Monica Bill Barnes (right) with Elisa Clark and an audience member in Happy Hour. Brennan Spark, Courtesy Barnes

What Do Monica Bill Barnes and Her Junior-High Self Have in Common?

My dad likes to remind me that I was intolerable in junior high. Whenever I hear him talk about his daughter, the dancer, he finds a way to tell this story: "We always knew Peanut"—that's me—"was going to be a dancer. When she was in seventh grade, she would come home from school and just be in a mood. She would go into her room, lock the door and dance. An hour later, she would come out, sweating and happy again."


Oftentimes memory oversimplifies events, but I actually believe this memory is completely accurate. Dancing makes me happy. But it's a complicated happiness. Dance allows me to take on roles and experiences that aren't mine alone. Right now, I'm working on a dance set at a wedding, relatives of all ages dancing to songs they'd never choose and the cover band leading the charge with self-seriousness. The context is both ridiculous and relatable, like capturing a movement that reminds you of your favorite uncle.

I feel truly lucky to have invented this job for myself where I can jog around The Metropolitan Museum of Art in a sequin dress, where I put on a business suit and pretend to be an insecure man at an office party, where I can burst onstage at a fancy gala event in a worn wool turtleneck and pretend to engage in a boxing match with the entire audience. It's a constant surprise to me that this is how I get to spend my days.

While sheltering in my wonderful but tiny New York City apartment with my husband this year, a good friend gave me the keys to her empty office. There is an open lobby space, and five times a week, between the printer and the receptionist desk, I'd dance. I don't believe I am any different than my junior high self.

As I continue to continue, I take great refuge and strength in my unshakable love of dance. Whether I am dancing on a big stage or in a small lobby, I'm simply a happier person because of this art form and its place in my life.

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Topical Pain Relievers Are the Next Item on Your Dancer Self-Care Supply List

With the stressors of the pandemic still lingering more than one year later, self-care is, rightfully, a priority for everyone right now. But dancers have always known the importance of keeping their bodies and minds as healthy as possible. After all, your body is your instrument, and as we make our long-awaited returns to the studio and stage, finding self-care strategies that work for you will be crucial to getting back up to speed—mentally and physically—with your rigorous performing and training schedule.

Dancers have a myriad of options to choose from when it comes to treating minor ailments like soreness, swelling and bruising. One that's quickly gaining popularity are topical pain relievers, which provide targeted, temporary relief of minor pain. These days, there's more than just your tried-and-true Tiger Balm on the shelves. From CBD lotions to warming gels and patches, finding the product that's right for you can be as difficult as finding the perfect Rockette-red shade of lipstick…but even more beneficial to your dance career.

Read on for our breakdown of some of the most common ingredients to look out for in the topical pain relief aisle.

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July 2021