My "Go-To" Warm-up

First off, I would like to thank everybody for leaving a comment on my last post. Thanks to all of you, Life of a Freelance Dancer has been named a finalist in Dance Advantage's top dance blog contest. You can continue moving this blog forward in the contest by clicking on this link and voting in two categories, Your Favorite Dance Blog and Career Dancer. Thanks in advance! Now moving on to the topic of this post.

Doing barre on my way hiking up to Olympic hot springs - Olympic National Park
I've received a handful of requests from both dancers and teachers to post the details of my typical ballet barre warmup. This warmup is not how I start each day, but if it is a performance day where class isn't offered, if I just can't afford to pay to take open class, or I happen to push the snooze button too many times (which I would never do.....), I often do the same barre series to get myself warm and  to stay in shape. I like to keep this routine mostly set, so I can focus my energy and attention on my performance or to speed along my warm up by not having to think about each individual combination prior to a rehearsal. If I am giving myself a class to improve my technique or to get in shape, I am more likely to change these combinations. But for the most part, this is how I get ready for a performance or warm up for rehearsal if I havent taken class.

When it comes to warming up, especially on performance days, I have a few rules that I live by. Having spent most of my career dancing in a company that finds its roots in the Balanchine technique, I like to do a handful of tendus and jetes to make sure that my feet and legs are nice and warm before I start extending my leg en l'air for any period of time. I avoid combinations that will tire out my legs and I also try to add a handful of balances at the end of most combinations to find my turnout muscles and rotators. I have a handful of ballet CD's on my Ipod that I could use if I really want piano music for my class, but I often prefer to use my current playlist of popular music to save the time searching for music at a comfortable tempo. Even if the music is not the right speed, I dance through it and allow the energy of the music to build up my own energy. This is really helpful, especially on days where I am performing Nutcracker #15 in less than 3 weeks. It can really freshen things up.

PLIE: Keep it simple and straight forward (I hate it when plies are complicated). 2 demi plies & 1 grande plie in 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th positions. Followed by whatever port de bras I am feeling.

TENDUS from 1st position: (slow, smooth, and even) 2 tendus front going back to 1st. 2 tendus front going back to 5th. 2 tendus front going back to first. Demi plie for 4 counts. Repeat combo to the side, back, and side with a releve replacing the plie both times to the side. Balance in 1st position releve.

TENDUS from 5th position: (moderate tempo) 1 tendu front, closing with a plie. 2 tendus front with the accent in. Pas de cheval front in one count, close 5th, coupe passe closing back. Reverse to the back. 1 tendu side, plie. 2 tendus side accent in. Repeat side. 2 pas de chevals side closing 5th. Releve coupe balance. If I have energy, I will reverse the whole combination to the back.

TENDUS from 5th position: (fast tempo) 3 tendus front, 3 tendus side, 5 tendus back with the last one closing into a plie. Repeat side, front, side. Repeat back, side, front. Repeat side, back, side. Quick and fast in a Balanchinian manner.

JETES in 1st position facing the barre: (using the right leg) 8 jetes side closing 1st, 8 jetes side closing 5th, 8 jetes side closing first. Plie, releve in first, plie, and stretch the legs. Repeat left.

JETES in 5th position: 2 jetes front (accent in), double pique (in one count), closing 5th. 2 jetes front, balancoir front, back, front (ending out). Close 5th, jete side, back, side. Jete side to 5th two times (changing), jete 1st, jete 5th (closing back). Repeat back. Jete side two times, double pique to the side, closing 5th. Repeat. Releve retire (balancing 6 counts), close 5th back. Reverse combo to the back. Finish with balance in retire.

ROND DE JAMBES A TERRE: (starting 1st or 5th. I prefer 5th). Rond de jambe in plie front, stretch to the back. Brush through 1st lifting leg to the front (battements - 45 degrees), brush to arabesque (45 degrees) back. Rond de jambe in plie front, stretch to the back, 2 rond de jambes en dehors. 4 rond de jambes en dehors w/ port de bras. Plie battements leg front (90 degrees or above), passe through to a straight leg arabesque. Reverse. Finish with whatever port de bras you wish. (I usually like to finish this combination with a balance in low arabesque).

PIQUES & PETITE ROND DE JAMBES A TERRE: (extremely fast tempo) 2 piques front, 2 piques side. 1 pique front, side, back, lift the leg to arabesque (45 degrees). 4 petite rond de jambes a terre closing with plie in 5th position back. Reverse. Rond de jambe side en l'air (45 degrees - out on 1, rond on 2, close in 5th on 3, hold 4), Rond de jambe side en dedans en l'air reverse. Double rond de jambe side en dehors en l'air, Double rond de jambe side en dedans en l'air.

FONDU: Fondu front (45 degrees), fondu closing 5th, fondu front (45 degrees), fondue front en releve. Repeat side, back. Closing sous-sous, developpe inside leg to attitude front balance. Reverse combination, finishing with a balance in attitude back with inside leg.

STRETCH: Whatever you need to do to stretch.

ADAGIO: (This is the one I change the most. If my legs are tired, I may even skip adagio altogether. If I don't want to tire out my legs, I may alter this) Developpe front holding for 6 counts, lower to tendu on 7, close 5th position on 8. Repeat en croix.

FRAPPE: 3 frappes front in 2 counts, 3 frappes front in 2 counts, double frappe side, back, side, front. Repeat side (starting doubles back, side, front, side). Repeat back (starting doubles side, front, side, back). Repeat side (starting doubles front, side, back, side). Sometimes I repeat en releve if my legs aren't too tired. Petite battement for 8 counts.

GRAND BATTEMENTS: 2 grand battements front taking 2 counts for each battement. 2 grand battements front taking 1 count out and holding on 2 (accent in). Repeat Side, Back. 2 grand battements side, 3rd grand battements side, turning it in as it comes back in, turning it back out as it battements back to the side.

Properly warming up can help keep you on point in your performance (Performing my own choreography - Gated Lies. Photo: Bill Hebert)


Freelancing while in a relationship

Danya and me at Pacific Northwest Ballet's opening night gala dinner in 2006
I have danced nine shows in one week. There have been stages harder than the floor of a warehouse. I've danced multiple pieces of choreography to the same piece of music every week for 4 weeks. All of these, among others, have been great challenges for me since I began freelancing. There are many difficult obstacles in one's freelancing career, but I still find one of the biggest challenges as a traveling freelance dancer in leaving my life partner for an extended period of time. It is just one of those things that doesn't get easier the more you do it.

One of the reasons I left PNB was because I felt the company didnt get to travel enough. Working 40 weeks a year in a distant city like Seattle, I felt like my feet were glued to the ground. As a hopeful student, I heard fabulous stories of dancers going on tour, seeing the world, and getting paid to do it. I worked hard to get into a big company that had a great history of touring. Being offered a job at PNB, a place that had a reputation for international touring, I fully expected to be visiting London, Hong Kong, and many other places. But after joining the company, touring barely happened more than a few times. While with the company, I traveled three times to the Vail International Dance Festival and once to the Joyce Theater in New York City. When I left the Pacific northwest, I figured that I might travel a little more since I was only tied down to a 22 week contract in Philadelphia. In typical fashion, when I ask the universe for something, I get exactly what I ask for, but in some completely ass-backwards way. I am not complaining, but freelancing full-time was not my expectation.

My first time visiting L.A. at the Getty Museum - January 2006
My partner and I met in Seattle back in 2005. He was visiting from his hometown of Los Angeles working on a political action committee. We were instantly enthralled with each other, but both of us refused to commit because neither of us wanted to do the long distance thing. After returning to L.A., we remained in close touch. He had a trip to Egypt and London scheduled (which he had already paid for) and asked me if he went on that trip if there might be a chance that I would meet someone else. I tend to be brutally honest and responded with a bold "yes." Well, long story short, he changed the dates of that trip (which he never actually got to go on) and booked 10 days to visit me in Seattle. At the end of that foray, he returned to L.A. a few steps closer to hooking me. Finally on January 28, 2006, 7 years ago, I agreed to commit to him if he would agree to move to Seattle within a year. Nine months later, as I often refer to him, Danya moved to the Emerald City and we started our life together.

Living in Seattle brought us many challenges that actually made our relationship stronger in the long run. From stifled careers to passive-aggressive friendships to a tragic accident that left Danya incapable of walking for 3 months, we survived together and our bond grew stronger. One thing that we never had to deal with was spending time apart. By the time that we moved to Philly in 2011, I believe the longest we had been apart from each other since Danya's move to Seattle was 10 days when I traveled to Israel on a Birthright trip. Moving to Philadelphia was a choice we made together. While we were happy to leave Seattle behind, I don't think we quite expected things to be the way they are today.

I remember back in April when I traveled to Providence on my first gig as a full-time freelancer, I wrote a status update on Facebook about missing my partner. He gave a supportive response and thrown in there was something along the lines of, "we are in a part-time long distance relationship." My heart sank into the pit of my stomach and I thought to myself, "how did I get here?" Once I came to terms with the fact that my current career track meant that we would be spending a lot of time apart, I started figuring out ways to help make myself feel close to Danya, even when I am halfway across the world searching for the Aurora Borealis.

My nightstand in Alaska
There are a handful of ways that one can make themselves feel closer to a loved one when they are too far to hold close. I am always sure to bring a photograph of my partner and myself together to put right next to my alarm clock. If I put it next to my alarm clock, it is usually the first thing I see when I wake up and the last thing that I see before I go to sleep. I also bring an item that my partner gave me as a gift. For instance, I love to cuddle myself to sleep. When I crawl into bed and he isn't there, it is too easy to start feeling lonely. As ridiculous or childish as it may sound, Danya gave me the gift of a stuffed sock monkey awhile back. Whenever I spend more than a week away from home, I bring the stuffed animal along with me to cuddle with before I go to sleep. I've never been one to sleep with a stuffed animal and I don't keep one in my bed at home, but when I travel this sentimental item helps calm and relax me before I go to sleep. It isn't a replacement, but it is comforting to know that his spirit is there.
Another photo I bring wherever I travel

One issue I have is that I am a constant worrier and get really anxious about the possibility of things that could happen, even if that possibility is unlikely. My friends think its a part of my Jewish blood, but genetics or not I am always worried that certain things are going to happen, like losing touch. In order to calm my worries, Danya and I always develop a plan before I leave town. For instance, I am writing this blog from seat 15A on my way to spend 3 months in Anchorage dancing with Alaska Dance Theatre. To ensure that we stay in the best touch possible, we have developed a plan to talk every evening before Danya goes to sleep (there is a 4 hour time difference) and to Skype once every weekend. We keep this plan loose, in the event that we are just too busy to talk. But the important part of this plan is that we have set an intention. Even if we don't have much to share with each other, we still get on the phone and talk for a minute or two. When you are used to seeing one another every day, it is easy to get into free flowing conversation. But when you are apart, the conversation tends to focus on what you have done during your day. If there isn't much else to talk about, there is no need to sit in awkward silence waiting to stir up conversation. If we have a lot to talk about, we spend more time chatting. But on days where we have less to talk about, we sum up our day and say goodnight. There will be more to talk about tomorrow and its not worth stressing that we didn't have much to share. As for Skype, having a visual conversation helps make me feel better when we've been apart for too long. Although you can't touch each other, you can at least feel like you are in the same room.

One particular challenge that took a bit more thought was missing important holidays, dates, and events with one another. For instance, Danya and my anniversary is coming up in 9 days. We won't get to spend this important milestone together. To make sure that we don't miss out on this special occasion, we moved the date of our anniversary ahead ten days. Last night, we went out for a nice dinner and went out dancing afterwards. Although we can't spend our special day together, it doesn't mean that we can't move it and celebrate on another day. Coming up next is Valentine's day. We clearly can't spend this holiday together and it would be odd to celebrate our anniversary and Valentine's day a few days apart and nearly a month prior to the holiday. So, we have already planned to celebrate Valentine's day with a Skype dinner date. Having some facetime on a computer doesn't only have to involve sitting at a desk, staring at one another on a computer screen. We are both going to make our own dinner and buy a bottle of wine and sit down at a table and enjoy each others company over a meal. Again, although we can't touch each other, we can still have the experience of being together.

Dan climbing atop a mountain of snow at Portage Bay, AK
The final way that I combat the emotional strain of being apart for such a long period of time is by bringing my partner along with me. This is not always an option, perhaps due to time or money. Prior to every gig I do, I ask my host family or hotel if my partner can join me for a few days. I have never been told no, but if I was I would be more than willing to pay for a hotel. My partner and I have a rule that he has to come visit me in the middle of any gig that I do if it lasts longer than 3 weeks. I feel very lucky that Danya owns his own business (Spaces Transformed - Professional Organizer) and has more flexibility to travel. For instance, during the 3 months that I am away in Alaska, Danya will be joining me for 3 1/2 weeks, smack dab in the middle of the gig.  This way we will spend a month apart, be together for a month, and then have another month before I return home. That sounds much better than 3 months of phone and Skype conversations. Since he owns his own business, he can work wherever his services are needed. His home and office organization business travels well and he is currently looking forward to working with clients in Alaska. I am very excited to have him enjoy this experience with me. It is almost like a mini-vacation/retreat.

Traveling while freelancing can make one feel lonely, moreso when you have to leave a loved one at home. Bringing sentimental items and photos, setting up phone and Skype dates, celebrating special days and holidays early and via skype, and bringing your partner along with you can make the distance more bearable. I love my partner and I love my job. I feel so lucky to have a partner that is so supportive of what I do that he is willing to let me leave home for, sometimes, months at a time. One thing that I was surprised to learn through all of this time apart is that the distance actually brings us closer. It brings about a stronger sense of appreciation, refreshment, and excitement when we are finally reunited again.

Savoring the moment and sharing a special dinner together


Please vote for "Life of a Freelance Dancer" to be top blog

Speaking to freelance dancers at Contact (photo: Karsten Staiger)
It hasn't even been a year since I started this blog and we have already accrued over 8,000 views. Not only that, Life of a Freelance Dancer has inspired an event to bring freelancers together, provided its first special offer, and reached out to the dance community across five continents. I am so pleased with its progress and hope to continue bringing our audience inspiring stories and integral information.

With all of that said, the best way to keep the ball rolling is to spread our wings and grow our audience. Each year Dance Advantage holds a contest choosing the best dance blogs across the web. I ask that you vote for Life of a Freelance Dancer by leaving a comment on this blog post below (and share with your friends and colleagues). It is easy and doesn't require signing up. If you want to show your appreciation or have anything to share about how this blog has affected you, please do so on THIS BLOG POST. Thank you in advance and please continue to spread the word to help push Life of a Freelance Dancer to the next level!

Performing the Cavalier in The Nutcracker (photo: Glenn Mata)


My failure in designing my own website (SPECIAL OFFER INSIDE)

Lyquid Talent website design for dancers (style 5)
(Be sure to read all the way down for a SPECIAL OFFER)

Since I started freelancing, I have taken on many roles. I am no longer just a dancer dancing for my big company employer. My roles as a freelance guest artist include teacher, marketing director, video editor, negotiator, travel agent, writer, editor, social media director, choreographer and so much more. Honestly, I often surprise myself with my ability to learn something foreign to me, often with repeated failure before triumph. I enjoy a challenge and love to relish in the subsequent success. But sometimes I don't have time to figure out something that is immediately important or I absolutely can't figure out whatever task I have in front of me. This is exactly what happened when I was trying to build my website.

As a freelancer, it is important to have a handful of items to market yourself. Aside from this blog, I have business cards, a performance reel, photographs, and my resume. One important tool that I had spent years without was my own personal website. These days people spend more time on the internet than they do most other things. Taking all of my above marketing tools and putting them together in one place on the web is not only efficient, but helpful in expediting my search for work. There was only one problem. I couldn't find the time to figure out the complexities of building my own website.

My partner has always been proactive in pushing me to do things, from completing my Associate of the Arts (AA) degree during my time at PNB to throwing my Contact event for freelancers. He started his own business back in April, Spaces Transformed, and bought a website builder for his business' website. The company that he purchased his site from had a (supposedly simple) drag-and-drop editor. After he spent weeks fighting with the program, he finally created his website (while very nice, it is still very glitchy when trying to edit). A month or so after he had completed his website, he was sent an offer to buy a new domain and one year of hosting from the site. The price was too good to be true, so I reluctantly purchased my domain in the hopes that it would inspire me to finally work on my site. Following that purchase, my domain sat unused for about 4 months. I was simply throwing money down the drain. Once I finally committed to making my site, I felt entirely overwhelmed by the daunting task of understanding the ins and outs of website design. After consulting with a friend who had recently created her own site using wordpress, I quietly gave up and started working on other things to cover up my unwillingness to fight the good fight.

I strongly believe that if you put effort towards making something happen, it will come to fruition in one way or another. In the process of putting together my Contact event, I came across a new website design company, Lyquid Talent. This Chicago-based company had reached out to me a few weeks before I began planning my event. I figured why not give them a call and see if they would be interested in donating a package to be given away to a freelance dancer. I was very pleased after speaking with Jeff Serani, Lyquid Talent CEO, to find that he was greatly supportive of my event and interested in helping current and potential freelance dancers (beyond his goal to give established and aspiring professionals a web presence).

One of Lyquid Talent's media-friendly styles (style 6)
As I said before, I had been struggling with the creation of my own personal website. I also wanted to see how the company worked prior to offering their services at my event. Jeff and his team offered to show me the simple process involved in making one of their highly versatile websites by taking away the burden of creating my own site. This was quite a relief! The first thing I had to do was visit the Lyquid Talent website and choose one of their 14 designs, ranging from elegant to edgy and simple to media-friendly. There is a wide array of options that offer a variety of subtitles (resume, photo gallery, contact form, etc). If I was feeling particularly picky, there is also a certain amount of flexibility with each design. Each style has multiple options for personalizing and customizing, which can be viewed on that particular style's info page. This allows each dancer to cater a site to their specific needs. After I decided that dance website style 5 suited my taste and needs, Jeff sent me a link where I could upload all of my information for him to plug into the website. Prior to uploading, most would usually decide on a domain name, which is usually their their name followed by .com (which Lyquid Talent generously offers as a part of their package). Even though I had already purchased my domain name earlier through another site, Jeff was able to assist me in transferring it into his care. I was lucky that I had already accrued dance photos, put together my performance reels, and written my resume. All I had to do was upload each file to the secure server with a short description of the item and let the Lyquid Talent team create the magic.

One of Lyquid Talent's more artistic options (style 11)
Once Lyquid Talent had all of my data, it was only a matter of days before my site was up and running. After reviewing my site and requesting a few minor modifications, they passed the reins over to me. I was given a username and passcode to self-edit my site. After signing in to edit my page, I found that Jeff had uploaded a handful of video tutorials that easily walked me through editing each area of my site (e.g. how to edit and update my resume). At this point, I wasn't left alone to figure everything out for myself. A friend tried to connect to this blog through my website and it wasn't connecting properly. Within hours of putting in a customer service request, the Lyquid Talent team had fixed the glitch and my link was up and running again.

Now that my site, BarryKerollis.com, has been up and running for a few months, I have had time to see the many benefits in having a website. When I contact companies to let them know I am available for work, instead of uploading my resume, photos, and providing a link to my performance reel in each email, I just offer the link to my site where each of these items is cleanly organized. This saves me a great amount of time, allowing me to contact more companies. On more than one occasion, directors have complimented me on my beautiful website. I also have a calendar to tell my friends, family, and fans where I will be performing next. Lastly, there is a contact form that allows anybody that wants to reach me, whether a potential employer or fan, to get in touch with me. The benefits of my site outweigh the modest monthly cost for the company to host my site.

As I gain more experience, it becomes more apparent that I can't figure everything out on my own. Lyquid Talent came into my life at the right moment to help increase my visibility, decrease my stress level, and fill a great need. I needed help promoting myself as a freelancer dancer. For company dancers, it could be giving oneself a way of promoting their image beyond the company with which they dance. For students, audition season is quickly approaching and mailing out audition packages can be extremely expensive. With all of this in mind, Jeff and the Lyquid Talent team are allowing me to thank my dedicated readers by giving any dancer that reads my blog a special New Year's offer. From the moment this blog is posted until February 1st, 2013, Lyquid Talent is offering to create your personalized dancer website for $19.99 (88% off), plus the $15/month hosting fee. Just follow this link (SPECIAL OFFER for Life of a Freelance Dancer readers), pick your design, and sign up. Thank you and I hope that this offer will help you start your dance year off on the right foot! Happy New Year!


Happy New Year - Retreat yourself

My friend, Kelly, and me on New Year's Eve

Another year has past and another one is upon us. The world didn't end on December 21st, we survived a northeastern hurricane, and the arts have a chance to prosper thanks to the re-election of president Obama. Each year we have new experiences that shape our being; physically, emotionally, spiritually, and career-wise. Often as the new year starts, we reflect on what happened in the year past and we resolve to work towards the things we would like to change or maintain. Most people have a mental conversation with themselves about their resolutions, but few write it down on paper. Some of the best advice I ever received was to write down my goals so that I can revisit and re-evaluate them. One of the best ways to evaluate your goals is to have a retreat for yourself. What better way to start the new year than setting new goals and restructuring old ones?

Not this kind of retreat
I had never heard the word retreat used for anything aside from a tropical vacation until I became the liason for Pacific Northwest Ballet's young patrons group, Backstage Pass. Once a year, everybody on the group's board, PNB's administrative liason, and myself would set aside an entire day to sit around a table, go through bylaws, and write a loose plan of events and goals for the group of 21-39 year old dance-loving patrons the club serves. Once I moved across the country and started freelancing, I started to feel scattered, like I had lost a sense of direction in my career. After a particularly stressful experience, my partner suggested I reassess my goals as a freelancer and take a self-retreat. Using the tools that I learned working with Backstage Pass, I set out to define my path.

The first step to having a successful retreat is to pick a location where you feel comfortable lounging around for a few hours and you wont have any distractions (like loud music or a place that your friends frequent). Get out of your house and stay away from your regular workplace. I typically enjoy taking a walk around a neighborhood that I haven't explored. I like to pick a new place because it starts off the retreat with a good sense of exploration.  I'll pick a street or two to walk down and find a place that looks calm with comfortable seating. I tend to favor cafes, as coffee shop culture allows one to sit around for hours while only buying one cup of coffee. They typically offer a hint of ambiance and you usually find yourself surrounded by others who are quietly studying, perhaps beckoning you to remain focused and work.

After you have found a comfortable place to begin your retreat, its time to put in the work. I usually come prepared with a list of topics so I have a set focus for the retreat. It is best to leave your computer at home, so you won't be distracted by Facebook, Twitter, or Reddit. I like the old school paper and pen method. Yesterday, on new years day, I had my own retreat. I ended up at a Starbucks in Old City because all of the cafes in the area were closed for the holiday. The list of topics I came up with prior to my retreat were an assessment of 2012, what mistakes I made this year, what I did well this year, what stresses me out, what makes me happy, what are my needs, what are my goals, and the top 10 actions I would like to take at the beginning of 2013. I take a page for each and I list whatever comes to my mind. Sometimes I write a statement and other times I write notes to myself. I always try to be completely open and honest. Nobody ever has to see what you write, unless you choose to share it with others. I often move from list to list, then go back and add things. I like to move around and balance out the negative experiences and thoughts with positive affirmations and potential actions.

Visiting my friend, Abby (former PNB dancer), in LA on my month off
To give you an idea of how I approach my retreat, I will give you a few examples of my responses. Under the topic, What mistakes did I make this year?, I had an injury nearly a year ago that caused a lot of drama and strife in my life and career. One mistake I made was that I did not have a back-up plan in the event that I became injured. To counter this mostly negative topic, I followed on the next page with the polar opposite question, What did I do well this year? One of the statements that I wrote here was that I recognized when I was approaching burn out. Instead of pushing on, I chose to take a month away from dance prior to Nutcracker season to rest, relax, and refocus.

One of my biggest problems since I began freelancing has been my stress and anxiety level. Not knowing when the next job is coming and making ends meet when there isn't much work is extremely stressful. I recognize that dealing with certain stresses will not only make me happier, but will benefit my work as well. For this reason, I made a list of things that stress me out. Having a written list of stressors helps me brainstorm ways to de-stress and avoid situations that could be potentially stressful in the future. When coming up with your list of topics, be sure to assess different experiences that you've encountered since your last retreat and come up with subjects that will benefit you and help you gain focus.

One thing many freelancers forget is that they are their own business. Successful businesses and corporations sit down for meetings and assess their budget, focus, and goals quite often. Just because a dancer is only an individual doesn't mean that they shouldn't take time out of their schedule to focus on their businesses needs and to inspire goals to attain. We always think about our dreams and aspirations. We often forget most of them, aside from our biggest and clearest goals. Taking time to devote to your business and yourself on a retreat can push your freelancing to the next level. And I always feel hopeful and inspired at the end of a retreat!