How-To

Music for Class: Zen and the Art of Dancer Maintenance

Nina Buisson’s stretch classes are quiet enough that dancers can hear themselves breathe. In a lilting French accent, she talks them through an initial meditation. Then, students perform a series of gentle flowing stretches. “Whenever you exercise or stretch, it should be like a massage that you’re giving yourself, a spiritual massage of the soul,” she says. “We put pressure and stretch each part of the body separately to release tension, but without ever pushing so hard that you are hurting yourself.”


Trained at the Princess Grace Academy of Classical Dance in Monaco, Buisson has danced with Le Jeune Ballet Classique de France and La Compagnia Italiana del Balletto Classico. Currently in New York City, she has developed a unique form of contemporary dance infused with her additional training in yoga, butoh and tai chi. An active choreographer, she teaches contemporary dance and essential stretch at Peridance, Ballet Arts and The Valentina Kozlova Dance Conservatory.

When teaching her stretch class, she sets a relaxing atmosphere by playing one soothing CD quietly throughout. “It’s very difficult for dancers to relax their bodies and minds, especially when the music takes you to a different place emotionally,” says Buisson. “Spiritual music clears the mind and unleashes the body’s natural wisdom.” DT

 

Album: Satori: Music for Yoga and Meditation

Artist: Riley Lee and Gabriel Lee

“This is a soothing blend of Himalayan gongs and flute that creates a sacred ambience. It allows students to relax and withdraw their awareness into their bodies. Singing bowls induce a contemplative state, which provides a peaceful landscape for a deep soul massage and mental lucidity.”

 

Album: Namaste: I Honor the Light in You

Artist: Various Artists

“A contemporized compilation of sacred chants, this CD includes elegiac oboe, provocative percussion and subtle mantra chanting, which touches the emotions and opens the heart. It allows my students to identify areas where tension builds up and release any accumulated toxic residue.”


 

Album: Chakra Healing Chants

Artist: Sophia

“The ethereal harmonies spiral up the spine to the top of the head, making it ideal for relaxation or creative visualization. Dancers are constantly in front of the mirror, but onstage they need to find their own centers without looking at themselves. That’s hard for most dancers, and balancing their chakras helps them do that.”

 

Album: Reiki Whale Song

Artist: Kamal

“The haunting calls of whales merge seamlessly with smooth, ambient music to create an atmosphere supportive of reiki, a Japanese practice that incorporates the transfer of healing energies. It helps my students refocus and attain mental clarity. It keeps them aware of what’s going on inside, instead of outside, their bodies.”

 

Album: Zen Meditations

Artist: Gerald Jay Markoe

“I refer to this as a musical tonic for dealing with the stress of modern-day life. With traces of Noh, a type of traditional Japanese theater, this CD elicits a deep state of introspection and allows students to access the space between their thoughts. Once the mind surrenders, the body’s natural wisdom is unleashed and the organic patterns of energy can flow.”

 

Photo courtesy of Nina Buisson

William Whitener held countless auditions when he directed The Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Kansas City Ballet and Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal, and he himself learned from legendary choreographers Jerome Robbins and Bob Fosse about what it takes to make it on Broadway. Now he coaches ballet students on these skills when he guest teaches around the country. "Auditions require a certain amount of strategy," says Whitener. He holds mock auditions and discusses all aspects of the process—registration, class and even how to make a professional exit. "Practicing for this kind of performance works better than telling dancers what they should do," he says. "They need to actually do it."

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