About Susan

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Class as Sustenance

I've recently become acquainted a researcher named Mike Barnes who is, fascinatingly, focuses on dancers from an anthropological perspective. He poses thought-provoking questions on his blog and I've responded to a few of his posts, hoping to help in his research.  One post got me thinking about the cycle of class, rehearsal, and performance.

Class is my constant; it is the food I live on as a dancer, and as a person.  Class is my anchor; it gives me structure and I can rely on it to complete my day. The reality is, given the limitations of my schedule due to juggling a corporate job with dancing, I sometimes have to choose between class and rehearsal.  The truth is, I never feel complete if I haven't had class.  It doesn't even have to be dance class; it can be cross-training, but as long as it's class that makes me sweat bullets I am satisfied.

If I don't have a choice, I give myself class in my room. (I'm beginning to fear that I'm wearing a big divot into my carpet and floor.) When I was traveling abroad for work and living out of a suitcase, I got up at 6:00am each morning to give myself class before work, and ran on a treadmill for one hour after work.  I'm not a fan of running, but it was the only way to maintain any kind of endurance. No matter how tired and beat up I felt, I was resolute in keeping this up.  This served a psychological purpose, too: it was a way to establish a routine away from home, and fulfill me in some way when I couldn't dance like I wanted to.  It definitely helped me sleep!

Still, even my strict regimen cannot replace class for any considerable period of time.  Even though performance may be the end goal, class gives structure to the body and mind.  Class makes the rhythm of my days.  It's painful to go without. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Little Victories

I've been bouncing around the globe so much that it's been a challenge to keep up the strength and endurance required for the dancing I am about to dive back into. Recently, I wanted to check my form while going through my 'travel workout' routine (warmup, modified center barre, jumps, sit-ups, stretch) in a hotel gym in Taipei. Upon seeing the photo, my first reaction was of dismay; my shoulders are quite inflexible, and so is my upper back. I am reminded by this visual check just how much my body does not echo the ideal.  While I may never achieve that beautiful, rounded bridge shape - one can push one's natural limits only so far - if I can gain just a little more flexibility, it's a start.

It can be discouraging to see myself, whether in photos or in videos (the latter of which are indescribably more painful to watch) because all I see are faults, things I could have done better. Many fellow dancers have expressed that they share this experience. We constantly assess and reassess, with a highly critical eye, our bodies and the shapes - the "lines" - we make with them.

And just as suddenly I'll realize: Wait a moment! A year ago I didn't have the strength to hold my leg up while in a standing bridge, but at least I can do it, now!  Progress is a wonderful thing. All the more motivation to get back into shape, now that I'm home, and work towards these little victories.