Monday, December 31, 2012

Dance Resolutions 2013

1 year ago I made resolutions for 2012. I made an update about them in July in light of new discoveries and to see whether I had accomplished them. Did I? Let's check again.
  1. Get in shape, lose weight - shape...maybe. I'm a lot stronger than I was at this time last year, both mentally and physically. I do still need to lose weight, but I'm proud that I'm exactly the same weight and maybe a pound or two less than I was at this time last year. I haven't gained weight over break, thank goodness, and I know my weaknesses now.
  2. Post more on this blog and my YouTube channel - nope. I've been pretty bad about posting, and I feel like at times I feel that I have nothing to say. I hope that I never lose sight of my love for dance and that I never feel like that again.
  3. Do pointe more - yes and no. I accomplished this during spring of the last school year, but this semester I've been too tired and injured for pointe (sustained both back and foot injuries as well as more rehearsals). But my feet are still strong enough, and I'll get back to it when I'm well enough to do so.
  4. Keep sleeping - yes. I've done well with this one. Still 6-7+ hours every school night.
  5. Drink more water - sometimes. I've lost sight of this one every now and then. It's still a work in progress, but I'm getting there.
Imagine this says 2012-2013. Photo Credit

For 2013, what do I want?
  1. Build strength - I know what my weaknesses are now and what I need to do to build myself up. I want to build a fitness regimen for my day, week, and month, and hopefully keep it up all year long! I'll do my core workout, sun salutation, work with my theraband, stretch, and jump rope when I don't have a gym handy.
  2. Drink more water - yep. This one stays. I want to clear my skin, have more energy, lose weight, and stay healthy.
  3. Take care - of injuries before and when they arise. Of my mental and emotional health. Of my nutrition. I have done a lot of listening to my body this year and I know what it needs. I just need to gear my life and choices towards giving it what it needs. 
  4. Build a regimen - this kind of includes all of the three above, but I want to build a daily regimen for myself. I've done pretty good with keeping up my facial skincare routine, but I want to add using body lotion, foot lotion, and hand lotion. I want to keep up a daily/weekly exercise routine, and pamper myself once a week. Things like that.
  5. Be more thankful, positive, and happy - I've spent a lot of my life being negative, sad, and selfish. I'd like to start living.
  6. Stop being afraid - of the future. I have a piece to choreograph that will debut in mid February, and I'm scared to death. I'm trying to decide what city to move to to dance in in the future, and I'm scared to death. I'm worrying about auditions next year, and I'm scared to death. Truth is, I'm tired of being scared. I've read the book Art and Fear a few times, and I know that fear is what holds me back the most as a dancer and as an artist. I just need to let go. And on that subject...
  7. Relax - take time for myself. Make myself an epsom salt foot soak or bubble bath. Go out and have fun. Quit worrying. Stop being so serious on stage and enjoy the moments (it makes the dancing look better too). Snuggle under my electric blanket. Be young.
I wish you all a happy and safe New Year's! Keep dancing!

Love, Daisy

Friday, December 28, 2012

After Christmas/New Year's Sales

I thought that everything would be on sale. I suppose I thought wrong. However, there are a few things in the dance world that are a little discounted. I thought I'd round up all of the specials on dancewear that are running this week!

Special Holiday offers:
Discount Dance Supply has a 10% off orders of $90 or more with the code WISH12 (expires 1/3/13), or save 10% off orders of $100 or more with the code DMJAN9647 from Dance Magazine (expires 1/31/13). They also have a fantastic clearance section and lots of new arrivals.

**UPDATE: Discount Dance is now offering $10 off dance shoes when you order $125 or more through 1/9/13 with the code JANSHOE.

All About Dance is offering 15% off all tights, but it ends today (Friday 12/28)! They also offer free shipping and returns on all orders every day (new favorite dancewear site)!

For studio owners, Revolution Dancewear is offering $200 in credit towards dancewear for opening a merchant account with NAB.

Capezio is giving away a brand new 2013 dance bag full of products valued at $450! Enter here with just your email address, and they'll even give you 10% off the entire store on the date you enter. 

Other offers:
Dancewear Solutions has over 200 items in their clearance section up to 60% off (free shipping on orders of $150 or more).

Capezio is offering $3.95 flat rate shipping on all orders, or free shipping with $100 orders.

American Apparel dancewear is so colorful! Free shipping with orders of $50 or more on the whole store (that's not hard with AA).

Danskin offers 20% off your order for signing up for their email list and free shipping with orders of $75 and over.

Dancewear Corner offers free shipping on $50 and up orders every day.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Youtube Best of the Best: Updates 25

Lexi Dysart - Asking Too Much
I love the soundtrack of this piece, but even more, I love that it looks like the soundtrack was written for the dance.

Ian Eastwood & Brian Puspos - Christmas Eve
In the spirit of the holiday (even if it's over)! I know what I could have wanted for Christmas...

Sidi Larbi Cherkaqui - Sigur Ros - Valtari (Vimeo)
WARNING: this one's got some female toplessness involved (it's European.), but it's actually very effectively used. This piece is visually and emotionally stunning. It helps that two fantastic dancers/contortionists that have such an intimate connection were paired with a brilliant director and innovative choreographer. Beautiful.

Karen Chuang - Send Me Down by Haim
She's small but feisty, and always one for movement invention. Gorgeous!

Merry Christmas!

A ballerina on my Christmas tree :)
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of my readers (and everyone else too)! It's been a great year of happiness, disappointment, inspiration, failure, and love. All of it is necessary for shaping who we are and what we become, and I'm thankful for every minute of every emotion.

 I hope I've helped, inspired, or enlightened you about something this year! I know I have learned things from this blog and from some of you! Thank you for everything.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

For the Dancer with Holiday Spirit: Gifts and Crafts

Hi everyone! Last year I did a gift list for dancers, and all of that still holds true. However, this will be a little different: a list of everything holiday-y and dancer-y that I think will be perfect this holiday season for a dancer in your life, or just for yourself ;) Happy holidays!

#1 Paper Snowflake Ballerinas
Photo Credit

These are hanging in my college's studio office as we speak. They're simply cut outs of ballerinas in tutus with paper snowflakes folded over the tutus! So easy (if you're good with scissors or an xacto knife) for older girls, and you can have littler girls cut out the snowflakes for the tutus!

#2 Leotards I adore this season.

Discount Dance - Natalie

Just to name a few!

#3 Beauty gifts
The Body Shop has some absolutely great sales running - free standard shipping, $30 for 3 items, buy 3 get 3 free/buy 2 get 2's endless! I love their tea tree oil line.
Sephora has some great fast gift options as well! Their Philosophy body/bath line would be perfect for any dancer. A good quality nail clipper could make a huge difference for a pointe dancer.
Something nice from Ben Nye (for performances) or Mac (performance + daily use) will be great for a dancer who is looking to upgrade her makeup collection, performance or daily.

General beauty gift ideas:
  • scented/shimmery body lotion
  • foot lotion
  • bun/hair accessories
  • bubble bath
  • bath salts (look for an epsom salt-based one with some lavender - will help minimize soreness and aid mind and muscle relaxation, or make your own bath salts!)
#4 Recipes/Crafts
  1. this peppermint sugar scrub and peppermint foot scrub are great DIYs, even if it's not edible.
  2. tip for baking cookies that spread out too fast: set the temperature to 350-375 degrees, up the baking time to 10-15 minutes (make sure to check on them), and put your cookie dough in a muffin tin. The cookies will be abnormally shaped (slightly muffin-esque), but they will be uniformly sized, easy to remove (grease the pan with a little olive oil and run a knife around the edges right after they come out of the oven), and won't burn on the edges!
  3. this honey lip balm looks amazing!
  4. when all else fails, a cute handmade card and gift card will show someone you care!

Friday, December 14, 2012


My darling readers,

I, for one, can't believe I'm making this post now. I made my 10,000 views post in June of this year, meaning I received 10,000 views in about a year. Can you believe I've had another 10,000 in only half a year since then? 20,000 views and 155 posts!

I have had so much fun writing and updating this blog. It's even more of a pleasure to see that more and more people are accessing and reading what I have to say. It's been a personal journey as well - looking back at my old posts has taught me about myself and even reminded me of things to keep in mind and improve in myself and my own dancing. Even if none of you see this, I had to let you know and thank you, because I'm way too excited! I will continue to make posts that are hopefully more tailored to your interests and feedback via the survey I held and the comments I've been receiving.

To everyone who is traveling home or with family for the holidays soon - be safe in your travels and have fun!
To students who finished, are finishing, or will soon be taking finals - good luck/congratulations! Term's over!
To all - a good night :) and happy holidays! Thank you for reading!


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Pet Peeve: The Question Part 2

This post from HelloGiggles is possibly one of the more important things I've read recently. It's titled: "How to answer the question 'What do you do?' while chasing your dream." Because we all will run into that problem one day, the dreaded question that I talked about in Part 1 of this post.

If you're like me (still some kind of student), you can answer "What do you do" or "what's your major" or "what do you want to do" with "I'm a dancer/dance major" and people respond with "Oh, that's so cool! Good for you, I wish I could dance," or something like that. When you get past 25 and are living in a tiny apartment with no heat and 5 other roommates and work 3 jobs, answering "I'm a dancer" is questionable at best.

This is a great article because it does empower you to take hold of your life and answer honestly, but still gives you tips for those situations where honesty isn't the best policy. You do need to be able to answer "I'm a dancer" with pride, but also to know when dance will not be respected as an occupation (and be met with the question "Yes, but what do you actually do?").

In the end, the message is to not be driven up the wall by other people's views and opinions and to do your art for yourself. Dance because you want to and quit because you're done, not because other people want you to or don't like you. You'll thank yourself in the end.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Youtube Best of the Best: Updates 24

S**T Kingz - Let Me Get This Right by Neyo :: Urban Dance Camp
This is so good and so sexy I might just start crushing...

Amanda Tae for Alexis and Jeanine Mason - For You
This choreography doesn't have the greatest continuity, but there are interesting movements and moments, and it most certainly showcases Alexis and Jeanine beautifully. They dance so similarly, yet are so beautiful individually and have their own voices. This piece shows that they both have incredible strength and clarity as well as emotional depth and love for each other.

George Balanchine - He Taught America How To Dance
This is a short article from DanceSpirit (by Margaret Fuhrer) that gives you a short idea of who Balanchine was and what he did for the dance world. Just in case you didn't already know, love dance history, or just love NYCB or dance in general...

Keone Madrid - Lois Lane
This piece is just so musical, so well executed, and so great with the suspenders.

Richard Walters - Spirit of the Stairway
This isn't dance, it's just music. That happens to be absolutely breathtakingly beautiful for dance. My jazz teacher just did a brilliant combination to this piece, and I wanted to share. :)

Mike Song and Anthony Lee - Vocal Dancing
This is so creative and funny.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ideal Dancer's Body: Sensitive

As employees of a profession that requires you to have perfect command of your body at all times, dancers need to be able to listen to their bodies and adapt. Obviously, part of this is stopping or modifying movement when pain becomes noticeable and chronic, but there are other components to listening to what your body is saying.

One aspect is nutrition. One dancer may function just fine after she eats a banana for breakfast, but maybe you need to eat a bowl of oatmeal with a spoonful of sugar, raisins, and a glass of milk. Maybe you need eggs and bacon. One dancer never eats chocolate before she dances because she claims that it causes her muscles to have less stretch. No one can tell you what's right for your body, because only you know. But that's another problem - how do you know?
  1. keep a food diary - write down the foods you eat every meal for a week or two and observe how you feel one, two, and three hours after. Were you more ready to warm up and stretch after you ate a full meal or with just a small snack? Did more protein or more carbs or more veggies/fruits help you to keep your energy up? What kept you fuller for the longest period of time? What times of the day were best for you to eat?
  2. observe and make changes - if you don't keep the diary, observe how you feel from day to day or meal to meal. I realized that I feel much fuller for much longer if I include a fruit or vegetable at every meal (usually both at lunch) and carry a baggie of almonds with me (a handful of almonds can hold me for an hour).
Another is temperature. I don't necessarily like dancing in a room that has no air conditioning (it gets so sweaty and stinky so fast), but I've noticed that I feel much warmer, stretchier, and more willing to dance if I am in a warm room. When the air is cool, sweat on your shirt chills your skin and muscles and they won't be as ready to dance - you can hurt yourself that way.
  1. bring an extra shirt - one for warm up, one for the rest of class. A boy in my class does this every day, and I used to think it was silly until I realized how chilly my skin got when we started learning the combinations.
  2. bring a sweat towel - for ballet, mostly, when you can't just change your leotard. Keep a towel with you at the barre to prevent sweat from drying (can also help prevent breakouts).
  3. wear pants and jackets for warm up, or put them back on when you get cold - I didn't notice how important this one was until I got to 18. When I was 16, I could plop into the splits regardless of where I was or what I was doing. And now, it's even worse - starting class in booty shorts and a sports bra is really hard for me. I always have a pair of jazz pants or sweats with me to keep my hamstrings from pulling.
Quite obviously, a third is pain. If you're hurting, do something about it. I've preached this one enough, so I don't think I need to repeat myself, but if I do, here's some of my old articles on this topic:
  1. Pet Peeve: Pain = Battle Scar
  2. Ideal Dancer's Body - Painless
  3. Ideal Dancer's Body - Injury-Free
  4. Take Care Of Your Body
  5. Caring for Your Feet as a Pointe Dancer
Stay healthy, especially now during the holidays and towards the end of the semester with breaks coming up!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Making Your Life Healthier: Nutrition

Everyone wants easy, painless ways to make their lives healthier to stay fit and strong. Wouldn't it be great if we didn't have to sacrifice taste for nutrition? Alas, such is not usually the case, but there are some things easy things that can help.
  1. Drink water until dinner: treat yourself to some juice, soda, or other drinks at dinnertime. Otherwise, stick to water - it will help you stay hydrated throughout the day, flush out toxins, and help you to lose weight. Avoid caffeine as much as you can: caffeine is a diruetic, so not only will you be dehydrated, but you'll also retain water and those other toxins. If you need something other than water to keep you awake, try some green or herbal teas. Remember, even juices contain a whole lot more sugar (sometimes added) and no fiber compared to their whole fruit counterparts.
  2. Choose whole wheat/grain options: when you order a sandwich or wrap, when you're buying cereal, bread, rice, and pasta, ask and look for healthier options. Whole wheat breads and wraps, whole grain cereals, brown rice, quinoa, wheat berries, and whole wheat spaghetti are great alternatives to their less healthy, white cousins (not being racist, I swear). White grains are processed to take out all the shells and hulls, which contain all the fiber and vitamins.
  3. When eating out, make one healthy sacrifice or leave something out: like cheese, sour cream, salt, larger portions, and cream sauces. Choose tomato sauce on pizzas and pastas (cream sauces have tons of butter, salt, dairy - saturated fat!), leave out the cheese (or ask for only 1 slice instead of 2) when ordering a burger, or choose a burrito bowl instead of a burrito (with the tortilla) when at Chipotle. Ask for your local fast food place for no salt on your French fries - not only will they cook you a new batch so that they have no salt (yes, fresh fries!), you can decide how much salt to add later yourself. I guarantee you it will be less.
  4. Add veggies: when eating a burger, add tomato, lettuce, onions, pickles, and mustard. Leave out the cheese (or add less), mayo, or animal style (West coast!). When cooking pasta for yourself, add some raw veggies when cooking the sauce, like mushrooms, small broccoli florets, and bell peppers.
  5. Make a plan for your daily eating: get your body into a routine of when you're eating and what size meal you eat. The most important thing is to get in a habit of designating one time a day for a treat: a glass of wine after dinner (for those 21 and older), dessert after dinner, maybe a fun snack like potato chips mid-afternoon. That way you won't crave those foods at other times.
  6. Eat more, smaller meals: not always possible, but it's much healthier for your body to eat small portions throughout the day. That way, your blood glucose levels never spike, you never feel ravenous, and you generally eat less than you would with three full meals. Your body is designed to store about 4 hours of energy - if you don't eat every four hours, you're technically starving!
  7. Eat breakfast: it doesn't really make sense when you first hear it, but eating breakfast can help you lose weight. Studies have shown that people who eat breakfast jumpstart their metabolism at the beginning of the day so they are more productive and awake, burn more calories throughout the day, and generally eat less at other meals because their body is more attuned to feeling when they are full. Even if it's a banana and a glass of milk, or a sugary bowl of cereal, breakfast is important. A nutritionally-packed one is better (of course).

Happy Thanksgiving!

To all my lovely US readers, happy turkey day! Everyone else, happy Thursday? On this day (and every other day), I am so thankful for so many things:
  1. all of you! Thank you for encouraging me to write and for continuing to read!
  2. My parents. They're so supportive of everything I do, especially my career choices. They've flown to my school to see all of my performances. I couldn't ask for more.
  3. The chance to attend college. Not all people do, especially dancers. Many dancers don't feel it's necessary, but college is an important period of growth, learning, and developing the identity you will carry for the rest of your life.
  4. Dance. There's nothing I love more and nothing I would rather do than dance for the rest of my days. It's my first and only love, and it has given me so much.
  5. Health. I'm not always in the best of condition (currently dealing with a sprained/compressed back and rehearsals for a concert next week), but I can get out of my bed every day and go to class. I can afford fruits and veggies so that I can cook myself healthy, varied meals every day.
  6. Little things. Fresh fuji apples off our family tree in the garden, crisp weather and sunny days, fuzzy jackets and socks, delicious baked things, the Internet, stealing bites of stuffing before it's stuffed in the turkey...
  7. On that note, I'm also thankful for tears when cutting the onion for stuffing, eating white bread while tearing it apart for stuffing (never get white bread!), peeling potatoes, and licking the bowl of mashed potatoes with my dog when they go into the oven.
  8. My friends. This year has been one of the best in my memory, and they've been a huge part of it.
There are so many others!
PS: did anyone catch the Rockettes this morning in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade? Their choreography was so modernized yet still within the theme of precision that the Rockettes have always had. Loving this new look! What did you think?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

ABDC Cancelled?!

So I've been a bad blogger. Very bad blogger. 2 weeks with no post. I'm sorry. Happy early Thanksgiving?!

Anyhow, I got this news a few days ago: ABDC got cancelled after 7 seasons. What?! Some of America's best crews were discovered from that show. The most famous, celebrated, and successful hip hop crew of all time (aka. the Jabbawockeez - winners of Season 1) came from that show. So many of my Youtube hours were spent poring over that show. My favorite hip hop dancers Ian Eastwood (Mos Wanted), DTrix and Hok (Quest Crew), and all the members of I.aM.mE were launched into fame (or even more fame than before) by that show.

What really makes me sad is that shows like Dancing with the Stars remain strong after 15 seasons. DWTS makes already famous people even more famous. ABDC discovers new talent. DWTS is ballroom-exclusive. ABDC is hip hop, America's current dance obsession and the dance style of this generation. Tell me again why DWTS is more popular and deserves to be on the air more than ABDC?

I'm not saying that ballroom doesn't deserve it's spotlight or isn't as worthy or good as hip hop - I think it's great that ballroom is making a comeback in mainstream culture. I love that the general public is being taught to love all forms of dance, especially something "old fashioned" like ballroom. DWTS is a great way to educate the current generation about some of the culture that built the America we know today. I'm just sad that ABDC won't continue to be a part of that education.

How do you feel about ABDC getting cancelled? Did you like or watch the show?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Interesting Links 6

Suzanne Cleary & Peter Harding - Hands - Up & Over It (Dance Version)
Some people tap with their feet. They can tap with their hands. What's your point?

Komal Takkar for DanceSpirit - College Confessions: Being a UArts Dancer
A quick look for those who are now applying to and trying to decide on colleges.

Margaret Fuhrer for DanceSpirit - This B-Boy Will Blow You Away
Uh, did you guys know Red Bull hosts an international b-boy competition? Plus, the "Mountain Halo" is ridiculously amazing.

Katie from This Chick Cooks - Slow Cooker Hummus
Hummus is a delicious, healthy, and nutrient-packed snack. Unfortunately, you can add "expensive" to that list of adjectives. Did you ever really think about it though? Chickpeas, cumin, oil, salt, garlic...what's so hard?

Dance Magazine - Choreography Knocks
Maybe you've got a piece that you're proud of! My first ever dance competition was a local choreography competition where I submitted my first piece of choreography (and won 3rd place and $200, what?). Some of these are great opportunities!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dancers' Best of Tumblr

Tumblr is a truly fantastically horrible site. Its clutches are so alluring to the procrastinating college student. I don't tumble that often, but when I do....

Photo Credit
All of the glory that is snarky ballet students (more universally applicable).
This one's a little more ballet specific...but anyone who dances will understand.
It's just...yeah.
This one is a photo blog...but oh so pretty.
A lovely Q&A section, plus more day to day quotes that are relatable.

More prettiness in the form of pictures...
Claims to be a modern dance photo blog, but is more of an all-around awesomeness blog.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Injuries You Can Heal: Sciatica

You guys said you wanted lifestyle tips, so this one is going to be based on my own experience with physical therapy, the dance kinesiologist in my department, and my experience with alternative healing. I'm not a professional and I don't pretend to be, so please take my advice with a grain of salt. This blog post is no substitute for a doctor's visit if you're really in pain! See my first post on feet.

The Biology
Sciatica describes a pain in the back of the leg, usually starting in the middle of the butt cheek and running down the length of the leg. It is caused due to irritation, inflammation, or pinching of the sciatic nerve.
Photo Credit
Usually, the problem with sciatica in dancers is the piriformis muscle (pictured below). Amongst the majority of the population, the sciatic nerve runs through the piriformis muscle, which is one of your deep turnout muscles. Obviously, with all of the turning out that dancers do, the piriformis is commonly very tight. When it gets too tight, it can clamp down on the sciatic nerve, giving you sciatica.
Photo Credit

The problem: Pinched/inflamed sciatic nerve.

What it feels like: Pain starting in the middle of your butt and running down the length of your leg. The pain will be shooting, stabbing, and/or burning.

The solution: A pinky ball and some stretching. The pigeon stretch is a common piriformis stretch - the more you move your leg into a more extended attitude, the more stretch you will feel. If you have a pinky ball, lie flat on your back. Place a pinky ball under your tailbone and roll sideways on it until the pinky ball is directly to the left or right (depending on which sciatic nerve is inflamed) of the tailbone. You'll feel a lovely searing pain. Relax into the ball. If your leg starts to tingle and go numb, the pinky ball is digging into an artery - just roll around on the ball with tiny, slow movements until you find a spot that doesn't make your leg go numb and is perfectly cradling the muscle.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Youtube Best of the Best: Updates 23

MOMIX for Target
This is absolutely stunning. Some of the things that MOMIX come up with are just ridiculous. Things you wouldn't even imagine could exist do exist, and in such style. I love Pilobolus, and MOMIX doesn't disappoint either.

Pat Cruz - Lemme See
Some really interesting subtleties and use of formations and shape.

Dave Crowe - Beatbox Dubstep London
This is a stretch - it doesn't contain much dance. There's a little popping and performance in general. Mainly, it's an amazing beatboxer being an entire orchestra + synthesizer. Talent is so unequally distributed. It's not fair....

P!NK - Try
Props to P!NK for doing real dancing, and props to her partner for making her look so good!

Justin Bieber - Beauty and a Beat
There's some dancing, and some of it is in the water (wow.), but what I really put this video on this list for was Ian Eastwood's brief appearance. Did you catch him?

Matt Luck and Emma Portner - Dancing in the Dark
Crisp, precise, clear, heartbreaking and heartwarming. Lovely.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Youtube Best of the Best: Updates 22

Mike Song - Skrillex - First of the Year
When it's half choreography and half improv...and you can't tell where one flowed into the other? You know it's good.

Shen Wei Dance Arts - Connect Transfer II
What if you could combine visual arts and performing arts, painting with dance? Oh wait, you can.

Yang Li-Ping - Moon Solo Dance
There's so much drama, control, and specificity that comes with shadow/silhouette play, and this woman pulls it off beautifully. The first two minutes are mesmerizing, but I do admit it gets a little weird after that.

Northwest Dance Project - (Vimeo) Covered
Okay, it's on Vimeo, not Youtube. Still a video, close enough. This is the beauty of what can be done with fantastic dancers and socks on a good floor.

Marion Crampe & Edouard Doye at Milan Pole Dance Studio
Some people may call this disgusting, I call it a beautiful and powerful display of strength and artistry.

Ian Eastwood ft. Chachi Gonzales - Fall by Justin Bieber :: Urban Dance Camp
They're the hottest couple ever. Ever. EVER. Oh, the choreography is amazing too.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo - Swan Lake Ballet Parody
Anyone who knows anything about Swan Lake has probably heard about this section of the piece - the one with four corps members dancing together holding hands (I'm sure it has a name...)? Ballets Trockadero is an all-male ballet company who performs spoofs of traditional ballet - and all en pointe! This is old...but still. But still.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Snap, Crackle, and Pop (part 2)

So quite a while ago, I made a post titled Snap, Crackle, and Pop, talking about cracking joints. Funny story, because almost a year later (one month ago), DanceSpirit made a post of the same name - only they consulted experts and wrote it better.

Photo Credit
Writer Julie Diana asked a few experts what the deal was about cracking. I'm sure you've all had the teacher or friend who told you that cracking your joints obsessively would lead to wearing away the cartilage in your knuckles and joints and possibly arthritis one day. But is it true?

The chiropractors and dance medicine specialists that Diana consulted say no. Cracking isn't necessarily unhealthy, all you're doing is taking your joint to the end of its ROM (range of motion), which feels good and loosens it up a bit. The crack that you hear is caused by one of three (normal) possibilities: 1) a little bubble of gas escapes when you move the joint to the end of its ROM, 2) the cartilage is not smooth and makes a sound when it rubs against something, or 3) tendons or small, tight muscles make a noise when sliding over a bursa.

All in all, it's not necessarily bad to crack and pop joints if it makes you feel better and more at ease with your ROM. Cracking even releases endorphins, and while short lived, endorphins make you happy. So crack, snapple, and pop away! (oops, did I mess that up?)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Capezio Demipointe Shoe

I just got an email that Discount Dance Supply had updated their shoe collection for fall (shoes!), which was super exciting just because I like looking at all the shininess. What I didn't expect was coming across something new - the Capezio Demipointe Shoe

Broad Demipointe Shoe - Style No 1118
Photo Credit
Here is the description from the DDS website:
This broad fit demi pointe shoe best accommodates a broad forefoot with even length toes, has no shank and is designed for the dancer preparing for an introduction to pointe work. Features include a broad toe box, an internally cushioned broad platform, a stitched toe box with quiet toe construction, a low vamp and round throat, a soft cotton lining and foam insole, a light strength box, a 3/4 feathered pasted box with very light wings, bias side seams, satin binding, elastic drawstring and a short suede outer sole with compo construction.

Essentially, it's a pointe shoe with no shank and a little less structure. It's what I do to my old pairs of dead pointe shoes (take the shank out to make a soft shoe), and it's $40+. I don't know if something like this is necessary for pre-pointe, but it could be useful in preparing a beginner for what a pointe shoe feels like. Best of all, it's an introduction to choosing a pointe shoe - a generic shoe that will give the wearer an idea of what pointe shoes can feel like so that they will be more informed when choosing their first pair of real pointe shoes.

Other than that, I don't necessarily see a point(e) to this 'demipointe' shoe. What do you think?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Injuries You Can Heal: Foot

Starting a new series! You guys said you wanted lifestyle tips, so this one is going to be based on my own experience with physical therapy, the dance kinesiologist in my department, and my experience with alternative healing. I'm not a professional and I don't pretend to be, so please take my advice with a grain of salt. This blog post is no substitute for a doctor's visit if you're really in pain!

I've talked before about how I shifted/dislocated a bone in my foot. It wasn't fun, and it really impacted my dancing for a long time. Since then, I've also dislocated a bone in the other foot and in one wrist, so I'd say I'm kind of qualified to talk about this.
Photo Credit
  1. The problem: Dislocated/shifted bone in foot
  2. What it feels like: Dislocated bones in your feet most likely will not be the most painful experience (unless a nerve is pinched) - it will only hurt when doing certain movements (for my cuboid, releve and inversion). When I say 'hurt', it will be a clear but moderate ache that kind of says "hey, remember me?" when you do certain movements.
  3. Solution: Pinky ball. There are spots on the soles of your feet that are accessible to the bones you've shifted, so lightly/moderately rolling out the bottom of your foot can reset the bone and "remind" it where it should be. Don't mash your foot too hard, as that may bruise or exacerbate the problem. If the pinky ball doesn't work within a few minutes, see a doctor.
Usually, the hardest part of fixing a problem is diagnosing and accepting the treatment for it. If you have serious chronic pain and have experienced it for some time, seeing a doctor and getting a second/third opinion is a good idea. The actual treatment process may mean you don't dance for a while, or that your movements are modified, but in the long run, it will add to your overall strength and longevity as a dancer. Be careful!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

So You Think You Can Dance Season 9 Finale?

I'll be honest - since I've come back to school, I haven't been watching SYTYCD ::gasp::. I know, bad dancer. But I've kept up with the results, and I'm excited about the changes this season!

There's finally going to be one male and one female winner - two winners! Even though this may make the title a little less "prestigious," it makes it much more fair. Girls are competing against girls, guys against guys. No girl can compete with some of the amazing tricks and stunts that men can do (can you tell I'm biased towards male dancers? I'd give anything to be a male dancer).

Every season, it makes me sad that someone got left behind. Melanie Moore's 2nd runner up Marko (season 8),  Lauren Froderman's runner up Kent (season 7), and Jeanine Mason's runner up Brandon (season 5) were all absolutely brilliant dancers who I would loved to have seen share the title. If they had only come later, they probably would have!

I think that Nigel had it right - as time goes on, each season's dancers get better and better, more and more accomplished. More is demanded of them, and pieces develop more emotional depth, demand more technique, and require more finesse to master. However, I felt that seasons 2 and 4 were peaks for me - they had the most characters and a plethora of people who are making it big in the dance world today. But I digress.

Whoever wins tonight should have all the likability, versatility, and technique required of them in today's dance world. It's also the first season where the top 4's specialties are all outside the realm of contemporary - extremely exciting! I wish them all luck and hope that they will carry the name of America's Favorite Dancer(s) well!

Edit: Eliana and Chehon! A ballerina and a ballerino! We will never again see two ballet dancers winning SYTYCD, but let's enjoy it while we can, shall we? They're beautiful, and so deserved the title!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Pet Peeve: "I want to be her"

This isn't really a new concept to anyone reading or to this blog - I've discussed something similar in another Pet Peeve post. It is a little different though, and I think it deserves a category of its own.

Even if you're not a negative person and don't think in terms of "Wow, she needs to stop being so good" or "Wow, I want to kill her for being so good," you might think in terms of "Wow, I wish I was her." This 'positive spin', I think, is an even worse offense than the competitive negativity of the first two statements. We all have had moments when we wish we could be as brilliant as the girl in front of us at the barre. But what does that really mean?
From an episode of Bunheads: Photo Credit
When you wish that you were in someone else's shoes and living their life and dancing with their talent, you're giving up the notion of your own individuality. You relinquish everything that makes you uniquely you. You're acknowledging that their existence is worth more than your own. Should it be that way? Absolutely not!

As is with many art forms, imitation is the highest form of flattery. Imitate all you like - choose the best from the people around you, make note of the worst, and dance the way you see as "perfect" in your mind's eye. But don't wish you were someone else. Never doubt that you have something that they don't - and that maybe they were wishing they were you too.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Ideal Dancer's Body: Perfect

I have a ballet teacher, whom I absolutely love, who always says something like: "All you every have to be is...perfect. I'm only asking you to be perfect. But by perfect, we don't mean the model of perfection. It's impossible to determine what that is, because every dancer is different. What I mean is be perfect for your own body."

I can't say that I agree with anything more.

This topic is on my mind because my university dance department puts all of the auditions for fall choreography in the first week and a half of the semester (death), and when do we think about being perfect more than when people are watching and judging us? Auditioning is one of the most self-conscious times for a dancer, because not only are you worried about what you look like, but you're worried about what you look like to people who may have a large impact on your future.

I've learned, though, that bodies come in all shapes and forms, and that your body doesn't determine your ability or limit your expression. Some of the most fabulous dancers I know have 'abnormal' or 'not ideal' body types - short (5' & under), large, gangly, disproportional (apple or pear-shaped), pigeon-toed. I knew that I wanted to be a part of the dance department I am currently attending when I saw a girl about 5' tall do a chasse that was twice as big as any other girl or boy in the class. I wanted to be daring and push the boundaries of what is "accepted."

Really, the secret is not to think about your body. If you think that your body was born too inflexible or fat or short, you'll never be able to work past what others deem is "possible." I didn't know it was possible for a large girl to land a leap without so much as a small tapping sound, but I've seen it. It really is much easier to do something that's impossible if you don't know it's impossible.

So go out, be daring. Fall down, risk being laughed at, because if you don't take risks, you'll never get better, you'll never dance to the full perfection that your body can achieve. And that would be a shame!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Youtube Best of the Best: Updates 21

Two Awesome Dancing Kids

JuBa Films with Justen Beer - With A Piece Of Chalk
This one 3 minute piece just so happens to contain everything that is possibly amirable: good cinematography, great dance and choreography, a young boy who has absolutely mindblowing talent, and a heartwarming story that can reach out and touch anyone and everyone. This one's a tear-jerker.

JuBa Films - Be Individual
A wide variety of interpretations of the same genre of dance: all valid, all amazing. Great message too.

Surfing Waves with Menlowe Ballet
"Sleek muscled fish" describes them well.

Isiah Munoz - Pink Matter - Frank Ocean
Some extremely detailed and intricate work in there. There's meaning behind every move if you listen to the lyrics, and every move is incredibly musical, if you listen to the music. Incredible.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Dance Bag Essentials

You're a dancer. It means you lug around a huge bag with endless shoes, medical supplies, snacks/meals, water, changes of clothes, and all other supplies in between. I was once one of those people who carried literally everything. All the time. My current dance bag is a lot less ridiculous. Now I'm going to try and narrow it down even further to what is absolutely necessary to your dance bag:
  1. essentials of going out - yeah, it's not new, but don't forget your keys, phone, wallet, ID, credit cards, etc that you always have with you. I just stuff my purse into my bag.
  2. pinky ball or tennis ball - these cute little balls are not only small and portable, but they are, as my teacher says, "your own personal massage therapist for 99 cents." You can't carry a foam roller with you everywhere (I wish), but you can get almost any muscle group to relax with a pinky ball. Use it on the soles of your feet, to your back, glutes, and legs.
  3. snack - something that is literally always accessible in your bag. I always have almonds with me, and sometimes I throw in an energy bar if I know I'm going to need more.
  4. band aids, blister band aids, and medical paper tape - there's almost no blister or cut you can't cover with just these three items.
  5. nail clipper - hangnail or loose flap of skin? Blistered skin hanging loose (gross)? Cut it off and bandage that sucker.
  6. small hair kit - hair net, bobby pins, extra hair ties, small can of hairspray if you need it. Find a neat little box or small makeup purse that you can keep it all in so that it won't ever have to leave your dance bag. Boys....I don't think this one applies.
  7. water bottle - you might be able to fill it at the studio (what studio doesn't have a water fountain?) if you want to save on weight.
  8. advil - sometimes you can't put up with the pain anymore, but you can't just stop either.
  9. deodorant - let's face the music, people.
  10. jacket and long pants/sweats - unless it's summer and there's no AC in your studio, you need to stay warm at all times.
  11. dance shoes and/or socks - kind of a duh! moment, but you won't believe how many times I forgot my ballet shoes when going to class last year.
 On performance night, add:
  1. portable sewing kit - what happens if your shoe elastics pop off, or your fishnets rip?
  2. safety pins - if you can find them, diaper pins work even better (they have locks so they won't pop open no matter what). Almost nothing you can't fix with a safety pin.
  3. hair detangler (if you need to change, curl, or otherwise change hair) - I once had a dancer in my piece who needed to have frizzy, curly hair for a piece before mine and more controlled, pulled back hair for my own. Detangler saved my sanity.
  4. hairspray - not only works to tame your flowing locks, but can also be used on the bottoms of your shoes to provide extra grip if the stage is slippery. Water or rosin works for gripping as well.
  5. a pair of black shorts (and/or white) - depends on your costumes, but if it malfunctions and can't be saved, those shorts will be your friend.
  6. **for girls: nude leotard and/or nude bra/sticky bra - these things will cover you under just about any costume.
Other essentials for me that may not be essential for you:
  1. small towel - I sweat like no other. It's especially necessary for ballet (backless leos...)
  2. pens - you just never know.
  3. small jewelry pouch - I wear rings and earrings 24/7, plus necklaces sometimes. Gotta have somewhere special to put them, or else I lose them very easily...
  4. theraband - great for stretching, warming up, and strengthening whenever I have a minute before or between classes.
I'm sure I missed some things. What are some essentials for you? Do you agree with mine?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

dance things that make me happy.

Because sometimes, there's things I come across that just don't fit into a category. They're just dance-related, and they make me happy. This will probably be a collection of photos, songs that I deem scream "dance me," and other random things. just beautiful and inspiring. A copy of their book would make a great gift for a dancer too.

This beautiful photo of Robert Battle's Takademe in rehearsal for Alvin Ailey
...takes my breath away.

Ludovico Einaudi - Solo
Beautiful song. If it had a little build to it, it would be a gorgeous dance piece. Maybe we can hand it to Hans Zimmer to remix?

This leotard from Dancewear Solutions
...and many others in their Ballet Leotards category. And this one. Oh, this one too. Heck, all of them.

This pose and this move from deviantART
Some things I'm testing out in my next piece? Probably.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Youtube Best of the Best: Updates 20

Oh my gosh, my 20th update of this series! So proud!

Adrian Causing and Leslie Hubilla - My Neck, My Back
This. Is. Fantastic. As described by one of my good friends who linked me this video, the booty shakin' is "tastefully done." ...Who knew that was possible?

Jabbawockeez Dance Tutorials: Phil #1
Not choreography, but Phil of the Jabbawockeez gives us "tutorials" on how to make your dancing better and how to stand out amongst the crowd.

Lindsey Stirling - Epic Violin Dance Performance and Spontaneous Me and Shadows
Miss Stirling looks like more of a violinist than a dancer, but you gotta give the girl props for dancing so well while playing violin. Oh, her music is fantastic too. The girl can move, and she looks like she's having the time of her life at the same time!

Margaret Fuhrer for DanceSpirit - Gap Spotlights Two Awesome Dancers
This is exciting stuff! Lil' Buck and SF Ballet Principal Yuan Yuan Tan (you've heard me gush enough about her) have been featured in Gap commercials and ads! It's an article link, but the video comes with the article.

Margaret Fuhrer for DanceSpirit - Heidl Klum Can Dance (thanks to Mia)
Also on the advertising side of things, Mia Michaels is choreographing model Heidi Klum for Jordache jeans. The commercial isn't out yet (does this news still count as Youtube?), but keep an eye out! Check out this photo from the shoot.

Farc Madalin - Drake ft. the Weeknd - Crew Love
There's something different about this guy. It's smooth and his choreography travels a lot, with a slight undercurrent of sex appeal. So glad I discovered this!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Auditions for Justin Bieber & Jon M. Chu?!

This. Is what I call a fantastic opportunity and true use of modern technology.

As you all pretty much know, commercial dancers generally choose a city to live in (NYC or LA for most) and audition around for jobs that may last anywhere from a few hours to a few years. If you don't live where the performance or shoot is taking place, and you don't have the money to fly there and stay in a hotel (who does?!), you won't be looking for that job. Until now.

Normally, I'm not a huge Bieber fan. But I am a Jon M. Chu fan, and in this case, I respect the work that they are doing together. For Bieber's Believe Tour, Jon & Justin are holding both LA and online Youtube auditions! They don't want to limit the dancers they hire to the LA area, they want the cream of the crop of the entire country - world even! And for a chance to work with Jon M. Chu and to book a gig as huge as Justin Bieber, what commercial dancer's dream isn't fulfilled here?

I found out about this opportunity through DanceSpirit, and was extremely excited until I realized that I was still in school and couldn't commit to the tour even in the slim, slim chance that I'd be cast. But, I thought, maybe some of you do have the availability to commit! I encourage all of you who have the time to go for it! It's a video audition - there's no stakes, no nervousness, you can cut and splice all you want to present yourself in the best light, and best of all, auditioning is completely free! So what are you waiting for?!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Youtube Best of the Best: Updates 19

The World's Most Amazing Asian Synchronized Dancers
No idea who they are or where they're from, but this stuff is fantastic. Maybe a little more gymnastics than what we usually call "dance", but it's ridiculously impressive no matter what you call it. I'm going home now...

Showa Generation - Japanese Grandpas Dancing to Gee
I have to admit (guilty pleasure) that I love me some kpop (Korean pop music). One of the biggest groups (popularity wise and size wise - that's a lot of girls!) is called SNSD, or Girl's Generation. Watch the routines side by side or watch SNSD's original "Gee" - they're all fantastic.

Miss Representation
An oldie but goodie, not exactly a Youtube video, not really dance related, but important nonetheless. Speaks on the misrepresentation (hence the witty, pun-y title) of women in social media, advertisement, and daily life.

Wong Fu Productions - Step By Step: Poreotics
I absolutely love Wong Fu, and now they're incorporating dance! We've known for a while that they're friends with Quest crew (Dance Like Michael Jackson by Far East Movement), but now they're creating a series about learning dance! Poreotics even breaks down the basics of popping and hitting (I need it...). Their episode on kpop with Ellen Kim and Aimee Lee Lucas is fantastic too. Definitely going to keep up with this series.

Gina Starbuck - Scars
Whether you recognize the choreographer or the song from NappyTabs' clown piece on SYTYCD, this piece is inspired. This song has resulted in so many great pieces of choreography, I can barely handle it!

Allegra and Nash of O Crew - Stupid Hoe
Can't say I approve of the song and the message it sends, but this choreography is totally the opposite! Quick, quirky, yet fluid enough to hold it all together - they've got something going.

Anything (really, anything) that Beyonce does.
Everything Beyonce touches in the dance world is gold. It all started with Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It), more recently there was Run the World (Girls) and Love On Top. All of her choreographers and casting crew are fantastic, and the fact that she does all of the dance moves herself is even better.

Just Dance: All the Right Moves Performance - Travis Wall, Nick Lazzarini, Teddy Forance & Kyle
Heard of this hot new TV show? I'm dying to see it!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Happy National Dance Day!

It's July 28th, and you know what that means! As proclaimed by Nigel Lythgoe and the Dizzy Feet Foundation (associated with SYTYCD), today is National Dance Day! Happy National Dance Day to all my Yankee friends.

I hope some of you were braver than I am and have sent in videos of yourselves doing the routines, or maybe some of you are attending the official event in LA and the big party in NYC and other events all around the country! I personally feel like every day is Dance Day, so for everyone else around the world, keep dancing!

Everyone tells you to dance like no one is watching, but whenever I dance alone, it usually ends up being something more silly and less dance-y. So dance like EVERYONE is watching and that you have all of yourself to give and nothing to lose.

Staying Toned & Manage Weight on Vacation

Now that I'm back, it's horrifying to see these lovely articles from DanceSpirit. I needed them before I left, not after! Okay, okay, considering the fact that I gained a few pounds and probably got flabby, I do need them now. But then I thought, maybe some of you haven't left for vacation yet, or you're just trying to find good ways to stay in shape by staying in your room (not paying for gym membership or going to tons of dance classes).

The 7 Best Moves for Your Dancer Bod by Alison Feller is a great piece. Short, to the point, and complete with pictures to guide you, this article details some stretches and exercises that are great for toning and/or staying that way. Some are new (lunge walk with a twist!), some are old (plank, ugh).

Tone Up Your Muffin Top from the same author contains a list of core exercises that are geared towards working not only your superficial core muscles (crunches take care of that), but also your deeper ones. By toning all of those muscles, you'll burn fat, build a stable core for all of your dancing needs, and achieve a flat stomach.

The Dos and Don'ts of Cross Training by Julie Diana provides great info on what other exercise styles dancers can participate in that will be beneficial to their dancing. Everyone already knew about Pilates and Yoga, but who ever thought of skiing and weight training as helpful? Fantastic! While I'm at school, I like to go to the gym and do 20 minutes on the elliptical, plus a few minutes of weight training (10 lb weight, 5 sets of 10), and oh, maybe see if I can beat my high score on the rowing machine's fish game!

I may not be the most toned (not at all) or skinniest (not fat, but on the wrong side of "normal healthy range") dancer, but now I can say I'm one of the most informed! Now if only I had the initiative to do anything about all of this knowledge...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Dance Resolutions Update

At the beginning of 2012, I made a list of New Year's resolutions that to keep this year.
Photo credit to one of my lovely friends who took this for me at the beach.
Since it's around half way through 2012, I decided to go back and see if I'm on the right track with those resolutions:

1) Get in shape, lose weight
Oookay, this one's a doozy. I was doing just fine with getting in shape towards the end of the school year (May), and I was losing weight in June, but then I left the country for visiting relatives/vacation...which meant an uncomfortable amount of food and absolutely no dancing...which means that I'm now back to the weight I was at the beginning of the year, plus a little extra. I'm now resolving to lose 20 pounds in the next year to get back to the weight I was 5 years ago. However, the subtext of this resolution was to get over my food addiction and food guilt...and I think that I've accomplished this.

2) Post more on both this blog and my YouTube channel
I did manage to post at least once a week most of the time! My YouTube channel isn't getting much action though. I had planned a film for this summer as a collaboration with an old friend, but it doesn't seem to be happening...

3) Do pointe more
Kind of. I accomplished this during the school year - I was en pointe at least once a week almost every week. This summer has been a complete halt in pointe though...

4) Keep sleeping!
This one I've kept pretty well. I get 7+ hours every night, and it's a beautiful thing.

5) Drink more water
Yes, I have been drinking more water. Thank goodness for that. I can see both my skin and weight benefiting from it, and I've actually started to like water a lot more recently. That probably had something to do with the vacation I just got back from: the only water I had was room temperature, and the room temperature was ridiculously high. Ice cubes make water taste delicious now.

So the three resolutions I made that actually take effort and self discipline have been half-accomplished, and the two that are pleasant to do have been accomplished. Not too great, but at least I set goals for myself and am constantly thinking about how to make more progress with them. I hope the second half of the year will bring at least the same amount, if not more, adherence to my goals and dedication to my future.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Guidance for the Young Dancer 2: Regrets and Thanks

Being where I am in my dance life now, I have enough regrets. If I were to do it again, I might have:
  1. started serious training earlier 
  2. broadened my training to include different and more styles
  3. broadened my horizons to include multiple teachers and studios
  4. studied ballet more intensely (I quit for 2 years)
  5. enhanced my ballet performance quality (despite good technique, I think bland ballet performance caused lots of auditioners to glaze over me with 200 others in the room)
But every person is different. With all of these regrets in mind, I know I feel deep down that somehow, things were destined to be this way. Had I started serious training earlier, I may have burned out or been unable to take harsher criticism. I was defensive and easily hurt as a child, and didn't feel much passion for anything I was doing. I feel that my early introduction and dedication to all things visual art burned me out of my attraction to art in the first place. The studio I attended (and still go back to) didn't allow students to take anything but ballet or tap until age 10, and did not even offer contemporary classes until my last 2 years of high school. I tried to shift into another studio, but it didn't work out for me that well. I took 1 day a week of ballet for all of my elementary school years, quit for a few years in middle school, and only started back up when I realized that I would need it if I wanted to dance in college. But looking back, there are a lot of things I'm thankful for as well:
  1. not attending a competition-based studio (I've only competed a handful of times)
  2. not being forced or pushed into more or different lessons before I was ready
  3. being allowed enough time to mature and learn how to push myself and find my passion
  4. my parents, for endlessly supporting and nurturing my talent and love
  5. my ballet teacher, for emphasizing proper placement and solid technique over high extensions and flowery performance
  6. my contemporary teacher, for introducing me to modern techniques (Limon) that made the transition to modern in college so much easier
  7. my mom, for constantly doing research on summer dance intensives and colleges that had a good balance of dance and academics.
  8. my family and relatives, for paying for my schooling and dance lessons no matter how hard it got.
Sure, there's things that could have been better, but there's also a reason things worked out the way they did. "Wasting" time on learning things that I didn't end up pursuing only taught me how important pursuing my real passion is in the future. Not having quite the level of training to match my dance classmates in college made me focus, dedicate, and improve more than ever.

So in conclusion, every single person is different, and every child's journey with dance will be different as well. Look for the right studio, teachers, and amount of training for you. It's okay to change a few times. I was just lucky that my dance training fell into place as perfectly as possible for me. Find the right fit for you, but remember that you need ballet no matter how much you dislike it.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Guidance for the Young Dancer 1

This post comes with thanks to a commenter/follower's question about how to develop dancers from a young age. Please keep in mind that I am a college student with 2 months of teaching experience for 9-10 year olds and 2 years of teacher's assisting for 5-7 year olds, and have no children of my own. I only hope to help as much as I can.

Dancers start at all ages. Those crazy awesome kids you see on Dance Moms start the minute they can walk, or even before. My favorite contemporary teacher started in college (and ended up majoring in it too). I started at age 5, but didn't start taking more than 1-2 hours a week until age 15 (and am now majoring in it in college). SYTYCD and internationally famous choreographer Sonya Tayeh (lover her.) started seriously dancing at age 17. It is literally never too late or too early to start. But I'm getting off topic.

Many young girls (and some young boys!) start dancing at a young age, most of them as an after school activity, to meet friends, or just for fun. Some start (like on Dance Moms) training for their Broadway career at age 3, which is okay too. There's many different approaches, but most of them start with a ballet or tap class at a studio.

Let me say this first: I believe that, no matter what style you (or your child) intend(s) to pursue in the future, ballet is a must. Don't believe me? Olivia "Chachi" Gonzales of I.aM.mE crew is ballet/modern/jazz/lyrical trained. My college jazz teacher told me to take another ballet class because my technique and strength was a little weak. Surprised? Don't be. Ballet is the basis of all movement just as the alphabet is the basis of the English language. Professional football players take ballet. Martial artists take ballet. All dancers need it for the strength, discipline, and body alignment that ballet delivers.

This is my opinion on the ages which young dancers should start each style of dance (not including folk dances, ballroom, classical country-specific dances, and other specialty types. Please note that the styles indicated with an * should be continued past the age I have indicated to ensure a well-rounded foundation for college and/or professional careers. These are the bare minimum!):
  1. ballet*: ages 3-9
  2. tap: ages 3 and up (I've never taken a tap class in my life though. Oops.)
  3. jazz*: ages 8-12
  4. modern*: ages 9-15 (please do not confuse Modern with Contemporary. By Modern, I am referring to written techniques, like Graham, Horton, and Limon. Many studios do not offer such styles.)
  5. lyrical and contemporary: ages 10 and up
  6. hip hop and street styles: ages 10 and up
  7. pointe: ages 10-15 (also depends on when the teacher feels the student is ready, whether or not the child's feet are strong enough to handle the training, and the number of years and level of ballet training achieved. Never start pointe on your own.) 
The above ages are loosely based off the way the studio I attend works. I have ballet and tap listed at young ages because ballet training will instill discipline, focus, and begin to introduce concepts such as balance and poise, while tap is both fun for children and easier to pick up. Jazz and modern I introduced a little later because of the maturity level required. I am completely aware that there are 5-6 year olds that are better jazz dancers than I, but I believe that a strong basis in ballet should be established before attempting the wilder, sexualized, demanding form of jazz. Modern techniques were something I never had the chance to study, and I have wished that I did have that chance. Modern is placed a little later as well because it presents a mentally abstract challenge that younger children may not be patient or developed enough to understand, yet it should be introduced at a young enough age that the dancer becomes accustomed to the methods of cognitively processing movement. Lyrical and contemporary are styles that give more freedom of expression and thought. For that reason, I feel that the more structured styles like ballet, modern, and jazz should be introduced first, so that the dancer learns the abilities and limitations of his/her body before taking on styles that seem to have no limitations. Hip hop and street dancing are other categories I never really indulged in, but should also be started later due to maturity levels, body development, and the music that is used. Pointe is completely up to a teacher to decide when a student is ready to advance. Starting pointe too early can cause structural and growth damage to the feet and ankles, and may also result in worse injuries if the dancer's feet are not strong enough.

All in all, there are many approaches. Serious competition studios train young dancers that are more technically accomplished than I am at college age. Other studios, such as the studio I attend, are "family" studios that train for fun. Still others prepare dancers for professional careers without beating down on the children and depriving them of childhood. Look for a studio that fits your needs, but remember that when dance starts becoming work and suffering instead of fun and freedom, it may be time to lighten up or find a different passion.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Pet Peeve: the Question

Every dancer has probably heard at least part of this conversation at some point in time, most likely more than once:
     New Person: What do you do/what's your major/what's your hobby?
     You: I'm a dancer.
     New Person: Oh my gosh, that's so cool! What kind of dance do you do?
     You: ...oh...a little bit of everything. Ballet, jazz, modern (maybe tap, contemporary, hip hop, ballroom, etc).
     New Person: So cool! I wish I could dance.

The dreaded "what kind of dance do you do?," sometimes followed by the "I wish I could dance," or some variation of those two phrases. I've found it increasingly hard to answer the first and respond to the latter.

Why? First of all, if your major is Biology, do I ask you whether it's molecular, cellular, or marine? Not really, no. I suppose that's not really a fair comparison, because Dance is a "unique and exciting" major. They don't realize that dancers rarely train in single styles anymore - most dancers today are cross-discipline (although you dedicated ballerinas, modern dancers, various hip hop artists - you go. You're all awesome). That I'll give them - it's an art form that very few people have the talent and determination to excel in. But that brings me to the second part - the people who ask the first question rarely consider the weight and meaning of the "I wish" statement.

I've said before that if I could go back to the Creator and ask him to change my true passion in life, I would do it in a heartbeat. As much as I love dance, dance doesn't love too many people back. It's a hard, harsh, demanding, demeaning, short-lived life that is filled with a lot less glory than 99% of the population (the people who say "wow, I wish I could dance") thinks. Sure, it's an unusual job in that your life is active and constantly changing (as opposed to a desk job). But if I could find passion in computer programming, do you think I'd stay a dancer?

But then I try to set my pessimism aside. Whoever I'm talking to doesn't mean to aggravate me with the question. They don't know that I've trained in many different styles and that I don't really know what specific style I want to do in my future. And they most certainly don't do so much thinking into the "I wish I could dance" that it seems like a backhanded compliment.

And if I really think about it, dance is unique. They say that emotions are best let out through activity: sports, jogging, weights, biking, dog-walking, etc. They say that art is a window to the soul. They say that it takes smarts to be at the top of any profession. They say that a job is only a job if you don't love it, that you can be paid to play and create. They say that fitness and fulfillment of the mind, body, and soul is the way to a long, happy, healthy life. Maybe dance does have something over everything else.

Revelations aside, the dreaded Question and "I wish" are still hard to respond to.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ideal Dancer's Body: the "Look"

Every dancer wants that "Look." You know, the one that's universally fitting to commercials, concert dance, companies, teaching, Broadway, you name it. The dancer that is beautiful, timeless, elegant (but can look grungy or punk or cute or sexy or whatever else) not too skinny or chubby, just tall enough to qualify as a Rockette but not so tall as to tower over male partners. There are any number of qualities that the "Look" has that everyone wants.

Not everyone is timelessly beautiful and perfect for every role though. In fact, most people are typecast by whatever their face, skin color, height, weight, mannerisms, etc give off as a first impression. I was always known as "lyrical girl" in elementary/middle school.

But there are things you can do to get a little closer to that "Look" that includes changing a few things about yourself in daily life. After all, your physical appearance is the first impression anyone has of you, besides a paper resume and picture. The first thing is you need to always think of yourself as a dancer first. Make choices, whether short or long-term, depending on whether you'll be able to dance if the worst happens.
  1. choose close-toed shoes whenever you can. Crushed toes and toenails are no fun.
  2. keep your nails a reasonable length
  3. be careful of dangerous accessorizing when going out (high heels that might rub blisters/twist an ankle, large earrings that might pull through your earlobes, cheap metal or perfume that might cause a rash)
  4. be careful of dying your hair. Choose natural-esque colors and highlights, or make sure that your school, studio, company, or places/people you're interested in working for are okay with dye jobs and styles.
  5. on the subject of hair, also look at people/places you want to work in and check out hairstyles. Is super short hair okay, or should you keep your hair a bit longer?
  6. piercings. Earring piercings (just one set on the earlobes) are probably desirable for dancers, actually. Earrings are fairly common costume pieces. However, be careful of multiple piercings (cartilage, nose, lip, tongue, bellybutton) on the face or body, and definitely don't wear them to auditions (unless you research beforehand).
  7. tattoos. Choose a smart one and a good location if you get one at all - something small, not super noticeable, easily cover-able with makeup or clothing. I can imagine it would be a deal breaker for some jobs, so beware!
  8. food. Your weight is important to you as a dancer, so make smart choices and take everything in moderation.
  9. activities. Is going golfing for 5 hours tomorrow the best idea when you have a performance in a few days? You could get sunburnt, strain a muscle or two, get hit by a club or ball. Plan ahead and be smart, you get the idea.
There's a ton more things that you could think about and plan carefully. When I first thought of all these things, it made me pretty angry. Why do I need to take special consideration? Why can't I just dye my hair on a whim or get a second piercing or tattoo if I want to, wherever I want to? It's because being a dancer isn't just a job - it's a lifestyle that you choose. And if you're going to choose it, you have to be smart.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

1 Year Blog-versary!

That's right!

Today marks one year from when I first started this blog last summer. Close to 11,000 views and 130 posts later, I'm still as excited about sharing and growing as a dancer and scholar as when I first started. I've got a lot of great stuff planned for this next year: I started a poll in the sidebar to see if I can offer you even better stuff, and I'm gathering a few items together to possibly host my own giveaway ;). Even better, I figured out how to schedule posts, so there's no more hiatus. Hah, take that technology-addled brain.

Thanks everyone for reading, commenting, sharing, talking, growing, and dancing! Please keep doing so, and have fun, safe, dance-filled summers.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Interesting Links 5

Ashley Rivers for DanceSpirit - Your Top 10 Competition Fears
I talked about first competition anxiety in an old post, and this article reinforces some of my points while offering some new ones. I was in a group that started the year with 9 girls, ended with 5, and we lost one girl to appendicitis literally the day before we were to fly to New York for our last competition. Whew. Take note!

DanceSpirit e-news with Breaking Pointe star Katie Martin
It's hard to be rejected. Especially when you've been rejected from a renewed contract on the job you're currently dancing. Especially when your rejection is shown on national TV.

So You Think You Can Dance - 200 Moves in 200 Seconds
I can happily say I remember at least 3/4ths of the pieces shown! Although...I did miss seeing tWitch and Ellen...

Last Chance Sale at Discount Dance Supply
Some fantastic costumes going right now...
You'd think I would have found this before now.

National Dance Day 2012 Info
In the same vein, I found this on the Dance Bloggers website. National Dance Day is July 28th!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Ideal Dancer's Body: Painless

Okay, when I said 3 week hiatus, I thought I wouldn't have internet access and/or time to post. Apparently I have both for now, but this is the last for 2 weeks at least.

I've talked about injuries in a previous Ideal Body post, but we all know that there are certain pains that we all feel at one point or another that we wouldn't classify as injuries. We all wish our bodies were painless, but alas, it seems to be an impossible dream. I've been interning this summer, learning about the human body, pain, treatment, etc from an alternative healing standpoint. It's all very interesting and complex stuff, but maybe I can simplify it and try to get us all a little closer to that dream.

I'm sure you've left class before and thought "Man, my ____ really hurts. I wonder what I did to make it hurt so bad...." It's a horrible feeling when you can't figure out what you did wrong, because then you're worried that you'll keep making the same mistake and turn this temporary pain into a chronic injury. I'm here to try and help you to decide what the pain is and what to do about it!

In general, there are three major types of pain: aching, burning, and sharp pain. I know, sometimes you'll just think "this HURTS" and you won't know how to tell which of the three it is. Let me try to explain:
  1. Aching pain: muscle/tendon pain
    1. How it feels: it's a constant annoyance more than anything. The ache can be throbbing, constant, or you could only feel it when you use the muscle. The area is probably tender when you poke at it.
    2. Diagnosis: the muscle is overworked, tense, and might have a few microscopic tears in it. Don't worry, it's nothing horrifying in most cases.
    3. Treatment: hot bath with epsom salt, tennis ball/pinky ball/foam roller work, light massage, heat packs
    4. Do NOT: use ice packs. Heat will stimulate bloodflow to the area and promote healing, whereas ice will cause the muscle to stiffen, slow healing, and possibly cause more tears.
  2. Burning pain (or shooting pain): nerve pain
    1. How it feels: imagine you have metal guitar strings inside you. It feels like someone is pulling one as tight as it will go and shot an electric current down it. If you can't imagine what that would be like, it's like someone took a thin fencing foil, heated it up, and stabbed it into you. The pain is generally not confined in one location, it will start in one and shoot into another. You probably feel the pain only when you're moving.
    2. Diagnosis: you either have a tense muscle(s) surrounding the nerve that is causing it to fire, or the nerve itself is holding too much tension.
    3. Treatment: tennis ball/pinky ball/foam roller, deep tissue massage, decompress the joint. The most common nerve pain is sciatica (sciatic nerve - runs from the back of your pelvis all the way down the back of your leg), sometimes caused by your femur being a little too "stuck", or compressed, into the hip socket. Have someone pull your leg down, away from your body to pull the head of the femur a little bit out, or lie with your back flat on the floor and your calves resting on a chair, knees and hips bent at a 90 degree angle.
    4. Do NOT: overstretch or overcompensate. Stretching could cause it to flare up even worse, and compensating for it could cause more muscles in the area to become overworked.
  3. Sharp pain: structural pain 
    1. How it feels: someone is relentlessly stabbing you with a knife, twisting it while it's in there, and won't stop. The pain will generally be confined to a single area.
    2. Diagnosis: any number of things could be wrong. If it's in your back/spinal area, a disk could be bulging, ruptured, compressed, a vertebrae could be out of alignment, a muscle could be torn, a rib could be out of place, a ligament torn, something could be dislocated.
    3. Treatment: go see a doctor. Don't go to a massage therapist, physical therapist, acupuncturist, etc. Doctor's office. Now.
    4. Do NOT: attempt to treat it yourself. There might be something seriously wrong, and any poking, massaging, foam rolling, etc that you or anyone else does could make it worse.
As always, never ignore pain. If it's a one time, fleeting pain, okay don't freak out. But if you're hurting, you'll never make it better by dancing or moving even more (unless your muscles are just sore from lactic acid buildup - you can actually banish that soreness and break up the lactic acid faster by stretching and dancing more). Sit out, modify the movement, tell a teacher, see a doctor or therapist, and/or get a second opinion whenever possible. Even if it seems like nothing, a persistent pain that won't go away is always something to see a doctor or therapist about. Don't let pain get the best of you!