Train Mean 

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A T-Shirt I own

At lunchtime today I went to the gym and finally used my PAYG pass! (I had intended to go last wednesday, but I was too tired and didn’t want to run myself down).
Although I didn’t train mean, I did do 10 minutes on the crosstrainer plus a cool-down, several reps on the leg press and hamstring curl weight machines, then I spent 10 minutes stretching on the mat. 

All in all a short, sharp lunch hour workout! I have to say I felt much more energised afterwards. Unlike this guy:

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Okay, he’s a member of staff.

Something that has been on my mind recently – while I agree it is good to eat healthily, this ‘clean eating’ thing has become a bit annoying. As well as the current OBSESSION with ‘smashed avocado’, there is also a huge trend at the moment of only eating a raw, plant-based diet and juice-cleansing at every opportunity. If you want to do that, great. However, I think it can become another food-focussed obsession that feeds into the realm of disordered eating where you may view certain foods to be ‘good’ or ‘clean’ and (most) other foods to be bad or ‘dirty’.

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Last night’s peanut pork – definitely dirty!

I recently read about a wellness blogger who had a best selling book called $25 Five Day Cleanse, but by obsessively following her own advice of raw food veganism and juice cleanses, her hair fell out and her periods stopped.

A quote from her blog:

“I was on a quest for perfection. I was laser-focused on being my healthiest, cleanest, most pure self. But eventually, that focus started to dominate my life. My desire for “perfect health” trumped everything else, and for a long time, I didn’t even realize it.”

Read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/aug/11/why-we-fell-for-clean-eating

Maybe it’s the Instagram effect, but there’s a real pressure to be your best self at all times. I don’t have an Instagram account and I don’t want one, but I think any online social media presence can start to have a similar effect, which then creeps into everyday life…especially more so if you have more perfectionist tendencies and/or are unhappy in your current self. Thankfully the blogger got the help she needed. 

As dancers we need to fuel our bodies (or “power-up” as I like to say), but dancers can also become obsessed with better, more, perfect… especially in the ballet world. There’s definitely nothing wrong with being vegetarian or vegan. I even went pescetarian for a while because I wanted to consume more fish, less meat and feel a bit healthier (didn’t last!). But it definitely shouldn’t be to the detriment of your health and enjoyment of life. 

(While I am not a nutritionist, I have a real interest in sports nutrition and studied this as part of a fitness qualification I did a few years ago, so I could talk about this all day…)

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Avoiding fad diets with a quick stretch

Peachy

Today I have decided to do what I did last summer and go to the gym at lunchtime! I don’t have any dance classes until mid-September, and I am starting to feel really sluggish and unfit (I know, Rambert was only last week), so I think a short workout will be good, especially as it’s a really dreary day out there.

Peachy

Watching the IAAF Athletics World Championships has also spurred me on (I was at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday morning). I keep seeing adverts everywhere at the moment for how to get your “best body ever!” and a “pert peachy bum!” because it’s bikini-mankini season, but that’s not really my motivation. I just want to feel a bit fitter so that September’s return to dance isn’t a shock!

Don’t worry, I haven’t signed up for a silly gym membership that I’ll never use…I bought a Pay As You Gym pass 🙂

What do you do to stay fit when you’re not dancing?

 

Rambert Adult Summer Dance Intensive

I have just got home from Day 1 of the Adult Summer Dance Intensive hosted by the Rambert Dance Company in their lovely modern studios by Waterloo Station. What a day!

I was a little apprehensive because I was going on my own and I haven’t done any contemporary dance since 2013… Anyway, I got there in plenty of time so I didn’t have to stress about being late.

The classes ran as follows:

10am Contemporary (Carolyn Bolton)

This was our warm up class, which got us doing typical ballet warm-up exercises, such as plies, releve, degage, grande battement etc. Aw, I’ve missed these! Then we moved into doing some contemporary exercises, including travelling corner to corner, jumps and a short routine. This was a lot of fun, but not being used to dancing bare foot lately, my achilles tendons did play up a bit on the jumps section. After this we had a 15 minute break to use the facilities, refill water bottles, grab a healthy snack and stretch.

11.30am Choreography (Stephen Quildan)

I had a feeling we would be creating our own choreography, and that’s exactly what we did! We had six words to interpret through movement: Spiral, Drop, Stab, Blue, Explode, Relax. Then we had to perform these in 2 separate groups in silence, then to a piece of music. The observing group then had to answer questions about the differences they noticed between say, music and silence, making eye contact with your partner or looking straight ahead or at the ceiling. Then we did some silly things at the end, including a dance Chinese Whispers game i.e. pass the move along the line… It really didn’t seem that scary to be performing in front of an audience. Definitely found it easier to come up with choreography in this workshop than I did at the Tap workshop the other day…

12.30pm Lunch break

1.30pm Repertoire Workshop: Tomorrow (Simone Damburg)

We were supposed to be learning the piece ‘Ghost Dances’, but they swapped the repertoire programme for the 2 days around, so we were learning ‘Tomorrow’, which is basically the story of Macbeth backwards. We were learning part of what is performed by the ‘witches’ on one half of the stage. It was so much fun! Lots of jagged movements, fast, slow, pauses, pulsing, shudder, shake! We ended up performing it in one big group with the teacher, Simone, then we performed it without her, then in two groups, then in four small groups (about 6 of us)! SO GOOD! Followed by a much appreciated 15 minute break.

3pm Stretch/Yoga 

For this class we had a cover teacher, so it took a while to get yoga mats and music sorted, but once we got started the relaxation could begin! My favourite bits were the child’s pose and lying on the mat! We were doing Yin yoga, which meant holding poses for around 4 minutes at a time for ‘deep tissue’ work. Some of it was a bit advanced for me, like even using a foam block didn’t help LOL. I also found my lower back was kind of jarred by it, so I will have to stretch and roll out the muscles this evening.

4pm Home time!

But not before filling out a feedback form and buying a T-Shirt!

Verdict: A good mixture of ages and abilities (from student to retired), and I didn’t once feel intimidated, even though some people were clearly more experienced dancers. Everyone was very friendly and the teachers who are all Rambert dancers made it a fun and relaxed environment. Being a relatively new building, the facilities are fantastic. Although contemporary dance is done bare foot, some wore socks for the whole day (I did on and off to avoid blisters when turning) and some wore foot thongs. I would thoroughly recommend the dance intensive or any of Rambert’s regular classes if you’re in London. I’m really glad I booked it and I enjoyed the chance to learn from the professionals (and other students) and to dance with such expression. BOOM!

www.rambert.org.uk

Found a Cure

I’ve had painful achilles tendons for weeks and my calves were so tight and painful at points that stretching didn’t even seem beneficial. I was seriously considering cancelling the Rambert dance intensive coming up next Monday. Well, then my SO suggested I try using his foam roller. YES!

The foam roller did the job! It massaged out all those tender, tight muscles and trigger points. The next day, all stiffness, aches and pains were gone! Going forward I’m going to try and use it at least a few times a week, all the while continuing to stretch daily.

I received all the info today about Monday’s dance intensive and now I can be excited! I need to be there at 9.45am and we will be dancing barefoot (not done this in a while) so I’d better get the foot file and nail polish out 😁

The timetable is:

10-11.15am Contemporary

11.15-11.30am Break

11.30am-12.30pm Choreography

12.30-1.30pm LUNCH

1.30-2.45pm Repertoire workshop: Tomorrow (Was supposed to be Ghost Dances but a last minute change)

2.45-3.00pm Break

3.00-4.00pm Stretch/Yoga

 

Tap Workshop: Improvisation & Choreography

Tap Poster

Last night I went to the final Tap workshop as part of Morley College’s ‘Summer Shorts’…Improvisation and Choreography. There were less people than last week, but still plenty of us there for the 2 hour workshop.

We warmed up in a circle, then we went round the circle (like last week) and had to fill 4 bars with something using heels & toes only… ARGH! We did this a few times, and then we did some exercises in rows facing the mirror, such as playing with crawls, we refreshed our memories on some steps, did some call and response (i.e. respond to the teacher’s combination with something different, but to the same beat) and made up our own time step. We also made up some of our own choreography in pairs, and did some improvisation in smaller groups where one person danced in the middle and then signalled to someone that they were going to swap with them.

It was so much fun! But it was also kind of scary to come up with something on the spot when the spotlight is on you. I think it got easier as the time went on, but there is always that feeling of butterflies when you know you’re next! Everyone was in the same boat and really supportive of each other, and our teacher is very encouraging. I have done improvisation before in other styles of dance, but trying to make my feet do what I wanted them to do was another story! I’d love to drop into the splits and slide back up to standing like the Nicholas Brothers, or Prince, but it ain’t happening.

Great tips I picked up for improvisation:

  • Don’t plan ahead
  • Steal steps from other people!
  • Keep it simple

One I would add for me is to repetitively practice steps over the summer using your new tap board! We are DEFINITELY going to be moving to a house over the next few months (YAY!) so I will be able to utilise this resource more fully LOL.

Side note: I have been suffering a bit the last few weeks with tender Achilles tendons, but I didn’t want to miss this class, having missed three weeks of the last term of classes. I am wondering if my Achilles tendons are inflamed from over-use, plus I’ve had swollen ankles from the humid heat, which has thankfully cooled. I will rest after this…I promise (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation)! I have one more summer workshop coming up – the Adult Summer Intensive at Rambert, Waterloo, which one of my Tap friends might be joining me at. I need to see how I go. Might have to wear ankle supports.

Prince Splits

Yoga

Last night we went to Yoga. It was a gentle hour and a half class in a nice calm dance studio. My body was stiff and achy so it was really nice to lie down on a mat and chill out. We did several poses and stretches which really helped to loosen up my hamstrings, back and shoulders. The standing poses were also great and I particularly enjoyed the Tree pose as it made me test my balance!

It’s Here!

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So my tap board arrived yesterday while I was at work, and I didn’t know about it until I got home from the Shim Sham workshop! I ripped the box open like a child at Christmas! Then the cat commandeered the bubble wrap.

It’s a lovely wooden board, heavy but portable. Might be too heavy to take in the car to Cornwall with suitcases and the Nutribullet… The bottom is mounted with stoppers so it is elevated off the ground and it won’t slip around when pounding it. I tried it with my Bloch Sync MEGA tap shoes, but they are bit too loud and I currently live in a flat, (aka apartment for USA friends!), so I might use it with my cheaper shoes that I have at work as spares that are much quieter, or even just some hard soled lace-ups.

I am really pleased with this purchase and it came really quickly, considering I only ordered it last week. Now, time to stop spending!

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Tap Practice Board from Dream Beams & Bars Ltd