Being Selfish?

Photo by Tino Prado. (During rehearsal at Tampa City Ballet.)

Photo by Tino Prado. (During rehearsal at Tampa City Ballet.)

When you grow up having lots of success as a dancer (and many important failures) you can, of course, have this sense of selfishness as your accomplishments grow bigger and bigger. However, an essential part of being a great dancer and having a good reputation in your career is the aspect of being humble.

Humbleness cannot miss within a dancer’s attitude towards her or his career. There are thousands of other young dancers out there that admire you, that look up to you, that wish to be like you. So, the way you are treating others and dealing with colleagues, artistic directors, and fans, impacts your image as a dancer immensely.

But I can talk more about being humble in a different post. Today, I would like to focus on the aspect of treating yourself, rather than when you are treating others.

Yes, all dancers (and people that have a big image for being an artist, athlete, or celebrity) need to have lots of humbleness as part of themselves; but how do these people get to where they are?

I think one of their “secrets” is that they are also a bit selfish.

Focusing on yourself 50, 60, or even 70% of the time, I think, can guarantee lots of good things, even when it is time to treat others. And this does not only apply to dancers but for non-dancers as well. Focusing on your body, your mental health, and your processes and routines, has a bigger impact than what you think.

On this 2019, I would like to stop focusing on others and start focusing on myself and my progress. As selfish as this might sound.

Haven’t you heard the phrase: “Love yourself first”?

The past year, I have been focusing on “what they will think” or “if I don’t send this email then such and such person will not have this.” I completely went off of thinking “how do I feel today,” “what do I need to do to feel better,” or “what do I have to do to improve this.”

I certainly think that, now at this crucial time of recovery, I just need to turn the focus to myself, my health, my ankle rehabilitation, and my technique recovery and improvement. Yes, the majority of the time dancers have to be humble, but there are times when it is crucial to stay selfish.

This is something I did not specifically mention in my 2018 Reflections, 2019 Goals post, but it is an aspect I would not only like to keep during 2019 but rather during my whole career (both dance and writing.)

Let’s see where this bit of selfishness takes me.

Time to recover!

Reflecting on 2018

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Every year is a lesson. And for me, 2018 was a roller coaster of emotions that gave me so many wake up calls.

It was definitely not a good year for me career-wise and health-wise, but I do want to reflect in both the positives and the negatives of 2018. I had so many hopes in December of 2017 and the fact that I could not make much happen made me really think about how I would like to accomplish things from now on.

Now that I am 21, “new year resolutions” are more desirable as I become an adult, just like any other people my age. But I do not want to be one fo those people that fail with their unrealistic list. I would like to have certain goals, with defined steps on how to accomplish them.

First, we need to reflect on this past year. 2018 happened so fast, and with more reason, I am able to remember almost everything I did this year. I am happy to share this with you, so you could maybe be inspired to do the same and hopefully not failing by mid-January.

While writing these, I realised that I actually have more positives points than negative, even though I consider 2018 to be one of the hardest years.

How was my 2018?

Here are the major things that I accomplished during the year, with which I can reflect on and continue developing through 2019:

  • In the few months before I got injured, I got to improve my technique and accomplish ballet variations I have never been able to achieve before, such as the Lilac Fairy.

  • I learned how to move differently, having my first performances of contemporary dance and modern ballet, both in a short ensemble piece and a full-length performance.

  • I got to develop my acting skills performing as “Carabosse” in The Sleeping Beauty, a role I never imagined myself portraying.

  • I simplified my life through minimalism. I decluttered most of my closet and donated lots of stuff. I can say that if I move again, I will be able to fit everything in a few suitcases or boxes.

  • I finally got to understand some of the best ways I can nourish my body. I decided to finally turned to a plat-based way of eating, and it is definitely the best for my digestive system and energy levels.

  • I launched my podcast, “Beyond the Corps,” which is definitely a project I love pursuing.

  • The idea of expanding the domain “Beyond the Corps” surged a few weeks ago, and I cannot wait to keep creating more and more content for the ballet and dance community.

  • I developed extra business skills while working for the company behind the scenes. Now I know that even the smallest of companies have a long, delicate process to make a performance happen.

What was the negative?

Well, here are the things that went a bit off…

  • Of course, the biggest unfortunate event of 2018 was my tendon injury. I had a small tear on my Peroneus Brevis tendon, since April, and it happened during petite allegro in ballet class. I stopped for four months, went back onstage (just contemporary dance), and fell back again to feeling bad. Then, I had a cast for three and a half weeks. Now that it is off, I will start a patient process of physical therapy once again at the beginning of 2019.

  • Because of the injury, it has been exactly nine months since I have been on pointe.

  • For the first time, I got to experience a period off-dance. While this time is great for reflecting on the art form itself and look at it differently, it was definitely an emotional roller coaster. Frustration and anxiety dominate the mind, and I crave to dance every day.

  • Of course, some personal issues can be listed here, but I am going to save that for my personal journal instead of posting them online.

On this 2019…

I am planning this to be a year in which, as selfish as it sounds, I focus on myself. At this time of my “young adult” life, I am craving many things such as a successful jump-start of a bigger professional career, independence, and financial stability. However, I am clear that I cannot achieve any of these aspects if I don’t focus on myself first.

Here are my simple priorities for the year:

  • Injury Recovery (How? By correctly implementing my physical therapy exercises as well as being patient when coming back to ballet class.)

  • Keeping on a healthy food plan (How? By keeping a healthy food shopping list, cooking at home, and not restricting myself to certain foods.)

  • Have a consistent conditional exercise routine that aids my ankle and overall technique (How? By scheduling certain times of the day in which I dedicate to accomplishing these types of exercises. I am going to schedule at least one hour a day, five days a week for these exercises.)

  • Have an organised writing and content schedule (How? Trough scheduling exact times during the day/week to dedicate solely to Claudia’s Journal and Beyond the Corps.)

  • Keeping on simplifying my life through minimalism and intentional living (How? By consistently reviewing my processions, my routines, my relationships, and decluttering what is not necessary.)

  • Spend less time on social media (How? By scheduling certain times on the day to scroll and post on social media.)

  • Read at least a chapter of a book a day in order to read more books this year (How? I will certainly make time in the day to read at least a chapter, especially at night, where I should exchange time on my phone for time with a book.)

Well there you go. My reflections on 2018 and my intentions for 2019. What are yours?

I hope that everyone has a fantastic start of the New Year, no matter how you celebrate it. Try to journal or write down your intentions for next year. Don’t make them as impossible resolutions, but rather, like I said, as goals you can accomplish with their specific ways on how to achieve them.

Happy New Year!

Injury Update: A Cast?

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I have had a cast for the last three weeks.

You may be asking, why do I have a cast NOW, if the injury happened in April and I was supposed to be back dancing?

Well, it is indeed a long story. But this cast has not stopped me to think about bringing new things to the internet, create new content, and plan exciting things I hope will be successful for my platform and career.

After dancing back on stage this past October, I started feeling like I will take a risk and start jumping again. My plan was to start with little jumps in class after the performance season was over at the end of the month. However, after we danced at the last venue, my foot started to feel not as safe anymore. The pain was coming back during certain movements, and the bottom of my arch was also starting to bother (beginnings of plantar fasciitis.)

Then, I traveled to New York City for five days (NYC vlog coming soon on my YouTube Channel!), and naturally, took classes at Steps. This was the moment where I realised I needed a second opinion, this time from a good sports doctor. Once I landed in Tampa, I called a doctor I knew will have a specific answer for what is happening.

I was terrified to imagine myself having an ankle surgery to repair the tendon, but I wanted to do everything I could to feel better and be as healthy as I could do what I love the most.

On November 26th, the doctor told me that everything on the MRI was good, no signs of tears but lots of inflammation. There were signs of fluids around the injured area as well. He then asked me, how long was I in a boot? or a cast? And then I proceeded to say that my foot was never immobilised since the injury happened.

His recommendation? A cast for three weeks for the foot to heal properly. After that, we will see what the next steps in Physical Therapy will be.

I am traveling this Friday to Miami to get the cast removed, and a future blog post will come with the next steps.

I can definitely say that being with a cast and walking with crutches is indeed no fun, and taking a shower has been the biggest challenge so far during these three weeks. What I wish the most is that the foot heals properly now, and I will not care about anything else until I feel safe and healthy to dance.

For those dancers out there that are in the same or a worse situation, the best thing I can recommend is that you have patience. Injuries are part of our package of being a dancer, and they are common. We are all humans, and we cannot expect our body to work perfectly all the times.

Take care of your body, as it is your only instrument as a dancer. And we only get one for life.

Journey to a Healthy Body: Daily Self-Care

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I am focusing on what I can do outside the studio for the daily care of my body and mind. 

Dancers are in constant maintenance, and one thing I have learned through the years of my young career is that we need constant oil for our engine for good functionality.

It is important to work hard at the studio attending classes and rehearse daily as well as, like I said in my Conditioning post, do complimentary exercises at the gym or take a Pilates class to support our technique.

However, self-care is a massive topic I will love to get into. Sometimes we get distracted and forget about our physical and mental health, and this affects our careers and personal lives tremendously.

I am working on establishing my complimentary exercises to support my technique (especially at this time of recovery), and I am very happy with how it is turning out: Light cardio sessions three times a week with a good stretching/conditioning gym session, Pilates twice a week, physiotherapy twice a week, and ice every night. (I can talk about this routine/update on a later post).

But yes, I do forget to take care of myself on a bigger scale. I need to understand that because the mind works tirelessly every day, I need to set a time to reset and recover during the week.

That little "time-off" is so necessary.

Reading a good book more often, taking a break from social media, decluttering my space, meditation, journaling, better skin care, maintaining a nourishing food plan, and going to bed earlier are some I would love to integrate into my life more often.

I not only need these as a dancer but also as a human being.

As hard as we work, dancers are humans as well, and we need these times of resetting in order to perform our duties better and better every day.  

I will keep you updated on my routines. For now, let's grab a pen and start writing and setting that self-care routine that your body desperately needs after a good week of sweat at the studio.

GALLERY: My Warm Up Routine before Ballet Class

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When I was 14 years old and changed to a bigger ballet school, I realized that the other students got there before me and were stretching, warming up. Before that, I used to get to ballet just in time, put on my shoes, and rehearse.

Certainly not an ideal thing for a dancer, but when you are young you don't really pay attention to the importance of preparing your body. So there I was, surrounded by my friends chatting while doing theraband exercises, stretchings on the floor, and light core strength repetitions. And me? Nothing.

After this, I established my warm-up routine. I started to get to the studio earlier, and in a few weeks, my new habit became a huge a priority. I realized that I felt better in class and were able to do things easier.

In the beginning, I went to the extreme and established my warm-up time to be one hour long even longer. I have experimented with shorter and longer exercises, as well as different stretches. Of course, now it varies every day according to how I feel. I went then from 45 minutes to 30, and back to an hour, maybe some days even 15 minutes (it also depended on how early I got to the studio).

Now that I am 21 and coming back to class after a huge gap of recovery, I am back with the 45 minutes to an hour routine. I go from the bottom up, starting with my feet and finishing with core and back.

Here are my exercises as for now:

 

1. Waking up the body with rolling the muscles

My foam roller and my little green massage ball have become my best friends. I start by cracking all the bones I can (dancers, you get me). Then, I take my foam roller and roll my back, hips, and legs. This way, I make sure their circulation is flowing. I end this rolling routine with my green ball, first massaging and putting pressure on my hip flexors, any tight areas, and finally the bottom of my feet. Which takes me to the next step.

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2. Feet warm-up

Like Steven McCrae always says: if his feet are not warm, he does not feel ready at all.

Warming up my feet is a crucial part of my warm-up, and I probably take the longest time here (15-20 minutes). With my theraband, I start with my toes and then exercise my ankles in all directions. With my injury, I am focusing on this part much more and make sure I do them correctly, adding some physical therapy here and there.

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3. Calf, hamstring and quad stretches

Oh, legs... It feels good when they are lengthening, and especially before class. I make sure I stretch each and every one of these three parts. Lately, if I don't do these correctly, I feel tight, tired, and with no flexibility, feeling them heavier than they really are. 

*I forgot to take a photo of my quad and hamstring stretches :(

 
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4. Hips and inner thighs

Opening up the hips are also a crucial part of my routine. As turnout becomes harder and harder while I take off my bad habits of dancing turned-in, stretching those inner muscles are such a relief and it will always help you to achieve a better turnout.

Light straddle, grand pliés in second position, froggy or butterfly, and a "meditation position" are great to achieve a good hip/inner thigh stretch.

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5. Back and abs

The core is crucial to keep strong, and I have been on an adventure discovering how I can strengthen it. Moreover, my back is probably the weakest part of my body, so I need to make sure I am ready for my hardest positions: arabesques and attitudes. After doing some torso stretches, I do light abs, light back exercises, and planks.

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Well, I think I covered everything. The goal is to target the whole body. I might do more or less depending on the days, and sometimes I vary the stretches. Overall, these are the targets I focus on before ballet class.

But I want to know how is your routine: what do you do differently and how do you target your body before class?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!