Romo in Andrea Miller's Mama Call. Photo by Ayala Gazit, Courtesy Gallim.
Though she trained classically at the Royal Ballet School in London, Francesca Romo always loved “getting dirty" in her weekly Graham class. Now, she must be both lithe and strong to capture the quirky athleticism of choreographer Andrea Miller's work for Gallim Dance. When she first started dancing for the Brooklyn-based troupe in 2007, “My energy output was immense," says Romo. “Sometimes I'd go home and I wouldn't be able to hold my head up, my neck would hurt so much." But over the years, she's learned how to keep pace. The key? Gyrotonic® and Gyrokinesis®.
Why Gyro Helps
Gallim's dance style requires Romo to be both “soft and available, and have flexibility and strength at the same time," she says. A certified Gyrotonic® instructor for the last two years, Romo uses Gyro to get her body warm, integrated and grounded before rehearsals. Even just 20 minutes of Gyrokinesis® (the version practiced on a mat and chair, without special equipment) at the beginning of a hectic day is an ideal warm-up strategy when she's facing six to eight hours of very physical work.
Because much of Gallim's work is asymmetrical, Gyrokinesis® helps Romo combat long-term overuse problems by working both sides of the body the same way. “In fact, after Gyro I can better understand what it means to move asymmetrically," she says. The internal focus also gives Romo that extra dose of calm to attack the day's choreography anew, returning equilibrium “not just to the body, but to the mind."
Her Go-To Gyro Warm-Up
Romo recommends this five-minute wake-up-and-warm-up exercise. “It takes you through the whole body," she says. “It grounds you, aligns the spine, awakens your energy and gets the blood moving."
1) Sitting on a chair with legs slightly apart, get comfortable and close your eyes to focus internally.
2) Feel the uprightness of the spine: Imagine lengthening the sits bones away from the crown of the head, which reaches toward the ceiling.
3) Start moving the spine in a subtle figure-8 pattern at the sits bones.
4) After two sets of figure-8s at the sits bones, move the focus to the level of the “seed center" (located between your belly button and pubic bone).
5) Keep moving the figure-8 movement up through the solar plexus, the sternum, the throat and the eyeballs, until you're moving your entire upper body. Imagine the movement extending slightly above the top of the head.
6) Pause, then reverse the direction of your figure-8. Start from the top of the head, and work back down until you reach the sits bones again.
7) After you've completed both directions, open the eyes slowly and blink a couple of times, feeling the surge of blood in the body.
Romo's Rehearsal Fuel: Cheez-Its
“I eat absolutely anything," says Romo. For lunch at the studio, she often brings something involving salami or cheese, her favorite. She also keeps Cheez-Its, a company staple, in her backpack to munch on throughout the day. “I've developed an obsession."