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Our November Body Leader of the Month has been awarded to our talented client and friend, Monique Latemore. As an opera singer Monique knows the importance of looking after her body to ensure she is always performing at her best. Through her continuous dedication to learn more about how she can use her body to improve her performance and not to mention the countless hours of rehearsals, Monique has been able to perform in a number of beautiful productions. Body Leadership Principal Physiotherapist, Paul Trevethan, recently caught up with Monique to discuss what makes her a body leader.  

Q1. What inspired you to initially start looking after your body?

The goals, aspirations and passion I have for my work. This may sound corny, but when I was very young I knew that singing was something I was born to do, and I knew I wanted to do it for the rest of my life. Singing is not just work for me, it's my love and my life. I have a gift and I know that the best thing I can do is express myself through my voice to bring joy and meaning to people.

Q2. What do you currently do to look after your body?

As an opera singer (or classical singer) I have a schedule and network of facilities I use to enhance my performance. Specific to singing, I do movement exercises which I've learnt from a movement and stagecraft specialist to promote movement and release tension in the right places, and connect the breath and support to the voice and to the movement. I have also been taught performance strategies in how to perform on the stage with various elements explored through technique. Although to be sensible as a singer is looking after my voice - which entails many elements (such as accent breathing, streaming, heat massage, LOTS of water and some dietary requirements). As a singer and performer we are taught that our body is our instrument. The voice can't exist without the body, and in fact the body had a great deal of influence on the anture of the voice. I have done pilates and yoga before, but I mainly do stagecraft movement exercises combined with Feldenkrais movement, and hope to start some of Alexander Technique. I have also done fencing classes which are not only fun and are a huge work-out but are a great help with postural alignment and connection to the breath.

Q3. What motivates you to continue being proactive with your body?

My work and to an extension everyone who witnesses it. Yes I sing for my own love and passion, but I also sing for the art, the people that wrote and performed it originally, and the people that listen to it today. Also my coaches and teachers, lecturers and guest artists who I meet constantly encourage and offer ways to perform to the best and most efficient way possible.

Q4. What is your favourite form of exercise?

I love a long, fast walk outside. It's something about a constant, fast-paced motion and feeling your muscles work, and being able to just enjoy being outside that I love the most.

Q5. What is your top health tip?

I think first and foremost, as is scientifically proven, having an active life is the key to maintaining good health. We all know that it slows down the aging process and has incredible benefits for the body, mind, and soul, but I think putting it into practise is the hardest part. My partner who is a massage therapist had a really good way of putting it when he said that we need to make an 'appointment' with ourselves. While I am not exactly perfect in this respect, I know that when I do exercise and take time out for me I reap the rewards. Perhaps it's only a slight change of thinking that can open up the many possibilities available to us.

Q6. How do you know when your body is asking for help?

When I huff and puff after walking up one flight of stairs!! The body is very good at expressing what it needs, and perhaps we (myself included) need to be better at listening to it. Again, it's being realistic, willing and motivated to make time and give your body, and yourself, what it needs.

Q7. What strategies do you find work best for you?

Knowing exactly what to do to give my body its optimum movement and therefore give the best performance is critical for me as a performer. I have a very regimented schedule before a performance which consists of movement warm-ups, exercise and vocal warm ups, and I have to do these to feel adequately prepared and confident. I also have strategies for vocal fatigue, performance anxiety etc and the many aspects surrounding this! And of course getting a treatment always helps me feel more able to put my best foot forward!

Q8. What is your greatest physical achievement?

I think every time I get up and perform is a good achievement! But probably my greatest performance was first performing as a soloist with an orchestra for the public; it was an amazing experience to see my dream 'come true'. I think my most recent achievement was performing in a lead role for the most recent opera production produced by the Conservatorium of Music. As performing in an opera is both physically demanding as well emotionally, I felt a lot of things fall into place that hadn't before.

Q9. What is your goal for the future of your body?

My goal is to have a 'toolbox' of techniques and to know what is best for me and what I need in each stage of the development of my craft. I want to eventually be my own counsel, in knowing how to use my body in the most efficient way to sing most efficiently. Obviously the learning path never stops, and the body is in a constant evolving and changeable state, but there are always different ways of looking at things and practicing them which is most exciting. I want to be able to sing and perform for many, many years and do my goal is to try and achieve that in the best way I can!

Q10. What is your definition of a Body Leader?

I think a body leader is someone who is pro-active in taking charge of their health and their life, and getting the best out of it. I admire many of the philosophies that Body Leadership espouses, but I most connect with the need to allow your body to work in the best way it can, to do the best that you can. I think a leader in any profession is someone who leads by example, and is an exmaple to follow. While I certainly haven't mastered complete control and awareness of my body, I am on the way. When I look at people who I admire, they almost always have been a leader in their life and their health.