Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pirouette Tip

If you're like me, you don't consider yourself a good or natural turner. Very few people really are natural turners, and if you are, the other 95% of us envy you with a burning passion.

Enter Anaheim Ballet (and my first ballet lesson of the school year). Watch this video, called Anaheim Ballet: Turning Tips, and even just watch the first 10 seconds. But look for what these two girls do right before they start the turn. Do you see them both go down a little? Plie a little deeper? Dip down a bit? However you want to say it, they both go deeper down into the ground before pressing up into a stable (and long-lasting) turn.

So that's my short and sweet tip! If you don't want my story from class, you can stop reading now.

My professor gave us this tip today after watching most of the class struggle for perfect double pirouettes. He told us that natural turners do something completely different from other dancers. Other dancers (non-natural turners) do exactly what they're told - they prepare and press up into a turn, only to fall out after one, two, or three rotations. Natural turners, however, are more relaxed and dip down a little before swinging up into the turn, making that entire sequence one fluid movement. This tip completely blew my mind. There I was, struggling with my double like the rest of the class, and two minutes and one amazing tip later, I was landing stable, perfect triples. Okay, I'm not perfect yet, I have to work on doing it every time. I'm not landing those triples every time because I get excited and throw my hips off, or lean my shoulders back too far. But that first turn I did after he told us to put a dip in and go into the pirouette fluidly? Life-changing. That was the first turn I ever did that felt good. Stable. And not only did it feel good, but it also felt like it looked good. I've been looking for a pirouette (and a pirouette tip) like this all my life, and it's been a frustrating struggle/search. I believe that that search will be over when I perfect this method of turning.

So give it a try! I hope you understand what I mean when I say "dip." All I mean is that, in your fourth (or fifth, or second, or whatever you're doing) position preparation, find your balance on two stable feet on the ground, then dig a little deeper into your plie before you pop up into your pirouette. Don't think around, think down then up. And that's your perfect pirouette.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Goody Slide-Proof Hair Elastics UPDATE

I'm back! Do you remember this post about the new Goody hair elastics that I did before I left? I promised to do an update after using more hairties from the pack. I've been using a few more of them over the last week, and as promised, they are completely slide proof for normal use. I'm going to assume that the one bad elastic that I got (that snapped in 2 uses) was just a fluke, because the rest of them seem to be holding up just fine! They're not even stretching out yet, which is impressive.

After dancing in them for 3+ hours, I never once felt my hair slipping. These are really amazing. Much improved from the previous ones (and I loved those already). You might get one or two that'll snap like that (like that pun? Yeah, I thought so.), but even for those 8 or 9 in the pack that will work, it's really worth it. What do you think? Have you tried them yet?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Short Hiatus

Hi everyone :)

I'm taking a short hiatus from my blog :( Sad, but I have to go back to school and will be busy for several days, possibly all week. I'll try to make short posts here and there if I can! In the meantime, I'll still be checking for comments, so please feel free to comment/contact me :)

A poster I quickly threw together for my dorm room wall. Yes, the drawing in the background is a of a picture of my own feet.
Keep dancing!

Love, Daisy

I Tried It...The New and Improved Goody Slide-Proof Hair Elastics

You all know how much I raved about Goody's StayPut Hairties in my hair tips post. I. love. them. So I was at Target the other day with my mother doing some last minute back-to-college shopping when I spotted the hair aisle, so I wanted to stock up on some more! Turns out Goody changed them. You probably could hear my scream of agony from China. I'm only half kidding. Anyways, they look like this, compared to the old ones:

This is what the old packaging (above) looks like compared to the new (below). Yes, I still have a full, new, never-been-used pack of the old kind. I'm a hoarder, obviously.
Again, the old hairties close up (above) vs. new ones (below)
Look closely at the second photo. Don't the "new and improved" hairties look like they have 50% less rubber showing? Yeah, I thought so too. And that's why you could hear my scream of agony from China.

Really though? I bought them anyway and put them to the test. I put my hair up in my normal high bun (2 hairties) and left it there all day. I went out shopping, had lunch, came home and packed. Did everything that I would in a normal day (except dance). And you know what? They're great! I think they slip even less than the old ones did! I'm incredibly amazed.

Unfortunately, one of the two hairties I used did snap inside. I can still use it, but that was slightly disappointing. See?:

Good hairtie (left) vs. snapped hairtie (right) - both new version of Goody Hairties
Overall, I still highly recommend these hairties! They might even be better than the old ones, but I'll put them to the test the next time I get into a dance class. Have you guys tried them out? What do you think?

Update: After a second use, the 2nd hairtie in the photo above (snapped one) completely snapped. I'm assuming this is just bad luck...that I chose a bad one, because the other one is completely fine. It hasn't even stretched out much, if at all. Will continue to use more of the pack and let you guys know if I still recommend them after a few more.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Youtube Best of the Best: Updates 3

So I felt so incredibly horrible about posting a Best of the Best update that was mostly hip hop that I went and got you guys enough videos for yet another post in just 2 short days. You're welcome.

Dana Wilson and Shaun Evaristo collab. feat Sh*t Kingz - Ooh Ahh/All I Want Is You/Sure Thing
Yes, that's one video, don't worry. Some of my favorite hip hop artists mixed into one video. This is the sexiest/girliest I've ever seen Dana Wilson (and isn't she?), and this is a real piece of brilliant work.

Inspire Dance Co. Senior Company - First Company Class 9.19.08
I don't think I've ever featured anything quite like this before...neither have I ever seen anything quite like this! There's contact improv, regular improvisation, but also group choreography phasing in and out of one another. There's some pretty amazing moments, and what a neat concept!

Nicki Loud performed by Kristina Koumaeva - Stupid
This is interesting. The choreography is beautifully brilliant. Unfortunately, I completely agree with the top rated comment - Miss Koumaeva brings no passion or emotion to the piece, which is saddening because she's a beautiful technician. Much more accomplished than I can dream of becoming! Anyways, watch it for the choreography, it's worth it.

Troy Herring (update: many thanks to Rose for additional information)- Werewolf
This is some of the most interesting partnering I've ever seen! The choreographer (unnamed) always keeps things fresh, nothing is anticipated, which is something rare that I love. That being said, I'm not completely in love with the dancing. I feel like the whole thing was a little too much flail and not enough dynamics - the "emotion" or mood stayed static throughout the piece. Not sure if that's the dancers' failure to interpret or the choreographer's failure to choreograph dynamics in, but the movements themselves are gorgeously choreographed and executed. Update: Troy Herring and his partner Bailey are 16 and 14 respectively in this piece. Really amazing stuff :)

Marquis Cunningham (from SYTYCD Season 4) - Elephant in the Room
This one is all long lines, drops, and quick stops amongst the flow. In short, it's gorgeous.

Terry & Mandy Schulke (Just Plain Dancin') - Witches of Oz
I have a love-hate relationship with this piece. I love the dancing, I hate the costumes. I love the choreography, I hate the prop/set (what is it anyway?). I'm somewhat not liking the fact that the choreographers sexified some movements and the prop/set very blatantly. I love the concept and the music. See what you think.

Kate Jablonski for Beyond Words Dance Company - Kids
This is different for Kate Jablonski! I've definitely featured at least 5 of her videos here before, all in one shot too...and I love her work. But this is something else. I can't say I'm totally in love with it, but I really like it and appreciate it. It's sort of like watching a stop motion film with every other slide taken out. That's how sharp and clean it is. It's a jazz bordering on hip hop. But love it or hate it, you have to admit the formation changes are seamless and interesting and crisp, which is one of the things I love most about Kate. Props to the girls of Beyond Words for pulling this off so effortlessly (I'm sure it took a lot of work though.)!

Kate Jablonski for Beyond Words Dance Company - Dirty Orchestra
Usually I'd post two videos under the same name and write one description to reference both videos. But I just can't because these two are so polar opposite! This is ballet-infused jazz. This. Is. Brilliance. It's so incredible that I have no words. This concept is so incredibly well done that I have nothing, nothing to say. Except okay, the fact that it's very balletic exposes weakness in the dancers. These dancers are clearly trained for jazz, and they're absolutely brilliant for jazz (and even hip hop, as seen above)! But their ballet could do with a few more lessons, I think. But I love, love, love the way that Kate choreographs each segment to a specific section of instruments in the music. This is embodiment of music at its best. No doubt.

That's it! I'll try and get some more styles going in my Best of the Best updates. I know I absolutely flood you with hip hop videos and come a close second with contemporary, but I'm going to be trying to add more ballet and jazz as we go along :) Again, if you have any favorite videos, dancers, or choreographers that you'd like to share, please leave me a comment! I'm always looking for more material :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Youtube Best of the Best: Updates 2

More general updates on the best Youtube dance videos around! Sorry, they're mostly hip hop again. And mostly the same people again. I've got my favorites...

Chachi Gonzales (I.aM.mE crew) - I Should Have Kissed You
You guys are probably so tired of seeing me feature Chachi/I.aM.mE/other crew members on this blog and in these posts, but I can't help it! They're so amazing. Many thanks to one of my best friends who showed me this, because this is so different for Chachi. I loved her before, but this is a whole different level - mature, tutting influenced, sexy...this girl's got everything going for her. Oh, and also? If I didn't love her dancing enough, this totally captured my heart - NO CRUMBS PLEASE. She's such a lady.

Matthew Tseng - No One Really Wins
This is crazy. It's not so much that I love the way the choreography looks or flows or develops, but this combination basically has everything that I love to do in it. I kid you not, everything. All of my favorite moves, give or take a few (ok, maybe not everything). It just looks like so much fun to do, it makes me wanna dance! Check it out.

Dana Wilson - No Diggity
Okay, I'm semi-biased because I actually learned this piece from Dana herself at a convention, but it's just so smooth, so sensual, and so classic. The way she dances hip hop is unparalleled. By the way, I sucked at this piece, haha.

Luam - One in a Million
Luam's choreography just sits in every groove that the music has to offer. It seems like the embodiment of music. Saying she's a musical dancer/choreographer does her no justice, and this is one of her better in my opinion.

Keone Madrid feat. Bam Martin, Andye Jamieson, Ian Eastwood, & S**t Kingz @ Summer Drop
This is quite amazing. Keone achieves a perfect balance of smooth, dorky, sexy, and pop. All in one. Not sure if that made sense, but watch it, you'll see. On the subject of Keone Madrid...

Keone Madrid & Mariel Martin - Smooth Operator
I always include at least one beautifully filmed piece in every Best of the Best post, so here's my choice this time! Okay, just kidding. Here's another one from the same couple: Don't Stop The Music

Kaitlynn Edgar - Come to Me     and      Improv     and      Love and War
Ok, yes, she's a competition dancer and I'm not usually one for competition dancing/dancers/choreography. Hear me out and watch one or two (or all three!) of these videos - they're in chronological order, starting with age 12, then 14, then 15, I believe? That could be off. Anyways, this girl is quite something. Not only does she have legs that go on for miles, intense flexibility, and the most stable center of gravity that I've ever seen, but she is also incredibly graceful, dynamic, and exciting. Seeing her evolution from year to year was astounding. Surprisingly, I find that she was most graceful in the first video (age 12). Check her out!

Alright...that's it for this time! If you guys have any video suggestions, leave a comment, I'd be glad to see/hear what you think!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Pet Peeve: The Dance Has to Match The Music!

All day I've been wondering what I should talk about next on this blog. I have to admit I'm a little lazy (tons of pain meds since I got my wisdom teeth out), but it's also because I'm running out of ideas! I won't be posting daily from now on, I think. And then I saw this video, and I really had no other way to title this post because when I saw it, I just had to talk about this.

I'm talking about "Glitter in the Air" choreographed by Kym De Los Reyes. Just watch it first, then read the rest of my post.

Okay, you don't even have to read the rest of the post to see what I'm talking about in the title, right? The first thing I thought of when I saw the five girls on the stage (I knew this song before seeing this piece) is "gee, those costumes don't really match the mood of the song." Then I thought "wait, are they really whipping their hair in half-slow motion and being sexy?", and then came the final "okay, dance does not match music." And I have to say, no matter how exquisite the performance was (the dancers are pretty amazing), or how seamless the choreography was (it flowed well in most places, if not being a little competition-y for my tastes), that the dance did not match the music in any way, shape, or form. And this is one of my biggest pet peeves about watching dance.

The song is about appreciating small moments, love, special little things in life, like tossing a handful of glitter in the air, right? It's pretty emotionally vulnerable. I considered choreographing to this song. But...the dance and costumes are bright and cheery and happy and technical and...didn't match. More than once I felt like I was watching a piece that had a different song dubbed in the background.

I was determined to find a piece to the same song where the dance actually fit the music. I came up with this: "Glitter in the Air" choreographed by Derek Mitchell. It was the second hit on my search, and I really think it's matching. It fits the beat perfectly, has moments of suspension and release, and is generally rhythmical and in the mood of the music. Is it my favorite piece ever? No. Would I put it on any of my Youtube Best of the Best lists? No, I don't think so. But it fits. It fits. And that's what counts.

So if you're doing some choreography and you're worried that it doesn't fit the song, my advice is this: take a different song, and do the choreography. Film yourself doing it maybe. Does it look good? If it does, then either your choreography is fairly generic or it doesn't fit the song you chose originally. Be careful!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Massage for Flexibility

I recently finished taking a 6 week, 1 hour per week class on flexibility from my ballet teacher. We didn't stretch a whole ton, but what we did do is think about flexibility and stretching from a whole new perspective. We talked mostly about releasing tension in areas where tension is holding you back from being more flexible, as well as breathing and gentle stretching. We used Lisa Howell's Front Splits Fast course in this class (find her at theballetblog.com).

I wanted to talk first about massage. One of the huge things in being smart about flexibility is using massage to release tension. Whether you're using your hands, a tennis ball, a foam roller, or someone else was nice enough to give you one, massaging the right places on your body can lead to splits, a higher kick, and/or pain relief. Here are some of my favorite massages:

Neck Massage
This is for those who want to get their front splits or grande battements (kicks) higher faster. Massage your neck and the upper part of your shoulders where your neck transitions into your shoulders/back with your fingers, making small circles and pushing gently. Work from the base of your neck up into your hairline at the base of your skull, using your thumbs to work on the hallows on either side of your spine. You can do this yourself or have a friend help. If a friend is helping, lie on your back and have the friend test your leg flexibility before and after the massage. You should notice a difference after!

Outer Calf Massage
We all know our calves work extra-hard as dancers, but what we don't realize is that it's not just the calf muscle you see bulging that's working. Sit in a double attitude position (double stag?) on the floor, and use your fingers, thumbs, elbow, or a tennis ball to rub around the outside of your calf. You might find a few sore spots - press in a little and breathe to release. A little lotion can help the rubbing sensation if your skin is sensitive (another reason to always keep some in your dance bag!). The results on this massage aren't going to show in the same way as the neck massage, but releasing tension is a necessary way to flexibility.

Foot Massage
Or specifically the arch of the foot, since I can't massage my whole foot (the shifted bone I talked about in my first post). This is a great time to steal your dad's old golf balls, because a golf ball is the perfect size to release some extra tension in your foot. Support yourself with your arms against a wall and put the golf ball under the arch of your foot. Roll it around slowly and sit a little on sore spots. Make sure you're not pressing too hard on the ball so as to cause tear-wrenching pain. Not only is that bad for you, but it could also cause more tension instead of releasing it, thereby rendering the massage ineffective. This massage is particularly good after ballet/pointe rehearsal. If you haven't got a golf ball and you don't mind touching your feet, your hands work just as well. Make sure you wash your hands after!

Bath with epsom salts (magnesium sulfate)
When you've got time, space, and need to release all-over tension, a bath in epsom salt is amazingly relaxing. It does get kind of expensive since you've got to use a ton of salt each time, but epsom salt is great for soothing sore muscles and relaxing tension. Even if you don't feel tense, epsom salt baths are a great luxury! This bath won't replace massaging particular spots though, so don't use it as a cure all.

I might talk about more massages as we go on! These are just a few that I use the most often. Basically, don't cause yourself too much pain when you massage, or make sure you're communicating with the person performing a massage for you. Stay safe and you'll be fine.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What Makes Dancers Good: Relaxing

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 two posts on "Soft Power" and Breathing. Thanks!

This is something I've struggled with in my 15 years of dance: relaxing. My mother's been telling me for years: "It was great! Just...relax more. Enjoy it. You're too serious, loosen up a bit." Mom, you've always been right. Relaxing and just letting go has always been the hardest part of dancing for me, and I've only started to relax in the past year.

Why do we dance? Why do all of us dance? Because it's fun. Because we like love it have to. Because nothing else makes us feel quite so alive. Right? Isn't that what we perform for? Isn't that what makes a dancer's life worth living?

I used to feel that if the dancer fails to entertain the audience that the dancer has failed his/her purpose because I used to think that performance was just entertainment. But dance is really about more than making an audience laugh or cry or hurt: it's about sharing part of yourself and baring part of your soul for the viewers to see. But how can they see that sliver of your soul or receive the gorgeous gift of yourself that you give if you can't relax enough to show it? They can't!

The most relaxed dancers look so beautiful on stage because it looks like the movement is just flowing out of them naturally, that it wasn't choreographed and practiced for hours on end. It looks like that's just what they're meant to do, and it makes the audience feel at ease. Although, you can't relax so much that your movements get sloppy! That's never good.

I really have no tips to help you learn to relax (because I struggle with it myself) other than this: in class, focus on your technique. Go ahead and focus on getting your leg that inch higher, or lean back an inch farther. In rehearsal, do what's asked of you and begin to mold the piece to your body. Make it your own. But when you perform, perform for no one but yourself. You're not trying to impress a judge, an audience member, or even your mother: you are living in the moment for yourself because this is what you love to do. Go out and jump higher than you've ever dared, and if you fall, you fall. But you'll never forget that soar into the air that made you feel like you were flying. Relax, let it all go. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks, because at the end of the day, you're the one living with yourself. You have to be proud of what you do, or no one else matters.

SYTYCD Season 8 is over!

Another season of So You Think You Can Dance has come to a close! And just as everyone thought, Melanie won. I have to say, while she is a beautiful, powerful dancer, that I didn't really want her to win. She was too good from the beginning, but really only in her own style, and I really feel that Sasha, Marko, and Tadd improved so much and showed so much more diversity over the series. Too bad! What do you guys think? Did you like Melanie? Do you agree with the rest of America? Did you vote last night? Let me know!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

SYTYCD Season 8 Finale?!

Is anyone else anxious to see who's gonna win this season? I've tried to avoid putting my opinion on this blog so I don't offend anyone, but I think it's unavoidable now that I've commented on it in my previous post.

This season has been a little crazy, and I really do believe that the overall dancers are better than ever before. Unfortunately, it also means that they were all pretty evenly matched and that no one stood out until the top 8 except Melanie and Marko (power couple anyone?). Even now in the top 4, I feel like they're all deserving of the title, but before I say anything else, I'll just say that I think Melanie will win.

For some reason, she's stood out to me from the beginning, even from when she first auditioned. She had a little more personality I think, and her dancing is just so incredibly powerful (like I talked about before in my previous post). She stood out both as a person and as a dancer. I think it's partially because she's a visual artist (studying...painting? at Fordham Univ.) and because I identify with that, and because it makes her more in tune with the artistic side of dance, and I like that. I'm sure everyone else has their reasons for loving Melanie - I feel like everyone I talk to is rooting for her to win!

Which brings me to my second point. I'm not quite sure I want her to win! You can disagree with me (leave a comment below if you do, I'd be glad to hear your opinions now that I'm voicing mine), but I feel like she hasn't changed throughout the weeks. She dances the same now as when she auditioned. Obviously, that means she was so strong before that she didn't have to change and grow in order to do what was required of her for this show. But she also dances each dance with the same quality. Hip hop, ballroom, contemporary, jazz, they all look the same. Granted, that one look she's got is gorgeous. But it's still just one look. I like Marko and Tadd because they're so adaptable - they fully take on new characters and new personas for each piece. Melanie always dances...Melanie, while other dancers change and mold to the person they're supposed to be dancing as.

I haven't talked about Sasha. Sasha, I think has grown so much. She's so much more powerful now than she was when she started. When she was auditioning with her sister, I was watching her sister a lot. But now, she commands the stage, to the point where she danced with Melanie for a Sonya Tayeh piece, and I was captivated to watch her the whole time. She gets so into the movement, and like Nigel said, I feel like she dances from her soul, and it's something so rare and so beautiful that I think she's my favorite now. Melanie has power. Tadd is amazing in every way, Marko molds to each style and does everything so well, but Sasha has raw power. It's not really something I can describe, it's just that I watch her and feel empowered myself. Not sure, really! Anyone else have a favorite or an opinion? Disagree with me? Leave a comment, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, August 8, 2011

What Makes Dancers Good: Soft Power

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. Thanks!

This time I wanted to discuss something one of my good friends keeps bugging telling me to bring up. I call it "soft power," for lack of a better phrase. What it is is when a dancer makes you feel like they could fly if they wanted to - they just don't choose to. It's the ability to put an almost magical strength behind the movement, but not to use all of it - to control it and make the dancing look effortless and dynamic. It's pure freedom - having all the strength in the world and choosing not to use it.

You know when a dancer is giving her all. She's throwing herself all over the place, she looks like she's having fun, she's got a wild look on her face. But what's better is when you can't tell how hard the dancer is working. You don't know what they're capable of when you watch them, and you feel like they might be holding something even more amazing back. It's a thing of beauty.

I came up with this phrase when I did my third piece of choreography in high school (never talked about it...should I?) and said friend tried to describe a quality I had when I performed my own choreography. I won't claim that I embody this kind of power because if I did, I feel like I'd be perfect (and I'm really so, so far from that).

No, what I mean by "soft power" embodiment is Melanie Moore's solo for SYTYCD last week, or her audition at the beginning of the season (the full version - The Meadow), or Ida Saki's Schindler's List. When I watch them dance, I can feel the energy rolling off their bodies, yet they don't appear to be straining, out of breath, or even tired by the end. They're incredibly quiet, yet their movements speak volumes. They can make a simple gesture with a soft flick of their fingers, and you feel like something should happen because of it. Undoubtedly, they show such controlled strength.

Controlled strength. Yet another phrase that probably doesn't make sense. You have to work - do all that Pilates and all those sit ups - but you have to hide the fact that it was so tough from your audience. You can't push as hard as you want to, thinking they'll appreciate how hard you work. Rather, they'll love you more if you make it look so easy that they they think they can stand up and dance with you. That's when you've succeeded as a dancer, and that's what these dancers do with their soft power.

One month!

First, I have to apologize for being absent for the last few days. I've been really busy with my business, but I'm back! Unfortunately, I missed an important day for this blog!

It's been exactly a month yesterday since I started this blog and it's already been a bigger success than I ever could have anticipated. First of all, I didn't expect myself to be so diligent about making mew posts. Secondly, I didn't expect to have so many readers, let alone so many wonderful readers. So thank you all for reading and I hope you keep stopping by and that I continue to be useful, interesting, and informative for many months to come :)

Keep dancing!


Friday, August 5, 2011

What Makes Dancers Good: Breathing

I guess I'm starting a new series! I keep doing this. Grr.
In this series, I'll be discussing different aspects of dance that I think all "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. Thanks!

Of course you've noticed that your favorite dancers make everything look impossibly effortless. Many of my favorite dancers appear never to touch the ground - it's like they're constantly floating, they're so magical. They're so light on their feet and never appear to be straining. They're limber, nimble, and amazing. So what is it about them that makes them different from the rest of us?

They breathe. They are able to take every movement and send the air they breathe through their body and make it float. Okay, not literally, but the fact that they breathe means so much.

Did you ever notice that you're holding your breath? Maybe you're trying to get the steps of a new combination down and you're having problems, or you're concentrating on the perfect turnout or getting your leg higher. Basically, if you've ever been out of breath after a combination or performance piece, it means you weren't breathing as much as you needed to. You're holding your breath because you unconsciously feel like if you focus all your brain power and energy on your leg being higher, it will magically pop up another few inches and you won't have to waste time breathing. You don't need air. Air is secondary. Leg up first.

In all actuality, if you took a deep breath in as you lifted your leg and continued to breathe as you held it there, you might have discovered that it went a little higher, or that at least it felt easier. In an exercise my ballet teacher had us do in our stretch class, she asked us to do a grande plie in first position first breathing out as we went down, then breathing in as we went down. Amazingly, breathing out makes you drop faster and feel like a sinking rock, while breathing in makes you feel light as a floaty feather and makes the drop look (and feel) so much better. Try it - you'll probably experience something similar.

One way I learned how to breathe more when I dance is focusing on being able to hear my own breathing. I also thought about the dynamics of what I was dancing and chose particular places of split-second rest or suspension to take breaths in, and faster sequences in which to let breath out. It was weird and unnatural at first, but I was able to train my body to make breathing through each movement more of a reflex. I still catch myself not breathing sometimes, especially when I get excited about what I'm doing, so breathing is still something I'm working on.

Maybe you don't understand what I mean when I say "breathe through movement." Basically it's what I touched on above: thinking about and understanding the dynamics of a dance and when a breath in or out will help you achieve those dynamics. If you're taking a huge leap into the air, take a breath in. If you're doing some fast footwork that ends with a suspended turn, take short breaths out followed by a long breath in to help you suspend. If you're (into ballet terms) doing a tombe pas de bourre, glissade, grande jete sequence, take a luxurious (slow) breath in on the tombe to help you fall slower and lighter, take quick breaths out on the pas de bourre and glissade, and take a quick, big breath in as you go up into your grande jete. Then do the whole sequence without breathing. Feels different, huh?

I hope that made some sense and that it'll get you thinking about breathing. Remember, dancing isn't just about how high your leg goes or where your arm is - it's just as much about how the leg comes down and how the arm extends and curves to flow into the next movement. Dancing is nothing without transitions, and learning to breathe will get you through those transitions with ease.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Fliming Dance for Youtube

You know those beautifully filmed dance pieces I always rave about in my Best of the Best posts about Youtube videos? I made my first attempt at one yesterday, and I think it was probably one of the hardest things I've ever attempted for dance. The dance itself took me about 30 minutes from conception to finishing choreography, filming took me at least another hour, and editing took me about four hours. It was absolutely insane, but the feeling I get from finally making my own piece of art just for fun is incredibly rewarding.

Now that I've done it once, I've got a few things I'd improve for next time.

1) Get someone else to film.
Yeah, you're probably saying "What? Daisy, how in the world did you manage to film it yourself?", and I'm inclined to ask the same thing. I've talked about my Flip camera before, but I also used my trusty Gorillapod - it's basically a super bendy tripod (so I could wrap it around a tree to film...I'm not kidding about the tree). I'll have a link below. But really, if you have someone to film, you can do close up shots of both of your hands - something that's impossible if you're filming yourself.

2) Film multiple runs of the same angle.
Granted I wanted to get it done quickly because I was filming outdoors and I didn't want the sun's angle to change too much, but I only filmed the dance 5 times all the way through from 3 different angles. Two of the times were completely unusable because the angle only captured part of my body at all times (tree), with left me with three shots to choose from. I reshot individual pieces of choreography here and there with hopes that it would all run together well, but I just didn't have enough footage to create a seamless sequence, which is kind of sad. If you don't have multiple shots from the same (good) angle, you won't have anything to choose from in case you make a mistake.

3) Have a good idea of what you want the film to look like before you shoot.
I didn't quite make this mistake. I knew I wanted to start off the film sort of normal, pedestrian with artistic filming, and make it a mini-story to run into the dance. But it's a good idea to make a list of the sequences you want to shoot if your film is going to be longer than 2 minutes. In mine, the dancing really only took up half of the time of the entire film and I knew what I wanted to do to start it off. Planning ahead made the actual filming so much easier.

4) Choose a reasonable location.
Don't do what I did. I chose a small space outdoors, meaning there were very few surfaces to put my camera on to film and I didn't have much space to dance in. My piece was site-specific (choreographed for a certain physical space), so I couldn't change it when I discovered the challenges, but next time I would scout out an area and plan out angles a little better before even considering choreographing or filming.

Remember your film doesn't have to look professional. You're an amateur (and if you're not, what are you doing here?!), and you're just having fun. Experiment, make mistakes, and have a blast - if you don't, you'll just be too scared to even start. I won't be publicly posting the link to the film I made here, but if you're interested, comment below and I'll get it to you.

Ballet Shoe Sewing Tutorial Part 2

While Part 1 of this tutorial was for sewing the elastics in an X-shape, Part 2 will be for sewing the elastic band straight across the foot so that you end up with something that looks like this:

My beautiful foot.
This way of sewing the shoe is basically for 2 groups of people: 1) younger girls who aren't in adult sized shoes yet, and 2) dancers who have teacher who want shoes sewn this way. I guess you could prefer this way, but most dancers I know prefer and use the X method because many shoes come with the elastics already sewn in the back and because it helps the shoe stay on better. My teacher, however, is one of these teachers that prefers the shoe to be sewn with the elastic straight across the foot, so this is particularly relevant for me!

The sewing itself is actually very much like steps 3 and 4 of my previous tutorial, with a few minor differences.

Step 1: Take one side of the elastic and eyeball about an inch from the end. Place the elastic against the outside of the instep of the shoe (near your arch) and mark where the elastic meets the shoe on the elastic itself and on both sides of it. Make sure you leave about an inch of elastic below the line so the elastic won't fray after you sew it.

I promise that's my instep. Sorry for the close-up shot.
Step 2: This is where it gets different. Sew down the instep before you go any further, making sure that the elastic is on the inside and not the outside.

Step 3: Pull the elastic taut across your foot to the other side of the shoe. Make sure it's tight enough, but not too tight. This is also a good test of your sewing skills before you go any further. Mark the shoe and elastic where it meets the shoe straight across from where you've just sewn the instep, and sew.

Another close-up shot. That's the outside of my foot.
Step 4: Trim off any excess elastic in the shoe (they always give you a little more than you'll need). You can trim it down to maybe 3/4" or 1/2", but no less than that!

And that's it! Much simpler than the X because there's no angles and folding and all that good stuff involved. Happy sewing!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Dancing Hair Tips

Putting hair up is one of the things I dislike about dance, but I can't bear dancing when hair is whipping in my face (unless I'm just having fun, dancing by myself, or choreographing - then I love having my hair down). Especially since I've got relatively short hair, it's hard to get it all stuck down without hairspray (I hate hairspray, so that's not in my tips). Here's a few tips I have about hair (I'm thinking about doing a separate ballet bun tutorial):

Rubberized Hairties: You probably know as well as I do that those normal black hairties are soft and they come out easily, but they also don't grip at all and slide down your ponytail in 2 pirouettes. They also get stretched out in just a few uses (or maybe that's just me?).
Photo/Product Credit
Honestly, this is the greatest idea. Just one of these rubberized hairties holds my hair up (used to have to layer 2) and it holds its elasticity for at least a year. I use one to tie a ponytail and a second to tie a bun. I bought two packs 4 years ago and they've lasted me until now (through snapping hairties and losing hairties).

Hairbands with teeth: I don't have enough good things to say about these. They pull my bangs back without having to use 10000 clips and, most importantly, they stay on my head. If you get one that's well-shaped, you won't be in danger of it flying off. I just bought this set that I absolutely love from Forever 21:

Photo/Product Credit
To be honest, the leopard print hairband held little appeal for me. There are no teeth on it, so it'll probably slip off, but I guess it can be cute for everyday wear (although I'm not a huge animal print fan). I bought this pack for the black one because it fit my head so well. And for $2.80, why not buy this pack, even if you only want one? I wore it all through teaching, stretch class, and ballet yesterday, when I was up, down, upside down, and sideways, and it never once fell off or even slid around, and I didn't get those painful dents in the skin behind my ears. I'm definitely going to go back and buy at least 2 more packs so that I'll have back ups of this black hairband when it breaks (hey, they're cheap plastic. What do you expect?). Anyone like leopard?

Rubberized hairbands: Hairbands like this are great if you've got short wispies at the base of your neck because it goes all the way around your head. These have the added bonus of a strip of flexible rubberized coating on the inside of the band so that it won't slip as much. Unfortunately, they do still slip, so I'd suggest you pin it down with 4 clips or bobby pins - one right on top of your head, two behind your ears, and one at the base of your neck. I prefer the hard plastic hairbands (like the one above) to these rubberized ones because I'm lazy you don't have to pin them down.
Photo/Product Credit
Hair clips (not bobby pins): These are great because they hold, are easy to snap on and snap off, and aren't so tiny that you'll lose them in your bag all the time! Granted, they are a little more expensive, but it's worth it. Before I started using headbands, 7 of these clips held down every wispy on my head, and I've got short hair, remember?
Photo/Product Credit
Bobby pins: After I just knocked bobby pins in my description of hairclips, you might be wondering why I put them on my list. You know those bun pins that are either flimsy or really, really long? If I used those, they either wouldn't hold my hair at all or they would poke out of my bun, and that's dangerous and unattractive. What I do (with just regular bobby pins) is stretch out the pin so that it's got a little alligator shape, like this:

Ruined bobby pins - I know.
These pins are short enough that they won't stick out of my bun, and they're strong enough to hold my bun down! Through long hair and short hair, 4-7 of these stretched out pins along the circumference of my bun have worked! I discovered this trick when I ran out of straight-bun pins once, and I've never gone back. However, if you insist that I'm wrong about hair clips for pinning down bangs, twist a small tuft of hair, take your bobby pins, and cross them one over another so that they make an X shape. That will make them stay a lot better. Also use the crossed X bobby pins for pinning flowers, feathers, or other accessories/costume pieces in your hair.

Basically, you may have noticed that most of these products are by Goody. I just like them better than Scunci, or other drugstore hair products, because their products, especially the ones I've mentioned, are cheap, useful, and last for so long.

I also crochet my own hair flowers/bun scrunchies to decorate my hair (let's face it - black leotard, pink tights, and a bun can get boring without a little color). If you're interested, let me know and I'll post pictures and/or a pattern/tutorial! Don't worry, they're easy. I'm not a seasoned crochet-artist.

That's it! Do you have any great hair tips/tricks? Are you a die-hard hairspray or bobby pin fanatic (sorry if I offended you)? Talk to me, I'm desperate to hear back from readers Leave a comment below!