MT in the City: Whipped Into Shape

Before I get started, I want to apologize to everyone for the ridiculously cliché title of this post. I know you’ll all probably have this Legally Blonde tune stuck in your head for the rest of the day. You’re welcome. However, this song really should be the anthem for musical theater performers everywhere. In order to succeed in this profession, we have to be insanely physically fit. This truth has really hit home for me in the month I’ve been in New York City.

To give a little background about me, I just graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in vocal performance. So essentially, I spent the past 4 years training classically and operatically, studying music theory for what felt like an eternity, learning different languages (Italian, French, German), and performing in operas. Don’t get me wrong, I had such a great experience getting this degree and I wouldn’t change it for the world. In fact, the classical training really helped me when learning to sing in a musical theater style. It did not, however, prepare me for the intense physical activity that comes with being a musical theater student.

At school this semester, I am taking ballet, jazz, modern, and total body workout. These classes are 1.5 hours long and some occur multiple times per week. Plus, I have a gym membership to Planet Fitness and take extra dance classes whenever I have time. And I can’t fail to mention the amount of walking that comes with being a student in the city. New Yorkers literally walk everywhere. You have to be in pretty great physical condition to handle the high level of stress on your body that comes with being a musical theater student. School has only been in session for about a month and I can already see my body changing. It’s a great feeling and I’m grateful my professors put such a huge emphasis on taking care of and being in touch with the body.

Figuring out how the body works and how to handle it properly is a huge learning lesson for any performer and has been a primary focus of my program so far. In ballet, you have to use the right muscles in order to execute the movements correctly. We must be fully in tune with our bodies in order to stay healthy and avoid hurting ourselves. Musical theater students, as well as all other performers, rely on our bodies so much that we must always treat them with care. Easier said than done…

Pretty much this. (Photo via Bomba Rosa on Flickr/CC2.0.)

Pretty much this. (Photo via Bomba Rosa on Flickr/CC2.0.)

In addition to being physically fit, we must maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle as well. This can be difficult for me at times because I am such a foodie. I follow so many different food pages on Twitter and Instagram it’s not even funny. I love to go to eclectic restaurants and try new things. It’s a huge hobby of mine. Before I got to the city, my mom actually pointed out this characteristic of mine and warned me to be careful and not get too out of control with my eating habits. One of the biggest struggles in life is having to choose between a salad and a huge bowl of fettucine alfredo. One will obviously taste better in the moment, but the other will feel better in the end. I try to remind myself of this when making my food selections. Ultimately, I need to choose food that will make my body happier. And I know for a fact fettucine alfredo won’t help me make it through a dance class.

Same goes for alcohol. Coming from an SEC (Southeastern Conference) school, I’ve gotten accustomed to the mentality of going out and having fun all weekend long. Football is such a big deal in the south and everyone is expected to participate in the game day festivities. Now that I am in New York, I need to highly consider changing this mentality. As musical theater students, we are unlike our non-performer friends who can go out as often as they want, stay out late, eat like crap, and get drunk all the time. We live in a completely different world where we must care for our bodies more than the typical person. Sure, we can go out and have a good time, but we must do it sparingly. If I go out drinking the night before my 10am ballet class, I can assure you I won’t be able to balance in passé. I have to come to terms with the fact that sometimes, I have to skip a night out in favor of coming home to rest.

All this being said, my goal for this semester is to find a balance between maintaining a healthy lifestyle and having fun. Sometimes, musical theater students need to take a break and have a beer (or two). I know I do. We just need to remember our ultimate career goal and recognize our body’s needs first and foremost. And sometimes, our bodies just need a massage – which is exactly what I’m doing this weekend. Sometimes listening to our bodies has its perks.

Watch this video on YouTube.

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