dance connection

 

dance friends

I had a conversation recently about a bunch of scientific studies saying, basically, “people need people”.  Doesn’t seem like a revolutionary or new concept as people have always lived in families and groups…we know we need people…but I guess we are also in need of a reminder. People are now living alone more, in apartments and in cities instead of villages. We don’t talk to our neighbours as much anymore. (Well, some neighbours are truly scary…stay away! Haa!) You do not have to go running out to meet everyone on your street but you DO need connection.

Connection is actually what it is all about.

Connection is vital and essential to leading a happy and healthy life. Lack of connection can have actual physical health repercussions.

So I was wondering about connection in the dance world. When it comes to “community”, how are the dancers doing?

It can be hard to make dance friends and stay friends when you are also each other’s competition. You are all going after the same part in the show or place in the company. Can you be friends with someone and be happy for them when they get the role and you don’t? Are you comparing yourself to them in the mirror? Overall, I think the need for connection outweighs the pangs of jealousy or any bad feelings. Who else but another dancer will understand what you are going through? These are the people who get you. They get it. They know how your body is hurting and they understand your frustration when you are working out some hard to do moves. You need your group of people who can relate to you. Who can commiserate and celebrate with you.

And who else knows the best tips for blisters or where to find the cheapest leg warmers?

That is the connection that people need and that the scientists are now talking about. You need to feel like you belong. That you are understood. You have to have, even one person, who just gets you.

The grown-ups I teach now feel like a nice community. Some of them come in with other people they already know. Some have met in class and have become friends outside of class. They keep up with each other on social media and it is amazing to see them all encouraging each other in all that they do. When you enter a dance class you know you already have at least one thing in common with the other participants. You all love dancing. After that, when the dancers start talking about jobs, parenthood, hobbies or interests…you can see the connections being made.

Some of my closest friends have been in the dance world. (Dancers are super fun! Haa!) And I look forward to meeting many more people and making more connections in my new dance community.

I hope you all find some great dancified connection along your way. It will be good for your health!!!!

 

 

 

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the b’s of competition season

 

dance jumpgreatdance quotes pics images pictures (24)

 

Be original. Be organized. Be early. Be yourself. Be confident. Be positive. Be gracious. Be supportive. Be relaxed. Be real. Believe you can do it. Behave. Be warmed up. Be happy. Breathe. Be energetic. Be smiling. Be grateful that you get to dance!!!! Best – you don’t have to be it…you have to do yours.

Break a leg!

Love,

dancified. dance classes for grown-ups

rules to dance by

 

 

  1. want to – not have to
  2. from your heart and soul
  3. all out and all in
  4. push your body
  5. never say can’t
  6. even when it doesn’t feel good – it still feels good

Many nights of my life are spent reading. The end of my day usually consists of Kobo and I in bed together. I know. That is pretty exciting. Haaa! But not everything has to be a party. It is calm and quiet and nice to take some time at the end of the day to just relax.

I was reading about the 6 perfections. 6 principles to being an enlightened human being. (no, I am not there yet. Haa!) Obviously, I have to make it dancified, so here are the 6 dancified rules to dance by…

  1. First of all, you should “want to” dance, not “have to”. When people complain that they have to go do something, it usually means that it is something they don’t want to do. You want to go to a movie. You have to do the laundry. Dancing should always be a want to situation. It is the kind of thing you need to be needing to do and looking forward to doing. Something you are driven to do…which leads into rule 2…
  2. Always dance from your heart and soul. A person jumping up and down is just a person exercising. A dancer jumping up and down from their soul can be an expression of joy or a reach for the sky. All of the outer moves in dance should be propelled by an inner feeling.
  3. And that feeling is there because you are going all out and all in with your dancing. Dance is something that requires you to be completely present and in the moment. Time stops. Thinking stops. Your mind, body and soul are all focused on moving to the music, telling a story and sometimes challenging a few laws of gravity. Nothing else exists when you are in the zone.
  4. The zone should also be physically challenging. You should push your body. Not to the point of injury of course. But no new achievements generally come from playing it too safe. Be daring. While safety is important and good…fear is not. You have to break some physical rules and push some limits. Sliding into the splits or standing on pointe are not really natural things to do but your body CAN do them. Your body can jump in ways that don’t always even make sense and spin like you wouldn’t imagine possible…unless you are lucky enough to be a dancer.
  5. The first time you try a turn it seems hard. Seems confusing. Maybe feels impossible. Maybe you even fall. But it is very possible and you can do it. Never say can’t. Enough said.
  6. Dance is full of pains and pulls and things that make you go “ow”. It is a lot of work and a lot of time spent doing repetitive training to get the basic techniques just right. You should always be striving to do the kick just a little stronger and straighter or to get the jump a little higher. The hardest work though, should still feel great. When you are out of breath, sweaty, sore and tired. When you don’t think you can stretch anymore or turn another time, it still makes you happy because of all of your accomplishments. Because of the thrill of the challenge. Even when it doesn’t feel good…it should still feel good.

I may not be enlightened but I AM dancified.

When I am in the studio and the music starts, I dance from my heart and soul because I want to. I go all in and dance all out. I push my body to go faster, higher and stronger and I try to never say can’t. Even when I am tired. Even when it does not feel good. It always feels good.

Namaste dancers.

 

“I am the dance, the dance is in me”

(That is for all of you Star Wars fans…you’re welcome. The dancified force will be with you…always.)

dancified new year

happy-new-year-2016-clipart2

The end of 2016 is fast approaching. 10 more sleeps until 2017!

Now is the time of year when people stop and take a look at the past, and then start to plan for the future. All the “best of 2016” lists will come out. Best TV. Best music. Most talked about in 2016. Most hated. Most loved. Now, unfortunately, is also the time when people make resolutions they will not even try to stick to. Some people like to, and need to, set goals and make plans. Others like to go with the flow and play it by ear. I like to do a bit of both.

Balance right?

I am not going to do a dancified 2016 wrap up. (even though I am tempted Haa!)

I will not make a bunch of 2017 dancified resolutions. (even though I am tempted Haa!)

Some dancers come to class for the joy of dancing and for exercise and fun. Some dancers have specific goals in mind and set the “barre” pretty high for themsleves. (Haa! barre…get it? Such a terrible ballet pun. I apologize. I’ll do better next year.)

Many dancers like to have a competition or exam to work towards, or an audition or a show. Others are content just completing each class and getting through the choreography without any mess ups. It is helpful to understand what works for you and then you can set yourself up to get your best results. To those of you preparing for a big performance or test in this upcoming year, I tell you to “break a leg”. For those of you doing classes and working regularly on improving how fast you pick up the choreography or mastering that pirouette…I tell you to “break a leg” too. And to all of you out there shaking your booty, having fun and dancing just for the joy of it…no major goals necessary…other than to get your dance on…keep it up in 2017! You are super dancified!

Whatever your 2017 brings, may you be happy and healthy and, of course…dancified.

Happy dancified new year!

 

 

 

dance sangha

I have written before about the value in dancers trying many different styles and classes. Experiencing and experimenting with a variety of teachers and choreographers can help make you a well rounded and versatile dancer. It also keeps you on your toes, (sorry, corny dance pun! Haa!) keeps your mind sharp, adaptable and helps you pick up the steps fast in class. But…

Always a but…

There is something to be said about finding the right people to work with on a regular basis. The teacher that explains thing in the perfect way for you. The choreographer whose sequences always feel completely natural to you. Maybe you will even find a mentor? If you are a dancer who needs a lot of demonstrating or a dancer who loves lots of directions and corrections…you want to train regularly with that person, or people, that provide you with what you want.

As a dance student I liked a class that went fast. I didn’t want or need much verbal explanation. I liked to just jump right in and try it. The mirror and I would just figure it out. Sometimes a good analogy can help. A way of thinking about a certain step…for example, when you are trying to balance in a releve, think about a string continuously pulling you up and keep pulling up and up…

Some dancers need to solidify their plan for the moves in their head first. Some dancers are all physical and want hands on adjustments. There is no right way or wrong way to study and practice dance. Dancing is a very personal experience. It is all about you. Your body. Your mind. Your expression.

At different points in your dance life you may also want different things from your teachers, choreographers and even fellow dancers. There are times when you want that comfort class where you know what the teacher wants before they even tell you. There are also times when you want to leave your comfort zone and try something really new.

When you come across your favourite classes and ideal teachers, you will just know. It will just feel right. You will never want to miss that class and you will always be excited and looking forward to going there. A good class and teacher will make you work hard…but they will also make you smile.

Is exhiliration too much to ask? Haa!

No. Not really.

A super dancified class with a great teacher can have you learning, laughing and loving every minute!!!!

In Sanskrit there is a word, “sangha”. It means community or association. It is usually used to describe a spiritual group of people who work on their lives together. Like minded individuals who want to work on the same goals.

I hope you all find your dance sangha.

 

Fall

 

fall-ballet

The curtain is coming down on Summer.

Always kind of a sad time…but exciting too.

New school year starting. New dance classes. New students. New competition season.

There is a lot to look forward to in the Fall and I will look back on Summer with happiness. Summer is always a time for adventure.

This Summer we touched elephants and fed goats. We swam in wave pools and climbed on rocks. We went to baseball games and swam at the beach. There was ice cream and froyo and Pittsburgh and climbing the Toronto sign. Museums and carousels, horses and scooters in the rain. Summer means nature and fun and trying new things. Summer means I don’t have to drive back and forth to school everyday. Summer means I don’t have to pack lunch bags.Summer means soft, healthy looking skin….kissed by the sun….ahhhhhh! Why does Summer have to end?! WHY??!!

Ok. I’ll stop.

Fall is good too.

I look forward to the upcoming Fall dancified season!

I hope to see new dancers in the studio, trying new things. Old dancers in the studio, retrying old things. Haa! I look forward to dancing and laughing and having tons of fun!

Fitness becomes even more important as the weather gets colder. We are out walking less and moving less…we are covered up with sweaters and caring less about the state of our abs. The sun, swimming, running and climbing turn into Hot Chocolate, blankets, movies and fireplaces. (all amazing too…but we still have to move!)

This Fall I will teach some Jazz, some Hip-Hop, Ballet, Barre, Lyrical…some Modern and Contemporary…

We will work on jumps and turns. Kicking with straight legs and perfecting the body roll. Some will work on jetes and some will work on sail turns. Maybe this is the year that you get your fouette turns?! Maybe this is the year that you get your triple pirouette?! Whatever your goals are for this dancified Fall. Be brave and bold. Try everything! Dance with your heart and soul and never forget to have fun! Keep smiling when it’s hard. Laugh when you fall. Always get up and try again…

Break a leg boys and girls…and grown-ups!

Here’s to a very dancified Autumn!

 

 

dancified summer

 

 

My favorite season is here! SUMMER! Time to go to the beach and the park! Time for the zoos and farms and rides and pools! Time for ice cream and lemonade and sandals and sunshine! Flowers and fun and festivals and dancing! Summer is an amazing time for dancing.

There are Summer programs everywhere and it is a great time to try some new stuff. Teachers in every city are giving workshops and Master classes. You can try all sorts of choreography and fresh dance styles. Whether you are able to travel around, or will stay near home, I encourage you to try a different class this Summer and learn something new and dancified!

If you can’t get out to an exciting dance camp or workshop then you can get dancified on your couch too!

Flashback in time with some old Janet Jackson videos like Rhythm Nation! Re-watch the final dance scene from Center Stage! Play some “Everybody Dance Now” do some living room booty shaking and have some fun! Read a sensational dance book like Dancing on my Grave. Watch the original FAME movie or check out something more recent like Iggy Azalea’s TEAM video. Put on some heels and work it like Beyonce! Watch Formation or sing Countdown. Read about Alvin Ailey. Do stretches up against your wall. Ballet at the beach and Hip-Hop in the park.

Whatever you do…

…make sure it is dancified!

Have an amazing Summer everyone!

wabi-sabi

 

There is a Japanese theory called Wabi-sabi, where things are considered most beautiful when they have a flaw or are broken. A vase with a chip in it or a plate with a crack do not necessarily need to be thrown away, but they can be appreciated as objects that wear badges of time well spent and of being a well loved, used and enjoyed item. So is the dancer’s broken toe or pulled muscle Wabi-sabi? The blisters on their feet… Is that a beautiful sign of authenticity, use, love and being of service? Totally Wabi-sabi.

Wabi-sabi is saying that imperfection adds to beauty. It is a concept that seems so opposite from everything being told to us in the world today. Maybe that is why I like it so much. But it is so true. Nothing can actually be perfect. What perfect even means would be different for everyone.  For example, I like a small, old house with a porch. My daughter likes box houses with giant windows. My son would say condo or farm. There is no right or wrong. Every one of us sees perfection through different eyes. But we are also all very much the same. No body is unbreakable. No dancer does not stumble and fall. I prefer an old scuffed up teapot to a new shiny one. I like objects that have character. Same with dancers. It is hard to apply Wabi-sabi to ballet in particular. It is all about precision. However, I can see the character and authenticity…the naturalness and raw quality when they are at the barre. The dancer may be striving for strong, physical exactness but they are wearing shabby leg warmers, ripped tights and shoes with holes to do it. They are letting their Wabi-sabi shine through.

The dancers we love to watch the most, have spirit and emotion. Emotions are messy and genuine. Wabi-sabi. We see the heart break, the joy, the fear or the confusion. That extra dimension of naturalness and authenticity creates the balance with the pretty perfection and endears us to it more deeply. We all like things that are a little damaged. Like people…no one gets through life without a scar or two. A bruise, a chip, a fall or a break.

Wabi-sabi teaches us to embrace the imperfect. It teaches us to see the beauty of the cracked, broken or fleeting. In the dance studio or out in the real world it would serve all of us well to appreciate and see a little more of the beauty in our flaws and imperfections. Which aren’t really flaws at all…

never too late…

 

Is it really never too late to start again? Does that saying make sense? I believe that it does and in the dance studio I see it lived out all the time.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. That’s a good one too.

If you set out to try something new or accomplish a goal and it doesn’t go how you planned, do you just throw in the towel and give up? No. You don’t.

If your dance routine isn’t received well or your pirouettes are off balance, do you just stop doing them?

Of course not.

You always have the chance to start over and try again. It is never too late. Call a do-over and get back to work. Take it from the top and begin again. Clean up your choreography. Practice that routine more. Extra training on the skills needed for perfect pirouettes. Analyze, review, research, learn, work and after you have done that, start again.

I teach adults. Many of them were away from a dance studio for ten years or more. They settled into careers and families and then decided it was time to start again. Coming back to dance can be challenging but a dancer’s muscle memory is pretty strong. A dancer’s soul memory is also powerful stuff. Coming back and starting over after having kids or just being away is one thing. Coming back after injury can be a very trying experience. Maintaining flexibility and staying in shape with physical limitations can be tricky. Keeping up your stamina and not getting discouraged is all part of a difficult process. And it is a process that requires immense dedication and patience. Coming back after absence or injury may also mean you have to learn how to train in new ways and do things differently this time. For myself, I remember after having had my first baby I went to a Mommy and Baby fitness class. I went at it with the energy and force that I would have always used before and then proceeded to almost die. Haa! The instructor even came over to me and told me to take it easy and that my body needed a little more time after having been off giving life before I could go all out dancified again.

The adults I am privileged to see in class, who are all brave and awesome for starting again, know that this time around they will do things differently. They are also dancing with different intentions and with different goals. This time they came to the dance studio with a new purpose and they are starting again to do something they love and to do it for themselves.

Start over. Start again. Try again. Never give up.

Keep getting dancified….but if you have to stop, remember…it is never too late to start again.

 

Break a Leg!

break a leg

Get out the fake hair! Bust out the make-up! Glue on those false lashes and get on the road…it’s time for dance competition season!

Is it appropriate to say try your best? Just have fun? Kick some ass? Don’t come back to the studio without a trophy? Haa! There are many different takes on how to prepare the dancers for competition. I am not currently teaching or choreographing for competitive dancers. I teach grown-ups now. But back in the day, when I did have competitive dancers, I was more of a “do your best and have fun” kind of a teacher.

Is it really all about winning?

Well…winning can be nice. Haa!

Winning IS the goal of any contest. But, it really ISN’T everything.

Competitions can also be about testing new choreography. Working on performance skills. Assessing how you measure up in the greater picture of things outside your own studio. And a big one is seeing how you dance under pressure. Sometimes you will be the best and you will win. Sometimes you will not be the best and you will not win. Sometimes you will be the best but you will still not win. A dance competition is not always a clear cut, who danced best situation. The adjudicators are humans with their own style preferences and tastes in music. If you remind the judge of his ex-girlfriend maybe you don’t win? If you did a comedy number but the judge prefers a more technical piece…? Hard to judge. These people are human and their personal preferences will come into play. So you need to just go to the competition, presenting your best, showing them what you’ve got and see what happens. Some adjudicators like to look more at faces. Others will stare at your feet and knees, waiting to see if your technique holds up. Just make your big, enthusiastic entrance, make lots of eye contact and do your thing!

If you get a chance to watch the competition before it is your own turn, then you may be able to get a few ideas about which adjudicator likes which style. If judge number one loves being smiled at then direct your teeth towards that judge and don’t stop smiling! Judge number three is horrified by too much booty shaking? Tone it down a smidge for them maybe? But even without knowing anything about them in advance you have to just go out onto that stage, trust your instincts, do the choreography you have prepared and work it!

It is a competition but it is also a performance opportunity. Adjudicators aside, engage the audience, have fun and put on a good show. Don’t let your nerves get to you and don’t let the desire to win outweigh your enjoyment of performing.

Be gracious and thankful when winning and please, still smile even when not winning. No one can win every time and it really is not the end of the world if you place third. Remember that your dance may have been spectacular but the adjudicators just liked another one a little more. Remember that you want to be honest and if you did discover that you have things that should be worked on and improved upon then take the information back to the studio and start training.

As I said earlier, I am the kind of teacher and choreographer that above all else will tell you, as you are about to go on to the stage…

Enjoy it! Break a leg! Do your best! Go crazy!

Have tons of fun!

And be very, VERY dancified!!!!