Part of every dancer’s training includes the opportunity to PERFORM! It’s what most of us spend all year training for and those 2 and a half minutes on stage tend to be the highlight of our season. Performance is exhilarating, exhausting, nerve wrecking, and an absolute blast. Here are some rules to live by (and review) for every performance.
While my days of having babies are over, I would love for my dance family to grow at DAA! The past couple of months have been trying for me, and my dance family has really been a blessing and I would love for you to be a part of it.
This past spring, I was really excited for our year end recitals, and while traditionally the week of the recital can be a high stress time, I went into it feeling confident and ready for a great week. Then at the start of the week, a rug was pulled out from under me and I spent several days working through personal melt downs and puddles of tears. As the week went on, my daughter was having trouble with her little toe which turned out to be a serious infection, landing her in the hospital the night before our big shows. I left my husband and my daughter at the hospital late that night and was unsure of what was ready for the next morning and what I had forgotten to do, but the show must go on, and I would be there.
When I arrived at the auditorium the next morning, I was not the first one there as I usually am. A couple of my staff members had arrived early and were already setting everything up. One instructor had even offered the night before for me to not come in that morning and they would cover for me. Two other faculty members had gone to the studio and loaded up all the things I had forgotten or left behind- some items hadn’t even crossed my mind, but they knew we needed them and picked up the slack. I am truly grateful and blessed to have these people in my dance family!
This summer had been hard as I have dealt with my daughters’ hospitalization and numerous follow up appointments (on top of her usual therapy appointments that come with having a child with special needs, which is a whole other blog post!), my grandmothers sudden failing health and passing, and changes in the DAA office. Through these stresses, the faculty and parents at DAA have been there for me when I needed them, and I believe we have a special community at DAA that is worth sharing with others!
DAA may not be the biggest studio, the one with the most awards, or the highest percentage of students who go on to dance professionally, but that isn’t what is important to me. I want to build and be a part of a nurturing family that grows young people into great humans and believes that dance has the power to touch lives. Join me in this journey and you too will be welcomed into the family!
Just as there are seasons to life there are many seasons to dance. One season I want to focus on is the season of true commitment and follow through. A lot of dancers can become burnt out towards the end of the school year. The weather changes, schedules are packed and recital is right around the corner. Attending class every week on the same day, at the same time can become monotonous, repetitive and feel robotic. At this point in the season it is understandable to want a change and feel like you need a break. Now I’m all for change when it is for the greater good, but when you make a commitment it is important to stick it out to the very end. As the dance season comes to an end, I want you to understand the commitment you made to your classmates, to your teachers, your family and yourself. Be proud of the journey you have taken, how far you have come, and the work you have put in. Put your best foot forward at each step of the way. Practice your skills and showcase them well when you hit the stage. You get the opportunity to shine on the stage without your teacher. You have the power to control the performance- make it an awesome experience! Choose to show up every day with a smile for the rest of the season. You can commit to rehearse the counts, and all the details of the routine. Decide to make your performance and recital day the greatest ever!
New Year’s Resolutions are absolutely still a thing – wanting ‘this’ year to better than the last – hoping that this magical clean slate sets us up for victory. But as cliche as it seems to be, why not take full advantage of this mind set and actually take steps that will help you improve as a dancer?! You have to have a plan though. And Goals. Thought out goals, with a plan are the road map to set you up for success. Whether it is 1 focus a month or just overall goals for the year – Here is a whole year’s worth to incorporate into your own lists for 2019:
Listen to your body.
When you come back to class after break or vacation, be sure not to overdo it. “Sprains, strains, and fractures are your body's way of forcing you to rest. Never push through the sudden onset of pain, something that feels sharp or cracking, or pain that persists for more than a few days. Resolve to tell your teacher or coach when something hurts, instead of shrugging it off. That kind of communication doesn't mean you're whiny or weak. You're taking responsibility for your own career and training.”
Try a New Style of Dance/Go Watch!
Don't get stuck in a dance bubble! What's a dance genre you've always been curious about, but never had the guts to try? Give it a Go! How do you know you won’t like it or aren’t good at it if you never try it?! [It will most likely, at least, make you even more well rounded ] Or Make an active effort to see performances in unfamiliar dance styles or different than the traditional one you see. It’s vital to a dancers’ growth to know all the styles & ideas out there and to see what other dancers are doing! "Supporting other people helps to be a part of the bigger dance community."
“I Hate Left!”
It's easy to focus on the [right side] “good side” during practice over and over because it comes without thinking, it’s stronger, & you feel more confident… but that can lead to a very unbalanced dancer, overall weak. Practice your “bad side”. Make it a point to work that side 3X more than your “good side” this month. Stretch longer on that side. Do 3 extra Side Leaps that direction. And work that pirouette side harder during these 30-ish days. "It's important to work both sides equally, even if one feels better than the other," says choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler. "If your right leg is stronger, pretend you're a lefty—give that side the attention it deserves."
Food is Fuel.
I'm a H’angry dancer. When I am I can’t focus, I have brain fog & can’t remember my steps as easily, become upset with myself and others more easily, injure more, and don’t recover as quickly. Try to find foods this month that help you physically, emotionally, or do both! Research ways to get these foods in your body before dancing, transport them easily to practices, competitions, etc, and to have them available afterwards as a reward or pickmeup. Your entire body will thank you for it.
Just One More!
Solid double pirouettes are great and all, but this month, push for just one more. Push for just one more tour, one more fouetté, one more pirouette, one inch higher in your leaps. Don’t be content with your clean consistent technique! Imagine the feeling when you get that 3rd, 4th, or 5th[!!!] rotation! WOW! Don’t give up easily. Don’t be stagnant. Stale. Keep Pushing. You can do it! Fall. Get Up. Do it again. Keep Going!- Imagine that feeling at the end & the smile on your face.
Let It Go! Let It Go… Can’t Hold Me Back Anymore!
Fact: Lots of dancers are "type A." It’s just the truth. We're organized, ambitious, and goal-oriented. What we sometimes fail to keep separated though is healthy self-criticism & unhealthy perfectionism. The 1st, Helps you Grow. The 2nd, Beats you Down. Sometimes, You forget to enjoy your dancing. Sometimes you are nervous about letting go and having too much fun. In the famous words of Elsa- “Let IT Go!” Some of my best learning moments were when I just let loose and felt my dance heart soar as I moved to the music, not worrying too much about the perfect steps. My Artistry comes through… Sometimes once you’ve given into the music and movement… the steps just fall perfectly into place
Social Media is now a way of life. You probably see it as your connection to friends, family or something fun to do in spare time. If you are a dancer seeking to make a name for yourself in the dance world - did you know that it could also make or break your dance career too? Instagram, Facebook, & Twitter are great tools that can give you distinguish-ability, visibility and could even help you land a gig. BUT they are also a lot of work – some even argue a “full time job”. They can also have disadvantages in that too much screen time can cause unhealthy comparisons, judgement and worry. Used & monitored in the right way – it can be a fun tool to put yourself out there to the world.
Recharge & Mental Health
End of Summer is a good time to slow down your dancing a little and spend more time on your interests other than dance… [I know, like what?! Lol] During some of these quieter days, make sure to spend time with friends, family, those you love. Take some long walks, read a book, eat those sweets, go on outings with friends outside and soak up that vitamin D & fresh air that we don’t get as often working inside the studio.
Also, take some time to check on your mental health too. It is a priority, and that well-being should get a checkup every now and again too. Don’t be shy about talking about it and/or asking for help if needed. Many people struggle with mental health so you don't need to feel like you're alone. This will help you feel fully prepared (body AND mind) for the coming months.
Ballet is the very basis of which all dance is created from. It is the very foundation of all your technique. It deserves your respect and your love for it. For without it, you would not have anything else. Engage in class. Give all your effort. Actually do the Ballet homework. Ask Questions. Make it a point to grow in this area of your training. Love your Ballet Teacher. Whether or not you want to be a professional ballerina in life – Take it seriously. "Every dancer needs ballet, even if her specialty is salsa! The ballet vocabulary is the ABCs of dance. It makes you hyper-aware of all your muscles, so you feel every inch of your body working."
Work on Acting Skills
All Dance tells a story. Acting give you another tool to tell this story with your body even better. Every dance, even if it's plot-less, tells a story, and you need to be able to convey that story effectively. You could take a class, observe your favorite dancers as they take on new roles of different characters, try out auditions, or even make an effort to improve your own personalities & facials when performing. See what happens when you do! You become more connected with all the pieces you are asked to portray. It will only help your dance performances become stronger.
Expand Your Artistry.
“One of the major things that makes dance different from sports is the fact that artistry is required. On top of demonstrating speed, precision, balance, and endurance dancers are also required to show emotion and feeling. A dancer may have technique for days, but if they lack artistry, their performance can often feel dead and a little boring. A dancer who performs with artistry, on the other hand, can take the audience on a journey and allow them to experience the emotions they are portraying. This could be the year you get in touch with your inner artist and find ways to unlock the emotion within your dancing.”
Stick to a sleep schedule.
You won't be able to endure Nutcracker/Festival of Trees/Christmas Parade/Holiday Show season without adequate sleep. Sleep is critical to performing at your best. Sleep is important for your body to function and do all the wonderful, fun, brilliant things that you want it to do! Make sure to be on a schedule that gives you enough hours nightly - & stick to it…. Until Christmas break
Throughout the Year:
**Develop a Cross-Training Routine**
Cross Training is the action or practice of engaging in two or more sports or types of exercise in order to improve fitness or performance in one's main sport. Typically this focuses on your own strengths and weaknesses. This can mean the difference between a strong dancer and an injury-prone/burnt out one. Use this new year to find another form of exercise that will help progress your dancing overall. Pilates for Core. Yoga for flexibility. Swimming for endurance & breathing. Track/Running for stamina…. Just a couple of ideas. Whatever you decide, make sure that you fit your training to your body & your needs.
Cheers to a Happy, Healthy, Rocking New Dance Year!
It has been on my heart for quite some time to have a program that is accessible to all abilities. As a parent of a special needs child, I have recognized how it becomes increasingly difficult for a child to have their own activities when they can no longer (or never could) keep up with the other children their age. When I discovered Darby’s Dancers, a national nonprofit organization that provides dance education for children with special needs this past summer, I knew it would be a perfect fit for the family culture at Dance Arts Academy and not only would my child be able to have a dance class of her own, but we would have the opportunity to share the joy and power of dance with many other special needs children!
It has been a process to get our chapter of Darby’s Dancers up and running, but I am happy to announce that starting in January 2019, we will be running two classes of Darby’s Dancers on Saturday mornings! At the time of this post, we have 15 children registered for Darby’s Dancers classes and I am excited for the possibilities of how many more we can reach!
Although the parents of Darby’s Dancers are not charged for the lessons and supplies associated with the program, there are costs that we need help fundraising for. The students need dance shoes and clothing, and costumes for the spring recitals. The Darby’s Dancers classes will have the opportunity to perform with the other Dance Arts Academy classes at our spring recital, so be watching for their debut performance! If you, or someone you know would be interested in sponsoring a child, please get in touch with me and I can give you more details. Any donation is tax deductible and very much appreciated.
Another way that young people can get involved with Darby’s Dancers is by becoming a volunteer and a one on one mentor to a Darby’s Dancer. Many of the special needs children need assistance in class and it is a special gift to bond with a special needs child. If you know a teen or young adult who would be interested in volunteering on Saturday mornings, please reach out!
This program has me excited for the future, as I know the power dance can have in the lives of young people and I love that we can share it with more children!
In the last month at the studio I've met a lot of you, I've learned a lot of names, and taught a lot of classes. I was asked to write a blog post introducing myself, but most of you have read my bio and I assume you know that I love to dance. I figured I'd share some things you don't know about me (yet).
My parents tricked me in to dance class.
I struggled for a long time to find my "thing", after trying every sport sport offered in my tiny town (and failing miserably), my best friend told me about her dance class. To be honest, I wasn't interested. I was a shy kid, not thrilled about having to perform at the year-end recital. My parents made me a deal, if I took class I didn't have to perform at the recital. We shook on it, and years later I realized they knew they were lying to me, those sneaky parents! A year came and went and and at age 10 I rocked two sequin leos with fringe skirts, one for jazz, one for tap. Two months later I auditioned for the competition team, and that was just the beginning.
I traveled daily to the town next door for my dance classes and the more I danced the more my parents encouraged me to seek the next level of training. I fought them for years, I wasn't ready to leave my teachers and my friends; in hindsight I wish I had done it sooner. At the age of 15 I finally began taking weekly ballet classes at a big studio 35 minutes out of town. I was immediately recruited as an understudy for the pre-professional company in residence, and within a year transitioned my whole life to this new place. When I was 16 I was gifted an old Honda CRV, not as a birthday present, this was so I could drive myself to the studio daily (parents were off the hook!). In my final two years of high school I spent an average of 30 hours per week in class and rehearsal. I danced for two pre-professional companies (ballet, contemporary) amongst students who are now commercial dancers in LA, professional ballerinas, Rockettes and fellow teachers.
I moved to San Diego in 2008 to attend Point Loma Nazarene University. PLNU checked all of my boxes, except one: dance. It was a tough transition, but in the end I'm so thankful for a place that challenged my passion. It took me a year or so to figure out the dance community in my new city, but many doors were opened and since then, I have been fortunate enough to do some really awesome things (see bio).
I was recently asked about my favorite achievement in dance. It took a few weeks to realize that I'm most proud of being able to fly solo and work for what I want. I jump in to classes without knowing who will be there or what to expect. I worked extra jobs to pay for my dance training. I stand up for myself to the people who don't believe in me. My adventures and willingness to do what it takes has lead me down some really cool paths including commercials, paid gigs, an international performance tour, professional photo shoots and teaching jobs. And now, here at DAA, I'm doing exactly what I am made to do!
My advice to dancers: take every opportunity you come upon. Don't be afraid to go alone, don't let finances discourage you, and don't stop fighting for your passion. People in this industry can be cruel, but if you strive every day to reach your goals, you'll always end up where you're supposed to be.
Hi! I’m teacher Mrs. Anamar Colt and I’m going to tell you here a little bit about me and four steps to make a classical ballet bun. When I was a child, my mom used to make my hair for my ballet classes and I would watch what she did. One day I surprised her by doing my ballet bun by myself. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a great achievement for my age. Here is a picture from that day.
If there is a person I’m ever grateful for, that is my mom. The sacrifices that parents do for their children are absolutely worth it, never doubt about it. I believe that the art of dance is perfect for kids and teenagers to express themselves and transmit their feelings to somebody else. As a dancer I know that it is very important the appearance to feel good in class. Having a clean uniform and my hair done, gives me confidence and prepares me to start dancing. Remember it is really important that the dancers get their hair up, to ensure a better performance and avoid any accidents in class. I am going to give you some tips that you could follow to make that unique classical ballet bun.
*Note: Be sure you are using the elastic hair ties, bobby pins and hair net matching the same color as dancer’s hair.
Step 1: Using the hairbrush or comb, brush the hair back into a ponytail. Apply hairspray or gel to tame wisps and strands of hair that are not long enough to reach the ponytail. Then secure the ponytail with an elastic hair tie. Depending on the dance you could make the bun down on the neck, middle of the head or higher. So make sure you know which one is required for your character in the show. For weekly class, you can do the height of the bun wherever you are comfortable.
Step 2: Twist the ponytail and put in pins. Start twisting the hair and put it around the center making a tight circle. Then secure the twist with the bobby pins or hairpins by putting them as many as you need. To do this, open the pin and then make sure the pin grabs part of the hair from the twist and goes straight in the head. If the dancer feels a constant pain when the pin is applied remove it and put it again until there is no pain. If you have a lot of hair you can divide the pony tale in two parts and twist them apart. Put one twist around first with pins and then the other twist. Depending on your hair if is thin or thicker you will like to use the bobby pins to grab bumps and thin hairs and the hairpins for thicker parts.
Step 3: Put the hair net on. Wrap the hair net around the bun to catch loose hairs. With a few twists the net should be tight on the bun and you can put some pins to secure it. You can also insert more pins around the bun to re-shape or secure loose parts of the bun.
Step 4: Use hair spray or gel to secure hair around the face or any loose strands. This step it is fundamental for shows, but for class, do so as needed.
When I was 4, my grandma took me and my older sister to go see “Annie” at our local theater. It was my first live show. Grandma definitely assumed it would be a wash taking this little preschooler, however, it was my 10 year old sister that slept through almost the whole show. I sat on the edge of my seat enamored by each song, each line, each character. I came out singing every song and putting on a show any chance I had. That was how my love for performing began.
Sitting in the office at the dance studio and answering the phones, I get to hear the stories from parents and grandparents just like my experience. I hear it in their voice their pride and joy in the daughter’s love for dance. I hear their slight embarrassment when they’re telling me that their 3 year old was just made to perform, but also balancing it with the fact that she’s 3… can they really know? I just smile because, you can know!
I continued my love of performing through elementary school participating in everything I could in church and in school. I sang solos, did skits, put on dances for the talent show. Nothing was ever real great, but I felt alive out there!
Performing became my life line. Middle school kicked in and I suffered from a lot of depression due to abuse and the normal issues that spring up in the life of a middle schooler. I remember some really dark moments and just being in tears, but I knew I had to get myself back up! I had the lead role in the school musical and I loved being out there.
By the end of my 8th grade year, I started feeling more like myself. I decided to surprise my family at our spring concert with my first piano solo (I never took any piano, so Mom was a little worried). The music started out nice and slow and I poured myself into it, swaying and moving with each note. A few notes were out of place here and there, but it was quite good. I looked at my mom and she was completely amazed! The music started picking up getting very fast, and I was all over the piano up and down that keyboard. At this point I could see my mom’s expression change from amazement to being a bit suspicious. My gig was up, so I stood up and took a great big bow while the keyboard continued to play its programmed music. I got a pretty large round of applause and even louder laughter. Most of the people didn’t know the battles I had overcome to get there, and they didn’t need to. I knew that those moments of laughter and joy were why I was still around.
After High School I was pretty set on studying music and becoming a professional musician. My path didn’t take me there. Instead, I got married and started a family. When my oldest saw his first musical, he looked up with his big eyes and said “I want to be that!” He was only 2. He spent weeks performing numbers from “Chitty Bang Bang”. I got him in dance classes as soon as they would take him. He might make it a profession, he may use it as the therapy to get through the rough patches, who knows! But, just like his mom, he was born to perform! I will never question that! No reason for any parent to question that love that is instilled in these guys at any age! It doesn’t have to be their career path to be one of the best decisions you could ever make for your kids.
Over the years I have seen many dance studios claim they are “the best” in hopes that the public will believe them and sign up at their place of business. The most humorous to me are the studios that haven’t opened yet, or are brand new to the market and are already boasting they are the best! This claim always gets me thinking several questions for them:
Do you work with children with learning disabilities and want to get them started in the arts? Maybe you’re a parent of a child with special needs and are looking for a way to help them decompress? Whether you’re looking for enrichment or relaxation, the arts can provide quite a few benefits to children who live with disabilities. Art is even used as therapy in some cases. Looking for a way to encourage their interest in the arts? Then try these simple tips:
Provide a Stress-Free Practice Space
Learning disabilities can make it so much easier for children to get distracted, frustrated or upset. That’s why it’s important to create a space where kids can practice without worrying about anything other than their art. Art can be messy, or loud, so make sure their practice space can handle it. Practicing dance can be a wonderful way for children to stay active, but they’ll need a good dance space where they can practice safely. Mirrors will help with form and a small speaker should provide enough music to get them going. If you’re planning on a painting space, make sure floors and furniture can handle spills without you stressing out. Some teachers and parents find it useful to incorporate essential oils into their practice spaces, especially for children with autism.
Help Them Find The Right Fit
When you think of the arts, you may think of painting, drawing and sculpting. But there’s so much more to the arts than what you see in museums. Music is an art form that has such a special place in our lives. Children with learning disabilities can benefit greatly from learning to play an instrument, as long as they have help finding the right one. Wind instruments, like the clarinet, can be practical options for children with special needs.
Dance is another way children can benefit from the arts, and burn a little energy off in the process. Sewing, theater, photography and architecture: there are so many options for children to explore. Let them dabble in different arts and techniques until they find one that works for them.
Look for Local or Online Lessons
Lessons or classes can help children improve their skills and grasp techniques that they may have trouble learning on their own. Sometimes a visual example or some extra instruction can help children with learning disabilities feel more confident with a subject. You may be able to find specialized classes or lessons with instructors who have experience teaching students with special needs. You can even take classes with your kids. There may even be nonprofits and businesses that offer free classes for children with special needs. If lessons are not accessible or if you’re working with a child who isn’t comfortable with others, try looking for online tutorials to help them out.
Make Their Experiences Positive
Children who have learning disabilities can get stressed out pretty quick when it comes to a new subject. This is especially true when it comes to more academic subjects, but the arts can help level the learning experience for those with special needs. As children create, they can find an outlet for their stress, anxiety and other emotional issues. So try to maintain this positivity as they practice and learn. If a child seems to be struggling or getting stressed out, try some ways to avoid meltdowns or tantrums. If they continue to show signs of anxiety, it may be time to move on to a different form of art. Above all, let kids have fun when they are beginning to get into the arts and avoid putting any unnecessary pressure on them.
Kids with learning disabilities can gain so much by getting into the arts. They’ll discover a way to stay calm and focused, as well as an outlet for any stress. If you’re lucky, they may even find their new passion in life or a future career. Whatever their future holds, art can help bring a little more joy into their life.
Photo Credit: Pixabay