Several times on tour the dancers were asked how we stay in shape for “all that stompin’,” and if we do anything besides dance to keep up our stamina. The answer varies from dancer to dancer, but my answer is a definite yes.
|The company, Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana tour 2015.|
Being a freelance flamenco dancer means my schedule varies widely from week to week. Some weeks I might have rehearsal for six hours a day every day. In that case, my exercise regimen outside of rehearsal consists of sitting down and icing my feet at the end of every day 😛 Generally in NYC, I try to take class or rehearse every day, along with doing core strengthening exercises daily. I pair that with running a couple times a week and online yoga classes several times a week. And of course, I have regular gigs in NYC and I teach.
Yoga has helped my dancing more than I could have imagined. The first few times I tried yoga, I hated it. I didn’t want to hold poses for so long–I wanted to move–I thought, “this is silly, I’d much rather be dancing!” But over the last year, I’ve come to really appreciate it both for strengthening and stretching my body, particularly areas that don’t get worked out in flamenco, and for helping me focus and breath better. Breathing is not always so easy for a dancer. It’s easy to get caught up in the movements, or feel so stressed about doing something well that I end up holding a great deal of tension in my face or neck and sometimes even holding so much tension that I don’t breathe. I highly recommend the web page www.myyogaworks.com, which allows me to do yoga any time and anywhere–like when I’m on tour and I find myself in a small town.
I like running both for the physical exercise in helping build stamina, but more so I like running because it clears my head like nothing else can. I pop in my ear buds and find the repetitive yet intense rhythm very meditative. When I’m stressed or can’t concentrate, it helps me reign in my focus.
On tour, we have both long performance days–sometimes even multiple performances a day, we have rehearsals, and we teach. That’s paired with long travel days. So staying in shape can be hard because sometimes we’re so exhausted the best thing to do is rest and recuperate. We’re also surrounded by a lot of not so healthy food, like when our hotel was next to a restaurant called Fatz (the name says it all), which can make eating healthy a bit tricky but not impossible.
And stretching has to be part of my daily routine. I sometimes overlook this as a flamenco dancer–our movements don’t require that much flexibility, but stretching is nevertheless very very VERY important in preventing injury and staying in shape. When I don’t stretch after a show, I really feel it the next day.
And for mental health and stamina–getting out and about and lots of fresh air! We spend a lot of time inside theaters, so getting some vitamin D when we can is great.
|An afternoon off at White Sands, NM! Lots of fresh air,
and so great to have open space to run around after a long plane ride. 🙂
I’d also like to share the following with any dancers out there–The Harkness Center for Dance Injuries, http://www.med.nyu.edu/hjd/harkness/quality-healthcare-dance-community. For staying healthy as a dancer, it is the BEST institution out there. I’ve participated in their injury prevention assessments, where a physical therapist evaluates a dancer’s strengths and weaknesses and gives them an exercise regimen to improve physical performance. It’s helped me better understand my own incongruities and how to improve them.
And finally, I recently saw this link on Facebook, the article is in Spanish, but basically it says that working in a positive environment improves physical performance. That means positive reinforcement from directors and from coworkers goes a long way. We don’t always have control over that, but we can be positive reinforcers to our colleagues, and I know from experience that can go a long way and make or break a tour experience. http://revistarevol.com/actualidad/un-ambiente-positivo-puede-mejorar-el-rendimiento-fisico/