In honor of Black History Month I wanted to pay closer attention to African American fitness professionals making a difference in the health and wellness world. Bradford Method is the evolving creation of former ballerina, Alvin Ailey Master teacher, and Pilates guru Shonda Bradford. She combines elements of yoga, dance, Pilates and core strengthening techniques to bring grace and elegance to a one-of-a-kind workout. Read my interview below to learn more about Shonda and her passion for fitness.
NMF: When did your career in dance/ballet begin?
SB: I started dancing as a very young girl, 3 years old. My mother believed that all little girls should dance because it would give them grace and poise. She was right! But what she didn't know was that I would fall in love with ballet and pursue performing as a career. My career began when I was 20 years old. This is when a company hired me to perform. I was no longer an apprentice. I was being paid to dance.
NMF: More and more women of color are becoming recognized in the mainstream dance industry, what piece of advice would you give to a fellow ballerina just starting out?
SB: Ballet is an extremely competitive art form. There are far fewer opportunities to join companies for ballerinas than for modern or jazz dancers. That being said, there are many local, regional and national companies looking for great talent. My advice would be to get the absolute best training that you can find. If you need financial assistance from the academy you wish to attend, don't be afraid to ask. There are many schools that offer work/study opportunities. My other advice is to be realistic about your goals. Ballet is very demanding physically and if your physique isn't the right fit then perhaps consider modern dance or even Broadway musicals. This path can be just as rewarding, spiritually and financially!
NMF: According to the US Department of Health and Human Services African American women have the highest rates of being overweight or obese compared to other groups in the U.S. About four out of five African American women are overweight or obese. Clearly women like yourself are setting a good example, in what way do hope to change these statics as fitness professional?
SB: For many years, I taught ballet to all ages and levels but the age I loved the most was 8-10 years old. The girls are so impressionable at this age and so I always instilled a strong sense of discipline in them knowing that it would transfer over into their lives outside of the dance studio. And that's what it takes to create a healthy lifestyle: discipline. Yes, you must have the right information in regards to what to eat or how much to exercise but in the end, you need the discipline to follow through. My hope is to instill a sense of discipline into all of my students so they can live healthy, happy lives!
Check out Shonda's website www.bradfordmethod.com. Her studios are located on Park Avenue and 88th as well as East Hampton Village.
Inspirational Quote From Black American Leaders:
"Just don’t give up what you’re trying to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong." - Ella Fitzgerald
Training minds, changing bodies!
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