Find Your Center with Yoga

Thinkstock

Back in the day, dancers often studied a single technique and swore allegiance to one choreographer. Now, dancers typically must handle a much wider range of physical and creative demands. One way to gain the mental and physical resilience their careers require is through the practice of yoga.

Yoga classes that incorporate all aspects of the practice, from philosophy and breath work to poses and meditation, have the most to offer. A good class will balance internal and external rotation in the hips and shoulders, stability with mobility in the torso and even the exhale of breath with the inhale. Perhaps most helpful of all, yoga draws us into the present moment, settling our attention so that the mind can begin to quiet. Students are encouraged to work from the inside out; to let go of attachment to specific shapes and tune in to the felt experience of each pose. By freeing dancers from fixating on the mirror, yoga can deepen a dancer's kinesthetic intelligence and depth as a performer.


Jennifer Brilliant

Yoga studio owner and teacher in Brooklyn, New York

Former member of Jennifer Muller/The Works Brilliant has practiced yoga for more than 30 years.

“Since yoga isn't a performing art, but an inward healing journey, it can help dancers move away from the fourth wall and the mirror toward their own personal experiences and development. Yoga has given me a long career of teaching, and a philosophy for life both on and off the mat. At a certain point, I thought that I could continue to teach dance to dancers, or, yoga, I could teach to anyone. To me, it's really all the same—dancing, personal training and yoga. And my quads are definitely more flexible because of my yoga practice."

Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch

Principal dancer, Martha Graham Dance Company

Ellmore-Tallitsch has practiced yoga for more than 16 years.

“Yoga has helped me become a more mindful artist, not just my own body awareness, but the awareness of others in the space around me. This is possible in part through consistent practice of pranayama. These special breathing practices bring one into a place of focused attention."

Ellen Overstreet

Junior principal dancer with Sarasota Ballet

Overstreet has practiced yoga for five years.

“I first tried yoga because it felt good to stretch. Over time it has helped me build upper-body strength, as well as work my hamstrings, quads and glutes, in different ways from how we work in ballet. In yoga you work in parallel, which is a challenge as a ballerina. The mental freedom you get is also extremely beneficial for dancers. Instead of being corrected and criticizing yourself, you are away from the mirror and instructed to love yourself and appreciate all your body does. It's a refreshing way to think. I use yoga not only as exercise, but also as a way to clear my mind."

Rosie Lani Fiedelman

Broadway performer, The Lion King

Fiedelman has practiced yoga for 12 years.

“As a dancer, as well as a fitness instructor, I am always looking for ways to stay in shape and support the longevity of my body. Yoga is not only a physical challenge, but a meditation and a way to regain my sense of being grounded. For me, yoga has become a way to re-find myself when everything in the outside world is hectic and crazy. It is a way of healing physically and mentally." Susan Kraft is a former dancer turned yoga instructor and was coordinator of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division Oral History Project for 20 years.

Resources:

Two programs that have developed yoga and teacher training curriculums specifically with dancers in mind:

perriinstitute.com

hilarycartwright.com

Online study

gaiamtv.com

yogaglo.com

yogaanytime.com

Books

Light on Yoga: The Bible of Modern Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar

The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice by T.K.V. Desikachar

Yoga Anatomy, 2nd edition by Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews

Moving Toward Balance: 8 Weeks of Yoga with Rodney Yee by Rodney Yee

Living Your Yoga: Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life by Judith Hanson Lasater

Studio Owners
Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

If you're considering starting a summer program this year, you're likely not alone. Summer camp and class options are a tried-and-true method for paying your overhead costs past June—and, done well, could be a vehicle for making up for lost 2020 profits.

Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

The keys to profitable summer programming? Figuring out what type of structure will appeal most to your studio clientele, keeping start-up costs low—and, ideally, converting new summer students into new year-round students.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Diary
Claire, McAdams, courtesy Houston Ballet

Former Houston Ballet dancer Chun Wai Chan has always been destined for New York City Ballet.

While competing at Prix de Lausanne in 2010, he was offered summer program scholarships at both the School of American Ballet and Houston Ballet. However, because two of the competition's winners that year were Houston Ballet's Aaron Sharratt and Liao Xiang, dancers Chan idolized, he turned down SAB. He joined Houston Ballet II in 2010, the main company's corps de ballet in 2012, and was promoted to principal in 2017. Oozing confidence and technical prowess, Chan was a Houston favorite, and even landed himself a spot on Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch."

Keep reading... Show less
Music
Mary Mallaney/USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, courtesy Osato

In most classes, dancers are encouraged to count the music, and dance with it—emphasizing accents and letting the rhythm of a song guide them.

But Marissa Osato likes to give her students an unexpected challenge: to resist hitting the beats.

In her contemporary class at EDGE Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles (which is now closed, until they find a new space), she would often play heavy trap music. She'd encourage her students to find the contrast by moving in slow, fluid, circular patterns, daring them to explore the unobvious interpretation of the steady rhythms.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.