Category Archives: Dance & Fitness

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8 Tips

8 Tips For A Healthier Holiday

By Vicki Parsons, Butler Center for Dance & Fitness Director

During this busy season of crazy schedules—holiday shopping, baking, decorating, family gatherings and celebratory meals—I have a tough time sticking to my healthy eating habits. In fact, eating healthy during the holidays sometimes seems like an impossible challenge. All around me I’m faced with delicious sweets, gift baskets filled with yummy cheeses and meats, rich egg nog drinks, and platters overflowing with fattening foods. Can you blame me when faced with these temptations? Chances are you can’t blame me. In fact, you probably join me!

Most of us utter some form of “I’ll start eating healthy again in the New Year,” and then we proceed to stuff ourselves from Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day. We’re uncomfortably full. Most of us don’t pile our plate like that on a regular day, but during the holidays it would be rude not to try every dish, so pass the pie please!

Blame The Brain?

Research has shown that our brains can easily override our bodies’ signals to stop eating, even when we know the consequences will be unpleasant. While one incredibly heavy meal won’t make us fat, it can make us terribly uncomfortable. It’s harder to breath, we’re drowsy, bloated and gassy, irritable, and even sick. Blame the brain? Maybe. When we’re stuffed with comforting food our brain triggers a warm feeling inside. It’s actually comes from a primal instinct to eat a lot as often as we can, preparing us for hard times when food might not be as easily available: like the squirrels storing up for the winter. The real bummer is that our brain rewards us for it by releasing pleasure chemicals. A recent study suggested that high-fat, high-calorie foods affect the brain in much the same way as cocaine and heroin!

So now that we know all of this, how can we fight against our body and brain taking over our eating habits during this holiday season? First off, simply knowing this will help. Be aware of not only the challenge of more parties and extra food, but also how the brain and body respond to it all.

Tips For A Healthier Holiday

Besides paying attention the brain body responses, follow some of these tips:

Don't skip breakfast on Thanksgiving morning!

Don’t skip breakfast on Thanksgiving morning!

  1. You don’t have to quit “cold turkey” all the savory holiday foods. Remind yourself that you don’t have to overindulge everyday. Decide to eat as healthy as possible on most days, and then give yourself the “go-ahead” to enjoy a few of your favorite foods throughout the month… guilt-free!
  2. Now is probably not a good time to go on a diet. Instead of trying to shed extra pounds during the holiday season, focus on maintaining your current weight.
  3. Stop making food your number one thought. There are some yummy foods we wait all year to consume, but instead of focusing on what’s going to be part of the spread, think about the company you keep, the conversations, the traditions, and the good times. Don’t make it only about the food, make it about the people.
  4. Grill, roast, and bake as often as you can. Go light on the creams and gravies.
  5. Don’t put all the food on the table. When we have to get up for a serving we traditionally eat less.
  6. Eat before you eat! Seriously! Maybe not right before, but the tendency on holidays is to starve in preparation for the big feast. Don’t deprive yourself before your Thanksgiving dinner. Instead, eat a healthy breakfast and lunch (unless your feast is at noon), enjoy your usual in-between snacks throughout the day, and come to the table like you would on any other day. If you show up at dinner starving, you’ll be more likely to overeat and your body will have a harder time digesting the heavy meal.
  7. Take time to savor your food on your days to indulge. Pace yourself, chew slowly, and enjoy each bite. Make each bite smaller and put your fork down once in a while to chew and talk with the other people at the table. It actually takes time for your body to realize it’s full, so the slower you eat, the more likely you will be to stop before you are over full.
  8. Continue to stay active during the holiday season. Not only does physical activity relieve the added stress of the holidays, it will give you the motivation to eat healthy when it’s not party time. Even if you’re significantly busier this month, don’t skip your workouts. Beyond burning calories, a workout can boost your mood for up to 12 hours; a much-needed perk during this hectic season. Get creative to keep moving your body. Walk the Trail of Lights, walk through a decorated neighborhood, bundle up for a fun game of Frizbee, or take the dog for a walk!



Stay Active

Enjoy the months ahead, incorporate healthy recipes into your holiday meals when you can, watch portion sizes, don’t restrict yourself from enjoying some of your favorite holiday foods, and stay as active as you can. Most importantly, don’t forget that the holidays are for celebrating with family and friends.

And if you totally blow it? Join us January 10 for our Annual GetFit! Day.

Happy Holiday’s From Ballet Austin!

Iconic Thriller Re-awakens “The Dancing” Dead

By Guest Blogger, Laura Bond Williams, Butler Center for Dance & Fitness member

In 2008, and Ballet Austin’s Butler Center for Dance & Fitness had re-awakened me to the possibilities of becoming a dancer—at age 38. That fall I took a thrilling step forward as a dancer and performer when I joined 800+ other local dancers to participate in “Thrill the World” at the Long Center, joining tens of thousands of movers worldwide to set a Guinness World Record for simultaneously dancing Thriller. That experience—and several more over the last seven years—are why I appreciate and celebrate Thriller as a way for people to connect with their bodies, channel their creativity and claim dance for themselves.


Image from 2008’s Thrill the World at the Long Center. Photo Credit tibbygirl via Flickr CC.

That day, lying flat and “playing dead” on the warm concrete plaza of our city’s performing arts center, we waited for the opening notes and footsteps that mark the beginning of Michael Jackson’s legendary song. Together—women and men of all ages and races—we slowly rose to life, our bodies play-fighting against gravity. Acting our roles as stumbling, bumbling living dead, rising from our graves and ready to…dance. Thriller’s famous fanfare brings us to our feet, and we stare straight ahead, enlivened by the music. The beat drops, and we walk, slowly. Right. Pause. Left. Pause. Right. Pause. Left. Pause.

One of my favorite Broadway dance teachers often quips “if you can walk, you can dance.” (Please note: walking is not even a prerequisite for dancing, as beautiful dance troupes such as Austin’s Body Shift dancers demonstrate.) As we stumbled right-left-right-left across the Long Center plaza, I realized this truth: when we are moved by music, we are dancing.

If you were alive and young in 1984, then Thriller connects your present body to your past. Perhaps you watched Friday night music videos while sitting next to your VCR, waiting for the Thriller video to air so you could tape it and watch it over and over. Thirty-one years later, Thriller still stirs the same reactions.

But you don’t have to be middle-aged to be excited by Thriller. This year, I taught Thriller to a group of young dancers, and we performed it at as a flash mob at an Alamo Drafthouse movie theatre. I gave them only two pieces of advice on costumes: Find some mud and some blood, and if your costume is too clean or too cute, it’s not a zombie.

People of all ages dressing as zombies for Thriller. Photo Credit

People of all ages at Ballet Austin dressed as zombies for Thriller. Photo Credit Laura Bond Williams

These 9–13-year-olds—and many of their parents—channeled ghastly princess and cheerleader zombies and night-of-the-living-dead zombies in white t-shirts, flannel and jeans, drizzled in dirt, leaves, mud and fake blood.

For adults, learning and performing Thriller is a way for us to claim our identity as dancers. For most of us “flash mobbers,” our identity as dancer may fall behind our roles as spouses, parents, and/or professionals. But the identity is no less dear. Last month I met a successful nonprofit executive whose career is a model and inspiration for many. Our conversation spanned many personal and professional subjects, and when we touched on the topic of dance, we went to a whole new shared space and she shared with me that she was starting Ballet Austin’s Thriller workshop. Her enthusiasm and excitement for tackling this iconic dance was palpable.

Photo Credit Laura Bond Williams

Photo Credit Laura Bond Williams

In less than six minutes—from a creaky door to an evil cackle—Thriller brings us back to life, living in our bodies, channeling our creativity and declaring our love of dance. As Vincent Price reminds us in rap: “For whosoever shall be found without the soul for getting down, may stand and face the hounds of hell and rot inside a corpse’s shell.”

Ballet Austin offers Thriller workshops every year! And with Halloween around the corner… Go ahead dancers. Thrill the world.

Join Ballet Austin In Celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness Month

By Christi Cuellar Lotz, Director of Development

Many in Austin may not realize the depth of Ballet Austin’s offerings. For example, The Pilates Pink Ribbon Program is something we take a lot of pride in. This post-operative exercise program is offered for women recovering from breast cancer surgery. Ballet Austin currently covers the entire cost of the program with the help of outside donations.

Post-Rehabilitative Breast Cancer Exercise Specialist Vlada Sheber working with a survivor.

Post-Rehabilitative Breast Cancer Exercise Specialist Vlada Sheber working with a survivor.

The program was started 6 years ago by certified Pilates instructor, Vlada Sheber for women such as Emily featured in the video below. Emily attends the workshop and says it’s been an integral part of her recovery. That it’s helped her regain her strength, energy and quality of life. Having practiced yoga for over 10 years, she knows what a difference movement makes in her general health and included it in her daily routine. Now, she calls it her “medicine.”

Other participants talk of Vlada’s compassion and sense of humor, in addition to her expertise, and tell about the sense of community the Pilates Pink Ribbon Program brings to them. Currently, we are able to offer this program during the lunchtime hours on Tuesday. But we can do more. More women can include this program as part of their recovery journey if evening classes were available.

Vlada Sheber

Post-Rehabilitative Breast Cancer Exercise Specialist Vlada Sheber during a Pilates Pink Ribbon Program class.

This is where you come in! As we move into the month of October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, show your support for these special women and join us for Pink Tuesdays every Tuesday in October. Wear pink to Ballet Austin—whether you’re taking a class or dropping off a child—take a selfie and post to social media to let everyone that you support Breast Cancer Awareness month! Don’t forget to tag #PinkTuesdayATX and #BalletAustin. And, if you’re inclined, make a gift of support to help us expand our reach of the Pilates Pink Ribbon Program. Know that every single dollar makes a difference.

How I Mastered Pilates After Failed Attempts

By Vlada Sheber, Pilates Program Director


In 2000 I took my first Pilates reformer class. As a professional dancer, and member of Ballet Austin’s professional company at the time, I thought I was in such great shape and could easily do this apparatus workout. Was I ever wrong! I did everything incorrectly. I could not do Pilates. I could not get it right!

But my Ukrainian never-give-up blood kept me coming back. I wanted to get it right. What I discovered was that with proper instruction, I could do Pilates. What I learned through this experience is that one of the most important things about Pilates is learning to do it correctly.

15 years later I can truly say it was the best investment I made in myself, my dancing, and in my life. Not only did I notice major changes in my body, but I also just felt better all over.

Ballet Austin In

Master Instructor Private Pilates sessions are available for clients.

In 2002, after many hours of grueling training, I received my diploma as a Certified Core Connections® Pilates Instructor from the Core Connections® Comprehensive Teacher Training Program at the Pilates Center of Austin. In 2007, when the Ballet Austin Pilates Center was designed and opened, I was appointed as Pilates Program Director. Since then we have grown from just one certified Pilates instructor to 8. We also recently had a Grand Re-opening of our newly renovated space—now offer 12 reformers in 2 studios totaling 1500 square feet.

I think Pilates is for everyone. Whatever your age and physical condition, the Pilates practice will improve your quality of life. The greatest challenge is that, despite the fact that Pilates has been around for about 100 years, people still don’t know what it is and where it came from. They don’t know it can be for them.

So whenever I have a chance, I share with everyone this six-minute video by InfobytesTV that provides a complete history of Pilates. I love it! It’s a fun and informative animated history of Joseph Pilates and the beginning of the Pilates Method.

Why Do YOU Dance?

By Vicki Parsons, Butler Center for Dance & Fitness Director

I knew at a very young age that I loved to move my body. Whether it was playing tag with the neighborhood kiddos, hiking, swimming, or one of many sports, I loved it! And while dance lessons were not on the list, I can tell you that when the music played, I could not be still.

I fondly remember the dance craze of the 60’s: The Twist, the Mashed Potato, the Loco-motion. And if you grew up in the 70’s you probably grooved to the Funky Chicken and YMCA. Every generation has their dance – dance has always been, and will always be.

America’s Dance Craze

America’s fascination with dance exploded with the popularity of So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing with the Stars. Last summer, ballerina Misty Copeland’s breathtaking Under Armour ad brought ballet into our living rooms.

Dance can be seen on billboards, in TV commercials, and sells everything from Mountain Dew to cell phone service. The rising interest in dance as an alternative form of exercise has positively impacted the fitness industry.

Why Do YOU Dance?


People love to dance. But why? I decided to play roving reporter at Ballet Austin’s Butler Dance Education Center this past week and investigate. I didn’t have to rove far since  we bring dance to adults of all ages and ability levels 7 days a week. I walked from studio to studio asking people, “Why do you dance?” I asked professional company dancers, dance instructors, people sitting in the lobby, children in our kid’s camp… I even asked the barista at Starbucks and took to Twitter to hear what people had to say! 

“Dance is one of the things that brings me the most joy!”

 Tara Alperin, Butler Center Instructor

“Dance has always moved me.”  – Company dancer Orlando Canova

A photo posted by Ballet Austin (@balletaustin) on


“I dance to chase the crazies away.”

– John, Starbucks Barista

“I dance to work out. It’s a fun and positive way to exercise. I have lost 18 lbs. dancing!”

– Laura, Butler Center Member

“Nadanam, manidhanaaga pirandha ovvoruvanum alli alli paruga vendiya amurdhamada adhu!”

Prakash Mohandas, Butler Center Bollywood Instructor

“I dance because it’s like physical journaling; a way to speak when I don’t have the words. Sometimes it’s happy, sometimes it’s sad, but I always get that amazing feeling of release once I’ve done it.”

– Boo Ruis, Butler Center Instructor

“Yo bailo, porque el baile es vida, es una expresión de creatividad, es arte en movimiento, es mi libertad”

– Janet Alvarado, Butler Center Customer Relations

“We celebrate Dance, revel in the universality of this art form. Dance crosses all political, cultural and ethnic barriers and brings people together with a common language – Dance.

World Organization for the Performing Arts

“I dance because I don’t really have a choice…when I hear good music, my body just reacts to it with movement. It’s the best feeling.”

– Hannah Brightwell, Butler Center Instructor 

Now tell us why you dance at @BalletAustinCTR !


10 Things You May Not Know About Pilates

By Vicki Parsons, Butler Center for Dance & Fitness Director

I am a fan of anything that helps a person live an active and healthy lifestyle. But Pilates is especially beneficial. The problem is that there are still plenty of myths and misconceptions floating around about Pilates that tend to get in the way of giving it a try. While I can’t dispel all of those myths – and am a firm believer that you just have to give it a try to be convinced – here are a few things that you might not have known.

1. Pilates is not just a fad of the rich and famous.

Pilates has been around for almost a century. Yes. Longer than sliced bread! While plenty of celebrities, dancers, and fitness gurus practice Pilates, it is now more popular than ever as one of the best foundational exercises for anyone.


2. Over 10 million Americans practice Pilates.

That’s a huge number and it’s still growing. As the benefits of Pilates become known, more and more Americans are trying it for themselves.

3. Pilates was designed by Joseph Pilates.Joseph-Pilates

Joseph Pilates was a German-born self-defense instructor at Scotland Yard in England. During World War I, he was detained as an “enemy alien” with other German nationals. It was during his time in war camps that Pilates refined his ideas by rigging springs to hospital beds, enabling bedridden patients to exercise against resistance and rehabilitate.

4. Pilates is done on a reformer but can be adapted for mat work.

Joseph Pilates loved to tinker with equipment and machinery, which led to the design of the Pilates reformer we have today. As far as the dreaded magic circle, Joseph made the original “magic circle” from the steel bands around beer kegs.


5. Crunches are overrated.

Pilates gets to the core of the matter. It gives you a stronger core without the crunch! When the core is strengthened, the entire body changes; improved posture, balance, strength, and flexibility. Slouching is corrected, effects of sitting can be reversed, back pain is alleviated, and more. Pilates benefits both men and women of all ages and skill levels.

6. Rodeo cowboys do Pilates.

(Photo Credit Baker County Tourism via CC)

(Photo Credit Baker County Tourism via CC)

Pilates is all about the core and rodeo cowboys need a strong center of balance for riding bulls and bucking broncos! Because the Pilates method is renowned for its benefits in improving flexibility, strength, balance and body awareness, athletes from every sport find it the perfect foundation for their training.

7. One hour of Pilates burns calories all day long.

Pilates is all about resistance exercises. Resistance training is scientifically proven to create lean muscle and speed up metabolism to burn calories all day long. Cardio exercise is great; but as soon as you get off the stationary bike or treadmill, you stop burning calories. With Pilates, the second you finish your workout, you start burning calories.

8. Ballet Austin’s state-of-the-art Pilates Center is doubling in size.


Pilates reformers inside the newly renovated Ballet Austin Center.

Upon completion in August, Ballet Austin’s Pilates Center will be 1500 square feet, equipped with 12 Balanced Body reformers, as well as Balanced Body Chairs, Barrels and Towers to accommodate private and group appointments at all levels.

9. Ballet Austin’s Pilates Center has 8 Certified Instructors.

Under the direction of Pilates Program Director Vlada Sheber, we have 8 Certified Pilates Instructors. They are trained, caring, and passionate about their Pilates practice. And they will push you to your best.

Ballet Austin In

Ballet Austin Pilates Program Director Vlada Sheber working with a client.

10. It’s easy and affordable.

With new client packages and offers available year round it’s always a good time to try. Start with a private session or bring a friend to a group class.


Mommy + Baby Fit at Ballet Austin

Rarely do we bring you non-performance related news from Ballet Austin, but this one was just too good to pass up.

Brittany Harpole, one of our amazing BCS and Certified Pilates instructors – and recent new mom – is teaching a “Mommy and Baby Fit” workshop beginning this month.

ballet austin dance and fitness

The workshop offers flexible options for new moms of all fitness levels with children ages 10 – 18 months.

For a sneak peek, check out the video below.

For full details and to enroll visit

A Look Back at Come Dance! 2011

A few weeks ago, we hosted our 4th annual Come Dance! celebration. Over 1,000 people streamed through our doors that Sunday to participate in over 18 different FREE dance classes, including 7 new ones. The day offered something for everybody – from West African Dance to Ballet. Check out a few snapshots from the day below, and make sure to check out our BCS Drop-In Class Schedule to see when you can try out a few classes on your own.

West African DanceOur NEW! West African Dance, taught by instructor Jean-Claude Lessou.

BalletBallet, taught by Company Dancer & BCS Instructor Orlando Canova.

Our NEW! Turbo-Kick (cool down phase), taught by our certified instructor Brittany Harpole.

TapOur NEW! Rhythm Tap, taught by instructor Tony Merriwether.

JazzJazz Funk, taught by instructor Kathryn Waggoner.

A big thank you to everyone who attended! We hope to see you again soon… For more information on Drop-in Classes and Courses (which start this week!) in the Butler Community School, please visit our website.

Videodance:Beyonce | Wed. at the BCS

If you loved Beyoncé at the 2011 Video Music Awards, and if you want to have fun learning the choreography of Beyoncé’s Run the World (Girls), then you won’t want to miss Videodance: Beyoncé!

Every Wednesday from 7:15 – 8:30, instructor Kody Jauron will offer a few weeks of choreography focusing on one song of one artist; artists such as Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, and Britney Spears.

Each class will start with a short warm-up and then move into a fun and fast-paced class learning choreography from the latest and hottest music video hits. Attend once or come every week. Videodance is open to all levels.

To sign up for classes, please visit the Butler Community School page.

Have you Registered?

Note: This is our summer intern’s last editorial post. After hearing she was a yoga buff, we signed her up for our weekly Yoga Form and Flow course offered on Monday nights. See what she had to say about taking yoga in a ballet studio…

One of my favorite perks (among many) of interning at Ballet Austin this summer was the opportunity to enroll in their Yoga Flow and Form course. I’ve always been a huge fan of yoga but only a dedicated practitioner for just over a year. This course was perfect for me — it began at a slower pace, offering plenty of pose modifications. The instructor was wonderfully patient and made sure to pay special attention to each student in the class. Everyone practices yoga at a different level, and she was considerate of our abilities and catered the course to each of our needs. Set to candlelight and low music, it was an incredibly relaxing and soothing hour.

And that was only the first week. This six-week yoga course functions as an introductory course to yoga, steadily advancing the poses and practice each week as the attendees grow increasingly strong and confident. It was a thrill to feel my body grow stronger with each week, and by the sixth week be able to complete the class without any pose modifications.

I really enjoyed the structure of the class and how it steadily advanced my practice each week. Most yoga studios I’ve been to treat each individual class as an all-inclusive lesson, not really considering the different skill levels of the practitioners or looking to advance their practice in a lasting way. Ballet Austin’s Yoga Flow and Form transformed my yoga practice indefinitely because it took the time to allow my body to grow steadily over the six-week period. As a serious yoga practitioner, I highly recommend this course to anyone looking to get into yoga. It was wonderfully fun, relaxing, and made me feel fantastic after each class.

My summer internship at Ballet Austin has ended now, and I’ve moved from Austin to Los Angeles, and so far finding a great yoga studio has been tough!  I’ll miss Ballet Austin dearly, and I hope you Austinites take advantage of Flow and Form while you still can!

Sign up for our Yoga Form & Flow course by August 26 and receive $5 off your purchase. More details on the Ballet Austin website.