Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Taught My First Balletone Class...

...last week. What is normally a teen/adult beginning Ballet class w/ an emphasis on fitness that I teach on Wednesday evenings, got a make over as a Balletone: Sole Synthesis class.

What is Balletone?

It is a fitness program that uses dance-conditioning methods of ballet training, as well as principles from pilates and yoga to build strength, flexibility, core strength and cardiovascular conditioning.

Here's a video snippet with the owner of Balletone, Shannon Fable.

So that's a little of what it is. How is it different from some of the formats or movement methods that it incorporates?

Balletone is done in the center of the room, no barre exercises, where as a traditional ballet class would employ both. In ballet training there is a great deal more verbal explanation, demonstration of a combo, execution of the combo by students, then back to more explanations and demos. Stopping and starting. Because many aspects of ballet technique can be somewhat challenging and precise, time is needed to adequately explain. That's not necessarily a negative, at least I don't see it that way. Its just a reality, one that has to be weighted against what one's goals are.

Balletone utilizes many of the foundations of ballet; maintaining proper alignment while executing plies, tendus, lifting the leg front, side or back (arabesque) in a turned out position, passes and lunges. As well as engaging multiple muscle groups in a sustained, lengthening manor, coupled with full range arm movements. All while staying in constant motion. That's why it great for seasoned dancers too!

Balletone is off the mat. It is started from a standing position. Barefoot training and awareness is an important aspect of the Balletone program, regardless of which format (Sole Synthesis, Standing Flow, etc.). Keeping control of the core, while sustaining the recruitment of engaged muscles through movements is a key concept in pilates. This key concept shines in Balletone!

I've taken just enough yoga to know that it is no joke when it comes to strength, control, flexibility, physical and mental endurance! I'm falling madly in love with it! There seems to be an endless supply of challenges gracefully and politely waiting for me to peel back the layers of. While at the same time providing me with an opportunity for introspective thought in both body and mind, and a chance to replenish. Whew, yoga and I just had a moment...

In the Balletone: Sole Synthesis format, the yoga-inspired movement sequences provide a shift in movement and intensity, but not a rest. An important opportunity is provided to stretch and further internalise to prepare for the next set of challenges.

 You are constantly moving at a low-impact, mid-range intensity (hills and valleys of exertion) throughout a Balletone workout. Mid-range cardio is a cardio intensity level often overlooked.Think something between a brisk walk and a Zumba class. Invigorating as well as challenging.

What kind of footwear does one wear for Balletone? None!

Interested? If you are in the Chico, Ca. area come check out my Wednesday 6:30pm Ballet-Fit class (perhaps soon to be Balletone exclusively) at Kinetics Academy of Dance.

Thanks for reading.

Enjoy the dance that is life!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I Love It When Students Ask Questions!

 After my Monday morning Zumba class I was chatting with some of my Zumba participants. Ones who have been with me for about a year or so.

One of my participants asked the question of why do I sometimes face the mirror for certain dances vs. facing them for others. So, in exploring this question, may be I can give some insight into the fun challenges of group instruction. Notice I used the word fun. Challenge doesn't always have to be negative!

I love these types of questions! Conversations of technique and the art of delivery light my fires. Anyone who has taken beginning adult ballet from me can tell you that I can go on and on.

Is it because I have all the answers? Dear God no!

Many things in dance technique did not come easy to me. Not that I begrudge anyone that absorbs dance technique like sponge (a dry, ready to absorb at max levels sponge), because each and every one of us has our own personal battles, when revealed, usually makes us count our own blessings. But because of and through my own personal struggles (nothing epic, mind you) I have found a passion in trying to decode dance movement. At least for the dance styles that I engage in.

Okay, back to the earlier question. Facing the mirror vs. facing my students and/or participants.

Like I mentioned at the beginning, sometimes I face my Zumba participants and sometimes I face the mirror. Actually I face the mirror most of the time.

Why all the switching?

Facing participants definitely fosters a more connective feeling. Its more intimate and friendly. For me, its fun and thrilling (sometimes challenging). I love looking into someones eyes and sharing a big ol' smile!

Why would I ever do anything but face participants?

Sometimes a certain series of steps are just easier to follow from the back, or with the instructor facing the mirror. A clearer image of both the front and the back of the instructor are available. There is no doubt that when the instructor moves their left arm that's it is indeed their left arm.

As an instructor, I can get a more panoramic view of the room at large. I can easily scan all four corners and everything in between.

There's another reason why I might prefer to face the mirror. Sometimes I need to cue off of myself! It's kind of a crazy visual-learner sort of thing. My memory will be quicker with the next step change if I have the visual of the instructor (myself in this case0 in front of me. Sort of a security blanket for myself if a routine is very new to me.

Every time I assess adding a new routine to my Zumba line up, I always first decide if it should be done facing the class or the mirror.

To challenge myself, I like to try and find routines, whether I am using someone elses choreography or creating my own, that I can do facing my participants. There will always be dances that just work better facing the mirror. If I benefit from the challenge than my participants do too. And isn't conquering new challenges what keeps us on our toes!

Another reason to be able to operate both ways is that not every location will have a mirror at all. Also, sometimes we will do dances that will take on different group formations; group circle, conga lines, "battle" groups. Being flexible with which direction you can face and follow makes it easier to join the party and the fun!

I have heard that fitness industry standards prefer instructors to face their participants. But with so many different formats in group exercise it seems best left as a strong suggestion for instructors as opposed to a mandatory across the board rule. My opinion.

Now when I teach ballet or lyrical I am much less flexible.

For myself, I want to keep a much closer eye on my students if I am doing the steps along with them. I also use much more vocal cueing- "Tombe  pas de bourree right, turn left..." I don't trust myself to reverse my sides while calling out the opposite. My brain just might explode on the spot!

 Thanks for reading.

Enjoy the dance that is life!
As a participant, which direction do you like the instructor to face? The mirror or the participants?
If you're an instructor, which way do you prefer to face?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

I Never Let...

Okay, this quote is less inspirational and perhaps more poignant.

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.
                                                                        Mark Twain.
This quote has come up many times in my household in the last month or so. Why? Our oldest daughter, Deirdre, is finishing up her first year of community college. A new semester will be starting in no time and class selection must be nailed down. I'd like to first state that I am a huge fan of community colleges and I think my daughter has made a great decision to start off her college education at one.

Let's face it though, whether one is at a private college, state  or community college, some of the class selections that fill degree requirements are...interesting?

Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame? Click here for more! Thankfully this is not one of the options at my daughter's college. At one of the colleges that her friend attends a course that he took a semester ago was titled New York Mambo.
 So why would a student even entertain (although some sound like nothing but entertainment) the thought of signing up and shelling out for these "educational" offerings? As many of you know, there are required courses of study to fulfill, and usually a timeline to fulfill them, unless one wants to make a career out of being a college student. You don't always get what you want when you want it. All that's available just might be The Sixties, Leisure and Life, or Effective Listening Through Multicultural Awareness (that last one seems like more a study of subjective vs. objective).

I understand the importance of producing well rounded individuals who will be making policy-related decisions, interpreting research results and influencing upcoming generations, but Sport For the Spectator? Really? Isn't that pretty much a spare time, not to mention fr$$ gig? As well as something that comes naturally.

I could go on and on. I think many of us could.

The bottom line, for me anyway, is this; For many career goals a college education is important, if not down right necessary. But don't let that get in the way of truly educating yourself. Case in point, most physicians don't get much in the way of nutrition education, but are rather just handed the standard mumbo jumbo decided by big government and big ag. I don't think its an outrageous claim to say that nutrition is one of the most important aspects of overall health. Here is just one example of this woman's struggle. Wouldn't take long to search for many more examples! It's up to doctors, on their own, after spending thousands on education, and amid an avalanche of paperwork (thanks insurance companies and trial lawyers!) to educated themselves. Not picking on doctors, just presenting one example that can impact everyday life.

I think I just went on and on...Hmmm, future post ideas a'brew'in...

Now for a laugh...

Thanks for reading :)

Enjoy the dance that is life!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Final Touches!

So, we are a mere two weeks away from the annual performance for Kinetics Academy of Dance. This year's theme is Mother Goose, "Mother Goose On the Loose".
There have been times during the choreographing of this year's pieces that I was pretty sure I bit off more than I could chew! Instead of setting one piece per class that was slated to perform, I took the pointe class and split it up into a collection of solos, a duet and a trio. I stuck myself choreographing four pieces instead of one!

Despite a few moments of panic and dread all of my pieces are complete. For the most part. There are bows to set, exits to nail down and some fine tuned cleaning to be done. The final touches.

This year I am amazed at how my tasks for final touches are different than from years past. Last year at this time I was threatening to take everyone off pointe if I couldn't get 100% from them. I had to light some serious fires under some tutu clad butts!
Not so much this year. I am amazed at how far our group of young dancers have come! My main points of focus for this year are filling in any gaps in movements with "displaying actions of your character", tightening up steps, setting bows and exits. Otherwise, everyone knows their steps and are coming up with great solutions for any tricky maneuvers.

I'm so proud!

Often when I am setting an ensemble piece on my young students I have a goal in mind for them learning something new. An item that they can put into their dancer's toolbox. For one of this year's pieces, Monday's Child, I wanted to expand their understanding and abilities to sustain slow graceful movements. Known as adagio or legato tempos of movement, this speed is critical for a dancer to develop. And slower does not automatically indicate easier. A dancer who can make a slow walk across a stage look graceful, intriguing and powerful can probably accomplish any other flavor of movement.
When working in an ensemble piece where dancers must sync up their movements to one another there is an added challenge. In a group of fast moving bodies an out of sync arm or leg movement can easily go undetected by the audience. Slow that tempo down, same misstep will stick out like a sore thumb!
I've enjoyed watching my young dancers hone their understandings and abilities to execute this quality of movement.

Then of course there is the Lyrical piece. There are 6 dancers and it is done to the song Cosmic Love by Florence and the Machine. Not the entire song though, despite my group of students wanting the dance to go for the whole song (over 4 minutes I think. That's a long time in choreography terms!). Hence the nickname we all gave the piece - The Inception Dance, just when you think its over...Well, I finally had to call it finished, 3:22 is where we start the fade.

Costumes, props and set pieces are all coming together (thankfully those are not in my domain).
It's going to be a great show this year, and a joy to see what all of the other classes are doing. I'm excited! Perhaps in the coming week I'll be able to post some video footage of the dances these dancers have been working so hard on.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Things I Just Love To Hear From My "Z-eoples"!

Yup. "Z-eoples" is a made up word. It's my word for the Zumba people in my life. Participants, enthusiasts, colleagues, mentors, etc... I don't throw it around much because it has a special meaning to me in my soft and chewy core!

This post is about the things I love to hear from my Zumba participants!

"Great energy in class today" - The beauty of this statement is that it is always a two-way street. I throw in some and I get a whole bunch thrown back at me! I love it!

"I think I'm actually starting to get the steps!" - I always remind new participants that it's not about getting all the steps right away. The steps will come. You got only two steps down? That's two more than zero! Besides, we tend to learn movements in exponentially bigger and bigger batches. Start with a small batch, next will be bigger, so on and so on.

"I feel happy for the rest of the day after Zumba!" coupled with "My boyfriend says I should do Zumba everyday!" :)

"I set a weight loss goal. I've met that goal, and taking Zumba was a big part of that" - I am always moved when I can be a part of helping someone reach their goals.

*This one I received in a card.
"My husband passed away last year after a long terminal illness. Starting Zumba has brought joy back into my life." - Just writing that makes me start to cry. I felt so honored and blessed to receive that card. The Zumba room, wherever it is located, is sacred ground!

"I went hiking, started to lose my footing, but caught it and didn't trip!" - Score one for agility and coordination!

"I got my friend to finally come. She had so much fun! She really needs something like this."

*Not everything is said with words!

I love it whens I see a participant get totally into a move. -  They whip their hair, let loose into that shimmy or booty shake and surrender to the moves and the tunes. Even if they miss the start of the next step, it tells me that they are feeling comfortable, free and sassy!

Someone has watched a few classes from the other side of the window (the not fun side) with a look on their face that says "I could never do that. It looks too hard. I'm too uncoordinated." Then they finally can't take it anymore and jump in! It's amazing how quickly that look of can't turns into "Hell ya I can do this!"

I could probably go on and on. Above are just some of my favorites. I've got many more. Some that I keep very close to my heart.

I love you "Z-eoples"!!

Here's some of the fun musical selections I used today!

Thanks for reading.

Enjoy the dance that is life!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Recalibrate To Hydrate!

It's the mantra that I have been blurting out during my Zumba classes the last couple of weeks. The weather in most areas of the country are switching over to a warmer climate as Summer approaches.

Often we don't realize how different our hydration habits are at different times of the year, depending on the temperatures of where we might live.

Sure, on a hot day we will definitely grab an extra glass of water, especially if we are working up a sweat. But that is a response to thirst. Our mouth is dry, our throat feels arid, maybe a headache is ramping up. What about the parts of our body we can't necessarily "feel" the same way?

What about our fascia?

I have wanted to do a post on fascia and dehydration for a few weeks now. In researching for it I came across this site that has a great explanation of both fascia and the effects of dehydration.

"The Fascia is a specialized system of the body that has an appearance similar to a spider’s web or a sweater. Fascia is very densely woven, covering and interpenetrating every muscle, bone, nerve, artery and vein as well as all of our internal organs including the heart, lungs, brain and spinal cord. The most interesting aspect of the fascial system is that it is not just a system of separate covering. It is actually one structure that exists from head to foot without interruption. In this way you can begin to see that each part of the entire body is connected to every other part by the fascia, like the yarn in a sweater."

It would seem that our fascia is pretty darned important! Water is the main lubricant.

"Fascia holds water in like a sponge and if put under duress, it can dehydrate and become hard, gel-like and sticky. As a side point, remember that 70% of the body is water and 70% of the muscle (which is broken down into fascial sheaths) is also water."

So while Myofascial Release can work to lubricate this intricate system, dehydration can definitely hinder the process.

"When dehydration of the fascia occurs because of physical and emotional distress, water is pushed out of the tissue. Basically, dehydration turns this lubricant – like solution to more of a gel-like glue. Hence the critical fiber distance is reduced and the collagen fibers don’t glide as smoothly."

One snag in this "sweater" can cause an unwanted pull elsewhere in the fascia. More thickening and less pliability. More restrictions on mobility. Yikes!

Cassidy Phillips, CEO and founder of TPTherapy has a great diagram on the hazards of the  injury cycle.

Whether you are an athlete, fitness enthusiast (dance fitness!), a dancer or a weekend warrior, it pays to take heed of your body's need for adequate hydration!

 Here's a link to the Mayo Clinic's recommendations for water, or fluid intake. Remember, caffinated drinks and booze don't count! Sugary drinks cause your body to blow through a lot of water just to process, as well as not being that good for you.

8 8 oz. glasses of water a day is standard most likely because it is easy to remember, but your activity level may warrant a larger intake.

I'm gonna get me a tall glass of water right now!

Thanks for reading!

Enjoy the dance that is life!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Words To Inspire; Our Deepest Fear...

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
                                                                                                      by Marianne Williamson.

The first time I read this quote I experienced a paradigm shift in my core that forever altered the way I view the world and my place in it.

I will not ramble here, but rather I will simply let the quote sink in, settle and spread.

If you would like to learn more about Marianne Williamson, click here.

Enjoy the dance that is life!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Maybe These Will Help...

I am often asked by  Zumba enthusiasts that take my class, or by people interested in starting Zumba what type of shoes they should wear. My standard answer- wear a low tread shoe. Low tread especially under the ball of the foot. Support under the heel is fine. Definitely low tread up front!

I gave some links for good dance fitness footwear in this post from awhile ago.

What if you just love the running shoes you have now? Or a new pair just really isn't in your budget?

Well, I came across and add for a product called Slip-On Dancers. I've never used them, but it looks like a pretty cool solution. Most likely the idea was spawned from the fact that not every dance fitness class occurs on the "perfect" floor. Classes are held in churches, rec room, etc. These are often carpeted floors, or cement. It seems that a great many fitness conventions occur in hotel reception and conference halls. These slip on devices would definitely help.

I think I will order a pair and try them out.

Has anyone tried these? A similar product perhaps?

Let me know!

Thanks for reading.

Enjoy the dance that is life!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Walk, 2,3,4...

The time has come for...

I love this bit!  While it may be somewhat tongue in cheek there is some definite truth about how much fun a dance related exercise in a group can surround you in instant friends.

There is no question, or at least there should be very little doubt, that walking is one of the best exercises a human can do. It's low impact, gives a slow burn that is good for burning off fat and relaxing in many ways. I used to walk quite a bit, since I didn't start driving until I was 20. But fast forward a bunch of years and four kids later, I'm usually getting around in a big people mover known as a Suburban. I miss those days of letting my mind wander, breathing in fresh air (okay, not so much when I lived in L.A.), soaking up the sun and taking in the sights and sounds around me.

Mark's Daily Apple is a blog that I subscribe to and greatly enjoy. Recently he posted about the benefits of walking and asked the question why we don't walk anymore. Check it out here.

When I first read it, I was reminded that one of my Zumba enthusiasts wore her pedometer device a couple of times while taking my 45 minute Zumba class. Each time she clocked in at a little over 5,000 steps! In 45 minutes that's half of what is the 10,000 that's recommended. She claimed that she wasn't even doing as many of the steps that I did. I don't know though, I've seen her bust a move!

We know walking is good. Don't get me stated on the benefits of dance as part of one's exercise "diet". It's why I blog about it!

Cardio, endurance, flexibility, agility, a workout for the brain, self-esteem, the list could go on and on.

Finding a dance form or a dance fitness class that works for you is a great way to knock out some of those daily steps!

Here are some ideas;

Find a ballet class in your area that fits your level.
Even if a studio does a lot of performing they will usually have some class selections for recreational dancing. Look for a teen/adult class geared towards beginners. You will probably find some former dancers who want to take a more enjoyable pace than what they used to do.

Country Line Dancing
I've never done CLD, but it looks like a lot of fun! And very addicting!

Ballroom Dancing and Salsa Dancing
I want to try I am going to try partnered salsa dancing
 this summer! Honey, you have now been warned...

African Dance
Many communities offer African dance. Most teachers can modify for beginners. Often done with live drumming, this is an energetic, fun dance form with a festive communal feel.

Irish Step Dancing/Clogging
Again, many communities offer these or similar dance forms.

Dance Fitness
Zumba, U-Jam, Hip Hop Hustle
FUN, FUN,FUN! *No dance experience necessary!

This program combines fitness, ballet, yoga and pilates to work the core, increase strength and balance and work that mid-level cardio. All levels welcome!

Look in your area and you will probably find a great many fun opportunities to explore dance.

Grab a friend or loved one if you need moral support. Get that booty, or derriere moving!

Thanks for reading.

Enjoy the dance that is life!