Not I, nor any one else can travel that road for you. You must travel it for yourself. – Whitman
“Push your pennies.” “Heart to the queen.” “Headlights facing front.” “Elbow fairies.” “Don’t hit the gnome.”
For nine straight years, somewhere between 10 and 28 hours of my week was spent hearing (almost) nonsensical phrases such as those. My ballet teacher, Katie Smythe, CEO and Artistic Director of New Ballet Ensemble in Memphis, Tennessee, was a mastermind at thinking up creative metaphors to help us connect our minds to our bodies and place our bodies in the perfect positions. An outsider would probably think that we were money-obsessed fantasy characters driving cars, instead of dancers perfecting our ballet technique. But those metaphors became an invaluable teaching tool when I became a Pilates Mat and Bar Effect™ instructor. Nothing gets to students, old or new, like great visuals. My ballet teacher also used to come around, physically moving our bodies into the right positions. Sometimes she would joke about her old teacher who had these horribly long fingernails and used to come around pinching her students glutes to make them squeeze harder. I use this touching technique (not the long fingernail technique haha) when my students become comfortable with my teaching style, and I call it the “Midas Touch” – the results are gold when the student finally accesses the right muscles in the right way! When I stopped dancing full-time and became a full-time undergrad, I decided to get Pilates certified through Invoke Studio’s Peak Pilates certification. It was a perfect fit! Funny thing – I am now even more toned, physically fit, and knowledgeable about my body than I was as a dancer. Oh, and I love my body WAY more. Now, when I take ballet classes back in Memphis, Ms. Katie always comments on my physique and my endurance, noting that I look like I never quit dancing full-time. While I now prefer Pilates and Bar Effect™ to ballet and dance classes, I would not be as strong of a student or a teacher without this background. With my understanding of proper ballet technique and alignment, as well as a large inventory of exercise options, I feel confident leading my class safely through a fun, but challenging class. This past February, I presented a conference session at Mid West Fit Fest, entitled “Pilates Barre Fusion: What is Safe and What is Harmful?” I used my knowledge of ballet technique and alignment to show other instructors how the best barre classes are taught, and how teachers should cue correctly to ensure safe alignment and the proper engagement of specific muscles. I had wonderful feedback from this session, and I love knowing that my ballet past has given me the tools to successfully and safely teach in my present and in my future. I love that Bar Effect™ gets into muscles I never even knew I had, and I love that the format allows you to hit every single part of the body so that you’re balanced. I love taking Bar Effect ™ classes just as much as I love teaching them. Most importantly, I love putting in all the determination to hold a position longer or lengthen a little further. I feel both physically and mentally stronger after class. And that’s what it’s all about. That’s why people love it. It’s a challenge and it moves you forward in life, just as ballet has moved me forward to where I am now.