Food is an obsessive topic in the world. I believe that dancers hold it a close second to another obsessive topic: injuries.
(Can I get a heeey! for the foam roller??!)
Tonight, I had plans to call one of my best friends from Colorado, Laura Bradley. She is a lady of many talents, which includes dance and Pilates. Since I don’t get to see her very much, we do our best to keep in touch by texting about the day to day, which usually includes what we were eating. We then talk about food on the phone.
Tonight’s big question: to pizza or not to pizza?
(Hello Pizza Kitty!)
I naturally stepped in as her gastro-advocate and proposed that she not only get a pizza, but include an order of breadsticks as well. This led us into the typical back and forth dialogue that follows such an evil scheme. We were hungry, dammit, and I would support her in achieving great success.
Now, Laura and I had initially planned on talking about Pilates so that I could write about it in my blog. And we did talk about Pilates, however, there’s a strange magnetic pull that pizza has over, say, a reformer (this is one of the many strange contraptions in a Pilates studio). So I started to inquire about the role of food in Pilates. She explained to me how there wasn’t really a nutritional protocol in her Pilates training.
Wow, strange! I thought.
She continued: “Joseph felt that you could eat what you wanted to and be healthy if you did his method. He had quite the bravado about his approach and emphasized the importance of breathing, circulation, the turnover of cells, and the detox that happens with Pilates. Joseph also drank and smoked cigars.”
Hmm, my kind of guy. Sort of. (At this point I’m getting flashbacks of dating musicians…)
As a dancer and a structural integrator, I find the notion of food freedom to be refreshing and yet somewhat scary.
Laura explained: “It’s different for everyone and differs according to your standards. There are going to be Pilates instructors that disagree with me. Maybe I could eat and do whatever I wanted, I mean, my blood work is impeccable. However, I want to feel good. In some ways I agree with Joseph but I have other personal goals such as how I want to feel and look.”
I agree that this is important. We need to ask ourselves: how do we stay in balance, work out in moderation, accept our bodies and let the body still be the form of artistic expression? Some dancers just seem to do better than others. Some people just seem to do better than others.
Laura doesn’t obsess about her weight either: “I won’t weigh myself. Sometimes I’ll use it as a way to conquer my obsession.”
Tonight we also talked about what healthy and fit actually means:
“Even in yoga, you are supposed to look a certain way. When you’re younger it’s more about how you look vs. how you feel. I had to compromise between how I look and feel.” she shared. “Fat. Skinny. Fat. Skinny. Is it like this in France? I think they’d order the damn pizza. But they also walk everywhere.”
Being healthy. Feeling nourished. These aren’t generally the attitudes used to describe a dancer’s effort to maintain the warped dancer aesthetic. Is there a way to adjust our way of thinking in a world where 5 pounds feels like 50? Ultimately, isn’t it about how you feel that is more important?
Today, Laura uses Pilates as a tool for strength training as well as preparation for super athletic dance pieces. “It’s about maintenance and realistic aesthetics as well as feeling better overall. I focus on breathing and building more stability to support my back.” (Laura has scoliosis). “I also work to feel taller and make sure that every part of me feels stretched. No other method does that for me. My heart and lungs are impacted. I am touched inside and out. Joseph called it the Internal Shower.”
She adds: “I am learning to accept my womanhood and let go of the idea of having a little girl dancing body. Mostly, I am ok with my different curves but some days are easier than others. In any case, I want chocolate!” she joked.
“Maybe the pizza guy will pick some up for you!” I offered.
Laura Bradley is a dancer, choreographer, and the artistic director of Beyond Boundaries Dance in Grand Junction, CO. She graduated in 1998 from the Boulder Pilates Center Advanced Teacher Training and has taught Pilates in New Zealand and New York. She has also studied Thai massage and Reiki.