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!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

3 week hiatus

Hey everyone,

Since I can't figure out how to schedule posts to publish themselves at set times/days (how do people use this 'technology' they speak of...), I'll be taking 3 weeks away from the lures of the Internet. Well, I was going to anyway, but you weren't going to know. Shh. I'm sorry. Please enjoy & comment on my last posts, and have a great couple of weeks!

Dance on (and watch SYTYCD)!

***Update: I actually figured out how to schedule posts. You won't even know I'm gone. No more hiatus! Yay!

Recipes for the Dancer 2

I guess I've come to the conclusion that I'll feature 3 different recipes in each post: 2 that are primarily meal-based, and one that will vary: small meal, snack, dessert, drink (for all ages), or something else fun!

Breakfast (or snack): No Bake Chocolate-covered Oatmeal Coconut Squares
These look so delish.

Lunch: Avocado, Jack, & Tomato Sandwich
I picked up this perfectly delightful sandwich at Whole Foods when I was there grocery shopping for my mother and it was about an hour after my lunchtime. It was about $3.50 when I was there, but in case you can't be bothered to run through a Whole Foods for lunch, make this for lunch from whatever you have at home! I liked this sandwich because it has a perfect balance of healthy fats (avocado, organic mayo, cheese), vitamins (tomato, cabbage), protein (cheese, bread), and complex carbohydrates (bread) that keep you fuller longer and giving you the energy to work at optimum potential. I bought this sandwich vegetarian, but you can easily make it vegan by forgoing the cheese and mayo and replacing with hummus and mustard, or make it omnivorous by adding your favorite lunchmeat. Anything goes in a sandwich!
  • 1 avocado (you'll probably use half)
  • 1-2 slices Monterey Jack cheese (or any other cheese you want, but I liked this the way it was)
  • 2-3 slices from 1 slicer tomato
  • 1/3 cup shredded cabbage (or lettuce, but the cabbage lent a nice crunch and sweetness to the sandwich)
  • 2 slices whole grain bread
  • optional condiments: small slather of mayonnaise, veggienaise, mustard, pinch of salt
  • optional additions: sprouts, 1-2 slices lunchmeat, hummus 
Drink: Flavored Water and Ice Cubes
I love adding a few slices of cucumber to my water when I dance. It gives it a little taste, freshness, and desirability. Plus, I always try to fish out cucumber slices with my tongue, which causes me to drink more water. But, if you're not a flavored water fan and you like your juices/iced coffee/iced tea, you can consider making flavored ice cubes! Love lemonade? Freeze some of it in an ice cube tray - the resulting cube won't dilute your lemonade. Plus, you can easily add one cube to a cup of water and make flavored water that way. Coffee ice cubes look like a fantastic idea as well, I'm sure it would work just as well with tea.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

If I was on So You Think You Can Dance...

...I would be there to show America that, really, everyone can dance.

I just watched last week's episode of SYTYCD (busy week), and there was a montage of the people who made it all the way through to the very end. During the montage, there were clips of speeches that people made about why they wanted to be on the show. Everyone had a reason, some were unique reasons, some weren't, but everyone has a reason to dance.

I heard one reason from a girl who said something along the lines of "my journey just can't end here, it has to continue." Well, there's no reason it can't end, and she really has no control over whether it does or not. But no matter what her decision is, the journey doesn't end with the decision of a panel of judges from a TV show.

Dance, obviously, is a huge part of all of our lives. If you're reading this, it's a part of your life that you love or can't live without, or both. Not only is it a large part of our lives, but it's a large part of every person's life. This idea has been touched upon many times during this show, but it made me believe it even more when I saw this little girl dance after her mom on the show a couple weeks ago (is it just me or was she really good?):

Photo Credit

All people dance. From ancient tribes in Africa to Victorian halls in old England, people have always used dance as a universal and basic form of communication and expression. Tribal dances are a ritualistic part of religion, ballroom dances were social experiences and an indication of class and intelligence, classical Indian dances have passed down intricate stories for generations, and today, "So You Think You Can Dance" is showing America and the world that dance is diverse, alive, and an intimate part of our beings.

I've always thought the title of "So You Think You Can Dance" was kind of misleading. The best dancers, who "think they can dance," aren't always the ones who win the show. And the winners of the show are not necessarily the ones who go on to make the biggest impact on the world (tWitch? Travis Wall? Both runners-up.). If I somehow made it on any part of SYTYCD and had the opportunity to speak to the judges, cameras, and America, I'd make a point of saying that I think "dancers" are really just an extension of what lives inside every human soul. We "dancers" just channel the urge to move more than "non-dancers." Everyone dances, whether it be in a club, at a party, before the New Year's Kiss, or (in my case) in the living room while your mother plays piano.

So all I really want to say is this: If you can talk, you can sing. If you can walk, you can dance (Zimbabwe proverb). And if you can dream, you can make a difference.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Interesting Links 4

StageWrite Software for iPad
Behold the next generation of apps! This handy app allows you to draw a stage from bird's-eye view, label names, create formations and formation changes, and view the whole production in slideshow. It seems time consuming, but it could revolutionize the world of choreography staging. That being said, I'm not sure I'm ready to give up my trusty pen and notebook yet.

Easy Lunchboxes
It's a bento box-style tupperware container! Convenient, functional, and cute.

Wendy Perron for Dance Magazine - The Australian Ballet's Psycho Swan Lake
I will forever be enamored with Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake, but this review makes the Australian Ballet's version sound enchanting as well.

Komal Thakkar for DanceSpirit - Must-See Ballet Documentaries
More ballet news! Aside from the obvious choice of First Position, these other documentaries look both inspiring and beautiful as well.

Isabel De Los Rios - The Flat Belly Solution
It's a diet book. Not going to lie, I don't usually like these "miracle diets" that promise spot reducing and fast, easy weight loss, but this one is a intriguing. My mom bought this book to diet, and while she hasn't lost as much as she'd hoped, this diet is tasty, doable, and follows all of the biggest nutrition guidelines that will allow for burning fat and keeping it off. It basically says sugar is bad, anything processed or non-organic is undesirable, and good fats are needed to burn body fat. We both lost 5 pounds too. Who knew?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

charity:water - Daisy's Dollar for Water

On the very tail end of Father's Day (hope you and all your fathers had a brilliant day!), I wanted to post this message. It's not dance related, but it's human related, and that's something we all understand.

This year for my birthday I wanted something different. I wanted some way for one year of my life to make a difference. charity:water is helping me do just that.

charity:water is an organization that strives to bring clean drinking water to third world countries in an effort to relieve issues such as health, poverty, education, women's empowerment, and many more. I know, you're wondering how water can provide education. The way charity:water describes it, 1 in 6-7 people in this world (roughly 1 billion) do not have clean drinking water. Women and girls are forced to carry bright yellow jerry cans on average for three hours daily in order to bring water back for their families. After all, water is life, the most basic need of every human life. If you can save those women and girls three hours every day,
  1. the girls can attend school
  2. women can spend more time working or taking care of children
  3. life expectancy shoots up
  4. less money is spent on medicine
  5. survival is that much easier and more pleasant.
I gave my birthday to charity:water - this year, instead of presents or material goods, I want to give 25 or more people clean water. It takes about $20 to give one person clean drinking water in a village. I've got about 4 months to my birthday - will you help me make a difference?

Please join me at my birthday project - Daisy's Dollar for Water - and donate enough for one person (and my age in years), $19, or whatever you can. Even a dollar can help.

Water changes everything.

Recipes for the Dancer 1

I've recently had to face the fact that next year, I'm going to be cooking for myself. 24/7. No mother, cafeteria, or take out to bail me out (well, take out sometimes). This series will be my attempt to gather my thoughts on healthy, simple recipes that I can use next year, and I thought maybe some dancers out there would benefit too! I'll share some of my own creations, some of my mom's, and (of course) good links that I find on the web.

Breakfast: Healthy Whole Wheat Yogurt Pancakes
If you don't have whole wheat pastry flour, may I suggest doing 1/2 all purpose 1/2 whole wheat? Happy Father's Day! Sorry it's a little late.

Lunch or Dinner: Ground Beef & Shallot Lettuce Wrap
This is actually my mom's creation. She doesn't have any specific measurements, so basically do everything to taste. It looks a bit like a taco with a lettuce shell, but it's much healthier, trust me.
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 small shallots, finely chopped (pieces the size of your pinky nail)
  • salt to taste (we stop here, but you can also add pepper. Don't be fooled by the simple and short ingredient list - this dish offers lots of flavor)
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil (enough for a pool a little smaller than your palm)
  • 5 (or so) leaves of lettuce per person (we use romaine hearts)
  • extra add-ins: diced tomatoes, bell peppers, celery, onion
  1. pour the olive oil into a pan and heat until just before the oil starts to smoke. Add in the salt and let it dissolve evenly for a moment.
  2. add the ground beef and stir fry into small pieces.
  3. when the beef is almost cooked through, add the shallots. Stir fry until the shallots are about to turn brown and a little translucent.
  4. if you are adding in any colorful, raw veggies (peppers, tomatoes), take the pan off the heat, transfer the beef into a dish and stir in the veggies now before serving.
  5. serve in a dish with a spoon and scoop the beef mixture into each lettuce leaf as you eat it.
  6. *makes enough for about 3-5 servings (3 5oz servings or 5 3oz servings)
 Dessert: Dangerously Delicious Microwave Chocolate Pudding
A few notes on this recipe: you can substitute in rice milk for a vegan option, just use the teeniest bit more because rice milk has more water in it. This recipe is a little tough to make (it's very picky about the microwaving and stirring), so make sure you're patient with it and always watching it. I had to microwave it for an extra 20 seconds 3 or 4 times to get the pudding to the right consistency. If you're doubling the recipe for more servings, be very careful with your measurements - I accidentally added more cornstarch once and ended up with an inedible gel!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Ideal Dancer's Body: Pretty

Please don't take offense to anything said below. I am not implying that "unattractive" dancers can't get jobs, or that they have to "make up for it" by dancing better. I personally believe that there is something beautiful in everyone. One of my favorite fashion bloggers, Elaine at Clothed Much, said something similar in her own post about body image.Unfortunately, the rest of the dance world doesn't necessarily see it that way.

Almost everyone wants to change something about themselves. Even if it's not an active thought, even if you think you're good enough as you are, of course you're not perfect. Something could be different, better, more attractive.

In the dance world, these feelings are only heightened. How often are you typecast by skin color, height, body type, or even your face? Especially in the commercial world, there is pressure on dancers to be the model of what society considers to be "perfect" and "hot." The professional ballet world isn't far behind, many times casting dancers for how closely they resemble the dancer that they are replacing so that they'll look "the type" and fit into the same costumes. Obviously, dancers are always judged by their bodies.

There are new movements in dance though. So many different fields, companies, pieces are opening and being created that almost every dancer can find his or her niche. There's a place for every face, every body, every race, every height. Some of the best dancers I know have some of these aspects going "against them," in a conventional sense, but the beauty of their technique and ability is undeniable. Dancers are finally being appreciated for just that: their dancing.

So if you look in the mirror every morning (or during class) with something negative on your mind, remember that there are two more positive things that you could say as well. Don't worry about how you look so much - if someone doesn't like it, maybe you won't book that gig. But if that someone is judging you purely on your looks, do you really want that job? To truly be happy with your dancing and your job, you will find someone or some place that loves you entirely, not just for your "prettiness."

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Update news

Hi everybody!

This morning marked 10,000 views and 110 posts, and I'm so thankful for every single one of those views. I thought I'd celebrate by introducing a few new things here:
  1. First of all, I'm sure you've noticed the new colorful, bold background. I like it a lot, but please let me know what you think - if it's too hard to read, I'll be glad to change it back. Nothing like celebrating with a new theme!
  2. I've got a new survey at the top of the sidebar asking what kind of posts you'd like to see from me. It's been close to a year here on The Dance Life, and I'd like to continue improving and adapting to what you'd like to hear from me.
  3. If you ever have questions about anything I've said on this blog or anything personal, please feel free to leave a comment or contact me. I'd love to start a new Q&A series, but I need questions to get it started!
I mentioned contact information. You can now email me at! Please email me with anything at all ("questions, comments, concerns?", as one of my friends used to say). Hope everyone is having a lovely summer (everyone's out of school now...right?), best of luck in all of your summer shows, competitions, and intensives!


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Youtube Best of the Best: Updates 18

Little Mermaid: Director's Perspective
I'm sure I've discussed SF Ballet's "Little Mermaid" starring Yuan Yuan Tan before, but just in case you've missed it before... The director here talks especially about Tan's ability to convey feeling through her facial expressions and how he uses close ups on her face in order to highlight that. Just shows another facet of dance that is important but not taught in the classroom.

Chachi Gonzales - World of Dance "How to Love"
This is relatively old, but still worth posting. The beautiful scenery and filming just enhance what she's doing.

Will Loftis - The Light Faded
What more could we expect from a choreographer who almost made it onto SYTYCD Season 7 who cast Jordan Casanova in the piece? Amazing choreography with equally matched execution. Stunning.

Will Loftis - Wolf and I
One of the girls in The Light Faded stars in this duet as well. I had to include two pieces from the same choreographer just for the musicality and partnering. Beautiful.

Travis Wall - Adrian Lee
Warning: PG-13. I know it's the same studio. Bear with me. Not a full-fledged piece from Mr. Wall, but some really interesting ideas and sensuality going on here.

Andrew Winghart - Back Up Off The Floor
The dance segment of this piece is beautifully choreographed, executed, and filmed, although I'm left a little confused about the significance of the beginning and end sequences.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Interesting Links 3

Margaret Fuhrer for DanceSpirit Magazine - Beauty and the Beat
What do you get when you combine hip hop and classical ballet? "Against Time." This piece, now touring in the UK, is a collaboration between the English National Ballet and the hip hop group Flawless, who you may remember from winning Britain's Got Talent in 2009. Interesting concept. I hope my friends across the pond will consider seeing this show!

Advice on Living the Creative Life from Neil Gaiman
This was the commencement speech this year at University of the Arts. Perhaps one of the best speeches I've ever heard. The summation of what was said? Make up the rules, do the impossible (because it's easy to do if you don't know it's impossible), make mistakes, and make good art. If you need more inspiration, make sure to visit my old post!

I Gave Up My Dream, And I'd Do It Again by Allison Ford
I've talked before about making the choice to be a dancer. It's not for everyone, even amongst those who love dance. Some dance-lovers aren't meant to be professional dancers, or choreographers, or anything like that. Maybe they'd like to write about dance, or help others through dance therapy and dance kinesiology. "Giving up" a dream isn't failure - it's finding who you are.

Julie Diana for DanceSpirit Magazine - How to Dance in a Tutu
This piece was published a year and a half ago, but it's timelessly applicable. For those of you who are thinking about professional ballet, or come from studios that put on ballets, read this before Nutcracker season so that you'll be ready to dance in whatever tutu is thrown at you!

Margaret Fuhrer for Pointe Magazine - Bunheads Episode 1
If you, like me, did not watch the first episode of Bunheads, here's a detailed synopsis with a professional opinion. It looks interesting to say the least.

**Update! is looking for an "I Am Fire" tshirt design from one of us fans! SO EXCITED.

Monday, June 11, 2012

"Not in my best interest"

Writing my first article about my struggle with food guilt left me emotional, drained, and hopeless. I didn't know where to go, what to do, or how to fix my problem. Although it's nowhere near fixed, I felt extremely grateful when my mom sent me this article titled "'It's not in my best interest!'", found from a coaching/counseling site.

There are so many times when I'm fully aware that I'm making a bad decision, but for some reason, that makes the decision all the more enticing. I know that eating two scoops of ice cream at 11pm isn't good for me, but sometimes I give in to the weakness because it's a guilty pleasure. However, thinking about situations in the way described in this article make it so much easier to make good decisions.

If every temptation is a path to 'short term pleasure,' while every healthy decision is a path to 'long term fulfillment,' it isn't hard to make a choice that will make you happier in the long run. This idea does not only apply to food: you can even apply it to dance. You could just barely scrape by and not work that hard or think in the studio today, or you could go full out, watch everyone intently, and make a few more baby steps to improvement as a dancer. Sure, one day doesn't seem that important, but if you cut yourself slack today, what will you do tomorrow when you got 2 hours less sleep than today? It's not only a waste of money, but it's a waste of your precious time if you make a decision not to work. Working hard at every chance is in your best interest.

There are some days when you're just willing to give up, and you know that you can't handle any more pressure. Save the decisions that aren't in your best interest for those times. Maybe on those days, you can treat yourself to skipping dance class, having dessert, or relaxing in a bubble bath. Sometimes, decisions that aren't normally in your best interest physically can be in your best interest emotionally and mentally. Sometimes you need a break.

But don't let yourself take a break every day. Push yourself to make decisions in your best interest. You can eat that delicious-looking pot roast, but put some broccoli or salad on your plate too. Set a goal at the beginning of class and make sure you stay focused on it throughout class. Have three bites of cake instead of a full slice. Moderation has become my key to lightening my food guilt. You can do it too - make decisions in your best interest 90% of the time, and choose your 10% not-so-perfect decisions wisely.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pet Peeve: Dancer Stereotype (Part 2)

I spoke about the stereotype of a dancer and why it bothers me in part 1 of this post. Literally minutes after finishing that post, I browsed my news feed on Facebook, only to be intrigued and soon infuriated by an article that a recently graduated senior from my dance department had shared. This article, from the Huffington Post, is entitled "The Poorest Art: Dance and Money," and unfortunately, I'd have to say I agree with all of the opinions stated.

Dance is poor. From what I gathered from this article, almost all dancers live paycheck to paycheck. Maybe 5% (probably less) have contracts with companies that provide benefits and paid vacation time like a regular job, but considering the cost of living, even these most highly paid dancers are barely living comfortably.

This brings me back to how society views dancers: before reading this article, I had thought America was getting a little better. The public is starting to see glimpses how dancers live and work. Unfortunately, these glimpses are barely getting dancers anywhere. The way Lightsey Darst describes the situation in this article, "we infantilize dancers and how, while we view other artists as masters of their craft and serious thinkers, we see dancers as mere talented bodies," 'we' referring to society as a whole. You might be thinking "but __(insert popular singer's name here)__'s songs have really shallow and ridiculous lyrics, I don't think of him/her as a master or thinker!," but then why is said popular singer making millions a year and in the news every other day?

I read another fascinating and well-written article on the same topic from Cassandra Lane Smith entitled Plight of the Sugar Plums. Again, dancers were pitted against elite athletes from popular sports, like football. Both professions require finesse, training, and specific body types. Both are used as entertainment for the public. The difference? An NFL rookie made a minimum of $325,000 a year, whereas rookie dancers are lucky to make $4,000 in a contract (Smith). I'm going to take it a step farther - why do I have to pay $70 to go to the ballet when I can turn on my TV and watch football for free? I know that those games have thousands of tickets sold to them, sometimes for hundreds of dollars each, but I don't see ballet on TV. If it is, it's a PBS broadcast of the Nutcracker in December.

Dancers aren't going to make much money. An average dancer holds 4 jobs in order to survive. But dancers do it to share their art, their expression, their ability to inspire and change lives. If I've truly inspired even one person at the end of my career as a dancer, I'll feel fulfilled.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Pet Peeve: the Dancer Stereotype

Misconceptions about dancers make me angry. Stupid. Arrogant. B*tches mean girls (excuse the language). Sl*t promiscuous (again, language). Dramatic. Good for nothing. No life.

I'll be honest though: some of them are true. Sometimes. But that happens in any profession, right? Engineers are all thought of as geeks, but there are tons of really cool people who are sociable and friendly who also happen to be extraordinarily smart. In the same way, dancers are extraordinarily gifted with their bodies, but it takes just as much of a mind and soul to dance as it does to do anything else. Sometimes more.

Dance is a commitment. I hate to admit it, but if I did not absolutely have to dance, I'm not sure I would choose to. Dance is a hard profession to be in. No matter how many people "make it," there are ten (or a couple hundred...) others that don't. It's constant rejection, physical demand, artistic demand, emotionally taxing, and on top of all that, it doesn't pay. Choosing to dance was one of the hardest decisions of my life, but if I really think about it, it wasn't a decision. I knew I had to dance, I just had to come to terms with it and justify it to myself. In the end, I'm proud I listened to my instincts and am actually excited to live this life of performing and expression. But I'm getting off topic.

In order to dance, you have to be smart. You have to be in tune with your own body, with other people (whether that be a partner or people you're on stage with), with your environment. You have to be able to learn choreography and adapt it extremely quickly. You have to learn to manage your time and balance your life between dance, academics, socializing, and other activities and commitments. Beyond that, dancers have to be survivers. You have to stick it out through long, intense rehearsals and classes with relatively low pay (if you're being paid). I don't have to tell you all of this, as you probably know it.

I originally got the idea for this post when I saw this picture on Facebook, and I've gotta admit that it's pretty true, stereotypically speaking:

Photo Credit

Kind of sad, right? Although, Revelations is definitely under the list of "what I think I do." It's sad that society sees us this way, and it's because dancers some of the only performers that rarely are in the spotlight. Think about it: actors, singers, musicians (less so musicians maybe) are all celebrities, glorified and worshiped by the media. Even other athletes and sports are popular. Dancers rarely are. So You Think You Can Dance, Dancing with the Stars (kind of), the LXD (kind of...), and possibly some music videos these days are the only exposure to dance that the public has. Shows like Toddlers and Tiaras and Dance Moms are fiercely reinforcing the "those girls are crazy and shallow" stereotype.

How do we change the stereotype that society has of dancers? So You Think You Can Dance has already started, a little, by introducing the idea that dancers are world-class athletes as well as true artists. The struggles and successes of dancers' lives are just now coming to light in the US. All we can do individually is show people that dancers are human and have multifaceted personalities.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Pet Peeve: Food.

I'll start off by saying I've never had any form of eating disorder, diagnosed or undiagnosed. I don't know that half of the food struggle spectrum, but I can definitely see the reasoning and thoughts that lead many dancers into the downward spiral. If you or anyone you know has suffered from an eating disorder, I am truly sorry and hope that recovery is in the future, underway, and/or successful. I'm not offering any kind of revolutionary change, or steps to help anyone change, I'm just sharing my personal story and the steps I hope I can take in the future.

It's no secret that food is a problem for dancers. I've featured a few recipes on this blog, but I never really talked about food in general. It's a touchy subject for me as well, probably because I experience something many young girls, women, and certainly dancers suffer from:

Food guilt. This article from DanceSpirit, Food Fight, gave me the term, because before coming across this term, I really felt like I had a mild eating disorder. In a way, I suppose I still do feel that way. For both dance physicality and emotional reasons, food started to take over my mind and my life this past year. I started constantly thinking about food, anticipating my next meal, planning out snacks, counting calories, and doing research on diet, nutrition, and health. I started going to the gym. I made a decision that I needed to lose 5-10 pounds in order to look the part of a dancer. Sounds good right?

Fast forward 9 months (present day): everything has changed except my mindset, and not in a good way. Food guilt is worse than ever. I started eating when I wasn't hungry and doing so regularly. I stopped counting calories, but only because I was too scared to see what I was eating in a day. I slipped back and forth between "no it's okay, I'm beautiful the way I am" and "this is horrifying, I need to lose weight and be healthier" extremely fluidly and rapidly. I ate past when I was full all the time. I gained 4 pounds (doesn't sound horrible, I know). Outwardly, my eating habits may not be that different from a year ago when I barely thought about what I ate, but inwardly, I was a bubbling mass of guilt. I'm not sure why I'm writing in past tense, because the situation is pretty much the same right now, although it's not at its worst.

The worst thing is the feelings I get from food. I automatically think of eating something if I haven't eaten in a few hours or if I see food or items that remind me of food (I have a ceramic cupcake-shaped jar on my desk). I think extremely healthy most of the time ("I'm hungry, what's the healthiest thing I can get? Handful of almonds, good"), but for some reason, if I see the food, it's ridiculously hard for me to turn it down. Even if it isn't food that I particularly love, I feel a constant need to eat. And at the end of the day, the sugar from eating 3 peaches isn't that different from eating a piece of chocolate. Overeating is my source of gaining weight, and the worst part is that I'm hyperaware of that fact. You'd think awareness is the first step towards recovery, but I find myself spiraling down ever farther.

I don't really have much to offer except my goals. I want to start counting my calories again, or at the very least start writing down all the foods I eat. On Monday, my entire family is planning to start a 14 day diet. I don't really believe in these fad diets that promise weight loss by following a strict plan of foods, but I'm doing this one because I believe that having a strict goal plus family guidance and support will help my mind let go of the food. While I'm extremely worried about my weight (I know I shouldn't be), I know that the most important thing at this point is to help my mind develop a healthy working relationship with food. I have the knowledge and willpower to employ a healthy diet, I just need some kind of kick or message to get my emotions in line.

Let it be known that I love food (a little too much) and that everyone else out there with food guilt, you're not alone and you're not crazy. We just all need a little help. Please feel free to share your stories, tips, or contact me personally!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Youtube Best of the Best: Updates 17

I talked about going to Kenya Dance SoCal 2012 in my Updates 15 post last month and finally got around to finding some of those videos of the best pieces that I talked about.

323 Area Kidz, Kenya Dance SoCal 2012
Amazing stuff that teenagers can do. Great choreography, musicality, precision, and execution of their idea. A lot of fun too. Oh, those yellow things that the girls pull out of their pants (yeah, beware) are rolled up 323 Area Kidz tshirts. I got one.

Instant Noodles Crew at Kenya Dance SoCal 2012
They're missing over half of the crew! A little disappointed about that, but they pulled off a clean and funny routine, as always. A lot of old choreo as well, but hey, it works.

I.aM.mE at Kenya Dance SoCal 2012
A lot of old material, some of it from ABDC, some from old choreo vids posted on Youtube, but it's fantastic when put together like that. Slightly different from their NorCal performance that I posted in Updates 15.

Academy of Swag at Kenya Dance SoCal 2012
Like I said before, hands down my favorite piece in the show. The Matrix is one of my favorite movie series ever, and combining their interpretation of the movie's characters and famous moments with badass hip hop is mind blowing. They had the best precision possible, amazing moves, and even managed to capture the attitudes and signature habits of Agent Smith. The girl agents are a plus. Oh, and you might recognize the idea of the chair section from their amazing piece at Hip Hop International 2011.

DS2UDIO: Keone and Mari
Keone Madrid and Mariel Martin share a short clip of their thoughts on dance.

Mos Wanted Crew - Cockiness (ABDC Week 7)
Mos Wanted is probably one of the strongest gatherings of individually famous people that I've ever seen in the hip hop world. After being hit with criticism in Week 6, they came back strong, using their challenge prop in both classic and innovative ways. They really are there to win (was there ever any doubt?).

Introducing the newest member of The Pulse faculty...
If you haven't already heard, you're gonna flip out.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Best friend quitting dance?

DanceSpirit posted a great article quite a while ago titled 911: My best friend quit!, about how to deal with losing a "dance bud," as they phrase it. No, it's nothing dramatic, like they quit because their boyfriend tells them to or because they're grievously injured. It's a natural progression - many people who start dancing young do it as a fun activity or because their parents put them in class, and then when they finally start to think for themselves and get into harder levels where time, work, pain, and dedication start to come into play, they decide that dance isn't worth it to them. For many people, this is a good decision.

I suppose I've never really felt this loss - I started dance on my own and rarely made close friends in my dance classes ("dance friends" vs. "best friends"). Recently though, I came home from college and found that I missed the dance community back in school. It was supportive, inspiring, and was the one dance-related place I did make a close friend. Being apart from her is a little tough.

But how do you feel about dance? How would you deal with losing a best dance friend?
  1. Step 1: Determine your values. Ask yourself what you're in dance for. Are you in class because it's a social environment? Because there's parental or peer pressure? Because you enjoy it? Because you see it as a career path? If you're in it for one of the first two reasons, perhaps you should consider dropping dance, or at least spending less time in it and searching for other options that may be of more interest to you.
  2. Step 2: Change/hone your focus. If you've made it past Step 1, I assume you dance because you enjoy/like/love it. Make sure that your main focus in the studio is on yourself and your dancing. Of course you need to watch and communicate with other dancers in order to learn and grow, but if you find yourself talking about that horrible math test tomorrow or the cute guy in your history class, bring yourself back down to Earth and focus on your dancing.
  3. Step 3: Don't compete. Dance shouldn't be about getting your leg a half inch higher than the best dancer in the class. You are your own competition. If you feel lost, uninspired, or unmotivated to perform without a certain friend (or rival) in class, you need to reevaluate why you're in dance and start to focus more on yourself.
  4. Step 4: Don't take it personally. It's very unlikely that you were a contributing factor to their decision to quit. If anything, being friends with you made it harder for them to quit (and if they quit because of you, you don't want to be friends with them anyway). Also, don't feel like you can't be friends with them if they don't love dance as much as you do. That's totally untrue, even if you started dance together and became friends that way. Do your best to understand that your passions may be different, support them in whatever they choose, and hope they support you too!
  5. Step 5: Socialize outside the studio. Like the situation described in the article, losing a friend in dance is not easy at first, but it can actually strengthen your relationship if you make an effort to see your friend outside of dance. True friends will not be just "dance friends" who are your friends in the room and nothing more. If you care about your friend, let him/her know that you support their decision, but want to continue to be a part of their life.
  6. Step 6: Make friends everywhere! No matter where you go, it's a good idea to have a small circle of friends. At work, at school, in old schools/hometowns, at new and old studios. If you lose one, you've got some to fall back on so you'll never be completely alone.
If some of these steps seem hard for you, or you just feel irrationally (or rationally!) angry about a friend quitting, talk to a friend, teacher, counselor, parent, dog, etc. Changes in your daily routine can shake you up more than you can imagine, and you never realize how much you need something or someone until you lose it/him/her. Never feel like you're being stupid or weak for feeling a certain way.

Do you have any friend quitting dance stories? How did you deal?