Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Technique Tuesday; Pelvic Alignment In Second Position Plie.

A few weeks ago I posted a Technique Tuesday about pelvic alignment for plies in first position. You can review it here.

This Tuesday's tutorial is super short. Everything from the first position plies apply.

Pull the belly button towards the spine
Feel the glutes "wrap around" and gently squeeze

As the knees bend, imagine the back of the pelvis is sliding up and down an imaginary wall.

Knees stay opened out over the tops of the feet.

As you straighten the knees, feel those glutes do that wrap and squeeze.
Because second position puts you in a wider stance, it gives a great opportunity to feel those thighs stretch out to the side, making sure to keep those knees over the feet.
In the video I start off by showing the pelvis out of proper alignment for plies, by showing the hips go behind the feet. When doing a squat you want the hips to go behind the heels, but not in a turned out plié.

Doing properly aligned plies in second is, of course, a necessity for classical ballet technique, but it is also a great move to add to any fitness regiment where you do squats. I'm a big fan of the squat. I do them all the time and I have my young dancers do them as well. Knowing how to properly align the pelvis for various moves can only make you stronger and more agile.

Thanks for hanging out and reading.

Enjoy the dance that is life!


Monday, March 25, 2013

Some Thoughts On Fostering A Healthy Body Image; Mother To Daughter.

image credit
There is a never ending stream of images, messages and pressures bombarding girls and young women. Really, women of all ages. But so many of these images are most impactful to the females on the younger rather than older spectrum.

There is a ridiculous amount of information floating out there in the world. Some of it sage, a lot of it silly if not down right irresponsible. Confusing at best. Sadly, I don't think this mom's experience of finding the media's reach on her 7-year old is that uncommon (warning; there is some strong language in the article).

I'm going to take this moment to make it very clear that I am not a therapist, a counselor, a nutritionist or a doctor, of any kind. What I am, though, is a mom to two daughters, a daughter myself, a woman, and someone who has spent most of her life in dance, ballet to be specific, a realm where, depending on the environment you call home, can have a lot of pressures on body image. For both males and females, but especially girls and teens. I have also fought my own battles with being on the body dysmorphic disorder spectrum and the self destructive behaviors that commonly spring from it.

A few weeks ago I posted about body image in Who Is That In The Mirror?  While I don't want to belabor the point or subject over much, there has to be some cosmic sense to why I endured all that stuff and am strong and alive to talk about it. Hopefully I have gained at least some wisdoms to pass along.

I have been asked over the years if dance, mainly ballet, causes eating disorders. My overall opinion is no. Eating disorders are very complex, and can involve much deeper issues. This article articulates this pretty well. But certain disciplines have higher risks for dangerous behaviors when it comes to body image issues. From I understand, horse racing jockeys are at very high risk.

No one knows what stresses and struggles lay ahead for ourselves or our children as they plow through life. So why not err on the side of caution and help the daughters of today become the strong, healthy and focused pioneers of tomorrow.

Be Very Careful How You Talk About Yourself!

We, as mothers, whether we like it or not become the first image of feminine beauty to our daughters. When we, as mothers, put ourselves down for things we dislike about our bodies or appearance we don't just train our daughters to put themselves down. We train them to distrust their own inner voice. Please take a moment for that to sink in. Remember, a baby's mother is his or her first definition of beauty, regardless of what the rest of the world's opinions are. When you reinforce that as a lie, you run the risk of reinforcing that your daughter's inner voice is also capable of lying. Without an inner voice, we are but lost.

Keep Your Crap In Your Own Luggage!

Okay, so your daughter inherited your hearty, child-bearing hips (or whatever it is, most all of us women have that "thing"). The same hips you've hated your whole life for as long as you can remember. Hey guess what, your daughter may not give a crap about her hips. She may think they are just fine. You didn't like it when that relative made an unwelcome remark about your hips (or whatever; thick ankles, small/large breasts). If she does share your frustration, help her find ways to focus on the things that she does like about herself. I feel that we as women are conditioned to point out our flaws and while appearing to be irreverent to our assets. Especially those assets that are based on performance, not appearance.

Let Your Daughter Be Her Own Beauty.

Let your daughter explore her own view of what makes her feel beautiful. Within reason, of course. Dressing in a suggestive or objectifying way is an obvious no. If the desire to dress provocatively comes up, start a conversation. Find out your daughter's views on the images she sees in her everyday life. Let her know that she does not need to be a victim of society, but can become an architect of it. You might learn things about yourself as well.

Do Not Diet! Opt For Healthy Lifestyle Choices Instead.

For one thing, diets don't work. Especially crash diets. Since when is crashing a way to start anything, unless your talking about celebrity wedding receptions. Oh, and on the topic of celebrity diets; your relying on the words of their publicists who get paid to keep their clients relevant. Plus, they really don't represent the everyday. They are often held to unrealistic standards. And they aren't in charge of raising your kid!
You want to change your chow? Focus on the "feeling better, feeling healthy" aspects of changing how you or your family eats. Not solely on the weight loss and appearance aspects.
Unless you are keeping tabs on a medical issue involving organ failure, don't focus on the scale. Rather, judge progress by how your clothes feel. Your clothes don't have hormonal fluctuations or retain water. Although I'm convinced that my 2004 Chevy Suburban suffers from occasional PMS. It just doesn't want to fit into its regular parking spots!

Learn To Take Care Of Yourself!

I know it seems cliché to point out the whole "Please put your oxygen mask on first before helping others", but it's true. Learn to take care of yourself. In this way you can demonstrate ways for your daughter to learn to empower herself.

Here is an article I found while doing some research for this post.

And here's to the two most important gals in my life!


Thanks for reading.

Enjoy the dance that is life!


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Rose Red Solos; Snow Solo (Snow &RR Duet), Angel Solo, Pearl Solo.

More videos. These were all filmed last Thurs. 3/14/13. I like to point out the dates because over time it is fun to see how they progress.

I will go back through and the names of music pieces in a day or two.

Snow Solo (Snow & RR Duet).
You will have to click the link. I wasn't able to put the video directly on my blog for some reason.


Angel Solo.
Music; O quam Pulchra by Jordi Savall &Montserrat Figueras.

Pearl Solo

Original choreography by Erin Deniz.

Feel free to leave any questions or comments down below.

Enjoy the dance that is life!


Thursday, March 14, 2013

New Zumba Wear! Save With My Affiliate Code! And A Tutorial! {A Repost}.

Whoo Hoo! There are some fun, new Zumba wear items out now! You can click on the link above, and it should take you to Zumba.com and hook you up with my affiliate code to get a 10% savings!

I say should because this is the first time I've tried out my embedded web banner. My friend Kelley will be so proud of me :)

Here are the steps for the good ol' fashion way though. Just in case.

Go to Zumba.com

Select "SHOP" from the top menu.

Look around! Mother's Day is coming up. With both accessories and clothing options, you can find a great gift for a beloved Zumba-Lover in your life. And don't forget about YOU!

Be sure to use my affiliate code for a 10% off savings!

It's that easy!
Astral Baseball Tee                              Galaxy Loose Racerback                
I'm loving this look!                               This too. Comfy yet sexy!                   
Eclipse Capri
I would wear these all
 Okay. Now for the tutorial!
This is a repost of a step from awhile back. Click here for the original post. There was a request for this tutorial from one of my Zumba participants. I really love this step. You can keep it low-impact. Or, if jumping is something you like to add to your movement repertoire, you can pump it up with a little side leaping action. The upper body action is great for both core and agility.
I use a variation of this step in my "Jump" dance fitness routine.
Thanks for reading and watching.
Enjoy the dance that is life!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Rose Red solos; Jewel solo (3/6/13), Rose Red solo (3/11/13), Butterfly solo (3/11/13)

Here are 3 solos that are for the most part done. From here, it will be a matter of bringing them on pointe and polishing. So more videos to follow, and you can see the progression.

I know the aspect is sideways. Curse you Iphone! At least I didn't film them upside down. You don't find out it's upside down till you upload it to the computer. Hopefully I will get dialed in for future filmings.

Jewel solo
Music; Divertimento #17 in D Mozart solo starts at 2:17

Rose Red solo
Music; my shazam is completely befuddled by this one!

Butterfly solo
Music; Flute Concerto in D Major, K 134- Allegro

Feel free to leave questions or comments in the comments section below. Thanks!

Original choreography by Erin Deniz.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Technique Tuesday; Opening Up The Collarbone And Front Of The Shoulder Stretch. Part I "Upper Body Alignment For Ballet".

We live in a techno world. Laptops, cell phones, and many other handheld devices provide a never ending opportunity for slouchy shoulders. Many occupations require long hours in front of an computer.

Opening up those collarbones and the fronts of the shoulders is harder than ever, but oh so important for everyday posture. That is why the upper body alignment for ballet training can be so beneficial for that everyday posture.

I have come up with a gentle stretch and exercise routine to help prepare the collarbone and front of the shoulders. While I designed this as a preparation for upper body alignment of the shoulder girdle for ballet training, it can be used by anyone. Ballet or not. A good counter movement for all that forward slouching.

I hope you find this useful!

Thanks for reading and watching.

Enjoy the dance that is life!


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Technique Tuesday; Pelvic Alignment In First Position Plie.

The plié is probably the most important step in classical ballet, if not in most of the dance arts.

What makes a plié different from just a knee bend? For the most part, the alignment of the body.

A squat has a knee bend, but the alignment of the torso and pelvis are very different. As the knees bend, the hips go back behind the feet and ankles. The torso angles into more of a folding over position in reference to the thighs. Weight is transferred to be predominately in the heels.

I'm a big fan of squats. They are a great exercise for the glutes, quads and , if done wisely, the back. They are a very functional movement for human bio mechanics. But if you try to do a pirouette from a squat you will learn some unwelcome lessons about basic physics.

As well as making certain dance steps possible, plies, if done properly, offer a great lengthening component to building strength in the muscles of the legs. The muscles of the core are also engaged through the execution of a plié.

I have often found that focusing on the placement of the pelvis can aide in the proper alignment of a plié.

Towards the bottom of this post is a short video tutorial. You can scroll down, or hang out for the pictorial tutorial first.

Start by finding your natural range of motion for outward rotation (turnout).
Toes pointing forward
Bend knees, weight is evenly displaced down through each foot
Pull belly button towards spine and imagine that the back of the pelvis is sliding up and down an imaginary wall

Shifting the weight to the heels, open up the feet as you straighten the legs.
Evenly displace the weight through the feet again
You are now in first position.
 Often when people first learn to do plies, they will have a tendency to send the hips behind the feet as the knees bend, as well as bring the upper body forward over the thighs. This is because this is how we normally move throughout our daily tasks. For the purposes of a plié, we are going to move counter to that.
 Pull the belly button towards the spine
Feel the glutes "wrap around" and gently squeeze
As the knees bend, imagine the back of the pelvis is sliding up and down an imaginary wall.
Knees stay opened out over the tops of the feet.
As you straighten the knees, feel those glutes do that wrap and squeeze.
Here's a short tutorial video-
Hope this helps.
Thanks for watching!
Enjoy the dance that is life!
~Miss Erin

Monday, March 4, 2013

Who Is That In The Mirror?

The mirror
image credit.

So at the dance studio where I teach Ballet and lyrical/contemporary dance it has been a long standing practice that the pre-teen and teen girls can wear those little athletic spandex shorts or chiffon ballet skirts over their tights and leotards.

The reason the studio owner (whom I have a great amount of respect for and gratitude towards) put this into effect many years ago was because, as many of us women know, pre-teen and teen girls tend to start to feel more modest and self conscience about their changing bodies. Over the years, as a dance teacher, I've really never thought much about it either way. Spandex shorts and short, flowy skirts are form fitting enough that it's pretty easy to visually assess pelvic alignment. I can tell when a student is engaging their glutes and core simultaneously, because that level of muscular engagement can be seen along the entire torso, including the shoulders and neck.

I do understand the aura of strict discipline in attire; dressing the part. I've been to studios where there was a very strict dress code. Every student in the program wears the same style, brand and shade of pink tights and the exact same color, style and brand of leotard. I've nothing against that. If that's how a school wants to kick it, then that's how they should do it. I've also been to studios, very successful, sought after studios, that just required pink tights and a solid color leo. Some teachers wanted all extras like cover up shorts and skirts shed after the first few combos. Others didn't really mind the extra wardrobe pieces as long as everything was fairly snug and didn't obscure a clear view of what the student's body was doing. Honestly, I learned more at the studios where the attire was less militant. They tended to be a little less about the prestige of being at their school and more about sound technique and artistry of dance. On the other hand though, I did not spend as much time at the studios with a "policed" dress code. So to be fair, I don't want to declare one right and the other wrong. If it works for the school and their students...

For me, as a teacher, I love discussing dance technique and strategies with my students, adjusting my comments to their age appropriate levels of understanding. I don't necessarily want them all to look like a specific dancer. I want them to learn how to be the best dancer they can be. I want them to learn to challenge themselves and to fall in love with the art of peeling back layers of understanding and enlightenment for the tasks they are handed. I want them to learn to think on their feet, take a risk here and there. Learn how to entertain and move an audience, as well as learning to be true to themselves as burgeoning artists and technicians. I believe that's how dancers learn about themselves. I also believe that most dance teachers that value the health and safety (physical, mental and emotional) of their students view dance instruction in a similar way. So, speaking solely for myself as an instructor, the "strictness" of a dress code can easily become an arbitrary point. There are so many other ways to foster a sense of discipline in a student. Mind you, I'm speaking mainly about the teen age group. Little ones, I believe benefit from the mystic of putting on a uniform for a specific activity. Plus, having to don a required outfit for dance class can be a help on those mornings when your little ballerina wants to be a cowgirl all day. No pink tights and black leotard = no dancing in Fairy Princess Land with all the other Fairy Princesses.

Things start to get a little more complicated and dicey when your Fairy Princess becomes (gasp) an adolescent.

So back to the spandex and chiffon of the studio I teach at. A few weeks ago I was at the studio on an evening that I'm normally not. The group of teen dancers that I instruct were having their class with the studio owner. They take from both of us each week. Both of us love the idea that they are getting instruction from more than one teacher. What I don't catch, another teacher can. A student just learns more. Anyhow, my colleague waved me in to watch a dance she had been working on with the girls.
After the dance, she made mention that she was going to declare Tuesdays "No Pants Tuesdays". How could anyone help not laugh at the thought. Of course the "No Pants" referred to the not wearing of shorts or dance skirts. My fellow dance teacher said that she had made them do most all of the class in just their tights and leos, and that it was quite enlightening for all involved, especially the young ladies (13-16 being the age range). The group of students all had looks of agreement, and maybe a little relief to have survived the ordeal. By the time I was in the room, towards the end of the class, the previously shed items were back in place.

The funny thing was that, a day or so prior I had been thinking about something very similar. The thought of them possibly going to various auditions for summer dance programs being among my thoughts. I thought about how, as young female dancers, they would need to not be distracted by how they would look in just the lines of tights and leotards. Even though spandex shorts are skin tight, they have a different line than that of the basic uniform. Dance style shorts sort of break up the lines, or rather curves of the hips and upper thighs.

I expressed my thoughts.  - "Ya know, Ladies. That's actually a really good thing for you guys to do and get used to seeing. There will be times that you will have to present yourselves in just tights and leos, and you need to get used to knowing what that looks like. Get comfortable with it, and not let it be a distraction." The looks on their faces were pretty much this- "Yeah. It's a sucky reality, we know we can't escape (sigh)." It's impotant for me to point out that this is a group of lovely young ladies. While their body types vary from one another, they are each beautiful.

Oh, and by the way...Those lines and curves, as subtle as they may be given their youth, have every right to be there. More so than any lines demanded by any dance form ever created. I'll get to what I told them the next day in a minute.

As early as 5th or 6th grade I remember developing a sincere hatred for my upper thighs. As I matured into early adolescence my body shape developed into one of a small waist, hips that went straight down with extra curves in the upper thighs. Think saddlebag region. In retrospect, I had just a regular female shape. Women tend to carry important fat stores in the upper thighs. It's a design feature for our, and our offsprings' survival. Overall, I was, for the most part, evenly proportioned. But for whatever reason, those damn inner thighs became my nemeses. It's like I couldn't see past them. I let them define me. They became my art, my technique, my measure of success. Failures were both stored there and sprung from there. Through much of my adolescence and early adulthood my obsession with controlling that specific part of my body was the very thing that tore away at the fabric of my art, my technique and my success. It wasn't until one summer afternoon, while in Richmond, Virginia, that I first really saw how much it had torn.

I was in the last week of an 8-week summer intensive dance camp. Things were wrapping up. End of program performances were going through final rehearsals. Students still in high school were getting ready to go home. Dancers like myself, high school grads interested in dancing as a profession, were hoping for company apprenticeships. In this case, with the Richmond Ballet company. The dancers of the company were all settling back in after being away for their summer breaks.

Many of the workshop students had high hopes for their next opportunities. I was not one of them. I knew I was in bad shape. I barely had any jump in my legs, no length in any of my lines (think dried out Thanksgiving turkey), as well as an ever deepening depression. I barely had enough strength to manage my own limbs, let alone negotiate maneuvers with a partner, which was very unfortunate, as partnering was always one of my favorite aspects of dance. I finally saw myself in the mirror for what I actually looked like. I looked like a drowned rat. My hair was thin, limp and dull. My eyes were sunk and almost completely void of any spark. My skin was the horrible color that comes with emaciation. I had the slim upper thighs I'd always thought I wanted, but the rest of me looked like a corpse. I realized that I looked like the walking dead. I had gone too far a field. I was lost. I needed to find my way back. Not just to dance, but to live. I was at a crossroads. Fight to survive or just accept a slow, painful act of wasting away. Who or what did I have to wage war against? I had a seriously distorted view of my body image. I had had it for so long that it had invaded every fiber of my being.

The story of my way back is for another day. But fight my way back I did.

So it's pretty safe to say that I have some pretty strong feelings when it comes to issues of body image.

Before I go further...Something amazing happened...

While I was in Virginia preparing for battle with myself, something happened that would fuel my fight for years to come and contribute the feeding of my soul, as well as my body.

The professional dancers of the ballet company had trickled back into town after their summer break. They had a performance coming up, sort of a heralding of the upcoming season. They were works from the previous season.

One of the pieces consisted of three pas de deux. Each of the partnered sections represented different stages of a relationship. I can't remember the name of the original piece. Poorly nourished body = poor memory and cognitive skills. Anyhow, there were two main female, or principle, dancers in this company. One of them had stuck around for most of the summer. Quintessential ballerina would be the best way to describe her. Painfully slender, blonde, long limbed, aloof. Seared into my memories of my summer in Virginia are of her stretching those long limbs and doing arm exercises with dainty 1 lb. weights in between cigarette breaks (think ballet dancers are beacons of healthy choices? Think again. At least in the 80's). She was indisputably beautiful to look at. Ballerina Q.

The other principle female dancer had a very different body. Tall with a sturdy structure, she had a good 20 pounds on Ballerina Q. My first thought on seeing her in pedestrian mode was, "This is their Prima Ballerina? Somebody enjoyed their time off." Ballerina E (soon you'll learn the what the E stands for).

We, as workshop students, got to watch their rehearsals. The first two pas de deux did their thing. One of the couples included the beautiful Ballerina Q. Exquisite in her waifish aloofness.

Then came Ballerina E and her partner. Watching her and her partner rehearse in the studio that day would become what can only be described as my first religious experience. She moved with a confidence and grace that defines artistry. Her presence was bold and commanding, yet capable of giving the comfort and security that only Gaia herself could provide. Her curves served to bring life to mere steps that meant nothing till she executed them.

25 years later I still feel intense emotion threaten to overwhelm me when I think of the first time I saw her dance that day. I think because she represented the elixir to my ailment. The enlightenment (there's the E) to my disillusionment. The promise of a cure for my disease. The Ballerina Q in me would need to be sacrificed, because the Ballerina E in me, the part of me that truly wanted to survive, had been awoken. The Valkyrie had given her cry of war. Ballerina E was, in addition to being an amazing artist and dancer, a very kind, congenial and enlightened person. Damn, did I have my work cut out for me.

I would have liked to get to know Ballerina E better, but my time in Virginia had come to an end. The scholarship that had been granted me for the 2 month program would not be renewed for a longer stay. Most likely due to my declining health and performance abilities. It was time to return home, lick my wounds and get on track. I had to put the dream of dancing professionally on hold so that I could start addressing the realities of survival.

"Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans" -
                                                                                                              John Lennon.

No regrets. I love how my life has turned out. While I have my battle scars I have wisdoms to pass along because of them.

So what did I tell my adolescent students about how they should regard the images of themselves that they see in the mirror? In essence, I encouraged them to disregard.

I reminded them that they are beautiful and perfect the way that they are. I reminded them that it's not all about how you look but rather about how you present yourself. Take a 90 lb. waif who is shrunken in on her self, slumped shoulders, arms folded across her stomach (I. Hate. That. Stance. I have been known to ban it in my classes), a meek look on her face. Oh, she's tiny and thin and dainty. Now take her counterpart- maybe she is 20 or 30 lbs. heavier, but she is alive and vibrant, brimming with confidence. Which light will garner the most moths? Who will complete the loop of energized interaction? Focus on building confidence in yourself. Be strong and brave, because that is how the world will see you and regard you. That is the image that you want looking back at you in the mirror. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise can go...Oh yeah, I'm talking to young'ins! You get the idea.

Thanks for reading.

Enjoy the dance that is life!

Here are a couple of resources for information and help in regards to eating disorders, HelpGuide.org and National Eating Disorders Assoc. (NEDA).