Make A Mid-Year Resolution Today!

We all make new year’s resolutions, but we don’t all stick with them throughout the year. I know I haven’t been. I will admit there was a brief time period where I stopped working out and eating right. Then one day I woke up and remembered that I had made a promise to myself and since then I have been back on track! How about you? Have you been sticking to your new year’s resolution? Did you already complete your resolution and don’t know what to do now? It’s ok, we can get back on track together and work on our mid-year resolution!

What can we as dancers choose for our mid-year resolution? How about you try a new dance style? Maybe there was some style you always wanted to try but never had the courage to do it? Well, I am challenging you to go out and try it! Trying won’t hurt anybody. You can only benefit from broadening your horizons. It will give you an extra challenge. Which can lead to another resolution. Go out and challenge yourself! Maybe you have a clean double pirouette, well why not go for that triple? You never know what you are able to achieve until you try it! As dancers we need to constantly challenge ourselves, it is the only way we can improve.

Remember it is never too late to start something new. Maybe you did stop but get back into it! We are doing this together! Most importantly relax after all summer is just around the corner! If you can’t make a mid-year resolution then don’t worry, 2017 will be here before you know it! For the rest of you….I’ll be checking in on you!

Tips to Reduce Stress During Dance Recital Season

Well, it’s that time of the year again! Can you guess what I’m talking about? I’ll give you a hint, I’m suffering from PRS. You’ve never heard of PRS?! Well,  PRS stands for pre-recital syndrome. Now, do you know what time of the year it is? Yep, you guessed it, it’s recital time! Within the next few months dance studios everywhere are going to be having their annual recital. It is so exciting, but at the same time, so stressful! So here are a few tips to help you reduce the stress and hopefully you won’t suffer from PRS!

Make sure to lay out everything you may need the day before if not earlier. Don’t wait until the last minute to get all your stuff together. This is how people forget items they may need. Remember to pack your costumes, shoes, tights, hair accessories, makeup, jewelry, water, and anything else you may need. Ask your teacher a week or so before to double check and make sure you have everything. Your teacher might think of something you need that you would not have thought of yourself.

Try to pack extra of everything if you can. Pack those extra bobby pins, hair ties, extra water. Extra everything is the way to go! I even bring my old worn out dance shoes, just in case. You never know when they might come in handy. After all, better to be safe than sorry.

If you can, bring a mini first aid kit. You never know when something might happen. It can be small but bring something so you have it if you need it. Make sure to eat food before you perform, you don’t want to pass out. However, don’t eat less than 2 hours before you go on stage you don’t want to feel too full while dancing. And never, never eat in costume. Also, never drink anything other than water in costume.

While backstage it is only natural for you to start getting anxious and feeling nervous. Try to relax. Don’t worry about messing up. One of the best pieces of advice one of my teachers told me is that; something is always going to go wrong. You can practice all you want and you can do everything right a million times before you perform but when it comes time to actually performing, something will always go wrong, so just enjoy the moment. After all, isn’t the saying dance like nobody’s watching? That is what you have to do. Take deep breaths, inhale, exhale, breathe and everything will be alright.

It’s recital season! Ready or not here it comes, so be ready and don’t have PRS!

Happy Recital Season!!!

The Deadly Sins…of Dance

     Most people know the 7 deadly sins; pride, envy, wrath, gluttony, lust, greed, and sloth. These 7 deadly sins, or habits, are said to prevent people from progressing in their life. Well, what I bet you don’t realize is that there are deadly sins in dance too. Much like the 7 deadly sins of everyday life, these deadly sins of dance are habits that most people probably do every time they dance. These habits do not help you progress as a dancer. Depending on how often and how bad you do them they can actually cause you to regress as a dancer. Meet the 5 deadly sins of dance…

     The first one is having sickled feet. What does this mean? Well, this is probably one of the ugliest things a dancer could possibly do. When somebody says that your feet are sickled, it means that your feet are turned in instead of turning them out. When you have both feet sickled your toes would be pointing toward each other. This is not what we want. We want our feet to turn out, so they would be pointing away from each other. This can be related to the sin sloth. Sloth means you are being lazy, and usually when dancers sickle their feet, it usually means they are being lazy. 

The girl in color is demonstrating a sickled foot, and the girls in black and white are demonstrating a turned out foot.

   

The next sin of dance is misalignment. Having misalignment can lead to a variety of problems. If you want to have longevity as a dancer you need to make sure you have proper alignment. You might have noticed that people stand with their butt sticking out, for various reasons. Being a dancer, this is not good for us. Pride is one of the 7 deadly sins, however when you dance you want to dance with pride. If you have misalignment it won’t make you look tall and proud. When dancers stand with their butt sticking out this does damage to their spine. It crunches the lower bones in the spine. This also leads to other techniques being off. When dances don’t have the proper alignment they don’t engage their core, they’re letting their ribs and shoulders go which leads to their balance being off. You also want to make sure your hips are always in line with one another. When I teach I tell my students to think of their hips as headlights on a car. You want them always the same level and you always want them facing the front. Have proper alignment, and have pride when you dance. 

This is an example of misalignment.

     Wrath means to be angry, and is one of the 7 deadly sins. Usually people who are angry tend to carry a lot of tension with them. Tension happens to be one of the 5 deadly dance sins. Carrying too much tension is never a good thing. However, in dance it is even worse. Dancers need to look graceful and elegant, even when they might not be feeling that way. If you are too stiff you won’t be able to jump as high or stay on your toes as long. Tension is never a good thing, so just breath, relax, and have fun. Along, with tension is the next deadly sin; clenching your toes. When people are first starting out they see pointed toes and think they know exactly what to do. So what do they do? They clench their toes. This is not, I repeat this is NOT pointing your toes. Pointing your toes comes from the ankles and not from your toes. Clenching your toes just creates more tension throughout your body because you are unable to do everything your body wants you to do.

     And the last deadly sin of dance is hyperextension. Hyperextension is when a joint can move more than it should be able to. Usually in dancers this happens with the knees. Although this is not something that can be controlled, as a dancer you should be aware of your body. This means knowing when you are hyperextending your knees. You should be able to tell the difference and know when to not do that to yourself. Do not lock your knees, this can cause serious damage to you one day. This is just something you need to be aware of. 

This image shows a hyperextended knee on the left and a non hyperextended knee on the right.

     These 5 sins are all habits that can be worked on and broken if we choose. Breaking these habits will help to make us become better dancers.

The Many Benefits of Dancing

     These days there are so many TV shows related to the dancing world. So You Think You Can Dance, Dance Moms, and Bunheads, it is causing more and more people to want to start dancing. People realize how dance is very beneficial physically, however what a lot of people don’t realize is that dance has other benefits beside just better physical health.

     Studies have shown that dance helps to boost the memory. This can help to prevent from getting dementia when people become older. Dancing helps to increase the Hippocampus part of the brain. As people age the Hippocampus naturally starts to get smaller but dance helps to keep this part of the brain active.

    Dance is also known to reduce stress and depression. When people dance a chemical called Dopamine is released inside of the brain. This chemical is what causes people to feel happy, and is known as a “natural high”. So if you are feeling stressed or upset about something, get up, put some music on and start dancing! You are sure to feel much better after a dancing session. I know I always do!

This image shows where the Hippocampus is located in the brain

     Having heart problems? There was a study done in Italy that said dancing helps more people with heart diseases than biking or walking does. Their breathing and heart rate significantly improved compared to other people’s. Dance lessons might just be what the doctor ordered!

     To me dance is so much more than a activity to keep me physically fit. It helps to keep me happy and helps me to keep my mind off of things. There is a quote that says “you have a diary, I have a dance floor”. That is what dance is to me, it is my therapy session, my diary. It is a way for me to release all negative feelings. I hope dance can be the way it is for me, for all of you!

Should Dancers Have a Plan B?

    With less than a week left before I graduate college and go off into the real world, the amount of people that ask me what I am going to do next is unbelievable. I have to admit, I am often finding myself asking the same question to my peers. When I tell them I am a dancer more often than not, I get the follow up question; “Well what are you going to do when that doesn’t work out?”, “What’s your plan B?”, “What else are you going to do?” This makes a person wonder, should I have a plan B? What if I don’t? Am I going to fail in life? Do dancers need to have a plan B? Should they? Should I be scarred that I don’t?

     These are questions that dancers hear way too often. People who don’t dance typically think that dancing can’t be a full time job. They think dancing can’t be a career. Dancers often get discouraged and are forced to go into their plan B because nobody supports them and believes in them. For me, dancing has always been apart of me. It has always been who I am. It defines me, without it I have no idea who I would be. Yes, I do have a backup if for whatever reason my dancing career fails. However, I never plan on actually using it. For me there is no second option, it is only there as a comfort. My plan B also happens to be something I love to do and maybe will do on the side one day. It can also be incorporated into the dancing world. If you truly love something and believe in yourself and what you are doing, then go and make it happen! Don’t allow people to tell you to have a plan B. Yes, dancing is a hard career. Yes, you never will know exactly when that next paycheck is coming. If you love what you are doing, won’t it be worth it? Yes, it will be!

     Dancers should be able to follow their dreams without having to worry about failing. It is okay to have another part time job so that there is a steady income. You want to be able to support yourself and pay your bills. Just don’t give up on that dream. Will you become that principal dancer in the major dance company? Maybe not, but that shouldn’t discourage you. If anything let it motivate you, you have something to reach for. As 16 year old, South African dancer, Leroy Mokgatle says, “Don’t ever make a plan B for your life. If you do, it’s as if you’re saying ‘it’s okay if this doesn’t work out’. For me there is no plan B”.

How To Choose The Right Dance Costumes

     Alright all you dance teachers out there,it’s getting close to recital time. What does that mean? Having to choose costumes. This is one of the very stressful things about having the recital look the best it can be. You don’t want to choose the wrong costume. Sometimes you know exactly what you want, other times you don’t have the slightest idea what you want. There are so many things that go into choosing just the right costume. It can be very overwhelming. But, have no fear. I am going to give you some tips on how you can choose the right costume for your dancers.

     Before you choose a costume, choose a song. It is so much easier to choose a costume around a song than a song around a costume. I have witnessed many dance teachers fall in love with a costume choose it then have no idea what song they should use. Trust me, know the song before you pick the costume. It’ll save you time and stress. Once you choose the song, know what it’s about. Every song has a story behind it. Know what that story is. Do the research. Know the meaning behind the lyrics, and know the meaning behind the beat. This will help you know what your dancers should look like when they are dancing.

     Match the costume to the song. Once again, do your research. Go ahead and look online at different dance costumes. Dance costume companies have online magazines that you can look through. This is really helpful. Also, Pinterest is a good site to help you as well. Don’t know any dance costume companies? Here are some great companies you can use: Kelle Company, Weissman, Revolution Dancewear, Cicci Dance, Curtain Call Costumes and A Wish Come True.

     There are a few things you need to keep in mind. The age of your dancers; don’t choose a mature costume for 5 year olds, and vice versa. You don’t want the dancers, or the parents, to feel uncomfortable with the costume. Usually the model in the picture will give you an indication of the age range that is appropriate. Body types; make sure you pay attention to the body types of your dancers. They are all beautiful no matter what their body shape is. However, let’s be honest, not everything looks good on everyone. In fact, everyone has something that they don’t look good in, and that’s ok. Be aware of your dancers shapes and sizes. Choose something that is going to flatter the majority of them.

     Choosing dance costumes isn’t an easy thing to do. However, if you keep these things in mind hopefully the process will be easier for you. Don’t panic if it takes you a long time to find the right costume. Remember, great things take time, and just like with everything else, when you know, you know.

What Being a Dance Mom is Really Like

     Not only is being a dancer a difficult yet rewarding thing too but we often forget the people who might even have a harder job than we do, our moms. If it wasn’t for them putting us into that initial dance class, who knows where we would be today. They put in a lot of work to make sure that we were always on time, helping us with our hair, makeup, and of course paying for us to take these classes. In reality, being a dance mom is nothing like the TV show “Dance Moms”. There isn’t as much drama, there aren’t as many fights, and your dance teacher really does care, a lot!

     I had the opportunity to interview some wonderful dance moms about their experience being a dance mom. Emily Ketsoglou, Carol Buccino, and Debbie Meyfohrt; these wonderful mothers have always been very supportive of their daughters and have always pushed them to pursue their dreams. All of these women are very dear to me and I like to think of them as my own mom’s. I would like to thank them as well as my own mother for always supporting me in all the decisions that I make in life.

     For Caro, her favorite part of being a dance mom were the recitals. Recitals weren’t just big for her two daughters, Lisa and Dana, but they were big events for the whole family. “Watching the recital always made me so proud of my daughters. It always made me smile from ear to ear. It was also very exciting for the entire household on recital week. My husband did the scenery and lighting. I was a backstage mom and would sew all the costumes for my girls. Just a fun and exciting time. I miss those days. I wish they were still little (laughing)”. Although these moms loved doing their job, Debbie says one of her least favorite parts was “having to make adjustments to costumes”. When your child is constantly growing, they might be one size when the costume is ordered, but by the time the costumes come in he or she could already by the next size up.

     Despite their least favorite parts of being a dance mom, they do remember the sweet times as well. Emily remembers one time “when Paige was 3 years old, it was an open house at her dance school. She was so shy and she had to hold her dance teacher’s hand on one side and her blankie on the other. It was adorable!” Carol recalls something similar “When Dana was about 3 she was in a talent show at the library. She was all rehearsed and ready. When it was her turn to dance she came out all excited, started her dance with a big smile and after about 15 seconds into the dance she froze looked around the room and ran as fast as she could off the stage. Everyone laughed and stood up and cheered for her. It was just adorable”

     All these moms tend to have some things in common. They all hate seeing their daughters get hurt. All of their daughters have hurt their ankle and these moments seem to be their worst memory. No mother likes to see their child get hurt, especially since their feet are what they use to dance which makes them happy.

     Debbie had no idea her daughter would be as involved in dance as she is today. When she first enrolled her daughter into she said to herself “We will see how long this lasts”, but that was 19 years ago. Carol enrolled her daughter into dance because “from a baby Lisa had excessive energy, always dancing around and singing. Lisa loved it right away.From early on she was the leader of the pack, memorizing every move only seeing it one time.” She knew “pretty early on that dance would probably always be apart of Lisa’s life and possibly a career.” Emily knew the same thing of her daughter. She said “I  knew all along Paige would grow up and be a dancer. She was so tiny but determined.”

     For about 20 years these women have been dance moms. They have experienced many things over the years, so for all of you new dance moms, they have some advice for you. Emily says “let your dancers lead their own lives and make their own choices. Support them but don’t lead them. Be there when they have disappointments and explain that it’s part of life and encourage them to get up when they fall, and never try to live your dreams through your child.” Carol thinks you should “start out just enjoying watching your child have fun and building confidence- it is a great way for a young child to make friends, follow directions and get some exercise at the same time. As time goes on you will know whether your child has natural dance talent. If not, let them continue dancing just for fun and exercise. It builds confidence, give them a chance to perform on stage and over time they will make great friendships.” Debbie said something similar, “Don’t stop her/him from doing something they love, and let them be creative without too much interference”. All of these wonderful give similar advice and must be doing something right because all of their daughters are doing amazing things and are living their dreams.

What Does Having Scoliosis Mean for Dancers?

Scoliosis: “bent not broken”

Many people are told throughout their life that they have been diagnosed with scoliosis. It doesn’t seem like the worst thing in the world, but it sure can be an inconvenience. What exactly is scoliosis anyway? Scoliosis is an abnormal curve in your spine. A few of the signs of scoliosis are; uneven shoulders, one shoulder more prominent than the other, or an uneven waistline. I know because I have it. As a dancer I wasn’t sure what this was going to mean for me. I was diagnosed with it when I was young, I was still in Elementary School. I still had so much life ahead of me, and there was no way I was going to give up dancing. I was afraid though that I wasn’t going to have a choice. I wasn’t sure what this meant. It freaked me out. Which is why I want to make sure if you get told you have scoliosis, please don’t worry! It is going to be okay.
Actually, 80% of people have mild scoliosis. So your spine isn’t symmetrical, who cares? Every night I had to do these back exercises that would help better align my spine. Since I wasn’t done growing yet these exercises would help to make sure it wouldn’t get worse as I got older. I was so afraid I was going to have to wear a brace, but I made sure to do those exercises every night, and luckily I never had to. I was lucky, I ended up with 2 curves in my spine, one at the top and one at the bottom, and they curve in opposite directions so they end up balancing each other out.
Dance is actually a good way to help people with scoliosis. Since dance encourages you to have proper body alignment. Almost all styles of dance require you to stand up straight, dancing will help your spine and the muscles surrounding your spine to become aligned. Ballet or other types of technique classes are probably the most beneficial classes to take, since they focus more on body alignment and body posture than other dance classes do.

an X-Ray of someone with mild scoliosis

Scoliosis is just a curve in your spine, sure some people have it more extreme than others but that should never stop you from dancing. Sometimes my instructors have to remind me to stand up a little straighter and have to help me with getting my body in the correct position. Although it is frustrating at times, over the years I have become in tuned with my body and I have learned to make the correct adjustments for myself while I dance. Nobody has the same body. As long as you figure out what works for you and how to have the correct posture while you dance. Don’t let scoliosis stop you from dancing and doing what you love.

Legend Michael Flatley Retires

“Nothing is impossible, follow your dreams” said Michael Flatley. Mr. Flatley has certainly been able to follow his dreams. Since he was a little boy he always had this dream of dancing on broadway, and lucky for him he has been able to accomplish this.
Michael Flatley is a world famous Irish Step dancer, and received his fame in 1994 when he created “Riverdance” and then 2 years later he created the even more famous show “Lord of the Dance”. This show is now world famous. As said in our last blog Irish dancing has no upper body movement and is very rigid. However, Michael Flatley broke the barriers and incorporated upper body movement into his shows. This show broke away from the traditional Irish dances, which was a big risk for Mr. Flatley but luckily for him, people loved it.

Michael Flatley performing in “Lord of the Dance”

. In 1998 “Lord of the Dance” broke box office records. At the Wembley Arena in London, there was 21 consecutive shows of “Lord of the Dance”, no other production has been able to break that record since. This past winter, “Lord of the Dance” came to New York City, and Michael Flatley was able to accomplish his dream of wanting to dance on Broadway.
On March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day (today), will be his last performance. At the age of 57 Michael Flatley is retiring due to having injuries in his spine, knee, a torn calf muscle, 2 ruptured Achilles tendons, a fractured rib, and a broken bone in his foot. In one interview he said “It’s bittersweet, I feel like I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. I wanted to prove that dance could sell out in major arenas around the world. It’s the icing on the cake to end with Broadway.” Although he is retiring from performing, he is not retiring from the show completely. He will still be managing and directing the shows, as well as helping to choose the costumes the dancers wear. He might not be performing anymore but he will continue to make an impact in dance history!

Check out this video of Michael Flatley performing in “Lord of the Dance”

Why You Should be Happy Your Child Dances

It all started by taking your little three year old girl to her first dance class. It was just something to fill her time, keep her busy, maybe make a few friends. Then she comes home and continues to dance around the house. Practicing everything that she learned that day in class. Everyday she asks when she gets to go back to dance.
Before you know it, you’re complaining about all the time you spend driving her to and from class. You complain that every year classes seem to get later and later, you want to go to sleep and she has school in the morning. You think of everything else you have to do, yet you find yourself going to pick her up from the studio, again. Then there’s the financial factor. The shoes, the costumes, the tuition, the tickets to go see her perform, and more costumes, and more shoes. She gets older and you start to worry. She’s missing out on opportunities. She doesn’t do many school activities. She doesn’t get to spend a lot of time on the weekends with her friends. And spending time with the family? Forget about that. When is she ever home for dinner?
My advice to dance parents…don’t blink! Before you know it, she is going to be taking the stage for the last time. There will come a time that bow at the end of a performance will be her final bow. Soon, all those dance shoes around her room and all those costumes in her closet will be gone. Are you going to remember the money spent, all the time wasted? No. You won’t remember any of that.
You will remember the amazing things dance has given her. Dance has given her the ability to prioritize, and multitask. Dance has taught her how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. She is now able to handle pressure and last minute changes. She can appreciate music that isn’t considered to be popular. Dance taught her how to work with others, even if she doesn’t always like them. Dance has taught her all about work ethic and being able to pay attention to her surrounding area.
Moms and Dads, pat yourself on the back, it’s because of you, your daughter has turned into the amazing young woman that she is. You are the ones who spent a lot of time and money on her dance life. It might not seem like it right now, but be happy your child dances. Enjoy it while it lasts. That decision you made all of those years ago, was one of the best decisions you made as parents. People give her a round of applause all of the time, but you deserve one too!

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One of our instructors Lynn at her

very first dance recital!