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!

 

 

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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!!!!