Steps one can take to find their joy and purpose with Natalie Orr

Podcast

September 3, 2021

 

Natalie speaks about overcoming fears that one may have while pursuing a dream, giving four tools she believes can work. She believes in the body and mind working together to be able to help someone enjoy even as they work hard at whatever they are doing. She believes in sharing what she has learned and experienced with others, in order to help them with their journey.

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Steps one can take to find their joy and purpose with Natalie Orr

Who is Natalie Orr

Natalie Orr is a certified life coach and dance teacher with a Masters’s in Dance Anthropology. She believes in dance for all and in empowering people to live life on their terms. She is half Scottish and half Cypriot. She lives in Madrid, Spain with her husband and two cats. She also runs her own soul-centered business.

 

Details about Natalie Orr’s story

I stopped ballet at 9, came back to training when I was 25 and I’m now 33. That ballet story was a very intense one and in between, I never stopped dancing. I was doing contemporary and Latin stuff and had a 15-16 year gap without focusing on ballet. Therefore, the power of coming back into the ballet studio now feels like completing the full circle for me. It is as if there was still something that I had to prove to myself. I don’t think that people have to necessarily do that; if you can acknowledge, prior to what I did, that there’s something you need to prove to yourself, you can go and do it. I’ve found that I just decided to tick that box because I could have spent the rest of my life regretting that I never got to be as good a ballet dancer as I wanted to be.  I think that’s what has allowed me to become the type of teacher that I am now. My ability to tick that box in ballet was through my understanding of life coaching. The understanding is that instead of chasing perfection and the end result, we focus on the process and bring joy into it, rather than thinking that joy comes as a reward from achieving what we set out to do.

 

How did you get where you are?

I’ve never stopped looking for that pivotal moment and I’m sure there have been a few. The big one that allowed me to get here was when I started to question the stories that I heard and had been told about myself from the world. This was as a woman and a dancer using that label. I started really small with the questions like, “Are my thoughts always true? Can I really trust that they’re serving me to the best of my ability?” I was then able to start questioning the more societal and cultural stories, including the biggest stories that are scarier to address in some ways. You then realize the matrix that we live in, and the lies that we take to be truth, not because we’re lazy or silly but because it’s extremely scary and rebellious to question those stories.

For me, the macro is always the micro and the micro is the macro and my two favorite things to do are to zoom right out to universal level, then zoom right in to the subjective. There are people who are really good like, National Space or societal spaces like Community Space. I really love the going right in and the going right out because they’re always a mirror to each other. One of the things I realized was that my stories about myself as a dancer and what that has to entail were reflected in the wider story of what a dancer is and what it means to be a successful one. I came into this space where hard work and the grind are what are going to set me apart. I am not taking that away because that is a part of it, but what about the energy that I bring to something? Is that not as valuable as the hours that I’ve put into doing the thing without the conscious presence or an intention?

I started to realize that the only way for us as individuals to be able to unravel these stories, is to start testing new hypotheses. Those are the stories that we create for ourselves and we decide to test. We need to see if there is a different way because we usually have evidence of one way of doing things and it’s the way that we were just given. We are almost given a linear pathway, like to be a dancer; you need to go to this place, dance this many hours, then graduate and go to this school, or whatever else. This works for anything like, for a lawyer, you need to go to this school and then this law firm. There is this kind of laid out career path and then you have many more choices than just two. Just to break it down into two for a moment, it doesn’t even mean that you start to stray from the path necessarily; you can and I’ve done that. You could even continue on the path, but just approach it in a totally different way. I think that’s what we forget; when we look at people from the outside and they’re doing similar things, we think it feels the same for them on the inside and they are coming at it with similar energy.

Just looking, on ballet days, is one of my favorite times to look at the dances; how they are in between the exercises, how they’re speaking to the other members of the company, and how they are caring for themselves. I absolutely love doing this even if it’s weird, but I’m obviously there for the dancing as well. Even there, you can see that success of gaining principle out of a company doesn’t mean they’re all enjoying it the same amount, or coming from that same place of freedom of expression, joy, or from taking care of themselves. There’s a lot of other stuff that’s going on there and that is just one example. That is however true for all of us and obviously looks different. I think when I started to realize that I actually have a choice, it was this thing in ballet, where I actually have a choice of how I am inside my body while I dance. This was true in life as well, and I realized how ironic it was that as someone who identifies as a dancer and has danced my whole life, I was disconnected from my body.

This was not in the way of not being present in my body, but rather using my body as a tool for manipulation, to make these shapes, to do these movements, without being connected, present or caring. I instead said to my body, “I need you to do this for me and I’m not giving you anything back because this is just what I expect of you.” I realized that there’s a way to connect, where dances and the mindset stuff are wonderful tools, which can come together. I don’t like dividing the mind and body into two things because they are always connected, but it’s helpful to have that language. I realized that there were stories that were not letting me go into my body, where if you do something, you might make a mistake and look silly. If you stop focusing on the image in the mirror and start paying attention to the inside, you might feel more pain. You might start judging yourself and this is always double work. It’s the work on the mental side of things, and in the internal presence embodiment; while we dance, live our day to day life, have a conversation with someone, or eat all these things.

 

When and why did you start training for life coaching?

 The first whole section was just me doing the stuff and I wasn’t even thinking about training in life. It was really a few years of listening to this interview, reading this book or listening to this podcast. Like I said before, after the kind of experimentation with my own stories, I realized that this stuff really works. I consider myself a bit of a learning addict because I really enjoy it. I think that, as human beings, we usually do if we are able to stay curious. I decided that if this is working, I’m into it and I want more. That was really how it started and I saw the power. I’m someone who likes to implement things quite quickly and I think dancers everywhere can relate to that. As soon as you get a correction, you try and implement it. That is kind of the same way I approach life coaching, and not everything sticks, or is for you. I’m willing to go through that process of it not being extremely efficient because the best things are really not efficient. They’re actually inefficient, sometimes messy, and uncomfortable, and that was the process for me.

I started to see, not only in the dance studio, having this more freedom not to judge myself and be more in the music and all of these things. At the same time, I was seeing that in my relationship with my fiancé, that I was giving him more space to be himself. I was trying to control less, just as I was trying to control my own movements and impulses less. I then wondered about what would happen if I started to trust the universe, and I know that sounds really big, more into spirituality thing, but I played with that question a bit. At first, it was only in my mind that I would play with it, imagining that, I started to actually do it. There would be moments where I would usually know that I would make a certain decision and just decided to wait, ask for guidance or speak to a friend who knows more about it. I used to rely heavily on myself and think that I had to come up with all the answers and do everything by myself. I then wondered what would happen if I actually just started to trust, and then I saw the power of that. It was all of these things, slowly one after the other, linear was up and down, here and there, I realized that this is very powerful.

I know, through being a dance teacher, that when you teach something, you understand it much more deeply yourself. I did life coaching certificates without even fully decided that I was going to be a life coach. I did them because I was just really curious about how I could go deeper into this and if I were going to teach it, what depth of knowledge I would need to know for that. That’s how I got into it and from there; I started doing some free sessions for friends who run communities here in Madrid. I got clients immediately, which I didn’t expect, and all that just came on a roll, which is wonderful. That is what happens when you stop trying to control and you let the universe take over. I have told this story before on Facebook Live. Lockdown happened, and that was the moment when the control started to come back in.

I started to doubt myself and who I thought I was. I trained in dance for very many years, and finally allowed myself to teach it. I’ve only done a few years of work, myself, in life coaching, and all of a sudden, I think I can share this with other people? Even though no one that I had worked with was saying I was not good at this, it was just that pause and that moment of uncertainty. This is why I said it’s never a linear journey because I have done all that work on limiting beliefs and stories, but there’s always stuff lurking on the surface. I stopped them for a while and actually focused a lot more on online ballet during the lockdown, which was a beautiful thing that I had access to. I got to meet people from all over the world and it was wonderful, but the calling for life coaching was so strong that I am back. It didn’t even last the full lockdown; it was mainly the beginning part. I am back to coaching with a full program for adults who are not professional dancers, although everyone’s welcome.

That’s like life coaching for people who dance, and I do one-to-one coaching, and what I’ve realized, is that these two tools are very complimentary. I didn’t understand that at the beginning when I was thinking that there’s a dance over here and coaching over here. I was not aware of how much the coaching was actually infusing into the dance in a very beautiful way, and looking back now, I can see how that journey has happened. At the same time, all the bodily knowledge from dance and having studied it in dance anthropology, looking at it from a behavioral context and not from a performance context, all human beings were born to dance if they want to. All you have to do is look at any kid when there’s music playing, and you see that dance is in all of us. Taking these two things, movement and coaching, as tools, I am now at the point where I want to bring these two things closer together. I want to share and spread these tools to as many people as would like them; tools that I have, that I’ve been able to use and I am very grateful for.

 

Handling pressure in the professional setting

Where you have a power structure in any environment, within such a company, or class, it depends on the teacher because the teacher may feel like, they are in this position, and all others are below. The older I get, the more I am cool with everyone doing different things. I’m not saying that what I’m about to share and how I do things is the right way; I don’t believe it is, but it’s just the right way for me and people who want to attend my class. If other people are finding that the other old ways work for them, that option doesn’t have to disappear. What I would love is for there to be different options available to people so that they get to choose, saving the knowledge that the end result is going to be of equal quality, regardless of the avenue that they went to get that. In terms of a dancer, hopefully, when they’ve come off that stage, they are this whole, fulfilled, and peaceful person.

For me, there was a fear around what happens if I step away from the idea that I’m not enough. Do I get lazy or stop working? What happens when I give myself permission to accept the dancer that I am today, while still wanting to be better tomorrow? What’s the driver if it’s not an answer that you’re just not good enough yet or there’s so much more to do. I realized that what it is, is joy and I knew that as a kid, but somewhere along the way, I thought that joy is not the thing that gets you to where you want to go, it is hard work. I didn’t think that those two things can go together and it doesn’t have to be that you do these things out of fear. Fear of not being enough or this drive not being enough or fear of being so good, that you wonder what it is going to do to the people around you, so you are somehow supposed to keep yourself small. Whether it’s not enough, or actually just so amazing that you would dazzle, that, coming from joy instead of fear is another path.

It comes with a warning though which is, you might discover that when you start to tune into joy, that the path that you’re on is not the one that you want to be on. That’s incredibly terrifying for people who have had only one identity and have ever only done one thing, which I understand. I don’t want to just say this and leave it there; this is the real warning and it’s what happened to me. I now understand that my path must include coaching and these bigger things that I love talking about, that light me up. That will always be part of my story, being able to let that go, while partly still holding it in a sacred place and expanding into all of this that I really am supposed to be doing. Once I stepped into joy in dance and allowed myself to live dance from that place, I actually realized that everything that I already had was in there. There was even more joy to be sharing these other things with people in a different way, and still bringing embodied dancers to all of those things.

That’s the thing about the leap of faith, to believe that there is another way to get to where you want to go, and that way is joy. It’s not always a joy because that also sounds cliché and of course, there will be moments where you’ll be disheartened, hurt or disappointed. The bottom layer is that of; I do this thing because I love it and because in some way it serves me and others. Dances provide this amazing thing that we all need, which is more beauty in the world. There’s so much more to it than that, but people underestimate it a lot. We also create performance and if you’re a teacher in the studio, working with dancers in a group, then of course, there’s community. There are all these other things, but there’s no way to downplay the fact that we need beauty in the world. We also need things that cross-language, political and any other barriers, that are very many right now.

If that is the way you know in your heart that you are supposed to serve the world and then go for it.  I realized that my way of serving the world wasn’t through creating more beauty, but was supposed to be more in smaller communities and having different conversations. Once I realized that I was amazed. For my dance journey, I’m supposed to be teaching and creating experiences for people to find other aspects of themselves through movement. Of course, in the beginning, I thought that meant I was not a dancer, that I failed, and this and that. I have slowly stepped into the power of it and let go of the stories that I failed, I’m not good enough, this is all big, you don’t count as a dancer anymore, etc.

 

Steps one can take to find their joy and purpose.

 I have a four-answer thing; two mindset tools and two embodiment tools, but they’re different. How do I start to come more into my joy? So this is the first question, and if you’re if you’re a writer or a person who enjoys writing, I highly suggest journaling on this. If you’re not someone who particularly enjoys journaling, find a friend and talk about this question; why do I think I have to earn joy? Why does the work come first and the joy comes second? Why can it not be that I start with joy and bring that to what I want to do?

When I got introduced to the idea of doing versus being, I just didn’t understand it at first for the longest time. I wondered what being meant because if I’m not doing anything, then I’m asleep. What is this whole concept of being and it is basically the seat of joy, it is just like we are alive. The chances of all of us, right at this very second, being on this spinning orb in the sky is just joyful enough. However, we are very disconnected from that because there are very many other things going on.

I know this sounds cliché in a way but it is the truth; when we start to peel off the layers, unless you’re in physical pain, or are in that moment being the victim of something, which most of the time we’re not, then what is wrong? This is the second question; what is wrong with this moment? It’s a very basic question, but when it really comes down to it, we’re in our head a lot of the time, telling stories. Even when dancing, we’re telling stories about what we’re doing, what we should be doing, what we’re not doing yet, or what that other person in front of me is doing; she just did a triple and I just did a double. There’s so much in our heads that we don’t get to accept the moment for what it is and we’re always wishing that moment was different. We can also think about this with waiting and I don’t know about other people, but I certainly went through different moments of lockdown where I decided to sit and not enjoy. This was because I couldn’t go outside, couldn’t see my friends, and couldn’t do this and that. I was waiting until I could be happy, instead of asking myself that question of what was wrong with the moment then.  It’s a very simple question, but a very powerful one. It doesn’t always have to be joy, just peace or base layer of being okay. Things are okay, right now, in my little energy bubble.

I don’t think the universe responds to hard work even when we think good things should be coming to me because I’ve worked very hard. Mother Nature is a hard worker in some ways, but she’s incredibly creative, patient, and wise in terms of the when, how, and why. Mother Nature doesn’t respond to relentless pushing. It goes against renewal, nourishment, the seasons, and all the things that we need to stay in balance and harmony. Of course, she’s not going to respond to this energy of moving forward, and there’s not enough. When we can take the time to be grateful and notice the abundance that we already have around us, then more of that comes in. Some people find that one harder to believe that even if more doesn’t come in, just noticing that stuff is already there, that is still going put you in a better place. This can happen even if you’re not into the whole manifestation thing which I am into, but I know that it can be a stretch for some people in the beginning. Those are the two kinds of questions I would invite people to explore.

There are two practices that I just love for the embodiment stuff because at the end of the day, any emotion is always embodied. Here is a brief breakdown; thoughts are not embodied until they become emotions, but all these things are linked. Thoughts are therefore linked to emotions, which always have bodily sensations. You can think just for yourself; how are you feeling when you’re very energized and happy? Your heart is probably beating faster, you might have a warm sensation or you might even have pleasurable sensations in your skin. When you’re very sad or grieving, you might have heaviness in your chest or you might start to feel heavy when you’re sleeping. These emotions all have physical sensations as well. When we get to connect to our body, we get to feel more joy and there might have even been joyful thoughts there, but they didn’t make it down into the body because we weren’t connected to the body.

Therefore, being able to come in and tune into the body is a very powerful thing. There are two things that I really like to do and the first one is a body scan. This sounds very basic, but it’s usually the basic ones that work for most people. The body scan done is just going through the parts of the body. I do this sometimes before I go to sleep, and at times during the day, just to check where I’m holding tension. I like to start like with my forehead and my face, and just check that I’m not scrunching anything up. For me, I always hold tension in my tracks, so I just remember to soften all the way down. I also hold so much tension in my womb space in like the lower abdominal muscles, and in a way, is understandable because in dances we are always told to hold the pelvic floor. If you forget to release that, there is a lot of tension on your body. Sometimes, we are almost faking some negative emotions by holding so much tension in our body instead of releasing, being soft, and open.

That has been a huge one for me because I held so much tension in my hips and my pelvis. I therefore always make sure that even if I don’t have time to do a full-body scan, I check my shoulders and womb space to determine that I was more relaxed than before. It is as simple as that, and you’ll get to know your body very well. For some people, it might be the back and for others, thighs. You will start to notice where you tend to hold more tension in your body. The energy connection does not stay there and is able to flow up and down. There’s softness, engagement, and disengagement, which is very important, just to have that space. That’s another one that I love. This final one is more personal and won’t work for everyone. It’s just an offering if you want to try it. This was the one that really allowed me to find more joy in the dance studio, and I was so resistant to doing it at the beginning because I thought it was very stupid.

I was wondering why, as someone who already identifies as a dancer, was going to put on one song in the morning and force myself to dance to it. Not in front of the mirror or doing the moves that I would usually do in the club to impress the guys. I was not going to have a laugh with my friends, but just to allow whatever movement wants to come out of my body, to come out without caring at all what it looks like. This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do movement-wise because I just want to know what the correct movement is. What’s the right way to do it and how is it supposed to look? What muscles do I need to engage to get there? I did improv, during my degree when I studied contemporary dance, so it’s not like I haven’t done it, but even in there, there’s some vocabulary, you have a goal and it’s a different thing. It was very uncomfortable the first few times I did it, but I committed to doing it. I decided to do it for at least a week but ended up doing it for probably two or three months just as a practice.

I have kind of let it go now because I see that it has transferred into more of my dancing in other places. The first few times didn’t feel good, yet I saw people who didn’t necessarily dance teachers, or professional dancers, and I guess we’re just people who enjoyed dancing, saying this was one of their favorite parts of their morning routine. They do it for understanding that they love it and just dance, letting whatever comes out from it, come. I think if I’m really honest with myself because of being judged for my dancing, I judged other people for their dancing. I would see people not doing stuff that well and judge them, instead of understanding that, that’s their journey and they are allowed to do that dance. It doesn’t have to look like this dance and it can be whatever it is. I thought that if you want to be on a stage then it does need to look more like this, and if you want to teach, it does need to look something like this, but all of these things can exist at the same time.

I think I was so attached to this identity that I wouldn’t let myself even go there because I was judgmental of it. So when I first started, it was very uncomfortable and I felt stupid, but as I did it more, I kind of got into it and I let myself go. It was very healing, which sounds very simple, but it really heals that. I think I had a wound that was really about looking silly or getting something wrong and people noticing, which are probably two of my biggest fears at school. If anyone wants to take that, I highly recommend it, but just agree with yourself to commit to it for a few days because the first one might not be that fun.

 

Letting go while dancing

There are moments in the studio where your teachers say, “Okay, now dance it” and you are thinking, “I swear I was just dancing it”. I was listening to the music when I just did that, and looking back on this journey, I realize that they ask for that, but don’t create the safe environment to necessarily do it. This is especially for people who, may be more wary of looking really silly in front of other people and then there are people for whom that’s not the case. Then there is the class clown that everybody loves, who will do this silly thing and people will laugh and love them, but that was never me, I was the opposite. We have created this environment where we want as close to perfection, as possible in class.

Then there comes this other moment when we are going to ask you to play with that and allow yourself to make a mistake, when the whole of the other 99% of the time, we don’t want that. We then think that all of a sudden, everybody’s going to be able to switch that on, and while some people can, I couldn’t. There was something about the environment that just wasn’t clicking there. They say it’s like being a kid again, but I’ve got this entire adult conditioning on top of that, and you want to just take all of that off in a split second, it’s not as simple as that. I understand that it’s well-intentioned, and they want the best for us. One has to be in that joy while we’re dancing, but it’s not that easy to just ask for it. You don’t have to fully be convinced of the vision, but you have to have the belief that it’s possible, and if you can, envision it for yourself.

 

Where to find Natalie

The best place is Instagram because I can connect with people easier there, with private messages. I’m on YouTube as well. I’m still split in two at the moment. Coaching Natalie is @natalieorr.co, and the dance stuff is all ballet at the moment on @nataliedanza. Those are the same channels on YouTube as well, though I prefer that people come and say hi on Instagram because then I get to see you guys and talk to you. At the moment, I made the decision to stop all of my online dance classes because I was just called to be in the studio with my lovely community of dancers here in Madrid. That’s where I’m focusing for the rest of this year and I’m planning on doing another adult ballet holiday in 2022. Obviously, everybody is welcome from around the world. In the last one, we had people from Sweden, Canada, the US, Italy, and all over the place. They’re just wonderful and it was such a fun experience. That is it about the dance stuff.

For the coaching staff, I do one to one coaching, and I’m also just getting ready to launch my program that I did in the spring. We are doing a full edition, and as earlier mentioned, it’s for all dancers, not necessarily professionals. It’s a life coaching program for people who are connected to their bodies in this different way, and people who dance. It’s very interesting because we do have things in common and ways of approaching things in this tenacity. Therefore, there are certain things that we all share, and it’s really fun to get people together in a small community and go through that coaching journey together. People just have this very special awareness, as well from being in a dance studio, that I find it’s easy to call out things in the coaching world. I really enjoyed that program and I’m looking forward to doing it again in the fall.

 

 

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There is a better way to pursue ballet at the professional level. Instead of dancers pushing beyond their body’s limits, there is a healthier way to train your body, your mind and your spirit to soar. To become the best at your craft, you must be healthy. The mentality of surviving to make a performance perfect is an old paradigm that needs to change. As athletes, dancers must thrive in order to shine and connect with their audience. This new approach, leads to fulfillment, strength and longevity. It allows you to give more of your heart and soul on stage, creating an unforgettable experience that moves your audience. And that’s the whole pointe. 

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