Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Dance Fushions!

Tap dancing is one of those things that's been on my bucket list for a long time. You would think that with my 30+ years of dance training I would've already had quite a bit under my belt. Not so.

I was just really focused on ballet training. I was exposed to and trained in and performed other forms of dance; modern, jazz, but I never seriously took tap. It was never for lack of appreciation of the dance form. I just never squeezed it in. Even when I went to intensive summer dance camps in the 80's as a teen dancer. The offerings were usually centered around ballet, jazz, character (I certainly don't ever remember that many adorable male dancers in one spot!) and pointe work which usually included pas de deux training. The one class in tap that I remember I struggled with timing (not my strong suit as a youth) and keeping my ankles relaxed.

If there is one thing I know for sure, as I try to keep my 40-something body from falling apart, there is always room to learn new things in dance and movement. One must calibrate their expectations appropriately, but that can still leave a vast amount of potential new skills still available for learning. Throughout the week I am reminded of this whenever I watch my older Zumba participants move and groove. I'm talking women in their 70's and 80's rockin those hips!

Well, here's a video that makes me want to move "learning tap" a little higher up on my bucket list.
It's an awesome fushion of hip hop and tap. Although kickin it old school with tap is pretty boss too!

Click here, and scroll down a bit till you see where there is a video. Enjoy!

What's on your bucket list?

Thanks for reading.

Enjoy the dance that is life!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Perspective of Thought...

In the following rambling rant I use dance and ballet as an example. But I really think that those two words could be interchanged with any number of others. Other forms of dance, a sport, just about any art form. Anything where you push yourself and put yourself out there.

Also, it is very much from a female perspective. No big shocker there since I'm a female. I work with a lot of females, all ages. I work in a very concentrated manner with teen girls, as I am a ballet teacher. I also have two teenage daughters, 19 and 15. I have two boys as well, 11 and 8, and there are things in what I have written below that I would want any one of my kids, students, friends and family to internalize.

As I was going through my week of teaching a thought occurred to me. I can't say that a specific event happened to cause this thought. My mind was probably just wandering around, kick'in back with some old mental files.

Here's the thought;

"Do not let your failures be what binds you to dance (and the group of dancers that you spend time with). Focus on your successes and the adventure of progress and growth."

Ummm...what the hell does that mean?

The world of ballet training, in my experience, can sometimes leading to being a negative experience. I'm not trying to say that it should not be entered, I'm just stating an opinion that I think can be backed up.

There is a very strong focus on aesthetics; a dancer must look a certain way, whether in motion or not.

Every step demands perfection every time.

Once you get something right you must then move onto perfecting something else.

There is no grunting in ballet, or crying for that matter! Everything must appear seamless, serene and under complete control.

Those are just a few examples. These demands in and of themselves are not necessarily bad. In fact, they can be of great value.

 Developing discipline through conquering challenges.

Pushing oneself to achieve a goal.

Demanding a set of standards for oneself.

Honing a skill set as those just mentioned can be transferred into all aspects of life. They can contribute to a good work ethic, a desire to achieve goals, a can-do and will-do attitude that gets things done.

But what if one loses their way by don't having the right frame of mind to take on such tirelessly demanding attributes and not start to feel deflated in heart and soul?

What "bad habits" can one oh so easily fall into to maintain a sense of safety.

"Oh man...I suck today."
"My turns/extensions/jumps/feet will never be good/high/look like so and so's."
"Oh my God! I'm so fat!"
"Oh my God! Me too!"
"That's as good as I'll ever be." Add to that the visual of someone drenched in an "I don't care" attitude. Opting to stay where they belong (false sense of safety) as opposed to venturing out into the unknown of "untapped awesomeness". I'm a gal, so this kind of group social order thinking may not describe what dudes feel. But I imagine many ladies can relate. Its as if we are trained from birth or something. At least in my generation and the ones prior to mine. Nobody likes a conceited ass, but is there anything wrong with being happy about things that are both positive and one of a kind attributes to one's individual self. If you can't appreciate your own special brand of awesomeness, how in the hell can you really appreciate it and foster it in others?

Before a dancer, usually a young dancer, knows it, they have a habitual mind set that keeps them wrapped in a blanket of perceived failures. Does anyone else smell a cliche` in the room? Self-fulfilling prophecy maybe? And habits can take a lifetime to break.

We, as humans, naturally gravitate towards trying to fill a role within whatever group, or groups, we are a part of. The diva, the victim, the screw up, the clown. The list can go on and on. Often the outward appearances of a role are vastly different from what's on the inside. I'm definitely not saying something new here.

What if we create new roles? Not just mirrors of what's on the inside, but what we want to see on the outside so that we can have the same feeling on the inside. The adventurer, the optimist, the advocate, the inspirer, the loving friend, the coach. Not just for others but for ourselves too.
 Let's make some new mental tape recordings.

"Oh man...I suck today."
"Whoa! My sense of balance is a little whacky today. This should be interesting. Okay, let's start peeling back some layers and see what's up!"

"My turns/extensions/jumps/feet will never be good/high/look like so and so's."
"Okay, I'm struggling with my turns. I'm going to just focus on where my center of gravity is when I turn. Let's not worry about how many I can do. One. Turn. At. A. Time."
"I really want my jumps/extensions/feet to be stronger/higher/to have a better arch. Time to ask my teacher (trainer, coach...) for advice to reach my goal. Maybe do some research on my own through books about dance technique or fire up the Google."

"Oh my God! I'm so fat!"
" I really feel like crap today. My mental attitude is kinda down. Maybe I need to get more rest. Take better care of myself. Make better choices about how I fuel my body."

*If anyone ever seriously recommends a diet that's comprised of starving yourself know that they are completely ignorant about how the body works and immediately disregard anything they say about diet and exercise. Just to be safe, disregard anything they have to say about anything. If it happens to be a friend of yours, consider getting them help. Click here for more info. Don't confuse starvation dieting (anorexia, bulimia, just eating lettuce and sugar-free gum) with intermittent fasting. IT can be thought of as more of a metobolic strategy. But do your research! (Be sure to follow the links in the second article.)

"Oh my God! Me too!"
"Really? Do you really believe that? How about you name five things that you think are pretty cool about how you look, or things that you are grateful for. They could be anything. What about something that makes you truly you. You can love and appreciate yourself and still be humble."

"Don't settle!"

"That's as good as I'll ever be."
"Invest in yourself! You are your greatest natural resource. You occupy a vast, amazing and wondrous world. Why would you not be wondrous and amazing, with vast amounts of potential? Okay, so you might not ever be the dancer that you visualize is the perfect dancer. That actual dancer probably struggles with the same fantasy/reality dilemma. Get over it and focus on making the most of you!" Turn over a new leaf, add a new trick to your bag. Expand your horizons and add something that you feel you can enjoy. It doesn't mean you have to give something up, like ballet, but rather you can add something you can feel free in. And it can be anything! Yoga, martial arts, skeet shooting!

We all have days where we just want to wallow in our own sense of failure. Sometimes we feel we can fit in with our group if we tow the line of negative-thought and attitude. Hmmm...ladies? Do we not sometimes pull this crap? Stop it!

Don't open that door! It can be like a roach motel if you're not careful; once you go in, you never come out.

Take a deep breath, change the angle of how you are looking at things. Be you. Be you conquering a challenge. Be you being patient, kind and loving with yourself.

Thanks for reading.

Enjoy the dance that is life!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Inspiring Words; No Use In Worrying.

“If you have a problem that can be fixed, then there is no use in worrying. If you have a problem that cannot be fixed, then there is no use in worrying.” – Buddhist proverb

I came across this quote in an article I was reading in the Sept. 2012 issue of Health magazine. The article was about how resilient one was when having to bounce back from some of life's setbacks. "How To Bounce Back Better" is the article's title. Pretty good article. I can't seem to locate it right now on the Internet, but I'm sure it will be up at some point.

No doubt we are in troubling times. Sometimes overwhelming and with no end in sight. I know for myself that when I start in with the "worries" I can find myself pretty spun out. The repercussions of the spin out can obscure potentially viable solutions. Instead of ideas and solutions come old mental recordings of past failures and my perceived short-comings (some may be legit, others not).

Sometimes getting worked up over a worry can inspire action. Again, speaking for myself, I usually have to have a pretty strong dose of frustration and anger for my brain pan to heat up with something usable. Perhaps it's the anger and frustration that conquers the, at times, paralyzing effects of being worried. I couldn't tell ya for sure. But many a time I have found myself stuck in a state of worry.

*Side note- checkout the Psychology Today website for some interesting reading.

So I hope this proverb can give some perspective. I know I will be running it through my head as I ramp up for a week of trials and tribulations. Perhaps keeping the worry-monster at bay will help me to better focus on enjoying all my blessing!

Thanks for reading.

Enjoy the dance that is life!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Gentle Stretches To Prep Feet, Ankles and Lower Legs.

In this post I've laid out a few simple and gentle stretches to warm-up and prep the feet (especially if you are going to be doing something barefoot or with with minimal foot wear like ballet slippers), the ankles and the lower legs and even up into the hamstrings and glutes. I show them while holding onto a chair, but you can easily do them with hands pressed against, say a wall or a counter. You can even do them without your hands on anything but your hips or stabilizing you on your non-gesture leg (the support leg).

Before you begin take a moment to get in touch with your core.

Imagine pulling your belly button to your spine.

Imagine pulling on a very tight vest or corset made of muscle around your ribcage. Yes, exactly like something Lady Gaga would wear.

Feel the area of your lumbar spine lengthen. Not by tucking the pelvis under, but rather feeling the lower back region elongate.

Feel your collar bones open up as if someone has pasted the backs of your shoulder blades to a coat hanger. Don't forget your ribs. No popping!

Okay, where were we...

Exercise #1; waking up the achilles tendon.

Start with the back leg as straight as you can get it.

Then bend the knee of the back leg while keeping the heel in contact with the floor. It may be a very small range of motion.

Do a few rounds, 4 to 8 reps.

Exercise #2; working through the foot.

Going back to our starting stance...

Straighten the front leg as you elongate through the back leg until just the ball of the foot is in contact with the floor, toes spreading out on the ground.

Now extend, or point the toes, and oh so gently press over the top of them. You will feel the stretch on the top of foot. Roll back down through the foot to your starting position.

4-8 reps.

In the video below there is a section where you can add some ankle rotations while also engaging the glutes of the gesture leg and quads of the support leg.

Exercise #3; gentle hamstring stretch.

Transfer your weight to the gesture leg (so, if you were just doing the previous exercises with the right leg, then your weight would have been on your left. Now you are transferring the weight to the right leg). Flex the foot of the front leg.

While holding the stretch, switch between flexing the front foot and then placing it flat on the ground.

4-8 reps. It is important to continue moving through the two foot placements rather than holding each one for an extended period, as this is a warm-up.

Using the flexed position for transitions, alternate rotating the leg inwardly and outwardly.
Do as many as you feel are needed.

Be sure and switch sides. You can switch sides in between exercises or do the series one side at a time. Just keep track of how many reps you do on each side.

Below is a video of all exercises together. I'm still trying to master Movie Maker for Windows. An old dog can learn new tricks, but in my case, really flip'in slow! Its a bit dark and somehow the music continues to play to 5:00, although the action only goes to about 2:00. Ugh. I'll nail it down eventually. But our family dog Mia decided to help out and forage for table scraps!

I hope you find these exercises useful.

Thanks for reading and watching.

Enjoy the dance that is life!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Where I'm at in Northern California it is hot!!

Maybe a good day to stay in air conditioning and have fun with a dance!

This song Lollipop (Squeak E. Clean and Desert Eagles Remix), is one of my all time favorite songs. It's a remix of the original "Lollipop" by the Chordettes, and I got it off the Whip It! soundtrack. Great movie, great soundtrack.

First, a little business...
* Always consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any exercise program or activity. Engaging in the activities and movements demonstrated above are at your own risk. In other words, use common sense. Make sure you are on a level and safe surface. Proper footwear.

Don't do high-impact or jumping? Keep it low-impact.

Got a buddy? See if you can face each other while doing the dance.

Have fun!

Back to the Whip It! soundtrack...

"Lollipop" makes a great musical track for kid related activities, like freeze dance. Clean lyrics, great beat. Its an unbeatable favorite among my Zumbatomic kids.

I've also used
Har Mar Superstar featuring Adam Green – "Never My Love" as a cooldown song.

Apollo Sunshine – "Breeze" for a lyrical piece I had to set for a dance camp this summer.

Its just a great soundtrack. Worth getting on your ipod!

Thanks for reading and watching.

Enjoy the dance that is life!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

What Would I Do Without My Students!?!

I love it when my Zumba students tell me about songs they think would make good Zumba routine material. Especially when those songs are from the international pool of music, and not just popular U.S. hits.

Last week one of my Zumba participants told me about a song that was incredibly popular on a cruise to the Mediterranean that she and her family had recently returned from. She said that there would be big dance parties where some of the cruise staff would lead the group in dances (sounds like a familiar format). This particular song sent the crowd wild. And once again, I was reminded...what would I do without my students!?!

Ai Se Eu Te Pego by Michel Telo`.

Its a very catchy song! Here's a translation of the lyrics.

There is also an official dance with a video on YouTube.

I found some other YouTube videos of groups doing similar versions. Some are pretty darn good. Maybe a bit more complicated steps in certain parts. I decided to go with the "official" version, and maybe plug in some of those other steps into other routines since I'm madly in love with sambas and axe` music.

So I worked with the "official" video. Adapted where I felt I needed to (definitely didn't do it in high heels!) and used it in class on Wed. morning.

It was a blast! I can understand why the song and dance have swept through Europe and Latin America!

It will definitely be a repeat.

Thanks for reading. Have fun with the song and video!

Enjoy the dance that is life!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Stuff I've Been Working On.

Here's a video of a dance I've been working on in my Teen/Adult Lyrical class.

As soon as I heard Katy Perry's "Wide Awake" I fell in love with it and knew I had to use it for something.

Each week I try to add a bit more choreography while also cleaning up and trouble shooting steps I've already set.

Its a fun process. That is, when I don't have a deadline, like an upcoming performance date.

Ballet-Fit is another class that I teach. It is designed for the beginning teen or adult dance student, while also providing challenges for participants with previous dance training. I've always loved teaching beginning adult dancers. Over the last year or so I've been trying to really hone a class format that combines some classical ballet technique with a more action/fitness oriented movement vocabulary. For the last couple of months this is how I've been structuring it;

A little bit of pilates
A fair amount of Balletone: Sole Synthesis
Some classical ballet barre technique
Stretching and core

Because some people want "this" and others want "that" and others are fine with "this or that" and I want people who are going to be delighted to show up each week, I've had a few  hair-pulling moments trying pin down an exact format. While I don't want to lock myself into one style or vocabulary, I do want something that will have some consistency and familiarity (not reinventing the wheel every other week) that will also keep things exciting and effective.

I had posted a query on facebook a month or so ago in hopes of feedback;

Dancers, dance and fitness enthusiasts and anyone whose ever had an interest in ballet training, or not, really an interest in any kind of dance. I would love to get some feedback and opinions on something. For years I have taught various adult ballet classes. Over the last year or so I have brought in more strength training concepts into my dance instruction as well as of more recently the Ballet...
one format. Balletone combines fitness, ballet training techniques, pilates and yoga.
Okay, here's where I need feedback;
I would like to get a feel for what people are generally more interested in when looking for an intro to ballet technique training and concepts as a form of exercise.

A). More traditional ballet format; barre, centre, diag. across the floor work.
B). A more mid-intensity dance-fitness related program (like Balletone). Basically a less traditional approach than classical technique. No barre, everything done in the center.
Along with facebook, I've been asking colleagues and friends as well as current students. I've gotten some great feedback. The conversations always lead to revelations as well, which are always beneficial.
The last couple of weeks I have really focused on combining core elements from pilates, classical ballet barre techniques (not to toot my horn, but I've got some killer barre routines!) and some center combos related to Balletone to "test-drive" what was worked on at the barre.
The class I taught last night felt like the first step to really honing in on what I envision.
I started off with some pilates mat work that focused on alignment principles.
Then I used a few ballet barre combinations that related to those principles.
The final portion of the class was using some Balletone segments to challenge what we had worked on, but at a slightly faster pace. Sometimes the body just needs to move!
I was fortunate enough to have a great conversation with my participants afterwards. I talked a bit about the methods to my madness, and they gave me some great feedback.
We all agreed that nobody wants to be in "tendu hell" (the practice of only focusing on the technique of one step, for a really long time, until the students' eyes glaze over and their will to live is considerably diminished).
They shared with me what they felt was challenging and also where they felt they had improved from previous classes. Very valuable information to me!
So, I'm still knocking around in my ol' brain pan exactly how I want to structure my Ballet-Fit class. This I do know; it will never bore me, and the challenge will always keep me striving for newer and better ways to make the principles of dance training accessible, effective and fun. I love that!
Thanks for reading. I would love to get feedback on any of the subjects above. Leave a comment or visit my DanceFitErin facebook page. Be sure to click on the "like" button while you're there!
Enjoy the dance that is life!