My major new year’s resolution for 2011 was to return to dance. I had been on a break since mid-July 2010 due to chronic lower back pain. My amazing chiropractor and fellow dancer, Dr. Chung, insisted a break would be good for me. It definitely was. As hard as it was to take myself out of the art form and community I long to establish myself in, I had to listen to my body. And it was saying, “Hey! We can’t dance the way we have been.” It was tough, but I had to acknowledge that I need a new approach. Specifically, I’m working on my core strength. I also just needed to take a deep breath, look around, allow some healing, and allow myself to actually sink into San Francisco a little more. Establish my roots. I should have done this when I first moved here, but I tend to rush headlong into things.
In December, Dr. Chung finally said, “Okay, I don’t need to see you anymore, unless YOU feel like you need it.” I waited until the rush of the holidays had died down and then I returned to class. I decided to take Chimene Pollard’s Mixed Contemporary class at ODC Dance.
It feels AMAZING to be back in class. And my body is happy, too. Besides normal aches and soreness, I notice no back pain! I am more attuned to when my back gets tired and I really have to focus on keeping my core active and supportive. I really concentrate on warming up well. I have this image of knitting together my abdominal muscles and my ribs – bringing everything together – like tying myself into a corset of strength. During class, I’m trying to find out how to draw power of energy out of my core to very ends of my body and beyond. Cooling down is another thing I have to pay attention to. I think as a young dancer, you get used to just being able to walk out of class, but now I know – I HAVE to take some time to stretch my muscles and let my body mellow out. Otherwise, I definitely pay for it.
Chimene’s class is great. She has a wonderful, positive, playful, energy and I love her approach to release. I think, like me, she understands the balance (sometimes, the struggle) between power and letting go. She talks about using momentum, “stacking the joints,” and I think this approach is perfect for me as I come back to dance. I can push or be gentle, as much as I need to. There are all types of bodies in our class and that everyone is happy dancing is a testament to Chimene’s approach and accessibility.
I’m also excited because I was hoping to get more hours with ODC’s Work Exchange program this month, to help with the expense of taking classes. I was thrilled at a great opportunity that showed up in my inbox: Starting this week, I’ll be helping out with the Youth Program, every Wednesday afternoon and evening, from February to May. I love working with young dancers and I hope this opportunity will allow me to do so. I’m also curious to learn more about ODC’s Youth Program.
I’m also trying some new physical activity. I finally organized and got to do something I’ve been wanting to do since starting work at the trampoline park. Last week, I attended my first Training Ground session at House of Air. Dave taught myself and 3 of my coworkers basic approaches and then we worked on front AND back flips! It was so much fun we’re doing it again this week! (Also, there’s an awesome TV spot featuring House of Air AND the Cartoon Art Museum, which I wrote about before.)
It was for ODC’s new Sandbox Series, a program they just received funding for. As Kimi Okada, the director of the ODC School, explained, the focus of the series was how to make the art of dance better. And their answer was to provide space and funding for choreographers to experiment – without the pressure of a performance or even showings. There are 4 choreographers and they each get a 1 month of weekly rehearsal time and space at ODC. The audition I attended was to meet their need for dancers for these experimental sessions.
The choreographers were Laura Arrington, Chris Black, Catherine Galasso, and Ann Carlson – and all 4 were a LOT of fun. They approached all 50+ of us auditioning dancers with positive spirits and I felt very comfortable in their presence. There was a lot of improv, fun, quirky choreography, connecting with other dancers, working in pairs, and play. It was 3 hours, but the time flew by. I really enjoyed all of the choreographers’ energy and ideas and would love the chance to work with all of them. Whether or not I’m selected for the Sandbox series, I was happy to meet the choreographers, see familiar faces, and just feel like I’m back in the dance community again.
Looking at the first month of 2011, I’m proud of myself for jumping back into dance, trying out new physical skills, and returning to the dance community. I have to remind myself to take things slow, too. I have to keep strength training and find ways to cross-train in ways that help my body. I also have to remember to rest and allow myself down time.
This year, I want to address how to balance life, dance, relationships, and all of my artistic interests. How can I make art & dance not just a hobby, but a way of life that supports and sustains me?