Handstands & Harp

Photo by Don Brodie Photography

Photo by Don Brodie Photography

In the year of 2017, my focus has been on SELF CARE. From running track as a kid, to teaching fitness, and then dancing professionally as an adult, my enthusiasm and ambitious spirit led me to be both physically active and overactive throughout the years. The result has been accomplishing several of my goals but also dealing with imbalances and overuse injuries.

On a typical day in NYC, I often spend several hours teaching and then take multiple classes like ballet, gymnastics, and boxing. After having a consistent routine like this 5x/wk, it's only natural that my body gets tired and eventually tells me to slow down. The only way I can slow down however, is if I am injured and in pain which is what has started to happen more often.

While rehabbing my injuries and forcing myself to be much less physically active than usual, I decided to use this year to practice more stillness and to explore a non-physical creative outlet, the harp. I have always enjoyed different genres of music growing up, and in dance classes in NYC there is often live musical accompaniment which I love. Although I love dancing to music, I never dreamed or imagined that I would be playing an instrument.

As a child I played the clarinet for a couple years and that was the extent of my musical experience before taking on the harp. Thankfully after a Google search, "harp lessons NYC," I found my wonderful teacher, Kristi. When we started our first lessons I realized that the harp was not an easy instrument to play at all. First, I had to clip my long, manicured nails (big sacrifice for me lol), and then I was playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, plucking the strings with one finger. Eventually I learned to play with 2 and 3 fingers and then with both hands at the same time. Then came the recital!

Each year my teacher has a recital for all of her students where everyone has an opportunity to perform a solo and ensemble pieces. She asked me if I wanted to do a solo and I immediately said "Yes!" and asked if I could play Elvis, Can't Help Falling in Love. Although this song was way above my Twinkle Twinkle level of playing, my teacher said, "Ok," and sent me home with the sheet music as my homework assignment. When I got home, I realized that I couldn't even read the music lol. There were lines, dots, and other symbols that I did not understand.

Music theory is like learning another language which takes time, patience, and lots of practice. Imagine taking some basic Japanese language lessons and then being dropped off in a town in Japan where no one speaks English, and you need directions but can only say, "Hi! How are you?" That's how I felt trying to learn Elvis. By the next week however, my teacher helped me with the song and then I memorized it and created my own arrangement, which was a hit at the recital. Then came the wedding!

After the recital, I received a phone call from my cousin asking me to play at his wedding which was only 2 weeks away. I just couldn't say "No" to my cousin since I love him so much and knew this would be a very special time in his life. So, I agreed to perform a duet during cocktail hour, with his friend who is a professional drummer. Although I was really nervous, all of about 200 guests loved our performance and the bride was balling her eyes out the entire time. Now this time is a special memory that our family and friends share and will never forget.

Playing the harp is therapeutic for me and I will continue to play it as a form of self care. Although performing was not a goal of mine, I now get requests to do special events. I am happy to be learning new music and to share it with others. My injuries have improved and I am taking yoga classes everyday again, so lately my life has become handstands and harp.

Stay tuned for some special projects that I am working on with handstands, harp, and more! 

Angilique xo


Pilates Angel Takes Costa Rica

Pilates Angel Flow class at Spa Holis in Costa Rica, photo by Albert Williams Photography

Pilates Angel Flow class at Spa Holis in Costa Rica, photo by Albert Williams Photography

'Twas a beautiful, sunny morning in the middle of the jungle in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. My group and I stayed in a lovely villa where we awoke to the sounds of howler monkeys at 5am. By 6am, a group of white-faced capuchin monkeys would visit to look for food, to bathe in our swimming pool, and to run and flip around the house.

Each morning, our amazing chefs would cook a delicious breakfast for us before we spent the day going on various adventures. On Labor Day, we took a trip to Spa Holis, where I debuted my signature class, Pilates Angel Flow. This class includes aromatherapy, an ashtanga based vinyasa yoga flow, classical Pilates matwork, and meditation.

The class began with a dharma talk, where I shared a passage from Pema Chodron's book, "Start Where You Are." In the first chapter of her book, she says that we should be generous with our joy and that if an experience is pleasant and delightful for us that we should share it with others. I also discussed the importance of self-care and talked about how we should practice loving kindness and compassion toward ourselves and to others.

To add to my dharma talk theme of kindness, compassion, and self-care, I passed around a 4th chakra oil (heart chakra) containing bergamot and lavender. This oil is meant to nourish the heart and to promote balance of the spirit.

With the constant news of violence, discrimination, and political drama in our nation, this class and trip was a much needed time to relax and to connect with others in a positive way. Besides Pilates Angel Flow, our trip included ATV rides, a sailing excursion, spa treatments, and delicious meals provided by our chefs each day.

We also had surprise birthday celebrations for 2 people in our group which were very special. There was always laughter and tears as friends shared what was unique about each person and why they were loved. There was also an evening where we held a candlelit vigil to celebrate the life of a friend that had passed away the week before our trip. These celebrations were reminders to show and share the love that we have for each other on a daily basis.   

Although our trip had many fun and special moments, we also faced some challenges. The hurricane season caused several flight cancellations before and at the end of our trip. It also rained everyday in Costa Rica so we had to cancel and reschedule some activities that we had planned. With a group of over 20 people, these scheduling changes were sometimes stressful to coordinate. However, our theme of love was constant and so we made the best of each day we spent together.

I'm grateful for my God brother who planned this trip, the staff at our villa for taking care of us, the staff at Spa Holis for allowing me to use their studio, and for all of the friends that were on this vacation. I look forward to more traveling and sharing my yoga, Pilates, and meditation practice with others.

Stay tuned for more Pilates Angel Flow classes!


Angilique xo