Model, dancer, movement director and Psycle instructor Louis McMiller sat down with our founder Brendan to chat about all things ballet, balance, travel and wellbeing. We’re so excited for Louis to our panel of a+ Experts – friends of anatomē who have come on board to further support your wellbeing journey.
Having trained as a dancer from age seven, Louis found a sense of independence and discipline through his dance and movement studies. After training at The Royal Ballet School for many years, Louis worked with the company at the Royal Opera House, noting that “ballet is very regimented, and I wasn't that kind of person. So I decided that I wanted to do something more creative. I made the choice to audition for Studio Wayne McGregor and break away from the mould."
Around age 28, however, Louis felt that dance started to become a job rather than a passion. “I think dancing is something that you use so much of your body and give so much of your life, and your soul, and everything to,” he says, “that when it becomes going from point A to point B and then back home again, I had to stop because I didn’t want to resent it.”
Did you find being a person of colour in that kind of environment impacted you?
Personally, it didn’t make a difference to me, but I know there are a lot of people that it does impact. It’s made very apparent for them, but for me, people would always say, “you must have really struggled.” But for me, it was no more than anyone else.
So you travelled the world – were there places in the world that you really found magical?
Italy’s theatres were always really beautiful. The kind of work we did was very advanced, and then we would take the show and put our set into the theatre, in this very old and traditional setup. So it was this juxtaposition, which I always found really interesting.
How did you get into the world of Psycle and fitness?
After I retired as a dancer, I started going to a Psycle class. I wasn’t a cyclist or really that into fitness. But after the class, they said, “do you want to work here?” So I had an audition, and I did the training, and that was that. It all happened very fast. I felt like I had just given my whole life to moving, and I actually just wanted to work in an office. People always say to me, “you won’t want to work in an office. It’s not going to be for you. You’ll always be a dancer.” And I was like, “No, no, no, no, I don’t want to move anymore.” A year and a half later, I’m back moving. It’s different, but it’s definitely linked.
How do you discover a kind of language to motivate the class and the Psycle community?
It depends. I’m not a very prescribed person. I wake up feeling differently every single day. It would be really inauthentic and would come out wrong if I thought, “okay, I have to talk like that today, or I have to tell this story.” I have an outline of what I want to get across, but what I say will be different day to day, just based on how I feel. The people who come in are different to the people yesterday, who will be different tomorrow. It’s not just about me. It’s also about the people that are in the room as well. If the energy is down, obviously, it’s my job to bring it up. I have no issue telling you, "Get it together." You know what I mean? Because it's a two way street. It's not... I know people come to my class, but I can't do everything, we have to meet each other at some point.
I think it’s important to recognize what you need in the moment and work with that. Everything is always changing.
Given your history of movement and dance, is there a life philosophy you would adhere to?
Just do whatever works for you. When I was getting ready this morning, I was doing my skincare, and I was thinking, people will say, “what skincare regime do you have, what do you use?” And the thing is, I never do the same thing every day because my skin is different every day. I feel different every day. So really, I think it’s just important to recognize what you need in that moment, or at a specific time, and you just have to work with that. Because it’s always changing, everything is always changing. You might want to eat pizza one day, and it’s going to make you feel better, which will maybe enhance your day in a different way than what would be if you ate a salad.
In the last year of Covid-19, is there anything you do day to day to preserve your mental health?
I’m really thankful for my iPhone, which I know might be a millennial thing to say. But talking to my friends, talking to my family is really important. The one thing that definitely grounds me and brings a realness to life is talking to my grandmother. You know people always say there’s a nucleus to the family? She really is like that. She lives in Florida. She’s English and very proud to be English. She turns 82 at the end of this month, and she thinks that she’s 21.
Is there a particular food that you lean into when you’re cooking?
I’m really not a good cook. I’m good if I follow a recipe, but I feel like a good cook is someone that can be like, “okay, I’ve got this, this, and this” and throw it in a pan and make this delicious thing. I’m also a Virgo, so I have to read every single ingredient. It has to be measured out. It has to go just like that. But I’m also vegan, which means that you have to be even more organized with it.
What is your morning routine?
I don’t like to take my time in the morning. I get out of bed, I get in the shower, I put the news on, I have my coffee, and I’m out.
Is there anywhere in the countryside, or in the UK or on a beach that you think are particularly where you feel at home?
I love Florida. I love the heat. I love the weather. But Florida has no substance for me, so I find it difficult to connect just because of that. But obviously, my family is there, so I feel like I just settle when I am there.
After a long day, what helps you relax?
I love TV. And my absolute guilty pleasure is Eastenders. I think it's because I can watch other people’s drama, and it’s nothing to do with me.
Who has inspired you through your life and career?
My grandma is always number one.
What advice would you give to your younger self amid The Royal Ballet?
Don’t stress; everything is going to be okay.
What music do you listen to relax you or energize you?
I can listen to anything from classical music to electronic music to Ariana Grande. It really depends on how I’m feeling, what I’m going to do. And if I’m working with music, that also varies. When I first worked at psycle, I actually thought my class would be very poppy, and actually, it’s more complex. If I made a playlist that didn’t entice people, or energize people, or energize me, I’ve got to do even more work. I have to choose the music that I like that can structurally work for my class, and then I can build my physical to the music or marry them together. There’s a lot of components that have to all add up.
How do you stay balanced overall?
I don’t think it’s been a conscious thing. I think I have very good friends who know me super, super well. I think that really helps with staying balanced. They can see if things are going off in a bad direction.
Is there anything you do to destress consciously?
I think it’s just spending time with my friends or at the gym. Depending on how I’m feeling, I can completely shut off, leave my phone, or just do something that I want to do. And it could be something as simple as dancing around the flat or watching my TV. It really depends. But I feel overall, quite a balanced person.
What is your life’s motto?
Just get on with it.
During the lockdown in the last year, have you discovered parts of London that you’re passionate about and like to spend time in?
I recently moved to East London, and I feel like it’s definitely more my vibe. When I was younger, I lived in West London and then central London for seven years. It seems like I’m slowly moving more and more East. I feel like East has just got this buzz about it.
If you are locked in your house for 24 hours but you’re allowed to play one album, have one book, and eat one thing, what would you choose?
My album would be something by Max Richter. My book would be The Power of Now. And my meal would have to be candy.