She Beat the Odds And Survived Sudden Cardiac Arrest. Now She's Returning to the Stage.
On May 5, 2016, I was dancing with some of my best friends in rehearsal for The Chase Brock Experience, where I'm a founding company member. I was thrilled to be back doing a show after taking some time off for graduate school.
My next memory is waking up in the hospital with a ventilator tube down my throat. Unable to talk, I saw a semi-circle of people around my bed: Chase Brock, fellow CBE dancers Drew Heflin and Micki Weiner, my husband, Joel, and his parents. Then I saw my mother, who lives in Florida, with her bright blue suitcase. Because these people are not usually all in one place at the same time, I began putting the pieces together that something major had happened to me.
I learned that after rehearsal I had gone into sudden cardiac arrest. Chase immediately called 9-1-1 and dancers Macy Sullivan and Drew Heflin administered CPR. The NYPD arrived on the scene six minutes later, continuing CPR and delivering one shock to my heart with a defibrillator, which restored my pulse.
Before rehearsal on May 5, 2016
To this day, it's hard to believe what happened to me. I had felt great during rehearsal and had no warning signs that something like this would happen. I have been a dancer my whole life, surviving long rehearsals, two-show days and demanding tours. I have never felt palpitations or been unusually short of breath. So why did this happen in that moment? How could I be so active, yet have a heart condition that I never knew about? We may never have answers to those questions.
But I do know how lucky I am. Most people who suffer from sudden cardiac arrest do not survive. Those who survive often have complications with everyday tasks like walking and talking. I have minimal symptoms as a result of my sudden cardiac arrest and I am living life today the same as I was before. My recovery was pretty simple; I rested. After surgery to install a permanent defibrillator, I could not use my left arm for a few weeks. Three days after I was discharged from the hospital, I attended the performance I'd been rehearsing for. After the show, I took a bow onstage with the company.
Newman at the performance after being discharged
In the days that followed, I was surprised by how quickly my body recovered and how much I was able to do after experiencing such a life-changing event. However, I didn't think I would ever dance again. I was able to do yoga and teach dance and that was good enough for me. I was alive, after all! But CBE was doing a residency, and Chase invited me to spend a few days with the company to help coach dancers on roles I'd originated.
While I was there, I ended up dancing and it felt great. I started thinking I might be able to perform again. As Chase started planning the company's 10th anniversary season, I hinted that I'd like to dance my favorite piece, Slow Float. A few weeks ago, we had our first rehearsal. I was really nervous to return to the studio. I felt pretty confident nothing would happen, but I was still scared that something might. I didn't want to put everyone through the terror of May 5 again. But when Chase put on the music and we all just danced, it was like nothing had changed.
Newman in Slow Float. PC Rosalie O'Connor
To prepare for the season, I have been taking several yoga classes a week and rehearsing on my own. Surprisingly, I feel stronger than I have in a long time. As dancers, we are always aware of our bodies and the intricate ways they work. But now I listen to my body with heightened awareness.
I have also found new joy in dancing. I used to take it for granted, but now each time I move, I am filled with gratitude and respect for my body and its capabilities. I am really excited to return to the stage next week. The performances will be emotional for me: It is the 10th anniversary of a company that has been my proudest artistic achievement of my career, I am performing a role I love and I'm dancing alongside the very people who saved my life.
We've been saying for years that dance training has benefits that reach far beyond preparation for a professional dance career: The discipline and attention to detail fostered in technique class, the critical thinking skills acquired in composition, and the awareness and rapid reaction times required for improvisation can all carry over into other fields.
But what if a choreographic tool kit could have a more direct application outside the studio? Say, to city planning?
"What if you could learn from the world's best dance teachers in your living room?" This is the question that Dancio poses on their website. Dancio is a new startup that offers full length videos of ballet classes taught by master teachers. As founder Caitlin Trainor puts it, "these superstar teachers can be available to students everywhere for the cost of a cup of coffee."
For Trainor, a choreographer and the artistic director of Trainor Dance, the idea for Dancio came from a sense of frustration relatable to many dancers; feeling like they need to warm up properly before rehearsals, but not always having the time, energy or funds to get to dance class. One day while searching the internet for a quick online class, Trainor was shocked to not be able to find anything that, as she puts it, "hit the mark in terms of relevance and quality. I thought to myself, how does this not exist?" she says. "We have the Daily Burn for Fitness, YogaGlo for yogis, Netflix for entertainment and nothing for dancers! But then I thought, I can make this!" And thus, Dancio (the name is a combination of dance and video), was born.
There's a surprising twist to Regina Willoughby's last season with Columbia City Ballet: It's also her 18-year-old daughter Melina's first season with the company. Regina, 40, will retire from the stage in March, just as her daughter starts her own career as a trainee. But for this one season, they're sharing the stage together.
Last night, the New York City Ballet board of directors approved ballet master in chief Peter Martins' request for a temporary leave of absence amidst an ongoing investigation into sexual harassment.
The investigation came to light on Monday, when the New York Times reported that NYCB and the School of American Ballet had hired a law firm to investigate their leader after receiving an anonymous letter detailing instances of harassment.
You dance like a knockout—but can you take a punch? Intense stage combat is a crucial element in many shows, from the sword fighting in Romeo & Juliet to the left hooks of the Broadway musical Rocky. But performing it well requires careful body awareness, trust and a full commitment to safety. Whether you're dancing a pivotal battle in a story ballet or intense partnering in a contemporary piece, these expert tips can help you make your fight scenes convincing, compelling and safe.
1. Master the Basics
When Luke Ingham was cast as Tybalt in San Francisco Ballet's Romeo & Juliet, he spent a full month practicing the basic body positions, footwork and momentum of fencing. "You need to be really grounded, you need to know where your feet are," Ingham says.
Brooklyn-based burlesque troupe Company XIV isn't afraid to take risks. Nutcracker Rouge, their take on the holiday classic, features a cast of jack-of-all-trades dancers who double as greeters, ushers, singers, actors and aerialists, while baring a good amount of skin but even more confidence. (Disclaimer: The show is for mature audiences only.) What's most impressive about these artists is how captivating they are. Regardless of what style of dance you do, if you want to become a better performer, consider taking a page out of their playbook.
You've got to be "on" the moment the audience walks in the front door.
Former New York City Ballet dancer Wilhelmina Frankfurt first spoke out about sexual misconduct at NYCB in Psychology Tomorrow in 2012. Since October, she's been working with The Washington Post reporter Sarah Kaufman for a story about Peter Martins, and when the School of American Ballet began investigating Martins for an anonymous accusation, she was called in to discuss her experiences. But Frankfurt feels there's more to the larger picture, and shares that here with Dance Magazine, as edited by Maggie Levin.
In 1994, I began to write a book of essays about my life in dance—mostly as an exercise. When the #MeToo movement began this year, I knew it was time to brush the dust off and take another look. Although incomplete, these essays addressed the roots that have long run between sexual abuse, alcoholism and ballet. They involve George Balanchine, Peter Martins and numerous stars of the New York City Ballet. It's painfully clear that my story is the same story that has occurred thousands of times, all over the world.
I'm heartbroken that I might have to drop out of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. My back has been spasming since I did an extra-high kick to the back. My X-ray and MRI are normal, but my doctor thinks I hurt my sacroiliac joint. Physical therapy hasn't helped yet. How can I know for sure that this is the real problem?
—Injured Rockette, New York, NY
Freddie Kimmel's musical theater career was just taking off when he woke up one morning with a pain in his groin. A trip to the doctor assured him it was nothing of concern, even though the sensation returned a few months later. As a dancer, Kimmel was used to pushing through discomfort, so he kept going to dance class to "work it out."
But the pain persisted. During a run of The Full Monty at Westchester Broadway Theatre, Kimmel was diagnosed with advanced metastasized cancer. Ten tumors had infiltrated his body.
Japanese-born, New York–based choreographer Kota Yamazaki returns to his roots as a butoh dancer in Darkness Odyssey Part 2: I or Hallucination. He explores butoh founder Tatsumi Hijikata's idea of the extreme fragility of the body. Yamazaki is joined by contemporary luminaries Julian Barnett, Raja Feather Kelly, Joanna Kotze and Mina Nishimura, each of whom engages in drastically eccentric pathways, making the body appear to disintegrate before your eyes. Music is by Kenta Nagai and visual environment by lighting wizard Thomas Dunn. Dec. 13–15, Baryshnikov Arts Center. bacnyc.org.