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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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.

 

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.

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…

“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.

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!