The Brutal Beauty of Dance

Marianela Núñez Rick Guest portrait

I recently discovered London-based photographer, Rick Guest’s book, What Lies Beneath.  It features the stunning images he took of some of the world’s best dancers. Guest’s aim was to capture the ‘determination and sacrifice’ that goes into the gruelling training regimes of professional dancers.

Guest: ‘The photos were taken over the last three years, with the dancers always coming to my studio. I felt it was important to remove them completely from the world where they perform, in order to better get under their skin as people, not just the dancer playing a character.  Part of their job is to make the physicality of what they do appear effortless and only be seen in terms of how it adds to the narrative of the performance, but this does a great disservice to their art and its appreciation.

The photo above is of Argentinian ballet dancer Marianela Núñez, a principal dancer with The Royal Ballet.  Below are three more of my favourite images from the book.  They are of (in the order shown) Sergei Polonin, Zarina Stahnke and Eric Underwood…

Sergei Polonin by Rick Guest

Zarina Stahnke by Rick Guest

what lies beneath rick guest

I also love this GIF, a mash-up of all the stills from Guest’s book, which allows the dancers to move…

A mash-up of Rick Guest's what lies beneath

In case you’re in any doubt of the brutality of dance, here are couple of images (not by Rick Guest) of dancers’ feet…ouch!

ballet dancer's feet

A ballet dancer's feet on pointe

To close, here is a video featuring key moments from one of the best dance documentaries ever made, Pina 3D, a film for Pina Bausch by Wim Wenders.  It’s set to Song of the Stars by Dead Can Dance.  The video perfectly captures the brutal beauty of dance…

June Class Timetable Changes

The Gathering, 1929 by Catalan artist Àngeles Santos Torroella

Another small escape from Clevedon and EP HQ is on the cards in June, which means a few minor changes to the Pilates class timetable at The Wellbeing Studio from the 6th-9th of that month.  The following classes will not take place:

  • Monday 6th June at 12.30
  • Tuesday 7th June at 18.15 and 19.15
  • Thursday 9th June at 12.30

The Thursday evening class at 18.00 on the 9th June will run as normal, as will the Saturday morning class at 10.00 on the 11th June of course.  To those affected by the four cancelled classes, apologies.  Perhaps, if you find you’re free, you might like to come along to the Thursday lunchtime or Saturday morning classes instead that week.

I recently discovered Czech rebel sculptor, David Černý.  Any artist who, on the eve of a general election, floats a statue of an obscene-gestured hand in front of the castle to oppose the state of Czech politics, perceived corruption, and President Milos Zeman’s support of the Communist party, gets my vote.

Less controversial, more beautiful but equally impactful is Černý’sculpture, In Utero, a six-metre high stainless steel structure of a pregnant woman, which visitors can step inside to “experience” the womb…

David Cerny's In Utero

I also love his 45-ton, 42-layered rotating sculpture of Franz Kafka’s head.  It’s near the building where Kafka worked as an insurance clerk in Prague, and faces City Hall.  Černý built it to remind us of Kafka when we get frustrated by the incompetence of those in public office.  This constantly moving sculpture transforms over time just like K in Kafka’s seminal novella, The Metamorphosis.  Take a look; it’s a mesmerising watch…

 

 

Why You’re in Safe Hands with a Pilates Foundation Teacher

Pilates Foundation logo

As I do each year, last weekend I attended the Pilates Foundation AGM and workshops in London.  It is a great opportunity to discuss Pilates and movement issues with other professional teachers, catch up with old friends, make new ones and continue to develop and learn from one another in our shared passion for the Pilates Method.  In turn these new ideas I bring home with me and share with my clients.  This not only helps to keep my classes fresh, but also at the cutting edge of new thinking about health and well-being.

This year is the 20th anniversary of the Pilates Foundation.  Founded in 1996, it is the UK’s first and therefore oldest Pilates Teachers’ Association.  One of the founders of this not-for-profit organisation is Alan Herdman.  He was taught by Joseph Pilates and is credited with introducing Pilates to the UK.  One of the other founders of the Pilates Foundation, Hana Jones, herself a student of Alan Herdman, luckily for me, was my teacher on the Pilates training course I took in 2003 at The Place, the London Contemporary Dance School.

The Pilates Foundation was set up to promote the work of Joseph and Clara Pilates, honouring the original repertoire and principles, while at the same time bringing current knowledge and research to teaching the Pilates Method.

Hannah Hoch

In a nutshell, the Pilates Foundation is dedicated to maintaining excellence in the practice and teaching of Pilates, and through this powerful method, promoting health and well-being.  That is our mission and guides everything we do as Pilates Foundation teachers. To gain membership of the organisation, students must undergo extensive training and pass a rigorous examination process, which takes at least a year. This is not the case for the vast majority of teachers delivering Pilates classes in the UK.

Membership of the organisation is renewed annually and Pilates Foundation teachers have to meet on-going professional development requirements and adhere to a Code of Ethics and Conduct.

For all the reasons highlighted above, this means when you attend group classes or private one-to-one sessions with a Pilates Foundation teacher, you can be sure you are in safe hands. But don’t take my word for it.  Here’s what West London Osteopaths’ David Tatton has to say about the Pilates Foundation…

“At West London Osteopaths we have been referring patients to Pilates Foundation teachers for over thirty years. The training and knowledge of the teachers from the Pilates Foundation fits in very well with the needs of our patients for exercise and rehabilitation. Osteopathy and Pilates is a very powerful and effective combination, with many patients maintaining and improving on the benefits of Osteopathic treatment with Pilates.”

lola-mora-fuente-de-las-nereidas

To close, here’s cover queen, Lissie with her version of Kid Cudi’s Pursuit of Happiness. Being happy, making others happy – perhaps the key to physical and emotional well-being…

How Often Should You Do Pilates?

Flying side plank

I’m often asked by clients how often they should do Pilates to see the benefits.  Once a week?  Twice?  Every day?  The founder, Joseph Pilates recommended doing at least ten minutes every day.  I agree.  I encourage people who come along to class to take away with them one or two exercises their bodies responded particularly well to in the session, to do at home for themselves in between classes.

Although I teach Pilates six days a week, I still make time each day at home to do the exercises I need to do to ensure my body moves as well as possible.  The benefits I get from doing Pilates daily are obvious to me; I can tell from the range of movement I’m able to do and from how it feels when I move.

If you’re wondering if it’s safe and beneficial to do Pilates every day, here’s a useful article which considers how adaptable Pilates is to being done on a daily basis, and the importance of doing the correct balance of Pilates exercises.

The key points from the article are highlighted below:

  • Pilates exercises emphasize things like awareness, functional alignment, breath, and co-ordination. This multi-dimensional approach gives us the opportunity to shift the focus of our daily routine.
  • Joseph Pilates firmly believed that an exercise programme should be varied and that the way to maximize the effect of each move is doing it with full attention, and with low repetitions. Based on this, the ideal Pilates session rotates between different muscle groups, shifts intensity levels, and balances our exercises in terms of flexion and extension within each workout, and in our daily workouts over time. Repeating the same exercises every day could result in an unbalanced routine that becomes as boring as doing too many reps. Read the following quote from Joseph Pilates:

     

    ‘Contrology [Pilates as we call it now] is not a fatiguing system of dull, boring, abhorred exercises repeated daily ad-nauseam…..The only unchanging rules you must conscientiously obey are that you must always faithfully and without deviation follow the instructions accompanying the exercises and always keep your mind wholly concentrated on the purpose of the exercises as you perform them.’

     

  • Tune into yourself and adjust the focus of your exercise for any given day, based on how your body feels, e.g. your energy level, areas of discomfort etc. A good rhythm for doing a Pilates routine over time might be to do a physically challenging session one day, perhaps a group class, and follow up with a day or two at home doing a smaller number of exercises that are easier on the muscles.

Man doing Pilates

In conclusion then, Pilates can be done safely and effectively every day. The key is to vary the exercises in your routine, keep them targeted, and if a particular muscle group is challenged one day, moderate the work you do on this part of the body the next.

Pilates, the physical accompaniment to daily life.  P J Harvey, the musical accompaniment to my daily life, currently anyway.  Here’s a track from her recently released album, The Hope Six Demolition Project…

How to Manage Your Worries

Worried cat

Do you ever find yourself worrying more than you’d like to?  If so, you’re not alone. Anxiety is very common.  According to the charity, Anxiety UK, almost one in five people feel anxious a lot or all the time, while nearly half feel more anxious than they used to.

Want to learn how to manage your worries better?  This new video from Radio 4’s psychology, neuroscience and mental health programme, All in the Mind, might be helpful. It’s a short animation, just over three minutes long, with evidence-based advice from clinical psychologist, Professor Kirchhoff from the Netherlands.  Based on trials, Professor Kirchhoff has devised a useful technique to help people worry less.  Take a look…

Attending a Pilates class can also help with anxiety.  An hour spent concentrating hard to execute a series of flowing exercises with precision and control, using a distinct method of breathing, provides a valuable space from any nagging worries that may be going round and round in your head.

Meditation on the beach