“My body, My Home”! The world of dance is a universe as big and complex as life itself. We, as professional dancers, work daily with our most precious instruments: our bodies. We push them constantly in order to achieve the best everyday, a never-ending process of achieving perfection. Quite often though,we tend to take our body for granted, and forget to care about it, making the balance between work and self care unequal.
Recently I came across this Instagram Post written By Elenora Morris, artist with The Royal Danish Ballet
“On a personal level I have way too often treated my body as a commodity, to be perpetually dissatisfied with harshly discipline and deny kindness. I would promise my body to listen to it and give it the love and care that it deserves, because it is my home”
I have extended an invitation to Elenora to discuss this issue a bit more and explore this side of ourselves as dancers, and she was kind to accept it.
Marina Minoiu: Ellie, thank you so much for being part of this.I am glad you have accepted my invitation for this interview. One of your Instagram posts caught my attention and I thought those were thoughts that need to be shared in regards to our bodies, as dancers.
Elenora Morris: Thank you Marina! I am really excited too. This topic is something that I am very passionate about.
M.M: Tell me a bit about yourself. How did you start dancing?
E.M: I have an older sister and she was in dance classes before me, so I followed her in there. I guess I have always really loved it.
I grew up in a very musical family, and we loved that side of ourselves. I remember I was always performing, moving. So I went to dance classes and I kinda got hooked. Every year my parents would ask me: “Do you want to continue? Or do you want to try something else?” My answer would be that I want to do more dancing.
M.M: You are originally from the U.S and yet you have been dancing with The Royal Danish Ballet for some time now. How did you end up coming here?
E.M: I was dancing in Canada for few years first. I found a job there and it was not far from my hometown, Pittsburgh. A 6 hours drive from my family.
Then from there I auditioned a bit more broadly and made this connection with The Royal Danish Ballet. When I came to visit the company, I really felt like I fit in and at home. Then I got the job and things just feel right. In February I will have been here 6 years.
M.M: How can you describe your journey, as professional dancer, so far?
E.M: I feel like when I have started dancing it was something very joyous and it felt very instinctual. It felt like it was a part of me letting itself out. Then in my adolescence, when I was training, there were always people that saw something in me and believed in me. They helped me go further,but I think I was also drawn in by this desire to live up to things other people saw in me. I remember even in the first years of my career I had to deal with a lot of those pressures, and tried to prove myself to other people. I have encountered many ups and downs related to this.
Now I actually feel that I am coming to that beautiful part of my career where Iwant to do it a bit more for myself and it feels good.
Letting it be something full of love, and not just something where I am constantly seeking more perfection.
Elenora in G. Balanchine’s“Ballo de la Regina”; Photo credit: Henrik Stenberg
M.M: What triggered you to this point of sharing these thoughts?
E.M: I have been thinking a lot about this for a while now.
I had small periods of time when I was injured when I would step away from ballet a little bit.
One of them is when I got a concussion right after my debut in “Myrtha”, one of my first big roles.
The injury happened and I had to go home early in the season. It was summer and everything was on a very low level; due to my injury, I was not able to do much. All this experience led me to learn how to be comfortable with myself.
M.M: Which often, for us dancers, it is a hard task…
E.M: It is so hard! Because my whole life I have been working and pushing and be at my best. So in the end that whole experience offered by my injury was very beautiful. I took the time to enjoy the smallest things in life more and to get to know myself outside the context of ballet.
Then COVID happens and we had a lot of time off.I took it as an opportunity to give time to myself. I have started listening to what I want to do or how I would like to spend my day. I have reacquainted myself with the woman I am and who I am becoming.
For young dancers I believe it is important to know and to understand that not being daily at those high standards is a part of life as a professional dancer.
M.M: How did you cope with this at a young age? And how do you feel now?
E.M: We do push and push our bodies all the time. When you are in school at that young age, you have to push very hard and be pushed as well. Ballet demands a tough discipline. But I do think that I have internalized it too much. I saw my body as a tool that just needed to be pushed. My value was when I was driving myself to the limit and felt that I was getting better, but it was almost abusive. Like I don’t see any worth in myself unless I was constantly pushing for better
What I am realizing now is to have so much more respect and trust for my body.
Today when I look in the mirror I can say to myself “what a beautiful woman,” while before I did not even think of myself as a woman.
Eleonora as “First Sylph” in Nikolaj’s Hübbe “La Sylphide”; Photo credit: Mia Stensgaard
M.M: Do you think that dance education should implement this work with inner self from an earlier age?
E.M: Yes. I think that if you were taught in school to listen and respond to your needs, it would make such a huge difference. I remember for example, that when I was in school if you got injured or hurt yourself, teachers would give you the cold shoulder and make you feel really bad about yourself when you had to sit down and watch class, as if it were a personal failing. And I actually believe that they should encourage young dancers to take care of themselves and heal, because it is part of being an athlete.
M.M: Phrases such as “my body does not look good enough,” I am a bad dancer,” etc..with enough recurrence over time, become pretty much your reality and also what you would end up projecting outwards. How do you think we could balance this better?
E.M: Ballet is a hard job. At some point you get to see the relationship with your body becoming this object. But is part of you!What I am learning is to appreciate it and to show gratitude to my body for what it can do.And sometimes at the end of the day I actually say: “Thank you so much for how you moved today.” It is like developing a relationship with a partner that I respect.
M.M: As women and dancers in the same time, we pass through a lot of changes, from day to day. How do you cope with challenge as a professional dancer?
E.M: It is up and down and you feel different every time.If you can, listen to your body and respond. There is a lot of beauty in acceptance.
M.M: Have you ever been confronted with the “guilty meals” concept?
E.M: I had moments like this for sure. I actually think that in times when I was so hard on myself, pushing a lot, I would end up obsessing over food, as it was the one reward I would allow myself . To be honest, now, I definetely enjoy my ice cream and chocolates, and on days when I get a certain craving I’m gonna listen to that and give my body what it wants. But I actually don’t get the urge to overindulge as much, because I am also learning to feed my body in other ways and give it rest when it needs. I am taking time to go outside and breathe, or go on a walk in the woods when I need to. And these things fill me up so much, that I don’t need food to be my only comfort.
M.M: Finding a balance between the work and the personal life is not easy. How is this working for you?
E.M: It is about the small things in life. I have decided that my mornings are for me. I start with yoga at home, because it gets my body going but also because that is my time to breathe and rushnothing at all, feeling and enjoying those moments. I then play with my cat, followed by a nice breakfast.This whole routine sets my body and mind up for the whole day.For me, this is a better preparation for a full day of training, rehearsal and shows than arriving at theater really early and doing one or two hours of Pilates before class.
M.M: How about recovery meals? Are they part of your diet?
E.M: Yes. That was a big thing for me. Also I would like to point another things for the young and future dancers: going to the nutritionist is not a sign of failure or mean anything is wrong. It is actually preventative care.
M.M: And as well a form of education, I believe.
E.M: You are an athlete, so of course it is good and healthy to learn how to feed your body best.So, I do encourage everyone to see a nutritionist. That was for me the first time I started implementing recovery meals, and I felt a different type of strength right away. Your muscles can build so much better.
M.M: Tell me one thing that people don’t know about you!
E.M: I have a dream to become a farmer!
M.M: Would you like to leave here any advice for our readers?
E: have compassion for yourself. It is a first step towards a really beautiful journey!
Photo credit : Natasha Thiara Rydvald
Elenora Morris, artist with The Royal Danish Ballet, is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and trained at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School. She apprenticed with the National Ballet of Canada and danced briefly with Boston Ballet before joining the Royal Danish Ballet in 2016. Across Denmark and on tour, she has performed the full classical repertoire as well as soloist and principal roles in Nikolaj Hübbe’s Giselle, Swan Lake, and La Sylphide; George Balanchine’s Rubies, The Nutcracker, and Ballo della Regina; Twyla Tharp’s Come Fly Away; and Jiri Kylian’s Symphony of Psalms, among others. Starting in 2019, she has also enjoyed choreographing and performing in collaboration with accomplished musicians from around the world for the annual Equinox Chamber Music Festival in Copenhagen. Elenora is pursuing a degree in Agricultural Science at Oregon State University’s online campus.