A professional dancer creates a balanced lifestyle through the practice stretching herself.
Stretching is the act of extending oneself to improve elasticity, control, flexibility, and range. It is warming and cooling—all at once. Contortion is this act—stretched to an extreme: when a body becomes twisted or bent out of shape. In the process of pursuing this superhuman state, I have had to stretch not only my body beyond its limits but my mind and my time as well.
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I started stretching my body to create beautiful shapes for ballet as a child. I had to balance the demands of a “Tiger mom” that expected good grades along with a bevy of extracurriculars even as a kid. However, it wasn’t until 2015 when I started stretching for contortion that I faced my greatest challenge. Of all my passions: dance, ice skating, pole, and aerial—stretching my body beyond its limits was the most physically demanding by far. It demanded me to push every tendon and muscle beyond its capability. Contortion also demanded that I push my energy to keep work and play in sync.
Every day, I stretch my mind to create a lifestyle to support a balance of work, training, and my personal life. As the Head of Community for Trip.com, I manage a team of Brand Ambassadors around the world and host approximately 150 events annually. I have to be creative about how I manage myself and others to juggle a demanding workout schedule. Stretching my mind means prioritizing the creation of time and freedom over money. For example, I have chosen to forego higher-paying desk jobs to continue to work from home.
Still, the start-up world is fitting for me as I have learned to stretch every bit of time out of my day with the extra freedom I create. Stretching my time has meant focusing on the right things in my life: close friends, contortion, career, and cooldown. I train about 15 hours a week and significantly more when I have a performance looming. I keep a diligent routine balancing work and play, which allows me to know where to invest every free minute. Here, stretching time for cooldown is key: I know that taking time out of my crazy schedule to relax is just as important as stretching my body and mind to advance my training and my career.
Stretching has taught me how to reach for the extra distance I never thought possible before. In the pursuit of the extra inch, my contortion journey has required me to stretch more than my body: I have stretched my mind and my time beyond their limits as well. Achieving the extraordinary requires me to be diligent about training my body, be smart on where I allocate my mental energy and focus my time on the right things. When asked how I can accomplish so much in so little time, I just say one thing: stretch.
Audrey Lo is a professional dancer with focuses in contortion, aerial arts, and pole dancing. She’s performed on some of the largest festivals in the US and has taught across LA, Asia and the Middle East in the last decade. Watch her move @travelingdancer.
Original UNDO Magazine Issue 6 title: Stretching Beyond Limits
Written by Audrey Lo
Photos by Nai Vasha Thomas