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 I...er...resolved 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!