Understanding Your Instrument
The study of ballet goes much further than cosmetic audience appeal. Depending on the method of ballet you choose to study—of which there are several—the overall self-discipline presented by ballet can protect the body of a dancer, athlete, or anyone wanting to minimize their chances of contracting scoliosis, arthritis, and many other painful physical disorders. These ailments are caused by wear and tear on the body without the proper maintenance. Maintaining the body starts by understanding your potential. Ideally this awareness happens at a young age, when the bone structure is a little more malleable. As we age…well…as far as bone structure goes, “it is what it is” and it is unique in every individual.
How you choose to align those not-so-malleable bones is now solely up to the training system you undertake and your mind, which is where ballet takes over. Once damage has occurred, the crippling effects can be minimized by understanding the kinesthetic make-up of your individual body. Your body is unique to you—no two bodies are the same. Therefore, no one method can serve everyone. My unique methodology is to develop a muscle-training system according to the individual’s needs, taking into account past injuries and the ability of the student to connect mind and body proficiently. I recommend that you connect with your body. It means the difference between feeling good and unnecessary pain.
My approach is to customize a program designed to accomplish individual objectives, and together we apply that program to your body. Then you can say to your friends, “I’m in training.” I think everyone should be in training every day for the rest of their life. This maintenance will keep one’s body working at or close to its full potential. It just makes sense that a person would want to go through life with as few aches and pains as possible. By understanding the basic principles of ballet, an individual can jump higher, run faster, streamline movements, or just plain feel better. It’s all about refining what one has by educating themselves physically.
In the past, I have privately trained football players, track and field athletes, actors, opera singers, body builders, dancers, ice skaters, the elderly, and the handicapped to improve their ability to accomplish their kinesthetic objectives. By first simply understanding your instrument and its abilities, anyone can learn to control their physical performance.
Years ago I was a personal trainer for Linda Kelm, a dramatic soprano performing with the San Francisco Opera. Her ailment had manifested itself in a production of Wagner’s Valkyrie; during her performance she carried a staff and descended three steps while singing. Sounds simple for most of us, but Linda was battling obesity so her weight was bearing down on her lower back and knees. This repetitive movement had started to cause Linda excruciating pain even though she was using the staff as a cane, and she was afraid taking pain medication might affect her performance. This turned out to be an alignment issue, and we were able to correct the problem with a series of weekly meetings working out together in her living room. I told Ms. Kelm that I was not there to make her lose weight but that it was inevitable once her pain was alleviated and she could move more freely. There was an initial soreness due to bodily repositioning and strengthening of muscles; we were pulling her lower body into alignment to alleviate undo pressure on her knees. I say “we” because everything weighed on her understanding of what I was telling her so that she could visualize what I said and apply it. In a couple of months her muscular soreness had subsided and she had braced her legs into alignment so that her knee pain had subsided. My work there was done. (For more information on Linda Kelm go to http://articles.latimes.com/1988-11-11/entertainment/ca-884_1_linda-kelm:)
The world of physics also comes into play in Ms. Kelm’s training. With anyone there are physical limitations according to skeletal structure, which varies in people. The ratio of legs to torso, shoulder width, height, and size of other bones in the body dictate the body’s potential. Hard tissue or bone cannot be changed; however, one can use the muscular system as if it were braces on teeth to achieve alignment of the spine, legs, neck, and arms. There is an ideal placement for everyone that is theirs—and theirs alone. With corrected alignment, the quality of one’s life will improve (and you won’t be as cranky.)
Another remarkable client was Marcia Sheridan, a female body builder. Ms. Sheridan is a registered nurse in Mission Viejo, California, who utilizes her knowledge of nutrition and its effect on muscle development in her weight training. My job was to enhance her posing routine by detailing poses such as pointing the index finger when showing arm musculature and stretching the foot instead of pointing toes. In addition to these choreographic details, we focused on improving other components of her presentation that would add to the routine’s appeal, such as music selection and color of posing outfit; finally, we created smooth transitions from one pose to the next to strengthen her presentation. These refinements in technique gave Ms. Sheridan the edge, and she won the title of California Natural Female Bodybuilder two years in a row.