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!!!!

 

 

 

Advertisements

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!

 

 

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.

 

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.

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!

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!

“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.