Meet some of the lovely dancers I’ve worked with who are reaping the benefits of dancing stronger:
Mikaela- York University
My relationship with Monika and The Dance Training project started in 2012 when I stumbled across her blog. I immediately subscribed and began to receive informative and hilarious emails and newsletters. After a year or so of lurking, I decided to train with Monika during the summer of 2013.
Working out with Monika contributed to the dancer I am now in many ways. A deepened knowledge of anatomy and theories on the combination of strength training, flexibility and injury prevention challenged me and the ideas I had about what was “best practice.” The changes in my body and the ability to apply this knowledge more readily to my personal practice has helped me in the years since I have independently trained with Monika.
After working together during the summer of 2013, Monika and I started Dance Fuel at York University, a club designed to help bring this knowledge and opportunity to the dance students at York. I have continued to train with her and a dedicated group of students at York, and she continues to teach me new things and challenge what I think on a weekly basis.
Lastly, Monika gave me the simple courage of being able to walk into a gym and not feel lost. I know how to develop a training program for myself using body weight, resistance and weight training. Being a part of The Dance Training Project and training with Monika has been a rewarding investment. #thedancetrainingproject4lyfe
Michelle Richardson- Former dancer/Chiropodist:
I am very happy with the results have achieved by working with Monika. She listened to my specific goals and was also knowledgeable enough to address movement limitations I didn’t know I had. I no longer suffer from post-baby back pain and am noticeably more fit. In addition I have learned that despite professional dance training, working with Monika during my dance career would have allowed me more movement capabilities, fewer injuries, more ankle range of motion and a stronger dance career. I highly recommend her as a trainer of dancers alike.
Eva- Ryerson University:
Working with Monika this summer made a huge difference in my understanding of my own body and it’s limitations. I worked with her all summer and each time I had a training session I would wake up excited to get to the gym! Her experience and knowledge about what is expected in the dance world allowed me to trust her advice and exercises, because I knew they would help me back in the dance studio. The work we did on breathing and releasing of the diaphragm helped me find a connection between alignment and breath. I now understand what movements my own personal body is not inclined towards doing, and I know what exercises I need to do to train these movements. The greatest thing I learned from Monika is what MY body needs to perform more efficiently, and she gave me all the tools to achieve that.
Olivia- York University:
I had been following Monika since she began the Dance Training Project two years ago. After enjoying so many of her blogs and seeing and hearing about her clients’ results, I knew I wanted to give strength training a try. What pushed me beyond my breaking point was living with chronic pain all over my body daily, and knowing Graham work (requiring ample strength all round) was in my not-so-far-off future, once I returned to school. And quite honestly, I needed a break from dancing to focus on taking care of my body.
What I really enjoyed about training, was how personalized it was! Monika’s passion for her work really stands out with her genuine care and close attention to detail regarding what your body requires at any time during your training.
While training, Monika ensures that you understand the purpose of whatever you are working on, really instilling the importance of safe movement practices. For example, if you are in pain, whatever you are doing is immediately put to a halt until you and Monika figure out the root cause of the problem. Only then, will Monika develop/ modify your training to fit what your body requires.
Throughout training, Monika is super supportive and encouraging with everything you do. Although she may be hard at times, and you may want to throw in the towel; you don’t. Because you know that doing that last set of reps is going to pay off huge in the long run. To sum it up, Monika is the best.
The knowledge I have gained from working with Monika is invaluable. It is incredibly advantageous for a dancer to understand the importance of taking care of your body; as opposed to other dancers who have yet to realize the importance of cross-training.
Monika helped me to learn to tune into my body to listen to what it needs; for instance, distinguishing between good and bad pain and knowing when to stop when I feel bad pain! Now, from much experimentation and discovery this past summer, I know the majority of the root causes of my aches and pains; and how to remedy them with certain exercises, etc. Monika has taught me. Also, I learned how to correctly perform fundamental exercises such as squats and push-ups!
Upon returning to school, I was both anxious and nervous to see how I would perform in my placement classes after going five months without dancing. However, I was ecstatic to discover my technique had considerably improved once I began to dance. I have noticed many aspects of my technique have improved (too many to name!), so I’ll just list a few major ones: core activation/ strength/ stability, breathing, motor control, arms/ hips/ back range of motion, and muscle activation.
Overall, I believe that everyone can benefit from this program if they are committed to it. And if you are a dancer reading this who is afraid of strength training and/ or believes that daily pain is a normal part of life…do yourself a favour and train with Monika. I used to be that person, and I will never look back because #strengthtrainingissexy!
Zoe-Peridance Center, New York:
I worked with Monika for almost a year, and it made an incredible difference in my dancing. The strength training we did has changed the way I dance in more ways than one.It equaled out my muscle imbalances I had from working incorrectly, which in turn changed my alignment. It taught me how to activate different muscles instead of constantly relying on the ones I had overdeveloped (mainly quads). It also helped significantly with my range of motion and flexibility.For example, when I learned how to activate my glutes properly my hip flexors could relax and lengthen, thus giving my hips more range of motion. Another example would be learning how to properly use my back and engage my lats, something I “sort of” did while dancing.Exercises she did with me in the weight room gave me knowledge that transferred over to the studio and I was able to work correctly and efficiently, lengthening my spine, widening my chest and back, and actually lifting my arms properly into a fifth en haut, something that I hadn’t done properly before.It sounds simple but strength training made me stronger. It’s amazing how much my jumping has improved, how my plies have deepened, how I use my core more efficiently with my proper alignment. I really recommend it for every dancer.
Selina- York University, summer training 2014 program participant:
As a dancer who has felt like I am at constant battle with my body in making it do the crazy things dance requires of it, I can say from one dancer to another if you are contemplating on seeing if this program is for you in reaching your conditioning goals for dance in the words of Nike, “Just Do It”.
The reason why Nike says it best in this case is because of the wonderful people behind this program Monika Volkmar and Dr. Blessy Buan. My experience with both of these professionals has been rewarding both physically and mentally in preparing my body for dance.
Working with Monika was like getting a dress tailored made, she designs her programs for your specific dancing body. Through her assessments I gained knowledge of why I struggle with turnout and have a hard time getting my pelvis in maintaining the action of achieving neutral. Monika provided me with answers I have sought out for a long time and even better gave me answers on how to use my body in a way to reach its full potential by repatterning poor movement habits and engage musculature I have not utilized in the first place.
For example I learned using deep breathing while imaging all areas of my back expanding helps regain my pelvis and rib connection on the floor. My favourite part of her program is that you never feel like you’re doing an exercise wrong because Monika is right there watching you like an eagle and providing physical stimulation to get that rib cage down or to press your back up towards the ceiling in a plank.
Even though all the exercises are done in a gym setting the strength you gain from doing them will benefit you at the barre, in the centre or going across the floor. And if your missing pointing your feet in the exercises, that’s where Dr. Blessyl will come in and help you to do so and not only that but raise it to the next level with using resistance.
Using a Pilates Tower Trainer is a wonderful tool to add more dance specific exercises into your program if you are missing plies and tendus you get to do all that. With Dr. Blessyl’s help I really got to experience what working through the entire foot is suppose to feel like and boy do your inner thighs ever get activated! My favourite part working with Dr. Blessyl was her showing my how off centre my weight was in a tendu, a light bulb went off in my head in connecting how I have always had a hard time understanding the expression “get on your leg”. Dr.Blessyl not only explained it to me, she showed my body what it should feel like as well.
In all honesty I cannot say there is a disadvantage in taking this program. Through the compassion Monika and Dr. Blessyl shower you with you gain a greater sense of awareness of your body, gain strength, prevent re-occurring injuries, and feel good about what you accomplished that day.
Above all I can say this program has provided me with the greatest gift in my eyes a dancer can get….Hope. I am hopeful through the time and effort I’ve spent with Monika and Dr. Blessyl that I can continue to dance in a strong body that will support me for the many dancing days ahead, thank you Monika and Dr.Blessyl for providing me this!
Jenna- George Brown dance program:
Training with Monika was a fun and rewarding experience. Monika took the time to evaluate my body type and discovered many imbalances with my body, many which I did not know I had. We focused on exercises to help improve with my alignment and strength. Not only did my body positioning and strength greatly improve, but so did my body awareness. I am able to correct my movements and positioning with greater understanding during class. Monika’s training is hard work, but she makes the atmosphere enjoyable and a lot of fun. It is a worthwhile experience, and I highly recommend her for anybody who is searching a cross training program.
Sarah- Ryerson dance major:
I really enjoyed the training provided by Monika at the DTP. She took the time to evaluate my strengths and weaknesses and developed exercises that would allow me to correct the muscular imbalances while increasing overall strength. Monika is a thorough, fun and professional trainer. I highly recommend her services to anyone!
Morgan- Ryerson dance major:
I learned so much with Monika these past three weeks [during the winter training program]. It was amazing to see how simple exercises, like lunges, can really work your core and other muscles. I improved a lot in such little time that I’m excited to being these new concepts back to class.
Renee-Claude- York dance major, office and dance coordinator at Music and Play Canada Inc. in Calgary, competitive salsa dancer
Working with Monika this summer was an extremely rewarding experience! I was afraid that by taking a break from dance class over the summer and only training at the gym would leave me at a hang point for my dance technique, but I found the opposite to be true. Now that I am back in dance class I feel stronger, more in control of my muscles, and more aware of my body.
Monika was amazing to work with, very professional, and knowledgeable. Her training style if perfect for dancers as well as anyone else looking to be more active at the gym, she also never ceased to create a safe and enjoyable environment at every session.
The Dance Training Project was the perfect training program I was looking for and I would now recommend any dancer to go train at the gym with the foundations and exercises that Monika has developed.
Samantha – Ryerson dance program graduate, Co-ordinator of RayD-ance Gala
I had such an amazing experience this past summer with Monika and The Dance Training Project. Through a combination of yoga and weight training I FINALLY began to feel what it meant to stand in proper alignment. I had been told for years to pull my shoulders down and “hold my core,” but no one ever told me how. I would forcibly pull my shoulders down and try to stand up straighter, but all that did for me was put more tension in my upper body while incorrectly stacking my torso. After working with Monika, it felt so empowering to understand what I had been told for years and years to fix. I could feel muscles working that I didn’t even know were there.
Training sessions would start off with some cardio work and yoga to warm up, and then we would progress to weights and lifting some heavy stuff (which always feels really badass). It was always hard work but never unbearable. Monika gave me lots of positive reinforcement and was always related the exercises back to dance and explained how they were important for me. She would explain to me how the muscles worked in an anatomically correct way, and if that didn’t work she would demonstrate until I got the idea. Then after all the hard work, she would do some Thai Yoga Massage stretching with me to alleviate any soreness, which was always awesome!
When I started to notice a change in my dancing, I was thrilled. I was finally on my leg, turning better, balancing better, jumping better, basically just better! Now when I am in class, I feel strong, centered, and more confident in myself. I am also able to translate my corrections into my body better because I understand how everything works. I believe the biggest gap in my training, and probably dance training in general, is that teachers never explain the how or why. Yes, I’ve been told to hold my posture, but now I know how to do it and why it is important.
Monika fills the gap in dance training in a fun and positive environment, and makes you feel smarter about your body. I am so grateful for the time I spent with her this past summer, and I will definitely continue my training with her so my improvements.
Kunal – Ryerson dance program graduate, owner of Compagnie Kunal Ranchod:
As a dancer, working with Monika at the Dance Training Project will definitely benefit you, and in ways you don’t initially realize. In dance we don’t generally focus much on cross-training, and this is a problem because your body ends up imbalanced. Strength training with Monika allows you to feel new muscles, and new ways of moving.