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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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!!!!

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Which comes first…?

53691-425x282-Famousmoderndancersincredible-beautiful-slhouette-03   -music-note-clipart-7

Which comes first, the music or the steps?

I will not keep you in suspense. In my opinion…absolutely, 100%…music first, choreography next.

There are teachers and choreographers who imagine a certain type of dance movement and then seek out the music that will suit it. Some will have music composed specifically for a certain dance piece or there are pieces done to just a drum or spoken word.

My favourite part of the choreographic process is when the music tells me what to do.

It tells me.

I hear something and it just appears in my mind. My body just does it. It’s like magic! I would not want to work in any order other than music first, choreography second.

For me, (and I can only speak for me and there is no right or wrong way with an artistic process) dance is nothing without the music. Dance is an expression of the music. Dance is what my body wants to do when it hears music and while listening to music, often times my brain is making up steps to do to the music. I have now learned to turn that part of my brain off while driving though. I was a bit of a hazard operating a motor vehicle while simultaneously mentally choreographing.

Sometimes you have to choreograph focussing mainly on what looks good. Sometimes you get to just relax and do what feels good. Ideally you find the perfect combination of both. When the dancer’s body is doing a beautiful looking move at a precise moment in the music with a dramatic sound with a descriptive lyric that is all seamlessly tied together dazzling my eyes, drawing in my mind…well, that, my friends, is my nirvana! My bliss! Ahhhhh…dancing. Happy place.

I may have just found enlightenment. Hmmm…ok, maybe not.

However, I do love to choreograph and I particularly enjoy trying to find the right music and movements that will make my students FEEL. Feel happy. Feel brave. Feel the love. Ok, so some days it gets a little weirder and I find myself saying things like, “feel like an angry teenager” or “the grandfather on Parenthood died, this one’s for Zeke!”

To each their own! Choreograph what you like! Even if you don’t think you are a choreographer, when you hit a dance floor I know you become one, so you can relate. When you decide to raise your arms or shake your booty or flip your hair…that is choreography!

And I bet you did it because, magically, the music told you to!

And that…is dancified.

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 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.