In just 2 years, Jason Clark has achieved what few performers would ever achieve in their entire career. On top of performing with the American Ballet Theatre (ABT – Romeo and Juliet 2013), and also the widely acclaimed Tanztheatre Wuppertal by Pina Bausch, (Iphigenia in Tauris, 2014), he most recently performed with the world famous Bolshoi Ballet (The Flames of Paris, 2015) as part of their local chorus.
He has also performed with Italy’s famous Teatro Di San Carlo – Naples (La Traviata, 2013), and also with the Bolshoi Opera Theatre. (The Tsar’s Bride, 2015).
In the following blog, Jason talks about his physical journey and preparation for the Bolshoi Ballet.
Where to Begin
In February, last year Jason had just completed working with Pina Bausch’s Tanztheatre Wuppertal, when he was told by the Coordinator of the HKArts Festival that the Bolshoi Ballet would be performing as part of their 2015 program in Hong Kong. She suggested to Jason to audition as part of their locally hired chorus. Straight away he knew this was the company he would love the opportunity to perform with.
Realistically Jason knew that auditioning and being selected by the Bolshoi was not going to be easy and may not even happen, but he just needed to go for this opportunity – if not now when!
Maintaining Goals – staying focused
Over the next year as part of his training goal, Jason wanted to be physically as fit and performance ready as any of the professional dancers who would be half of his age. As a locally hired performer, he knew the role would be small, but wanted to train as hard as any performer would be aiming for a lead role – after all, there is really no small role in any show.
It was also a chance for Jason to put into practice what he teaches with his clients through his company PilatesAthlete. (www.pilates-athlete.com). ‘Keep a goal in mind that will challenge you physically and that allows you to put into practice all the movement and physical training that you undertake’. It was a chance to show what we are physically capable of achieving through the appropriate training.
PilatesAthlete Training formula
One training formula does not fit or work for everyone. One of the things that really upsets Jason is when he sees gym goers or even the clients of trainers year after year and notice that their movement and physicality has not changed. In order to constantly challenge our body so it does not plateau and also discover what works individually for you to progress to the next level. What works for one body may not work for you.
Not long ago Jason went to a well-known PT studio, informed the trainer what his goals were and what he was training for at that time, The American Ballet. The trainer followed the pre-programmed formula from week to week, set by the studio, all laid out via an Ipad. At each session, he would over train his legs. Based on this he informed the trainer that this type of training would not work with him as Jason could barely walk on stage each night, leaving him to end his training with them.
For the Bolshoi, Jason planned a training schedule specific to the body movements that would be required.
His training focus fell into 2 main areas: body weight and mind focus.
This training is always about using your own body weight, and then combining workouts with weight work in the gym.
Using your own body weight in training requires a lot more stability and therefore muscle engagement.
A chest press in the gym for example requires a lot of engagement, but not as much core effort as an incline push up undertaken on a wooden beam.
There are many body weight exercises, including a whole push-up series Jason can do, which has been covered previously (click here)
Body Weight training also involved a lot of exercises with unilateral movement and also through The Sagittal, Transverse and Frontal plane to give the body more balance.
Jason frequently uses the Roman Rings and Parallel Bars as part of his core training.
Pilates Movement Categories
Training for the Bolshoi also made Jason more aware of balancing exercises across a number of different categories and focusing on the Pilates Principle being enforced.
In each training session he tried to integrate: Supine movement, Extension movement, Side integration movement, Seated Integration movement, Total Body Integration and Upper and lower body Weight Bearing.
As a key Pilates expert he liked to play a lot with the Pilates Principle of Movement Integration – especially challenging the base of support for an exercise.
A Pilates Push-Up for example focuses on Upper Body Weight bearing. The Pilates Principles used are axial elongation, breathing and core control; Shoulder, head and Neck organisation and Jason challenged the Movement Integration by doing it on the Parallel bars.
- Mind Focus
Second part of the training is to focus on mentally connecting with your movement.
Stages of Competency – is an awareness for learning theory that Jason uses when works with his clients especially in Pilates. There are 4 stages (Unconscious Competence, Conscious Incompetence, Conscious Competence and Unconscious Competence). Jason’s training focused on the last 2 stages.
Conscious Competence – maintaining this stage within your training. So whatever movement or exercise Jason was doing, he would close his eyes and really focus on the movement and what his muscles and body were doing and not leave this connection until finishing the set or movement.
By bringing this type of awareness and connecting internally, this will help with preventing any injury throughout your training, maintain correct alignment, and it allow you to fully utilize and active muscles fully using their full range of movement. Jason was able to get the most out of each load or movement and noticed results and improvements quicker.
When Jason was aware that his focus was starting to wonder off, during a set or movement, thereby moving into the Unconscious Competent stage – he knew needed to either change the movement or increase the weight or challenge.
Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). NLP is widely used by athletes in training, and there is a whole theory associated with it. Some athletes, for example divers, can close their eyes before a dive and visualise the whole dive and the movements it involves through to completion and then go on to perform the exact version.
For Jason, by maintaining the Conscious Competence phase in his training. He was able to code his brain and muscles with the relevant physical movement that he was doing at the time. So when required especially at rehearsals and later in performances, Jason’s body would perform a relevant movement when required correctly, now in the Unconscious Competent phase, as programmed.
In training, most gym goers, will simply perform 15 reps of an exercise with heavy weight for example, counting each one just to get through the set, and not focus consciously on the movement and inevitably not get the most out of each rep. Also opening themselves up to possible injuries.
Hear more about Jason’s thoughts on training. Check out this radio segment:
Finally Nutrition Training
Jason’s eating and diet program changed very little and for tips on how to manage your diet please visit his blog – “24 Hours”. Most of the specific training he did for the Bolshoi occurred from 11am – 12.30pm each day and is listed in his blog as the ACTIVE WORKOUT phase in his day.
Jason also combined his specific Bolshoi training with normal workout regimes which usually occurs sometime between 2.30pm – 4.30pm each day, depending on workload. Check out the blog:
Jason mentions the road he took to achieve his goals was not easy and there were times when his self doubt and confidence wavered and took a major battering. One particular quote he came across at one of his lowest times seemed to help get him through.
“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, SACRIFICE and most of all love for what you are doing or learning to do.” PELE
This became his internal mantra, and helped Jason to go on and finally achieve his goal of a lifetime, not only being selected for the Bolshoi Ballet (with a featured role as the “Executioner”) but also being chosen as one of the only 7 local talent in Hong Kong selected for a small role with the Bolshoi Opera which was also performing in the festival.
Yes, the training was tough. The training worked for Jason and he is fitter now than when he was in his 20’s or even early 30’s. Through his journey he sacrificed so many things but his dedication and hard work truly paid off.
Inspired – Introducing Jason Clark
He is a Fitness and Movement Coach, Pilates Educator, Lifestyle Presenter and the founder of PilatesAthlete.
He is based in Hong Kong but has an international following for his hardcore approach to fitness and nutrition.