What Brought Me to Pilates – Finding Mobility, my Manifesto

-Courtney Holcomb

I always knew the I was designed for movement.  Having been a dancer since age three, I loved the feeling of my body traveling through space.   It wasn’t until I was a preteen that I realized that my body was so much tighter that I wanted it to be.  Though I moved, I felt stiff, and when I tried to move more, it felt rigid. Being someone who has always dealt with chronic low back pain as well as stiffness/rigidness throughout my whole spine, I operated in the world for years thinking that this was “simply how I was created” and I would have to learn to endure through the pain my whole life, and then, I found Pilates, at age 15. 

Hamstring 3 Oblique Twist on the Pilates Chair

Through the consistent practice of Pilates I have been able to create more mobility in my spine than I ever though possible. With all of the movement principles of Pilates working together–breathing, core activation, neutral pelvis, abdominal strengthening, lumbo-pelvic stability, spinal strength and mobility, scapular strength and mobility, alignment and posture analysis, release work, and stretching–I have felt more length, mobility, and strength in my body and spine than ever before and I have been able release years of chronic tension from my muscles and skeleton. I now feel I have access to more space in my joints and spine and I continue to work towards opening and accessing more of my body each time I practice Pilates and dance.

Re-patterning the body does not happen overnight, but there is a great reward associated with creating new muscle memory that facilitates optimal anatomical efficiency throughout the body, producing a pathway to operate with a sense of ease and availability to movement. Whether it be in a dance class, performance, or just walking around, or standing for a long period of time, Pilates grants me the ability to move properly from the body’s natural design. Joseph Pilates, who created the system in the early 1920’s stated, “It’s not about what you do, but how you do it.” Or as my dad always says, “Train smarter, not harder.” Yes, we have to work with what we have, but this should not be limiting. We DO have the capacity to change and transform our bodies, with time, patience, and proper practice.

Now for myself personally, now have been practicing Pilates for over 11 years and remain as engaged in the practice as when I began. I continue to see and feel changes within my body and make new discoveries with every class I take. Now, as a fully Certified Pilates Instructor, I get to share my passion for movement with the world.  It’s so exciting to share Pilates with others through teaching and sharing in the joy that others experience when they make new discoveries in their own bodies. Transformation is something wonderful to celebrate.

For more information on Pilates practice, or to schedule a free consulation, please e-mail me at: courtney.anne.holcomb@gmail.com

I would love to share my work with you.

The Pilates Reformer

Vocal Motion!

Working with show choirs always brings me back to the days!  I was a Neenah High School Act II, and Vintage member, and my fond memories of competing all of the Midwest for show choir was a highlight of my high school time.  This Fall I got to work with New London Middle School’s show choir Vocal Motion, and choreographed their competition show for this coming season–student empowerment with songs like “Brave”, “Cool Kids”, “Roar!”, and “The World is Ours”. 

An opener,  one boys number, one girls number, one ballad, one closer, and ONE extra song later, we had a whole show of choreography!  I had so much fun coming up with the movement and working with them over two-weekends, and it brought me back to my “glory days”.  For the record, I was a dancer who could carry a tune, not a singer who could get by on the dancing.  We called ourselves dancer-singers, not singer-dancers.  I wish them the best luck for their competition season this year! 

New London Middle School Vocal Motion is under the direction of Ms. Katie Levendusky.

Badger State Girl Choir has…Gone Country!

I had a great day yesterday working with the Badger State Girl Choir.  They had their annual summer choir camp, and in honor of their upcoming “…a little bit Country!” music Fall concert, I taught Line dancing to the middle and high schoolers, and square dancing to the little 2nd-4th graders.  Playlist included: “Mountain Music” by Alabama, “I Fall to Pieces” by Patsy Cline, “Mountain Rag” by Al Brundage, and “Arkansas Traveler” by American Square Dance Group to name a few.

Concert will be Saturday, October 17th, 2015, at First Presbyterian Church, Neenah, WI.  There may even be some dancing!

A “Thrilling” Marching Band

October 6, 2014

It was the first week back at school for Appleton West high school students and that Friday, I came in and met with the marching band for the first time.  Working with marching band director Michael Ross, we informed the students that this year they would be DANCING during their homecoming half-time show (some were more excited that others).  Third song in their set, Thriller, a classic, would be their chance to set down their instruments, and move.  

Choreographing this segment was a new adventure and challenge, as all of the movement would have to work in marching row formations, and move back and forth in a way that would not cause the musicians to step on their instruments or their neighbors.  Another challenge, working with 97+ band students, freshman-seniors.  I got my first look at marching formations drafting sheets and learned that in band you always start with your left-foot stepping first.  Pictured below is our dress rehearsal.

Their performance at the homecoming game Sept 26th, at the Banta Bowl in Appleton was great, the crowd went wild, and they received a standing ovation, with fireworks at the end and all!  So proud of my band students, some of whom now even call themselves dancers to their director. 

Putting my Tap Shoes Back On! Point Tap Festival 2014

-Courtney Anne Holcomb

I just got back from Point Tap Festival 2014, a large tap-dancing Festival in non-other than Stevens Point, Wisconsin.  Famous tap dancers from all over the United States attend and teach master classes for the 3-day festival.  This year, we took classes from: Sara Reich, Mark Goodman, Ryan Casey, and Jeannie Hill.  Above is a picture from the master class with Ryan Casey.  

Those who do not know me well, would not understand what a feat attending this festival was for me.  I had two semester of tap in college, and cried for the beginning few weeks of each semester.  For me, as a dancer who loves to loft out of gravity, and be very upright, getting down and in gravity to perform tap weight-shifts, and tap movements always proved incredibly challenging for me.  I have always loved watching tap dancing, the musicality and percussive elements, and the groove of it all, but never had classified myself as a tap dancer.   This weekend I learned a lot of new techniques to help me along the way, and began to refine a lot of the rudimentary skills associated with tap dancing.  

This fall, I will be teaching beginning tap at the Renaissance School for the Arts High School, and am excited to transcend my new-found knowledge, and excitement about tap dancing.  Below is a video taken at the festival of Jeannie Hill, my former professor and tap dancer extraordinaire, and I doing the end of class combination.  A few errors from me, but oh so much fun! 

Original Choreography Performance and Premiere — Insecurity

June 26, 2014

Cast from L to R: Kristin Brockman, Madeline Berendsen, Me (Choreographer, not performer), Gretchen Hoehn, Jaya Mallela, Stella Douglass

My new work, Insecurity, premiered at the New Works Festival in Wausau, WI, June 21st, 2014.  This festival is put on annually by the non-profit organization, Introspect Arts.  There were two performances, 11am and 6pm.  I was one of 9 choreographers selected to create a new, political, choreographic work for this festival.  Meet my cast above! These dancers had never been a choreographic work together before, and they all collaborated beautifully.  We quickly created a harmonious ensemble, and worked together a few hours a week, over the course of 6-weeks. The cast was a blend of professional dancers, and high-school aged pre-professional dancers. This piece was inspired by George Orwell’s classic 1984, and is my commentary on the current security state within the United States of America.  

There was a Q and A for the audience after the showings to ask choreographers about their works.  There was a big buzz about my work Insecurity, and a lot of curiosity about what it was about (as well as a lot of interpretations!), how I crafted my use of silence, audio, and vocalization with movement, and the significance of the “ever-present” actor upstage.

Original music score created for the piece by: Estin Gee.  Our helpful and stage-presence, Actor: Ken Stetzer.  Choreography, costume, and lighting design: by me.

For a hand-recorded video of the 11am showing, see below.

I hope you enjoy, and would love to hear about your interpretation of the work!

-Courtney Anne 

New Works Choreography- Introspect Arts

June 1, 2014

I am currently working with 5 local dancers, ages 14-24, to create a New Work for the Introspect Arts New Works Festival 2014.  I hand-selected 5 area dancers to be in my new choreographic work titled “In Security”.  This past Wednesday was our first rehearsal, and we have 4 more schedule before our June 21st performance.  Working with 5 dancers, none of whom have ever worked together before, and only 2 of whom I’ve choreographed work on before has been going GREAT!  Movement is the common language that brings, even strangers, together.  I’m excited to share some rehearsal footage within the next week, and to see the piece continue to come together.  This Wednesday we will have our custom music score created by my fiancé, Estin Gee.  Adding the music to our phrase material will add that extra layer to what we’ve already been creating.  

Performing at Carnegie

April 14, 2014

I had the privilege to perform at the beautiful, Weill Recital Hall, in Carnegie this spring.  I did movement accompaniment to a choral piece sung by the Vivace group of the Badger State Girl Choir.  My 8-minute solo was accompanying a series of three civil war songs: Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier, When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again, and We’re Tenting Tonight.  I had a beautiful blue Civil War gown that I wore with my tan jazz shoes. A stool helped frame the solo and tell a heartfelt narrative of a woman at home while her husband is away fighting in the war, paired with the sweet voices of girl choir, made for a worthwhile performance.

Badger State Girl Choir Group