Lessons from a Life Theatre, or, A Note to my Students

2010. Hedgerow Theatre. Rose Valley, PA.

I had choreographed the carol dances for A Christmas Carol. I researched on English country dances (think: Jane Austen), and set one for the Fezziwig ball and one for the end of the show. I had only been at Hedgerow a few months, being brought in to choreograph the world premiere of An American Tragedy. Penelope and I hit it off, she liked my work, and I agreed to do the season: Oliver!, A Christmas Carol, Godspell, and something else I’ve forgotten.


I fell in love with the theatre- with the people, the life, the stories. I found people who understood my love of literature, my desire to make art, my need to connect. I went to rehearsals when I wasn’t needed just to be a part of that world. In doing so, I learned the art of directing from watching Pen, the art of acting from watching my friends and young students, the art of connecting from watching a company put all of the elements together for a receptive community. One day, I realized just how much I had learned- on Christmas Eve, an actor didn’t come to the show. It was a small role, a solicitor, visiting Scrooge. And I was confident I had absorbed the lines, if not the character. I volunteered to go on. At first, the others laughed. I convinced them I was serious; I believed I could do it. I was a performer, after all. How hard was talking on stage, when I could dance en pointe?! So, I did. I did just fine. And, from that moment, I was an actor as well as a dancer. I knew it, Penelope knew it, and so did the rest of the company.


My start in theatre came through dance, as a member of the creative team. I loved watching something I created take a life beyond my vision and my teaching and become a part of something bigger. My start as an actor came through necessity and urgency.

2018. Curtain Call Playhouse. Pompano Beach, FL.

This past weekend I was reminded of this beginning. I got a phone call while I was drinking my coffee on Sunday morning. A hit-and-run accident the night before had left an actress in the company I am a part of with a concussion. It was a role I had read before; could I please read in for the matinee performance?

I was honored to be asked. To be asked to read in, one must have certain characteristics:

  • Capable of making good, instinctual choices- like those displayed in a cold read at an audition. This was the case for me. I had read the role in an audition, but then withdrew myself from consideration because of a conflict with the show dates. My audition read was memorable, and enough of what the director wanted, that she trusted it, and me, in performance.  

  • Works well others- cooperative and supportive. A cast that has rehearsed together ideally becomes a family. If a member of that family is injured, or has to leave for some reason, it is traumatic. The rest of the cast is worried about their friend and worried about their show. Someone who comes in must compassionate and competent. She should help to ease their worries, at least about the show, not add to them. Because her focus is on the show, and supporting the cast, she isn’t caught up in her own ego.

  • Deals with stress well- Reading in to a show is stressful for the new actor and the rest of the cast and crew. Cracking under pressure is not advised.

  • Has a reputation for responsibility- There is a saying in professional theatre that getting work is a combination of inspiration, perspiration, and reputation. A reputation for being on time, prepared, and the above points will keep you busy in theatre.

As I reflect on these things I’ve learned and lived over the past nearly 10 years, I know that theatre has given me so much.

Not every job is glamorous. Sometimes a job is that- a job. But, I do every job to the best of my ability, because it is my job, and I take pride in it. Below is a picture of me in Act 1 and Act 2 of the show I read in- great dressing rooms, great playing space. And, following, is a picture of the “dressing room” for the show I’m currently cast in (I had to bring my own mirror!). 

 Helga in  KinderTransport

Helga in KinderTransport

 My dressing room for 3 shows 2 weeks ago. 

My dressing room for 3 shows 2 weeks ago. 

Wherever you are, whatever your circumstances, do your best job. It will only reflect well on you. Be the actor with the good reputation, known for not only your skills onstage, but your reliability, responsibility and care for others. You’ll be glad for it.


Dancing Together v. Dancing at the Same Time

One of my freelance gigs is coaching a competitive salsa team. Not in salsa, mind you. That is not my forte. But I use my Laban work and my theatre experience to coach them in performance quality and characterization. For this coming season, I have another goal for them- ensemble. 

In the salsa scene, teams compete and they perform at Socials (events that include social dancing and performances). I recently attended a social, and I found I had a HUGE problem with many of the performances. These "teams" of dancers looked like anything but. They were all dancing the same choreography, at the same time. But they were not dancing together. There was a serious lack of ensemble. 

Ensemble is a tricky thing to teach. It is also difficult to maintain in a high pressure setting. So I do understand that it is difficult to get students or those new to performing to grasp it. But it is part of the "it factor" that sets apart a performance. You can feel it when it's there, and you can feel it when it's not.

When a team is dancing together, they draw the audience in. We see connections and we want to be a part of that. When a team is dancing at the same time, they alienate their audience. The audience is constantly reminded that this is a group of people doing choreography, not dancing together. They are constantly confronted with faces and body language that says "look at me, doing this cool thing!" Every member is out for his/herself. The audience feels overwhelmed because they are trying to watch 12 soloists, rather than 1 team. Visually and emotionally, it's way too much. Each member of the audience ends up watching only 1 person, or worse, stops watching altogether and is checking Facebook on her phone. 

When we dance together, we are part of a movement. We are part of tribe that rises, or falls, together. I can only look good, or do well, if I give you what you need to look good or do well. When we dance at the same time, I'm worried only about me, what I need to do or where I need to go next. And god help you if you are in my way. 

There is no loyalty, or true teamwork, in dancing at the same time. It is simply an individual feat of memorization and execution. Dancing together, now, that is a different matter. I must still have my individual part, but I must be willing to sacrifice it at any time to the rest of the whole. Otherwise, the team ceases to exist. 

Dancing, particularly social dancing, is about being together. It is about connection, and what connects us-- our bodies. We mediate this world in our bodies. In the world of dance this is very visibly true. When I dance simply at the same time as someone else, my body is not a means of connection. At best, it is a request to be seen. And that request is valid, don't get me wrong. Everyone wants to be seen, and validated, for who she is. But what is the good of being seen, if we don't see anyone else there to share the space with? At worst, it's a tool of self-indulgence. And there's a time and place for that, too. But it's not in partner dancing, where someone is trying desperately to connect to you. And definitely not on a team of partnerships. 

Creating an ensemble is creating connection. I can feel your energy, find your path, use your momentum-- all without using my eyes. So my eyes are free to find yours, to solidify our connections. My eyes are free to look out for my team. Or to invite the audience to join the dance. 

Press Release about my choreography as part of Global Water Dances 2017. 

See it here

Let's Review- Dance on TV

I've been doing research on Martha Graham for my Women Artists course for my PhD. Martha's been an obsession for me since college. I think I really identify with her because she started dancing in her teenage years, as did I. She wrote in an essay "The function of the dance is communication." And it remind me of this post from 2013. 

One of my students asked me this weekend if I had seen a recent episode of "So You Think You Can Dance". I told him I didn't believe in such things. Upon reflection, he deserved a better answer. And I know this is something that my fellow dance teachers and I discuss frequently, and can disagree on. 

I love what reality shows have done for the profile of dance in America. People see it. They enjoy it. More than they have done those things in the past. 

My problem is that reality TV is not translating into real life. Are more people going to dance concerts because of these programs? Are more enrolling dance classes? 

More deeply, is dance being seen as an art form of communication, or simply a physical feat of beauty? In musical theatre dance, the movement is tied to the words. However, I try to carry a theme of movement through a piece, or a motivation. Many of my students don't recognize it until I point it out. Is anyone taking the time to do that on SYTCD and related shows? Are we making audiences look for connections and depth, or simply tying movement to a popular song, to get the dance to be popular too? 

I read in Dance Teacher magazine, in the history column on the New Dance Group, "The young art form of modern dance was empowered and validated by its alignment with the political and social issues of the day….It was a complete dance entity simmering in a social, political and cultural stew….they cared and water to use their art to raise social consciousness."

Are today's dance shows raising the social consciousness? Are we challenging ideals, norms, and stances? Are we standing for anything? Or just entertaining?

I truly don't know the answers to these questions, as I stopped watching many of these shows after one season, finding that the answers to all of my above questions were not acceptable. Have they changed? Is the awareness and appreciation they bring to the art of dance worthwhile anyway? Should I give them all another chance? Feedback and comments welcome!

I still don't know the answers to these questions. And I think just having the conversation may be as valid as answering the questions. I would now add to the list of questions: What are we communicating? 

As you will see in the comments on the original post, much of SYTYCD and DWTS is about sex, lust, love or heartbreak. Dance can speak to much more than that. Have we limited its power with what we display on TV?

Again, comments and feedback are welcome!

Let's Review- Art as Process, not Product

I originally wrote this piece in 2012. A lot has changed since then. But not really my ideas on Arts Eduction. As a matter of fact, I think it is even more important now that we teach the process of art making, rather than emphasize the final product. I've seen too many organizations and teachers put all the power of art on the "show".  When really, in terms of learning, it's the process that matters. 

April was full of events. Actually, most of them occurred all in 1 week! My high school students presented A Midsummer Night’s Dream and their semester dance performance. My students at Hedgerow performed for a fundraiser. Through it all, I was coaching, correcting, writing program notes, performing as well, and just generally hoping for the best. 

Weeks like that are the best and the worst. We celebrate as all of our hard work, scolds, suggestions and teaching become a beautiful final product. And, we worry that it won’t. Somehow, it always seems to “come together”. Yet, I’m concerned that miracle of adrenaline is something we take for granted. Do we, as teachers and directors, just trust it will “come together”, and then not instill in our students the importance of discipline, rehearsing as you would perform, and taking pride in one’s work, as much in the process as the product? 

If we do not encourage our students to be disciplined- prepared, on time, respectful of the process, their peers and their authorities- we miss a chance to prepare them for college and jobs, where they will not have us there to remind them. 

If we do not have them rehearse as they perform, we do not teach them that the arts, and most things in life, are group efforts. That the actions (or lack thereof) of one person has a ripple affect on the group, with consequences s/he may not foresee when focused on him/herself.

If we do not encourage our students to take as much pride in the process as in the finished product, we do not actually encourage learning. We are telling them that the end is all that matters. We do not take mistakes and failures as learning opportunities, rather we just focus on the happy ending (see chapter 1 of Jonah Lehrer’s Imagine). And in that, we don’t encourage creativity. If we cannot teach our students to try, to fail, to try again, to seek ways to improve we are not educating them. We are not creating a generation of resilient, innovative thinkers and doers, who operate with perspective and insight. We are simply teaching them to get to the end. By whatever means necessary. 

The arts in education should not be about just getting to the end- the performance, the final piece, the presentation. The arts in education should be a time to teach the value of exploration, to embrace learning and process as just as important as the finished product. If you never start, you can never finish. If you do not learn as you go, you will not end up in any place different than where you started. 

Dancer with Cancer- Part 7

Our culture prizes knowledge greatly (well, except for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin). We are encouraged to do well in school and go to college. Then, to move up in our jobs, we are encouraged to get advanced degrees, or take more training. The learning never ends. Nor should it. But. How do you KNOW? How do you LEARN?

This prizing of reason cuts us in two: the mind and the body. We're encouraged to "balance" them, or "connect" them, insinuating that they were separate to begin with. This is a dangerous false dichotomy.

We need to remember that all learning is sensual, as in, happens through the senses. Whether it is a tactile, personal experience or the aural or visual absorption of someone else's experience, all learning begins in the body.

And the body decides how to make that knowledge part of the real world. The body turns thought into action. If we live with either the body or the mind in a superior role, we limit ourselves, either in our ability to know or in our ability to act. And the two are inextricably linked.

We must stop the body shaming that goes on in our culture. It is dangerous to self-esteem, yes. But it cuts us in two, and separates us from the world around us. We must be embodied to live in this world. When we disregard the knowledge and the sensations we get from our bodies, we deny our humanity, our connectedness. We are mind AND body, together, feeding each other, supporting each other, interpreting each other, learning each other. And that is worth celebrating.

Dancer with Cancer- Part 6

Since we were small, we were told to "give it our all", "give 100%".  Motivating, maybe. But, the thing is, you can't give 100%. I can't give 100%. And believe me, I've been trying.


100% by Albertogp

My nature is to be a hard worker. I've been working for over half my life already. I bought into the "American Dream myth", that if you just work hard, you will succeed. See my post on that here. But like I said, I've been working for over half my life already. And I'm not anywhere near my definition of success.

I think women especially are in danger from this story of giving 100%. We're told we can, indeed, "have it all". But only if we can be it all: the perfect employee, wife, mother and friend. We can be all these things! Just give them all 100%! For most of us it is in our nature to be people-pleasers, and so we try so hard. to do everything to the best of all ability, all the time.

Here's the problem with giving 100%: If you give 100% to everything, you're actually giving more like 1000%. Work, family, friends, hobbies, whatever. Sure, you think, "I'm not giving them all 100% at the same time, so I can give them 100% separately." But, can you? Or are work worries in the back of your mind as you are with your family? Do you feel guilty for indulging in your hobbies when you should be doing something "useful"? Do your friends get neglected because of the other business in your life?

Nothing ever really gets 100% anyway. It's time we were honest about that and stopped trying so damn hard.  Save yourself the burnout.

It's a pretty little myth that we can 100% to everything. Maybe that works for a bit. But, it's mathematical impossibility. And therefore, unsustainable. We try so hard to operate at that level, because we've been told it's what we can and should do. Instead, we're constantly fracturing our energy.

It's OK to not give 100%. There. I said it. It's OK to not give 100%. Especially to things or people that don't give back.

I'm not saying don't do or be your best. I'm not saying sit at home and eat bonbons, or neglect your children, or don't meet your deadlines. I am saying, it's time we lived in the real world. 100% is a myth. Priorities are a good thing. What is important to you?

You only have 100% to give, period. Use it wisely.

Dancer with Cancer- Part 5

One of the most important things I've learned in my cancer journey is how important the right doctor is, the right kind of care. So when I had to change doctors this year, I got recommendations from my social worker. She didn't steer me wrong!

I had a great new patient visit this morning. She took an hour with me. An hour! We sat in her office an talked about all my issues. She listened. She asked questions and listened more. She made me feel validated, heard and cared for. Isn't that what we should expect from our doctors? Care, not just treatment.

When she spoke, she told me how she preferred that her patients get their nutrition from food, not pills. She said that she, too, likes alternate means of treatment such as massage and acupuncture. She didn't make me feel guilty or dumb.

Too often we allow doctors to dismiss our concerns or demean us. We allow this because they are the ones that are supposed to know. They are the ones with the education. However, no one is expert on YOU, except for YOU. The good doctor recognizes this, and takes the time to learn about YOU, not just your issues.

I know the insurance system doesn't always make it easy to get to right doctor. But I want to encourage you to try. When you find the good ones, it is such a revelation. We need to get care from our doctor's, not just a prescription.

Dancer with Cancer- Part 4

"Bodies are weird." I say that to my clients all the time. I also say, "The body is different every day."Another thing I frequently say is "You are the only one in your body".

I am just now learning the truth of these statements. I took my healthy, fit body for granted. Even now, I can slip back, as I feel good most of the time.

When was the last time you took a moment to thank your body for all it does? For all it is capable of? Learn to develop this appreciation and feel this goodness. When you are more in touch with the good, you will be more quickly able to sense when something is wrong.

Just because something is wrong doesn't mean it will be that way forever. The body constantly tries to heal itself. At my 2nd chemo, they had to flush my port, because scar tissue had already formed around it. Bodies are quick. Pain and sickness are temporary, quite often. Not pleasant, but not permanent.

Sometimes, though, it is. But let me be very clear. Your disease, disability, injury or issue is NOT your body. My disease is NOT my body.

I'm still learning to separate my cancer from my body. To not blame my body or blame myself. There is cancer in my body and my body and I are working together to get rid of it.

I respect her needs, like nutrition, sleep and exercise. In return, she is giving me strength and healing.

Know your body. The body is perfect. Beautiful. Weird. Miraculous. Fragile. Powerful.

Dancer with Cancer- Part 3

In my therapy I've been working through the issues raised by feelings of my betrayal from body.  With that, and in writing my personal essay for grad school, there are certain themes that come together.

Connecting body and soul. Telling women's stories. It's not the fitness that interests me, it's the meaning behind the movement. (Fitness is a great by-product, by the way.) It's being with women who want to move, who want to connect their body to their emotions, and vice versa, that is attractive to me.

I've let myself be told how to use my body. I've let myself feel guilty over how I use my body. And it's total bs. We were created to have a body, to be physical. To experience physical states. Our bodies are awesome, capable of so much. Even if something is "wrong" with them, there is still so much right. So much to celebrate, show, and experience.

Bodies can be empowering or objectifying.To worry about how others view my body, and its use, is to give them all the power. When I have the power, it's empowering to use my body, be in my body. When I give away me power (or, horribly, if it were taken), it is objectifying. Sex is not the only means of objectification. Disease (or injury or disability) can do the same thing.

I don't look like I'm sick. So, thankfully, strangers don't treat me any differently. But the people that know do. In some ways, it's nice be approached with a bit more gentleness and care. But at other times, I feel limited by how others view me. Or rather, how they think I should be feeling, acting, doing. Should is not a good word to have others apply to your life. Only you are in your body. Only you have your history, your experiences, your vision. Don't give away your power to someone else's "should".

I refuse to give up my power. This body, my body, can create art, meaning. It helps me explore the world, make sense of the world. It's frail and easily broken, but it's not powerless.

I'd love to hear from you! What have you been told you should be doing/thinking/feeling? How does that sit with your soul? With your body?

Dancer with Cancer- Part 2

Who are you, when you are definitely not who you were, but can also no longer be who you are?

How much does the choice of profession weigh into who we are?

How do you figure out who you must become, when you've never been there, or done that, before?

I've been mulling over these questions for over 2 months now.

I was a dancer. Trying to create and perform as much as possible. I was someone whose body was my tool and instrument. I though I had good communication with my body. I see now I really didn't listen that well. She was talking, but I wasn't hearing it.

I am becoming someone who sees my body as a sacred gift.

My therapist says that I am a "whole new person". I never thought of it like that, but it is really true. In the past 3 years, I have totally remade myself. Now, I am continuing that process.

It's scary to think of being a new person. Mainly, because I don't really like change or surprises. But honestly, we should all be in the process of becoming. Growing, learning. Adapting, evolving.

Much of my self-creation has been my choice, at my pace. This time, that is not the case. This is a forced change. I've realized is a necessary one; but, it certainly isn't my choice. I think that's where the anxiety comes from, a lack of control.

But, that really is just my perception. I have control of the choices I make. To lead to a new person. Who I am now is new. But I am still in the process of becoming. And, who I become is my choice.

I love to push myself. I love a challenge. A whole new person. I already am. But she's not working out quite the way I planned. So, who shall I become?

The butterfly approaches the world, and life, very differently than the caterpillar.

We are all in the process of becoming. We can be grateful for who we are, where we are, and still want to be more. We cannot stay as we are, where we are, and be truly human. Every day, every experience is an opportunity to learn and grow. Take it, and be the new creature. Live a new life.


Dancer with Cancer- Part 1

If we are connected in real life or on social media, you likely already know this.

I have been diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin's Lymphoma. (EDIT: On 1/16/16, my doctor stepped back that diagnosis to Stage 3B. I'm not quite sure what makes them different, but, full disclosure.)

I'm shocked. I'm guessing you were too when you heard it. "She's so healthy/young/active/etc". And yet, here we are. I am now the "Dancer with Cancer". Catchy tagline, don't you think?


Thanks to La Ren Originals for this photo.

The past few weeks have been very difficult for me. Due to surgeries on my hips and chest, I was unable to do full-out dancing. Plus, I have tumors on my spine, ruling out jumping and rolling on the floor, 2 things frequently found in my dances. The chemo can make people sick, so I have limited any performing until I know how I will react. I'm struggling with issues of identity- who am I, now that I am not a dancer or teacher, at least at the level at which I have come to expect from myself. Who do we become, when the person and life we have created are no longer viable options? (These ideas still need some fleshing out, and will become their own blog post.)

Being diagnosed with cancer has not made me suddenly wise. If anything, it has shown me how much I don't know. Not just about the world, but about myself and my body, subjects with which I thought myself to be intimately acquainted.

But I have learned a few things, and I wanted to share them with you.

  • You are the world's foremost authority on you. For months (8, in fact) before I had a diagnosis, I knew something was wrong. I tried food and herbal based remedies. I made doctor's appointments. I got acupuncture and massage. I took naps. But no matter what I tried, something was just "off". I would feel better for a while, or my symptoms would subside, but I still just didn't feel like myself. So I kept pushing the doctors for appointments. I kept trying new things to help myself. Finally, I got to where I needed to be. To a doctor who knew within 5 minutes of talking to me and examining me exactly what I had. But I had to advocate for myself.  So often women do not do this. We are "polite" or "nice". We don't want to "rock the boat" or "hurt anyone's feelings". We don't ask for what we feel we really need. We take "No" for an answer far too often. We let doctors (or bosses or significant others or internet commenters)  talk down to us because they are the authority. No. No they are not. YOU are the authority on YOU. This goes for mental and emotional health, not just physical. If something doesn't feel right, ask questions, get help, try new ways of approaching and addressing the problem until it does. YOU are the only one who knows how YOU feel. You have a responsibility to yourself, body and soul, to listen to and address those feelings.
  • Nutrition and Exercise are VITAL. Vital= life-giving. The only reason I made it through my days of demanding physical activity, even when I was not feeling well, was because of how I was supporting myself nutritionally and physically. My oncologist called me "ridiculously healthy". Except, you know, for the cancer part. Turns out even good nutrition and exercise can't fix everything. But it does do a damn good job of keeping it under control. My doctors have told me that most people in my condition would not be able to do what I do every day. Even during treatment, I (so far) have not had to give up any of my teaching jobs. Food is not just fuel. Food is medicine. Or it can be. Feed your body with things that promote LIFE. I tried to eat cleanly and well before, but now, I've become even more vigilant. And I've learned a lot about what to eat to fight cancer, boost immunity, and promote overall health.

    Nutritions choices

    A quick run down:

    • Garlic
    • Onions
    • Ginger
    • Turmeric
    • Cruciferous vegetables
    • No meat unless it is hormone-free, grass-fed
    • Only Omega-3 eggs
    • Beets (I'm having trouble with this one, as I think beets are gross. But I'm trying.)

Exercise can be medicine, too. Joseph Pilates wrote, back in 1938, about active breathing and raising the heart rate to cleanse the body and stimulate the mind. Plus, the endorphins just help you feel better.

  • Sleep is also vital. This is where I really dropped the ball with my health before. I'd be up early to teach and out late either teaching, rehearsing, or performing. Your body needs rest to heal and refresh. I know this isn't news to you. It wasn't to me either. But I wasn't following it. I thought I was fine. I thought I was the person who could get through without too much sleep, because I was getting through my day. I was eating right and exercising, so getting only 4 or 5 hours of sleep a night was OK. It wasn't. The body needs sleep to heal. I had/have an incredibly active schedule, and over-exercise can cause an inflammatory response in the body.

    Restful Sleep

    Sleep is a way for the body to treat inflammation (as well as any other dis-ease, infection, etc.) Stress is can also cause inflammatory responses in the body, and sleep is a way to relieve the body of stress. Cognitive function also declines with lack of sleep, and can cause mistakes or errors in judgement that affect our health. For more on the importance of sleep, check out this great podcast!

  • Your life is your life. This is such a simple, obvious sentence. And so very difficult to live. This may be an issue more for women or than men. Or maybe just me. I seek approval. I don't want to disappoint. I want everyone to be happy, to be proud of me. But, I can't make everyone happy. Heck, sometimes I don't even make myself happy. But, I do the best I can, making the choices in front of me, with the information I have.  The Mormons have a philosophy that we have to have a body to make choices with, and making choices is the only way to fulfill our purpose here on earth (this is a very simplified, and not complete version of this tenant of their faith). While, I'm not a Mormon, I like this thought. We and our bodies are making choices. (I learned this in a very funny book, The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance: A Memoir, that I received as a care package gift from one of my college roommates. It is hilarious, even if you are not Mormon, or single.) No one else gets to tell you how or why to live. These are choices you need to make for yourself. Your past history and current experiences can lead you through these choices. Other people can offer their opinions, but in the end, that's all they are. Their opinions. It's still your choice. Don't give away your power over your life by letting someone else choose for you. Claim your power and choose your life. 

I hope this helps you. It at least helped me to write it. I get to claim more power in my life by recognizing my mistakes and my knowledge. I'll remind one more time: Claim your power power, choose your life.

Viewpoint 2: Most Women Spend Too Much Time Thinking Negatively About Their Bodies

File under: Incredibly Obvious.

And maybe it’s not just women. Maybe it’s men, too. But I don’t work with them as much. Nor am I as interested in working with them as I am with women. But I do know that it is not just grown women. I know that my 7-10 year old dance students make regular negative comments on their own bodies. 7 to 10! That’s crazy. They are going to go through another 50+ years of body negativity? Yikes!

 Love this!

Love this!

I had an eating disorder in my teens and 20s. Fitness saved me. It taught me to see my body as pure potential. To see food as healing, supporting and fueling. That experience has led to a burning passion for me to guide other women and girls to the same realizations.

I actually quote this statistic a lot in my classes-

“...on average, women have 13 negative body thoughts daily—nearly one for every waking hour.” (Shape Magazine, 2011)

I think that statistic is extremely low. An even more telling stat from the same survey is that 97% of women will have at least 1 “I hate my body” moment, EVERY day.

In my CABARRET classes, on our cool down stretches, I remind my students to thank their body, for all that it did, for exploring, for expressing. In my baby ballet classes, my 3 and 4 year olds thank their body parts for helping them to dance. This year, I introduced something new with my older girls, and on the last class before Thanksgiving, we talked about what we were thankful for...about our bodies!

These are not just silly exercises, or time-killers for my classes. This work is what I committed to- helping women celebrate their bodies now, even as they create a stronger, healthier body for the future. Helping women feel CONNECTED to their bodies, rather than trying to separate themselves from it.

Let’s be clear. Any time spent beating up your body is too much time. It needs to stop. I know, I know...the media…. The media doesn’t think your thoughts for you. Only you live in your head.

So, the next time a negative body thought pops up, capture it. (Maybe even try the exercise from the SHAPE study: for 1 day, write down every negative body thought you have.) Then ask your body to forgive you for that thought, and replace it with a thought of gratitude- that you are strong enough to pick up your kids, that you recovered from that cold, that your eyes are just the prettiest shade of blue. Something. Anything. Change the message. Your body hears everything your mind thinks.

As Louise Hay says “You’ve been beating yourself up for years now, and what has that done for you? Try being nice to yourself instead.”

Viewpoint 1: Most Fitness Regimens are Mindless

Well, that plan didn't quite work out (the one to repurpose content). Oh well. But now, I've got a new plan! 

Under the guidance of my biz coach, the fabulous Erika Lyremark, I've been working to really bring MY voice to CABARRET. After all, that is what the workout is meant to do- allow women to express themselves!

So the next few blog posts will be about what Erika calls "ViewPoints". The beliefs that I hold that help define me, and my business. So, I'm ready to step up and speak out! 

And this first one goes back to my original plan, repurposing content!

Viewpoint 1: Most Workouts are Mindless

Read the original post here.

What do I mean? I mean, when you go to the gym, you just check out. You read, watch TV, or follow the teacher without ever putting the power of your brain behind your movements! This makes for a less effective workout, a less safe workout, and could even contribute to those feelings of boredom that sometimes crop up at the gym. And you don't have to believe just me! Check out the word from scientists. 

Only You

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to be revisiting some of my favorite blog posts from the past, and republishing the ones that are still relevant. 

Here is one from August, 2011, To Thine Own Self Be True

When you perform- dance, act, sing- you are creating. You are molding a moment in time that can never be had again. It might be recorded, saved, whatever, but it will never HAPPEN again. You may not consider yourself a creator, but you are. You may be executing someone else’s movements or interpreting someone else’s words. You may be under the direction of someone else. BUT. You are the do-er- You are creating the moment for the audience. 

No one else will have the opportunity. No one else will do it in the way you will. So, make it yours. Create your little creature and share it. Be true to your soul. Don’t acquiesce that responsibility to a director, choreographer, whoever. By all means,  follow directions, take your notes, do your job. And then, create an experience to share with your audience.

I've come to realize that this isn't just true in theatre. It's true in life. Your life is your creation. Whether you work for someone else or yourself, you're bringing skills, experience and insights that no one else has your particular combination of. 

You are creating a moment in time to share with those around you. Make it the best. 

AMRAP Giveaway and Review

A few weeks ago, I was given the opportunity, through my Sweat Pink Ambassadorship, to review the new AMRAP bars. As someone who lives on protein shakes and bars, I was pretty psyched. 

 Almond & Honey was my fave!

Almond & Honey was my fave!

 Fig & Cacao

Fig & Cacao

 Cashew & Vanilla

Cashew & Vanilla

The good news: They taste good! The Almond & Honey was actually my favorite. I thought it tasted like cookie dough!

The bad news: They are really high in calories. At over 300 calories each, these are a meal replacement bar. As a matter of fact, my usual protein bar, which is said to be a meal replacement only has 250 calories. And has more protein than these! AMRAP bars are definitely only for use as a meal replacement or a killer workout. Or try half at a time!

So, I won't be switching from Isagenix to AMRAP for my bars. That said, they are a very good, very clean option. So good, in fact, I'm giving you the opportunity to win some! I'll be choosing 3 winners! Good luck!

4 Mantras to Help You Survive Anxiety and Overwhelm.

As I prepare to move (yeah, again), I’m feeling a lot of anxiety. Plus just the regular, everyday stresses of teaching, running a business, and having a life. 

 I took this pic as part of the #RadicalSelfLoveJuly Instagram Challenge hosted by Gala Darling. The day's topic was "Favorite Book".

I took this pic as part of the #RadicalSelfLoveJuly Instagram Challenge hosted by Gala Darling. The day's topic was "Favorite Book".

I’ve been working through “A Course in Miracles”. The text is full of so much beauty and truth. The workbook exercises are simple, yet challenging. This book, as well as Michael Singers’s “The Untethered Soul”, have been incredibly enlightening and inspiring for me in the past few months. , I’d like to share these ideas from “A Course in Miracles” to help you survive your stressful, anxiety-filled times. 


“When you have become willing to hide nothing, you will not only be willing to enter into communion but will also understand peace and joy.”

When I read this, it struck me that much of our anxiety comes from fear that our authentic self is not “_____” enough. Good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, rich enough, etc. And we feel the need to cover up our perceived lack. This closing off of ourselves keeps us from entering into deep relationships with other and from experiencing peace in ourselves. Start to expose the real you, and feel the release!


“You can never control the effects of fear yourself, because you made fear, and you believe in what you made.”

One of the premises of “A Course in Miracles” is that fear is our own creation, from our egos. It is simply a false state of being. You believe the fear, because it is your own invention. And much like Dr. Frankenstein’s Monster, it cannot be controlled. 


“When you are sad, know this need not be. Depression comes from a sense of being deprived of something you want and do not have.”

Now, this is not talking about clinical depression. Mental illness is a real thing and should be treated as a medical issue. Ok, with that disclaimer-

If you are truly content, you cannot be depressed. This was an amazing change of mindset for me. I allow myself to be discouraged and saddened by WANTING. It is, of course, ok to want things if that want pushes you to make changes, work harder, take steps to your goals, etc. It is not ok to want things at the expense of gratitude. We must learn to be thankful and grateful for what we have and where we are, and that gratitude will protect us. 


“Guilt is a sure sign that your thinking is unnatural.”

Oh, boy. This was another big one for me. Guilt is a big motivator in my life. And when I read the above sentence, it was like a lightening bolt. 

I often summarize “The Untethered Soul” for those who haven’t read it as “Stress comes from two places- feeling guilty about the past and worrying about the future. And neither of those things are something we can control! We have only the present to live and work in.”

So if you are suffering feelings of guilt, you need to learn how to leave those in the past. That is no longer a moment you can control. Concentrate your thoughts, energy, life on the present!


I hope you found a bit of wisdom here! And if you haven’t read the books I mentioned, I really can’t recommend them enough!

5 Things To Do When You Need a Break From Yourself.

Gala Darling has declared this month #RadicalSelfLoveJuly ! And she has a whole Instagram challenge going for the month. I am participating, but must admit, I’m not doing very well. But, it’s OK! No guilt for the lack of demonstrating self-love is actually having self-love, right?

If you’re like me, you have moments where you find it difficult to be with yourself. That last bad decision or unkind word keeps playing in your head. Your life looks so overwhelming you wonder how you got yourself into this. You have to make a decision and are torn, and you wish you’d just make up your mind already!

Sometimes we just need a break for ourselves. And that’s ok. So, the next time you are on the verge of making yourself crazy, try one of these things instead:

1. Take a nap. I know you’re not 4. But a nap is the perfect way to both escape your life for an hour, and reset your mindset. The world always looks better after a nap.

2. Try some self-love. If you are loving yourself, it’s hard to beat yourself up at the same time! A massage, a long bath. Eat chocolate. Go to the coffee shop and have a date with you.

3. Write a letter to yourself congratulating you on the things you’ve accomplished in the past year. Just like above, you can’t be hard on yourself if you are impressed by you! So often, we don’t take the time to really reflect on, or celebrate our accomplishments. Give yourself that time now. I bet you’ve got more than one thing worth celebrating from the past year. It feels good to remember that!

 One of my favorites!

One of my favorites!

4. Have a mantra or quote. Find something that inspires you. Put it where you can see it. Repeat it over and over to yourself, or out loud, when you are questioning your own ability to create the life you desire. One of my favorites is from Marianne Williamson: “It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you NOT to be?”

5. Have a “2 Minute Meltdown”. This is actually one of my favorites. I find it incredibly effective. Set a timer for two minutes and let it all out. We often deny ourselves negative feelings, or feel that we should just be able to “handle it”. But a meltdown can be incredibly productive.

My friend and coach Stacy Moscotti is great at this. She even lets me call her when I’m having my “2 Minute Meltdown” and she listens. And then says “Ok, so what are your options to not being in this situation?” I find one of two things usually happens: 1. I feel better so much better after letting it all out, that nothing needs to happen. I can deal with it now, I just needed to vent. Or, 2. The venting allowed me to clear my mind of frustration, so now I really can see the options available to me.

So the next time you’re wishing you could get a break from yourself, try one of these things. And, if you’re so inclined, join me for #RadicalSelfLoveJuly on Instagram. Let’s take a month to treat ourselves like the amazing creatures we are.

How I scored a chance to work for ESPN for a day. And what it taught me about running my business.

Last week, I had the opportunity to work for ESPN as a judge for the Fitness Competition portion of their Fitness Universe Weekend in Ft. Lauderdale. How did I get such a cool gig? Well, simply by running a solid business. They Google’d for dancers dance teachers in the Ft. Lauderdale/Miami area, and discovered my CABARRET website. When they learned I was not just a dancer and dance teacher, but also a Pilates and fitness instructor, I was a natural choice! Not only did they ask me to join the panel of judges, but they asked for my help in recruiting other dance people! Frankly, I felt like I had won a competition! Finally, someone was noticing all the work I was putting into my business! And not just any someone- ESPN!

Lesson Learned- Do The Work. Even when you’re tired. Even when it seems like it isn’t making a difference. Keep doing what you know needs doing. It matters. The Universe is noticing.


Now, since joining Isagenix, I’ve heard about fitness competitions. But I really had no idea what they were. In my head, it was bizarrely muscled people in small swimsuits, awkwardly posing. So, when they told me there was a talent portion, where each contestant had to perform a 2 minute routine, this movie in my head became hilarious. Imagine Arnold Schwarzenegger doing an interpretive modern dance. That’s what I was picturing.   

Turns out, not so much. The Arnold-like bodies were competing in the Physique and Muscle Mania categories. These people were, for the most part, former gymnasts and dancers. (And, since all but 2 were women, I’m going to write the rest of this post with the feminine pronouns.) While definitely fit and muscular, they were not what I had imagined. Each contestant had clearly put in a ton of work on her routine, her costume, her music. And we had to score them on all of it. But, importantly, we were not to compare the routines to each other. They even took away our score sheets quickly to make sure we couldn’t. We were simply to judge each contestant on her ability to create, execute, and really perform, her own routine. This actually took a bit of mental work, but was a great lesson. We weren’t “allowed” to remember 1 girl did back handsprings, one girl did them with twists, and one didn’t do them at all. It wasn’t about being more advanced than someone else. It was really doing your best, against your stiffest competition- yourself.

Lesson Learned- Comparison happens. But it really doesn’t matter. Work to be better than you were yesterday. At the end, you are evaluated on the work you put in, and the execution you pulled off. Don’t get caught up in the flashy, fancy tricks. They last a moment. But a consistent, well-thought-out, excellently done, your-own-style performance is what will get the highest marks.

Lesson Learned- Only you are you. Your creativity and style makes you stand out. Don’t shy away from it. Rock it.

We saw 3 categories of performers- Women’s Open, Men’s Open and Pro Women. As I mentioned above, there were only 2 men. While I agreed with the decisions we, as a panel, reached for the 2 women’s categories, I vehemently disagreed with the men’s. As did the other dancer/dance teacher on the panel. But, I do think my background as a dancer/dance teacher and a fitness instructor gives me a good insight into what is required in these routines. Turns out, we don’t all have the same appreciation of the skills required for certain physical execution. However, since we weren’t supposed to be comparing the routines to each other, but only to the rubric, perhaps my other judges were right. The truth is, we don’t know what other people see. We can all be looking at the same thing, but see something totally different.

Lesson Learned- Perspective matters. Your background will color what you see. And it may not match everyone else’s. Stick to your guns. You’re allowed to like what you like, don’t what you don’t. You do not need to explain away or excuse the points of view that make you who you are.

I don’t know that I will ever participate in a fitness competition. After watching one, I think I could, and do fairly well. However, I’m not certain that’s how my performing skills will best serve me. I do know that I was thrilled for this opportunity and the lessons I learned from it! My business coach, Erika Lyremark, has been hammering home for me the importance of personality and individuality in business. This was just another opportunity for me to learn those lessons. 

Liebster Award- I'm Honored, and Honoring Others!

Info About the “Liebster Award”

The Liebster Award, or “the favorite blog award”, is an internet-based award that is given to bloggers by other bloggers. In Germany, the word “liebster” has the same meaning as “favorite, beloved, or dearest.” This award is primarily given to blogs that have less than 200 followers. That way, it helps the blogger with being more known to the world as well as giving the blogger the opportunity to learn about more amazing bloggers.

 Liebster Award!

Liebster Award!

Thank you Gabi for nominating me! Here are my responses to your 10 questions!

1.) What is the story behind your blog?

I started a blog in 2011! Crazy. Originally, it was a lot of posts about the arts, particularly dance and theatre. As I have morphed professionally, so has it. Now, my post is mainly about fitness and health, but with an emphasis on the connection of the mind and the body. It’s really a place for me to go a bit more in depth than I can with a class I’m teaching. I also explore topics like relationships, arts, and do product reviews, because those are all part of a holistic existence!

2.) What is your favorite meal to make at home?

Whole wheat pasta with sauteed chicken, tomatoes, and spinach, tossed with lemon juice and parmesan.

3.) What is the best $100 you have ever spent?

My weekly Pilates lesson. It’s not quite $100, but close. My body, and my teaching need it!

4.) If you could be featured in Health magazine for your blog, what kind of article would you contribute?

Definitely a post about mindful fitness. About focusing on the work of the muscles, moving with control, knowing the big picture. We get so caught up in just following our instructors, or going through our routine, that our mind checks out. Not only does this make our workout less effective, because our energy is divided, it also leaves us open to injury and strain!

5.) What is one skill you would like to obtain over the next two years?

Photoshop. It evades me. Thank God PicMonkey is easy!

6.) What is one piece of advice that you wish you could pass on to everyone else?

We are stressed because we feel guilty about the past and worried about the future. Yet, the only moment we can control is the present. Be here, now.

7.) If we were to pull out all of the items in your gym bag right now, what would we find?

Oh, my. A lot! 2 different cords to attach my phone to the various sound systems in various studios. 3 pairs of shoes. A cosmetic bag with a comb, hand sanitizer, lip gloss and a pony tail holder. A folder with my class lists and diagrams for my dance classes with young children. A notebook with class and dance ideas. An Isagenix Want More Energy stick and a packet of Isagenix protein shake. An apple. My wallet and iPhone. In the front pocket is pens, highlighters and post-its, and my university ID (teaching, not student).

8.) Whenever you are having a bad day, what is the best thing you can do to help cheer yourself up?

Get a vegan chocolate chip cookie and an iced coffee with almond milk at Whole Foods.

9.) If, like the newspaper, you could have anything of your choice delivered to your doorstep every morning, what particular item would you want it to be?

Clean laundry. ;)

10.) What is one way you hope to influence readers with your blog?

I hope I encourage readers to integrate their mind and their bodies. Whether than means being thoughtful about what they are eating or their fitness regimens, or if it means being gentle to themselves as they work on their goal, or even look in the mirror. There is a 2012 study that found that American women think 13 negative thoughts about their body a day. I think that’s actually a low number. But that is NOT the kind of mind/body integration we want. I want to encourage positivity and potentiality. Your body hears everything your mind says, and takes it as true, and makes that your reality. So, let’s craft a beautiful one.

So, we're supposed to nominated 10. I tried. But, despite calls on Facebook, I only have these 6 very worthy nominees:

The Road Lots Traveled. This is my sister. She has many adventures. Fun read and great pictures.

The aJennda. All things dance and ballet.

The 109th Bead. Dance discussions and reviews.

Completely Rita. Rita is a barre instructor, which is how we connected. Her blog right now is covering her sugar detox. Very inspiring!

The Love Cook. Jane and I went through the same business coaching, and I LOVE her and where she’s going with her business. Dating and marriage advice!

Field Notes. Sheridan was in the course with Jane and I. She designs the MOST gorgeous jewelry. Her blog covers fashion, mindfulness, and much more.

Nominees, here are your questions!

1. Why did you decide to start a blog?

2. What has been your biggest blogging milestone? ie: 100th post, comment from someone you respect, getting a bajillion retweets, etc.

3. Which blog post are you most proud of?

4. Sweet or salty?

5. Red or white?

6. What do you want MORE of in your life?

7. When and where was your last vacation?

8. Favorite inspirational quote?

9. Do you have a morning ritual? If so, can you share it (or part) with us?

10. What is your superpower? ie: inspiring your students, taking amazing pictures, whipping up an organic gourmet meal in 30 minutes or less.


Nominees, here are the rules:

1. You must answer the 10 Liebster questions given to you by the blogger who nominated you.

2. You must pick 10 bloggers with a small following to be nominated for the award.

3. You must create 10 questions for the nominees to answer on their blog.

4. Then link back to the person who nominated you.

5.  And then go to each new nominees’ blog and notify them of the nomination!

Let's spread the blog love!