Marina: “How to Dance as Much as You Want, Tip #18: Stop Dancing for a Bit, and Do Something Else”

15 12 2008

When I first started taking dance classes, I took ALL the dance classes. I was 28, and had never really learned to dance, so these classes were like crack and a nice, long drink of water, all at once. I wallowed in the abundance of dance, I frolicked like a mermaid through the unending sea of it. I mean, DANCE, right?

But about a year and a half into it, as I was preparing for my first recital at school, I became aware of the need to come up for air. Also, I was getting shin splints.

I learned the hard way that what seems like a paradox really works: by strategically not dancing, you can keep on dancing! Don’t let preventable injury, overwork, or stress sideline you. Take time off when you need, for different reasons:

– Dance is exercise, and like all forms of exercise, you can overwork. Even the hardest-core performers should take at least a couple days away from it each week. If you must move some every day, try mixing it up with different forms of movement: yoga, or volleyball, or yo-yos.

– Dance is mental, and like all forms of, um, mental, you can get obsessive and stressed from concentrating too hard. If you are in the middle of a class or rehearsal and you feel yourself going to a Bad Bad Place because you are getting lost or confused, yes, you can bulldozer through. Or you can STOP, just for a moment, just for a drink of water or a wipe of the sweaty brow.

– Dance is art, and like all forms of art, it benefits from hybridization. Keep that dance alive with non-dance things: paintings and garage sales and cooking and kids’ music and learning a new language. You did that stuff before you started dancing, right? And enjoyed it? Well, keep it up. Because frankly, your inner artiste needs to get out more.

– Dance is spiritual, and like all forms of spirituality, it can be pushed to fanatical extremes. Give it a rest, get into your body in some other way, gardening or walking or swimming or building sand castles. Not everything, or even most things, need to express the Deep Hidden Truths of the Soul. Even if they actually do.

Marina: “How to Dance as Much as You Want, Tip #84 – EAT WHAT YOU WANT”

21 11 2008

Okay, that may seem like a non sequitur to some, but the connection is hot on my mind, because it’s coming up on the winter holidays, a time when our collective efforts to negotiate that tenuous line between consume/refrain come to a frenzied, holly-jolly climax. This split is particularly perilous when it comes to food. You see it in the ramped-up diet ads, the recipes for guilt-free gravy, the covers of the women’s magazines urging us to make decadent cakes for the family, but lose 20 pounds by the holidays.

The very language that most people use when talking about food consumed–“I’ve been bad” or “oh, you’ve been so good”–tells us that the naughty/nice metaphor has long ago ceased to be only a sorting device for Santa to plan his trip, and has thoroughly sunk into our own minds.

And I’m here to tell you that it is a waste of your time.

When you are busy fretting about calories, applying willpower to every party appearance, worrying about the difference between fat-free and full-fat eggnog, that is THAT MUCH EXTRA psychic energy that you no longer have available to pick that perfect mix for a holiday party, to look up a bellydance class in the paper, to go to the Nutcracker (or the Slutcracker, here in Boston), to get out to a reggae night and slow-grind your way to heaven. When you worry about food, you are letting it consume you, instead of the other way around.

I’m going to spare you any lecture about intuitive eating. Google it and see for yourself the benefits you can get from just, you know, eating. (And yes, there are intuitive eating resources out there for people with eating disorders, too.) Me? I just know that eating what feels good to me feeds ALL of me, my dancing feet and my whack-ass mind, too.

So this holiday season, I propose that you save your energy for the good stuff, and don’t fret about naughty or nice. Make it “tasty” or “nasty”, make it “whatever I can afford that is delicious”, make it “what I want to share with friends”. Eat it. Love it. Then get out there and dance. Your body will thank you. For all of it.

Marina: “How to Dance as Much as You Want, Tip #32”

7 11 2008

No, I’m not trying to encourage overconsumption of the world’s dwindling supply of pink satin ribbons or suede. But I’ve seen several people left to dance (uncomfortably) barefoot or in bad, bad street shoes because they only ordered one pair of dance shoes online, and it wasn’t the correct size.

Because dance-shoe sizing can be confusing, yo! All of the different manufacturers number their sizes variously, some as much as 2.5 sizes smaller than street size. Different styles of dance shoes fit differently: leather jazz shoes, which will stretch, should fit more tightly out of the box than canvas shoes, which WON’T. Ballet slippers should hug the foot, while for dance sneakers you need room for socks. Especially if you’re new to dance shoes, you need time and exposure to figure out what shoes really do fit.

So, if you’ve got the funds, check the return policy of the supplier, and then if it allows for returns, buy two pairs, or three, of the shoes you need in a range of sizes that you think covers your size. Don’t actually wear them to a studio or workshop (you know how dirty those floors are!). Just sweep your living room floor and walk around in them for a bit. (then remember to return the ones that don’t fit!)

If you’re short on cash, do visit your friendly neighborhood dance store and SPEND TIME trying things on. Yes, your show is in two days, but there’s never any reason for dashing in to pick up a pair of shoes like a point-of-sale item. (P.S. for extra good small-business karma, best thing is to buy the shoes there.)