I've been dancing since the year before kindergarten. So, 20 years now. Whoa. ANYWAYS, the whole reason I started dance was because I was pigeon toed and always tripped over my own feet. My mom thought dance would make me more graceful. And in most ways it has... unfortunately, I still trip over my own feet every now and then. (Life isn't choreographed okay?!)
I didn't start ballet until I was 10 years old. That's actually pretty late to start ballet. My dance technique was sloppy, I didn't know how to properly point my huge feet, or control my awkward lanky limbs that seemed to keep growing uncontrollably. But I always worked really really hard. Like, way too hard. I turned out too much for the little strength I had to hold it. I forced everything. It continued on like that through 9th grade, and even through the rest of high school when I started dancing in Boston.
I look back at pictures and cringe at the alignment of my knees.
I ended up going to Fordham University and The Ailey School's BFA Program where I majored in dance and minored in communications. I was taking up to 18 dance classes a week, on top of a full academic load, on top of extra rehearsals, and on top of trying to have a social life. Your body and mind get worn out! By my junior year of college my right knee was in a lot of pain. Walking was a struggle, never mind trying to take all of these classes and learn new repertoire for upcoming performances and walk everywhere because you're in NYC.
I found out that I had tendonitis, bursitis, and a bone spur. One caused the other of course. All of it was caused by poor alignment over a long period of time. I think this upset me the most because this injury could have been prevented if only I was more aware. Private instruction is so important. Being a dance teacher in addition to a Pilates instructor, I know how difficult it is to correct every single student's alignment. It's even harder to consistently correct that same mistake enough to make it a habit in their body. With private instruction, these things can be fixed. Hindsight is always 20/20 though, huh?
I saw the amazing Doctor William Hamilton who works directly with dancers and athletes, especially ballet dancers, regularly. It's hard to find these kinds of doctors. He recommended I get a Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) Injection. Essentially, they take your blood, put it in this cool machine that separates the platelets from the rest of the blood. The doctor takes this giant needle and pokes holes in the tendon (so basically you're getting more injured just to get better... weird, I know). Then the platelets are injected into tendon. The idea is that your body will heal itself. It's based on stem cell research. It was popular in Europe and was finally making it's way over to the U.S.
Dr. Hamilton said it would take 1-3 injections for me to feel better. I got 2 and was good to go! They were about 6 months apart. During the first injection I almost passed out. I definitely blacked out for a second. The nurse had to turn me upside down haha! The second time, I learned my lesson and made sure to eat a big breakfast and drink a TON of water. Both times were no fun. I have now watched every single episode of Law and Order: SVU... twice.
After a week or two of resting I was allowed to start going to Physical Therapy. No dancing...yet. I worked with a physical therapist who worked directly with the Alvin Ailey Company so she was very familiar with dancers. She put me on this strange mechanism one day... called it the reformer. I thought it was cool. We did some plies and releves and I went on my merry way. The next week we started little jumps on the same cool machine. JUMPS! I was soooo excited. This meant I could start slowly getting into dance classes again!
I asked where I could find a reformer elsewhere in the city to use on my off days from PT. My physical therapist told me to look at a few different Pilates studios. I ended up getting a front desk job at one! I fell in love with the exercises even more. I saw how many different people came in for different reasons. I saw how many people it helped. I saw how many people wanted to teach it because they believed in and loved it so much. Because of Pilates, I was able to dance my entire senior year without a problem. I worked with Nicole Fosse, Valeria Salgado, Khaleah London, and a lot of other incredible artists. It was an amazing experience.
I ended up moving back to MA about a year after I graduated. My mom had started taking Pilates classes at a local studio, Latti Datti Pilates. I started going to classes with her. My knee felt better than ever. I personally felt better than ever. I was strong, flexible, confident, and that silly knee just wasn't bothering me at all. I decided I wanted to get certified and so, I started my apprenticeship almost immediately. I observed, took class, practice taught, studied for the PMA Exam, and finally was certified in April of 2015!
In May, I opened B.A.M. Pilates (formerly Latti Datti Pilates). All I want to do is make people feel better. Your body shouldn't hurt. You should be able to move. Pilates has changed my life- I can still go take a dance class! My "career" isn't over. I'm so aware of my body and my alignment. I know what to do when certain parts of my body hurt or ache. My goal is to help other people gain this same awareness. Pilates truly is for everyone. Your health and wellness is worth the expense- I promise you.
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