Rest

It was one of those days.

One of those days you can feel your body straining, your mind jumping from here to there and everywhere but where it needed to be: right here, in ballet class, focused.

You bend down to rub your aching feet, swollen and red. You look at the dancer next to you, leaning on the barre for support, and say, "I need to rest." As soon as you say that, the dancer next to you will say, "Ha..."

Then you turn to listen to the teacher who begins giving out the next barre exercise.

The other dancers' "Ha..." was the perfect response. Dance? Rest?

The concepts don't seem to go together since our bodies are always reverberating from the last class we took. The vibrations of the movement stays with us in our muscles. We feel it always, carry it with us always. Our bodies are changed by each class we take, never to "return" to the body we had yesterday. We become stronger, even if we're sore or trying to help our body heal from injury. Our minds are stretched to new dimensions with new intricate exercise, our feet are more precise, our arms are more graceful. We grow each class, never to return to the dancer we were just hours before that class.

As dancers, we do need to listen to our bodies. If something is too much, we need to sit. If something is still too much, we need to seek medical attention and take a break.

But we never actually "take a break" from dance. Our minds are always thinking about it and our bodies still "dance" while watching our fellow dancers do class. We feel it in our bodies.

The movement is there within us, always ready and always willing to press onward.

When we have these days (where we feel distracted, exhausted, like we need a rest)...

We have some tricks to help us feel mentally and physically refreshed as quickly as possible:

1. Drink tea: Our body digests tea a little different than coffee. It's uptake is more gradual and lasts a little longer. If you get the tea iced, it wakes your insides up! This helps us mentally focus on detailed exercises.

2. Listen to something that isn't music: As a dancer, we hear music. A lot. Sometimes, we need to hear words. So - to shake things up - we listen to something else other than music, like an audio book or a podcast or NPR. It shifts our thinking, it forces us to pay attention, and it gives us a moment to think about something other than a phrase of choreography or a specific barre or center floor exercise that's driving us crazy.

3. We do something mind-numbing:
We are huge fans of our darling iPads which carries on it Hulu and Netflix. Sometimes, all we want to do on a break is sit there and watch something that requires us to do nothing but sit and watch and zone out. While we do fight that internal voice saying, "You're wasting time!" we know that if our bodies and minds are telling us to rest, we should grant that. We'll give it a little rest (like a 30 minute episode of our favorite TV show).

4. Spend time with non-dance friends: Sometimes, when we start feeling rundown or weary, we just need a moment away from the life that consumes us. We reach out to people who live very different lives than the ones we live. People who don't actually get up in the morning to put their hair straight into a bun and spend hours in a leotard. People who don't obsess over turnout and arched backs and rolling through the feet. We find their company to be refreshing.

5. We just crawl into bed: Then there are days when just getting into bed and lying there is awesome. No reading. No watching TV. No computer. Just covers and requiring nothing of our bodies.

Being a dancer is a beautiful, beautiful life. But it's an all-consuming one. From classes, to rehearsals, to cross-training classes that keep us in shape (like yoga or Pilates), our bodies feel and carry with them the demanding physical efforts of our days.

Sometimes, we're just not mentally there. Sometimes, we need a minute. Sometimes, we just "aren't on."

Do you have any tricks when you are having one of those dancer days?

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