Throughout Susan Jaffe's performance career at American Ballet Theatre, there was something special, even magical, about her dancing. Lauded as "America's quintessential American ballerina" by The New York Times, Jaffe has continued to shine in her postperformance career, most recently as the dean of dance at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. She credits the "magic" to her meditation practice, which she began in the 1990s at the height of her career. We sat down with Jaffe to learn more about her practice and how it has helped her both on and off the stage.
The pressure young dancers feel to succeed at competition can lead to unhealthy stress levels that take the fun out of performing. To help your students feel calm, cool and collected before dancing, teach them these three stress-reducing exercises to do before going onstage.
Trust us, learning how to manage anxiety will benefit your dancers for the rest of their lives!
Guess what, dance teachers. Today is the third annual International Yoga Day. In honor of the event, a special free yoga and meditation session will be held at Castle Clinton in Battery Park, NYC, 5–8:30 pm. To register, click here. The first 500 participants get a free yoga mat!
For those of you not in the greater NYC area, take a look at how NYU professor TaraMarie Perri teaches yoga for dancers.
You know that feeling you get right before the curtain goes up—palms sweating and your heart pounding? Stress often accompanies performance, but it needn’t be debilitating. In a recent study, mindfulness meditation—actively tuning in to the body and breath in a still position—proved helpful in reducing stress reactions in athletes. Scientists measured the stress levels of professional cyclists before and after two months of mindfulness training. The results indicated that while the athletes still recognized stressors, they exhibited less anxiety. Taking a few moments to close your eyes, taking a few deep breaths and noticing how your body feels can have a positive impact on your performance.
Despite his busy schedule as principal dancer at the Colorado Ballet, Domenico Luciano makes time to meditate. “It's part of my routine, my cross-training, my lifestyle," he says. He first began meditating in yoga class on the weekends, doing a series of breathing exercises after the last poses of class. “It made me feel calm, neutral and peaceful." Today, Luciano meditates daily for 5 to 10 minutes, sometimes while stretching, or when feeling tired or nervous, or before bed to help him fall asleep.
Meditation—which involves calming the mind and often includes breathing practices—can reduce stress, boost memory and improve mental focus. But it's hard to find time to sit still and breathe, especially when students and parents depend on your constant attention. Fortunately, you don't need an hour of quiet contemplation to benefit from the practice. Even a few moments of centered breathing can reduce daily stress and help you stay grounded amid the demands of your hectic lifestyle.