Saturday, January 28, 2012

Pet Peeve: "She's so good, I wanna kill her!"

Dance is innately competitive. We all look at the girl next to us and want to be able to do something that she can do. Little do you know, she's looking at you the same way. How many times have you seen a friend do something amazing? And how many times have you shouted at them "STOP! Why are you so amazing?! I wanna kill you, oh my god," or something of the like?

This is the mindset that'll get you down. This goes slightly along with my post "Chase the Dream, Not the Competition", but it's become a pet peeve for me because I find myself caught up doing it too. I hate myself for doing it, but sometimes I can't help but feel that way. In our basic human instincts, we compete for survival. If you take out the one stronger than you, you've got a better shot at surviving, right? Same deal - you innately want to take out the dancer you think is better than you so you have a better shot at getting noticed, getting hired, booking the gig, improving, etc. You think you'll have a better shot at reaching your goal.

The truth is these thoughts are a complete waste of time. Stop hating the dancers who can do things you can't and start learning from them. Ask them to teach you how to improve or "get" certain tricks. Observe them closely and analyze the secrets of their success. Channel your negative energy and frustration with yourself into making yourself better. Compliment them on what they do well! Maybe you'll be surprised by what you get in return. A compliment in return? A smile? Maybe they'll ask you to teach them something you can do! Imitation is the highest form of flattery in dance, so don't feel bad about "copying" the girl next to you. And never forget your love for what you do.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Common Things Dancers Should Avoid: Part 2

These are some risks you take as a dancer, and some of them require lifestyle changes. Even though you probably like to keep your dance life and your home life separate, there are times the two lives fuse. It is these times when you need to be extra careful and think twice. Here are more things I've noticed that should be avoided: 

Stretching without warming up.
Oh-so-dangerous, but one that most of us don't think about. How many times do you walk into rehearsal (or any type of dance-involved activity with no organized warm up) and just plop into a low second grande plie with your elbows propped against your knees? Or a lunge? Stretching cold muscles can lead to tears, strains, and ultimately even worse injuries. I'm not saying you need to do your full set of tendus and plies before you stretch, but do 20 jumping jacks, do a silly dance in a circle for 30 seconds, whatever will get your blood flowing a little before you start stretching. 

Partner stretching. 
Sometimes a partner is useful to push you in a way you can't push yourself, but be careful. Your brain is connected to your body via your own nerves. Your partner cannot feel your pain. Good communication is crucial or you will hurt yourself and possibly your partner. Unless you have someone you really trust and you really need someone else to help, avoid partner stretching. 

Not staying warm.
Put on a jacket and long pants over that sports bra and booty shorts when you're not dancing, or you'll have to warm up again! 

Wearing jewelry in class/rehearsal. 
This is kind of a gray area - stud earrings are alright most of the time (watch the shoulder rolls), rings that are flush with your skin are usually not a problem, but items like bracelets, necklaces, dangly earrings, and large fashion rings can really hurt someone or cut into your own skin. Hoop earrings? Forget it - unless you're willing to chance it snagging on your clothes or someone's finger and having it damage your earlobe. 

Not bandaging cuts/scrapes/wounds that have scabbed over and have not healed. 
Dance studios are a great place to share germs - one person gets sick, everyone gets sick. You're constantly leaping in the air, rolling on the floor, touching the barre, and coming in contact with one another. Colds and flus are most commonly caught from studios, but blood or other bodily fluids (not sweat) on the dance floor can mean different and more serious diseases, like mono or athlete's foot. Bandage your open wounds and make sure you use antiseptic wipes if blood becomes involved.

Dancing through injuries - the dangers of "I'm okay."
'Nuff said - don't hurt yourself.

Wrapping injuries.
Sometimes it's good to tightly wrap/brace a strained body part in athletic tape/wrap/brace, but sometimes, such wraps just restrict bloodflow to an area that needs blood to heal. Check with a doctor or therapist if you have a chronic injury/problem that you constantly need support for and work with your teacher so that you don't end up hurting yourself more. 

Sharing personal items.
It's alright to ask another dancer for a tampon or band-aid, but be more wary of sharing items like deodorant, tennis balls, and even water or food. They're great ways to transmit germs, rashes, and fungi.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Common Things Dancers Should Avoid: Part 1

There's a lot of things that lots of us dancers do without thinking about, but once you learn a little about the human body and how it works, you realize that many of your routines may not be the healthiest thing for you. Of course, it's not just dancers that do such things, normal people do some of these too - but their body isn't necessarily what's determining how they do their job, is it? This is a list of common practices I've noticed that should be avoided:

Not drinking enough water.
The bane of everyone's existence - not drinking water. Dehydration is common in the normal population, and dancers are among the number of athletes for whom water is extremely important. Not drinking enough leads to retention of water (bloating), skin problems, disrupted sleep, and generally non-optimal (and sometimes bad) health.

Not showering right after dancing.
I'm a victim of this one too, and it's understandable - there simply isn't a shower in reach every time we're done sweating. But it's important - you don't want to keep all the toxins you released by sweating on your skin or in your system.

Standing in cold air when sweating.
I'm sure you've heard this one, but it has to do with the previous problem, as well as the shock of cold.

Drinking cold drinks.
Cold shock. Room temperature or slightly cool water is much better than refrigerator-temp water or ice water.

Using ice to nurse injuries/reduce swelling. 
Not always a bad thing - if you've just landed really hard and you have a bump, use the ice. But if you're just sore after a long day, heat will work much better. Ice will freeze your joints, induce stiffness in your muscles, and cause blood to move out of the area. What you want is blood to carry nutrients into the area to help it to heal faster, which is what heat will help. Icy-Hot doesn't count. Treat the problem, not the symptoms.

Snacking on carbs/sugars/prepackaged foods.
Generally unhealthy, but these foods will cause you to crash in a short period of time. If you are going to eat something carb-laden or sugary, eat protein with it. For example, a handful of almonds (protein) and an apple (faster burning sugars) for both an instant kick and long lasting power.

Not eating before practice/class/rehearsal/performance.
As much as you may think you perform horribly and feel sluggish on a full stomach, dancing on an empty one is even worse. Fluctuating blood sugar is unhealthy, and letting your body starve until you don't feel hunger anymore is probably the worst thing you can do to it. You need the nutrients to perform optimally, and if you can't stomach a full meal, eat a good-sized snack - not an energy bar or drink.

Sitting down to rest right after exertion.
Surprisingly, sitting down is bad for you when your heart is pumping. Runners don't immediately sit down after they run, they walk half a lap or so to cool down. You should do the same.

Wearing open-toed shoes. 
It's always a risk to wear flip flops - they're not safe for your feet in any way. They flip and they flop and they will trip you and allow your friends to kick at/stomp on your feet, flip a nail, and cause you to be unable to take pointe for a week (or maybe that's just me). If you have a choice, don't do it!

These are some risks you take as a dancer, and some of them require lifestyle changes. Even though you probably like to keep your dance life and your home life separate, there are times the two lives fuse. It is these times when you need to be extra careful and think twice.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Youtube Best of the Best: Inspirational/Motivational (Updates 9)

In lieu of a post I did a while ago on success, I wanted to search out the videos on Youtube that are so inspiring that I teared up or started crying. These videos fit the bill...and I hope that they motivate you as much as they've motivated, inspired, and moved me.

The most inspiring video you will ever watch!
The story of a man named Roger who set out with three goals - health (shed pounds from obesity and reach a healthy weight and nutritionally balanced diet), passion (a goal to run the Boston marathon), and love (raise awareness and money for cystic fibrosis research, an ailment that has befallen his niece).

thatpplguy - How Bad Do You Want It?
Another sports story, but the message is inspiring, all the same. The story of a man who comes with almost nothing, works to achieve his goal, and rises from poverty. "How Bad do you want it? Are you willing to seek out the best trainers? To work hard? Are you willing to endure the pain success requires? Are you willing to drag yourself up from the bottom to the top and do whatever it takes?"

MBelinkie - 40 Inspirational Speeches in 2 Minutes
Even better, they're from movies.

...and finally, a dance video or two.
Anaheim Ballet - Ballet: Dancers
Not sure if I've posted this one before, but it's lovely.

Zhao Limin - She without arm, him without leg - ballet - Hand in Hand
I've posted this at least 2 times before, but I can't help but put it on the list of inspirational videos. Because if this isn't inspiring and tear-wrenching, I'm not sure what is.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Youtube Best of the Best: Updates 8

This update has some young dancers, some old featured choreographers from previous updates, and is bursting with generally awesome people. Oh! And happy 2012 to the dancers of the world :)

V Kabaniaev for Miko Fogarty - Casta Diva
This little beauty is 13. 13. 13. I can hardly believe it, she has such star quality and ability. I found this video when I was watching the trailer for the documentary "First Position", which will be coming out in May 2012. It appears that Miko is featured in the film! Can't wait to hear her story, can't wait to see the film!

Kyle Hanagami and Ian Eastwood collab. - Sexy and I know it
You're probably thinking that I promised to introduce different people and different videos on my updates. I can't help it though, Kyle and Ian collaborated! Chachi (I.aM.mE) danced it with them! It can hardly get any better than that.

Rock Dance Project - Men
Real men do ballet.

Weightless by Erika Janunger
This is completely a self-made project, and it's completely stunning. Incredibly conceptual and artistic. The real challenge is to see if you can figure out how she did it.

Alexi Orohovsky Le Corsaire
He's adorable. And doing something completely age-appropriate for a 4 year old! And if you read the article - that 8 year old doing the Swan Lake Black Swan Variation? Can be found here. I think she does a ridiculously fine job of it...but it scares me that she's 8.