i changed my breakfast

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I am a creature of habit.  I don’t easily tire of routines, and when I find a recipe or food I like, I will often eat it every day until the season’s agricultural tide urges change.  That being said, every now and again a friend will recommend something (the breakfast bowl that inspired the image above has become one of my favorites) and it will scramble up my whole pattern in the most refreshing way.

Recently, two of my best friends have been raving about steel cut oats.  Their promise of a fuller, nuttier flavor and more robust consistency (as opposed to traditional rolled oats) finally wore me down; it was time for this creature of habit to break the mold.img_9564

Though they take quite a bit longer to prepare (about 20 minutes versus the 5 minute cook time for old fashioned rolled oats), those little steel cut morsels really are a game changer.  My mornings have me feeling stronger and more energized throughout the rehearsal day.  I’ve been mixing in some flax seeds as my oats cool, to give them even more substance, and a secret ingredient for an added boost…img_9563

DanceFoods is the first superfood blend made specifically with dancers in mind.  It contains a mix of maca root, raw cocoa, goji berries and plant protein, all sourced from small farmers growing chemical/hormone free plants.  That’s all of the organic antioxidants and energizing goodness, and none of the extra junk!

The blend was conceptualized by a former professional dancer who felt the stress of long rehearsal days weighing on him.  With little time to prepare an adequate lunch, he could feel himself growing weaker.  His solution was to create this blend, providing dancers with a quick way to digest the essential vitamins we so often miss out on.

A dancer’s body is her instrument, and taking care of that instrument begins on the inside.  To get the best fuel possible, I’ve been cooking up some oats every morning and mixing the superfood blend right in.  I top the whole shebang with some berries and cinnamon et voila!  My routine has transformed.  img_9557

DanceFoods is offering Setting The Barre readers a 10% discount on their first purchase!  Use the code ‘settingthebarre’ at checkout.img_9561

the {whole} dancer

but-julie-kent-says-that-her-3-copyOne of the topics I spend a lot of time complaining about discussing here on Setting The Barre is the mental strength required in professional ballet.  Dancers are faced with a bevy of intellectual choices every day, the results of which will effect them physically and emotionally- both long and short term.  As time goes on and ballet evolves, more and more is being expected of young dancers, from seemingly unattainable technique to tear-provoking artistry.  But, with the increasing of the years (I see you, 2016), comes an increase in resources available to us in the ballet world.  Can you imagine a ballet career supported by a community of artists all experiencing a similar lifestyle, led by an informed and caring coach?  Jessica Spinner, creator of The Whole Dancer, can, and today she’s here to share that vision with us…

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The Whole Dancer coach and creator, Jessica Spinner, in her dancing days

Kirsten:  Hi Jess! Thanks so much for taking the time to share your exciting new program with us. First could you tell us a bit about yourself and your dance background?

Jess:  I started dancing late, around age 12, at The American Theatre Dance Workshop, the official school of the Eglevsky Ballet. I spent summers at the Kirov Academy, Boston Ballet, NCSA, ABT in New York, and Orlando Ballet on scholarship. I went on to study Dance and Arts Administration at Butler University. Upon graduation, I started dancing with the Louisville Ballet, but after a few years, missed being on the east coast so much I moved to Boston and started freelancing. During my time in Boston, a severe Sesamoid injury ultimately ended my professional dancing career.

K:  So you transitioned.  What inspired you to start this unique community for dancers?

J:  I started Health Coaching in 2013 as a generalist. It was really wonderful helping women of varying backgrounds find health and balance, but something was missing.

There was this inkling in the back of my mind that I should be working with dancers because I so deeply understood what they deal each day. Looking back, my years dancing were profoundly imbalanced and unhealthy and I did not deal well with the pressure I was putting on myself or feeling from artistic directors.

I decided to reach out to friends who are still in the dance world or those who have recently retired just to make absolutely sure I was not alone in struggling with major insecurities as a dancer. The overwhelming response was that my colleagues could have benefitted so greatly from a coaching program. And so, The Whole Dancer was founded.

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TWD member Amber Ray, professional level student at the John Cranko Schule in Stuttgart, Germany

K:  What exactly is The Whole Dancer program?

J:  The Whole Dancer is an 8–week group program created to help dancers learn skills outside the studio (that can be applied inside the studio) to help them have healthier, more balanced careers. The information is divided into 6 modules including vision and goal setting, eating well, cross–training, personal assessment, self love/care and career development.

I have found that these are areas where dancers could use more guidance and they don’t often get it in the school or company setting. Unless they have a dedicated mentor or coach with a dance background, dancers must navigate a lot of stress alone.

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TWD member Abby Zinsser, professional level student at Richmond Ballet

K:  Being enrolled in the fall session of TWD, I really loved listening to your webinars. The discussions felt so relatable and specific to the needs of a ballet dancer. Which aspect of the program has been the most rewarding in your opinion? 

J:  So much of TWD Program has been so rewarding – I would say my favorite thing has been getting to know each dancer personally. Hearing from them that a worksheet or call opened their eyes to something new and how helpful it was fills my heart with joy.  Staying in touch with TWD Program participants and celebrating their successes together or coaching them through rejections gives me a great sense of purpose.

Teaming up with other dancers and hearing how supportive they are of The Whole Dancer’s objectives is also incredibly inspiring. I have had the pleasure of collaborating with Shelby Elsbree of Boston Ballet, former Colorado ballet dancer Casey Dalton, and Lauren King, Soloist with NYCBallet- to name a few.

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TWD mentor and Boston Ballet dancer Shelby Elsbree, shot by Kenneth B Edwards

K: I’m such a big Shelby fan.  A lovely person both inside and out, her contributions have been so spot on.  What else can dancers expect to get out of this program?

J: Through The Whole Dancer Program, dancers can expect to find greater confidence and assuredness in their abilities and futures.

They will learn skills that will be valuable throughout their careers and even into life after dance. I hope for participants to feel supported not only by me as their coach and Shelby as a mentor, but also by the strong community of their fellow dancers participating in the program.

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TWD member Amber Ray

K: That’s pretty exciting!  How can dancers get involved?

J:  Sign up for The Whole Dancer Program!  Or, for dancers who are already at a balanced, established and happy place in their dance careers and would like to share how they got there with a younger generation, reach out. If you would like to share what you’ve learned in a blog post or webinar I would LOVE to collaborate.

K: So, what’s next for The Whole Dancer?

J: On January 5 there will be a no – cost webinar on “Fearless Auditioning”. Whether dancers are going out for summer program auditions or company spots I hope to touch on some important ways to make this a successful and fun audition season!

The next 8-week session of The Whole Dancer Program begins on January 20. Enrollment is ongoing through January 17, 2016. The program can also be purchased as a gift for your dancer friends through December 23!

The second round of The Whole Dancer Program features a couple of new options for additional one–on–one coaching support. The BASIC program includes all community information and group seminar calls. The PRO option includes basic features plus feedback on all worksheets and the ELITE option includes basic and pro features as well as 2 one on one coaching calls. This option is a great way to have additional support in implementing the feedback you receive and finding major success in a short amount of time.

One of the elements of the January 16’ session that I am most jazzed about is the participation of Shelby Elsbree. Miss Elsbree will serve as an additional coach and mentor during the career module. Every time I’ve worked with Shelby, her insights have been profound and I am thrilled to team up with her for this upcoming program.

The Whole Dancer is constantly evolving and my ultimate goal is to serve the needs of dancers to the best of my ability. Future offerings will always reflect the feedback I receive from program participants and one on one coaching clients.

Thanks again, Jess!  If you’d like more information on The Whole Dancer, head on over to the website here.

Register for the January 2016

have a nice (long) weekend

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It’s been SUCH a long week, but I’m feeling so grateful for time spent with Sandy and Viktor (and Misha, too!).  Headed north this weekend for some autumn adventuring and much needed R&R.  What are you up to these days?  I’d love to hear…

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been personally victimised by rond de jambes.

Some beautiful shots at the Koch Theater, from Mr. Edwards.

How do you guys feel about overnight oats?  Thinking of giving them a go…

So sad to hear about the devastating floods in South Carolina, and the effect they have had on Radenko and his school.  Here’s how to help.

A new way of being.

Did anyone watch World Ballet Day? We’ve just started working with Viktor Plotnikov on a swan pas de deux, so this contemporary version of Swan Lake from the Scottish Ballet is feels very inspiring right now.

Understanding understudying.

Incredibly heartbreaking, but worth reading every single one.

nesting

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It seems my last post (the one where we discussed negativity) was relatable for more of you than I had anticipated.  Since so many were able to identify with the struggle of controlling interloping thoughts that are anything but happy, I thought it would be nice to share some tricks to keeping yourself balanced outside of the studio.

For the first installation of this balancing-act how-to, I’d like to focus on creating a zen space.  Having an area to yourself designated purely to relaxation and restoration is key to maintaining a healthy mind and body.  Much like a mom-to-be nesting in preparation of her baby’s arrival, I find immense satisfaction in building a nest of my own.  I’ve shared just a few photos of my new apartment previously (which I regularly refer to as the coziest place on earth), but my favorite spot therein has slowly become my bedroom.  I’ve been taking my time putting it together, adding special elements to up its relaxation factor.  A few things that are currently making it extra-snug…

A new mattress from Santa.  One word: plush.  And new sheets, too, because comfort is an extravagance I do not play around with.

String lights in leu of a headboard.  The soft glow of these warm lights makes me feel like I’m wrapped up in a warm blanket- perfect for lazy Sunday mornings spent blogging from my bed.  More fun lighting options here.

Heavenly scented candles. There’s something so comforting about the flicker of a candle.  I once told a friend that when I’m alone, I like to keep a candle burning because it’s subtle movement serves the same “white noise” purpose as a soft radio playing in the background of an empty house;  Its delicate dance creates a buffer between the apartment and me, filling the air with just a bit of motion produced by some source other than myself, and strangely enough, I feel less alone.  My friend looked at me like I was 100% crazy and we moved on, but I’m sticking to my story.  My favorite scents are this (whose sexy smell has earned it the nickname “man candle” amongst my friends and me) and this classic.

Artwork with personal meaning.  When I arrived home after opening night of Peter Pan last spring, there was a package for me at the door.  A very dear friend of mine who lives out of state had thoughtfully sent over a beautiful print depicting one of my favorite quotes from J.M. Barrie’s timeless story- “Just always be waiting for me”.  It’s deep hue and night sky theme make it perfect for hanging just above my bed, and every time I see it I am reminded not only of that magical performance weekend, but also of my lovely friend and her sweet gesture.  I also have a print from Viktor Plotnikov’s Orchis hanging near my bed to remind me of another favorite show.

Something uniquely “me”.  It’s obvious by now, I’m sure, how much Peter Pan means to me.  When I first saw the Haptic Lab “Wendy Darling” kite at the Catbird boutique in Brooklyn, my eyes turned into animated red hearts a la this infamous emoji.  It’s so light and ethereal, and with it hanging right above my bed, I am tugged back to a time where innocence prevailed and I imagined my dreams being carried from Neverland to my bedroom in an enchanted floating ship.  It’s eclectic, it’s strange, it’s a kite hanging in my home- but it’s me and I love it.

So, I’d love to know, do any of you nest like me?

PS- check out my new “Muse” status on the gwenythbrand website ;)

no sunlight

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There’s a running joke amongst us “dancer folk” poking fun at the ghostly pale ballerina complexion, a trademark only achieved by spending every last hour of daylight in the studio.  At FBP we even (lovingly) refer to the black-box-conversion studio as “the dungeon”, thanks to two thick, black curtains that block out any and all eager little rays of sunshine attempting to stretch their warmth down into the building.  But are our many days spent under fluorescents instead of sunlight putting us in danger?  New studies say they could be, and here’s why…

The sun provides us with an essential nutrient that contributes to high serotonin levels, strong bones, healthy hearts and even boosting the immune system: Vitamin D.  The crucial vitamin notes treating weak bones, bone pain, and bone loss as some of its main benefits, with aiding in muscle weakness and arthritis not far behind.  These are all issues that dancers deal with daily!  A study conducted for the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport followed 24 dancers at the Birmingham Royal Ballet as they danced between 6 and 8 hours a day (totalling nearly 38 hours a week).  The results revealed all of the dancers as being either Vitamin D deficient or insufficient in the winter months, with only a mere 15 % of the group sustaining normal levels of Vitamin D during the summer months.

After giving half of the dancers Vitamin D supplements and studying the effects, the results were too dramatic to go unreported.  The dancers taking supplements showed increased muscle strength, improved vertical jump performance, and perhaps most notably, they  suffered fewer injuries.  Of the 17 dancers taking Vitamin D, 12 claimed to be injury-free and only 5 reported sustaining 1 injury.  Of the dancers not taking the supplement, only 1 was found injury-free, with 5 others sustaining 1 injury, and 1 dancer suffering 2.

There were a lot of numbers being thrown around there, but what you really need to know here is that although the group of dancers being assessed in this study was small, the results are still convincing, and our next move is obvious: it’s time to take charge of our Vitamin D-intake.  If it can’t soften our vampire-like skin tones, at least it can protect us from injury.  So, spread the word, tell your mom, tell your teacher, tell your brother, sister, friend, cousin, dad, grandma, and her poodle.  Vitamin D supplements for all!

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deep breaths

Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath in and exhale all of the stress and negativity that you’ve been holding on to.  I love this post about the importance of breathing while dancing, and the following video of ballet dancers Sergei Polunin and Kristina Shapran improvising to to Satie Gnossienne’s No 1….in slow motion.  Enjoy, and breathe deep.

an update

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Hello, all!  Just thought I’d share a quick update on the status of my back injury…

This morning my mom and I drove up to Waltham, MA to see Dr. Lyle Micheli, whom we’ve heard more than a few wonderful things about.  Just as I’d been informed, Dr. Micheli knew all about how difficult finding my new arabesque will be, and how tiring it is to (attempt to) do port de bras without core strength.  A doctor who knows dancers- dream come true, no?!

So there’s good news and bad news.  The doc said this is one of those injuries that, at my age (a ripe 21 years), it is unlikely that this fracture will ever heal.  The good news?  It’s totally safe for me to continue progressively working my way back into the studio full-time!  Apparently my injury (and dancing with it) isn’t quite as rare and scary as I thought it was…did any of you know that Peter Martins sustained a similar spinal fracture during his dancing days?  And guess what, he still has it!

So there was a lovely bit of hope on this first Monday morning of autumn.  Feeling good. :)