Tell us a little bit about yourself :)
A nature girl at heart, I was born and raised in a small town in Michigan where I went to local dance studios to fulfill my artistic desires. I also dabbled in sports and ran track and cross country in high school, mostly because my dad is athletic and played a huge role in influencing my passion for physical challenges. To further my education, I got a B.A. in Dance and Business from Mercyhurst College in Erie, PA. Upon graduating, I received my first professional full-time contract with a ballet company in North Dakota.
After dancing there and in Atlanta, GA, as well as guesting with several companies across the country for a few years, I ended up in New York City working as a freelance dancer. I currently work with 4 different ballet companies and just started my own fitness business, Anti-Bunhead Fitness, dedicated to giving dancers the physical (Bulletproofballerina.com) and mental tools required to get to the next level.
How did you get introduced to ballet?
My parents put me in ballet classes when I was 3 years old because I was constantly dancing around the house whenever music came on. And since that day 32 years ago...I haven't stopped dancing.
Once I moved to NYC ten years ago to pursue my ballet career, I picked up personal training as a way to make money on the side. I soon fell in love with the way lifting weights made me feel and how it enhanced my dancing.
When did ballet get “serious” ?
Since I was dancing for as long as I can remember...the love for it has always been there. "Not dancing" has never been an option; that thought never really crossed my mind. I guess things turned a bit more serious when I started getting paid for my passion, but even then, it didn't feel like it was that big of a transition. I always took my dancing seriously, a bit too seriously at times.
If anything, I would say that the biggest turning point for me has been these past few years when my dancing has transformed from being an "obsession" to being a passion. In the first instance, I was a slave to my dancing; I sacrificed mySELF and my happiness for it. Now, I am just as dedicated to my dancing, but I use it as a passion - something that fills me up and allows me to share my light with the world. Big difference.
Biggest challenges :
My mental demons - the relentless voices in my head telling me that I'm not good enough, talented enough, smart enough, pretty enough, skinny enough, worth enough. I still struggle with them, but with Anti-Bunhead Fitness, I started talking about them and sharing my story with others to help them overcome their own battles. I think we all deal with these issues, but no one talks about them.
So they just become this big dark monster in the room that everyone is afraid to address. But, once we shine a light on it...it starts to shrink and eventually disappear with a little work and awareness. For me, starting to share my story has been the key to stepping into my power and overcoming my demons.
How do you handle pressure ?
In such a competitive art form, the pressure can be almost unbearable. I've almost quit dancing several times due to this pressure and how miserable it made me feel. It's taken me 30+ years to work through where this pressure is coming from and why it plagues me.
But, through this exploration, I've learned how to differentiate between pressure that doesn't serve me well and only dulls my light versus pressure that can help me get to the next level. I write a lot about these topics and the mental techniques to overcome them on my Bad Girl Ballerina Blog on my website.
Can you share your thoughts on self consciousness ?
I finally got to a point in my career where my mental demons were strangling my creativity so much that I could barely breathe or move in my art. Through this breaking point, I realized that I was the only one in control of my life and that I wasn't doing myself (or anyone for that matter) any good by letting these negative, fearful thoughts tear me down. I've done a lot of self-exploration and repatterning since then to build my courage to make myself vulnerable in my art and life.
What was your most embarrassing moment (in regards to ballet of course ;)
I wouldn't exactly call anything embarrassing...sorry. In my younger days, if I screwed up or made a mistake, I used to beat myself up so badly it wasn't even funny. I was brutal to myself. Now, if I have an "embarrassing" moment, I just roll with things. Nothing is really embarrassing...it just is what it is.
How did ballet influence your life in other ways ?
Well, back in the days when I was obsessed with dancing, it had a huge impact on my life, mostly in negative ways. I didn't have many friends (and forget about boyfriends!) because not only did I not have enough time for them between classes and rehearsals, but I also sadly didn't have enough mental or emotional space for them in my life...dancing took up everything I had.
I battled with anorexia and obsessive exercise addiction for many years, as well. I mistreated my body and did irreparable damage. I missed out on a lot of pleasures in life - food, friends, family, fun, love - due to my obsession.
But, with all that came some positive attributes that have shaped me into the woman I am today. Now that my obsession has turned into a passion, I can appreciate things like hard work, dedication, perseverance, physical toughness, emotional and creative transcendence that my dancing has given me.
Your training routine
Being a more seasoned professional, I actually find myself doing less and less (volume-wise) training these days in an effort to preserve my body for a longer career. I typically do one or two Bulletproof Ballerina workouts per week along with any rehearsals or performances scheduled with the companies I work for.
Depending on the season, I can have anywhere from 1 to 6 days of rehearsals per week. Contrary to popular ballet culture, I don't really take ballet class anymore, unless I want to for creative purposes. I do most of my training in the weight room...and then focus the rest of my time on rest and recovery, fun, loving life, and building my business.
Your flexibility routine
I try to do a light stretch every night before I go to bed (if I haven't had rehearsal that day). I wasn't born with a ballerina body, so I'm naturally very tight. I do what I can to stay loose, but I don't use any extreme measures. I also find that, contrary to popular belief, I'm the most flexible after I do my strength training exercises.
So, I like to warm up with a few exercises before rehearsal so that I'm better able to access my full range of motion. I've also noticed that the stronger I've gotten through the years, the better able I am to use my natural flexibility and extensions.
What keep you motivated?
My current quest is vulnerability and staying open. I've spent so much of my life hiding away because I felt like I wasn't good enough and feared that people were judging me. I've finally healed myself enough so that I don't want to hide anymore. So, I'm on a quest to break down my walls and put myself out there.
My favorite author and inspiration at this point is Brene Brown and her books "The Gifts of Imperfection" and "Daring Greatly." Besides her, my boyfriend is amazingly supportive and serves as an endless inspiration and source of knowledge. I would not be where I am today without him.
What are your future plans/goals/dreams?
My future plans/goals/dreams are quite simple and broad actually. I want to soak as much pleasure and experience out of this life as possible while leaving my mark on the world. This means staying open to life, living in the moment, and sharing my story.
Any tips for passionate people starting out ballet ?
Don't underestimate the importance of strength to your ballet career. Strength is behind everything from technique, to extensions, to jumps, to speed, to pirouettes, to stamina, ect.
Also, enjoy your art! It's not a life or death situation...it's art, meant to bring beauty and inspiration into the world. So, don't take it too seriously and destroy your own happiness and self over it! Use your art to build you up rather than break you down!
I'm so passionate about helping other dancers break through their mental and physical barriers. I encourage anyone to reach out to me anytime to discuss the different ways we can work together. Through my own personal experience, I've learned that life is so much better when you learn to love yourself. And, I want to help you get to that point, too!
Feel free to sign up for my Bad Girl Ballerina Blog for mental and physical strategies to help you reach your next level of living! http://www.antibunheadfitness.com/#bgb-blog