Healthy at Home
with Madeleine Purcell
Madeleine Purcell trained at Connecticut Dance School before being accepted to ABT’s JKO School, where she trained for three years. She spent a final year training in the Balanchine style at Ballet Academy East. Upon graduating she accepted a contract with the Sarasota Ballet, where she danced for two seasons.
After a season spent as a freelance dancer in NYC, she was invited to perform with Tivoli Ballet Theatre in Copenhagen for their world-premiere production of Yuri Possokhov’s The Snow Queen. She split her time this season between Copenhagen and Oklahoma City Ballet, where she will be returning next season.
Of course there are some things we’re all collectively experiencing but what have been the most major life changes for you?
Well, our season in Oklahoma ended abruptly in March, and at that point I had only been back in the States for three months. Since my boyfriend and I had a lease that didn’t end until May, we decided to stick it out in quarantine until the lease finished. His family is in LA and mine is in Connecticut so it was safer at the time in Oklahoma than either location. We planned on moving to a different rental for next season, as I had a job teaching over the summer in OK, but that plan got put on hold.
How are you staying positive and motivated dancing at home?
Giving myself permission to not force myself to take class every day. It makes the days I feel inspired to dance that much more rewarding. I would rather move to enjoy moving and creating, than worry too much about losing my technique. I’ve had injuries where I didn’t dance for longer than the time we’ve been in quarantine. I’m confident that I’ll be able to regain what technique I “lost.”
For me it’s usually stamina that’s hardest to recoup, and I try to get my heart rate up by either choreographing or playing around with phrases from variations. I end up sweating and out of breath, but exhilarated!
Have you made any adjustments to your meal plan? Any favorite quarantine meals or snacks?
Not really– we need to fuel our brains as much as our bodies. Trying to compensate for not having a full day of dance by not eating as much, is a surefire way for me to feel grumpy, groggy, and I end up with wicked headaches. At home in Oklahoma I got really into making gnocchi from scratch– it was very soothing and satisfying to make a delicious meal from a potato, an egg and some flour!
These days tzatziki has been having a moment in my lunches– whether it’s with vegetables or pita bread. I find that the protein in the yogurt keeps me full, and the garlic and dill make it tasty. I’ve also been drinking a lot more water! When you don’t have to stand and dance in rehearsals for more than 3 hours, it’s a lot easier to fit in bathroom breaks.
Are you coping with any anxiety or more challenging emotions? What are you doing to work through them?
Oh completely. It’s nerve-wracking not to be able to plan for the future, whether that’s finding housing for next season, deciding how to get back to Oklahoma, or if we will even start back in 2020. But for me, worrying about things I can’t control is unhealthy and relatively useless. I have to remind myself that there’s still around three months before our pushed back start date. Before October, I can’t worry too much about the what-ifs.
Are you worried about staying in shape? What would you say to dancers who are concerned about losing technique or “getting out of shape”
I think everyone has that fear in the back of their mind. It might seem like an impossible task, but I’ve found that forcing yourself to take class in either an undesirable or unsafe area will lead to burnout. We are absolutely all in the same boat!
Keep moving and stay active, even if it’s not ballet. Honestly you’re probably missing the rush of endorphins from dance, and that can make you feel totally different. I usually end up feeling pretty sad if I don’t move every day.
How are you filling your extra time?
Well, at the moment I don’t have any extra time! I’ve taught a couple of privates on Zoom, and donated two master classes to schools from Brooklyn to Brazil.
Since June, I’ve been teaching four classes a week virtually to 3-7 year olds, a variations class for advanced students, finding time to take class myself, and balancing three university courses (I’m a student at Johnson & Wales online). I’m pretty busy! I even have the opportunity to teach a few limited in-person classes through my first dance school’s summer program in August. I’m also choreographing for the first time for one of the levels to perform, hopefully at the end of next Spring.
I’ve been able to teach more and more, because it’s something I find really rewarding and enjoyable. I miss in-person classes, of course, but I’ve found that connecting through Zoom can be beneficial. I made my own group of fellow professionals and friends that I give a class to once a week. It’s open to whoever wants to join and it’s a good way for me to feel that community to motivate me to keep on dancing!