dance diversity

 

 

My daughter really likes a certain kind of music. She thinks it is better than ANY other kind of music. So much so, that she doesn’t even want to listen to any of the other inferior music styles out there. At all. What’s a Mom to do? And I am a Mom who loves many, MANY different styles of music.

I launched into a passionate rant about being well rounded and appreciating diversity in music. I raged about all the great musicians and artists out there. I think I did a pretty amazing job. Truly. I sold it. It was beautiful and powerful. I’m sure she will remember my speech for the rest of her life. (ya, right. Haa!)

Anyway, being well rounded, I think, is extremely important in life. You want to be able to talk to other people about many different things and to do many different things. It is great to be diverse when it comes to people, books, hobbies, music and whatever else. But for a dancer, being well rounded is actually vital. Not just a nice thing to be, but an absolute necessity.

It is proven week after week on that show on TV…you know, the So You Think You Can show. You have to be able to do many different kinds of dance to win that show. All the dancers must do different styles of Hip-Hop, Jazz, Contemporary, Theatre, Ballroom, maybe even some Ballet.  You need to have the ability to interpret various musical styles. Perform as different characters, follow distinct counting, rhythms and just be overall diversified. Variety is the spice of life they say. Variety is the dancer’s most valued asset.

You will not need as much diversity in the world of ballet…but even then, you will be called upon to do some different styles, eg. contemporary and classical, also some character and folk dancing. Broadway dancers are required to be majorly well rounded. They will be called upon to do period dances like a Charleston or The Jive. They need Jazz and theatre styles, like Fosse for example. Each show may have many different styles in it and you may have to do Hip-Hop, Ballet or some Salsa. It also helps if you have tricks in your arsenal. Some acro, pas de deux, Tap perhaps? Back up dancers for pop music world tours need to be well rounded as well. I could go on all day about all the types of dancing that you should at least try once to get the feel for it and have it on hand when necessary.

There is a reason why fitness people do cross training…dance cross training can be amazing for the dancer’s body too. Set out to be a well rounded dancer and you will reap all kinds of rewards, I promise you.

If you always do ballet, try some jazz sometime. Always shaking your booty? Try holding it still at the barre! Do some belly dancing or take a swing class…

You never know what you will find or experience when you try something new and “cross train”. At some audition in the future, when they ask, “does anyone here know how to lindy hop?” you will thank me when you are able to raise your hand!

So, I told my daughter that if she really loves music then she should try to respect, appreciate and at least sample ALL the different styles out there.  (I said try…even I don’t appreciate some of it. Haa!)

Being well rounded in music and in dance really does make things more interesting.

Being well rounded in dance can give you so many more options for work.

Being well rounded in life is a great idea for ALL people and hopefully opens our eyes to new ideas, experiences and ways.

Being well rounded helps us appreciate different things and different people.

Never a bad thing.

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celebrate good times…come on!

 

I am currently planning a big party for a family member’s special birthday.

I’m going through all the must haves for a good celebration. I’m doing the research into prices and availability. Food, drinks, music, decorations…I have been asking around to hear what people think makes a party a success.

Most people say good food is top priority. Some think location or decor.  I say the most important thing is the music. I don’t care much about the caterer but I insist upon an excellent DJ.

I don’t just say that because of my personal love of music and dance, but I know the power of music and that dancing can amplify and enhance any celebration. In fact, dancing is a universal way to celebrate in itself. The Hora is done at Jewish celebrations. The Greek, Sirtos. The Whirling Dervishes elevate dance to have religious significance. Every culture has its own dance that they will do at celebrations and festivals.

And dance is not only for celebrating around the world, but there are ceremonial dances too. For example, The Haka which is a posturing dance from New Zealand that the rugby team performs before a game.  Native American rain dances are a great demonstration of the importance placed on dance in some cultures and we can also see the power of music and dance in something like the opening of the Ellen show on television daily.

And music…

Music has changed attitudes, been the voice of a generation or a movement. Music can create a moment, a feeling and an energy. The influence of music on people deserves an endless page of writing all to itself. I could go on and on about the body and soul’s reaction to different kinds of music…but now is not the time or place.

To get myself back on topic…

I will not underestimate the value of good tunes at our party.

What am I looking for in a DJ? Someone who knows which song they can play, that after hearing the intro, will make everyone look at each other, make that face of recognition and jump up to hit the floor. I’m looking for someone who can read the crowd and feel, when and if, the guests want to go a little crazier or if they need to slow it down.  A good DJ takes all requests and keeps the person that hired them happy. A great DJ will play music for all age groups and know which tunes from the past will make people smile.  A fantastic DJ keeps the crowd on the dance floor all night long and sends out a positive energy and a love for music.

I should state here though that I am not a fan of the group dancing thing that goes on at some parties. I love it in a musical when everyone knows the same moves and the whole dance floor breaks out into the same choreography, but dances like the Achy Breaky Heart thing or the Macarena…Grease, Electric Slide? I don’t really want to Time Warp again or stay at the YMCA. I know people love to go there…but not me. (Sorry) Our party will be a conga line free zone.  No backs will be harmed trying to limbo and we will not Shake it Off either.

So I put music and dance at the highest level of importance for a good celebration to be had.

I will place our happiness in the DJ’s hands along with my oh so very extremely long list of requests. (well…I am not “requesting” I am ordering these songs to be played. Haa!) I will wear a danceable outfit and rock the night away trying not to embarrass my children too much. I might moon walk. I might throw in some krumping as the night goes on…who knows what will happen when that 90’s hip-hop I asked for comes on. Who will step it up when Let Me Clear My Throat is played? Who will bust out the Tootsie Roll? The Roger Rabbit? The Running Man? (now you can tell how old I am can’t you?! Haa!)

I think being a DJ is one of the greatest jobs on earth and I would love to be one. I get a small taste of the thrill and power of being the DJ when I teach dance class. I do get to pick the music for warm-up, for choreography, for cool down. I get to set the mood and style with the music. If I want the class to have a lot of energy there are songs that bring that out. If I want the class to feel calm there is music to chill. Maybe someday I can live out the real DJ dream…but until then I will leave the party dance floor to be conducted by the professionals.

We will dance and laugh and be joyful!

We will celebrate good times!

Never underestimate the power of the music and the dance.

In the DJ we trust.

 

 

 

 

 

 

things I don’t miss about dancing, from my younger years…

  • those old ballet pink tights with the seams up the back.
  • getting fitted for costumes…nobody should be sticking pins near my private region Haa!
  • the splits. all I have to say.
  • the moment when the choreographer starts giving out spots. to be front and center or to be in the back?
  • did we really wear bodysuits where the leg was cut so high my hip bones were exposed?
  • and did we then add a belt to that?
  • lambs wool
  • making that perfect bun in your hair, properly in line with your ears.
  • the make-up
  • the french braids (that’s how we rolled back in the day…before the fake hair started)
  • the competition where everyone uses the same song. “Pump up the Jam”…for the 13th time.
  • stage mothers…I guess now known as dance moms.
  • perma smiles vs. natural faces.
  • tap shoes with the soooo not pretty height of heel.
  • shimmery skin color tights
  • ok…I’ll stop now. Those were good times. Really unattractive times. But good times.

now I am happy to be old. a grown-up dancer who wears what I want. tights, no tights, bun, no bun. no high cut body suits. yes to leggings and shorts. the freedom! no splits. no lambs wool. now the dance moms are the moms who are dancing. I can booty shake and jump and spin and I don’t care whether I am in front or not. it’s good to be the grown-up! It’s soooo good to be dancified!

 

 

dancified homework

 

For those of you who want to get dancified at home, here it is:

dancified basic warm-up

(I know….yes, I have heard of YouTube…but I’m writing it out for you anyway…like in the olden days)

 

Start with your head and neck isolations…

Down and up – turn side to side – tilt – half circles – full circles

Shoulders – up and down – rolls – shake – arm circles

Ribcage – side/side and front/back – maybe circles

Side bends. Arm over head, bend side/side

(add in some body rolls here if you are into hip-hop)

Now some hip action!

Side/side and circles

Touch your toes, nose to knees, right then left and middle.

How about some plies now?

Good low plies in 2nd are what I like to do…

Upper body ready…time for full lunges front or side (back leg straight, front bent) and flexibility stretching like sitting on the floor in 2nd. (legs out to the sides)

Against the wall stretches (legs in 2nd, butt against the wall, let gravity do the work) or same position face the wall…kitchen counter barre stretches are the best!

Sit in butterfly position (sitting knees bent, bottoms of feet together)

Stretch out your legs in front of you, reach for your toes, put your head down on your knees.

And then you can move on to whatever specific stuff you want to work on…harder stretches, ab work, arches of the feet, get turning, jumping, booty shaking…get dancified!

There you go. Basic dancified warm-up. Take out version.

Happy stretching!

My Way…(but your way is good too)

 

What is the goal?

Of your dance class I mean.

Fitness? Fun? Health? Joy? Some need a target time, like a show, exam or competition. Some just enjoy it for what it is and see each class as the goal itself. For some, a single step becomes a goal, like mastering the pirouette or learning a fouette turn. Some students want to work to perfect the same routine week after week and others like the challenge of new choreography with each class. All grown-ups, all children, all students have their own learning style and their own motivation and goals for going to a dance class. For me, as a student, each class was a goal. To do all the combinations correctly and well. To pick up the choreography fast and in the end to dance my best, use the most energy and feel the high. My goal was never specifically to win the competition or pass the exam. Cleaning and perfecting the steps for a show was never as fun for me as just going all out with a routine in class, the thrill of starting new choreography or dancing to a song I loved. The passing of exams and winning competitions come along with it though. If you like what you are doing, you will practice and get better and better without ever considering it work. Once the music came on, I never thought about whether my toes were pointed or my leg was in proper alignment. When the music started, my brain turned off, my body (or maybe my spirit?) took over, and whatever happened, happened.

Like the different methods of the dance students, teachers also have their own ways.

I had a conversation with a dancified student the other day about the different styles of dance teachers. Mainly, why some give lots of corrections and some give none at all. I said that I like to give tips and advice on how to make it easier to do a certain step, but I don’t feel like most adult recreational dancers want to work on technique the same way a younger dancer would. Or a professional dancer needs to. There is no show or competition to train for. The grown-ups are not preparing for auditions. I don’t need the entire class to have the same arms or angle of the head. A correction for the dancer’s safety or to help them make the move feel better…yes.  Corrections just for presentation purposes…no. I think it is up to each teacher to read the needs and wants of the class, or even each participant, and know when to give the correction and when to just let the dancers be and allow them to enjoy their dancing. You need to figure out who wants to be corrected and who wants the freedom to just do what is comfortable for their body. By all means, when you have a teenage competitive team whip them into shape with tons of corrections and enforce perfect unison of all positions. With the grown-ups…aside from a few exceptions (like the student I was talking to)…time to give them the say over their own dance class experience. They’ve earned it.

dancified holidays

happy-holidays

 

Can you do some dancified holiday shopping and shake your booty to some of the holiday tunes playing?

Dance gifts for everyone?

How about you do some dancing around the Christmas tree?

Make sure you have some good music on when you are cooking or cleaning. Music to wrap presents to. Music to set the table with.

Don’t get too dancified at your work party though…I still want you to be employed and able to show your face at the office in the new year. Haa!

My favourite dancified holiday movie is White Christmas. Watch it!

It is super dancified to use your kitchen counter like a barre and do some stretching while waiting for the turkey to be ready.

It is extremely dancified to do some pirouettes while hanging your stockings by the chimney with care.

Even better…can you hang leg warmers? Ballet slippers? Jazz shoes?

Decorate your tree with taps, ipods, tutus and tights!

Ok…I will stop now.

Happy holidays to all of you dancified people out there!

May your days be merry and bright, may there be tons of music and dancing and fun, enjoy yourselves…enjoy the time when you do not have to suck in your tummy or point your toes!

Have a happy holiday season and a dancified New Year!

What I like…

heart

 

 

What I like about HIP-HOP is the energy behind it.

There are not a lot of outlets for that kind of energy. The kind of energy I mean is…well…a little hard to explain…but I’ll try. It’s tough and hard core and strong and in your face but it can also be sexy and cute and uninhibited and silly. It is a whole lot of styles, moods and movements that are unexpressed throughout a normal day in a normal world. It can be kind of a primal thing at times. Playful too. It is always, ALWAYS a crazy good, bouncy, shaky, go wild sweat fest! The Hip-Hop attitude and energy is a necessity for doing it right. That attitude is found within and must be demonstrated with power and conviction. People are always asking me about the “it” factor in Hip-Hop. The energy and style are hard to teach. The moves can be worked on in class but the attitude must be found inside your soul.

 

What I like about LYRICAL is all in the name.

Lyrical allows me, and encourages me, to become an actor for the day. I can use the lyrics of the music to tell a story and act out a character. With outstretched arms you declare your love. With hands to your head you display your anguish. Lyrical is the perfect dance style for the drama queens in all of us. There are many similarities in the actual steps in Contemporary, Jazz, Contemporary Ballet, Modern and Lyrical. What I like about Lyrical the most, is the permission it gives me to get just a little bit corny and let yourself be sweetly over dramatic.

 

I like that BALLET BARRE is a dance class security blanket.

What I like about Barre is that you get to hold on to something for support and it is always pretty much the same. Security. Regularity. Routine. No surprises. You are not expected to perform. You don’t have to move from your spot. Also, you are not usually right in front of the all knowing wall of mirrors while you do it. Barre is a quiet place to hold on and work. You have the time to think about each and every movement and analyze your placement. You care for and strengthen your muscles, stretch, warm up and get ready for when the time comes and you have to let go. I like the routine of the Barre. I like how the dancer mindset takes over when the intro of the first music is heard and you sink into the first demi plie. Barre is like my morning coffee…only, I guess better for me. (Haa!)

 

dancified year one!


Ilovedancing

live_love_laugh_dance_tote_bag

It has been exactly one year since I put on the tights and taught a dance class again. After a long absence to have kids and be a full time Mommy, I decided to start dancified dance classes for grown-ups. I set out to see if I could get some other adults back into the dance studio with me and I set out to see if I still knew what I was doing. (Haa!)

I am happy and grateful to report that I am pleased with the results of both these goals.

Without much advertising at all, dancers have found dancified and made their way to the studio! Some great dancers too!!!! These dancified dancers love to move and to challenge themselves. They know how to work hard but they also know how to laugh. It is a pleasure to choreograph for them and they make me smile.

I have had the privilege of meeting and dancing with some very interesting and amazing people. Truly. On that basis alone, I consider this first year to be a huge success.

A frequent comment I hear from the adults is that they notice changes in their brain after they have been back in a dance class for a while. The speed at which they pick up the steps and their memory improves greatly. Dance class keeps your mind sharp and quick. As much as, or even more so, than dance affects the body, it seems that the dancers are extremely impressed with the results for their minds.

Doing the splits or the highest jump is not as important to us anymore but the overall feeling of being strong and fit is what we are enjoying. In addition to the physical benefits and the mental benefits, the feeling of freedom and elation that dancing can give, goes far to relieve stress and bring happiness to the dancers. (and their teacher!)

I can see the improvements in the adults that dance regularly and I can feel the year of work on my own body.

A year of stretching and bending and balancing again. A year of spinning and jumping and kicking again. It does make you feel younger. It does make you feel healthier. I can’t recommend enough the importance of staying bendy! You will have less groaning when you get up out of a chair or out of a bend. More range of motion and ease of movement while doing…anything…will make you feel better and your life more enjoyable.

I have had a year of doing ballet again, and jazz and hip-hop…other styles too…

I GET TO (not have to) go to a dance studio each week and listen to amazing music. I can jump and spin and wear leg warmers. I can laugh and sing, even at the barre. I am getting a work out and doing something amazing for my body mind and spirit. My muscles are worked. My brain is used. My artistic expression is shared and my creativity fulfilled.

I have no complaints about this first dancified year. I have learned a lot and look forward to learning more. Adults should be taught differently than children or teens and I am enjoying every hour of that process. When a grown-up who hasn’t danced in years makes their return to dancing, nothing beats the look of joy I see on their face!

I am so thankful I have this opportunity and l am excited to keep growing the classes and the program for many more years to come.

But my favourite part of it all, for sure, has been meeting the dancers.

Thank you to all of you who have come to get dancified!

You are all positive, brave, fun, funny, strong, awesome, fit, smart, beautiful, energetic, talented…and, of course, extremely worthy of the title…dancified!

bye bye Summer

mother-and-children-sunset-featured-w480x300

The turning of the leaves. The adding of the sweaters. Back to school and work and making lunches. Back to drop-off and pick up. Goodbye tank tops. Hello school bags. We went to the beach. We went to the amusement park. We went to a baseball game. We did skateboarding, climbing, walking, trampolining, laser tagging and swimming. We saw movies and friends and farm animals and flowers. We ate frozen yogurt and frozen lemonade.

What I learned this Summer was how nice it is to NOT follow a routine. To wake up when you want to, decide how you want to spend the day and then go out and find adventure. Even your own routine city locations can be re-discovered and explored. A Summer break from routine allowed for relaxation and creative thinking. When your time isn’t automatically filled for you, there is much contemplation to be done about what to do.

What to do?

Whatever you want. Imagine that.

A true break from routine.

A great Summer was had.

In dance class it is always routine. Same plies. Same pirouettes. The dance choreography is even called the “routine”.

However, in class and in performance, there always comes a time when a dancer has to improvise.

Summer of improv. Time to take your bow.

Looking forward to an awesome and dancified school year…

back to the routine…

leaves

For all of the dancers who were off for the Summer and are now going back to the studio and the routine:

Go slow and be nice to yourself. Be forgiving of your body. It has been on a break. Give yourself time to get up to speed again. Do a lot of stretching and extra stretching but know that dancified bodies have amazing muscle memory and will get back to it no problem. Be careful but enthusiastic. Have fun and welcome back!