shows, movies and advertisements. We are surrounded by the visual images of physical “perfection” that dominate mass media representation. Like the mirror image, these mass-produced images are not part of reality. They do not exist outside the bounds of their frames. These images are the products of airbrushing, elaborate staging and advanced lighting effects. Nonetheless, these images somehow manage to project themselves into our minds and exert themselves over our psyches as objects of impossible desire.

When I came back to dance this summer, I was determined to escape this paradigm of bodily hatred. As I thought about my body image conflict through the lens of Lacan’s theory, I realized that the root of the problem lay in my tendency to search outside of myself for satisfaction. So, instead of fixating my gaze on the mirror, I sought to focus on my physical experience and what it really feels like to move. I have found that the more I move towards accepting the nuances and intricacies of my body, and towards letting go of this fantastical notion of the “perfect” body, the more I am able to enjoy the art form of dance. I have realized that part of developing an artistic voice is accepting the complexity of my expressive medium of choice. My body is my instrument, and the simultaneity of its awkwardness and its elegance is the main source of its beauty.

Sarah Friedman is a Junior at Barnard College, where she studies English Literature and Art History. She has been dancing for 13 years, and was a fellowship student at The Ailey School in the Spring of 2012. She plans to pursue a PhD in Literature when she graduates Barnard.


 

TWERKing To the Classics!!! (High-larious)

Miley- take a seat….

 

This is like my open post to Miley Cyrus the non ass having Twerking fiend! I am perplexed at how the thing formerly known as Ass Shaking as been renamed and somehow sublimated. And speaking of sublimation, this woman has taken the ass pumping skill to a whole new level. It was so funny, and amazing (as well as musical, some of my students could take note) She is like the Dita Von Tesse of Twerking…

Check it out!!!