Taking care of your feet

If there is one thing that this injury has taught me, aside from “warm up. I mean it!” is that I should take care of my feet better. And this “taking care” of feet does not imply just the inside or the outside, but both.

People with diabetes, or that know diabetics will be familiar with the almost obsessive care that goes to their feet; as dancers, feet are what support us and allow us to move, and we should be equally obsessive. And a similar regime is not a bad idea either.

Start by having a good pedi, if you can afford it, or go to a podiatrist (or both). Most technicians and professionals will be happy to answer any questions you have that are particular to your own feet, and what sort of thing you can do to keep them in good condition: care routines, products, etc. There’s a lot of things you can do, so here are some tips, in no particular order:

  • start with a good warm soak; if you have one of those foot spas, they’re great, but otherwise a nice bath also does the trick.
  • hard, dry skin? I normally file down any hardened area using a PediEgg (mostly the rough file, not the metal shaver side), then a good layer of hydrating cream. If your feet have been very dry, a good trick is to put on the cream and then some woollen socks to sleep, do that often enough and your skin should start recovering in no time.
  • cracks? they can be very painful, but there are several good Heel Balms; don’t be afraid of using one, although you might need to file down the area a bit if you have really hard skin; just keep in mind that Heel Balms can sting quite a bit if you put them onto a fresh crack; always follow instructions
  • keep your cuticles happy, and use some oil on them, like CND’s Solar Oil; this should also keep your nails hydrated and prevent breakage and dryness
  • get one of those 4-in-one nail buffers and some hoof sticks; make sure your cuticles are out of the way, then use the buffers as instructed to keep the nails even and shiny
  • if you’re painting your toenails, make sure you use a good base suitable to your nail type and situation: ridge filler if you’ve got ridges that didn’t go away with the buffing, nourishing if they’re peeling or breaking, hydrating if they’re too dry, etc
  • always finish your colour with a top coat to prevent chipping

So that’s for the outside. What about the inside? You start by making sure you warn up and stretch properly; this means not just your upper body, arms and legs, but your calves, ankles, and toes; use circles, stretches, point and back, come up on relevé and control the way down, lather, rinse, repeat. Calf lifts, calf stretches are your friends too. If you are going to work on relevé a lot, it’s even more important that you do this, both to condition the muscles but also to gain strength and balance, and to warm them up.

If the cold usually causes cramps on your legs, don’t be afraid of wearing leg warmers or heel-less, toe-less socks. You can make your own by cutting them off long socks… you might look like an 80’s escapee, but better warm than in pain! Right now I’m wearing woollen socks and leg warmers on the way in and out of class, but thankfully the dance studio is warm so I can dance barefoot.

Finally, a fellow dancer and chiropractor has made a video with advice on other exercises you can do. The video does contain advertisement for her services (I don’t get a dime for recommending her, in fact I am NOT recommending her as I haven’t used her services personally) but it also has some good and common sense advice on things you can do to keep your feet happy and healthy, exercise arches, toes, soles, grip, etc.

Review: Emma Champman’s workshop at Orient Expressions

When I first read the theme for the February workshop at Orient Expressions I was very excited. I’d never seen Emma dance, I hadn’t heard of her as a teacher either, but the workshop theme sounded different, the kind of thing we normally don’t see. “Don’t just do something, stand there!” was the title, and it suggested work on stillness and slow movement while maintaining energy levels. I booked in December, as I was leaving the OE December hafla.

Now, at the beginning of February, I hesitated about going, mainly because I am still recovering from the tendinitis and sprains I did back in early January, but I thought a slow workshop, even if long, would not be counter-productive. Emma did ask if anybody had any injuries or issues before starting, but said the workshop would be slow and shouldn’t cause much problem, but to be careful and judge my movements because it would be “light”. Well, the workshop didn’t cause any problem, but it wasn’t “light” work, and I’m glad!

We started with a handful of basic core movements: takseems, undulations and omis, slowing them down to almost treacle-speed. This was a wonderful core workout, and allowed us to focus very much on technique and intensity. We then moved onto a couple of basic slow combinations, where we covered things like initiating movement, strength, energy containment, stop and release, weight shifting, focus, shapes and lounges.

We then moved onto what was, I think, my favourite part: she asked us to dance with a single hand. I know it sounds strange, but we could all focus on following the music, and start to add feeling and intensity to this little, “simple” thing, which we then increased by adding the second hand and simple weight shifts and stances.

We finally moved onto the end of the workshop, where we used the two slow combinations we learnt before as part of a long improvisation to “Yearning” by Raul Ferrando. The piece is very soulful, and of course it was perfect to apply everything we’d learnt. I had to say that I felt really emotional dancing, simply because I allowed myself, for the first time, to actually connect to something inside me and to let that flow. I know I normally look happy as a clown when dancing, and there’s nothing wrong with it, but that emotion is not suitable for everything, and so far I’d been avoiding the slow pieces because, mainly, I didn’t feel “right” dancing them. Mostly, I have to say, because I wasn’t sure what to do. I was so very surprised when I realised that by the end of the workshop I’d done not one but two full improvisations to the song, and that I had been in my own little world doing them, without a care… I was so focused on letting emotion flow from inside out that I couldn’t give a flying hoot about what the people around me where doing. It felt fantastic.

This was also a first for me on something else. For the first time, my technique felt like it was fully on par with what was requested, all that extra conditioning I’ve been doing as part of the ATS training, and all the painfully slow work in ATS suddenly came out to play along with the years of musical training -which always helps when it’s improv time- and I could *dance*, not just try to get the movements right, but actually let the moves take over because my body knew exactly how to do them in the way I was requiring it to do them, effortlessly.

I have to say that by the end of the workshop I felt my undulations had improved quite dramatically -whether they remain like that or not is still to be seen- and that my moves were very gooey and sensual, something I had hoped to achieve but had never been comfortable about, and my core muscles felt the effects for a couple of days… apparently there is such a thing as “too slow”!

Emma was a great teacher, incredibly encouraging too… “I wish you could see yourselves dancing, you are all doing such beautiful shapes” and other positive words abounded. She also walked around us to correct technique, took her time to help people that were having issues with one thing or another, and did that personally and discretely too… nobody was embarrassed or got corrected in front of the others but everybody got personalised attention.

After the workshop, and during the Hafla, I walked to Emma to thank her for the workshop, as I found it incredibly useful. It did feel like a little leap into a new level for me, it allowed me to finally let go and do the kind of work I’ve been wanting to do for ages but was afraid that would look weird or not work for me and my body, and opened up the well to start experimenting with adding a new interpretative layer to my dancing. I felt excited about the workshop for days afterwards, which I think is the mark of a good one!

Would I take another workshop with Emma? Definitely! She was warm and likeable, her explanations and images were spot on, and she *clicked* quite right with my brain and body in her approach to dancing.

Would I take another workshop at Orient Expressions? Repeated question, but the answer still remains affirmative; I’m already booked for next workshop with Hilde Cannoodt.

You can visit Emma’s Belly Dance blog, and read how she got started, here: http://emmabellydancer.co.uk/how-did-you-start, there are also plenty of videos showing her dancing there. My favourite, that I think shows off a lot of the technique we worked on this workshop, is below. Enjoy!

Body Drum and Percussion and Dance workshops with Paulinho

Originally from Salvador, Brazil, Paulinho has been involved with music and dance since the age of 7. His love for drumming has taken him all over the world for nearly 30 years. At the age of 18 he became a member of Dance Brazil, a music and dance company where American and Brazilian dancers collaborate together. With Dance Brazil he toured in the United States where he settled for many years to come.

Working with many talented musicians and dancers in New York, he eventually joined the world renowned Stomp in 1997 in which he performed for 7 years. Touring mainly in America and Europe, he shared his passion for music and dance with thousands of people. Paulinho continues to inspire people with his love for drumming and has been teaching body drum and percussion workshops for over 2 decades to children and adults of all ages.

Sunday 31st March 2013:
11am – 1pm belly dance workshop with live percussion by Paulinho
Hilde Cannoodt and Paulinho join forces in this fun belly dance workshop with live percussion. We will learn a series of new isolation combo’s, shimmy drills and travelling sequences, working towards a percussive choreography danced to the beat of the drum.

1.30pmm – 3.30pm: Body Drum workshop with Paulinho
In this workshop we will use the body as percussive tool. We will start with a vigorous warm up followed by a number of different body drum techniques and eventually working towards longer sequences. Towards the end of the class we will experiment with how we can apply these techniques into a performance.

4 – 6pm ‘found objects’ percussion workshop
In this workshop we will explore how you can create music with any object. First we will start different techniques with the objects instruments brought to class by the students, leading to working together in group to work together on a piece of music. We will also incorporate the body as a percussive tool.

What to bring:

  • Athletic attire and indoor trainers (for both body drum and found objects workshop)
  • Packed lunch and plenty of water
  • ‘found objects’ for the last workshops. This can include percussion instruments as well as everyday tools. You can be really creative with this: bubble wrap, .. try and bring more than one object!

£ 25 per workshop or £ 60 for all 3 workshops
book here: www.hildebellydance.co.uk/about/paulinho.shtml

The Dance Station
UNIT 4, 57, North Street, PORTSLADE, BN41 1DH

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