Today I’d like to give a warm welcome to Emily Kate Long, 4dancers latest contributor. Emily Kate will be writing about “Finding Balance”…something every dancer struggles with in one form or another…
Balance is an integral part of dance: in technique, physical appearance, partnering, staging, casting, injury prevention…and on and on. Balance is what makes dance beautiful, and imbalance is often what keeps the audience on the edge of their seats, tense and excited. In our day-to-day, balance—or the lack of it—can provide comfort, frustration, boredom, serenity, or stress.
Physical imbalance reared its ugly head in my life throughout December and January. After nothing but Nutcracker for November and early December, three weeks of layoff seemed welcome at first. By about day four, though, I was longing for full days of rehearsal again! How was I supposed to keep myself in good shape while still allowing time for recovery?
Two months of promenades on my left leg had not only eaten through pair after pair of pointe shoes, but had also done noticeable damage to the muscles in my hip and calf on the left side. Prevention, correction, and maintenance all played a part in physically rebalancing my body before rehearsals started up again.
Pilates Reformer work was, and continues to be, a really effective way to maintain balance and alignment in my body. It was also useful as a preventive measure. My trainer and I had been working to stay on top of the one-sidedness of classical pas de deux work in weekly sessions during Nut rehearsals, so by the time the run of shows was over I had a repertoire of exercise remedies to practice with her and on my own.
A visit to the chiropractor kicked off the corrective steps. He’s always telling me to reverse one-sided choreography, even if that only means one time reversed for every ten times I dance it. I think there’s validity in that, though in a company of nine dancers with one full-size studio there is not always time or space (or, more often, quite enough self-motivation) to take on that extra project, however small. I did begin doing the left side first for class exercises during the layoff, which was an interesting and helpful experiment.
Long, busy days in the theater meant that I wasn’t able to stretch as much as I would have liked, and dancing on a hard stage meant that I needed it more than usual. So I ended up tighter in general, especially in my hips and lower back. Hot yoga was a nice fix for that. The heat allowed me to stretch more intensely, and the combination of turned-in work and plenty of twisting relieved a lot of the tension that had been living in my back and hips.
Maintenance, in addition to continued Pilates work, involved taking lots of time to do class on my own and really simplify things, going back to the basics and re-examining those steps for quirks that could lead to bigger problems later. I also indulged my love of running outdoors, something that I avoid during rehearsal weeks because of the impact.
Now that rehearsals are back in full swing things are starting to get crazy again—just the way I like them! Full days at the studio plus planning classes and choreography make me really appreciate any opportunity I can find for pastimes—currently, reading Jane Austen and Stephen Manes. But that’s fodder for another post!
BIO: Emily Kate Long began her dance education in South Bend, Indiana, with Kimmary Williams and Jacob Rice and graduated in 2007 from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School’s Schenley Program. Ms Long attended Milwaukee Ballet School’s Summer Intensive on scholarship before being invited to join Milwaukee Ballet II in 2007. She also has spent summers studying at Saratoga Summer Dance Intensive, Miami City Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School, Pittsburgh Youth Ballet, and Ballet Chicago.
Ms Long has been a member of Ballet Quad Cities since 2009. She has danced featured roles in Deanna Carter’s Ash to Glass and Dracula, participated in the company’s 2010 tour to New York City, and most recently performed the title role in Courtney Lyon’s Cinderella and the role of Clara in The Nutcracker. Prior to joining Ballet Quad Cities Ms Long performed with Milwaukee Ballet and MBII in Michael Pink’s The Nutcracker and Candide Overture, Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty and La Bayadére, Balanchine’s Who Cares?, Bournonville’s Flower Festival in Genzano and Napoli, and original contemporary and neoclassical works by Tom Teague, Denis Malinkine, Rolando Yanes, and Petr Zaharadnicek.