Our Artistic Associate Sahara Morimoto is a certified Pilates instructor and longtime student of neuromuscular specialist Irene Dowd. Her Conditioning class at the August Intensive draws from these powerful influences to balance stability with freedom of movement, working toward understanding and achieving full range of motion through your joints and muscles.
We asked Sahara for the inside scoop on Conditioning at the August Intensive, and her personal experiences teaching and practising these techniques:
Tell us a little about Irene Dowd’s very specialized – and very scientific – training methods. Why is it important to have a physical knowledge of your own anatomy?
SM: Irene is a neuromuscular specialist who has deep knowledge in anatomy. Her work is powerful because it brings a multi-dimensional awareness and connection to the body, and trains our nervous system, which is the basis of our anatomy.
The body is very adaptable, which is great! However, that also means it’s easy to pick up physical habits that get comfortable very quickly, and for those to feel natural even when they’re not. Knowledge of anatomy is a great source to refer back to and check in on whether or not what you feel like doing is what is actually happening.
How have methods like Pilates and Irene Dowd Technique influenced your dance practice?
SM: Conditioning in any style creates a balanced body, and those practices create less physical obstacles when dancing.
Pilates practices have been a great support when I need to strengthen a particular muscle / muscle group. This is necessary for various reasons: the muscles might be weak, they may need care recovering from injury, or particular movement in choreography might require some extra preparations for certain muscle groups.
Irene’s work is complex, deep, and effective. It offers so many layers of awareness in the body, and I’m able to continue discovering and growing through the training. The movement within this work is multi-dimensional and translates very easily to dance, which is perfect for warming up.
What can Conditioning students expect from your class at the August Intensive?
SM: I mix various styles for my own conditioning, taking what I find most beneficial and effective in order to prepare the body to dance, and that’s what I’ll be sharing.
It seems like proper conditioning is a good way to prevent injuries – something dancers know a lot about! Is that the case? Have you ever been injured in your dance practice?
SM: There are two scenarios that can lead to injury: by accident, or by lack of strength / overuse of a particular body part. With regular and proper conditioning work, the chance of injury reduces to half, and that means one less thing to worry about during one’s dance practice. Also, a lack of strength shouldn’t interfere while dancing, so having a conditioned body simply makes it easier to dance in a broader range.
Since dance requires a huge amount of physical activity, there is a risk of being injured, and it’s important to keep acting to prevent that. Earlier in my dance career, lots of my injuries came from lack of body awareness and weakness, and some required a long time to recover. Fortunately in recent years I haven’t had anything major that prevented me from continuing my practice, and I believe this change had to do with regular conditioning practice.
Both you and Peggy train regularly with dance programs in Toronto and beyond. Why do you think it’s important for dancers to continue their training once they’re out of school?
SM: I believe training is extremely important. Inside a training facility, you get hours of dancing within the care of instructors that support your development. You lose that once you’re out of school. There are many ways to train the body, but dancing can only be improved by practicing dance. Also, it takes practice to be able to train completely self-reliantly, and there are always going to be things that are easier to notice through other people’s eyes.
Training is especially important when you’re young because that’s when you can achieve the most physical development. Whether or not physically demanding work is the kind of work you’ll be doing, you want to continue on with physical development so that you have as many choices open to you as possible.
What is the most memorable moment you’ve ever experienced in dance training?
SM: It’s very hard to pick one highlight in my training, since it’s daily practice and progression happens little by little. Whenever I discover something, whether it’s a new idea or something that suddenly starts making sense…that’s exciting.
Training in dance is an endless process of discovery. The more I train, the more I understand about dancing inside of my own skin, and the more I see of what I haven’t yet embodied.
Are you going to take any classes at the August Intensive? What are you most excited about in this year’s program?
SM: For sure! I’ll be taking classes whenever I’m not teaching! That’ll be Christine’s ballet class and Fides’ vocal work. I’m excited for Christine’s class because I’m a true fan of her classes and can’t get enough of them. And I’m also very excited to take Fides’ class; she worked with Mark Brose on his vocal work when I performed with him in Geometry of the Circle, and I’ve wanted to take her class ever since.
The August Intensive runs August 11-15 at Canada’s National Ballet School. Sahara’s Conditioning is available in all three streams of training, or as a single class. The Intensive is open to professional dancers and dance students enrolled in full time dance training. Register today at peggybakerdance.com!