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Anita's London Life

A blog about my experiences of being a creative chasing her dreams in London Town

“You Have A Great Story”

“You have a great story” the neurologist said to me as she signed a copy of her book….

On the way back on the subway, I thought about it… “Yes I suppose I do… wait. I do!” I suddenly felt a surge of emotion and pride, positivity ran through me, I made it through, I am a story of hope.

Almost three years ago, my life changed, one day I was just living a normal busy life, the next I couldn’t walk. After a particularly stressful morning, I was walking to class when the next thing I knew I was looking at the floor, I was confused and distressed, but I got up to carry on, again there was the floor. Each time I stood, my legs were shaking. It was then that I began to realize that my legs were buckling each time I put weight on them, that my whole body was going weak , my head was nodding and my eyes were closing and like a puppet on a string I had no control over it. My body was saying “No.”. I was sent home to my family to recover, but unfortunately it wasn’t the end but the beginning of a very long journey.

The next few months, I couldn’t get through a dance class without needing to rest, I couldn’t do lunges or grand plies, and jumps (my favorite part of dance) were out of the question,  I also lost friends due to the lack of understanding of what was going on and chronic fatigue, dizziness and weakness were a daily occurrence. After recurring attacks on a daily basis,  a year later I finally got diagnosed with FND (Functional Neurological Disorder), a disorder where you have neurological symptoms which can be caused by stress. The next two years consisted of a lot of medical appointments, treatment, as well as self-care, such as eating well, sleeping well and stress reducing techniques.

Finally the symptoms started improving and slowly became less and less…

Fast forward to now, and I’m in New York and I have just returned from a talk about the disorder by renowned neurologist “Suzanne O’Sullivan”, at the end I briefly told her about myself, and now I’m starting to realize how far I’ve come.

I have not told this story for sympathy, I have told it for perspective and for hope for other sufferers, it is possible to get better, it is possible to come out the other side, life is changing all the time and it is full of surprises. I never thought that this time a few years ago,  I would be living out my dream studying professional dance in New York City, in fact, there were moments that I thought it wasn’t an option anymore.  My mother always says “there’s a reason why we can’t predict the future”, I think she’s right, in the future there are so many bad and good things that await us, but instead of worrying about the bad, maybe we should be excited for the good.

I still do get occasional attacks/symptoms but I have learnt that what is the point on focusing on that one bad moment in the day when there were 20 other great ones. The symptoms are not dangerous to me, just frustrating/annoying and I have learnt to prioritize the things that really matter: my passion for dance, my goals and what I want to achieve in life.  In some ways the disorder has taught me to put myself first and to look after myself, which many young people don’t learn until later on in life.

Today, I felt the need to write this post because we don’t often get time to step back and see how our journey has changed when we are so caught up in our own stories. I think this time of year is a good time to reflect and then move on.

I don’t see anything wrong with sharing the more broken parts of us, without the bad there is no good, why only show one side to us when we have so many other imperfect parts that make us unique!? We are only human after all. It’s unrealistic to let people believe that our lives are all so put together and perfect, when lets face it… life doesn’t work like that. I feel like we need to be a little more open and support each other a little more.. there are too many lonely people out there and many of us are going through similar struggles.

Now, its time to move on and start focusing on my goals for the future and the incredible life I have now. This story will always be a part of me, but it doesn’t define me and I am so grateful for my family, friends, teachers, this city and of course dance, which, no matter what, will always a part of my life.

Anyway…! I will be posting another blog post soon about my adventures in 2017, however I just felt need to write this post this evening

So…. lets end on a more upbeat note….

Why don’t dogs make good dancers?

Because they have two left feet! 😉

 

 

Frozen Flashmobs to Friends and Family

Frozen flashmobs, meeting Youtube idols, grocery shopping with famous actors, spending time with friends and family, seeing new shows, meeting talented Broadway stars, staying in 4 star hotels, cruising on the Hudson river, walking around central park and getting a place on the Professional Semester at Broadway Dance Center; I think it’s fair to say the past few weeks have been pretty magical. New York City IS magical.

Despite having lived here for five months now, its only the past few weeks being able to be a tourist in this wonderful place, that I have realized what a diverse, inspiring  and alive place New York really is. It’s not just the famous Times Square and 42nd street, there is so much more to explore; China town, Little Italy, Greenwich Village, West Village, Brooklyn, Central Park, Queens and 5th avenue were just a few of the places I visited when my dear family came to visit me last week (Shout out to you Mum, Auntie Sara and Isabelle!). Taking a break from dance and roaming the city as a “normal” human being was liberating and left me full of inspiration to start working on abandoned and new goals!

New York, I hope your ready for me 😉

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Anyway, now I’m back to dancing, and although taking a vacation was nice, I definitely feel like me again when I go to Broadway Dance Center; the energy there is just so vibrant. You walk through the doors into the shop which is full of amazing dance wear and even more excited shoppers, then as you pass each studio, you here pianos tinkling, speakers blaring, people cheering, you see people smiling, laughing, focusing, working hard, running past in clothes that might seem strange to the outside world, practicing in the corridors, choreographing, watching themselves intently in the mirror. Everyone is in their own world, everyone is caught in a moment in time, unaware of what’s going on in the outside world.

BDC is another magical place, and when I walk through those corridors, catching people’s eyes, smiling at them, gazing though the windows to the dancers in the studio beyond, my heart bursts with pure joy, I feel like I belong and that is one of the best feelings in the world.

That is why I am so excited and thankful to be staying an extra four months at the dance studio because I was offered a place on their professional program; I cannot wait to take on the challenges ahead of me and most importantly discover what I’m really capable of.

I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and I’ll see you in 2017!

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Anita xxxx

 

 

The Ups and Downs of Autumn

Autumn or fall as they call it here, is a time of year of change;  many are back at school, work and other projects, as summer slowly fades and the trees become shades of gold, yellow and red, the air become chillier and the leaves fall from the trees and fly through the air.

Like the leaves, I have been falling and flying, I have learnt this past month that no matter where you are in the world you are only human and humans can feel both tremendously happy and sad. I won’t go into extreme detail, but I will say I went through a “Rough Patch” where among other emotions I felt unmotivated and uninspired.

This month has been full of festivities of Halloween and spending time with friends. Now we are in November and Thanksgiving is on it’s way, despite the heavier feelings, I have begun to think about what I’m truly grateful for; I have decided that the two things that always keep me going in life are family and friends. No matter how low my day has been as soon as I spend time with people that make me smile, think, talk and laugh I am me again, time seems to last forever and I think about the future and all the exciting things I want to start to do; Ambition  sparks through me and I’m ready to take on the world, so THANK YOU friends, you keep me going.

I just love being with people and connecting with people, maybe that’s why I love to dance; I am always either in a studio environment, or a company environment and I am dancing to connect with others and to feel other people’s energy. It’s such a special and unique feeling that not many people in the world get to feel. When I dance I feel less alone.

The past few weeks, the wind seems to have picked me up; I feel lighter, more free and more in control at the same time; isn’t it funny how feelings can change so suddenly and sometimes for no reason at all! I’m just going to keep going with the flow and who knows where the wind will take me next… I have some new projects coming up; tomorrow I start an 8 week gymnastics course, I have launched a Youtube channel for my choreography and I have decided I am staying on a bit longer in NYC after my course finishes in January. Also, a few days ago I showcased a new piece at the November Performance Project at BDC which was a fusion of hip-hop and contemporary, I sang one of my favorite musical theater duets (You love who you love from Bonnie and Clyde) and I participated in 2 other choreographies. Also my lovely Dad has been visiting for the past week,

Maybe I’m not doing too badly after all…..

It is just that sometimes, I just need that helping hand that reaches out, gives me a nudge forward  and says “Anita, you got this”.

Anyway, what I keep learning is that challenges don’t last forever, eventually things get better and the challenges will turn into blessings.

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Being Grateful

So a few weeks have passed since my last blog post, and yet again I’m in a different place mentally, yet again I am learning more about life.

A week ago, I watched a film called “Happy” about what happiness is, and how people across the world can feel the same level of happiness despite their financial differences. This film opened my eyes and deeply inspired me, here is what I learnt:

Only 10% of our happiness is dictated by status/money/looks, 40 percent is genetic (the natural balance of happy hormones in our bodies), and 50% is in OUR control. How exciting is that! We are in fact very control of our own happiness!

So these are the things that increase our happiness according to the film’s research:

-Being Grateful

-Having close connections/relationships with our family/friends

-Doing meaningful things (Acts of kindness)

-Being in a state of FLOW (Completely absorbed in something you love, that you don’t see time go by, and you wish the moment could last forever)

-Physical activity

-Changing Habit/ Trying out new experiences (Something as simple as changing your route to school/work)

Now none of these require money, power, status or good looks, everyone is capable of practicing these things, including myself.

I am naturally a very serious person; don’t get me wrong I have a big sense of humor and I’m always messing about with my friends!… but I take life very seriously; maybe because I’m a perfectionist or an artist or sensitive but anyhow that is me and sometimes it causes me to get a bit too down about things that are not worth the sadness. So last week I decided to start practicing gratefulness; Every evening or whenever I felt a “down” moment, I would sit myself down on my tiny sofa, and actively think of three things that I was grateful for that day. I would not just think of them, but experience and fully feel the gratefulness I felt towards those things, allowing a smile to spread across my face and the breath to return back to normal in my chest. Instantly, I would feel a boost of joy and excitement and I would go to my dance class/bed/the store… feeling lighter on my feet.

The thing is, here I am in the greatest city on earth, living three mins walk from Times Square, dancing whatever I choose on a daily basis, I don’t have school, I don’t have homework, I don’t have essays to write, I don’t have people to look after, I don’t have a job tying me down, I am free to be whatever I want to be, I am free to be my true self, I am so incredibly lucky! I am so blessed and I am truly grateful to have this quality of life! So if I ever get a “down” moment, I refuse to let it last and now I have a technique for it: What am I grateful for today?” Well today, I’m grateful for finding a new posture in ballet, for taking my favorite class; leaps and turns and I’m grateful for having money to buy groceries and other expenses!

Wow I’m so lucky (Instant boost!)

THANK YOU!

I think gratefulness is like a muscle and you have to keep exercising it every day, but the more you do it, the more content and happy you will become and the easier it will get. To be honest, who wouldn’t want to practice something that gives you an instant shot of joy, it really is worth the tiny bit of effort, trust me.

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Anita xxx

“Breaking away to NYC”

So i’m sitting here in my tiny room in the center of Manhattan,  it’s late evening and I thought it would be about time that I write of everything I have experienced so far.

I’m feeling slightly emotional, but in a good way; I always find that evenings make me “Miss Dramatic” and its the time of day I tend to write, choreograph, think or do anything creative, then I wake up in the morning feeling extremely logical compared to the night before; I have a feeling that a lot artists get this….Or maybe i’m just crazy!

Anyway, back to the “Miss Dramatic”point; I’m listening to Kelly Clarkson’s song “Breakaway” and I feel that at this point in my life the lyrics really apply to me, and I can now really relate to the song; breaking away from a place where you felt like you didn’t really fit in, and going to somewhere glamorous, new and exciting, and experiencing new adventures: that has been my life for the past two months!

I am breaking away from my old life and finding a new one.

So, where to begin…there is so much to tell!

The ISVP course is so full of different nationalities: Finland, Mexico, Sweden, Argentina, Italy, France, Canada, Switzerland to name a few! Of course there are also numerous Americans who are on the “Training program” alongside our international one. I think you will be surprised to know that I am the only Brit! I’m flying the flag! I have made so many cool, quirky and talented friends, some of them are fully qualified doctors and teachers as well as dancers! It’s great that everyone comes from such diverse backgrounds.

We have to take 12 classes a week, but the most exciting thing about this is that we CHOOSE which ones! I finally feel like I am in control of my own life and that I can do what I want without someone in authority telling me what to do, because a few months ago (back in the UK) as a 22 year old being part of such a structured course was at times very frustrating. Now, I feel like I know myself enough to know which classes I need as a performer and I have spare time to do whatever I please, which in my case is choreographing, stretching, working on technique and of course eating, sleeping and a little bit of fun afterall!

Performance  and Choreography Opportunities

Since I have been here, I have already experienced so many incredible opportunities that I know I would not have the chance to experience back at home.

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I successfully auditioned for “The Table of Silence”; a yearly tribute for 9/11 performed at the beautiful Lincoln Center and choreographed by Jacqulyn Buglisi of Buglisi Dance Theater. We rehearsed for nine hours each week; During the long and intense rehearsals (which became like meditation for me) we would practice Graham technique and then drill our “gestures” and movements again and again in silence apart from the strong beat of a drum, until we knew them and their meaning perfectly. Working with Jacqulyn was inspiring; she was a strong, feisty and passionate woman and slightly eccentric. She would often scream and shout during rehearsals when she felt we weren’t giving enough, but she had an extremely good heart. She was worldly and wise, explaining where the gestures came from and asking us in turn what they meant to us: pain, anxiety, bringing the world together, throwing stardust. I felt like I was in the presence of a true artist, one who’s intentions were to use dance to change the world for the better, not to impress or to look beautiful but to simply spread peace; She called us her peace warriors and when I stood alongside the other one hundred dancers on the day of 9/11, dressed all in white I really believed that I was.  I overheard some dancers in the rehearsal call her “The reincarnation of Martha Graham”, and who knows, maybe she is…  The day of the 15th anniversary of 9/11 over 100 dancers dressed in white performed a ritual of peace around the beautiful and soothing fountain on the plaza at the Lincoln Center, and that day I truly believed I had used my talent to leave my footprint in the world, I had made a difference.

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As part of the ISVP program, there are performance projects held every three months where you get the chance to create and perform anything you would like.  Recently, the first one was performed on the 11th September and I had jumped at the chance of choreographing something as one day I would like to be a professional choreographer, and of course I just love creating my own work! I choreographed a piece to one my favorite songs “Try- Cover by Max”, inspired by the lyrics I created a contemporary piece about the struggles of women in today’s society. It was so exciting to showcase my first choreography in NYC and at Broadway Dance Center, I got so much positive feedback and I made 8 new friends! Alongside my own piece, I performed in three others: a Latin American piece, a lyrical piece and a street jazz piece! I also choreographed and sang a musical theatre duet with a friend! Performance project allows me to be myself as a creative individual for the first time in my life! I choose to create whatever I please, and I believe that when you are 100% true to yourself you are the best version of yourself, and at the moment that is how I feel!

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Lastly, yesterday I performed in a flash-mob in Long Island City! It was such a fun and touching experience! A couple had been arguing for a few months and the boyfriend decided to organised a surprise flash-mob for his girlfriend in order to cheer her up! We rehearsed for three intense hours on Saturday and Sunday it was our dancing and acting skills that were put to the test! Naturally we were all a little nervous, but to see the young lady crying with emotion and happiness after our performance really made the experience worth it!

And again I realise that dancing can not only be used for entertainment but to touch people’s lives and make a difference, I would much rather leave this earth knowing I have spread peace and happiness through the knowledge I have gained from my dance training than impressed people with my dancing. Impression is superficial but when you touch someone or move them, that is a connection that lasts a lifetime, it can change people’s lives and that rewarding feeling you get afterwards is worth so much more than a brief moment of admiration.

Anita xxx

 

 

 

 

 

My First Blog Post From NYC

So its now September 22nd and I have been in New York since 26th July; I have just realized in writing this that in four days time, I will have been in NYC for two months! How times flies when your having fun!

Of course I’m starting a blog due to my Kickstarter campaign as it was one of my rewards for backers, however I’m also starting a blog because I think it would be great to one day look back on all these experiences, and remember how exciting and incredible a time I had here; Because if i’m honest there is nothing in my life I could complain about right now, in fact things are pretty perfect, and how lucky is that!? I know that this is a special turning point in my life and that if i’m being realistic life won’t always be this easy. I know that due to the nature of life, cruel times will come but right now, I am trying to indulge and live in every single moment because I know that it won’t last forever. Sometimes, I breathe in the air in my room, look around me and realize how blessed I am to be living in Midtown, amongst the Broadway theaters, T.V studios and famous streets of NYC. I am so glad that you can’t predict the future, because whatever may be around the corner, in this chapter in my life I am living out my dream and I don’t anyone to ever wake me up.

Now, I also started a blog because I love to write; it is like therapy to me; every time I feel down I write all my thoughts and feelings down, and once I see what is in my mind written in pen on good old fashioned paper, I calm down…. “This is manageable” I say to myself, “I can handle this”, and I close my book and carry on with my day, uplifted, so I can’t wait to feel like this every time I write a new post.

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Anyway I hope you got a little sense of me from this introduction, I officially started on the ISVP program at Broadway Dance Center on 1st August and my next post will be about everything I have experienced so far here! And trust me it’s going to be exciting!

Anita xx

 

 

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