Archives for posts with tag: dance

I just walked past the 21 Balançoires at the Quartier des Spectacles in Montreal.  I have to say, it is something that made me smile and enjoy the brief moment of nice weather this afternoon.  It seems to have this effect on many people who try them out.  It is the random music, it is getting on a swing, swinging next to people you don’t know, making a small connection.  It is a bit of fun in our urban setting.  All of a sudden you are laughing and making jokes about bathtubs and seeing things in a new light.  You are also getting lost in the music you help to create and wondering how does this work?

When I am at my African dances class lead by Claudine Malard, I sometimes think about how I am pretty static most of the time.  I am sitting at my desk, sitting on the metro, sitting as I read the news or read a book, sitting to watch a movie and sitting when I chat with friends.  It is almost like I became an adult and all of that fun in kicking it up, as kids do, went out the window in the name of responsibility and being mature.  My dance class is recreation and re-creation.  I unload my mind, I learn new moves, I laugh a bit and for sure, my day gets a whole lot better.  The same sort of thing happened at the swings today too.

So, if you have a chance, get out there and try those swings BEFORE May 23rd.  You will love it!

a brief glimpse of 21 balançoires

Tammy Schmidt, Montreal

Hip hop street dancing, aka break dancing, in ...

not quite this style...

I just got back home after almost two hours of Hip-Hop Dance class. I’ve never really listened to Hip-Hop music, I’ve not paid much attention (outside of some sideline, “Oh, wow look at what that person just did, so bendy!”) to Hip-Hop Dance or Music videos, and I’ve not taken a Hip-Hop Dance class, ever, before this year.

A bit of a background: When I was five years old, my mother asked me if I’d like to take dance lessons. I said “yes”. Or, I assume I did, because I was soon enrolled in them. We did Tap. I took Tap Dancing for six or seven years after that. I also began Jazz Dance lessons from about age eight. When I was eleven years old, I stopped taking dance lessons. My feet had reached size 10, and, where I lived, low-heel tap-shoes were not available in a size above 9. I was not going to Tap Dance (let alone walk) in high heels when I was eleven years old. I didn’t get a pair of “heels” until I was in my twenties, for that matter.

So, I stopped dancing. I went out dancing from time to time in my late teens to early twenties, and jiggled around the dance floor a bit… but I always felt oversized and uncomfortable. When my bar-going friends mostly moved away, and I was a professional, busy working person, I stopped dancing altogether.

Last summer, I took a few African Dances classes. I liked it, I felt good after the classes, and they made me move. I still attend at least one of these classes every week. I am very comfortable with it now. I feel free and alive when I dance in that class. It is unlike Tap or Jazz Dance, but I do see some basic dance connections.

For fun, and with my friend’s encouragement, we took a Hip Hop Dance class one night this January. It was… a challenge. It was so different in structure and movement from dance I’ve done before. Despite all that, I found it to be fun!

Now I’ve been back to that class about four or five times, whenever my schedule allows. It is still a big challenge, and I do admit to feeling a little frustrated with that. However, I feel physically better after having done the class, and I recognise that the mental and physical challenges of extending my own comfort zones is a real benefit to me. I am thankful that I have the opportunity to take a range of different classes at my local YMCA. I didn’t have this opportunity as a child; who knows how different life would have been if I’d had a chance to dance wearing sneakers (Hip Hop) or barefoot (African Dances) !!!

It is never too late to start.

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

in addition to exercise, rainbow cat adds joy to my winter

A few years ago, I decided to kick up my workouts during the winter so that I would feel great during that dark season.  And guess what? It worked! My moods were great with the addition of a magic ingredient called exercise.  For about an hour each day, I worked out in classes that I enjoyed. It helped me lower my stress levels during the day and I slept better at night.  Suddenly my digestion began to improve.  Among other things, I also got into shape for the summer.

I think my experience is somewhat universal; at least this is the case where I workout.  Something I noticed happening in most classes is that people walk in looking like zombies.  Okay, no, maybe they are zombies: slow moving, often frowning, grunting and a little out of it.  By the end of the class, everyone has livened up.  People are laughing and chatting. You can tell they just received an energy boost.

It can be difficult to place workouts into my schedule; but experience has taught me that when you make the time for exercise, you get the reward of more energy and efficiency.  This has a positive impact on everything in the rest of life.

If I  feel really run down, then I can choose a more restorative workout such as yoga or meditation. If I am sick, I respect others’ health and choose to do this at home. If I am just a little tired, then I go to class, take it easy and listen to my body.

Other things that help me feel great in the winter are fish oils high in Omega 3 fatty acids.  Low blood levels of Omega 3 fatty acids can contribute to depression, so I make sure to get enough of this. I prefer to get this through the food I choose to eat. In a pinch, I can resort to supplements. In terms of supplements, I take vitamin D3, around 2000IU per day because studies show that it can help.

Eating right can go a long way to improving moods.  For me, I feel best if I eat lower carbohydrate foods. I take particular care to avoid sugar, gluten and dairy. I also minimize alcohol consumption. I do focus on eating plenty of good quality protein along with green and brightly-coloured vegetables.

Working out in the great outdoors and getting enough light throughout the winter are tried and true methods of improving moods as well.

There are many ways of approaching any one problem.  Don’t feel that you have to tough it out.  Seek out experts, be savvy and find ways to make it better.

Tammy Schmidt, Montreal

Bikepath in parc Lafontaine, towards the south...

Parc Lafontaine... a place for springtime (and year-round) jogging...

Several months ago I spent a couple of hours in the gym injuring myself. How did I injure myself? In between running on the track and doing some weights, I used a stubborn elliptical machine for half an hour, and then I used a stairmaster afterwards. The inflexible machinery, made for a certain body with a particular stride and length of legs and arms, created a big ball of stress that centred on my knee. This stress was compounded by a tough workout on the stairmaster. I hurt myself from overuse on these machines that day. The injury created an awful tension in my left knee… so I lost a lot of flexibility and strength. I babied it, naturally, so that it became standard for me to limp slightly. I didn’t run anymore.

In the last couple of months, however, I have been attending regular yoga, dance, and classical stretch classes. I haven’t done very much “free elliptical” (that’s my term for the machines that allow you to choose your own stride, rather than having an awkward one prescribed to you) nor have I set my sights on anything like a stairmaster. I avoid the rigidly paced elliptical machine like the Plague. I have been using some free weights and doing a few lat-pulldowns every once in a while. That’s been pretty much it for exercise lately. Anyhow, the other day, I thought that I’d improved enough to allow myself a little run on a treadmill. I booked in about a half an hour on the treadmill, and maybe 20 minutes of that was spent jogging or running.

I went faster, faster, and faster. I felt like I could fly, again. It was a liberating feeling, a wonderful experience. I hope to be able to run through the Parc Lafontaine again this spring… there is nothing quite like flying amongst the blossoms and singing birds. Makes me even more glad to be alive.

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

Personal trainer showing a client how to exerc...

Image via Wikipedia

by Natasha Henderson, Montreal

The gym. It is a place to work out, a place to stretch the boundaries of how you feel and what your body can do. A place to work out problems, to work in peace, to work in silence or with loud, boisterous laughter. Depending on your gym (assuming you go to a gym, I understand that a lot of people do not) you might find it is a great place to meet people, to take on a class or two in something new, a place to build muscle and confidence.

It could be that you feel uncomfortable with all eyes staring at you. It could be that you don’t feel that you fit in with the hard-bodies that surround, or it might be because you are shy, and, well, some soft-bodies are busy eyeing up your fine physique. No matter what, a gym is one of those communal places where you need to find the right sort of place for you, at the right time in your life.

When I moved to Montreal, I found myself losing weight. It was delightful! The little furnished apartment I’d rented for a month upon moving here had a scale in the bathroom. Hot days, lots of walking, and new types of food all combined to melt the pounds away (as they say). The start of massive-weight-loss combined with that invigorating view of the lowering numbers on the bathroom scale inspired me to join a gym.

Lurt would like to get skinny

I’d been to the gym before… Always would do a light round of weight-machines, and about twenty minutes of cardio. This would occur about three times a week. Once I found that I didn’t have the money or inclination to go to the gym (back in those olden days), I invested in a workout tape. I’d do step aerobics. I liked it, I got sweaty, I didn’t lose weight but I felt good when I did it. I also would garden, mow my lawn.. I counted that as exercise. I needed to understand that simple existence doesn’t “count” as exercise. Especially when you drive everywhere and reward your workouts with onion rings. 

The first gym I joined in this city was a Semi-Budget style of gym. My inexpensive membership included one session with a trainer, who convinced me to use two weight-machines, do lots of sit-ups, and to continue with all the cardio work that I could. The weight continued to fall off my body, and I felt fabulous. The gym was always crawling with people, but they kept the washrooms pretty clean. The gym was mostly utilised by local working-class people such as myself. Yes, I had a job back in those days. A job in the Fashion Industry… yet another story for another day!

When I moved closer downtown a year later, I knew that I’d need to relocate my Gymming too. So I eventually bought myself a membership at a more Chi-Chi gym. I let the salesman at the (quiet! not busy!) front desk convince me to purchase several sessions with a personal trainer. Over several months I became an almost “hard-body”. Well, I became pretty well-formed, and in the best shape of my entire life. I did still have a weird neck/shoulder problem that could have been related to the stress of my (then) job, but… I felt like a million bucks. It was good.

When I left that stressful job to become a Full-Time Artist, I still used this gym and my trainer… until one day my membership ran out. Did I have several hundred dollars to renew? Uh, no. No I did not. So, I figured I’d do push-ups, sit-ups, and lunges at home. A friend recommended the 100 Push-Ups programme. It had worked for her; it didn’t work for me. I needed to get out of my home for exercise. I continued with jogging (there’s another story, How I Learned To Jog) and “brisk walking”. Needless to say, some of the pounds rejoined my body. I still felt good, but not as well-formed. I was ok with this.

You can see a lot of pretty leaves when you're out running around outside

When I found my feet, found my pace, and decided to rent a shared studio space, I was quite thrilled to discover that in the same building as my studio was a Budget-Level gym. Ok, half of the equipment was broken, it was full of mean-looking men who would eye you up and down thoroughly before returning to their training and sparring (most of them were welter-weight boxers) and the changeroom was something to escape from. It was, however, about $100 for a year. I was happy. I did some exercise in this place, but certainly not enough. I seemed to fall into a pattern of twice a week, about 40 minutes of cardio followed by stretching. When I moved studios to another one across town, I let this gym membership slide away.

After a few months of no exercise, and finding that my middle was becoming increasingly softer, I had the opportunity to go to the YMCA gym. My neighbours let me use their free guest passes for this, and it was great. So great it was, that I eventually sprung for a membership of my own. I enjoy taking the African Dances and Yoga classes, and look forward to other classes, too. I plan to buy a swimming cap and goggles, and will do some swimming. I’ve worked out in the weights rooms, utilising the knowledge that my old personal-trainer had passed on to me before. I jogged around the track a bit, until my knee told me NO MORE. So for now I stick with the dance, yoga, potential-swimming… Pilates, other dance, maybe even belly dance some day! I need to embrace my wiggly side.

I like the YMCA. I like that there is a huge range of classes, and I like that there are programmes for everyone. Drippy nose-and-fingered kids take swim lessons (I am avoiding swimming on the weekends and after school), working-class people bring their one pair of shorts and jiggle around (my folks!), and businessmen with text-messaging beeping gadgets play racquetball. Self-employed artists and health practitioners and dance teachers go to classes together. It’s a lot of fun. The other day I saw several older women dancing to”something” in a room, complete with coffee and muffins. They looked to be having a sociable and fun time. Who wouldn’t want to be around that???

%d bloggers like this: