Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Are You Warm Enough to Start Dancing?

This educational post from IADMS is a brilliant reminder about the importance of being fully warmed up.

Are You Warm Enough to Start Dancing?

Posted By Brenton Surgenor and Andrea Kozai on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators’ Committee, Monday, April 3, 2017


Warming up is essential before taking part in any type of dance activity, but it’s not always clear how to warm up effectively.  This blog post sets out the what, why and some of the how-to’s of an effective dance-specific warm-up.  This prefaces our new, upcoming Resource Paper on effective warm-up for dancers, which has much more information and advice on how to prepare the body for dancing.

Firstly, an effective warm-up will prepare you (or your dancers) mentally and physically to meet the challenges and physical requirements of a class, rehearsal, or performance.  As the name suggests, a warm-up should increase your core body temperature, which prepares your muscles and joints to function effectively during dancing as well as reduces injury risk.

During the warm-up there is an increase in the amount of energy required by your working muscles.  This means your body needs to consume more oxygen and fuel (glucose) to generate energy to power your muscles.  A byproduct of all this extra energy production is the increase in body temperature that gives the warm-up its name, so the cardiovascular section of a warm up is vital in ensuring your body is ready to go.  Therefore, sitting in the sun enjoying a hot coffee will not have the same benefits as a physical warm-up, as a warm-up ensures that your cardiovascular system, breathing rate, and energy-producing systems gradually increase to meet the higher demand for energy when you begin dancing.

A warm-up will have a number of other beneficial effects. These include: increasing the flow of synovial fluid (the lubricant in the joints), which allow your bones to slide more freely; improving the elasticity of your muscles, joints and ligaments for increased range of movement; and increasing the speed that signals travel through your nerves, which improves your overall balance, coordination and proprioception (your body’s ability to understand its orientation). For more information about proprioception see IADMS Resource Paper “Proprioception”.

Whilst it’s good to include some stretching as part of your warm-up, not all types of stretching are beneficial before dancing.  The role of stretching during a warm-up is to mobilize muscles and prepare them safely to carry out the range of motion required of dance activities, not to increase flexibility. Stretching should happen after the activation of the cardiovascular system and when core body temperature is raised.  Dynamic stretching (taking the joint through a full range of motion in a slow and controlled way) is the best form of stretching in a warm-up.  This is because research suggests static stretching (stretches held in one position for longer than 15 seconds) can have a negative effect on balance, proprioception (knowing where your body is in space) and the muscles’ ability to produce powerful quick movements like jumps (Morrin and Redding, 2013). While static stretching can be an important part of flexibility training it is not an appropriate method of warming up; on the contrary, the purpose of dynamic stretching is to ready the body for full range, dynamic motion (Quin, Rafferty and Tomlinson, 2015).  For more about stretching, see IADMS Resource Paper “Stretching for Dancers”.

Warming up your mind is just as important as warming up your body.  A good warm-up will give you an opportunity to check how you are feeling, to notice your posture and any unnecessary physical tension or pain.  It can also help you concentrate and focus, which should contribute to technically better dancing and reduced risk of injury (Laws, 2005; Malliou et al., 2007).

Although a thorough and effective warm-up should take about 20 minutes, the time required is dependent on a number of factors including, but not limited to: whether the dancer has participated in any physical activity that day (is it the first class of the day or has the dancer recently completed another class); how warm or cold the environment is; and how much space and time is available for the warm-up. This should include a general physiological warm-up that prepares the core body temperature for physical activity.  Importantly too, the warm-up should include specific activities that relate to the style of the dance to follow (Quin, Rafferty and Tomlinson, 2015).

A warm-up generally consists of three or four sections: a gentle pulse-raising section, a joint mobilizing section, a muscle lengthening section, and sometimes a second pulse-raising section (Quin, Rafferty and Tomlinson, 2015). The pulse-raising sections aim to increase cardiorespiratory and metabolic rates; these are the prerequisite to all further activity. The joint mobilizing section consists of gently moving the various joints through their ranges of motion, and the purpose of the muscle lengthening section is to prepare the muscles for the demands to come through the use of dynamic stretching (Wilmerding and Krasnow, 2017). It is also appropriate to include remedial exercises for injury prevention purposes at the end of the warm-up (Volianitis et al, 2001), and mental skills and preparation can be included at any stage.

Remember the benefits of a warm-up will be reduced or even lost once the body returns to its resting states of heart rate, respiration, and body temperature, so try to keep the time between the end of the warm-up and the dancing a minimum. Warm clothing and continued movement (but not static stretching) will help keep the body’s core temperature elevated. However, this is dependent on what happens after the warm-up (does the dancer keep moving or do they sit down and rest) and environmental elements such the ambient temperature. Cooler temperatures and the lack of movement may cause the effects of the warm-up to dissipate more rapidly.

Unfortunately, there is no magic recipe for warming up and the most important thing to remember is that the warm-up should be specific to the type of dance activity to follow (in other words a ballet warm-up will be different from a jazz warm-up). However, with an understanding of a few basic principles, it should be safe and easy for you to design a warm-up that works for you. 

Here are some suggestions to help you design your perfect dance warm-up.
1.      Involve your mind and take a moment to center yourself.  Check in with how you are feeling; notice any areas where you need to give special attention. 
2.      Make your warm-up dance (and type of dance) specific.
3.      Introduce an activity to gradually increase your heart rate.
4.      Keep the movement simple to begin then progress to more complex and challenging movement patterns.
5.      Mobilize all the joints in your body and don’t forget about your spine and upper body, especially if your dance style includes upper-body weight bearing or/and partnering work.
6.      Give yourself a goal or try some positive self-talk.
7.      Use dynamic stretching and take your body carefully through full ranges of motion saving the static stretching for the cool-down or the end of the day.
8.      Wake up your nervous system by incorporating quick changes in direction and stopping to balance on one leg – this will engage your proprioceptors. 
9.      Once you are feeling warm and just a little bit sweaty, introduce some power movements like small jumps followed by some bigger ones.
10.  Towards the end of the warm-up, pick the pace and progress your movement to speeds nearer the pace of the following dance activity.

Whatever you choose to include, by the end of the warm-up you should feel ready to meet the mental and physical challenges of dancing. For more detailed information, check out the new IADMS resource paper on warming up for dancers.

For more information about warming up see the following resources.
1.      Harris J, Elbourn J. Warming up and cooling down. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2002.
2.      Laws, H., & Apps, J. (2005). Fit to Dance 2: Report of the second national Inquiry into dancers' health and injury in the UK. Dance UK.
3.      Malliou, P., Rokka, S., Beneka, A., Mavridis, G., & Godolias, G. (2007). Reducing risk of injury due to warm up and cool down in dance aerobic instructors. Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation, 20(1), 29-35.
4.      Morrin, N., & Redding, E. (2013). Acute effects of warm-up stretch protocols on balance, vertical jump height, and range of motion in dancers. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 17(1), 34-40.
5.      Quin E, Rafferty S, Tomlinson C. Safe Dance Practice. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2015.
6.      Volianitis S, Koutedakis Y, Carson R. Warm Up: A Brief Review. Journal of Dance Medicine and Science 2001; 5(3): 75-79.
7.      Wilmerding MV, Krasnow DH (eds). Dancer Wellness. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2017.

Written by Brenton Surgenor (BPhEd, MA, MSc), Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts and Andrea Kozai (MSc, CSCS), Virtuoso Fitness

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

NEVER give up the job you love:

Miss Dixie thought this story from the Daily Mail might inspire you all!

NEVER give up the job you love: Royal Ballet's OLDEST prima ballerina, 53, reveals how her marriage was destroyed after she stopped dancing for the sake of her family

When I arrive at her New York apartment, Alessandra Ferri is standing by a blazing fire and, for a split second, I mistake her tiny, compact size for that of a child, not a 53-year-old mother of two.

Of course, the honed and chiselled body of Alessandra — the world-famous protegee of Mikhail Baryshnikov — is a tribute to a career at the very top of her profession.

Her life is neatly book-ended by two facts: she became the youngest ever prima ballerina at the Royal Ballet aged 19, and now she’s about to return to the Royal Opera House as the oldest leading lady since Dame Margot Fonteyn.

Alessandra Ferri in Giselle in June 1987 (left) and in the world premiere of Wayne McGregor's Woolf Works at The Royal Opera House last year

Earlier this year, Boots featured Alessandra in a TV ad for No 7 cosmetics that saw her dancing with a hologram of her 19-year-old self.

It was an informing experiment — in some ways, the poised, experienced version out-dances the younger, fresher, more innocent version of 1982.

‘Of course,’ agrees Alessandra. ‘Dancing is not just physical. When I dance, I am an actress. Today, I have a whole lifetime to draw on. That other girl was a little seed, I’m the grown tree. There is a lot more depth to my dancing than there was.’

She argues that though she is in her 50s she has as much to offer on stage.
‘We can’t be the 20 or 30-year-old woman that we were. But it doesn’t mean there isn’t an extreme beauty, lightness, enthusiasm and creativity in a 50-year-old person. Or a 60 or 70-year-old, but I’ll let you know when I’m there.’

Alessandra has not always been this sanguine about the ageing process, however.

Alessandra with husband Fabrizio Ferri (left) and daughter Matilde Ferri (right) 

In June 2007, aged 44, she bowed out of her 22-year career. Back then, the idea was that she was going to retire to spend more time with her daughters, Matilde and Emma (now 19 and 14 respectively) — that she would be, in her own words, a mum.

‘I wanted to be with my kids a lot. I wanted to be with their dad [Fabrizio Ferri, a photographer, whom she’d been married to for 15 years]. Also, maybe, I was a little bit afraid I was getting old.’

But instead of bringing her family together, she makes a startling admission about her decision to retire: tragically, she blames it for destroying her marriage.

The idea of a middle-aged prima ballerina may draw gasps nowadays, yet throughout the Seventies and Eighties, it was not thought odd for prominent dancers to perform on through their 40s and 50s and even beyond. In 1986, Margot Fonteyn appeared as the Queen in Sleeping Beauty aged 66. Alicia Alonso, the Cuban prima ballerina, now 95, danced into her 70s.

But, by 2000, there was a cultural shift. ‘When Margot was dancing later in her life, it was acceptable for a dancer to be older,’ says Alessandra, who sees Fonteyn as a role model for her.

In June 2007, aged 44, she bowed out of her 22-year career. Pictured in Woolf Works Ballet

‘And then, the world changed — and not just the world of dance. You had to be young. Actresses were stopped mid-career, too. A whole generation of actresses were not allowed to get old. Beauty became associated with youth only.’

So Alessandra stopped dancing. She didn’t even exercise — she’s at a loss to explain why — going from five hours’ training a day to nothing.

At first, she didn’t notice what was happening to her body: she was throwing herself into the role of a mother, getting the girls up in the mornings, making snacks, taking them to school, picking them up.

‘You know all the things mums do. I took them to clubs and music lessons, made pasta. And it was wonderful, it’s not like I didn’t enjoy it,’ she says.

But then, she started getting small twinges.

‘My body didn’t feel energetically at its best,’ she says. ‘I started feeling lethargic, which I’m not.

‘From moving and training hard, like an Olympic athlete, to suddenly nothing, it was very difficult for my body. I suppose it’s like if you have a Ferrari and only drive it at 10mph. I’m a trained machine.’

After around six months, the pains increased — her joints first, then her back and her feet.

‘I think because the muscle and joints were so used to being moved, they almost felt as if they were going rusty.’

Alessandra says there was an emotional response, too. ‘Not dancing, I felt I didn’t have a real purpose.’

She started to question why she’d given up in the first place and felt bereft.
Alessandra says there was an emotional response. ‘Not dancing, I felt I didn’t have a real purpose'

‘Even though my life was full — I had two kids and a husband, I had taken the role of artistic director of a festival in Italy, I was watching shows and reading books — I was not the one creating. And that caused an emptiness.’

I ask whether she suffered from a form of depression, like Darcey Bussell after she retired from ballet in 2007 aged 38. ‘Yes, I did,’ she says. ‘I wouldn’t call it really bad depression, but I was definitely unhappy. Suddenly, life is very empty.’

As her identity faded, Alessandra began to question why she had given up in the first place. ‘I realised what had been difficult wasn’t so much the physical, but the psychological. I had still been thinking in a more traditional way — that, at a certain age, you’re too old to dance. Maybe I was afraid of being compared with my younger self.’

After two or three years, the sense of not being fulfilled was unbearable. She realised she’d made a mistake — the idea of being the dancer who couldn’t dance ‘gave me great sadness’. So Alessandra started doing ballet classes, as well as yoga and Pilates.

‘I realised my body was great. It was still in shape and I could still move. And I thought: “Well, why am I not dancing then? That’s what I’m here for. That’s my great mission in life. That’s bigger than being a mother.”

‘I thought: “You’re not going to dance like you did when you were 20 years old, but you can dance like you will at 50. And what’s wrong with that?” ’ With this revelation came others. Alessandra found she no longer suffered from anxiety before a show. ‘I was anxious my whole career. I had stage fright the whole time. And then, I didn’t.’

There’s something cruel in the irony of what happened next.

In 2012, Alessandra wrote and choreographed a short piece called The Piano Upstairs, a story about a marriage breaking down.

‘It wasn’t based on my experience at all. I wrote it and then it happened. As I was rehearsing, the same thing was happening to me at home.’

Her husband (coincidentally, they shared a surname before marriage) was photographed by an Italian gossip magazine ‘frolicking’ with an unnamed woman near their home on the island of Pantelleria, Sicily.

Alessandra says his departure came out of nowhere.

‘It was a crushing experience, destroying. I didn’t see it coming, and I believed so much in love. I wasn’t the one who wanted to do it. So it was shattering.’

For three months, she and her two daughters slept in the same bed, along with their two Irish wolfhounds — her youngest only stopped a year ago.

Alessandra has resolved to draw lessons from her experience — ‘like never being ashamed. That it’s OK to speak about how you feel.

‘And also for my daughters — they were as heart-broken as I was, maybe more — to teach them by example, not to hold on to anger.

‘Nobody owns anybody. And things change. And we can still love each other in different environments. The strength is not anger and resentment. The strength is to go: “OK, I am in pain, but I still go on. I will rebuild myself.”

‘The truth is that the more I look now at married couples, I don’t know if we’re really meant to be together for ever.

‘Of course, it’s everyone’s dream to have kids and the perfect family. But now, I don’t know anymore. In the past year, I started to feel really happy about who I am for the first time in my life.
For three months, she and her two daughters slept in the same bed, along with their two Irish wolfhounds - her youngest only stopped a year ago. Pictured in 1987 with Mikhail Dbaryshnikov

‘I now think: “Well, would I really want to live with someone else?” I don’t know if I would. I love to be in love, but I think we are OK on our own.’

Does she think her marriage broke down because she’d stopped working? ‘Maybe I do. [Fabrizio] says not, but I think maybe it did.

‘The fact that I gave up my independence — I am not talking about economic independence, I am talking about becoming dependent on him, really, to fill up my life.’

Far from creating bitterness — the pair are now on friendly terms — she has come to view the experience as important.

‘One of the reasons I went back [to dancing] is because I realised I have to find who I really am now, the part that belongs to me: it’s the moment when I dance. Those moments are mine and nobody else’s and I needed that again.

She still believes in love, but not relationships. ‘I don’t care about relationships. I want a great love, like the greatest love ever

‘I gave up my whole life for him and the children, and then that crashed and I had nothing. I didn’t have my passion, my career, I didn’t have him.

‘I had my children, of course, but it wasn’t enough.’

She still believes in love, but not relationships. ‘I don’t care about relationships. I want a great love, like the greatest love ever.

‘I don’t care about the companion just to keep me company on vacation or to spend time with. That I can do without. But love I believe in. If I don’t have that, I’m happy with nothing.’

Would she do away with age as a barrier in love? ‘Absolutely, yes. Age is no barrier. It’s fun to have a younger boyfriend. If he’s there, he wants to be there.’

And at 53, how does she maintain her rigorous four hours of daily rehearsals (with a yoga class slotted in before she starts)?

Are there supplements she takes to keep her joints well-oiled?

‘I take ibuprofen,’ she laughs, adding that she also dyes stray grey hairs. ‘In general, I don’t have many problems.’

Of the approaching menopause, she says: ‘Dancing doesn’t affect it one way or the other. It doesn’t make the problem worse. I don’t get hot flushes. I am lucky.’
And she doesn’t fear osteoporosis because ‘the more you exercise, the less you have a problem.

‘Of course, there are certain roles I don’t dream of even attempting any more — Giselle, Swan Lake, Don Quixote, all those ballets require tremendous physical strength and power.

‘And that’s fine. They belong to another moment in my life.

‘[There are] all these wonderful newly created roles for me, and it’s brilliant that there’s interest in creating roles for an older woman instead of only doing roles for younger dancers.

‘I broke the mould, somehow. I didn’t plan it. I thought: “Who cares? Yes, there is space for the young, but that doesn’t mean there is no space for older women.”

‘We turn 50 and then we believe that we have to behave a certain way. A lot of it is conditioning.

‘But I realised I am not that woman, I don’t feel 50, I don’t act 50, so I thought: “Forget about the number and just live the way you feel.” ’
  • Alessandra Ferri stars in Woolf Works at the Royal Opera House, January 21 to February 14. Visit


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Miss Amy's Advice for Adult Dancers

I belong to a few different communities on Facebook for adult ballet dancers. Earlier this year, one of the ladies made a post asking for people’s input on “5 Things Every Ballet Dancer Should Know”. Her request really got me thinking. I wrote most of these with the adult dancer in mind, but here are some things I think every dancer young or old could do well to remember.

1. There's no such thing as a "ballet body". It is true that ballet will definitely come easier to some bodies than others, but if you want to dance, please just DO IT, whatever your size or shape! You may have tight hips or bad feet, but that has no bearing on whether or not you can dance. What is important is using what you have to the fullest extent that you’re able.

2. Corrections are important! Your teacher is giving them to you because they see potential and wish to cultivate it, or because you're making a technical error and are at risk of injury. Take them as a gift and do your best to implement them. If you don’t understand what your teacher means, ask for clarification; your teacher will try explaining things differently or use different visuals or give different hands-on corrections until you get it. If you're having an off day and can't handle too much criticism, don't be afraid to tell your teacher at the beginning of class and they'll go easier on you. It can also be helpful to let your teacher know your dance goals at the beginning of the year; they’ll likely push you harder if you’ve got aspirations of being a professional than if you’re just there to keep fit and have fun.

3. Technique is important, but don't forget to MOVE. Feel the music, feel the movement, and let your body just go with it. A technically perfect but mechanical dancer is almost never as captivating as the one who may not be perfect but dances with their heart and soul. It can be scary to bare so much of yourself, but that’s what gives dance its artistry. Even if you think you’re giving enough in a movement, give even more. Your teacher will tell you when it’s too much.

4. Respect your body. Injuries won't go away by pushing yourself through them. Know when to mark or modify and know when to take a break. Don't be afraid of disappointing your teacher - they will respect you more for knowing when you need to take it easy instead of pushing yourself beyond your limits and aggravating things further. Also, it is important to keep your teacher apprised of injuries or other ailments which could affect you in class. This way they can help you modify movements so as not to aggravate things further, or they may even be able to help pinpoint errors in technique that may be causing the pain and give you corrections to help alleviate it. One of my teachers can ALWAYS tell when a dancer is hurting and he won’t hesitate to call us on it, though he would much prefer for us to inform him at the beginning of class.

4. To get good at something, you must practice. Often. One or even two ballet classes a week is not enough to build strength and good habits. Practice balancing in coup de pied while you're brushing your teeth. Practice articulating through your feet in tendus in line at the grocery store. Practice pirouettes in your kitchen while you're waiting for the food to finish cooking. Mentally review choreography in the shower.

5. Remember that anything is possible, if you set your mind to it. I have heard so many people say "oh, I would love to do ballet but I'm too old now". I didn't begin dancing until I was 18, and now I dance en pointe, take Cecchetti exams, and I am a certified ballet teacher! I dance with women as old as 70. You're never too old to start!

(And a few bonus ones!)
6. Yes, we all love ballet, but don't be afraid to expose yourself to other kinds of dance. Try a drop-in salsa class. Take tap or modern for a year. Do a trial class in African. Attend a contemporary performance at your local theatre. Get out there and broaden your horizons - it will certainly not hurt.

7. Comparing yourself to other dancers can be both a blessing and a curse. It can help us immensely – making us push ourselves to finish a pirouette as gracefully as she does, or to get elevation in our jumps like he does. Teachers sometimes use it as a tool in class with our kids to see who can jump with the straightest legs or stretch their feet the most in gallops. But when comparing yourself to other dancers starts having the opposite effect and makes you feel discouraged and defeated, that’s when it becomes detrimental. Everyone’s body is different and when it comes down to structural things (foot flexibility, natural turnout allowance, etc), there is not a whole lot we can do to change things, except to making sure we’re using what we’ve been given to the fullest extent. Learn to compete with yourself to keep your focus and continually improve each class. Ballet is HARD. I always tell my dancers “if it were easy, it wouldn’t be called ‘ballet’.” But by focusing on the observable progress we’ve made, however small (like the first time you don’t mess up the batterie exercise, or when you first finish a pirouette because you want to and not because you’ve fallen out of it), we can keep ourselves motivated to keep pushing and improving.

8. The importance of strength should not be underestimated. Core strength is integral to most of what we do in any style of dance, be it balancing, turning, supporting our body in extensions… Supplementing our dance training with other activities to build this strength is not a bad idea. Additionally, we must be aware of the difference of actually ‘holding a position’ versus merely ‘making a shape’ with our body. For instance, I can make my foot look generally stretched, but if someone is able to easily wiggle it with their hands then it shows I’ve not been using the muscles under my foot to hold the stretch. These feet will not be fully stretched in allegro as I don’t use my strength to hold it. Or if I plant my feet in a turned out position and let friction with the floor keep them that way but there is no activation going on in my turnout muscles, I am neither gaining nor maintaining strength in this position and there is no way I will be able to maintain turnout on one leg (in adage or a pirouette, say) or in the air during allegro. Our muscles should never be ‘tense’, but they should always be ‘held’.

Furthermore, here is a blog post on the subject by Laurel Simon:

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Amy Derkson - My Dance Story

Hi dancers and parents!

This is my first year being on the official teaching roster at ESB, but I didn’t get here in the same way that most teachers do, so I thought I would give you a bit of my backstory.

I started dancing in the way most of us at the tender age of 3 or 4, in a combined tap and ballet class at the studio near my house. I hated it. I thought ballet class was boring and though we weren’t raised to be quitters, my poor mother gave up the fight and stopped dragging me (kicking and screaming) to class when I was 6.

Fast forward to my mid-teenage years, and I wanted nothing more than to dance. Our ‘social dance’ units in gym class were the only times I ever truly thrived in phys. ed. I couldn’t hear music without moving to it. I couldn’t even play my clarinet without moving around as I played. I would try and make up my own contemporary choreography to my favourite songs, but I was sorely lacking any sort of training so I had no movements in my repertoire and no experience on which to draw. I knew I had some natural talent in dance and desperately wanted to start taking classes, but this was long enough ago that there wasn’t much opportunity for beginner teenaged dancers (at least not that I was aware), so I had to wait until I was old enough to take adult ballet classes.

The summer after my first year of university, I did a simple Google search for adult ballet classes, and I chose to go with ESB as they offered the greatest variety of adult ballet levels, and their teaching staff were all highly qualified. My first classes were the ESB summer intensive that year. It was sweltering, the studio was crowded, and my body hurt for every day of those two weeks. But I loved it. I knew this was what I’d been waiting for. (In case you were curious, my brief training in childhood gave me NO advantage. I had forgotten everything from those dance classes. I didn’t even know what a pliĆ© was. It was like I’d blocked the memories or something.)

I continued on that year in Adult Beginner ballet, and I added a second ballet class and adult modern in my second year. I continued taking two ballet classes and modern, and in my fourth year I added adult tap and jazz as well. I loved all of it: I loved the technical aspects, tradition, and artistry of ballet; I loved the fact that I really felt like I was dancing in modern because we got to just move; and tap has always been the most FUN I’ve ever had dancing, even though I was the only beginner and experienced quite a steep learning curve in that first year. I’ve always loved performing and have taken every opportunity I could to get on stage, be it for a competition or for ESB show.

I continued to expand my dance horizons where I could. I attended workshops when the opportunity presented itself. These have mostly been in modern and ballet, though I’ve also taken workshops in some really different styles like creative movement, salsa, Broadway, burlesque, bellydance, go-go dancing, traditional Swiss dancing, Hula, Bollywood, traditional East Indian dancing – Bharatanatyam and Bhangra, and bachata. I’ve even been inspired to workshop in things which have had nothing to do with dance like aerial silks, hooping, Garuda, acro yoga, and poi spinning. I took intermediate contemporary and Afro-Cuban classes- at the U of A. I took floor barre, contemporary, jazzfunk, and tap classes at Grant MacEwan. More ballet, tap, jazz, and contemporary, as well as some new things like stretch & strength, hip hop, and Irish dance at some smaller studios around town. I’ve done my best to really expand upon my traditional training and make myself a truly well-rounded dancer.

I really got the opportunity to take my ballet training further in my sixth year at ESB, when my teacher took me aside after class and asked me how I felt about getting pointe shoes!! Can you imagine? Me, an adult, getting en pointe?! This was well before ESB began offering adult pre-pointe and pointe classes; in fact, by this point I had never even heard of another adult dancer getting recommended to go en pointe, and I certainly never thought I would ever get there. I was shocked. And elated. Isn’t this every dancer’s dream? I gave a vehement YES to the idea, and after Christmas that year we attended my first pointe shoe fitting. I spent an entire shift at work one day sewing ribbons onto my shoes (the first time takes AGES, let me tell you). I had a few private pointe classes with my teacher, and then I started wearing my shoes in my adult class – just for the first part of barre, then the whole barre, and then in the centre for adage, and eventually even for allegro. It truly was a dream come true, and to-date I still consider it one of my major life accomplishments; I never ever in a million years thought that I, who started dancing at the ripe old age of 18, would ever earn a pair of pointe shoes. It felt really good to know I’d earned it, too! I knew a few dancers who, against the advice of their teachers, snuck out and bought themselves a pair and fumbled their way through pointe in their kitchens at home, but knowing I’d waited for permission made it that much sweeter.

Despite all of my training in a whole list of styles, and even making it en pointe, I never thought that I would be able to do anything with dance beyond having a rather expensive hobby. That is, until later that same year I was approached about auditioning for ESB’s Cecchetti Teacher Training Program. I hadn’t dreamed of being a ballet teacher when I was growing up, nor had I ever thought as an adult that it would be a possibility for me, having started as late as I did. But by this point I had a physics degree I was never going to use, no life plan to speak of, and I was advancing leaps and bounds in my ballet training, so this really was the perfect opportunity, and one I wanted badly to explore.

I auditioned, but having only trained in adult classes and not having taken a syllabus exam in my life, I was required to take a “Provisional Year” and play catch up. I started taking Cecchetti and RAD syllabus classes for the first time and successfully passed my first ever Cecchetti exam. I’m now in my third year of part-time studying with the program and I continue to attend the Associate (theory) and Cecchetti syllabus classes, as well as assist with other ESB classes (Junior Grades and adult ballet). I have had many opportunities to hone my craft by substitute teaching countless classes in a variety of levels (ages 3 to adult and everything in between) and styles (ballet, tap, modern, hip hop, and acro) at a number of studios around the Edmonton area in addition to ESB. This past year I became certified to teach the ESB Junior Grades, and this year for the first time I have my very own classes! Subbing is one thing, but to teach and choreograph for your own classes is something ENTIRELY different. It has been quite the experience – I’ve gained such a deeper understanding of ballet through teaching it, and my own technique has improved immensely!

I have been told by many of my fellow adult dancers that my journey has been inspiring to them, and I hope that by telling it here I can inspire a few more. You’re never too old to chase your dreams, and so much can be possible if you just set your mind to it! Never give up on your passions, no matter what they are. If it’s calling to your soul, pursue it!
– Miss. Amy