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
Most would say yes, some would say no, but I would say you are all right! I believe dancing and painting go hand in hand. A dancer needs to move and music. An artist needs paint and brushes. Now when you are first introduced to painting, you may have used a plastic brush with water color paint, which can create a huge mess. I believe that’s how dancing should feel when you first start off, messy. Now as you continue to practice with newer and better paint brushes, you’ll also be using better paint. With more training and focus on technique, you’ll soon sharpen your skills, and you’ll be using more intricate music. With that said, a dancer should always be open to new things, and be ready to be in uncomfortable situations at times. I know this from experience, I grew up a self-taught hip hop dancer, but soon realized that in order to sharpen moves, I would need a better foundation and technique. So I took 2 years of ballet to figure out the ins and outs of my feet and the lines of my body. So is dance an art? My answer is yes, so I encourage any dancer or someone new to the world of dance to not be afraid of the artist you were made to be.
Once upon a time there was a shy, timid, and petite little girl. Her loving home and surroundings were filled with music and song. The music would overwhelm her heart into movement. Her movement became her sign language. Dance became her bold and expressive voice. Confidence grew as the little girl grew. When the child matured into a young women her dance took her to near and far places. She danced on stages, at schools, and in churches. Most importantly the young woman danced when she was happy, confused, sad, or even content. The young woman discovered she did not need an audience to dance. She danced for herself and from the heart.
No matter where life takes you always dance and be young at heart.
One place I love watching people improv or “dance” is at weddings. The reason I love watching people dance at weddings is because it’s care-free. It’s genuine. When people go out on the dance floor at weddings, they don’t care if they look like a fool or if they’re the best out on the dance floor. What they do care about is having fun, and just moving to the music.
So why is it when we step into a dance class and the teacher says to improv, 99% of us (myself included) get nervous? And I’ve noticed it’s after we’ve reached a certain age. When I teach my nuggets, and I tell them to freestyle or dance, they do whatever comes to mind when the music plays. Why can’t that be us when we’re older? Why are we scared or nervous all of a sudden? Or where does this fear come from?
I believe that when we improv or freestyle, we actually become dancers. Once we let the music take over, our bodies just naturally move. Have you ever listened to a song and just started jamming out with your friends? That’s IMPROV! It’s the same concept for when you’re in the studio.
Here’s a few tips to help you feel more comfortable with improvisation or freestyling:
- Listen to your music. When we listen to music, we already have a natural reaction to the beat. Whether it be a head bop, a snap of your fingers, tapping your foot, etc. Let your body naturally adjust to the music. How’s the song make you feel? Sad? Happy? Emotional? Excited?
- GROOVE! Let your body move around. It could be as simple as a step-touch. When you let your body move around, you’re letting the music take over.
- Experiment. It’s okay to try new things when you improv. This is how we start to grow. If you always catch yourself waving your right arm, or doing the same turn; try a different variation of the move. By experimenting you’re just adding to that bank of moves your body knows.
- Have fun! The biggest takeaway is to have fun. At the end of the day, you got to ask yourself…”why do you dance?”. I dance because it’s my outlet. It’s a way for me to escape from everything else for that little minute of time. I don’t have anything to worry about in that moment.
Think of it like this. You have a blank wall in front of you - the dancers floor; with a buckets of paint - the music. Dancers are the paintbrush. We have a gift as dancers. We get to bring the music to life.
Why Do You Dance?.... The way you answer is what makes you, YOU.
Have you ever stopped to ask yourself “Why Do I Dance?” If you’re a dancer, I am sure that you’ve been asked this before – but maybe not so seriously. You may have been asked by your dance instructor when goofing off in class, your friends when you say “I can’t, I have dance”, your parents when you complain “Im tired, I don’t want to go to dance today”, or when you meet new people and your instinct is to say “My name is.. And I am a dancer” without hesitation. Most importantly though, this question should be asked internally. Of yourself.
Something about Felicie’s answer [the movie LEAP] moves me when she is asked, “Why do you dance?” :
“Because it’s always been a part of my life. It was there with my mom when I was a baby, and it’s here now thanks to Odette. It allows me to live, to be myself.”
…It allows me to live, to be myself.
Nothing more true has ever crossed my ears when it comes to this answer before hearing this. I have asked this of myself, in many different stages in my life, in many different circumstances, always giving myself some generic answer or what I thought I wanted to hear. But when I broke down all those thoughts and reasons and why’s – the answer was the same: I loved it. It’s a part of me. It makes me feel as though I am completely alive.
I feel like I can communicate better through dance. Like my expression and voice is better understood, related, and received more clearly with movement & dancing. My emotion is stronger than when I am speaking. My dance speaks for me. Because it is a true passion that has always been a part of my life, it sometimes has also clouded my understanding of why others dance. It’s been hard for me to at times throughout my life to understand how I can be so dedicated to something, while others are not. I could literally want to dance for a solid 12hrs one day, get up and do it all over again, while others are ok with just the 1 hour of recreational dance a week & rather hang out with friends. Over the years (& as I have gotten older) I have come to see that dance is for Everyone. And therefore, there can be more than one answer to the question above.
It is important to understand that while you dance for one reason, someone standing next to you may be dancing for a completely different one… and that is 100% completely OK! Some dance for the glory. Some dance because they are naturally gifted. Some dance to escape. Some dance to make friends. Some dance for the community. Some dance out of duty. Some dance for the trophies. Some dance because it is inspiring to them. Some dance for the scholarship or the Varsity Letter. Some dance to pursue dreams. Some dance because its good exercise. Some dance because they just love to move to music. Some dance because they cannot communicate with the spoken word. Some dance because they cannot imagine life without dance. Some dance to simply bring joy to others. While others dance to simply bring joy to themselves.
Every Answer Is Valid.
Keep in mind as we enter the end of the spring – and approach Recital season – that we all love dance. We all love it for possibly different reasons. But we all love it. It’s a part of your life right now, if only for a season, or for forever. And when someone asks you, “Why do you dance?” I hope you say – “It makes me Happy”.
For me – “it’s always been a part of my life. … it allows me to live, to be myself.”