Thinking Back on Layoff

Post by Kris Kramer — former MCB dancer and current member of the MCB Social Networking Team

I remember the various fazes I went through over the summer layoff when I was a dancer with Miami City Ballet.  The first few days were always filled with a sense of relief…the “I finally made it to a break, I didn’t go insane and my body is still in one piece” feeling.  Dancing in the MCB corps can get you wound pretty tight due to the overwhelming demand on your body, mind and spirit.  And while I was always excited to sleep in a little later, get outside to feel the sunshine, and have some lazy lunches with my girlfriends on Lincoln Road, it wasn’t long before that “antsy-ness” set in.

It’s like going from one extreme to another.  For nine months you are dancing six days a week, doing close to 100 performances and then BANG…no more morning ballet class; no more 6+ hours of rehearsal; no more running around like a chicken with its head cut off on your one free day.  I always felt like my body freaked out when the season ended. But, after a few summer layoffs, I found my magic pill – Crunch gym.  It’s amazing what the elliptical and some yoga can do.

Beyond battling antsy-ness, layoff was a time to do things that got pushed to the side during the season.  I’d visit my family in upstate New York, get to projects around my apartment and pursue other interests.  Mentally and spiritually it was necessary to focus my attention on something else besides ballet.  My summers turned into pursuits of mastering SCUBA diving, trying out elaborate vegetarian recipes and wracking my brain with multiple college courses.

The last few weeks of layoff always seemed to creep up on me, along with a sense of anxiousness and anticipation.  I always looked forward to the fresh start of a new season with new repertoire, but I knew the hump my body was going to endure to get back into the swing of things.  It would mean sore muscles and lots and lots of Epsom Salts.  In the final few weeks, I’d force myself to get up a little earlier each day and come to MCB studios to take a class.  I’d begin to sew the ribbons and elastics on my pointe shoes, coax my feet into them, and then proceed to do everything around my apartment to break them in.  Despite getting prepared, eating healthy, doing some additional elliptical workouts, and taking daily ballet class, that little voice in my head would always be asking, “Am I ready?” “Do I look fat?”.

Ultimately, nothing can really get you totally ready for the season.  It’s a shock to the system to be back in the studio on your feet all day.  The first day back was always the best.  I’d walk into company class, to be greeted by smiling, refreshed, tanned, and joking co-workers and friends.  We’d either have to laugh together or cry because of how out of shape we felt.  Most dancers opt for laughing together.

I caught up with a few dancers – Sara Esty, Stephen Satterfield and Zoe Zien – who talked to me about what their first week back has been like.