I first discovered Ms. Mahallia‘s lovely blog through Instagram (oh, the joys of social media) earlier this week, and fell hard and fast for her clean photography and unrelenting positivity. Mahallia, a dancer with the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago, writes her blog as a means to keeping “on ballence“, and her honest approach to life- both in and out of the studio- is totally refreshing. A complete willingness to share and quick composition only impressed me further, as I happily introduce this guest post from Ms. Ward herself, just days after (cyber)meeting her (thanks again, internet!). Read on for her 10 tips to a balanced summer…
“During the second act of the twenty-fifth show of The Nutcracker, I dream of summer. I long for it on tour, when I’ve had a bit too much of my close-like-family coworkers. I ache for it as I trudge through the slushy streets of Chicago in February. Summer can be warmth and rest and hope. But for a dancer, it is also a balancing act. Here are my thoughts on making the most of both work and rest during the off-season.
- Gather inspiration: Be inspired by the sun, the ocean, by fresh summer meals, and music in the park. See as much art and dance as possible. Take advantage of YouTube. Look up the repertoire for next season and get excited. Remind yourself what a beautiful thing it is to be a dancer.
- Be your own boss: It can be easy to bail on yourself in the summer. You plan on taking class, but the weather’s too gorgeous to be inside. You plan to eat healthfully, but it’s ice cream season and what does life evenmean without ice cream in the summer? You’ve got to be your own boss. Decide what you would like to accomplish with your time, and accomplish it.
- Be reasonable: My husband and I are going on a two week adventure in Iceland soon (!!!). These are my goals for the trip: climb a glacier, soak in a hot spring, take in the views, find an Icelandic cow and milk it. You know, achievablegoals.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff: I usually put on a little weight in the summer. There it is. As dancers, we are so tuned in to our bodies that “a little weight” can feel like the end of the world. Ironically, it can make you want to avoid class, training, and even thinking about the beginning of next season. But really,it’s no. big. deal. Please don’t fixate. You’ll feel great in no time. Stay happy, keep working.
- Cross train: Trying different forms of exercise is a great way to maintain your fitness while allowing injuries to heal. Swimming is fun and low impact, a great summery workout. Yoga is helpful for maintaining flexibility and placement. And I love a light run for cardio, muscle toning, and the endorphin boost.
- Give yourself class: Depending on where you’ll be spending your layoff, classes can be hard to find. You may not have a sprung floor or full mirrors, but learn to give yourself barre anywhere. It might not feel like you’re doing enough, but daily check-ins make all the difference.
- Approach training in a new way: Pick an area of technique to focus on over the summer. It could be taking barre on pointe, or pulling up under your bum (all the time), or refining your port de bras. Don’t try to improve everything at once. I usually don’t feel like I’m progressing at all over the summer, but once the season gets underway, I start to notice a difference (however small) in the area that I’ve worked on.
- Give your time to others: I boarded at a ballet conservatory in high school. Every summer I would come home only to spend most of the break wrapped up in my own head. I would stress about staying in shape to the point of missing out on valuable experiences with my family. Instead of obsessing over my body and my professional future, I should have been bonding with my baby brother and four younger sisters. During a layoff you have more time to love your loved ones. Be careful not to use it all up on yourself.
- Do not compare your summer or yourself to others: When you see your friends doing guestings, intensives, traveling, or otherwise succeeding at summer, don’t let that take away from your own experiences. You do you.
- Shake negativity: It doesn’t matter what it’s about. It doesn’t matter if it’s justified. Negativity is always useless. I have to constantly remind myself that I am separate from my negative thoughts and feelings. I imagine my self-doubt and criticism as little demons who get inside my head and cling to me- who attack my vulnerabilities and bring me down. As soon as I recognize these feelings as separate from myself, it becomes easy to banish them. I literally tell my demons (sometimes out loud), “Get away from me! I don’t need you!” Yes, it sounds ridiculous. Yes, I crack myself up a little in the process. This is what works for me. Find your way.
Ultimately, everyone is different. I’ve gathered these bits of advice from my own mistakes and triumphs. Every summer is an opportunity to learn something about yourself. Have fun with it.”
all photos by Mahallia Ward.