How to Conquer the Stage

I AM- the two most powerful words in the English language. Pronounced the same:  AY-M (acro yoga & music).

To find one’s passion in life and to make that passion one’s livelihood and career is a dream come true for anyone. The vast majority of people in the workforce are immersed in hours spent at an unfulfilling job that ‘just pays the bills’ and hopefully affords a little extra for the rare holiday/retirement savings/etc. AY-M is my passion work- my original and wildly exciting performance art piece combining the performance of court dance music by Johann Sebastien Bach with partner dance in the form of acrobatic yoga.

AY-M exists as an artistic expression of the boundless and abundant joy for life- the concert going audience member experiences the blurred lines of performer and dancer. The musician hears and sees what can be achieved when playing in a non-static fluid motion reflective of the sounds created, reconnecting the veteran musician with their original love and passion for music. Dancers are familiar with the challenges of partner movement- incorporating a musical instrument requires the duet to perform with one partner entirely ‘hands free’, requiring a shift in the demands of balance and strength.

My reason for taking to the dance stage with my instrument is inspired by my music colleagues who often experience physical ailments that in the maturity of their playing career often render these artists incapable of playing their instruments- tendonitis, carpal tunnel, TMJ, bursitis, arthritis, scoliosis, the list goes on. Having lived my life with a healthy dose of sports in my daily exercise regimen, I have always approached the necessary hours of practicing the viola and the violin as an athlete who plans rotating exercise routines- like a bodybuilder who has leg day/arm day/abs day/etc. For the most part, all musicians spend time training their small muscle groups with lots of repetitive motion- a recipe for tendonitis and carpal tunnel. Nearly any sport will incorporate the use of large muscle groups to counter the small muscle movements of playing an instrument.

Another concern for nearly all musicians is the asymmetrical nature of getting around their instrument- this is why my choice for a paired movement style lands in the realm of yoga. Yoga makes its focus that of finding balance- strength and ease in every pose- Sthira

Acro Yoga & Music

Acro Yoga & Music

Sukkha Asanam- a way to conquer the stage through grace.

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Dana L. Patterson
September 2, 2015 5:03 am

Wow!! A very intriguing and comprehensive approach to impressing upon others, performers and people in general the exercise of spirit, strength, living the dream, and keeping oneself alive/healthy while doing so!! As an “exiled performer”, and ex-bodybuilder looking to regain the full distinction of being “full” again in those passions, your viewpoints assisted me in gaining the realization of development, and to keep healthy that desire to chase the dream so as to live it once again…thank you!! Your approach in scope here and its application in your life is a testimony to its validity which as in my case,… Read more »

Karen Elaine
September 2, 2015 5:23 am

THANK YOU so very much Dana for your palpable enthusiasm!!! Yes, this performance art piece AY-M is intended to challenge and inspire the observer to wrap their brain around the ‘blurring of the lines between dancer and musician.’ A veritable oxymoron- that being a musician who provides the music and movement for a partner dance. In the case of bodybuilding for the mature adult, I would venture to say that a part of your getting back in the game may include some form of yoga- a physical art form that has not traditionally been coupled with power/strength sports, an oxymoron… Read more »

Brian Hill
September 4, 2015 7:11 pm

Thank you Karen! I really enjoyed reading this and was happily inspired by your beautiful expression of music and yoga, and the integration of them to cultivate a balanced mind and body. You’re truly a talented artist and the movement and stillness of yoga shines through you like your music does when you are performing, practicing, or balancing on someones feet upside-down with a Viola in hand! 🙂 🙂

Karen Elaine
September 7, 2015 8:14 pm
Reply to  Brian Hill

NAMASTE (the light in me recognizes and bows to the light in you) Brian!!! Just have to repeat myself here, that YOU are one of my inspirations in the Ashtanga room;-) Appreciating the art and beauty of the human body, especially when it is literally glowing from the sweat and heat of mindfully structured gestures… Finding that sthira sukkha asanam (strength and ease in every pose) during one’s practice… Integrating thoughts and words to be in harmony with the movements on and off the mat… THAT’S the magic of our Ashtanga community! Such a pleasure to be a part of… Read more »

Vicente Pena
September 7, 2015 7:45 pm

As musicians, we forget that our bodies are instruments; that need to be treated with utmost care. We are always making sure our instruments are taken care of – playable, presentable, and ready to perform. We even make sure they’re looking “pretty”. If we do these things on a daily basis to an inanimate object, why don’t we do this to our own bodies? Daily stretching, exercise, eating well, hydrating, etc. We must remember that our bodies are priceless. We can always acquire another instrument….we can’t acquire another us!

Karen Elaine
September 7, 2015 8:30 pm

THANK YOU Vicente for your sage words!!! Yes, we have so many examples over the generations in all art forms of the greatest creators/artists/performers being reliant on a true disconnect from the physical body to be able to realize exponentially greater heights of artistic/creative expression. Whether it’s through an addiction to being in a hyper-energized state through the use of drugs/alcohol or simply exhausted from the hours of sedentary work in the practice room that make having a nice carafe of wine with a couple of plates of food a lot easier than taking a jog in the park/hitting the… Read more »

September 15, 2015 2:20 am

Karen, this is beautiful. As a former dancer with a new office job, I find typing to be similar to what you mention as the precise miniature movements the musicians use. It is very hard for me to find ease in body when my mind is racing a million times faster. Even though I work in the yoga industry, this article was a great reminder to bring the ease back into my chest and breath when the mind goes faster than the computer to load. You are an amazing inspiration for artists, and I’m so glad you are doing this… Read more »

Karen Elaine
September 15, 2015 3:38 am
Reply to  tinacorbett

THANK YOU Tina for the love! Yes, experiencing things ‘in our body’ is, from my experience as a participant in the very separate worlds of “the dancer” and “the music maker”, something that is uniquely part of the athletes’ life experience. The poet/musician/painter/etc. who spends the requisite time honing their craft find that a full day’s work can be spent having occupied the same cubic foot of space- exception being the inevitable bathroom break or trip to the refrigerator/concession stand…. For those of us who know how to move and experience the metabolic flow of LIFE, it sometimes is a… Read more »