“Don’t be too timid or squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
I have been in Utah dancing with Ballet West for exactly one week now. It feels great to be in a new environment with all new faces, personalities, choreography, and geography. Putting yourself in a completely new setting is always challenging and stressful, so I am trying to handle it the best I can and remain calm while focusing on the work I need to do here.
Salt Lake City, as many of you may know, is at a fairly high elevation. Some people warned me that it might be hard to adjust to the altitude but I didn’t realize just how much my body would react. When I first got here, I was getting tired a lot faster than back home in Chicago and NY and I felt like I couldn’t really connect with the floor during class and rehearsals. Staying hydrated and drinking enough water was hard even for me! (many of my friends refer to me as a camel) I thought to myself, you practice Bikram, you should be able to handle this, but this adjustment was hard. Toward the end of the week, I began getting headaches. Finally, after a weekend of a lot of rest (I don’t think I have ever slept that much in my life) and a lot of hydration, I began to feel normal again.
Another major adjustment for me is being surrounded by mountains and more nature than usual. I love being outside and I love the outdoors, but I grew up near the ocean and big cities so this is definitely a change. Something I love about the east coast and Chicago is that I get to wake up every morning, walk out my front door and enjoy a view of water. Water for me is so calming to see and represents infinity, constant change, health, and living. At first when I moved here and saw all of the mountains, it felt enclosed. However, I do see the beauty in them as well. A few of the dancers have said they will take me hiking. I think this will help me grow to love this new place I am in but I can’t guarantee I am going to be a great hiker or outdoorsman. 😉
On my first day of work at Ballet West, most of the dancers were very welcoming and introduced themselves to me. I was quite nervous because I didn’t really know anyone and had no clue what to expect and how things were run here. I had gotten so comfortable in my previous work environment and now have to learn a whole new system while at the same time learn a lot of new choreography and meet new people. Overall, it was a pretty stressful week. When you move to a new place, you want to make a good impression and at the same time be completely yourself and relaxed. I guess the best impression you can make is by just being yourself. Well, that is what I did and have been doing. I am focused on learning the choreography and getting ready for my first performances with Ballet West which will coincidentally be on tour in Chicago! 🙂
I feel happy and so thankful to be here. It is refreshing to be doing different choreography in a different environment with different artists. Ballet West is a great company with talented artists who truly care about their work. I am grateful for this time in My Year of New Beginnings 🙂
I recently wrote about how I had just 48 hours left in Chicago. Well, those 48 hours passed and I have just arrived in New Jersey! My last two days there went amazingly. I have so many friends in Chicago who I love so much and it meant a lot to be able to spend some time with most all of them before I left. With the added bonus that my parents were in town as well, it made for a nearly perfect weekend. I am so thankful for all of the help I received from my family and friends packing up the truck and spending a final night out in the city with me 🙂 We shared tons of old memories, shed some tears, smiled, laughed, and ultimately said “see you soon” not goodbye.
The drive from Chicago to NJ was a long one. Probably the longest it has ever taken us in one day. However, what matters most is that we made it back safely 🙂 I am really tired and should sleep very well tonight.
Tomorrow will be a day of unpacking and getting started on my month of training hard and focusing on me. I always work hard, but this month I will work extra hard. Beginning in September, I will be joining Ballet West in Salt Lake City to perform in their production of the Sleeping Beauty. I want to arrive there in top form and to do so, I will need to focus most all of my energy on my goals right now. I am excited and prepared to do so.
On that note, it is time for some good rest.
My move is fast approaching. I have just under 48 hours left here in Chicago and so much to do within them. I am feeling anxious, happy, sad, stressed, a whole mixed bag of emotions. For the most part, I am strongly anticipating the move and starting new projects. However, my last few weeks in Chicago have turned out to be some of the best I have had so I am getting sad to leave that. I feel good, happy, and healthy. I have also found that these feelings have all made my dancing stronger, or maybe it is my dancing that is making these feelings more prominent? Either way, I feel great 🙂 I have reconnected with old friends, made some new, worked with new teachers who have helped push me to another level, and had an awesome photo shoot recently (photos coming soon 🙂 ). I couldn’t be happier that my time in Chicago has come to a close this way. I am so grateful for everyone in my life, especially those who are truly there for me. These next 48 hours should be wonderful. Full of dancing, friends, family, food, fun, and Chicago 🙂 I have a feeling I probably won’t be sleeping much this weekend HAHA
I’ll leave you this morning with some photos that were sent to me yesterday. They are pictures of me performing George Balanchine’s Stravinsky Violin Concerto (Aria II). It was a special ballet because it was my first principal role, as well as my partner’s, Dylan Gutierrez. We were very young and so hungry to succeed, yet somehow managed to have loads of fun throughout the entire process 🙂
I am writing a brief post this morning because as I am packing up my apartment, I am finding many memories and becoming quite nostalgic. It amazes me how much can slip our minds in such a short amount of time. Our days go by so quickly, our thoughts and goals constantly changing and evolving, and in the bustle so many great memories get pushed to the recesses of our minds, only to be stirred back to consciousness when we come across an old letter or a slightly wrinkled photo from years gone by. I have 5 days left and I am getting a little sad to leave Chicago now. I know there is so much to look forward to in the near future, but right now, seeing all these memories and packing them up is bringing up a lot of emotions.
I’ve been trying to find time to see all of my Chicago friends one last time before I leave. Last night I had the pleasure of having dinner with one of them. I think he hit the nail on the head when he said that last year I seemed like a big ball of yarn and now it’s as if I have unraveled, opened up, and can more clearly see where I want to go and what I want to do. I still have a long way to go, but I have to say I agree with him: I’m more of an individual now. I can stand on my own, and I have new and exciting goals I’m striving for.
I’m sure the next five days will be filled with more reminiscing, but ultimately, a look at memories is really a celebration, of my past but even more so of new things coming in the future. 🙂
Reestablishing My Yoga Practice
Today, I want to write about my Bikram Yoga practice and how it has related to, aided, and transformed my dancing and many other aspects of my life. On Sunday, I returned to the hot room after a few months away. It was the perfect day to start getting back into my practice as it was also the day I created this blog and was thinking a lot about my future.
I began taking Bikram yoga while I was dancing in New York. When I walked out of my first class, the teacher asked if I was a dancer. After replying that I was a ballet dancer, she began to tell me how I should continue to do yoga and how it would be like physical therapy for me. I was skeptical at first, as many people are. I thought, how could this be beneficial for my ballet? Most all of the postures are in parallel and on a flat foot, not like ballet at all. However, I looked past my skepticism and went back for more. I wasn’t practicing too regularly at the time, but after a few weeks, I did begin to notice some changes in my strength and stamina during ballet.
Then I moved to Chicago and had the luxury of having a Bikram studio just 3 blocks from my apartment. Not only that, but they were so welcoming to the dance community and also understood how this yoga helped to maintain our bodies both mentally and physically. Thus, I began practicing regularly about 3 or 4 times a week. I felt so many changes. I was becoming so much stronger while at the same time, more flexible, and it was transferring into the ballet studio as well. Also, my stamina was building up, muscles were becoming more defined, my skin was clearer than ever, and my sleeping schedule became like clockwork. One might say I got hooked on that “after yoga high”.
When I returned to the hot room on Sunday, I knew it was going to be a tough class for me. I had a lot on my mind that may distract me from fully focusing on the class. However, I was determined to try every posture and not give up. I had to use all my focus that day to limit my fidgeting between postures, remain standing, ignore the sweat making my hands slip out of grips, keep my eyes focused on me in the mirror, and ignore everything else I was thinking about that day. I will confess…I sat down…twice. After our first backbend, I became very overwhelmed, so I sat down. Those of you who know me personally know that this got on my nerves. I hate slackers and I hate giving up. I told myself I am stronger than that. I didn’t have to sit down. The feelings would have passed if I remained standing still on my feet. So then, I stood again and remained standing no matter how badly I wanted to sit or how many times I fell out of some of the balancing postures. It was my first class back and the most important thing was not to give up. When I finished the class, I felt great and was so happy to be back. I knew that day was the return of my dedication to yoga and for the rest of this week, I have been practicing stronger each day.
Bikram is like ballet in that you can never achieve perfection. Each posture has certain steps to follow in order to execute it fully and properly. You are ultimately trying to achieve a full posture, but no matter how hard you work at it and how close you come to achieving it, there will always be more to grow and improve. As a ballet dancer, you deal with the same thing. We want to achieve perfection so badly but it is not always possible. Everybody is made differently. We all have different alignment, different ranges of motion, and different coordination. All of which can be improved, but no one person will ever achieve absolute perfection in all areas. We also have different opinons on what perfection may be and thus, it is subject to opinion. I believe we all need to set goals for ourselves. Look for something we want to achieve and focus on that goal until it is achieved as close to perfection as possible. Then, once we have arrived there, we can continue to grow even more and also aim for another goal. With each added goal, I try to keep focused on the previous ones as well. Although it can be frustrating at times, it is exactly what keeps most people going back. With hard work, one can physically see and feel improvement in every class. It keeps the motivation alive. Both Ballet and Bikram teach discipline, focus, the importance of a healthy lifestyle, and how rewarding hard work can be.
I recommend to everyone that they try Bikram. It will change so much in your lives and will help in ways you didn’t think possible. People heal injuries and deseases, gain more energy, and achieve overall wellness through a regular practice. I am so fortunate to have found this and to be able to have it enhance and supplement my dancing career.