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.

 

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…

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.

“…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.