I went on a summer trip with University of Florida students to explore the dance scene in New York City. One of my favorite parts of the trip was meeting interesting people and hearing their life stories. We met a woman, Siobhan Burke, who auditioned for Riverdance and got in! We also met a woman who did not start dancing ballet until she was 20 years old, but she really loved it and she had a successful career! Now she works at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts in the dance section. I also really loved seeing the New York City Ballet because it was my first time seeing the ballet. The Stephen Petronio Dance Company was cool too. I had a great time taking a Ballet class at Steps on Broadway. Their teachers are so attentive to detail! I took a Jazz class also. They were very encouraging and made little improvements on even the greatest dancers in small details like their arm movements or the way they shifted their shoulders slightly in a movement. I really liked the Julliard Senior Production as well. They were clearly very skilled dancers, but they also added elements of theater to the performance. I also enjoyed taking Modern and Yoga classes at Dance New Amsterdam. And I loved performing at the “Our Children’s Foundation” in Harlem. The kids there were so inspiring. They reminded me that you should never give up on your dreams, no matter what! People will tell you you cannot be happy and you must settle, but that is not true! More on this later.
Today was my second time volunteering at Balance 180 Gymanstics for children with special needs. Today I worked with a boy named Liam. Last time I had worked with a young girl. Liam was wonderful to work with because he had so much energy, and he really wanted to do all of the activities! He did a great job jumping off of two feet, jumping from hula hoop to hula hoop, walking on the balance beam, and doing flips on the uneven bars. He struggled a little bit with jumping on the trampoline—I was trying to encourage him to jump higher and to tuck his knees sometimes when jumping–but I am sure that will come with time. I was told not to help him through the exercises like we might with the other kids because Liam may be moved to the more advanced gymnastics group. He really had a lot of energy, and we had to often keep him from bounding ahead to the next station when it was not our turn yet! He was really delightful. I really enjoy working with Balance180 Gymnastics because they employ the concept of movement as a useful tool for kids with disabilities to express themselves and have fun. I really believe that physical activities (dance in particular, and yoga) have helped me through some of the abuse and suffering in my life, and I hope that I can do the same for these kids. I will not be volunteering next Saturday because of my sister’s wedding, but I will be back for the month of July, and I may be teaching dance at that point along with gymnastics. That would be wonderful because dance is more my area of expertise, although gymnastics and dance have a lot in common!
For more information about Balance 180, click here:
And here is a picture of Liam, the great and enthusiastic gymnast:
I hope this empowers other women the way it empowered me. We are not alone.
There is a strange sort of unspoken theory that once a woman has been raped, sex is no longer a viable option for her. Sex has been replaced by trauma, fear, pain, and anxiety. I’m not saying this is never the case. Every survivor’s story and experience is different, but too often the assumption is that if you have been raped, you are sexually broken and forever unfixable. That sort of discourse is not healthy or empowering or even sympathetic. What I want to say is what I wish I had been told: rape is not a form of sex, it is a form of assault. Sex feels good. Assault is traumatizing. It is possible for sex to exist after rape because they are different experiences, just like it’s possible for you to still enjoy going out to eat even if you got food poisoning once. You might never go…
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I also enjoy Mermaid pose. It is a very deep stretch in my leg. We do an interesting variation on crunches…one crunch with the legs up, then bring the legs down, then lower them slowly…then back to crunch. Crunch is always on the exhale, not the inhale. You get a better crunch that way. Interesting 🙂
We get to pick the music for the class using Spotify, which is interesting. The other day we were trying to hold Triangle pose to the angry beats of “Paper Planes” by M.I.A. The part where she says “All I wanna do is..(insert gun sounds here) and (more gun sounds) and (sound of shot being fired) and take your money!” our yoga teacher, Stark, announces, “I really hate this song!” and everyone laughed. I don’t mind the song, but it is kind of the wrong song for yoga, in my opinion. It makes me feel angry and aggressive, which is kind of the opposite of how yoga is supposed to make you feel. Maybe I will edit the playlist before next week and put some good music in there.
Today I went to one of Extreme Dance Company at UF’s classes, which are always fun. We did some across-the-floor exercises (switch leaps, good times) and we learned a combination to the song “Pop, Drop, and Roll” which one of Dancin Gators’ former E-board members, Kimberly Barton, had choreographed a fan dance too a while ago. It was interesting to see the differences in choreography between the two girls. I always wanted to participate in both Dancin Gators and Extreme Dance Company while at UF, but I always found myself too overwhelmed with schoolwork to do both. But who knows what the future may hold? I will upload the video of our Extreme dance later today when it is up on Facebook. 🙂
For now, though, here is a video of a combination we worked on a few classes ago. It’s kind of a rough draft, but it was an enjoyable dance for me!
Disclaimer: This is not my choreography. These dancers were choreographed by members of Extreme Dance Company at UF.
Dancin Gators, Spring 2013
I recently began taking a group fitness class at University of Florida called “Power Yoga.” I have been doing yoga on and off since middle school, and I just love it. It is similar to dance in some ways, which I love, but also different in some interesting ways. One of my favorite poses, which we work on in Power Yoga, is “Plow,” where we place our legs above our head so our toes touch the floor. Before taking this class, I would always put my head to the right during plow pose, but my teacher suggested I should not do this because I could injure my neck. So now I keep my head straight, which feels fine to me. According to my teacher, this is a good neck stretch. I also feel an interesting sensation in my stomach during this pose too, and I always feel deeply relaxed coming out of this pose. We usually transition from this pose to shoulder stand, and then into staff pose. We fold over and touch our toes in staff pose before and after the plow/shoulder stand experience, and I always find that I can bend a lot easier after the plow/shoulder stand. I can release my head and neck into the stretch more and really “put my forehead towards my toes.” I am slowly working my way from being able to do shoulder stand while supporting my lower back, to now I can do shoulder stand with my arms on the floor (i.e., not supporting my lower back.) Ideally, I would like to get to the point where my arms are off the floor entirely and I have my entire body resting on my shoulder blades. I think it is actually easier for me to transition from bridge pose to shoulder stand pose for some reason. When I first got the shoulder stand without using my hands, I felt like I was flying. I really like shoulder stand for my stomach as well, because I have had stomach issues all my life, and I always feel better in that respect after shoulder stand. It was terrifying yet exciting.
I also am beginning to try crow pose. I would like to lengthen the amount of time I can spend in crow pose as well as in the crow pose variation, “side crow.”
One simple pose I enjoy is tree pose, because in this class we try all sorts of interesting variations on tree pose. My favorite new variation is where, in tree pose, you put your one hand on the bent knee and twist your torso to the side. You get a nice side stretch and your core is forced to activate because you need a lot of balance to stay afloat in this position.
I have always loved bridge pose. It feels great. One of the interesting variations that I am working on in bridge pose is lifting one hand or the other while still maintaining the bridge pose. I would like to increase the amount of time that I can hold this position with one hand, and also with one foot lifted as well.
Well, that is all for now, as I have class in a bit. More to come!