Technique My Way: Abby Silva Gavezzoli
This Parsons dancer is fiercely focused—and becoming a mom hasn’t stopped her.
Gavezzoli (left) with fellow Parsons dancers Eric Bourne and Sarah Braverman. Photo by Paula Lobo, Courtesy Parsons.
Since joining Parsons Dance in 2002, Abby Silva Gavezzoli has been a lynchpin of the company. Her angelic face brings genuine emotion to David Parsons’ energetic repertoire, while her endless legs elongate the lines of his athletic choreography. Gavezzoli trained in her hometown of New Orleans, attended Marymount Manhattan College, and joined Parsons’ company soon after. She says she achieved this straight shot through consistent practice and quiet dedication. Last summer, she welcomed a new addition into her life: a baby boy, Marcello. Dance Magazine talked with Gavezzoli a few months later about her approach to staying in shape—both before and after her son’s arrival.
Simple and Steady
On regular rehearsal days, easy routines keep Gavezzoli on track. “When I wake up, I make sure I have a half hour to eat a Greek yogurt and some oatmeal with my coffee,” she says. “If I don’t eat breakfast, my entire day is messed up.” This type of care continues at the studio. “I’m all about making sure I arrive at least 20 minutes before company class to get myself situated,” she says. This includes yoga (a round of sun salutations) and Pilates mat exercises. “I go through a lot of the original series, including the hundreds, single leg extensions, twisting oblique sit-ups, and scissors. If I’m late and I walk in and we’re already at pliés, my whole day is ruined. It happens sometimes, but I try my best to be prepared.”
Gavezzoli makes use of downtime in rehearsal by returning to her conditioning exercises. “I rarely just sit around,” she says. Staying present, focused, and “in the room” is a top priority for her. But once the day is complete, she moves in the opposite direction: “I take a quick rinse and run home or go have a glass of wine,” she says. “I like to leave the studio and move on as soon as possible: After you’re in that room for so long, you need to let your mind go and close that part of your day. Later at night, I can reconsider what hurts and stretch or use my foam roller.”
Gavezzoli’s advice for days off? “Even if you aren’t working, don’t sit around and watch TV,” she says. “Especially if it’s a long hiatus and you don’t do enough to stay in shape, you lose strength, and injuries happen when you return to the studio. Take that time to do another physical activity outside of dance. Realizing that made me a stronger dancer: I wasn’t just working on the same muscles.” For cross-training, Gavezzoli enjoys yoga, running, and swimming. “Yoga is the opposite of some of the pounding we do in Parsons. It’s a rare day I don’t reach for my yoga mat to at least stretch,” she says. “I love running for stamina and the stress relief from being outside in the fresh air—though I have to roll out my muscles a lot from this. Swimming is expensive in terms of paying for a pool, but it’s addictive—it gets the core involved in a gentle way.”
Pregnancy didn’t prevent Gavezzoli from dancing: For the first six months, she was still performing, even while her body went through major changes. “Most noticeably, while pregnant and dancing, I realized that eating had to be more of a priority; I couldn’t put it off,” she says. “Every three hours I needed a banana and nuts or protein and whole grains. Plus, the fatigue was out of control.”
Gavezzoli continued teaching, walking, and doing prenatal yoga until her seventh month, when she only practiced yoga. She worried that the decrease in physical activity would be difficult mentally, but the opposite was true. “I had been dancing nonstop for 10 years, and it was actually nice to not stress about ab work,” Gavezzoli says. “Going through pregnancy is a workout in itself, but muscularly it was time for a dance pause. The discipline we have as dancers is important, but that intensity can also be debilitating for your mind and muscles. So for me, it was the perfect timing.”
New Mother, New Patterns
Once Marcello was old enough to go outside in a stroller, the new mother got back into walking and jogging. She also used space around the house to “do ballet barre on a kitchen chair, or Pilates on my mat,” she says. “I’m always reaching for my yoga mat while Marcello is napping. It’s a cure-all for me, even if I’m just lying on my back in happy baby pose taking five deep breaths.”
Her eating patterns have also changed. In the past, she says, she’s been “a grazer,” eating snacks throughout the day—Baby Bell cheeses, bananas, granola bars—and a big dinner of fish or steak at night. But since giving birth and starting to breast-feed, “I feel like I’m eating double,” she says. “I lost the baby weight within the first couple of weeks. But I also lost muscle mass, so I’m gaining that back by eating more and doing resistance work with Thera-Bands I can use at home.” (See above for her favorite exercises.) “I’m easing back into my routine,” she continues, “and I’m excited to see how dancing feels upon my return.”
Lauren Kay is a dancer and writer in NYC.