Monthly Archives: April 2016

Junk and Adjuncts

Variety is the spice of life, right? How do you choose the variety so that your dancing keeps moving upward (adjuncts) rather than sideways or down (junk)? In the social and amateur realm this is a difficult question and depends on the issues you are trying to resolve with your cross-training. There are usually two poles of the body – the over-disciplined and the under-disciplined.

The over-disciplined students tend to be perfectionists. Perfectionism in dance may manifest as extreme control over the movement and may be observed as stiffness or hollowness of the movement. In their strife for perfection, they forget that they need to express their character, find their voice, their flavour, and their mark on the genre. These types of dancers usually seek out ballet which can add to stiffness and perfectionism. Learning ballet as an adult is not easy. It is a difficult genre and one that doesn’t translate well to dances that move through the torso (latin). Ballet requires discipline of the body for the limbs to move seemingly independent of the torso – exactly the opposite of what we do in latin dances. You can imagine if someone is already too stiff and too perfectionist in their dancing, ballet is not going to resolve this and in fact often makes it worse because there is so much information to try to perfect. My recommendation is usually modern, hiphop, or contemporary because these allow more flow and experimentation – less perfectionism  – while still incorporating high levels of technique. Perfectionism is where I mulled for a long time.

Then you have the under-disciplined students. These students usually need increased input that will create greater neurological and muscular control, These are not people who lack discipline in their mind by any means. Often these people are greatly frustrated as they understand what needs to be done, but have a body that is not as obedient as desired. If they are part of the latin realm of dances, I often direct them to more disciplined and classical genres. The discipline of latin ballroom (dancesport training) can be amazing.  It requires great mental, neurological, and muscular coordination while maintaining expressivity. This training is very specific in its execution, requires overall body coordination, while maintaining coordination of the torso with limbs to produce the esthetic and function of this training. It is a difficult genre to master and mastery may not be what is needed to correct the disobedient body. The mind-body connection of this dance is why it is recommended. I also recommend contemporary and modern for this pole of students. These two allow for creativity, exploration, and discipline to be intertwined which is often needed for this category of student as well so they can grow in coordination without being discouraged.

There are of course many genres of dance that can be explored and other kinds of movement as well. I attribute much of my coordination to gymnastics and circus arts. They contributed to my coordination, high strength to weight ratio, and the build of my body. Seeking out classes that are deemed functional or conditioning are great because they build strength with dynamics to maintain muscle length and increase neural coordination, and increase overall tone of the body.

How Much Do You Want It?

I get solicited on how to make it as an amateur or a professional in the dance world. The answer is always the same. You gotta want it badly. Talent is never going to be enough. Talent will definitely be helpful. Without natural coordination & inclination toward dance, you will not advance far. However, believing that you are never good enough or finished learning are the larger determinants.

My biggest success contributor has been my internal locus of control. I have never believed that anything but myself was at fault for any stumbling blocks in my career . This has also made me a little too harsh with myself, but it is a huge contributor to my success. I have never left anything to luck. Anyone who knows me, knows I work myself hard in business, dance, and previously in dentistry. I leave nothing to chance. If I want something I find a way to ask for it, get connected to it, and push myself until I get it. I am independent and believe my success is up to me.

You also need to put the time in on the floor. I rehearse my work on my own, minimum 10 hours per week (that’s aside from time I spend with partners which works out to minimum 10 hours per week). Whether it is mental rehearsal, physical rehearsal, or physical preparation, I put in the time. The body needs to make things automatic. The work needs to be an engram when the music comes on. It has to know without thinking what has to be done to that piece of music. what order everything comes in, what nuances need to built in. When it reaches that point, that is when things get to the next level. That is when time slows down on stage or the competition floor and you can become what you cannot become during practice time.

You also need to have any amazing team of dance professionals and healing therapists helping to mentor and coach you. I spend roughly eleven hours per week with these people. I spend four hours per week with my one coach who knows how to push me to be better everyday. He tireless cracks the whip even when I don’t want him to which is what makes him so good at his job. I take minimum two hours a week of high level group classes where the teachers understand my career and guide me with a heavy hand. I spend two hours a week with my physiotherapist who applies neurokinetic therapy theory to my treatments to keep me healing and growing towards optimal function. I see a craniosacral therapist twice weekly for treatments to keep energy lines open in my body, to control pain, to connect to my body at a deeper level, and to promote healing. I also have a massage therapist who works three hours per month on my body. I also have restorative exercise therapist who trains me on day-to-day alignment for healing to combat the strain I put my body through with professional dance. I am currently seeking a sports nutritionist to boost my nutritional support of my immense activity as well.

Aside from training hard and having outside help, you have to be studying all the time. This includes recording, dissecting, and putting my own dancing back together. For the classes that I teach, I spend hours weekly studying the latest trends and best information that I can be presenting to my classes. I study the kinesiology, energetics, and anatomy of how people move. I pull apart videos of my heroes to see how they move and how they could move better. There is always a ceiling of complexity that can be pushed through to get to the next level. This is what I am always seeking when I am studying for my own improvement, my improvement as an instructor and coach, and for the improvement of the overall dance community in my care. I am never done. The day I think I am done is the day I need to retire.

Losing to Gain

Sometimes you lose something great to gain something greater. In the moment of loss, it seems that it will never be replaceable. That nothing will be right with the world again. It can be so painful that everything physically hurts and feels like we will never be whole again. Time always has a way of healing and showing the truth of the matter.

This was the situation for me just over a year ago. A beautiful dance partnership ended almost overnight. It was devastating and I was broken over it. Nearly simultaneously, a boyfriend spread a false rumour that effectively severed most ties I had built in the community. I was standing on the edge of my career alone.

The situations propelled me forward into the unknown. I was always good on my own – personally and professionally. However, these betrayals took be aback. It was a lesson in self-reliance. Only I can only control what I do, how I act, how I move forward. People silly enough to believe the absurdity of the rumour, well that was not on me. I could not let myself let this setback stop me. Looking back, I was being held back by these partnerships that I had been attached.

In going out on my own, I was forced to fully mature in my dancing, teaching, performing, and choreography. It was a move that was brave and terrifying. What if I was only half a dancer? What if stepping out solo exposed my weaknesses? What if I only was good with a partner? All this doubt crept into my mind and was intermittently paralyzing. I chose to persevere. I could no longer be half a dancer. I could not hang my hat on someone else’s talent or ambition. I needed to incubate myself and develop my skills and put my mark on this world.

In all this, there have been great people who stepped up to support me and there have been some who tried to plant doubt. Someone I had grown close to and trusted was especially devastating due to his own unhappiness with his dancing and life. He told me I was an ugly performer, that I was not good enough to do this, that I was going in the wrong direction and wasting my talent and time. We had severed ties about a month before the performance, however, the days before I stepped out on stage as a soloist at the most important event of my year, his unkind seeds sprouted. They grew around me and nearly stopped me from stepping on stage. I was fearful I would fail on stage, that he was right and the community would know it. It took a lot out of me to step onto that stage alone. It also took kind words of my ex, my colleagues, and students to smarten me up and to realize these were the words he believed about himself and was solely a reflection on him.

The important and respected people in my life stepped up to support me to put myself out there – alone. To be judged as a whole dancer. To be judged as I smeared my soul on the stage. I am thankful for those who propped me up and nudged me to do what they knew I could do. It has strengthened, energized, and motivated me to push even more. I am thankful for my loss for I have gained so much more.

Finding My Way

My journey in the dance community has been tumultuous. I entered with rose-coloured glasses that leaders were in it for the greater good of our art. Some are and a portion are in it for ego, control, and financial gain treating those under their tutelage as mere numbers and trying to be the biggest bully in the playground. This was a sad realization and I lost my innocence about the community.

When I entered, my goal was and continues to be to make a difference. I bring a large box of tools in a complex way that is unique to the rest. We all have a unique toolbox because we aren’t cloned when it comes to our historical training. My history comes from being deeply studied in multiples genres. I have never been a one-trick pony since I was a kid as it was not fulfilling. I still cannot just pick one genre that I love most. I need to study movement from many perspectives to gain clarity of what I want and need and how I want to approach movement no matter the genre.

This studying has given me tools I never would have if I studied extensively in only one genre. It’s allowed for holistic research and examination that goes beyond dance itself. It goes to understanding the long term ramifications of certain movements, of where our physical power comes from no matter the movement, and how to bend movement to a more interesting way.

What I bring to the community has been viewed as a threat by some leaders, which is something I still shake my head at in lack of understanding. I did not come in with the same package of information at all. I did not come in with mal-intent toward any other schools. I came in for the betterment of the community so that students could see dance from a different perspective. I want my students to understand concepts from other genres that strengthen their preferred genre. This cross genre training allows for new inputs to the brain and nervous system allowing more complex patterns to be achieved and developed in the body.

Being taken aside and scolded for growing my brand and school was not something for which I was prepared. I was dumbfounded. It made me question whether I wanted to be part of the community because it seems I would have larger, more deeply serrated knives to pull out of my back if I continued forward with my vision. For a month, I contemplated folding as the toxicity of these bullies did not seem like the effort to develop my programs would have enough fulfillment to be worth dealing with these people. It took soul searching to understand why I was doing this.

When I dug deep, I realized why I wanted to be here. It was about transference of information to those who were open to hearing it. A necessary transference due to a neurological illness that could take me down at any time. I want to make sure my students and succeeding teachers receive my information while I can still demonstrate and give it. It is important to me to pass on the information as quickly and clearly as possible so that it does not get lost with the the illness. I had to pick myself up, verify that I was going to be okay and that the other’s ignorance was not going to take me down.