Gotta Dance – Training the Whole Dancer – Health & Wellness come to CalArts

Photo 1 Title

The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) held an inaugural Dance and Wellness Intensive on March 20 and 21 on its campus in Valencia. The intensive was curated by the School of Dance administrators and faculty to provide their students with exposure to performing arts health professionals and wellness experts to compliment and balance the high level of training offered in technique, performance, choreography, and production. When I got the request to teach for the intensive, I was so excited to hear that my alma mater was joining the wellness wave and providing students with access to dancer health resources that I knew I had to cover the event for

Photo 2 Peer Massage

The two days offered 31 workshops and lectures to replace the normally scheduled curriculum for its roughly 100 undergraduate and graduate students. Several therapeutic and rehabilitative modalities were represented with lectures on physical therapy and injury prevention and treatment from the Dance Medicine experts at Evergreen Physical Therapy Specialists; hands-on therapeutic touch workshops led by yours truly, representing my practice NewPath Wellness; and MELT Method for full body self-care.

Photo 3 CI Training

Body awareness and conditioning classes were held by Donna Krasnow, introducing students to her C-I Training; Billy Gill and Nichol Chase offered yoga each morning; and I offered a Movement Lab workshop to facilitate students in building a balanced and effective warm-up.

Photo 4 Yoga

Psychological and emotional health were addressed by CalArts’ Melissa Shepherd who spoke about burnout; Bob Sharits of Action Family Counseling who spoke about substance use; and Lesli A. Johnson who led a workshop on mindfulness practices. To round out the offerings, Planned Parenthood presented on sexual health and Dr. Dan Griffin of Pure Wellness Center held information sessions on nutrition.

Photo 5 Burnout

The students were very excited about the full schedule and were able to choose which classes they wanted to take. Many expressed that the different lectures and workshops offered them information that they had been seeking, either out of curiosity or necessity.

Photo 6 Substance Use

Stephan Koplowitz, Dean of the Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance, stated, “I think the benefit of our Wellness Intensive is quite simple – it gave everyone a chance to pause, reflect, take stock, and truly be mindful of the choices we are making in our lives, choices that effect both our emotional and physical well-being. I think gaining the tools of being more “mindful” of our health is truly a key ingredient to sustaining an art practice that is more balanced and will contribute to allowing more pleasure and satisfaction and help us meet the challenges and pressures of today’s world.” I absolutely agree and feel that we are experiencing a cultural shift toward considering the “whole” person. The more we demand of ourselves artistically, the more we must incorporate resources and tools that serve us holistically. Knowing what those are and where to access them is crucial.

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Personal health advocacy in the performing arts is gaining ground. Organizations and institutions like this one are incorporating curriculum and special events that expose students to wellness practices. For the individual free-lance and pre-professional artist, it is up to you to seek practitioners that understand the demands of your field and utilize tools to bring balance to not only how much you give, but also receive. Pain, reorganization, stress, time management, burnout, cross-training, prevention, rehabilitation, recuperation, and exertion are all components of every artist’s career arc. How we face and encounter each of these elements determines not only the quality of what we can create, but the quantity of how much we can produce. The duration of your career can be extended greatly by having a balanced approach to your health. The culture of grinning and bearing it is being replaced by gratification and self-growth. What choices are you making to ensure your own success?

Photo 8 Movement Lab

It was my pleasure to work with the CalArts dance students and staff!

All photos taken by Scott Groller.