Dreams Coming True in the Middle of a Pandemic

Hi friends!

Wow. Quarantine and the COVID-19 pandemic has been quite the experience so far. In about 10 weeks, I’ve been furloughed from every single job I held this past year (minus some dance company work which is being handled digitally). I’ve lost the opportunity to perform, to teach, to choreograph, to wish my senior dance students off to college, and to say goodbye to my students at my beloved dance studio I’ve taught at for the last three years. My unemployment is nonexistent, and I’ve not received a dime of federal financial assistance since NJ went into a state of shelter. I was in the middle of finally narrowing down testing to pinpoint all of the auto-immune responses/health issues I was having between October 2019 and March 2019. That has also been put-off for the time being due to COVID-19. Further, I even had to miss a trip to see my best friend in Chicago before she moves to Seattle. This virus has ruined every part of my life (except my health THANK GOD).

It’s been an extremely emotional, and tumultuous time for me. This pandemic has caused a great deal of panic for me, in addition to abruptly ending parts of my life I will never gain closure to. I feel robbed of experiences, memories, and the money I need to support myself and pay my bills on time.

Last Wednesday (March 13), I received some pretty horrendous news regarding the dance company I perform with in NYC. I broke down in tears at the news, and cried harder when I read,

“NYC theaters will remain closed until 2021”.

My heart sank to my feet. The impact this virus has on the dance world is severe and long-term. I think it will be at least a year until NYC’s dance and theater scene are back on their feet and running. NJ Governor Murphy even announced today that until there is a vaccine, the shelter will remain in place. I cannot even fathom how that is constitutional or supposed to work. Vaccines take at least one to two years to be created/tested. What that means for the dance world is performing arts and fitness are not going to operate how they used to ever again. What that means for life as I knew it is that life is over. I felt hopeless and directionless.

Photography by Cary Davis – Human Stories Photography

Last Wednesday, I’d had it. I’ve cried so much the last 10 weeks, and cried the hardest on Wednesday. The ONLY motivation that has kept me going this entire 10 weeks was my application to graduate school. I applied for a program to earn my MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a Concentration in Dance/Movement Therapy, and a certificate in Life/Career Coaching. I sent my application in in the middle of March, and had my virtual interviews on May 7. I was anxiously awaiting the response because if I was accepted, I was going to have a direction. A goal. A purpose!

I woke up on March 14 to my phone buzzing. A mental health facility I applied to the night before was calling me regarding my application! The first call back in WEEKS. I landed an interview (which is digital and being held tomorrow morning), and after I got off of the phone, I called my mom, and then went downstairs tell my dad. As I walked up to my dad’s office, my phone “pinged” with an email regarding my application status was updated.

I opened the email, and BOOM! There it was in all of it’s glory and grace, an acceptance letter into the school, into my program – complete with a SCHOLARSHIP! It was as if the skies opened up and poured this life-changing shower of gifts and blessings over me all in the matter of minutes! A possible new job, more education, and financial aid!? I couldn’t believe it, and I am STILL in shock about it!

Becoming a Dance/Movement Therapist has been a goal of mine for the last 8 years! Dance/Movement Therapy is the reason I chose the undergraduate program I attended because they offered a minor study in it. The program I will be completing will allow me to graduate as a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Registered Dance/Movement Therapist, and a Board Certified Life Coach!

I want to work with veterans/military personnel, and women who’ve survived trauma. I want to write two books – a memoir about my life and experience with body-based trauma and movement expression, and a research-based book on how movement and dance heals the traumatized body and mind more effectively than traditional talk therapy. The beginning of all of these goals starts with this Master’s education, and I just CANNOT BELIEVE I AM GOING TO ACTUALLY DO IT!

This whole experience has confirmed to me this is what I am supposed to do with my life. I always knew it too, but this chain of events has confirmed to me I am in the right place in my life, and I will be able to help a lot of people. I have a direction, I have big goals, and I have a big purpose for this lifetime. I cannot wait to begin!

PS: My hair is red now this isn’t a filter

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading. Life is so strange and horrific and wonderful all at the same time. To me, it’s truly a miracle all of these amazing, wonderful things came to me during this time of extreme panic and no direction. I think the biggest lesson this taught me is to remain positive. There is light and hope at the other end of this pandemic.

I hope you are all healthy and safe! I will keep you all posted about this new job, and updates on schooling as they become available. Sending out lots of light and love to everyone. Stay safe!

xoxo

Future R/DMT LPC

How to Create a Dance Reel

Hello loves! Today is day 25 (maybe?) of quarantine for me, and as I sit here and work on my application materials for graduate school, I realized I had to update my dance reel. Since interviews and auditions are now going to be virtual, I may be able to have my digital audition waived if I send them my updated dance reel. That being said, I haven’t touched my dance reel since late 2017 or early 2018. Two years has brought with it a ton of performance opportunity, rehearsal, and corresponding footage to add to my reel.

My brother used to have Adobe Premier Pro, which I used to create my dance reel the first few times in 2016 and 2017. If you have access to Adobe Premier Pro, I HIGHLY suggest you use that software. It is one of the best video editing softwares I’ve ever used. However, any software that can handle large files will do. Your reel doesn’t need a lot of effects or complicated edits.

Right now, my brother only has access to Adobe Premier Rush, which is a basic editing version of Premiere Pro. As I adjust to using a not-as-fancy software, I wanted to share with you that you can still use basic softwares to create a professional reel.

Bound” Borne Dance Company
The Secret Theater NYC

Here are my tips for creating a kick-ass dance reel!

  1. Choose a theme for your reel. If you need a reel for a teaching position, you want the reel to include class videos of you instructing, your choreography, you demonstrating in class, and giving students corrections. If you need a reel to audition for a role on Broadway, you want to showcase your more commercial styles of dance – jazz, tap, theater – and maybe include footage of you dancing in dance heels or other footwear you might be expected to wear if you were to land the gig. If you are a contemporary dancer and want to audition for a contemporary group, you would want to include footage of you dancing modern/contemporary styles, some improvisation footage, and maybe partnering. You can make multiple reels, and a lot of dancers do this to keep them all separate and concise. Determine your desired job, and then create from there.
  2. Access decent video editing software. As mentioned above, you don’t need software with a bunch of fancy tools. Adobe Premier Pro is wonderful because you can add arrows to your clips to indicate where you are on stage if the footage is of you in a group. With Adobe Premiere Rush, I am not able to add arrows. But instead, I chose clips where I am clearly in the shot and that is clear I am the person dancing. I also can add titles to the clip to explain the name of the piece, what group I was performing with, and the theater I was dancing in.
  3. Choose clips that are clear and showcase your best technique. I cannot stress this enough – but chose clips in a high resolution, where your form, face, and shape are discernible from the background/other dancers. You want to keep the clips short, and you don’t want the director taking each 5-15 second clip just to figure out where you are in the shot.
  4. Choose short clips. See above! You want to be distinguished from the rest of the shot, and you do not want the clips to be so long that the director or viewer become bored. You don’t need to showcase all 45 min of your favorite performance. Your favorite moment or moments will do just fine!
  5. Mute the audio on all video clips. You want to choose one audio track for the entire reel. Multiple audio tracks cutting in and out from clip to clip is distracting and looks unprofessional. Mute everything, and choose the right track to put over it!
  6. Choose engaging audio! You do not want to choose a very popular track (such as a song on the radio). Think of your reel and what fits best with what you are showcasing. Instrumentals are a great place to start for any type of reel. You want something dynamic and engaging, but not overpowering where it distracts from the footage. Also, keep songs appropriate. If your audio of choice does include lyrics, make sure it’s a clean track with no offensive lyrics.
  7. Transitions between clips should be simple. A classic “Cross fade” transition is very useful for reels. Its clean, and lets the videos flow organically into one another. Plus, almost every video editing software no matter how basic has this option. Keep the transitions consistent throughout the video if you can (use just one), and avoid any glaring transitions that distract from the clips.
  8. Keep your length short! The entire reel show not exceed three and a half (3.5) minutes. A five minute dance reel is just way too long for an individual. This is why it is good to make separate reels for separate jobs. Additionally, a choreographer or director will know how you move about a minute into your reel. Anything longer than 3.5 minutes they might not even look at.
PC: Dovitsky NYC
Bound” Borne Dance Company

Hopefully you found these tips helpful! As you create your reel, also make sure your personality shines through. You can choose text font styles, colors, etc. that you like. Just remember, keep those choices consistent throughout, and make sure they are not distracting from what is happening on screen. I will hopefully be finishing my new reel soon, and I will post the final version into a post on here once I am done.

Thank you for reading, and if you are taking this quarantine time to catch up on needed reel updates, I wish you well in your creations!

xoxo

NEDA Awareness Week Show and Positive Mental Health Movement for Coping with COVID-19

Hi lovely readers. It’s been a minute. February was a very busy month, with three shows, and lots of big changes in my personal life. This post is to highlight some of that. However, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a need to raise awareness about mental health and suicide rates – which at desparate times like these – begin to rise. People are laid off, can’t feed their families or pay their bills… anyone struggling with their mental health could be negatively impacted by this pandemic in a very bad way.

As someone who has struggled with her mental health throughout her life, I find the need to spread some positivity during this crisis, and let you all know about some cool things the NYC dance company I dance for did back in February. At the end here, I also want to give you some suggestions on movement-based activities you can do while you are quarantined and/or if you are struggling with your mental health and being stuck inside is driving you insane.

I currently dance for Borne Dance Company, which is a New York City based dance company who’s mission is to bring awareness to mental health and destigmatize eating disorders. The last week in February is the National Eating Disorder Association’s (NEDA) National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Borne Dance Company celebrates the end of our season with a showcase during Eating Disorder Awareness Week. We host other artists, singers, performers, dancers, poets, and musicians who gather to play a show.

Admission to the show was donation-based, and 80% of the proceeds were donated directly to NEDA after our show weekend was over. This year, Borne performed a new 25 minute piece titled “Bound“, which explored themes of isolation, and showcased the negative thoughts and coping mechanisms we hang onto as people.

The work was well-received, and we generated a lot of donation money through everyone’s generous donations. It was such a special day, and one of those full-circle life moments for me. Eight years ago when I was sick with anorexia, I never thought I’d be dancing professionally in NYC, let alone in a show with a company that cares so deeply about raising awareness about eating disorders.

PC: Human Stories Photography NYC for Borne Dance Co.

This all being said, it is always important to check-in on your friends, family, and loved ones all times of the year. Especially now, however, during this crisis, we need to keep checking in with those in our lives who are struggling, were struggling, or who we suspect might be struggling. Not just check-in on their physical health, but check-in on their mental health. Ask how their feeling, and if the answer is not positive, offer ways you can be there for them. Phone calls, video chats, text messaging – any way you can extend a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear, do it. It could save their life.

90% of the stimulation and nutrition to the brain is generated by movement of the spine

Dr. Roger Sperry

Now if you yourself are not feeling your best, or you want to find ways to help someone you love feel better, here is a list of ways to use movement to improve your mental health during this time of isolation and quarantine. Dr. Roger Sperry says 90% of the stimulation and nutrition to the brain is generated by movement of the spine, so staying active and mobile during this time is crucial for maintaining positive mental health. Here are some fun movement activities you can do solo or with a friend/partner (maintaining social distance of course) that could help increase/maintain your mental health.

  1. Exercise! Schedule specific times during the day or throughout the week dedicated solely to moving your body. Whether you find a yoga routine online, an at-home HIIT workout, or some cardio – find time to keep your body engaged throughout the week!
  2. Dance party! Maybe you’re cleaning the house, or maybe you’re really stressed and tight from sitting at your home computer and working from home. Turn on your favorite tunes and start grooving! Even if for five minutes! Dance like nobody’s watching, or have your family members join you! I bet you will be smiling within the first two minutes. Dancing increases blood flow, and seratonin (the happy hormone!) levels!
  3. Stretch! Ok dance and exercise isn’t your thing? Maybe Google some light stretching exercises you can do at home to stimulate blood flow, and let your muscles lengthen gently! It’s amazing what a little bit of light stretching can do to improve your mood, and how you feel physically.
  4. Play with a ball! If you have children, or a partner or roommate, take five minutes and just toss a ball back and forth to each other. You don’t have to have a lot of skill to do this, and it will get your blood flowing and you can even wear latex gloves so you don’t have to physically touch the ball! Don’t have a partner? Play fetch with a pet OR play wall-ball where a wall is your surface to pass from!
  5. Play with your pets! If you are a pet owner, you can take your dogs for a walk, or cuddle or play with your cats, hamsters, bunnies, etc.! Pets are the best for comfort, and they are an amazing excuse to go outside and talk a calm walk down the street 🙂
  6. Create! If you are an artist, dancer, or person who can’t sit still, try creating a dance or movement flow organically. Take some time to move and create, just like you would sit and create a painting, craft or song! You can keep it private, or show it online/to friends or family (following pandemic guidelines of course). You might surprise yourself with your creativity and what you will make!

These are just a few simple ways you can use movement to improve your own state of mental health, or help engage a family member or friend who might be struggling at this time. So much healing can come from simply moving your body, and it will also help pass the time while we wait for equillibrium and health to return to our society.

Thank you for reading, and I hope this post brought some positivity into your morning, afternoon, or evening (whenever this post reaches you!). Stay positive, healthy, and moving my friends! I hope to connect more soon.

xoxo

Pegli, Italy – Una Ballerina, Focaccia, e un Caffè Latte Macchiato

It’s been so long since I posted on here, and usually October is the month of the year each year I am actively blogging about Halloween, fall activities, and happenings in my life. Usually I am preparing for Nutcracker and drowing in Dunkin pumpkin coffee, but this year is a bit different.

As the weather changes over to autumnal coolness, I am feeling myself yearning to be back in Italy. For the Joffrey Ballet intensive I attended, I stayed in a small beach district of Genova on the Mediterranean coast, called Pegli. I have been missing the beautiful, simple town; the delicious foccacia, pesto, and espresso, and the intense heat of the sun during the long dance days.

My two weeks with the Joffrey School were so magical and enlightening. Not only did I travel – BY MYSELF – to Pegli (which involved a 7 hour flight, THREE train transfers at stations with no escalators, and a 50 lb suitcase), but I trained hard in a beautiful dance studio on a mountain (that had no air conditioning), with people from all over the USA and Italy. I still can’t believe I was brave enough to do all of this on my own, and with my own money.

No one in this district spoke English, so it forced me to use the little Italian I do know, and learn how to speak. Joffrey also equipped us with four Italian language lessons while we were there. I was told I have great pronunciation, and a lot of Italian people believed I’d been speaking Italian for a lot longer than one week!

Here are some images from the district I lived in. I walked up and down the lungomare (path along the sea) after every meal, and admired the scenery, culture, people, and beaches.

I drank an ameretto sour at a beach bar with my roommate late one night, and tried to communicate with our waiter in Italian to figure out if the other waiter was his brother.

“È tuo fratello?”

“Si, mio gemello!”

I made friends with the hotel baristo and he gave me a bottle of the wine I drank every night for free as a parting gift.

I traveled to Milan and toured the Duomo, and the La Scala theater. We toured Genova, and toured the Princess of Genova’s palace, and the Genova Aquarium – the second largest aquarium in the world.

I ate the most bread and pasta I have in my life, and also drank the best coffee I’ve ever had in my life every morning and afternoon! I cosumed so much gelato I’m surprised I didn’t turn into it. My favorite flavor of gelato is yogurt gelato!

We even toured the world’s best, and freshest pesto company greenhouses, and made our own pesto with their family recipe! Genova pesto is known to be the best in the world.

I cannot wait to travel back to Italy to explore more of the country. With this experience under my belt, I am not afraid to travel alone anywhere. I am so thankful for this experience, and will remember it all for the rest of my life. Thank you to the Joffrey Ballet School for this amazing experience, and all of the amazing faculty.

xoxo

May 2019 Life Update

WOW it’s been a minute since I posted on this account, and for that I am deeply apologetic. Life has been throwing me curve balls left and right, and I’ve been working and training a LOT in preparation for my summer.

Here are some of my recent activities, endeavors, and favorites for you all to see what I’ve been up to!

Orange Theory Fitness

A brand new Orange Theory Fitness opened very close to my home town. If you don’t know what Orange Theory is, it is a high intensity interval training (HIIT) fitness program. I’ve been curious about OTF for about a year now, and was SO SICK of my old gym membership. I have a membership at Crunch Fitness, and my schedule is so busy, I was barely using it. When I did go to the gym, I was so unmotivated to work out hard because it was late at night. I spend so much time preparing and teaching classes for clients and students, that the last thing I wanted to do at the end of the day was go to the gym and create an intense workout for myself to complete. In addition, the classes at my home gym are AWFUL.

For those reasons. I bought an OTF membership before they opened, and have been going for about a month now. I LOVE it. I plan on writing a whole post about Orange Theory and how I am running faster and rowing faster than I ever have before. This workout yields serious results. It’s fun, and because I spend a pretty penny on it, it forces me to go. I love working out in a group setting (that’s probably the dancer in me), so to be in a large group with everyone’s workout stats visible and updating in real time, it motivates me to work really hard. Another reason why I joined Orange Theory was to prepare my body for the intensity of my summer training. – see below for more on my summer dance training!

Pure Barre Training*

I am not sure if I mentioned this to you all, but the Xtend Barre I worked at closed very abruptly and permanently back in February. I was very upset because I just passed my test-out in October of 2018, and invested a lot of time and money into being a great barre instructor. I was reluctant, but a new owner bought our old space, and is turning it into a Pure Barre! He reached out to me, offered me a position, and I am being re-trained in Pure Barre method starting on Monday. I can’t wait! Pure Barre as a company has a much better corporate organization and structure, and the workout is very intense. It is also very different than Xtend Barre training. I miss teaching Xtend, but I am very excited for this new adventure.

*My opinion is not the opinion of Pure Barre, and does not reflect the opinions of the company. All opinions are my own*

Auditions

After a VERY stressful and somewhat awful audition back in April, I’ve been taking some time away from auditioning. I was auditioning at least once a week since January, and to be honest, I am feeling a bit burnt out. I don’t like when dance/performance becomes a source of an unhealthy amount of stress. That being said, I haven’t auditioned for anything in about a month. But in typical Julia fashion, I have an audition this Saturday evening for a company I am very interested in working with. I am looking forward to this audition because it is for concert, contemporary work instead of commercial work which is what I’ve been focusing on the last few months. Hopefully all goes well – I am looking forward to the opportunity.

Photo by Tim Lytvinenko

Summer Dance Training

As you all know, I am attending Joffrey Ballet School in Genoa, Italy this summer, and the Peridance Capezio BLUEPRINT summer intensive in NYC. I’ve been working full-time between all of my jobs to save and pay for my trips! I am currently looking to book my flight to Italy, and then I am basically all set to go! I can’t believe I’m going to live in Italy for two weeks, and then hop right on a plane back to NYC to train with some amazing choreographers and perform in a show! I am looking forward to all of my experiences this summer!

I will hopefully have more time to post as the recital season draws near, and my studio teaching comes to a close for the summer. Life is really busy right now, but I am excited to see what is in store for the rest of 2019!

How are your 2019 goals coming along? What are you working towards, and what are you doing every day to bring you closer to those goals?

Xoxo