Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Dancer's Body - Darius Crenshaw on recovering from knee surgery

Ballet and Theater Dancer, Darius Crenshaw on recovering from knee surgery (pt 1 of 6)

thatgirl006 will be doing a series of posts written by professional dancers that offer insights into their lives off the stage. Our first contributor is dear friend and accomplished dancer, Darius Crenshaw. Darius is on a medical leave of absence from Motown: The Musical and recovering from his recent knee surgery to repair ACL and medial meniscus tears. The doctors estimate that it will be a 6-month rehabilitation period, and Darius will be posting monthly updates until he returns to dancing full-time. 

The biggest first-month hurdle with my knee injury was the psychological aspect of trusting my body throughout the recovery process. I suffered the same injury on the right knee two years ago, so I feel confident in my knowledge of what the current recovery of my left knee entails. After I had sustained the ACL and medial meniscus tear this time around, I was prepared for the pain that would accompany the injury post-surgery. Albeit fortunately, I didn’t experience the latter after the previous surgery.  Along with that, I had an expectation of what my recovery time would be and my physical abilities, or lack thereof, during the different matriculating stages. This physical, emotional, and mental roller coaster was one I had ridden before so I knew I was ready for what was about to happen.

With that, I unwittingly set myself up. The initial recovery of my left knee was mostly incomparable to my right knee. This month my left knee’s progression seemed to be moving at light speed in comparison to my previous knee injury. That comparison lead to my skepticism of how quickly my body was progressing in this initial stage of recovery.

After I had gotten over the first week of post-surgical pain, my recovery hit the fast track. In the second week, I started physical therapy. My physical therapist made some assessments of muscle strength and took some knee extension and flexion measurements. Right away I was surprised at his findings. He noticed in my quad sets that my quad muscles hadn’t atrophied as much as we were expecting. When he measured knee extension, it was the same as my right knee, and my knee flexion measured at one hundred fifteen degrees. I was pleasantly surprised. The first group of exercises he gave me were hard to execute for the first few days but became easier and easier as the days went on. Even so, it was still hard for me to trust the progress that my knee was making because mentally I was still holding onto my previous experience, which was an extremely methodical process. I had prepared for a repeat performance with this injury. The fact that this was the contrary took a while for me to accept due to fear of compromising the ACL graph or damaging the meniscal repair. My physical therapist assured me that the rate of progress I was making was a good thing and that I wasn’t overdoing it. My rate of progress was so good that my doctor had to modify my physical therapy prescription to keep up with the rate of progress. Suddenly I realized that if I didn’t change my approach in equating my left knee’s rate of progress with my right I would be complicit in impeding my body’s rate of progress.

Shortly after my first week working with my physical therapist, I started to surrender to the fact that the initial rate of recovery was going to be quicker with this leg than my right leg… and that was okay. My physical therapist started adding more exercises and slightly intensifying the ones he had already given me. The integration of the exercises was pretty seamless. Going with the idea of trusting my body more, I discovered that my leg was strong enough to walk around the house without crutches while still wearing my brace. In the subsequent weeks my rate of recovery has remained consistent which pleased me, my doctor, and my physical therapist. At the end of the four-week period, my doctor ordered my functional brace and modified my physical therapy prescription again because everything was going so well. At this point, I was elated without question.

So far the first month has been a huge learning experience. Because I had been through this injury before I thought that I had it all figured out by expecting the worse for my recovery. It was a fear based protective mechanism that I had to let go of completely to allow this recovery experience be completely independent of the last. I’ve learned that recovery rates vary regardless of whether the injuries are closely similar or completely different. From now on I will be continuing my recovery with an open mind and without expectation.

Darius Crenshaw started dance and musical theater training at School for Creative and Performing Arts in Cincinnati, Ohio. He started his professional career at Cincinnati Ballet at the age of 14 and later as a soloist. After graduating high school, Darius moved to New York to train with School of American Ballet in 1995. In 1997, he was invited to join New York City Ballet where he was a company member for eight years. His Broadway credits include The Color Purple (Broadway and 1st national tour), Phantom of the Opera, and Motown: The Musical. He also performed in the "American Opera Street Scene" with Toulon Opera in Toulon, France in the roles of Dick McGann and The Marshal. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Three Things That Made Us Smile This Week

Morgan James' video for "Call My Name" 

we are huge fans of Morgan and her music. if she's playing live in your town, run don't walk!

The Questions of Practice video interview series 

by The Pew Center for the Arts
we were particularly intrigued by this interview with  flamenco dancer and choreographer,  Israel Galván. When addressing the concept of purity and flamenco,  Galván says: "One has to be pure with yourself and impure with the history that already exists." 

The Best of Netflix

thanks to this article by Refinery29, we (binge) watched and loved The Forsyte Saga 

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Things that made us smile last week

Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion 
The work was breathtaking. The post-show discussion was a gas, we got a kick out of the lighthearted interactions between the dancers and musicians. Composer Robert Glasper was especially funny and oh so charming!

2nd Striver's Row Home Tour
Learning about the history and architecture of this Historic Harlem, NY neighborhood was a wonderful way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon.

 "Turn Up for Tap" 
It was our pleasure to join Marshall Davis, Jr and Savion Glover in hosting this event in honor of 
Tap Legend Steve Condos!

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

"Turn up for Tap" in honor of Tap Master, Steve Condos

The "Steve Condos Turn up for Tap" is a party for everyone! Whether you’ve ever laced up a pair of tap shoes or not, come out to enjoy and simultaneously be enlightened about Mr. Condos and the art form of tap dance in a very fun, memorable and celebratory way! ~Marshall Davis

Directions to Ella Lounge!

$10 suggested donation. $5 minimum donation for entry. 100% of all proceeds will go directly to Steve’s wife, Mrs. Lorraine Condos!! 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Things that made us smile last week

Disney's 'The Lion King' Becomes History's Top-Grossing Entertainment Title
We couldn't be happier for the creatives, producers, cast and crew (past and present) of this seminal musical! After all, our very own thatgirl is an alum of the show. ;-)

We snagged tickets to see Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion at NY Live Arts!  
Many of the shows were already sold out. If you miss this one, check the company's website and follow on Twitter for future performance dates. 

The Voice with new judges
For obvious reasons...

Alfonso Ribeiro on Dancing with the Stars!!
He's a dancing machine!

Weird Al's Grammarlicious Blurred Lines remake "Word Crimes"

Sunday, September 28, 2014

thatgirl006 catches up with Dancer/Choreographer Ray Mercer

We recently caught up with our multitasking, ever-curious and upbeat friend, dancer/choreographer, Ray Mercer! We first featured Ray in 2008, and it has since been one of our most viewed posts. Over the past six years, we have continued to be inspired by Ray and his work. Needless to say, he has been moving and grooving nonstop both on and off the stage, and it is high time we publish this Ray Mercer update. Enjoy! 

Thatgirl: What are the top 3 changes/developments in your career since our last interview?
Ray Mercer: I am so excited to do this update.  It is so amazing to find out that my post was one of the most viewed.  Since 2008 my career has been going a million miles an hour.  My choreography has won [the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS fundraiser] Gypsy of the Year 7 times, more than any other choreographer in history.  I was also commissioned to do a work for the Smithsonian for the country of Oman.  I now have one of my choreographic works in the Smithsonian.  I have set works on numerous companies around the world, and I am the Resident Choreographer for the Ailey School.   I will be setting a new work on Giordano Dance Company in Chicago this Fall.  Finally, I am also  a Professor at Howard University.  This is all while I am doing 8 shows a week at The Lion King.  

TG: How long have you been in The Lion King and what is your role? 
RM: I have been in the Lion King for 12 years as a dancer.  I have been in my track longer than any other male dancer in Lion King history.

TG: What do you think is one of the most unexpectedly joyous aspects of a long run in the same show? One of the most unexpectedly challenging? 
RM: The fact that I am part of making history with one of the longest running shows in history, and I get to work with some of the best in the industry is truly a blessing.  At times, the show can be physically challenging, you really have to be focused on taking care of your body and mind.

TG: How have you managed to develop your body of work while maintaining the vigorous 8 show a week performance schedule plus the requisite rehearsals of a Broadway show?
RM: I haven't had a day off or a vacation in years.  It really requires good scheduling.  It's a huge sacrifice but it is sooooo worth it.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

TG: Where do you find your creative inspiration?
RM:  I am constantly being inspired.  New York is a constant source of inspiration.   I'm a people watcher, a lot of inspiration comes from that.  I am also inspired by conversations I've had, social issues, family, and friends.  I am also very inspired by the people that I work with.   

TG: Would you like to have a company or are you happy freelancing? (or share your ultimate goal as a choreographer)
RM: I am so happy being a freelance choreographer.   I love working with new dancers all the time.  I am constantly learning and being inspired.  It presents a brand new challenge every time you walk into the studio. I simply love it.  I ultimately want to choreograph a Broadway Show.  That is next on my bucket list.

TG: Name one thing that you do very well but you enjoy the luxury of having someone do for you.
RM:  My laundry!  LOL  

TG: What was the event in your personal history that has influenced your work the most?
RM: Being cast in The Lion King changed my life FOREVER!  It opened so many doors, and provided so many opportunities for  me choreographically.  I have access to some of the best dancers, musicians, song writers, singers, lighting, stage management, wardrobe/costumes in the world.  What choreographer has that at their disposal?  I am truly blessed!!!

TG: Share something that you believed when you were very young that you have found to be true now that you're older and wiser?
RM: My parents taught me at an early age that there are no shortcuts.  You have to work hard and do your best always.  I found this to be very true.  My work ethic has provided so many opportunities for me.  YOU MUST WORK HARD!!!!

TG: What is your favorite way to unwind?
RM: I rarely have any free time.

TG: One dance that you wish you had choreographed or performed first.
RM:  Episodes by Ulysses Dove.   Any of Dove's works for that matter.  He is one of my favorite choreographers.

TG: Which is your favorite movie, TV show featuring dance and why?
RM: I don't watch too much dance on TV.  But I must admit I watch Dance Moms, it's a guilty pleasure. (laughs) I think those little girls work so hard.  

TG: If you could pick the brain of any choreographer dead or alive, who would it be?
RM:  Wow, so many!  Ulysses Dove, Alvin Ailey, Jiří Kylián, Nacho Duato, all for different reasons, but I love their work.

TG: What would be your first question? 
RM: Where do you get your inspiration?

TG: What did you want to be when you were a kid?
RM: I always wanted to work at a gas station.  

Ray Mercer's electric choreography fills the stage as boys from the Broadway casts of The Lion King, Mary Poppins and Memphis perform "Boys, Boys, Boys..." at DANCE FROM THE HEART | MEN a performance produced by and benefiting DANCERS RESPONDING TO AIDS (DRA)

Ray Mercer, is a native of Omaha, NE. He is currently in the Broadway cast of The Lion King, NY. Ray started his dance training at the age of 17, where he studied at the University of New Orleans, Chicago, and New York. Mercer has danced with Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, Chicago, and the Boston Ballet (guest artist). He has worked with Aretha Franklin, Rod Stewart, Kevin "Iega" Jeff, George Faison, Louis Johnson, and Garth Fagan. Mercer was awarded Joffrey Ballet's Choreographers of Color Award 2012 and Pensacola  Ballet Choreographers Award. He has been the resident choreographer for Ailey B.F.A program. Ray has Directed and Choreographed for the Smithsonian Oman Project. He was a 2011 Capezio Ace Awards Finalist has won Broadway’s Gypsy of the Year Award for best onstage performance in 2005, 2008, 2011, 2012 and, 2013, the Michigan Dance Council Award, and the Black Theater Alliance Award/Chicago, for his choreography. Ray was the resident choreographer for All-City Dance Co in Detroit and Chicago. He has worked with several outreach programs including the Alvin Ailey Summer Camp Program, Ailey Fordham B.F.A  Program, Joffrey Ballet Educational Program, E-Moves Choreographers Showcase (New York), and the National High School Dance Exchange. Mercer was recently commissioned to choreograph a work for the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. He has set ballets on various companies and Universities across the country, such as Philadanco, Dayton Contemporary Dance Co., New Jersey Ballet, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Pensacola Ballet, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, and DRA:Dancers Responding to Aids/New York. He has taught classes and master series all over the world. Ray was recently acknowledged in the New York Times, the Chicago Sun Times, and Movmnt Magazine for his choreography.

Keep in touch with Ray on Facebook!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Things that made us smile this week

and the general public was invited to a FREE open rehearsal! 
we suggest you keep and eye on the Thursdays @DTH series

a global movement to "make the world a more tap conscious place"
read our Exclusive Interview with Founder Anthony Morigerato

35 New Yorkers offer their picks for don't miss arts happenings in NYC this fall