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…

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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 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!

“success will ensue…”

frankl dancequotesanches1980-modern-dancer-123rf

I just read “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor E. Frankl. In it, he makes this statement, “Don’t aim at success  – the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue…”

I thought that was a great way of saying it.

Do what you love and success will come.

Just do what you feel good about and you will be happy.

But is this true?

Could this be true in the dance world?

It takes a lot of hard work to see success as a professional dancer. You need to set specific goals and achieve them. A dance career will not just show up if you are not well trained…but…we have all seen that the most successful dancers are not always the technically superior dancers. The dancers with heart and passion are the world’s favourite to watch. I definitely do not receive as much enjoyment from watching the dancer with the highest extension or most turns as I do from watching the dancer that is bursting with energy and it is visible how much they love what they are doing.

If you are good at what you do, chances are it will be seen, and you will be rewarded with success. If you live your life with purpose and meaning then happiness will be there too. You don’t have to climb a mountain to find it. No gurus necessary. Find your own passion and go with it.

I don’t think you could be a dancer if you didn’t feel you HAD to be a dancer. The amount of hours involved in professional training and the blood, sweat and tears…you would not do it if it was not a love. Certain career choices are logical and voluntary, while others are a calling or a way of life. Viktor thinks we should all find our own way of life and our own meaning.

“For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue…”

Do what you love and the success and happiness will follow.

For doing what you love, I already consider you successful.

falling on your butt…

falling   bowphoto_fitness_hiphopwatching

You risk falling when you try a big jump. You risk being dropped by your partner while doing a lift. You risk feeling silly trying new moves and when you put your body and soul out in front of audiences and adjudicators, sometimes receiving a negative response. The whole dance thing can be a risk taking adventure. But is that a bad thing? No. It’s not. It’s great. Taking a risk is a really good thing for you to do.

After falling a few times you then accomplish the tricky jump. You get to soar through the air feeling amazing and looking spectacular. You master the difficult lift impressing yourself and the audience. You and your partner find the rhythm, timing and connection needed and you no longer worry but start dancing beautiful duets.

If you didn’t take the risk in the first place you would never find the joy and success on the other side.

Going to dance class can seem scary for those who have never tried it before and even for those who go regularly. Each class is different so you don’t know completely what to expect. You don’t know ahead of time what the choreography will be. What if it’s hard? What if I can’t do it? What if I don’t do it as well as everybody else? There can be a lot of worry going to any dance or fitness class because you are putting yourself out there and moving your body and learning, in front of other people.

Here is a secret though…

The other students are NOT watching you. They are not. Not really. Obviously people in the same room notice each other, but especially with adult, non-competitive dancers, people are more focused on themselves. When you start doing the dance combination you are concentrating on yourself, not on the people around you. Everyone is watching THEMSELF in the mirror. Not you. So don’t be nervous and judge yourself harshly. Just have fun and learn. Give yourself time to get used to it. Give yourself permission to make mistakes and feel silly. Give yourself a break. Everybody makes mistakes and feels silly sometimes, even the professionals.

Some people go into a class knowing the moves already and some people don’t. Some are more flexible than the others. There are students who like to stand right in the front of the class and have confidence even if they are not doing everything exactly right. There are students who hide in the back even though they know exactly what they’re doing. Whether you have the dancified risk taking gene or not, on behalf of all dance instructors out there, (well, maybe not ALL, but many…) I feel that I can say, we want you to come to dance class and feel like it is a place of happiness, health and learning. We want you to dance full out and take the risk of falling flat on your butt!

The big fall flat on your butt move is not a result of bad dancing…it is a sign of a great dancer! You are a dance class participant who put their ALL into trying the steps. It is evidence that you are a risk taker and for that I will always applaud you.

Take a risk and then take your bow.

You can take the girl out of the dance studio…but you can’t take the dance out of the girl.

studio

You can take the girl out of the dance studio…but you can’t take the dance out of the girl.

For real. It’s true.

Before getting back into the dance studio to teach again, I wondered if I would remember what to do. Would my body still be able to do the steps it used to? Would my brain even be able to absorb and remember the combinations of steps? I also wondered whether it would feel really different than how it used to feel when I was “younger”.

It’s been like riding a bike.

(Ok, so I have previously mentioned that I can’t ride a bike and once ran into my own car…but you know what I mean about the riding a bike thing.)

The pirouettes came back. The tendues were still there. Hello again plies. Nice to have you back rib isolations. Hips still shaking. Shoulders still rolling. I am thrilled to report that my brain still works and my old body does too.

Well…there are a few little differences…I’ll admit it. You pulled it out of me! I confess!

I am a little less flexible and bendy than I used to be, but I don’t have the same need to slide into the splits anymore, so it is not a big deal.  Maybe I wobble a smidge more when I do a releve? Ok…and also…ummm…no, maybe….nope. Think that’s it. See, nothing so tragic has happened in my advanced years. Haa!

Really. It is all still there, and when the music comes on it is go time and my body rewards me with the good old spark it used to provide.

In the past few months I have heard from students and friends who have also returned to the dance studio after a long absence and have ALL lived to tell about it. You might have some sore muscles that first morning after, but it will be totally worth it.

There is that saying about can’t teach an old dog new tricks…but I bet that old dog can still do his old tricks. (not that I am calling anyone a dog…or old)

You are never too old to learn something new.

You are also never too old to go back and once again do something you love.

All Grown Up

blank-calendar-2015-02   grown-up

On becoming the grown-up…

Now I am the one who says “Put on your jacket, it’s cold out.” and “Bring a sweater just in case.”

I’m the one who goes around forcing people to drink water when it’s hot out.

I am always asking if anyone needs a bathroom. I enforce bedtime.  My purse is usually full of snacks and Kleenex.

“Stop sniffing and blow your nose” is something that frequently comes out of my mouth, in addition to, “You know, eating four puddings might not make your tummy feel so good?”

Being the grown-up means that I provide the band-aids and clean the clothes. I go to parent-teacher interviews and I drive the car. I also get to make the call on which superhero movie is acceptable to watch (Thor is always ok, Haa!) and I get to try and answer kid questions to the best of my ability. I have the honor of being chief grocery shopper and treasurer and I am the plunger of the toilets.

It is pretty glamorous to be the grown-up.

As I mark things down on my sacred fridge calendar and try to remember who needs to wear white to school and who needs new socks, I stop and flashback to a time when I had no calendar on my fridge. A time when I had no decent food in my fridge. And a time when I slept until at least noon every day.

I would wake up and leisurely decide what I would do with all the hours of the day, if I wanted to do anything at all.

(ahhhh…let’s just take a moment and really remember that…)

I did not dress appropriately for the weather because looking cool was more important than staying warm. I did not carry around Kleenex. I worried about no one’s bathroom frequency, not even my own.

As I look at the official calendar on my fridge, with gymnastics and karate all over it. With birthday parties, play dates, school events and reminders…

As I come out of my flashback and experience the shock that I am actually the grown-up now, I then smile and have a thankful minute.

I am the grown-up now and that is pretty awesome.

I am the grown-up now and I’m not bad at it.

I have been lucky to grow up.

I have been lucky to have kids.

I am lucky my kids have parties to attend and gymnastics and karate and friends.

I am thankful for all of the days on the calendar.

I am happy to be the grown-up.

I’m all grown up and that is ok.

(If you are wondering why the dancified lady’s kids are not taking dance…they tried it, it was not a love. But they are still very dancified!)

“…all you need is just a little patience”

ballarina-points-pirouette-swirl

Patience in dance. Patience in life.

Dancing has taught me many different things. Not only the obvious physical skills, but life lessons as well.

Today I will be extolling the virtues of how dance class can be a lesson in patience.

First, let me clarify that I think there is a difference between waiting and patience. Waiting your turn. Waiting for the music to start. Waiting for the next choreography to be given are all qualities needed for a dance student. Patience is the mindful act of knowing that some things just can not happen immediately. You require patience when just waiting would be ineffective. Some things need time and practice. Some things will only happen for you when the time is right.

I could be talking about pirouettes or I could be talking about many aspects of our lives.

Let’s talk pirouettes and go from there. (if any of you don’t know what a pirouette is, look at above picture…it is a turn or spin done on one leg) When you first start learning a pirouette you have to first learn what is called the “preparation”. You learn the correct positioning for your feet and arms that will ready you for the big spin. You also have to have learned something called “spotting”. You focus your eyes on a certain spot to ensure the revolution makes it back around to the front and it prevents dizziness. If you have a grasp on how to prepare and how to spot…time to try a pirouette. Wait…you also need balance. You need to be turning in the right direction. You need to not fall over. You need to point the toe of the foot that is not on the ground. You need to be on a full releve…there is a whole list of requirements associated with doing just one quick pirouette. It is similar to the checklist a pilot must go through before take-off. (ok. obviously not as critical but I’m making a point here…relax)

Can you possibly learn all of those things in one class? No.

Can you possibly master all of those preps and positions in ten classes? The answer is still, most likely, no.

Somewhere along the way you will get frustrated. You might want to stop practicing your pirouettes altogether. Maybe you go the other route and refuse to stop practicing ever. Neither option is the way to get there. Not working on it at all obviously will improve nothing and accomplish nothing. Pushing too hard can have some pretty lousy results. It does not create quality work to dance angry and overwork can lead to injury. Working hard is great and imperative to success but sometimes you have to stop…(can’t believe I am going to write this…yuck) beating a dead….can’t say horse…too sad. Beating a dead you-know-what? (not good. no one should be beating anything) Or it’s like banging your head against the wall. Or like, oh! Like the definition of crazy where you keep trying the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. (better?)

Pirouettes, like life, can go kinda badly if you don’t work at it enough OR if you push too hard.

Balance is key.

Have patience. Look at the pirouette from a different perspective. Try something new. Take another approach. Rome wasn’t built in a day! (another corny saying…sorry)

Have patience. Your mind needs to be ready to accept all of the instructions. Your body needs to be able to execute all of the positions. When your mind knows what to do and your body knows what to do, then your soul can jump in and dance and turn to the music. The patience pays off and you have your pirouette. It did not happen overnight. No instant gratification here. Some things can not be rushed. Most of these things are usually the ones that are more than worth the wait.

There is no instant success in dance or in life. There is hard work, training, passion, commitment and…here it comes…the big finale…the big message…

wait for it…(HAAAAA!)

…patience.

Why should the kids have all the fun?

I once bought my mother a t-shirt that said, “Dancer’s mom. I just drive.”
I don’t want to just drive! I get tired of driving, and my tush needs a break.
We may not be kids anymore…but we should still dance like them.
Dancing is actually one of the most natural and involuntary things on the planet. You don’t have to be doing pirouettes or jetes to be dancing. When music comes on most people, even unconsciously, start to move. A little head bob. A bit of a toe tap. Maybe some shoulder action.
Dancing is part of most celebrations in almost every culture and dancing has been going on since the beginning of time.
Nowadays, dancing is probably the most popular it has ever been with television shows and competitions making it very mainstream.
So why don’t we dance like the kids do?
They have school dances. Classes. Parties. Dance in gym at school. They do musicals or competitions. They have dance teams and dance clubs. Somehow it is ok for cute teens to start dancing in public when they hear a good tune come on, but it is not cool for me to start busting a move at Loblaws? Not fair!
I urge all the moms out there, (dads too) especially the dance moms, to start dancing! You go girls! Work it ladies! You got this!
You don’t just drive!
You may not be a kid anymore…but I want you to still dance like one!
I do it all the time!

group fitness vs. dance class

Let’s start by clearing something up.

Will it be the answer to “Why do socks go missing in the dryer?” NO. (and I’m missing one of my favourite Mickey Mouse socks too!)

Will it be “What is the meaning of life?” “How to have peace on earth?” Unfortunately…NO. I would be very happy to comment on those things someday, but for now, I can and will, tell you about the difference between group fitness classes and dance classes.

I know. Relax. It IS really exciting but try to stay calm.

In the past few years we have seen an increase in the popularity of dance based fitness classes. It is a great thing. I love it! But why not just go to dance class?

There ARE differences in the two…

Lets compare something like Zumba to just a regular Hip-Hip dance class.

Zumba expects you to follow along and there is no stopping for questions or getting help.

Zumba can start and run for an hour without any talking at all.

It is what I call a sink or swim class.

In a dance class some parts may be follow along, like a warm-up, but when it comes time to learn the choreography, you actually stop the music and learn the choreography. Participants can ask questions, get help and practice before going all out to the music.

In Zumba much of the choreography is repeated in every class. Many people like that and enjoy the chance to review and improve but after many, many weeks it can lose its energy.

In most dance classes you will always be receiving new choreography.

Ok, I know…it sounds like I’m a little biased towards old school dance class right? Who me? Nooooo.

I actually really like group fitness classes but I have seen that they really, REALLY do not work for a lot of the people in the class. I mean ALOT of the people. I have seen them struggling to keep up and follow along. I have witnessed them sinking and it makes me sad.

There is a better way for them. A traditional dance class.