Motivation

Dancers don't tend to have trouble understanding the gravity of the situation. Keeping our hope sustained is the common challenge. At a moments notice, one feels as if they can conquer the world, the next one feels as if all hope is gone. The challenging prospects of an artist's life can be paralyzing. I wanted to share a few of my methods for holding on to hope rather than disparaging oneself.

1. Stories that inspire:
Everyone has memories the treasure, stories that give hope, and books or music that inspires them. Keep a small collection handy for those times when you need a little inspiration. I would recommend thinking about them every morning, to start your day well! Wilma Rudolph is an amazing person with an amazing story, look it up if you are in need of inspiration!

2. Goal Board:
Using a cork board, wall or door, tape up pictures of your current goals. (E.g. beautiful feet, arabesques, jumps, difficult variations and etc.) Perhaps tape quotes that inspire or admiral dancers. To have this visual focus for your ideas is powerful. The board pulls together your goals, inspiration, and admiration all to one place.

3. Ask yourself why three times:
(This idea has many sources and articles, if you want to read more, try this one: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMC_5W.htm)

When feeling de-motivated, ask yourself why three times. Here is an example of this blog post, perhaps I feel de-motivated to finish it:

Why am I writing this blog post?
Finishing this post was on my to-do list.
Why was it on your  to-do list?
I want to keep up with my blog.
Why do you want to keep up with your blog?
I care about my blog and enjoy blogging. It focuses and helps my mind and energy.

Ask can why can be a positive reminder and energy boost.


4. Remembering why:
Remember why you love to dance. Remember performances you loved. Remember the friends you have made. Remember where you came from and how you have improved. Bring a smile to your face by remembering what makes you tick.

5. Be healthy:
This is a general rule. Here are the basics:

Eat plenty fruits and veggies
Drink water
Sleep (rather than play on your phone, although it's a challenge)
Talk (don't keep your feelings pent up - talk to a parent or a person who will listen! 99% of the time they can help.)

In conclusion, what I hope to bring across to my readers:
working toward your goals/dreams is a balance of keeping the gravity in your head, the hope and passion in your heart.

- Julia

Moments

I've been working on staying in the moment. My mind tends to run 100 'what ifs' a minute, this can cause one to become scattered, stressed and almost paralyzed. I have found that staying in the moment is not only calming and focusing, it's also more productive.

Why? Let us talk about multitasking. The majority of people have been persuaded that multitasking is an enviable, highly effective skill. The capacity to perform two actions at once is almost supernatural. In reality it is far from supernatural. When you are performing two actions at once (e.g. homework and listening to music), your brain travels quickly from one to the other. Although studies have shown that some people are rather adept to multitasking than other, studies have shown it is not an effective or efficient way to produce results. It has been proved, over the years, that the best results are achieved from longer periods of time that are focused on one task, stay in one moment at a time.
(Here are a few articles if you wish to read further:
http://www.npr.org/2013/05/10/182861382/the-myth-of-multitasking
http://www.productiveflourishing.com/the-two-hour-rule/ )

Staying in the moment, staying focused on the current second has a number benefits in ballet class (not only in homework productivity). The benefits range from remembering choreography to avoiding injury. Imagine a few scenarios:

1. So-and-so receives a complement on a step they performed. Your reaction could be to stew about how so-and-so always receives compliments and is the favorite OR you could stay in the moment and think "oh, watch how she turned out there and went through her foot there." Then you realize that the moment is gone, those emotions rose, sank again and now you have a valuable piece of information. Thank you so-and-so for furthering my knowledge and capabilities.

2. Ballet class is exciting, you are passionate and can't wait for what the future holds. You also tend to be over enthusiastic. One day you notice your knee is hurting when you jump. Wait - you're enthusiastic and passionate, so you ignore the pain. Eventually the pain is so prevalent that you need to stop dancing for a little while. What if, instead of ending up in that situation you had stayed in the moment and been mindful? You might have been able to reign in your enthusiasm and not ended up with an injury.

These are only a few scenarios. Staying in the moments helps you to improve faster, stay safe, be artistic, mature, learn and remember choreography, and much more.

Staying in the moment is definitely an ongoing challenge. Staying in the moments is worth it. Try a few of these in class:

1. Think about the steps you are currently doing.
2. The previous moments have passed, think about how you can move forward with further knowledge.
3. Do a body check. Think how is my knee feeling? Do I feel tired? Do I feel thirsty?
4. When you are put in a spot, routine or even combination you did want or weren't prepared for, acknowledge your feelings and then decide to leave them behind. Move  forward gusto and focus! You will survive and improve from the experience.

What are your thoughts on staying in the moment? Do you find the above list challenging or are they already a way of life? Comment down below with your thoughts! Remember, as you try these ideas out, the may not work perfectly the first time but stay in the moment. Learn from your results and try again!

- Julia

P.S. Writing about moments made think of this one from Stephan Sondhiem's "Into The Woods:"

"Let the moment go...
Don't forget it for a moment, though.
Just remembering you've had an "and",
When you're back to "or",
Makes the "or" mean more
Than it did before."

The Science of Stretching

What happens when you stretch?
As dancers, we need to stretch. It helps relieve sore or tired muscles and it improves flexibility. (Which is helpful technically and aesthetically in ballet). Have you ever wondered what is happening in your muscles that achieve these results? Keep reading!

Muscles move your body. Bones are connected to other bones by joints and ligaments. Muscles are connected to bones by tendons. Your bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons are your musculoskeletal system. The bones, ligaments, and tendons hold everything together and keep your body in the correct shape to move. Movement only takes place by the muscles contracting, pulling the bones they're attached to, creating movement as allowed by the rest of the musculoskeletal system.

Muscles are made up of strands (fascicles), which are made up of groups of fibers (fasciculi), they are made up of threads (myofybrils), which are made up of bands (sarcomeres), which are made of filaments (myofilaments), which are made up of proteins....


Muscles move by contracting when an electrical signal crosses where the muscles meet. When our myofilaments receive that signal, they produce calcium, which signals the sarcomeres shorten and the entire muscle contracts. That is the process of movement.

Stretching starts with the sarcomeres. When the sarcomeres contracts the surrounding myofilaments cross over each other, shortening. When you stretch a muscle, the myofilaments are pulled to their fullest extent, allowing other parts of the muscle to relax and/or stretch. The more you stretch a muscle, the more the surrounding ligaments and tendons are stretched and (when the stretching is done safely) realigned.

In order to safely stretch, you need to be warmed up! When your muscles are warm, you can fully feel everything, if they are not, you will not be able to properly feel if you are hurting yourself.

When stretching or creating a stretching routine, consider the importance of opposites. Our body is kept in alignment by opposing forces, like our lower back/stomach, quads/hamstrings, and etc. When you stretch one way, stretch the opposite, to keep your body balanced and prevent injury. The process of stretching is one of relaxing, lengthening and aligning.

I hope you've learned new information about the science of stretching and find it useful! The less that is uncertain in a performer's life, the better!

- Julia

Sources: (If you want a in depth read, I would highly recommend these.)

Appleton, Brad. "Stretching And Flexibility." web.mit.edu.com
http://web.mit.edu/tkd/stretch/stretching_toc.html#SEC5

Grieg, Valerie. "Inside Ballet Technique." Princeton Book Company/Dance Horizions, 1994. Print