Saturday, December 31, 2011

Healthy Supplements for Dancers

I can't really say I believe in taking food supplements. I really think that the healthiest way to get all your essential nutrients is from real food, not from a pill. However, sometimes it's the easiest way to get nutrients, or maybe you need more of something in particular, or maybe you just don't like the way a particular food tastes. Here are some things that I take/have taken, or have heard good things about:

Fish Oil
Omega 3 fatty acids are extremely important to your metabolism. The worst thing? Your body doesn't produce omega 3's. A few ounces of fish per week is recommended at a minimum to get your omega 3's. Other alternatives include flax seeds, walnuts, and kale (recently described as a "super food" by Dance Magazine). Of course, if you don't like any of these foods, the pills are easy enough to take.

This may or may not be one you've heard of, although your parents might have. It's actually the most common non-vitamin, non-mineral dietary supplement. What is it? Glucosamine is a component of healthy cartilage and is used to treat osteoarthritis, especially for the knees. Your body does make glucosamine when you're young, but natural production will stop at some point. I take glucosamine currently because my ligaments are too stretchy - extra glucosamine stabilizes my joints and ligaments.

If you eat curry, you're good here. Turmeric is a powdery spice noted for it's sharp flavor and ochre color. It is an anti-inflammatory agent, anti-bacterial, likely to help prevent several different cancers and diseases, a natural liver detoxifier, speeds healing, and is a natural painkiller. I first started taking turmeric pills (you could eat the powder straight, but good luck with the taste) to fight acne, but even Dance Magazine has mentioned the many health benefits of turmeric. You really have no reason to not want to take it.

For disease prevention: Elderberry and Garlic
Students of any kind are around disease literally all the time. Professionals don't have time to be sick. You can fight the common cold and flu with garlic tablets, orange juice, and Emergen-C. I'm currently battling diseases around me - my best friend, both my parents, and the dance department I left behind have given me germs that my immune system has not yet submitted to (knock on wood), but I know my body is straining. I've been supplementing the past few days with Rainbow Light's Get Well Soon, which is good for both prevention and soothing symptoms. These tablets deliver both symptom relief and an immune system boost, strengthening your body's natural defenses so that it can fight better and faster.

My last warning is be careful of the supplements you take. Some of them may help, some may not. It is always better to eat the actual food than take a concentrated pill form. Why? There's a reason these compounds aren't found by themselves in nature - an orange contains a lot of vitamin C, but there are other elements and compounds in the orange that will simultaneously nourish the body and help it to process and use the vitamin C to its fullest potential. You get lots of fiber, some vitamin A, and a wee bit of iron - a combination that may give your body more than just a concentrated heap of vitamin C. This idea was introduced to me by someone I respect very much, and while I have no scientific evidence to back it, I think it makes sense. Sure, I can take a fish oil pill, but I'd rather eat the actual fish. It's the way nature intended food and nutrition to be.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all the lovely dancers of the world :)!
I'm spending my new year's eve at home this year, curling up on the couch with my dog, my family, and Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve, watching the ball drop in Times Square! May 2012 bring you all of the goals, dreams, desires, wishes, and gigs that you set/dreamed about in 2011! Hope 2011 was a lovely year for you, and hope that 2012 is even better.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Dance Resolutions for 2012

I hope everyone had wonderful Christmases, if you celebrate, and if you don't, I hope you're having wonderful holidays and breaks. My Christmas was a lovely, relaxing day...

Clara & the Nutcracker on my tree
So now that the new year is approaching, I have some dance-related resolutions to make:

#1) Get in shape, lose weight
Classic, right? Almost every girl wants to lose weight. But as dancers, it's not just part of looking good - it's part of the profession, the demand comes with the territory. To achieve this, I'm going to create a diet that works for me, go to the gym (which I have yet to set foot in) and ride the stationary bike or use the elliptical, and stretch after (almost) every shower. In turn, losing weight will not only help me feel physically better, but also will help me develop a stronger body/self image of myself as a dancer and person. I was lucky enough to get a bike as a gift, so I'll be using that over breaks to get my exercise when I'm not in class.

#2) Post more on both this blog and my Youtube channel
I said I'd post at least once a week on this blog, and even though few people read it, I'm glad I can help a few people out there who might be looking for specific things. I started this blog in order to motivate myself to keep up with the dance world, to watch dance, to stay inspired, and I kind of lost my way in the past few months. Likewise, I posted my last video on my Youtube channel at the end of the summer, and even with as few views as I get, it's another motivation for me to keep creating dance.

I also have a goal to convince some of my friends to guest post on this blog! I'm sure more than one perspective will be a welcome change.

#3) Do pointe more
My college doesn't offer a pointe class, sadly. However, we're allowed to do pointe at the barre during normal ballet classes. I only do it once every few weeks, but starting next semester, I'll be taking ballet 4 days a week. My goal is to do the barre en pointe at least once a week from now on.

#4) Keep sleeping!
I got so much sleep this semester - the most sleep I've gotten each night since before high school, I'm sure. It was glorious - even if I'm still tired a lot of the time, I have energy to do things and pay full attention in class. My dancing benefits from 7+ hours of sleep a night too. Even though I am taking a much harder load next semester, my goal is to sleep at least 6.5-7 hours a night (even though studies show that teenagers need 8-9 hours, 7 is better than the 4 I got in high school).

#5) Drink more water.
 It promotes health, clear skin, proper bodily functioning, disease prevention, etc etc...basically, life. I don't drink nearly enough. 'Nuff said.

That's about all, I think! Of course, there are lots of smaller goals, but these are goals for the rest of my school year. What are yours?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Gift List for Dancers

So you've only got days left until Christmas and you're missing some gifts (who isn't?). Are a few of them dancer friends? Knock a few of them out with this list! Here's some great ideas for gifts for dancers that you can find (hopefully!) in normal stores (not online, not dance-specific shops). Hope this helps/gets you going!

Essie nail polish in Ballet Shoes - Target
I've seen this polish in several Targets, so you should be able to find it anywhere. It's a cute idea and super dancer-inspired, without being pricey or predictable. Pair with a bottle of base coat and/or top coat, or a cute printed nail file, nail buffer, or nail clipper. Just the name will make her smile.

Legwarmers or crew-cut socks
Crew-cut socks (or thigh-high socks for that matter) have been hot for dancers in the past few years. Legwarmers are always a great, fun item for dancers. Both come in lots of colors, patterns, are relatively inexpensive, and don't need to be purchased in specialty shops. Target, Walmart, and regular clothing stores will have them, so you don't need to make a special trip!

Crop tops
Another item that's been super fashionable for dancers, especially in the past year. Cute, inexpensive tops can be found at Forever 21 and H&M. Bonus? If you order from F21, they're offering free 2 day shipping, and H&M has some awesome sales going on.

Hair Embellishments
Fancy, sparkly, big, flowery, feathery, glamorous. You can get hairties, headbands, and hair clips that will make any dancer stand out and feel great about themselves. Claire's/Icing isn't just for little girls - they've got great stuff for girls of all ages! Forever 21, again, has some clips as well.

Even if the dancer in your life isn't a makeup fanatic, she can't say no to some good stage makeup, false lashes, stick-on rhinestones, eyeliner, or even a good bottle of primer and makeup remover for her shows, performances, and competitions. She'll get use out of them no matter what you get her - trust me on this!

Baggy sweatpants and sweatshirts/hoodies
Dancers are known to wear the baggiest, most comfortable, most shapeless clothing imaginable over their sports bras and booty shorts. Encourage your dancer not to let herself get cold when she's not moving with some comfy sweats.

Reusable water bottle
Water is essential, and not just to dancers. This one is great for girls and guys, because water bottles come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns! This filtered water bottle is a great idea for dancers, who may not always be around a water fountain.

And when all else
Trail mixes, homemade jerky, Luna bars. My lovely roommate introduced me to Xocai healthy chocolate (although, that one you're going to need time for shipping). I recently discovered gopicnic (sold at Target, find them next to the easymac), a ready-to-eat box of prepackaged food that doesn't need to be refrigerated. Even better, they come in all different varieties (even vegan/gluten free), and all of them are under 400 calories! Maybe a dancer's cookbook, for the dancer who has a second love of cooking.

Christmas for Dancers!

It's been a few weeks...I know.'m sorry. Busy. But I'm back! Just in time to talk about winter break, when all of your studios are closed and college has ended for 2 or more weeks!

1) Gifts for Dancers
Obviously, Christmas contains a lot of gift-giving. With Christmas only a few days away (wow, really?), I have a few items in the Etsy shop that my mom and I run, Daisy's Treasure Box, that will be perfect for the dancers (or Harry Potter freaks) in your life. There's poster prints and postcards of the "Do What You Love" poster that I drew/designed a while ago, plus a ballerina necklace. Even better, we can 99% guarantee that any order within the US will make it by Christmas!

For more practical dance gear, online stores like Discount Dance Supply are offering free shipping upgrades that will also make it by Christmas. Dancewear Solutions even offers you a gift guide to help! Capezio Dance Theater shops (physical stores) are offering 50% off on all holiday items.

2) Staying in shape without class
It's hard to keep up a regimen while there's no class to force you to do it. I personally find little motivation and a lot of yummy food when I'm home. To get some exercise and stretching, use a theraband, tennis ball, or foam roller in front of the TV. Take 5-10 minutes a day to do some yoga. Play twister with your friends and force yourself to stretch farther. Stop shopping online and go walk the mall! Go bowling or ice skating for a social activity instead of movies or dinners. Any movement beats no movement. Keep in mind that, within 4 days of stopping class, the muscle that you worked so hard to build up will start to decondition.

3) Watch dance
You're in Nutcracker season! Or maybe you're currently dancing a Nutcracker! Either way, if you have time, go and see a live performance, whether it be from your local studio or a world-class theatre. You should have time, now that you're on break!

4) Stay healthy with your food choices
It's so tempting to bake Christmas cookies and test one...or two or three. Maybe not all of that popcorn you're stringing is making it onto the string. Food is aplenty and you have so many chances to eat it! I know that I haven't been making the best choices in the past few days since I've gotten home, and it will start to show if I don't make a change. Opt for fresh fruit instead of chocolate sometimes when you get a sweet craving. Eat plain popcorn (or with a little salt/garlic powder) instead of buttered. Pass up that second cookie or second helping of casserole. It all adds up, and skipping just a few bad food choices can make a significant difference in both your self-image and in your body.

5) Give back.
If you've got the time, consider volunteering. The Christmas season is when many unfortunate folks feel the most lonely, and you can make a difference by giving up an hour or two of your time, donating clothes or toys, or $20 to a worthy charity. Consider the Make A Wish Foundation, Toys for Tots, and my personal favorite, charity: water. Maybe you and your group of friends can give up a round of grande Starbucks lattes and take the money shopping to buy toys for children in need. Social activity and good will all rolled into one :)

What I'm trying to say is stay aware this season. Be aware of your body and the choices you make for it, be aware of the people around you, be aware of world issues, be aware and thankful for the joy in your life, be aware of the dance world, and most of all, be aware of the holiday spirit! Have fun, stay safe, and have an extremely happy holidays everyone.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

College Dance Auditions Update: What to Wear

**This post is not sponsored or subsidized by any company. The opinions and promotion are my own.

So you've looked through the clothing requirements for all of the schools you're auditioning for, and they allow crazy leotards. If you're going to a live audition, you want to stand out. Sure, you could wear a flower in your hair, or you could get a new strappy leotard from Discount Dance. Believe me, once you've been to one or two auditions, you'll have seen every strappy leotard from Discount Dance, plus all of the fancy unitards and leotards from Jo + Jax. Don't get me wrong, these leotards are beautiful and will probably make you stand out anyway because they look different than regular camisole leotards, but what if three other girls are wearing the exact leotard you're wearing? I know, bummer. That's where Eleve Dancewear comes in.

from Eleve's homepage
Not only are all of the leotards and unitards unique by themselves, but you can...wait for it...customize them. With almost any fabric, any color you can think of. Granted they take 8-10 weeks to ship, but like Eleve says, they're worth it to stand out. Plus, many of their leotards are under $50.

However, this is only one approach. A colored, fancy leotard is not always good. Make sure you read the requirements closely: you don't want to be the only one in a lavender flowered leotard when everyone else is in black and pink. You'll be out of the auditioner's minds quickly just for not following directions. Also, try to get a feel for what the school focuses on. Jazz? Great, go with one of these. Modern/contemporary? Something sleek without too many straps and distractions will go better.

On the other hand, this looks like a great, fairly inexpensive Christmas gift for dancers (but you might have to give it as a "your leotard is coming in 4-6 weeks" card)!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday(ish) Dance Sales!

Thanksgiving 2011 has come and gone, but it means that it's that time of year - Black Friday! Most dance stores aren't going to be running special deals because most of them are online, and stores like Capezio won't be running those early bird specials we so love. So here's some of my favorite websites/catalogs to browse and their currently more-generous clearance sales:

Dancewear Solutions Clearance - is offering up to 60% off on a large range of tops, leotards, shorts and pants, shoes, and performance dresses. You're sure to find something you want (because dancers are always short a leotard or two). Their Last Chance Sale is really tiny, but there's a few nice items!

Discount Dance Supply Last Chance Sale - has got some nice shoes (ballet/jazz/tap) on sale, but is otherwise fairly small and limited.

Online Dancewear Last Chance Sale - if you're going for costumes for your senior solo piece (or any other piece), take a look here!

As far as I can tell, Capezio is not running any specials and don't even have a closeout section. There might be Cyber Monday deals, but I don't know of any as of now. I'll let you guys know if I find out!
Not the best collection of websites I've ever done, but such is the dance life. Hah I'm so punny...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hi everyone!

It's been a while since I last make a long story short, I've been busy with school and dance. I want to take this time to thank everyone who reads this blog, especially those who have posted comments, thank you all for taking the time out of your busy lives and letting me share my thoughts with you. If you have any ideas as to what you'd like to see from me, please leave a comment on this post. Other than that, good luck and have safe trips for everyone traveling home, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving (or holiday/break if you don't celebrate)! Don't eat too terrible much and don't let yourself get out of shape!


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Youtube Best of the Best: Updates 7

I've noticed that my Best of the Best have become a list of crazy-awesome hip hop videos with maybe one or two other styles thrown on, so I set out to change that in this update. This list will be comprised mainly of contemporary, modern, and ballet videos. Enjoy.

Megan Lawson - unrequited.
This is stunning cinematography. This is stunning emotion. This is stunning dance.

Angelin Preljocaj (Paris Opera Ballet) - Le Parc
Warning: this one's definitely rated R. There's no nudity, but heavy sexual suggestion and tension. This has to be the epitome of contemporary ballet. Not only does it have the most amazing kiss ever seen by the world of ballet (I kid you not - starts around 5:05), but it's so smooth and sensual, yet still completely balletic. Beautiful.

Gala Benois 2007
Warning: this one may be PG-13. I really have no idea what this is, exactly, the description doesn't say much...but this is absolutely incredible balletic/modern partnering. If you're offended by suggestion of nudity or sexual themes (again), please don't watch.

Jiri Kilian (Netherlands Dance Theatre) - Petite Mort 1/2   &   Petite Mort 2/2
Petite Mort is just one of those of those gorgeously flowy, innovative, and impossible pieces. There's some weird themes going on and props being used - it's very experimental dance. Again, ballet-based, yet incorporating contemporary and modern themes and movements. I just love the partnering at the beginning of the second part. It's absolutely connected and flawlessly effortless. Did I mention that Netherlands Dance Theatre has some ridiculously trained/talented dancers? Perfection.

Kyle Hanagami - Carnival
I promised mainly ballet/modern/contemp. Sorry. One teeeeeny hip hop video. If you like all of the videos I've posted before, all of the artists I've posted before...this video kind of sums it all up in one awesome explosion. Not only Kyle, but Miki Emura, Laura Edwards, Ian Eastwood, and others grace the stage in this piece. Not something to miss.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Higher Extensions!

I know I've been having trouble with my psoas muscles recently. It's a complicated problem that I've only just discovered...and am working to fix.

The basis of all injury is misalignment and incorrect usage. Technically, if you knew every inch of your body perfectly, you would never injure yourself (except for accidents that involve things/people other than yourself, of course). Strengthening and toning is an important way to prevent injury, but you also have to strengthen the right muscles.

Which brings me to this post on another blog that was sent to me by my lovely ballet teacher: Getting Higher Extensions! by Deborah of The Body Series blog. Strengthening the psoas muscle is not only easy and fast (10-15 reps every day for 3-4 weeks for results!), but is a sure-fire way to get your leg higher in developpes! I know I've been struggling with getting my leg past 90 degrees for a long time in front extensions, and with the problem I discovered earlier with my psoas muscles, this makes a lot more sense. I'll be adding this to my daily strengthening routine, will you?

As a side note, I've taken a quick glance at the rest of this blog, and it's brimming with excellent tips and advice on just about every topic a dancer could wish for, from a neuromuscular educator (it's her profession)! If you've got a certain issue or goal, take a look at her categories in the bottom right hand corner of the blog. You're sure to find some stretch or advice that will help you get there!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How bad do you want to succeed?

I thought I wanted to dance with all my heart. I thought I wanted it really bad. I thought I was extremely passionate. Then I saw this video: Inspiring: How Bad Do You Want It? (Success)
Update: the video link is now private. I'll do my best to find another link.

And something's changed for me. I've realized that it's not going to happen for you. You have to make it happen. Whatever dreams or ambitions you have, you have to make a goal and then every single day take a step towards making it happen. Whether that means choosing to study over going out with your friends, or not eating that piece of cake after dinner to lose weight, you have to want it, and you have to want it enough that you're willing to give up other things that you value. I mean, I already knew these things...I just didn't want to admit it or put in the work.

I know that I'm not a great model for this success story. Here I sit thinking, "I'd love to lose ten pounds," or even "I have to lose ten pounds, I have to dance," but I've got a bag of candy sitting next to me. I know that I don't work towards that goal every day. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. I feel guilty, but I don't always do the right thing for myself.

So ask yourself now three things: what is/are your biggest goal/s in life? What can you do to get there? And just how bad do you want these things? "When you want to be successful as bad as you want to breathe, you'll be successful." When you need something or someone in your life as badly as you want your own life, you'll get there.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Beyonce's Countdown vs. Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker

If any of you have been keeping up with pop culture and news in the dance world, you've probably heard of the rip-off Beyonce pulled in her last music video, "Countdown." The video she allegedly ripped off  was by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, a Belgian choreographer, who created her award-winning piece "Rosas danst Rosas" in 1988. It's one thing to be inspired by other artists and to credit them, but this level of stealing (without crediting the original, I may add) is on a whole different level. You can see the videos in split screen here. Even if you don't watch the videos split screen, just look at this one split screen image:

Photo Credit

How incredibly "similar" is that? Bordering straight out copying? Watch the video, it gets worse. Not only the costuming, but the expressions, the camera angles, and even the choreography itself of "Countdown" is straight out of "Rosas danst Rosas". Beyonce's artistic director has apparently admitted to showing De Keersmaeker's videos to Beyonce, but neither Beyonce nor anyone dealing with the music video have admitted to any kind of artistic theft or inspiration.

Furthermore, this isn't the first time Beyonce has been criticized for lack of originality in her music videos. Even her performance at the Billboard music awards was criticized. However, I'm not trying to criticize Beyonce directly for the content (and lack of due accreditation) of her music videos: I'm more disappointed in her directors who are coming up with the ideas and in her for following through. How could one artist do something so incredibly horrible to another artist?

It would have been a whole different issue if she had asked permission of and credited De Keersmaeker and even encouraged the public to look into De Keersmaeker's work. In fact, that wouldn't have been an issue at all: it would have been one artist being inspired by and promoting another artist, which could have given both artists good press. Even though De Keersmaeker's pieces are more viewed and even more well known because of this, it's not being done in a good light, and I'm sure the artist herself does not appreciate the outright copying.

What do you guys think? Is this kind of "inspiration" okay, even if credit is given? Should Beyonce (or her directors, rather) start coming up with new ideas instead of copying old ones? Are you as outraged by this as the rest of the dance world?

Monday, October 17, 2011

For those now applying to colleges

Please take a look at the series I wrote over the summer about choosing and auditioning at colleges for dance! Also, here's a great article that I found titled "East Coast, West Coast, It Don't Matter", which may help you in your quest to decide between New York and Los Angeles (or somewhere in between!).

Below is my audition series for becoming a dance major in college:

College Dance Auditions 101: Choosing the Major: Is dance in college the right path for you?

College Dance Auditions 102: Choosing Colleges: Where should you apply? What criteria should you take into consideration?

College Dance Auditions 103: Auditioning Live: What should you take into consideration when you're traveling to a school to audition for their faculty?

College Dance Auditions 104: Video Auditioning: When should you choose to audition via video? What should you take into consideration if you have to video audition?

College Dance Audition 105: Making the Decision: Now that you've gotten in, where should you go? Or...think about rejections in a new way.

One last tip: if you have the chance to take classes when you visit a school, take them! Or at least go in and observe the class, if it's allowed. I was too scared to take class, so I watched a ton of classes. It gave me a good feel for what the dance environment was really like. But if you take class, you get to interact with the dancers who have already made it in. You get to see who your classmates will be, who you'll be living with and dancing with for the next three or so years (maybe), and how the teacher connects with you and fits into your style (or not). If you're brave enough to take class, though, don't become a recluse. Talk to your fellow dancers and pretend you're all on the same level and you're all just taking a class. Remember that you're auditioning the school as much as they're auditioning you. Make the most of your visit and it will make the final decision (or letting go of the rejection) so much smoother and simpler.

Last but not least: if you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment! If you have any other tips you'd like to add, or if you'd like to share your experience, or if you can correct a tip that I've given, please do! I would love for others to benefit from the knowledge of the entire dance community!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ideal Dancer's Body: Flexible (and Strong)

See my first two posts in this series about the ideal feet and body image.

It's every dancer's dream to be everything all at once: hard, yet soft. Graceful, yet dramatic. Small, yet big. Strong, yet flexible. And really, it's this last one that always gets me.

There's a physical...problem...with trying to be both strong and flexible. Why? Because when you're gumby and flexy, you have little strength to support it (injuries ahead!), and when you're stalky and strong, you're unable to pull off the dazzling kicks and extensions that are demanded of you (injuries ahead!). So really, you need to have both. A good balance of both: enough of each so that they can support each other without one overpowering the other. Your muscle tone needs to be strong, lean, supple, and long.

Unlike other sports or arts, you, as a dancer, have to exert yourself in a most unnatural way, while making it look like the most natural thing in the world. Other athletes are allowed to pant and sweat and wear protective gear, other artists get to look beautiful...and then there's you. You have to withhold the panting and protective gear (if you learn how to withhold sweat, call me) and look beautiful. What does this mean?
  1. you can't have bulky muscles (less weight/resistance, more reps for workouts)
  2. you have to spend time outside of class and rehearsal building strength, endurance, and flexibility.
  3. you have to do extra cardio. Dance is not really aerobic, cardiovascular exercise because you're not constantly moving. You stop and start and stop and start again in class and rehearsal, so you might get winded, but you'll get your breath back quickly. 
  4. most importantly, you have to know your limits. Always, always warm up before you stretch - even if you don't think you need to. You might be young now, but when your body starts getting a little "older" (you'll feel it), you won't be able to pop into stretches like you used to. I know that when I was sixteen, I felt like I could do anything...and now, only a few years later, I can't.
So what should you do about it? Go to the gym and "walk" on the elliptical - it'll ease the pressure on your joints (running is horrible for knees and ankles) while still giving you the cardio workout you need. Use a theraband to help you stretch and strengthen individual muscles without (heavy, bulky, and expensive) equipment. Stretch after your shower - your muscles are already warm and pliable, so you'll be able to get that extra inch of stretch. Never, ever overstretch - I'm currently dealing with two overworked/pulled hip flexors and an overworked muscle behind my left knee, and it's hard! I know that these injuries happened because I was pushing myself beyond my limits, but now I know what those limits are and what to do before I reach and surpass them.

Strong and flexible will forever be a struggle for dancers. You must find your perfect balance (this is usually the hardest part) and then work to maintain it (this is the part that needs discipline). Good luck!

    Saturday, October 8, 2011

    Youtube Best of the Best: Updates 6

    First real dance post in over a week. I know, I'm bad. I'll do my best to update more often, hopefully at least once a week, if not more! Alright, go watch dance!

    Infinite - Be Mine (Dance Version)      and      Be Mine (Music Video)
    Have you ever seen a kpop (Korean pop) music video? They're pretty amazing. You've probably noticed that many of today's popular American singers are not just singers anymore - they're songwriters, performers, dancers, actors, musicians...basically, they're artists. I think that's so amazing, that the public is demanding more from their stars. Korean pop music is dominated by large groups (I can't really say "bands") of triple threat people (dancing, acting, singing) who are generally very good looking. Some popular groups include Super Junior, SNSD (Girls' Generation), and Big Bang, just to name a few. Here's a newer one, with some of the best dancing and choreography I've ever seen in a kpop video. The choreography as a whole is very well done, but if you want to see something amazing, watch (and rewatch) the dance break at 2:20.

    jekajane - Love Foolosophy
    More hip hop brilliance.

    Robot Boys (Denmark) - Got Talent 2008 [DK] - Robotboys (Nick & Jeppe)
    These two are exactly what their name suggest - robot boys. This is some of the most creative use of music I've ever seen. They capture every aspect of the music (and it's rich music with layers) so effortlessly, and the execution is completely brilliant. Oh, and they won the show.

    Chachi Gonzales (of I.aM.mE crew) - Chachi Gonzales at 13 years old
    Ever wondered what she looked like when she was younger (aka when she started being a BEAST)? Yeah, that's right. She's always been a beast...

    Marlee Hightower - freestyle to Kevin Cossom "I Can't Help It"
    This girl is 11. 11. 11. Eleven. Yeah, you saw that right. This kind of freestyle...especially when she's only heard the song once before? Pure, pure talent. Then look at her choreography (and oh my god she teaches workshops?!) in this video - Marlee Hightower workshop at U4RIA:)

    Discussion Pieces: This is a new section of videos in the series, because I find a lot of pieces that I feel are strong in some areas and possibly not so much in others. I could discuss the merits of all of these videos for hours...but sadly no one to discuss with (unless you leave me a comment)! Here are some of those pieces:

    Erin Novak-Lustig - Can't Help Falling In Love With You
    I'm a little conflicted about this piece. It's beautifully danced, and the choreography is innovative, especially with the lifts. I felt that the girl was a little disconnected from the guy, but it could be part of the choreographer's choice. I didn't sense much emotional connection between the two, and the girl anticipated some of the "abusive" movements a little too much, but overall...I enjoyed this piece a lot.

    This isn't a new idea: a white swan vs. a black swan, but what's great about this is they do a lot of the same choreography side by side, and I loved seeing the contrast between these two girls. They are similar in build, and because of the masks, even look similar (they're both blonde, tall, skinny, and have the longest legs ever), but they move so incredibly differently. It's the same choreography with two different interpretations. Sadly, I feel like they weren't well synchronized, and I don't feel like the ending really made sense after what happened in the dance, and the choreography itself wasn't anything spectacularly new and exciting...but the juxtaposition of white vs. black, innocent vs. siren was incredible.

    Cheryl D'Arcy - Maroon 5 - Moves Like Jagger ft Christina Aguilera
    I love that this is an all-level street dance class, and however short the actual combination may be, I really like the choreography....up until the leap at the end. That was a little awkward, but the sequence right before the run into the leap is stunningly interesting.

    Wednesday, October 5, 2011

    RIP Steve Jobs

    I know this is a dance blog, but today was a sad day.

    Today we lost a visionary, computer and gadget revolutionary, and one of the greatest thinkers of our generation: Steve Jobs.
    Photo Credit
    He's affected everyone in a very personal way. Most of you probably own computers, or your family does, if you read my blog. He was one of the pioneers of some of the greatest technological advancements ever known. I know that many memories have been created and cherished because of his work: I personally own a MacBook Pro, iPhone 4, and have had a few iPods and other Apple computers. My family owns an Apple TV, and my entire family has always used Apple products. I've enjoyed Pixar films (Toy Story, Monsters Inc.) and shorts (my favorites are "For the Birds" and "Day and Night") so very much, and this is all because of one incredibly brave, intelligent, and talented man. His innovation has allowed me to capture and edit my own dance shorts and segments with ease. His innovation has made it possible to own a music library of wonderful singles (for people like me who never buy albums) and for independent and unsigned artists to share their work. His innovation (and ego) created the computer on which the World Wide Web was created. His innovation has changed everyone's lives, forever, even if you don't own any Apple products or if you don't like Apple products. We will miss you, Mr. Jobs. Forever rest in peace.

    Thursday, September 29, 2011

    Stay Motivated to Dance

    One of the hardest things when you start dancing more and more is to stay motivated. You'll start getting up in the mornings and finding yourself dreading ballet as much as you used to dread math. You might be more irritable and easily frustrated in class, or you might not try as hard as you used to. You start to lose your enthusiasm. You lose sight of why you started dancing in the first place.

    How do we prevent loss of motivation and eventual burnout? I've never been at rock bottom of a burnout, but here are some things I do to keep myself excited and stimulated for my future:

    Watch dance, as much as you can, whatever you can, whenever you can
    Go to the ballet, go see a local company's performance, check out free shows in your area online, go see university shows, support local school and studio shows. If you can't get there in person, go to the library, rent from Netflix, borrow, or buy DVDs of performances. Be like me and stalk Youtube. Keep learning, even when you're watching, keep growing. Sometimes you can learn more or be more inspired from watching than from doing the same old thing.

    Have other hobbies
    This is a big one, because no one can eat, sleep, and breathe for only one thing in life. Even if it's just to listen to music on your iPod between classes or to read a magazine or watch mindless TV (guilty pleasures!). One word of caution: when choosing how to spend your down time, keep dance in mind. Don't go and climb a mountain (unless you're super-experienced) or bake cookies (unless you intend to give most of them away or you have more willpower than I do) - you might hurt yourself more than you would have in class!

    Dance by yourself in your room or go out and dance socially with friends that you remember that dance isn't just a profession, it's also a way to have fun and de-stress! I love to put on music after my shower, hang upside down to dry my hair (stretching!), spend a little time stretching, and then have a little personal dance party. If you're cooler than me, maybe you can go out dancing...just don't kill yourself in your cute sky-high heels.

    Do relaxing yoga or get a massage
    Treat yourself sometimes. Detoxify your body and mind in a way that keeps your body lubricated but relaxed. If you're lucky enough to have friends that can do massages, offer to give them a massage if they'll reciprocate.

    Read dance literature
    Sometimes we get stuck in a rut of our own dancing. We forget to broaden our horizons. Learning about what other dancers do and other companies will keep dance a fresh topic for you, as opposed to a stagnant, narrow subject. There's always new things happening in the world of dance - Dance Magazine is a great resource, or you can look at their website. From there, you can read dance criticism, borrow dance anatomy/history/whatever you want books from the library, read reviews of dance from newspapers or blogs.

    When you're feeling down, blue, or depressed, dance it out
    Or stretch, or do jumping jacks, or something movement-related to get your blood pumping. One of the reasons you likely dance (most dancers will agree) is that moving feels good to you. So, if your body feels good, your mind can't be far behind. Have you ever noticed that you'll go to class in a bad mood and feel better by the end, or maybe you haven't even thought about what was stressing you before? Moving and dancing will get adrenaline and endorphins flowing, which means that your body is chemically cheering itself up, and your brain will react to that! Also, if you start to dance when you're sad/depressed and you keep feeling better after, your mind will start to associate dance with feeling good, and dance class (technique even) will seem less of a burden.

    Make an inspiration board or find beautiful dance pictures
    I started collecting pictures and quotes of dance that I loved this summer. When I'm feeling a little lost in my dancing, I look at those pictures or read some of those quotes, and I feel so empowered that sometimes I start crying. I'm not telling you to look at pictures and sob your heart out, I'm just saying that that's the power dance has over me. I always feel better when I think about dance from a fresh perspective, maybe your favorite images and sayings will empower you too!

    Remember what got you into dance in the first place
    Why are you still dancing? When people ask me why I dance, I say that dance is my freedom. That's a personal opinion, you can love so many things about dance that will make it worthwhile for you: you can love performing in front of an audience, how it makes you feel, or maybe you enjoy taking on different characters and impersonating them. Make a physical list of why you love to dance and stick it to your ceiling so you can read it every night before you go to bed and every morning when you wake up. Ask yourself why every day, because once you start to consistently answer with an "I don't know", it may be time to change or tweak your career path.

    Remember that it was your choice, and you can change your mind
    If all else fails, dance was your choice and it's rarely, if ever, too late to change your mind. You can change majors or go back to school (or night/online school). If you're still in high school, think long and hard about why you want to go into dance. Even in college, you can double major (make sure the school you go to supports this - if it's a BFA program, it's unlikely) or minor (again, check with the school). And remember that being a dance major in college doesn't mean you have to dance professionally - from there you can move on to Laban studies, physical therapy, Pilates/Yoga certification, massage, sports/dance medicine, technical theater, photography and filming dance, costuming, designing, criticism/writing, and just about anything else you can think of. Dance has its fingers in many fields, you can do other things and love dance just as much.

    Friday, September 23, 2011

    Youtube Best of the Best: Updates 5

    For once, I have nothing special to say in this blurb. Go watch awesome videos!

    Keone Madrid - Crank It Up
    This is cool, bada**, krump-inspired hip hop. And it's...great.

    GRV - W.O.D. First Place Choreo Upper Division (Pomona, CA)
    Okay, World of Dance is amazing. We've got some awesome choreography and planning going on here...and just look at that mass of people! Personally, I loved "Get Outta Your Mind" the most, but the whole piece is completely mind blowing.

    Kaba Modern - Body Rock 2010
    This is a good, solid performance. It starts off not particularly exciting or energetically...but if you want to see something really awesome, start at 2:35 and just watch that section. It's the best part and totally why the video made this list.

    Piece of Sky
    I featured this video in one of my last posts, but I really had to put it on this list too! This girl is talented, gorgeous, and mature for her age, yet maintains a youth and "wide-eyed" sense of innocence that is absolutely astounding and perfect for this piece/song. The song does get a little theatrical and "big" at the end, and the choreography starts to wander a little, but I still believe this is one of the stronger performances I've ever seen by such a young girl.

    Stacey Tookey performed by Kendall - "Come Home" Stacey Tookey Choreography WCDE
    Competitions/conventions like West Coast Dance Explosion make me feel conflicted: on one hand, regular dancers get to experience and learn from famous choreographers, which is great, but on the other hand, they're crowded, held in horrible venues for learning dance (carpet over cement anyone?!), and I believe that they promote younger dancers to be pushed too hard. On that last note, I think Kendall (the dancer in this video) does this piece beautifully, and the choreography is one of Stacey's better, in my opinion. In fact, I feel like she does it better than I could. Is that sad?

    Vaganova Ballet Academy 7th Grade Center Adagio 2
    If someone told me I even had hopes of looking like this and doing this at some point in my life, I would cry from utter joy.

    Flash Mob: The Joffrey Gets "Real Simple" Full Version
    Ever seen a flash mob do fan kicks? I thought not. Also, some of you may know that the Joffrey is a ballet prepare to be astounded by their choreography!

    Thursday, September 22, 2011

    Pet Peeve: The Dancer Must Match the Emotional Demand!

    Remember when I made a post called Pet Peeve: The Dance Has to Match the Music back in August? Since then, I've come across another piece that plays with my mind a bit...(believe me, there are more out there, this is only one example):

    DC Dance Factory - Someone Like You 
    This is only a clip of the full piece, but even from this 46 second glimpse, you can tell that the style is off. "Someone Like You" is an incredibly emotional and stirring piece of music, but this dance is When she's not being seductive, the movements look haphazardly thrown together.

    But it's not just the fact that the choreography didn't match the music that bothered me. It stroked another pet peeve of mine very harshly: emotional content. I love emotionally charged music. I love it when the singer/vocalist's words feel like daggers thrust into my chest (yes, I'm apparently a masochist). I am a firm believer that showing/communicating emotion is the single most important element in a dancer's skill set. So it must come to no surprise, when I see a dancer not connect with a piece emotionally, that I'm dying inside.

    Some dancers are just not emotional, and that's okay. There's styles of dancing that require little to no emotional output and/or investment from the dancer (The Radio City Rockettes are a great example of a group where dancers do not show emotion). However, if you're going to choose an emotionally charged song like "Someone Like You", please show emotional investment! As a note to teachers and choreographers: if you feel that the dancer is not up to the emotional demands of a particular song, please do not choose an emotional piece for him or her! I feel this is really common sense: play up your strengths, don't show your weaknesses if you can. Exposing emotion is not something everyone can do, in fact, most people probably do not "put themselves out there" very well or feel uncomfortable doing so.

    Here's another one: CA Dance Company - Hallelujah. The dancing is fine, maybe a little disconnected and fragmented, but it's alright, it has potential. The face? The emotional investment? Blank. Zero. Okay, she's young, but maybe she should have gone with a different, more age-appropriate song. "Hallelujah" is one of the most classic dance songs out there, it's been done over and over, and many times in exactly this manner. If you're going to do it again, give a little of yourself.

    On the other hand, the dancer in Piece of Sky (same competition I think) took on a great character! She's of a similar age to the two girls in the videos above, but she's emotionally invested! Can you tell the difference?

    Why do you dance if you won't put a little of yourself out there and make yourself seen? Show the world something it's never seen before, take a chance. Give them a reason to watch you. Be unique, be you.

    Sunday, September 18, 2011

    "Dance Moms"

    No, I'm not talking about real mothers of dancers, I mean the new TV show, Dance Moms. Just from the title and what little I've heard of it, I'm a little scared to watch it. It goes right along with a theme I've discussed many times before on this blog: the controversy of competitive dance, especially for young girls. The show follows one of such competition studios and the training, blood, sweat, tears (and moms) that make it all happen. Do I really want to know what goes on behind the scenes of a competition studio? I'm not sure...

    On the other hand, I want to do a little shameless promotion. For those of you who might watch the show, do you remember seeing Maddie's solo "Disappear"? I'm so lucky to be friends with the singer/songwriter Christina Li, so if you liked the song, please check her out on her Youtube channel, her Facebook page, or her website for a free download, and look at her other songs as well!

    Update: Her album "Songs of Innocence" and the single "Disappear" are both now available on iTunes!

    Have any of you seen the show? Do any of you watch it religiously? What do you think? Maybe you can help me decide whether or not I should start watching...

    Thursday, September 15, 2011

    What Makes Dancers Good: Work Ethic

    In this series, I'll be discussing different aspects of dance that I think "good" dancers have or do. Please note that these are my opinions and I am in no way trying to force my ideas on you, and that I'm not an expert, so I'm just sharing my thoughts as another dancer who's noticed things. See my first four posts on "Soft Power" , Breathing, Relaxing, and Tension. Thanks!

    There's a lot of elements that must combine into one person in order to make a dancer, and even more to make a professional dancer. You need power, strength, fluidity, control, extension, balance, musicality, athleticism (endurance/cardio), artistry...etc etc. But you can have all these things and never get hired. Why? Attitude. Work ethic.

    Think about how you judge people. Admit it, you do: we all judge. You can sometimes tell just from looking at a person (observing their mannerisms, hearing the way they speak, seeing the way they move, etc) whether you want to be friends with them or not, right? That's your initial impression of a person.

    Now think about auditioning. You're going in to get a job, so you're looking to give a good first impression. These people who may eventually hire you don't know who you are, they don't know how good of a person you are. But what they do know just from looking at how you audition is how hard you work.

    Work. Hard. My teacher always says in class never, ever mark. While you don't have to be going full out all the time (who has the energy?), don't ever look lazy or inattentive whether you're in class, rehearsal, or an audition. You want to catch the teacher's eye so you'll receive criticism/compliments and improve, you want to get put in the front row of the formation, you want that job, and you want it badly. That's why you're a dancer, right? If you work your butt off, you might get that job over the girl next to you who has her leg by her ear who's wearing that sexy little salsa number. No offense to the girl next to you, of course, but if you work hard, people will notice, and people will want to work with you. You show that you'll work harder and care more than any person in the room, you'll book that gig.

    Sunday, September 11, 2011

    Youtube Best of the Best: Updates 4

    Yet more Youtube videos. They're great, again. You know me, there's a multitude of hip hop videos, some from the same choreographers and crews that I keep featuring...but I've also introduced a style of dance that I've never talked about!

    Quest Crew - Mobile Routine
    I know, Quest again. This is different for them though. Some parts actually remind me of I.aM.mE. You'll see the part I mean. Also, who can resist some Disney? Something else amazing, but not quite dance related - Ryan's Amazing Headspin Strike.

    Tan Nguyen - I'm Good I'm Gone
    This is really, really interesting. Somehow, the way it's choreographed reminds me of a contemporary-ish jazz...and yet it's hip hop. It's great, check it out.

    Kindergarten Krump
    These kids have more swag at 5 than I could ever dream of at 17. Sad? Maybe. But they're awesome.

    Academy of Swag - Chair Routine at Hip Hop International 2011
    This is crazy awesome. No music: just chairs, dancers, and hip hop the way it's taught. You just been swagged.

    Instant Noodles (of ABDC) - Hip Hop International 2011: In the Lab
    This isn't the world's greatest routine, and it is on this list for one reason. The entire video is really interesting, don't get me wrong, I like it! But start at around 4:00 and watch for about 10 seconds. That is why it's here. You'll see what I mean. It's the small things that blow your mind.

    Laurie Ellington and Brandon Gonzalez - Not Until Now - A Film of Contact Improvisation
    The term "contact improvisation" is sometimes loosely used to describe unchoreographed dancing where two dancers are always "in contact" or touching one another. What many people don't know is that real contact improv involves these elements with a third element of shared weight. This is a great exploration in contact improv, but there's also real emotion here. The description says that the dancers are going through a struggle, but I feel like they're really very connected. Of course there are unideal transitions, but that will always happen in improv. It's beautiful. (This is also my "well filmed" video of the week)

    Martin Keogh and Neige Christenson - the play of weight
    Continuing on the topic of contact improvisation, this is quite mind blowing at times. I so admire contact improv when it's in its pure, true form like this - 95% of the time, there is weight being shared, there are spaces being explored, the movement is fluid and nonstop. The movement isn't always beautiful or graceful, but it's innovative and so endlessly creative that that in itself is something beautiful and very special.

    Hope you enjoyed!

    Friday, September 9, 2011

    Update: What's in my dance bag?

    Since coming to college, my dance bag has changed. I no longer drive to dance and lug my 500 pound dance bag a total of about 200 feet. Now, I have to carry my bag about a mile each way to the dance building. (You can cross reference what I'm talking about to see what stayed and what went by looking at my first What's in my dance bag? post.) So what's changed? First of all, I've switched to one of these as my dance bag:

    Photo Credit

    After the first day of lugging my other bag to class (I even took half of the stuff out!), I realized it wasn't going to work. Now, I have to keep a few essentials with me in the small front pocket and leave the bigger pocket for bigger things and things that I take out and replace every day. What's in it?

    In the front pocket:
    •  bun hair supplies for ballet (hair net, bobby pins, hairbands)
    • theraband
    • tennis ball
    • inhaler
    • paper tape
    • tissues
    • band aids
    • foot tape
    • cotton
    • Ziploc baggie of almonds (emergency snack!
    • deodoran
    In the main pocket:
    • towel
    • rotating dance shoes (I only take the shoes I need...don't leave them in there all the time anymore)
    • lunch (sandwich box with bread, cheese, turkey, and lettuce separated out. Juice box and string cheese, maybe an orange)
    • water bottle (I use this one from Brita that lets me drink any water wherever I go because of a nifty built in charcoal filter)
    • change clothes (if I'm going straight to class after)
    • books/binder/notebook (depending on if I have class)
    • purse (small bag with my student ID, keys, wallet, phone, hairties, and another emergency snack)
    What I wear to walk to class:
    • bottom layer: dance clothes (cami and shorts or leotard and tights, depending on the classes)
    • top layer: jacket/cover up, long shorts/short sweats, socks
    • sneakers
    • stud earrings (love my jewelry)