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By Lauren Kay
Guided by patience and persistence
Photo by Lois Greenfield.
Dedication is the name of the game for Lindsey Holmes. “Success is about preparation and consistency,” she says. “I prepared myself to be in this position, to be utilized every day, and I did that by working hard through years of practice. Nothing happens overnight.”
An integral member of the small but spectacular Philadanco, based in Philadelphia, Holmes relies on this mindset to keep her ready and revved up for a challenging, varied repertoire. At the Joyce in New York City last October, the 25-year-old exhibited the result of her hard work: Featured in almost all of the pieces, she swooped through endless arabesque turns with regal stability in George Faison’s Suite Otis. In Rennie Harris’ Wake Up, she jammed through an aerobic ’70s groove with deep hip grinds and B-girl style. A fierce attack and majestic finish are her trademarks. DM spoke with the focused dynamo about her detailed routine and her approach to overcoming injury.
The Los Angeles native began dancing comparatively late, at age 12, when her mother put her in a church dance group. Soon, she enrolled at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy, studying there in the evenings while attending a performing arts high school during the day. Her desire—and need—to work tirelessly began in these studios. “Because I was starting later than other dancers, nothing was immediate,” she explains. “I was not the chosen partner and I was overlooked a lot. But I knew if I worked at it, I would get better. I came early and stayed late, doing my splits every single night. I knew I just wasn’t good enough yet.”
At 16 she attended The Ailey School’s summer intensive on scholarship. Featured in Troy Powell’s student piece, she began to get recognized. That led her to college at Ailey’s joint program with Fordham University, where she earned a BA in English. (When she retires from dancing, Holmes plans to be an English teacher.) Gigs with Lula Washington Dance Theatre and Liss Fain Dance followed before Holmes joined Philadanco four years ago.
Holmes uses her workhorse persistence and academic organization to stick to a specific routine. “I’m an early bird,” she says. “I get out of bed and put the water on for old-school oatmeal, which I eat absolutely every day. Then I get down to my morning exercises.” Holmes first awakens her body with yoga postures—like downward dog, cat-cow stretches, tree pose, and child’s pose—followed by Pilates bicycles and leg circles to align her hips and pelvis. Then, she rolls out each ankle and does a series of pointing, flexing, and crunching the toes to strengthen her feet. (See sidebar for one of her go-to exercises.)
Holmes relies on technology for the next part of her ritual—the daily ab workout: “Some days I do Nike Training Club, an app on my phone, and sometimes I use a Pilates Abs series on HBO or the Insanity abs DVD. They’re no longer than 30 minutes and having it on the phone or TV makes it so much more accessible and fun.”
Finally, she enjoys her oatmeal breakfast, before heading to the studio 30 minutes early. She stretches at the barre to get ready for company class, and then the rigorous day begins. If she gets a break at all (rare in such a small troupe), her legs go up on the wall to drain pressure. Granny Smith apples and raisins are her favorite energizers during the day.
After rehearsal, Holmes’ work ethic remains: “I stay in the studio and work on whatever I felt uneasy about; it’s always something,” she laughs. “Fortunately the company members are gracious, so if it’s a group or partnering issue, they will often stay, too. In a small company, you have to have this type of drive.” At home, a warm shower serves as her makeshift steam room before she rolls out her muscles.
Inexhaustible in rehearsal and performance, Holmes has learned to take her days off seriously, too. “When I was just starting, I danced on weekends because I wasn’t doing as much repertoire,” she says. “Now, I’m in everything, so I have to rest. It’s not beneficial to do more, because the muscles can’t recoup. You need breaks.”
While Holmes’ regimen has protected her body, injuries have popped up from time to time. At age 9, she was diagnosed with dextroscoliosis, a spinal curvature to the right. “When I started dancing, everything was unbalanced because of it,” Holmes remembers. “But my teacher, Karen McDonald, pushed ballet, which aligns you. Plus, you repeat everything on both sides. That’s important for me now, too, especially with repertoire that is often lopsided.” Though she prefers Pilates, a slower, methodical yoga practice has helped her improve back length and balance.
More recently, during a tour last February, Holmes dislocated her right shoulder and sprained her bursa tissue onstage. With extremely flexible joints, she has learned the necessity of balancing her mobility with strength. She relies on a series of Thera-Band exercises, which she learned in physical therapy, to stabilize her shoulders. Now, when she’s faced with fast-paced shoulder movement, she goes over the choreography slowly and carefully alone to make it feasible for her body.
While Holmes seems unilaterally focused, her relationship with her family helps to give her perspective. “They inspire and drive me because they believe in me,” she says. “Equally important, hearing about my mom’s military service, or my brother’s air force service, or my sister’s art work makes me less selfish.”
Delving into countless books and keeping teaching in her peripheral vision widens her imagination, too. For now, though, Holmes strives to perfect her craft with careful practice and daily commitment.
Lauren Kay is a NYC dancer and writer.