“You Don’t Have to Choose Between Cookies and Fitness”: Dance M.F.A. Student and Personal Trainer Offers Tips on Home Exercise

Every day, people ask me what they can do to “get in shape” at home. One of my favorite lines is “I want to get fit, but I love (insert comfort food)! I just can’t help myself when I’m stressed.” It’s safe to say that we are experiencing astronomical stress right now, hunkering down in our homes, so not only do the cookies/pizza/nachos make us feel better, they’re also steps away. All the time. Spoiler: you don’t have to choose between cookies and fitness.

Generally speaking, most people who are out of their normal routine (and who isn’t right now?), or who have never subscribed a regular fitness program, set a HUGE goal to meet, give a thousand percent, get injured or frustrated (or both), and end up back on the couch in a matter of days or weeks. Add the mental turmoil of watching the news and re-learning how to exist in society during a pandemic, and the motivation to try again is all but gone.

So, how do we get off the couch and into a routine? My answer is always: baby steps.

Moderation is key, to everything. I love cookies. I love wine. I love pizza! I’m also addicted to my bed, reading the news, and kissing my hairless dogs. I could easily spend hours enjoying any of these things nonstop but that would end up making me sick, anxious, and ineffective at the rest of my life (except maybe kissing the dogs). Same goes for exercise – it’s neither healthy nor sustainable to disrupt your entire life to meet a fitness or wellness goal.

So, grab a snack, something on which you can make notes, and get comfy while we make a plan together.

First thing: Identify your goal.

Do you need to stretch and move your body? Do you want to burn calories? Would you like to feel stronger? Regardless of the goal, setting a realistic and specific intention is paramount. Now write it down.

Second: Make the journey fun.

My primary suggestion for people who have lost motivation, become deconditioned, or have trouble sticking to a fitness program is to find something enjoyable to do that involves moving your body. It’s really that simple: if you approach exercise as a task or as punishment (bad) for enjoying pizza (good) your inner rebel will resist.

Remember what you enjoyed when you were a kid? It counts as exercise now.

Think: skateboarding, rollerskating, riding a bike, walking outside (especially on hills), hiking, dancing, hula hooping. These are things you can do for long periods of time at a steady state, which means lots of calories burned. AND, steady state cardio keeps you in a fat-burning heart rate zone.

Next to your intention, make a list of the activities you enjoy that you have the equipment to perform where you are right now.

Third: Set attainable goals!

Most of us make huge goals (great!) but no step-by-step plan to follow to get there. Start with scheduling 10 minutes a day outside or just laying on a yoga mat. Ten minutes won’t interrupt your day or cause you to reschedule anything. As you begin to enjoy your time and plan around your activity, add a few minutes when you can. Soon, that 10 minutes will become 30 or 45 and you will look forward to it.

Schedule an activity into your day that feels like a reward for getting up a little earlier or scheduling a little time for yourself before lunch or after work (or these days, putting on pants or brushing your teeth). Those hills on Hollins’ campus have some gorgeous views that make the trek worth it – and you’ll strengthen your legs and heart at the same time. Make a playlist or save the next episode of your favorite podcast to listen to – employ as many of your senses as you can and the time will not just be enjoyable, but pass quickly.

Now, grab your scheduler, find the places where you have time to fill, and make an appointment with yourself to spend 10 minutes in a place you enjoy at the same time each week.

Fourth: Be smart.

Safety is key when you’re not working with an instructor or trainer. These seemingly tiny details are what can make or break your routine: Keep water handy if you will be outside for long periods of time; wear good shoes if you are performing high-impact activities (i.e., running); go at a pace and within a range of motion that doesn’t cause pain; dress appropriately for the activity; warm up, and cool down.

Note: Many of us have trouble finding motivation to work out alone – I certainly do. If I didn’t have clients who paid me to train them remotely right now, I’d be hard-pressed to get out of my jammies at all. Group fitness classes offer social stimulation in addition to kick-ass workouts.  Online livestreamed group workouts are everywhere, for every level (and you can turn your camera off if you don’t want to be seen but want to enjoy the group).

So! Some ideas and resources for you:

  • Walking (briskly…in a cute new activewear combo that makes you feel ahhhmazing).
  • Zumba (my guilty pleasure) – so many free videos!
  •  Jazzercise (my other guilty pleasure – don’t tell anyone) – right now you can get two weeks of online classes for free!
  • Yoga: Gaia has streaming classes anywhere from 15 minutes long to two hours (Who has time for that?? Not me.) for all levels! You could leave a mat at work and do 15 minutes before lunch.
  • With me! I lead short Pilates mat classes on Facebook Live and post a daily and weekly “ab challenge” on Instagram and IG Live. Join in!
  • Lastly, perfect for social distancing, get a FitBit. You can set daily goals for steps, weekly goals for exercise, and make or join groups with people from all over the world to meet benchmarks together. They also happen to be on sale right now.

Above all, be kind to yourself. Be patient. Wash your hands. Make time for fun.

 

Courtney Collado is a professional dancer, personal trainer, and master Pilates instructor from New York City, currently living in Kansas City, Missouri. She is earning her M.F.A. through Hollins’ low-residency dance program, and when not in social isolation, is a practicing choreographer, dance teacher, and corrective movement specialist who enjoys kissing her hairless dogs, playing Just Dance with her eight-year-old son, and writing the newsletters for Missouri’s local Sister District chapter.

Instagram: @bendysweatyawesome

 

 

 

 

 


Dance Major Taking Commitment to Artistry, Social Justice to L.A. and London after Graduation

Epitomizing Hollins University’s enduring slogan artistically, geographically, and academically, Paris Williams ’18 is definitely going places after she graduates this spring.

The dance major, who hails from New Orleans, will be pursuing her Master of Fine Arts degree in choreography beginning in the fall of 2019 at London’s University of Roehampton, whose international status draws students and dance artists from around the world.

But before that, Williams is anticipating a very exciting and productive gap year more than 5,400 miles away. First, she’s been awarded a full scholarship to attend the Dance/USA 2018 Annual Conference, which takes place June 6 – 9 in Los Angeles. According to the conference website, the event enables participants to “network and learn from nearly 500 dance professionals including executive directors, artistic directors, emerging arts leaders, artists, agents, company managers, presenters, development and marketing staff, and more. Conference programming is shaped around issues of equity and justice, community and collaboration, audience development, and preservation and legacy.”

Then, Williams will remain in L.A. to complete a residency with No)one. Art House, an arts/dance collective that The Huffington Post reports “is one of the only black run contemporary dance organizations in the country. No)one’s aim is to shift the paradigm on how people view dance, art and people of color’s bodies….” Artsmeme.com called No)one, “another harbinger that incredible things are happening in dance in Los Angeles.”

Williams’ upcoming opportunities in Los Angeles and London are the culmination of a distinguished college career.

“During my time at Hollins,” she says, “I have interned twice with our M.F.A. program in dance, including going to the program’s residency in Frankfurt, Germany. I also took part in the Hollins London abroad program, and have been able to attend a variety of conferences on topics surrounding LGBTQ+, dance and performance, and other social justice initiatives.”

This year, Williams served as chair of the university’s Black Student Alliance and has also been the external chair for the Hollins Repertory Dance Company. During her four years she was also actively involved with Cultural and Community Engagement, the Batten Leadership Institute, the Office of Admissions, Housing and Residence Life, the Office of Student Affairs, and many other campus activities.

“Paris is a tireless leader and social justice advocate,” says Meredith Cope-Levy ’12, M.F.A. ’18, Hollins’ coordinator of alumnae events. “She has made incredible work during her time here.”

Williams in turn praises the Hollins dance program for providing her with the foundation for her accomplishments as an undergraduate.

“I give loads of love and gratitude to HollinsDance, especially [Associate Professor of Dance] Jeffery Bullock, for my dedication, growth, and success at this university.”


Student, Faculty Performers Take Center Stage at Spring Dance Works

A Hollins tradition continues as the university celebrates creativity and artistry in movement at the 2018 Spring Dance Works, which will be held Friday and Saturday, May 4 and 5, at 8 p.m. each evening in the Hollins Theatre. Admission is free.

The two-night event represents the culmination of studio practice efforts, scholarly research, and creative choreographic/performance compositions of students and faculty in the dance program. This year’s program also features a special performance by the Shenandoah Contemporary Dance Theatre.

At Hollins, dance majors learn to think of dance as a dynamic form, full of possibilities for growth and innovation. Members of the dance community are encouraged to discover, refine, and celebrate who they are as artists. The program offers outstanding technique classes and an international visiting-artist roster. Opportunities to perform and craft are abundant.

 


MFA Dance Alumna Is Named a 2018 USA Fellow

Dancer and choreographer Amara Tabor-Smith M.F.A. ’16 is one of 45 artists and collectives across nine creative disciplines announced as 2018 USA Fellows by United States Artists.

Recognized for their creative accomplishments, each fellow will receive an unrestricted $50,000 cash award, which they may use to support their ongoing artistic and professional development.

Tabor-Smith lives in Oakland, California, and serves as the artistic director of Deep Waters Dance Theater. She describes her work as “Afro Futurist Conjure Art,” and her dance-making practice utilizes Yoruba spiritual ritual to address issues of social and environmental justice, race, gender identity, and belonging. Her current project, House/Full of Blackwomen, is a multi site-specific dance theater work that addresses the displacement, well-being, and sex-trafficking of black women and girls in Oakland.

Tabor-Smith’s work has been performed in Brazil, the Republic of Congo, New York, and the San Francisco Bay Area, where her company is based. She is an artist-in-residence at Stanford University and is a member of the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley.

USA Fellowships are awarded to artists at all stages of their careers, and from every corner of the United States, through a rigorous nomination and panel selection process. Spread across all creative disciplines including Architecture & Design, Craft, Dance, Media, Music, Theater & Performance, Traditional Arts, Visual Art, and Writing, the fellows represent a broad cross-section of the best of American arts and letters.

“I could not be more thrilled with the 2018 USA Fellows, or with the tremendous artistic output, and potential, they represent,” said United States Artists President and CEO Deana Haggag. “They produce some of the most moving, incisive, and powerful artistic work in the country, and it is our privilege to honor them. Collectively, they are a reminder of the beauty produced by hardworking artists on a daily basis, too much of which is often overlooked.”

Founded in 2006 by the Ford, Rockefeller, Rasmuson, and Prudential Foundations, United States Artists is among the largest providers of unrestricted support to artists working and living in the U.S. To date, the organization has provided more than $22 million in the form of unrestricted $50,000 awards directly to more than 500 artists working in all disciplines and at every career stage.

 


Hollins M.F.A. in Dance to Partner with The Forsythe Company, Frankfurt University of Music and Performing Arts

mfadanceBeginning in the summer of 2014, Hollins University’s master of fine arts (M.F.A.) program in dance will collaborate with one of the world’s leading dance companies and an internationally acclaimed German university of performing arts.

The M.F.A. program is partnering with renowned choreographer William Forsythe’s The Forsythe Company and the Frankfurt University of Music and Performing Arts, both located in Frankfurt, Germany, to expand its students’ ability to engage with an international community.

“This new collaboration continues our history of innovative programming in research, education, and professional influence,” said Jeffery Bullock, program director. “We are committed to integrating our program with professional dance centers and metropolitan locations around the world.”

Hollins’ graduate program in dance offers a Year Residency Track, which is intended for recent graduates with an eye on the professional world of dance; a Low Residency – Two Summer Track, designed for mid-career artists, teachers, and dance professionals who must study in a limited time frame that accommodates their employment/performance schedule; and a Low Residency – Three Summer Track that serves emerging artists, teachers, and dance professionals. Previously, a course of European study was available only to students in the Year Residency Track, and the new alliances will enable Hollins to expand this experience to all students: They will spend five weeks on the Hollins campus and three weeks in Frankfurt.

Christopher Roman, former principal dancer with The Forsythe Company, will serve as the European study coordinator and will curate the three-week dance study and experience. He is a winner of the Faust Theatre Prize, Germany’s highest theatre honor, and has been a soloist and principal with ballet companies in Seattle, Miami, Montreal, and Philadelphia.

Ingo Diehl, professor and director of the contemporary dance program at the Frankfurt University of Music and Performing Arts, will also work closely with the M.F.A. program.

“Using the resources of multiple institutions, our students and faculty are able to establish a unique community of committed artists and scholars who range in ages and experiences and are working to sustain their careers and deepen their relationship to dance,” Bullock said. “We are providing students with a wide range of opportunities and mentorships as well as exposure to other practitioners in the international dance field.”


M.F.A. in Dance Student Wins AAUW Career Development Grant

lewisLeila Anglin Lewis, a student in Hollins University’s Master of Fine Arts program in dance, has been awarded a Career Development Grant by the American Association of University Women (AAUW).

AAUW presents Career Development Grants annually as a way to help empower women in furthering their careers.

“We’re so proud to continue this wonderful legacy and to salute this new class of fellows and grantees,” said Gloria Blackwell, AAUW vice president of fellowships, grants, and global programs. “They now join the ranks of Nobel Prize winners, celebrated authors, social entrepreneurs, and prominent scholars who have used AAUW funding to advance equality for women and girls.”

Lewis, who resides in Greensboro, North Carolina, is an arts administrator, dance artist, and community advocate. Her vision is to create a life-affirming community wholeness center that houses an arts ecosystem and a family centered birthing center. In addition to pursuing her M.F.A. in dance at Hollins, Lewis is studying to become a certified professional midwife.

Lewis will use her AAUW Career Development Grant to research a paper focusing on the contextualization of the movement-based works of literary artists Zora Neale Hurston and Ntozake Shange. The grant will also support work on her thesis, which will draw parallels between the history of Samba, a Brazilian music and dance form, and the phases of womanhood according to the womb.

AAUW is one of the world’s leading supporters of graduate women’s education, having awarded nearly $100 million in fellowships, grants, and awards to more than 12,000 women from more than 130 countries since 1888.


Mary-Carmen Webb ’15 Experiences “the Most Freeing Feeling I’ve Ever Had” through Hollins Dance

webbDuring a sometimes challenging transition from dancer to choreographer, Mary-Carmen Webb ’15 understandably might have been skeptical if someone had predicted her work would someday be showcased at a renowned regional dance festival. Nevertheless, Webb would go on to create an original piece, I met you in a kitchen, which was selected for the Gala Performance at the American College Dance Festival (ACDF) 2014 Mid-Atlantic Conference. The event was held in March at the George Mason University School of Dance in Fairfax.

“When I started choreographing, I had a lot of conflict with myself,” the Hollins junior from Roanoke recalls. “‘Will people like this? Is this pleasing? Will it be received well?’ I wrestled with that for a long time until I figured out that in order for me to be able to choreograph, I really have to be inside myself and accept how I move is not necessarily how other people see me moving. What people think of me is not how I really am, what I can really do.”

Before she went to college, Webb already had a decade of experience as a ballet dancer. But during rehearsals for a performance with the Roanoke Ballet Theatre, she worked with four dancers from Hollins who, she says, opened her eyes to new possibilities.

“I had always taken ballet and I was trying to find a different movement style I would enjoy. When I met them, it was exactly what I wanted and it piqued my interest a lot.” One of the dancers urged her to apply to Hollins; it ultimately became her first choice among the colleges and universities she was exploring.

“Hollins Dance is unlike anything else I have experienced. I took classes at other colleges and found them to be very competitive. [At Hollins] it’s like a family, they’re very welcoming. They all want to see you make it. They really encourage you to be the best you can be and take responsibility for your own education. It’s nice not to have someone pushing you and telling you where you should go. They have confidence in you.”

Webb says got the idea for I met you in a kitchen from reading about “viewing the dancing body as an x-ray. I then made up a few gestures for a transparent body.” The piece subsequently evolved into three sections with three dancers where “the first half of it, I had different gestures where it seemed we had our own form of communication and were inside of a different world, but it was something you could tell we had always been used to. The second half was really about dislocating that body from its original language, its history, and where it had been before.

“The piece as a whole is very bittersweet and has a sense of mortality to it. It’s also about relationships because that always finds its way into my work somehow.”

Webb guided kitchen through several informal performances last fall to get feedback from faculty and students. Associate Professor of Dance Jeffery Bullock and Instructor of Dance HeJin Jang then chose it to be shown at the annual Fall Dance Works in December, and later recommended it for the 2014 ACDF regional conference, even though officially, the piece didn’t have an ending.

“The ACDF contract required that we rehearse three hours every week just so they could see we were continuing to work on it,” Webb says. “It was really helpful for me because I don’t have very long rehearsals. Having to do three hours was like, ‘My gosh, what are we going to do?’ I split it up over two, sometimes three days, and I would actually have 30 to 45 minutes to myself in the studio before I would ask the girls [Caitlyn Lewis ‘17 and Molly McCambridge ‘14] to come in and rehearse. That helped me push myself to find the endpoint for that dance.”

At the ACDF regional conference, Webb, Lewis, and McCambridge danced first before a panel of adjudicators, who would select the works that would be featured at the Gala Performance. “Each night they have a feedback session where they talk about what they saw, what they think needs work, what they liked. It was very exciting, but the newness of it was kind of nerve wracking,” Webb explains. “When we were backstage right before we were about to go on to perform, I was like, ‘You know what, girls? Even if we mess up, it’s okay. I’m just really happy we are here.’ I wasn’t even thinking about the Gala – ‘I’m probably not going to get chosen, but I’m going to use the opportunity I have to perform to empower my work.’”

That philosophy would serve Webb and her fellow dancers well. Technical problems impacted the audio of the two recorded songs that are essential to the piece, and the end of the dance had to be performed in silence. Undaunted, they continued their routine.

“I was so proud to have those girls dancing with me. I wouldn’t have wanted anybody else. They essentially said, ‘We’re not going to have any music, it’s not going to be the full effect, but we’re just going to work it.’ And they danced their little hearts out.

“I was scared to go to feedback because I thought they were going to tear apart the fact that all my music cues were messed up. But, they didn’t say anything about them. One of the adjudicators said, ‘I liked how you faded in the music and then it faded out again.’ That wasn’t supposed to happen!”

The adjudicators went on to say many other great things about kitchen and selected it for the Gala Performance the next evening.

“I told the girls, ‘I’m just so happy we get to perform this again and perform it in the way it should be performed,’” Webb says. “For me, it was probably the most freeing feeling I’ve ever had, being able to perform again in front of an audience and knowing there was something in my work the adjudicators wanted to see again.”

Webb is continuing to take her work into some wonderfully unexpected places.

“The piece I’m working on right now is actually for my biology class, ‘Plants and People.’ We were assigned a research paper relating plants to something that interests us, and I figured, ‘Oh, I might as well do it to dance.’ The professor agreed, so I’m going to create a dance, film it, and present it in class. It’s probably the most I’ve researched one of my ideas, so I’m reading a lot about the human body as a biological being.

“I’m inspired by different things. But, I think it’s because I’m so visual that I’m often inspired by things I see versus an idea in my head.”