Serious About Play – Training Tips From a Pro Dancer


photo by Melissa Schwartz, retouch by Stephen Newell

I have been known to outlive the big boys at the gym, lost in an IPod and meticulous technique.  Three hours at the dance studio flies by without note, leaping landing sweating stretching, pausing only to refill water.  I’ve had my splits since I was seven, danced professionally since fifteen – mom swears I was doing situps in the womb.  It’s been an athletic life – I have known nothing different, and like you, my body is my obsession; my passion.

Giving 110% physically, lungs ripping open, muscles aflame, is the basis of our claim to the title athlete.  But when we give 110% emotionally, going deeper, exposing more, it is then that we realize the true exertion of self-expression and no matter what the sport, can claim the title artist as well.

Emotional exertion ups the anti of any physical activity:  15 minutes on stage equals an hour on the Elliptical.  If you want to get more from your training I tell you:  try screaming at the top of your lungs for a mile.  Try sobbing while swimming your laps.  Try cracking up the other players on the court for two minutes.  Your conditioning will improve, your stress level will plummet, and you’ll be a more honest human being simply by exercising your emotions.

To performing artists it is obvious, this influential factor in training.  There is even a backstage term for it’s lack:  we call it “phoning in” when a cast mate can’t get it up, like making a long distance collect call from stage to audience.  And it baffles me why athletes of the “non-artist” variety, look so concerned, perhaps almost panicked when their tried and true methods one day give way.  They set the same alarm, blend the same shake, tie the same sneakers, scale the same weight, but max out three reps early and log ten seconds slow.

If you find yourself bored or ineffective in your training when just last week you were flying high, I can almost guarantee you have neglected a major muscle group; the emotions, those elusive butterflies.  If you would like to shape up the way you feel and perform at your peek, then take it from an artist and try this simple exercise.  

Simply continue doing everything according your routine, but resolve to do it entirely differently than the day before.  This may seem like a fated contradiction, but it is not.  If you always brush your teeth, try standing on one foot while you polish the pearls.  If you must go to the office, take a new route – the one you made up just now.  Answer the cell phone in a strange voice, do a spin every door you walk through, find a tiny little bottle of bubbles and blow them away while you hike.  While the body responds amazingly well to consistency, emotions prefer adventure and play.  By doing the above exercise, the consistency of your training is not sacrificed in the least, yet emotions become stimulated and surprised. Of course, the further you take this, the larger the return – making people stare is great, getting them to shake their heads is better, but if you can make them actually laugh when they see you coming, you will never be stuck again.  Of course, some of the shier athletes can stick to drinking tea instead of their usual H20 – just so long as that is not what they did the day before.

You may feel silly doing these things at first, but that is exactly how you know you are successful.  Silly is not bored and silly is definitely not depressed, so keep it up and as soon as your physical training regime starts feeling mundane, goof off more – the emotions love to play.  Whether artist or athlete, artistic athlete, athletic artist, we are all striving to perform like the stars.  It is time to stop “phoning in” on life.

Originally published in Organic Athlete and Funky Raw Magazines.

  1. Phil

    February 11th, 2015 22:15

    This was aLHHn amazing eye opener loved it LHH (love health and happyness) to you always..


    • Tonya Kay

      February 15th, 2015 12:41

      love health and happiness to you as well, beautiful Phil


  2. Claire

    February 13th, 2015 5:20

    Such a great read, thank you.


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