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Access Dance for Life!

Photo: Andrew Eccles

November 2011: Aligning Wellness for Perfect Balance Access Dance for Life! An online resource promoting health and wellness in dance for students, parents, and teachers.

November 2011: Aligning Wellness for Perfect Balance


Welcome AD4L readers! Thank you for your support of Access Dance for Life! This month we focus on balance and alignment. Stacey discusses balancing your meals for improved alertness and energy and Pilates Trainer Instructor Monique Lavoie explores the importance of physical alignment. Exploring mental skills, I focus on aligning our thoughts with movement using the skill of imagery for improved performance. Lastly, in September I sat down with Rachael McLaren from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre to talk about her transition from student to professional dancer in part one of this feature interview. As you read the newsletter and explore the site you may have ideas or questions that come to mind. This site is for you and we want to discuss topics that are of interest to you, as well as introduce you to some new perspectives. You are invited to email us at with your suggestions and ideas. Wishing you wellness in dance, and life!

Founder, AD4L

TABLE OF CONTENTS Page 2-3 Page 4 Page 4 Page 5 -7 Page 8 -9 Page 10-11

Balancing meals for optimum performance Teaching Tip. Reminder to Parents and Teachers FEATURED INTERVIEW: AAADT’s Rachael McLaren Focus on Pilate for improved Balance Success is in You!

Please note that the articles and opinions in this newsletter are intended to inform students, teachers, and parents, and should not replace consultation with your family doctor, sports medicine doctor, or other health professionals.

November 2011: Aligning Wellness for Perfect Balance


Balancing Meal Times = Improved Energy and Alertness Have you ever wondered what to eat to best improve your dance performance? Dancers may eat too much, not enough or eat hard to digest foods and can end up feeling sluggish, ill or without energy. When a dancer wants to perform or rehearse their best it is imperative that they fuel their body properly. This includes providing their body with pre and post exercise nutrition, and in some cases fuel their body during exercise. Before exercise A pre-exercise meal has been shown to improve performance, provide energy, physical comfort and mental alertness. The pre-exercise meal should leave the dancer neither hungry nor with undigested food in the stomach. The goal is to prevent dehydration and supply enough energy to last the duration of the event. Food should be relatively low in fat and fibre, high in carbohydrate, moderate in protein and familiar to the dancer. Size and timing of the meal are also important. Most dancers do not like to perform on a full stomach, so smaller meals should be consumed closer to the event and larger meals when more time is available. Generally allow 3-4 hours for a large meal consisting of a carbohydrate, protein and fat to digest (i.e. Whole wheat pasta, chicken breast and parmesan cheese). Allow 2-3 hours for a smaller meal consisting of a carbohydrate and a protein, (i.e. Half a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread). And for a small snack or liquid meal, consisting of primarily carbohydrate, (i.e. Juice or a piece of fruit) allow 1-2 hours for digestion. Individual needs should still be considered, as one dancer may be able to enjoy a substantial meal (i.e. Pancakes, juice, and scrambled eggs) 2-4 hours before exercise or a competition, while others may suffer from severe stomach upset following this meal and may need to rely on liquid meals before events. Dancers need to know what works best for themselves by experimenting with new foods and beverages during practice sessions and planning ahead before performances. During exercise For exercise lasting longer than one hour, increased carbohydrate has been shown to extend endurance performance, improve motor skills and make the same exercise feel easier, especially in those who have not carbohydrate loaded, not consumed pre-exercise meals or have restricted energy intake. Some options include a sports drink, a carbohydrate snack or sports gel. Recovery Post-exercise nutrition provides energy and replenishes nutrient stores used during exercise, re-hydration for faster recovery, and the building blocks for muscle building. Timing and composition of a post exercise meal depends on the length and intensity of the exercise session and when the next intense workout will occur. Ideally carbohydrates and fluid should be consumed within

November 2011: Aligning Wellness for Perfect Balance


30 minutes post exercise (i.e. Juice), and a balanced meal as well as fluid within two hours, (i.e. Lean steak, chicken or fish, baked potato, salad, vegetable juice or milk). If the dancer finds it difficult to eat after exercise, than liquid forms of carbohydrates or smaller more frequent meals and snacks may help. *Note: Fluid consumption is key during all stages of exercise. Please refer to the September newsletter for guidelines on hydration status.

Pre-exercise Meal Ideas (2-4 hours before Exercise) -Sandwich with milk or juice -Oatmeal with toast and an egg, milk or juice -Pasta with meat sauce, salad, water or juice -Chicken, rice, vegetables, milk or juice Pre-exercise Snack Ideas (1-2 hours before Exercise) -Toast with peanut butter, water or juice -Cheese and crackers, water or juice -Cereal bar, granola bar, water or juice -1/2 to 1 sandwich, water or juice During Exercise -Hydration is key! And water is the best thirst quencher. For longer exercise sessions consider: -Sips of a sport drink -Bites of a sport bar -Bites of fresh orange sections -Sips of unsweetened, diluted juice Post-exercise Recovery Food & Fluid Ideas -Homemade shake (milk, yogurt, fruit juice), sandwich, water -Lasagna, salad, bun, milk or water -Cereal, yogurt or milk, fruit salad, juice or water

Author: Stacey NIckol, BSc. Hons, RD

November 2011: Aligning Wellness for Perfect Balance


TEACHING Idea! Incorporate healthy ideas into your preschool dance classes! Look for books such as ‘Eating the Alphabet’ by Lois Ehlert to bring healthy eating to the minds of children. To incorporate this book into your class: Pick a letter (page) of the alphabet and explore the different fruits and vegetables that represent that letter. Use the shapes and colors in the artwork as a springboard for the exploration of shape, texture, and colour with your students. Consider not only what is familiar, but also what is unfamiliar. Talk about the energy we derive from the foods we eat and explore how energy, or the lack of energy, can make use feel. Incorporate this into a lesson on exploring effort in relation to how energy affects us physically.

Remember - Food is Fuel WHAT we fuel our bodies with and WHEN we fuel our bodies has a direct affect on our physical and mental performance. FRESH FOODS = most effective method of fueling! PRE-EXERCISE MEAL: Ideally low in fat and fibre, high in carbohydrate, moderate in protein and familiar to the dancer. DURING EXERCISE (duration > one hour): Some options include a sports drink, a carbohydrate snack or sports gel. For exercise lasting < or = one hour proper hydration is sufficient. RECOVERY (post exercise): Ideally occurs within 30 minutes of completing exercise (up to 2 hours post exercise) and is key to muscle building.

November 2011: Aligning Wellness for Perfect Balance


Exploring the Possibility: Interview with Rachael McLaren (part 1) A native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Rachael McLaren’s training and love of dance began in the dance studios of this bustling city on the prairie. At the age of seventeen she burst out of her comfort zone and travelled to New York, NY to attend a summer program at the Alvin Ailey School and hasn’t looked back since. Today, she is part of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, traveling across North America and around the world as a company member. She sat down with AD4L (on her birthday) to talk about her transition from a teenager in love with ballet to becoming a professional dancer with an internationally acclaimed company. When did you first realize you wanted to be a professional dancer? “I don’t think there was on specific moment. Dance was a part of my life since the age of five; it was the one thing I was sure about in my life. Dance was a part of me and would remain a part of me. At fifteen I was thinking about going to university and taking lots of sciences, and looking towards what I wanted to do in my adult life. In my heart I Rachael McLaren Photo: Andrew Eccles wanted to be a dancer but I didn’t know how to make that dream happen. At this point I began to look for more answers, trying to figure out what it meant to be a professional dancer. Up to this point I was dancing in the Recreational Division of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School and looked up to the company dancers that were in the building. I was in awe of them and wanted their life, they were definitely my inspiration.” What were your early years of training like? What types of classes did you take? “From the age of five to about ten my mom enrolled me in ballet classes. At that point I began exploring other dance forms and started taking jazz classes, but ballet was my dream – I loved it, it was everything to me. I even had posters and pointe shoes in my bedroom! It (ballet) was my life.” “When I attended summer school in the (RWBS) Professional Division we were exposed to modern (Limon), character, and jazz classes as well. Those were some of the most fun dance experiences that I had – an intensive period of time, dancing from 9-5 everyday, essentially going to school (full time) for dance. Those programs are what really gave me a taste for the world of dance; I didn’t want to spend my summer anywhere else, ever. It was a brilliant time, meeting other dancers and immersing myself in dance.” Did you attend many summer schools as a student? “I had the opportunity to attend summer programs with the RWBS Professional Division and also with the Alvin Ailey School. At that time that I didn’t know much about the world of dance – I had tunnel vision and was very uninformed about dance in the world, not knowing how to put my passion into practical terms. During this time my teachers encouraged me to prepare audition videos, I did and had

November 2011: Aligning Wellness for Perfect Balance


auditioned by video for programs at Julliard, Boston Ballet, Alvin Ailey, and Alberta Ballet. Once I saw the website for Alvin Ailey program I knew I wanted to go to New York, I just had to be there.” How important was it to take that step to leave home to train intensively? “Very important – it gave me first hand exposure and experience to a variety art forms. New York City is a place that people gravitate towards to explore culture. Having that six to seven week experience of being and training in NY changed my view of the arts in general, and of dance. At Ailey we attended Horton and Graham modern classes, Ballet, Pointe, Caribbean, and West African classes. I was able to see a Julliard program, Ailey studio performance, the Dance Theatre of Harlem, and it all just blew my world away. I had no idea any of this existed! It opened my mind to the variety of dance that is available, and what was possible for me beyond purely classical ballet. It was then that I realized that I needed to play catch up and figure out what direction I wanted to go. “ Rachael McLaren and Kirven James Boyd Photo: Andrew Eccles

Was it difficult to leave home to pursue this passion?

“Yes. This was really the first time I’d left Winnipeg on my own, to a big city! I had a friend that went with me, that was really helpful – we supported each other. Even just having family there to support you (from a distance) is helpful. It was frightening, but sometimes being frightened is a good thing. You get to see if you are willing to be uncomfortable to pursue this career – how committed you can be.“ “Art, dance in particular, is about expressing yourself. Learning who you are and what you want to say. To have a communication with someone you need to get to know them (your art form). You have to take that risk – even when you are learning choreography you have to take a risk and see how far your body will go, what your physical limitations are and if it doesn’t work, maybe you can use that struggle. You are constantly having that conversation with yourself and with the dance, constantly taking risks and getting feedback from your surroundings. To be willing to learn and grow, and to learn that it is not about knowing everything – it is about expressing yourself through dance. Going to NY was an important part of my becoming a dancer, and taught me a lot about myself and that I wanted to pursue a career in dance. “ What happened after that first summer at the Ailey School? “While in New York I also learned that I was passionate about musical theater. Dance is theater; you are communicating and acting on stage – from a movement base. Theater and dance are connected. That was completely out of my comfort zone as I had some music in my background but had never sung. All of this came together when I had the chance to see live theater. When I came back to Winnipeg after that summer I was so much more informed as a person, knowing what made me tick

November 2011: Aligning Wellness for Perfect Balance


and what I wanted to continue researching. I began seeking out new experiences in Winnipeg – performing at the Winnie the Pooh Days and then went on to audition for Mamma Mia.” “So, at seventeen I then got a job in the musical Mamma Mia in Toronto and did that for almost two years. I so did not see that coming! “ “Mamma Mia gave me a break from being completely immersed in ballet. Being in NY I had gathered so much information that it was overwhelming. Taking the risk to move to Toronto at seventeen it gave me a break from my usual pattern and my concept of theater and dance. I occasionally took ballet classes and jazz classes, but my focus was on acting and singing. “ “During this time I began to miss dancing and began creating/finding opportunities to dance and took the time to talk to my fellow company members about dance and what that meant to me. To figure out why dance was still pulling at my heart. Taking a step back really helped me to find clarity. I learned that it’s ok to relax a bit and be patient with yourself and to allow yourself to imagine the possibility rather than doing what others feel you need to do. It was at this point that I realized I needed to go back to NY, give it my all, and see where my career goes. So, I went to the Ailey summer program for the second time, immersing myself in dance – and if I still loved it I would pursue it as a career. Or, work towards a BFA in dance, try a different studio, or put myself out there to audition again. And if by the end of it I was exhausted and burnt out, then I’d do something else.” “By the end of the summer I was sold, I wanted to dance professionally and explore the world of dance.“ Part 2 of this interview with Rachael will be available in the January 2012 Newsletter.

Author: Jacqui Davidson, BA, (ADCSC-CICB)

Planning a trip to New

York soon?

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre begins its 2011-2012 season in New York City at City Centre on November 30th. Among others, works by Ohad Naharin, Paul Taylor, Rennie Harris will complete a season of Ailey works such as Cry, Revelations, Night Creature and Memoria. Click here to link to the AAADT City Centre Season information. Rachael McLaren Photo: Andrew Eccles

To our Canadian subscribers, AAADT will be in Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal in 2012!

November 2011: Aligning Wellness for Perfect Balance


FOCUS ON PILATES: Dancers need more than ballet to achieve balance A dancer’s body needs to be strong yet flexible. Dancers must have endurance yet their movements must be coordinated and fluid. This is a tall order for growing and developing bodies. Typically, those who excel in classical ballet have what we call a sway-back posture - a posture that allows a great deal of mobility, particularly in the spine, making their movements look very fluid. They also tend to have great flexibility at particular joints such as knees and hips, giving the dancer great range of motion. While the sway back posture is well suited for classical ballet training, it is out of balance, as the following will describe. The lack of balance may lead to serious injury. A welldesigned conditioning program is needed to strengthen and restore balance in the musculoskeletal system.

Could this be you? • • • • • •

Head is forward, neck is slightly extended Thoracic spine is displaced backward with a long kyphosis Lumbar spine is flattened Pelvis is tilted posteriorly and forward of the plumb line Hip joints are hyperextended Knees are also hyperextended

SWAY BACK POSTURE Sway back posture is a languid, "Model" stance with hips sinking forward and spine hanging back. (In common use, the term "sway-back" is often also used to describe a lumbar lordosis, but Kendall's use of the term is different.) Hip flexors, external obliques, upper back extensors and neck flexors are elongated and weak and need to be strengthened. Core conditioning is one of the most effective ways to strengthen this posture and help the dancer maintain a more neutral alignment, where the bones are closer to the plumb line. This is where my area of expertise comes in: PILATES.

November 2011: Aligning ourselves with wellness.


What is the STOTT PILATES® Method? STOTT PILATES is a contemporary approach to the original exercise method pioneered by the late Joseph Pilates. Co-founders Moira and Lindsay G. Merrithew, along with a team of physical therapists, sports medicine and fitness professionals, have spent more than two decades refining the STOTT PILATES method of exercise and equipment. The inclusion of modern principles of exercise science and spinal rehabilitation has made STOTT PILATES one of the safest and most effective exercise methods available. How does Pilates help dancers achieve balance? To simplify, let’s divide your muscles into 2 categories: mobilizers and stabilizers. Often our bodies are not out of shape but out of balance. If you have one group of muscles stronger or weaker than the other, it may lead to injury. This can happen to the fittest dancers. Pilates provides the correct balance of light, moderate and high load exercises with slow, controlled movements. Many of the exercises are performed in a closed chain, where one or both feet are on the floor to recruit the stabilizers such as the transverse abdominus, one of the very important core muscles. Core muscles help support the mobilizers, much like a foundation supports a house. A well-designed Pilates program will focus on those deep support muscles and give the dancer a sense of inner power and strength. Movements can then be performed with ease and without excess strain. Benefits of Pilates as described by a well-known dancer “The first time I experienced Pilates was when I was visiting friends in Los Angeles almost 30 years ago,” explains Karen Kain, Artistic Director, The National Ballet of Canada. “I had heard that dancers from New York were doing Pilates, but no one knew about it or was teaching in Canada at the time.” “Today I encourage dancers to explore how Pilates can help them physically and mentally for their career,” she continues. “Pilates is an ideal form of complete body conditioning as the focus is on strengthening the deep support muscles and balancing all muscle groups around the joints of the entire body.” Quote from Pilates for Dancers, as published in Preview, 2008.


November 2011: Aligning ourselves with wellness.



Alignment is key to proper technique in all dance forms, at all ages, and can have a direct affect on students’ overall physical health.

Anatomy of alignment can be taught from a young age. Incorporate the concept of the spine into creative movement, include Posture exercises into your 6&7 year old classes regularly, and talk about spine and pelvic alignment with your teens/adult classes!

Experience Pilates for yourself. Find a local studio and experience a mat or reformer class for yourself. Mat work can be incorporated into your teaching and will also give you a great way to focus on your own core and alignment when teaching. (Parents – taking Pilates can be a great way for you to better understand what your child needs to focus on in dance and give you a common goal!)

Broaden your understanding of anatomy! There are some excellent resources available that will walk you through basic anatomy – check them out on our online Bookstore (see below).

Bookstore Be sure to check out the AD4L Bookstore on our website for readings and resources specific to dance and wellness. Pursuit of Excellence, by Terry Orlick, PhD. Inside Ballet Technique, by Valerie Grieg. Anatomy of Movement, by Blandine Calais-Germain. Eating the Alphabet: Fruits and Vegetables from A to Z, by Lois Ehlert. [The AD4L bookstore is pleased to be a part of the Associates program.]

November 2011: Aligning ourselves with wellness.


Success is in YOU! Aligning your thoughts with your performance. Sport Psychology provides us with the theory and practice of mental skills that can help us to improve our performance and cope with stressful situations (anxiety). One of those mental skills is Imagery, a diverse tool that can be used in performance, as well as pre and post performance. Terry Orlick, PhD. (2000) indicates that athletes at the National and Olympic levels use imagery regularly to overcome obstacles, envision success in competition, and to strengthen self-awareness and confidence. When using Imagery we create a dialogue of cues which guide us through a specific skill, walking ourselves through the skill and feeling the sensations of the ideal/correct execution of the skill via our imagination. In Orlick’s (2000) In Pursuit of Excellence imagery is described as: …thinking through your goals, your moves and your desired (competitive) performances. With practice, you will eventually be able to draw on various senses to experience in your mind the flawless execution of many of your goals, moves, performance, and coping strategies (p.109). Just as a dress rehearsal familiarizes dancers with the performance setting (costumes, stage, props, lighting and technical elements), the use of imagery (imaging) is quite similar. The goal is to create images rich in detail to provide the sensation of the actual performance. Imagery should (with practice) include the physical sequences and sensations of movement, elements of the performance space/studio, temperature of the environment, lighting, music, sets and props, teachers/crew or artistic staff backstage, emotions being portrayed through movement and facial expression, and any other sensations or situations that might have an affect on performance in the studio or onstage. Imagery: A multi-dimensional experience that mimics real experience. We visualize an image, feel movement, and experience the senses (small, taste, sound) without experiencing the actual event (Crocker, 2007, p. 191). Imaging: The internal process of using Imagery.

By incorporating detail into your imaging you “program a high-quality performance into your brain and nervous system and then free your body to follow…Quality mental imagery, combined with quality physical practice, increases your overall effectiveness and brings you closer to your capacity (potential). (Orlick, 2000, p. 112)”

How can I use Imagery to help me/my students in dance? Before you begin an exercise or combination, take a moment to direct students (or yourself) to close their eyes and visualize themselves moving through the series of movements. Cue them to think about

November 2011: Aligning ourselves with wellness.


their problem areas (corrections) and picture themselves executing the steps correctly. Essentially doing a full rehearsal in their minds eye before the physical performance of movement. Begin simply, selecting a few key cues to draw the studentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; attention to key areas of their performance. Each time you walk them through the script add another detail to the overall picture. In preparation for performance, allow students time to envision their performance and mentally rehearse. If they need guidance with the process provide direct cues regarding the details of the environment, choreography, music, costuming, etc. In time they will develop the skills to be able to do their own mental rehearsal of the choreography and performance, making it a part of their personal rehearsal process. If a student is dealing with an injury that prevents them from participating fully in class, yet they can be on their feet throughout the class, imagery can help to maintain the sensations of movement and motor (movement) patterns and sequencing. For instance, assume that this student is not able to jump, during exercises focusing on jumps (allegro) have the student step to the side or to the back of the room and envision their performance. As they move through the sequence they are visualizing their ideal performance of the steps. A simpler way (a first step to using imagery) is to have the student simply close their eyes and move through the performance in their mind as the class moves through the combination. Training students/yourself to use imagery in class and in performance preparation is a great way to empower individuals and facilitate ownership of progress and performance. Mental Skills Consultants can be a great help when working to develop your students/your mental skills for performance. Contact the Canadian Sport Psychology Association or sport association to find a consultant in your area. [In depth direction and theory on the use of imagery can also be found in Terry Orlickâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s book, In Pursuit of Excellence.]

References Orlick, T. (2000) In Pursuit of Excellence: How to win in sport and life through mental training. Windsor, ON: Human Kinetics. Crocker, P.R.E. (2007) Sport Psychology: A Canadian Perspective. Toronto, ON: Pearson Education Canada.

Author: Jacqui Davidson, BA, (ADCSC-CICB)

November 2011: Aligning ourselves with wellness.



Teachers can help students develop imagery skills by walking them through imagery using verbal cues to help students bring detail to their images.

Because imagery is literally all ‘in your head’ it can be done anywhere, at anytime: At home, before class, during class, and before and after performance.

Imagery can help students to cope with injury, giving them a sense of control rather than leaving the healing process entirely up to physical therapists and their own body.

Imagery can also aid in coping with performance anxiety. Students (or anyone) who struggles with performance anxiety can use imagery to walk through performance situations pre-performance. The feeling that you have executed the performance before the day of the event can help dissipate anxiety and allow the individual to perform with more confidence.

Imagery begins with a healthy imagination. With technology now reaching our preschoolers at home and in the classroom imagination is fading rapidly. Take the time with your preschool classes (even teens) to talk about imagination and provide activities which foster the vividness of their imaginations and individual creativity.

Share and share alike… A great way to share this information is to simply refer friends/clients/students to the site or provide a link to the site – individuals can then opt-in to the newsletter and site on their own. If you find that you do wish to share this work with others, we trust that credit will be given to both the author/s and ‘Access Dance for Life!’.

November 2011  

This month's newsletter features part 1 of an interview with AAADT dancer Rachael McLaren.