The COVID-19 pandemic, while devastating to several industries and lifestyles, has been especially perilous to the performing arts, given that the nature of performance requires, well, people. In one place. Close together. It’s been a while since March, so forgive me if I’m mistaken, but I believe that as far as dance is concerned, sometimes people even have to—gasp!—touch.
Plenty of studios around the country have done their best to keep the love of dance alive in a socially distant world, however. When the pandemic arrived in Louisiana, Of Moving Colors Productions artistic director Garland Goodwin Wilson and her daughter Wilhelmina made sure that it didn’t stop them from stretching their limbs and staying in shape.
“In fact,” says Wilson, “I really enjoy having access to some of the world’s greatest dance teachers available continuously on Zoom.”
Even so, the matters of running a business never cease, which means that Wilson has made certain changes to her living room in order to transform it into the office/studio combo many artists have found themselves forced to create. Maybe you know the feeling—without regular coffee breaks or even twice-daily walks to and from the parking lot, those of us working from home have started feeling the aches and cricks in our knees and backs getting worse than ever before.
“As a dancer, it’s wonderful to have a designated space to move in my home,” she says. “However, some days when I’m working on a proposal or project for long hours at my desk, I just want to do a few basic stretches to release my body from the stress of the day. Dancers have some pretty good tools to help them stretch. Things that help you balance, stretch your hamstrings, relax your back. The equipment options are endless!”
But, says Wilson, the fancy tools are only optional. Plenty of household objects can also come in handy for a work-from-home exercise any dancer—or magazine writer!—would be keen to keep in her arsenal.
Demonstrated by her daughter, here are a few of Wilson‘s favorite things to do at the end of a desk day:
“This is something that can be done with so many objects,” she says. “You can use anything from a spiky sports ball to your young child’s squishy toy. After keyboarding for a few hours, our hands get fatigued. It’s nice to care for them for a minute or two. Grab a ball or even some Play-Doh and massage it in your hands a few times. You can also alternate tightening and releasing your fist. It’s a great way to get the blood flowing through your fingers and also say thank you to parts of your body that have worked hard for you all day.”
A basic balance
“After sitting and becoming one with that ergonomic chair, it’s always nice to reactivate your core and have it hold your body again. You can balance on so many things and get your blood flowing to your feet as well. It doesn’t have to be a balancing platform, as you can see—it can even be a Stanley thermos! And don’t forget to grab a chair for stabilization if you need one.”
“Planks also reactivate your core, but the benefit that I enjoy the most is that it puts your body in a different direction from the one you’ve had sitting at your desk. It also requires you to use the muscles in your feet, which might even be slightly swollen from being on the floor all day. Instead of a balancing board, you can even grab that jug of water that you filled up for the hurricane and use it as a base. Doing planks and holding them for a few seconds each time is a great way to activate your shoulders, your core and your feet.”
“I love the special bands that are designed for these stretches. As Wilhelmina demonstrates, people can grab a scarf or your dog’s leash or anything to help straighten your legs out with a gentle pull after they’ve been bent under your desk all day,” she adds “Just make sure you push the energy up and through your heel so you’re not pulling down and jamming your knee and thigh into your hip.”
And Wilson’s favorite? Sleepy backbends.
“These are so healing! So often when we’re working at our desk, we curve our necks and backs forward and put a lot of stress on our upper bodies. Reversing that curve and resting your body’s weight on a Pilates ball (or a round ottoman) is pretty fantastic. It not only brings comfort and a much-needed release to your neck and spine, but also it opens up your chest cavity nicely. When I stand up I feel like I’ve taken a giant breath of fresh air–and maybe even a little nap. It’s a nice way to move into your evening routine.”
A final recommendation:
“Just remember, you don’t have to wait until the end of your desk day to move. Take five minutes every hour and stretch, shift your weight around, or even just breathe in and out slowly. You’re sure to feel better as you face the rest of your day.”
Learn more about Of Moving Colors Productions and the company’s auditions this Sunday, August 29, at ofmovingcolors.org.