Hello All! My apologies for the lack of fresh content lately but I have been swamped doing this! Here are some pics... enjoy!
Wednesday, 14 December 2011
This past weekend I went to the IDEA Fitness Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center with a couple girlfriends and we had a blast! So many awesome products (and so many bizzare ones also). If you are a fitness professional or even a fitness enthusiast, (and especially if you are single) I highly recommend visiting the next Fitness Expo!
Tuesday, 16 August 2011
Being a professional ballet dancer means taking class every day to stay in shape. If you are not under contract with a company or if you are in between seasons, it can be very difficult to find an adequate professional level ballet class to take. Living in Los Angeles makes it more difficult since the LA dance scene is more commercially oriented than the classical and theatrical dance scene found in New York City or even San Francisco. Fortunately, there are a few options for the professional/advanced ballet dancer when it comes to taking class in the City of Angels and one of them is Reid Olson's class. Reid Olson, former principal dancer with Los Angeles Ballet and soloist with Pacific Northwest Ballet, teaches an amazing advanced level ballet class at Dance Arts Academy in West Los Angeles. Expect to brush elbows with some top-notch professional dancers, but don't be intimidated because many non-professionals also enjoy taking class regularly with Reid. Reid is also a registered yoga instructor and teaches a yoga class on Thursday mornings at 9:30-11:00am before his 11:30am ballet class. Reid often teaches class at City Yoga in Los Angeles. Contact Reid for more information on his yoga schedule.
Monday, 01 August 2011
Tuesday, 19 July 2011
Exploring the motives behind movement is as relevant, if not more relevant, than simply understanding movement by itself. From a first person perspective, movement is a result of these three categories: pure physical necessity; the desire to entertain; and the desire to transgress (the physical). These categories are not mutually exclusive. For example, when an athlete plays a sport he or she carefully calculates movement out of sheer necessity in order to win the game. However an athlete’s motivation for movement may also result from a conscious or subconscious desire to entertain the spectators. Hence the phrase “spectator sport.” Any performance-based activity dips into the “desire to entertain” category. Yoga is no exception. Indeed yoga is an experimental and personal practice, yet it is also a beautiful form of movement that can and should be enjoyed by the voyeur. Lastly, and the most intriguing motive for movement for me is transgression. When I practice yoga or when I dance I always search for parallels between the two. In ballet, when I lift my arms up in the air to execute a movement it's as if I am transgressing the physical limitations of my own body, which (sadly) is bound by the law of gravity. Similarly when I flow through sun salutations I reach my arms up over my head "saluting" something greater than my physical self; the sun. Is the act of reaching my arms up and beyond myself an instinctual appeal to the Divine? Could the motivation for this particular type of movement signal a desire to transgress my physical limitations bound by the constraints of time and space in exchange for something greater? Surely athletes experience the same desire to transgress their physical bodies when they play sports; however, watching a dancer dance or a yogi practice sun salutations crystallizes a mental image of what movement dictated by the desire to transgress truly looks like.
Tuesday, 28 June 2011
IF IT'S NOT BROKEN, I'M DANCING!" Spoken like a true dancer. These are the words of Ryan Ramirez, a contestant on Fox's hit show So You Think You Can Dance in Season 8 after she was cleared by medics to dance at the Las Vegas callback. Ramirez suffered a bruised tailbone, which is extremely painful, but fortunately not too serious.
The professional dancer sacrifices his or her physical well being for something he or she perceives as much bigger and grander than him or herself. Is this self-sacrifice or self-sabotage? Is it simply asmita (ego), the second klesha, taking over the greater consciousness or is it the relinquishing of asmita? Perhaps it's a little bit of both. Maybe it's necessary to offer a part of yourself in order to accomplish something greater (pardon the utilitarian in me). You decide...I would love to hear what you think.
Thursday, 16 June 2011
What happens when a child falls in love with a shiny new toy at the toy store and begs mom or dad to buy it but mom or dad refuses? A temper-tantrum. What happens when an adult applies for his or her dream job and doesn’t get it? A temper-tantrum? It’s quite possible. You can take the human out of the playpen (hopefully) but you can’t take the humanity out of the human.
When things don’t go our way we get upset, frustrated, mad and stressed causing our mindset to crossover into dangerous terrain. Thoughts are the basis for emotions. Emotions are nothing more than the colors, which paint the landscape of life. I was at an audition the other day; I got a call back (that’s half the battle right there) and my performance at the call back was nothing short of “fierce” (inserting some shameless self promotion here). Indeed, I was crushed when I did not get this job. As a dancer, it’s best to avoid setting up any sort of expectations despite how awesome your performance was (yea…good luck with that); but let’s be honest, if I didn’t think I had a chance why would I throw myself into the grind yet again and even bother to show up at the audition? As I reflect on the outcome of this particular experience, I am forced to ask myself “Why am I so attached to the outcome?” The results of this audition didn’t change my life in the grand scheme of things so why the hell am I still dwelling on it?
Tuesday, 14 June 2011
It’s no wonder that George Balanchine, the father of ballet in America as we know it, was such a stickler for tendus. Balanchine believed that if a dancer could execute a perfect tendu, then no step or combination of steps is unattainable. A battement tendu is a French word meaning to “stretch” or to “extend” and is a fundamental step in the classical ballet vocabulary where the foot is fully stretched so as to continue the line of the extended leg. Every time the foot leaves the ground, it has to be pointed!!! This is the 1st commandment of classical ballet! Otherwise, let's just face it...it's bad ballet. Tendus are the basis of all jumps, turns and all the seemingly effortless footwork seen in ballet. It can take years to perfect the tendu; in fact if you ask most highly trained professional dancers if they consider their tendus to be perfect they will undoubtedly reply: “Far from!”
Tendus are to ballet as tadasana is to yoga. The most fundamental asana in yoga is tadasana a.k.a. Mountain Pose. As the name suggests, the energy of this asana is strong and unbreakable like a mountain. In tadasana the feet are either together or slightly apart, the arms down with the palms at the sides of the body and the chest is lifted. It is important to keep the gaze soft by directing it at the tip of the nose to maintain the undisturbed energy generated by this asana. Tadasana is the blueprint for all postures in yoga because in tadasana the body is at its optimal alignment with the neck positioned over the shoulders, the shoulders stacked over the hips, the hips aligned over the knees and the knees positioned over the ankles. There's even weight distributed between the mounds of the big and little toes and the inner and outer heels. In tadasana the spine is maximally extended and not torqued. When the spine is elongated it allows for prana to flow through the body uninterrupted. When all the anatomical puzzle pieces fit together like this moving freely from one position to the next becomes second nature. The need to push, strain or overexert disappears and the risk for injury greatly diminishes. Additionally, when we successfully find this sense of ease in our yoga practice we can begin to pay less attention to the physicality of our movements and tap into their energetic quality. When this happens, many find it mentally soothing and therefore quite liberating.
Every sport, activity or art has its building blocks; but in my experience the building blocks of yoga often compliment those of ballet and in doing so provide me, “the ballerina,” a more comprehensive understanding of my body and a greater sense of physical awareness and mental clarity.
Wednesday, 18 May 2011
Back in October of 2010 I wrote a post on abhinivesa. Abhinivesa is the idea that we as mortals cling to bodily life and material possessions. Dancing with a professional company is taxing physically and mentally because of the powerful attachment to your work. A dancer’s work is illustrated by and through the body with all its limitations and imperfections. It's not like you can physically leave your work at the office. The body also becomes a storage unit carrying around the effects of your work all the time. A good rehearsal reflects on your mental state, as does a bad or painful rehearsal. On the good days in particular, when the body feels supple and strong and the dancing is at its best I find myself thinking about the next audition, the next gig, the next show. “I’m on my game! I’ve gotta work it!” This internal attitude paints a portrait of a mild obsession…and yes ALL dancers are obsessed. It’s a discipline and a ritual, which is why I find practicing yoga so satisfying. Every day it’s the same routine and if I miss a day of class or a day of conditioning or even miss an exercise in class feelings of guilt and inadequacy arise. If I don’t keep refining my technique I won’t progress and will in fact regress. Therefore “my work” will slip away from me. I must pack in as much dancing as I can while I can before I become irrelevant in the profession. The urgency with which I sense this tacit expiration date is increasing. The work that goes into preparing for an audition or a performance is as excruciating as it is exhilarating. I've got to "drink the milk before it spoils" so to speak.
Because I'm so intricately aligned with my work, I’m clearly very attached to it. I’m literally attached to my body, I’m attached to my ideas about my body and I’m attached to what others think about my body and therefore my work. Sometimes I wish I could detach from what I do in the same way those nine to fivers can once the clock strikes 5:00pm. The ballet world is insular--no secret there-- and once you are in it, you can’t help but dig deeper and deeper into your work. The deeper the dancer delves, the faster the "real" world fades away. You either want to be part of the ballet world or as far away as you can get from it. I haven’t found an in between yet, so please call me to let me know if you have! Oscillating between the pedestrian world and the ballet world is no easy feat. In one, you are fine, just like everyone else... who cares what others think...in the latter you're not like everyone else and it matters too much what they think. Ultimately, abhinivesa is the story of a dancer's life. We hold on to our work in the most physical way possible. Identifying with another profession is like cheating on the love of your life. Intellectually we dancers understand the daunting day of having to hang up the ole pointe shoes, but physically and emotionally we are enslaved by our own attachment.
Wednesday, 16 February 2011
Natarajasana or King Dancer’s Pose is probably one of my favorite poses in yoga and it shouldn’t be surprising why. For those of you who are just tuning into www.soyouthinkyoucanyoga.com, let me reintroduce myself. I am Susy Vishmid, ballerina extraordinaire and yogi galore. How’s that for self love? “Nata” is Sanskrit for actor, dancer, mime, “Raja” translates into king and “asana,” being the third limb of the eight limed yogic path, translates into posture or pose.
Thursday, 04 November 2010
I was talking to a fellow dancer the other day who lamented to me about how out of shape she is because she didn’t do anything for two weeks…well, aside from some yoga. A local studio had a special going on for ten classes for $10, a great deal, so, my friend, let’s call her Nikki, decided to try it. During the class Nikki found it difficult to focus because she didn’t know what she was suppose to be doing and noticed herself continuously looked around to see what was going on in the room. Anytime you throw someone into an unfamiliar situation he or she will feel a little anxious. But throwing a professional ballet dancer into a yoga class doesn’t seem like an unfamiliar situation—or does it? Dancers are in “performance mode” most of the time with their head and therefore their drishti (gaze) consistently directed outward. The very goal of ballet or any type of other professional dance is to EXpress to IMpress. Ballet positions are designed with an aesthetic purpose to create an impression whereas yoga asanas (postures) are designed to create physical space and when married with the breath mental liberation.
I see two types of responses towards yoga (ballet dancers included) and they are “it’s so easy, slow, or boring,” or its “way too hard, overwhelming and intimidating.” Dancers are so used to being told what to do all the time that when they enter an environment where they can literally “just be in the pose” without having to meet any sort of expectation their knee jerk reaction is to freak out and search for a way to control the situation.
I still don’t understand why yoga hasn’t hit the ballet world in a similar way that Pilates has. I’ve done a lot of Pilates in my life and definitely see the value in it. I understand why dancers turn to Pilates as a modality for cross-training/injury prevention but it is a linear modality when compared to yoga. By linear I mean the dancer works the same way each time on the various machines and other Pilates contraptions. Even in a Pilates mat class the sequence of exercises doesn’t usually change, so you always know what to expect and which direction the class is going. Most of the time, Pilates is done one on one with a certified instructor so more often than not a conversation ensues. This can be very distracting. On the other hand, yoga is a multi-dimensional modality. Yoga is certainly a physical practice but it’s also a mental and emotional practice. The most significant difference between the two modalities is that yoga employs the breath, which bridges the gap between the physical world and the mental world—an attractive and even necessary quality for any professional dancer or high performance athlete.
The good news is that I’m starting to see a lot of ballet dancers using yoga asanas like adho mukha svanasana a.k.a. downward facing dog to warm up before class. Yoga’s slow yet steady infiltration into the ballet world is apparent. As more dancers discover its treasures I’ll be at the barre doing my plies admiring all the wagging doggy tails and extra legs in the room.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
Thursday, 09 September 2010