Pop-Up Pilates Tutorial – Feet

I’m now doing occasional pop-up PILATES X MELISSA tutorials focusing on a specific part of the body or exercise or skill (e.g. balance, coordination, breathing.) The 30-minute tutorials provide a chance to work more closely on this one area than we’re able to do in a general, holistic Pilates class.

The pop-up PILATES X MELISSA tutorials are FREE, suitable for most people and live-streamed via Zoom. The first one is on Thursday 4 June at 1830 and the topic is feet.

Inspired by the work ballet dancers do to ensure their feet are strong and supple, I’ll take you through a series of strengthening, stretching and myofascial release exercises you can then do for yourself at home to help you achieve your best feet.

Who will benefit

  • Anyone who spends a lot of time on their feet.
  • Anyone who does load-bearing, impactful activities like running or tennis or football.
  • Anyone who regularly wears heels.
  • Anyone who has circulatory problems affecting their feet.
  • Anyone who finds their feet cramp a lot.
  • Anyone who spends most of the summer months wearing flip-flops or fashion sandals.

If you have any healing fractures or new sprains or strains affecting the foot or ankle then none of the exercises in the pop-up tutorial are suitable for you to do just yet. Best to watch and take notes as these exercises will help you enormously once your injury has healed enough to resume gentle exercise.

The myofascial release exercises will not suit people with the following issues – malignancy, aneurysm, acute rheumatoid arthritis, advanced diabetes, severe osteoporosis, open wounds or bruising to the foot.

How will you benefit

The exercises over time will help the proper functioning of the foot and ankle, particularly when balancing, walking and running by:

  • improving their strength, especially at the joints;
  • increasing the range of movement;
  • reducing tension by encouraging the release of deep knots or trouble spots;
  • improving blood flow;
  • reducing aches and pains;
  • improving the transmission of information from your feet to your brain.

There is also evidence that performing myofascial release exercises on the plantar surface of the feet improves the flexibility of the hamstrings and lumbar spine.

What you will need for the pop-up Pilates tutorial

To get the most from the session you will need:

  • a 6-7cm ball of some kind, preferably a spikey massage ball or you could use a golf ball or a juggling ball;
  • a tennis ball or similar;
  • a hair elastic or a small but strong elastic band;
  • a TheraBand or a hand towel;
  • a large handkerchief or a tea towel.

To attend this free pop-up Pilates tutorial for the feet, please register with Zoom here. Once you have done this you will automatically receive a confirmation email from Zoom (please check your spam folder if it doesn’t arrive straight away in your inbox), which contains a link. On the day of the tutorial, 5-10 minutes before the start time, you simply click on this link to join the session.

Before the tutorial, if you’re using a tablet or mobile to take part you will need to download the Zoom App from the App store, which is free. If you’re using a laptop and want quicker access into the session, download Zoom Client for Meetings from their website. You don’t need any kind of Zoom account to attend my online classes and pop-up tutorials on Zoom.

Please help me to help others by sharing details of these free pop-up PILATES X MELISSA tutorials and inviting any friends, family members and work colleagues you think might be interested.

To close, a fine tune from Benjamin Clementine and a fantastic video. It’s like looking inside someone’s head while they’re dreaming…

Seeing and Hearing with your Whole Body

Lockdown can provide time for more mindful pursuits so I thought I’d share a favourite video of mine.  It features choreographer, Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker’s pure dance piece, Rain set to Steve Reich’s minimalistic composition, Music for 18 Musicians.

Rain feels particularly apt for these unprecedented times when we’re being called upon to work together to overcome the threat posed by Covid-19.  Here’s how de Keersmaeker describes her piece…

“In Rain, the company of dancers are a close-knit group of pronounced individuals who, one by one, play a vital role in the whole. Seven women and three men allow themselves to be propelled by an unstoppable joined energy that binds them together. It’s a bustling network in which breath and speed is shared as well as that special comradery that forms when you are beyond fatigue.”

If dance isn’t your thing, I’d highly recommend you just close your eyes and listen to Reich’s music.  I often listen to it while doing Pilates at home. 18 Musicians is a beautiful piece that you experience rather than just hear.  The pulsating tones and repetitive movements seem to enter the body, clearing the mind of its chatter, releasing tension in the body and producing, if not quite a dream-like state then a stillness inside.

Anyway, less blathering from me.  I’ll let the dance and music speak for themselves…

UPDATE – rather unhelpfully, YouTube has removed my favourite video so here is the full performance of Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians and a snippet of the dance performance, Rain in a separate video…

The Brutal Beauty of Dance

Marianela Núñez Rick Guest portrait

I recently discovered London-based photographer, Rick Guest’s book, What Lies Beneath.  It features the stunning images he took of some of the world’s best dancers. Guest’s aim was to capture the ‘determination and sacrifice’ that goes into the gruelling training regimes of professional dancers.

Guest: ‘The photos were taken over the last three years, with the dancers always coming to my studio. I felt it was important to remove them completely from the world where they perform, in order to better get under their skin as people, not just the dancer playing a character.  Part of their job is to make the physicality of what they do appear effortless and only be seen in terms of how it adds to the narrative of the performance, but this does a great disservice to their art and its appreciation.

The photo above is of Argentinian ballet dancer Marianela Núñez, a principal dancer with The Royal Ballet.  Below are three more of my favourite images from the book.  They are of (in the order shown) Sergei Polonin, Zarina Stahnke and Eric Underwood…

Sergei Polonin by Rick Guest

Zarina Stahnke by Rick Guest

what lies beneath rick guest

I also love this GIF, a mash-up of all the stills from Guest’s book, which allows the dancers to move…

A mash-up of Rick Guest's what lies beneath

In case you’re in any doubt of the brutality of dance, here are couple of images (not by Rick Guest) of dancers’ feet…ouch!

ballet dancer's feet

A ballet dancer's feet on pointe

To close, here is a video featuring key moments from one of the best dance documentaries ever made, Pina 3D, a film for Pina Bausch by Wim Wenders.  It’s set to Song of the Stars by Dead Can Dance.  The video perfectly captures the brutal beauty of dance…

Pilates Inspiration – Butoh

Imre Thormann - Butoh

Few things demonstrate the eight principles of Pilates* in action so effectively as the slow, hyper-controlled movements of Butoh, a form of Japanese dance theatre.

Below, videos of arguably two of the best Butoh dancers in the business. The first is Swiss dancer, Imre Thormann performing at Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine in Shiga, Japan. The live music is by Swiss jazz pianist, Nik Baertsch and his band Mobile.

The second video is Sayoko Onishi’s solo Butoh performance piece, Animal Science.

* Eight principles of Pilates: 1) concentration, 2) flowing movement, 3) co-ordination, 4) alignment, 5) core strength or centring, 6) breathing, 7) control and 8) relaxation (by which we mean performing a movement using only the muscles needed to execute it, allowing other muscles to relax and thus working the body at optimum efficiency.

Sayoko Onishi - Butoh