Body Frustrations From A Dancer

I started dancing when I was five years old.  You can’t do much at that age besides the simple basics, like positions, pliés, relevés and moving around the room like animals.  I continued to dance through my adolescence, dancing five days a week at studio while going to school and doing homework like every normal teenager.  I made scarifies along the way like missing a dance to do a competition or not going out with my friends because I had rehearsal or class.  I majored in dance in college, which turned into dancing and cross-training eight hours a day, sometimes more depending on upcoming performances.  After graduation, I taught ballet and modern classes to various age groups from three to eighteen years old.  When I went to graduate school I stopped dancing as intensely as I did previously because I realized I wanted to be more on the business side of the art and entertainment industry.

Since I stopped dancing regularly, over the last three years I started to gain weight, and my body changed which made me frustrated and upset because I had pretty much been the same size since I was in high school.  Recently, I got into a workout program called 21 day fix, which not only has you working out every day, but gets you to develop a better eating plan (i.e. less processed food, less sugar).  I love cookies, ice cream, brownies, basically anything that has sugar it count me in on saying yes if you offer it.  Anyway, I am now on the road to improving my health through regular exercise and better eating habits.  I still dance, just not as intensely.  I feel that everyone who has ever danced and then has gone to a life of not dancing has faced this challenged.  My best advance to you is don’t give up.  You can always fight to be better then yesterday, even if you are not the size you were at twenty-one.

Schedules get busy with work, significant others, children, social lives, and just needing down time.  As a person who has grown up with dance in their life it has always been about improving yourself, being better then yesterday, and dedication.  As an adult, I think some of us lose that drive and the thought that anything is possible goes out the window with it.  Sometimes we all need a little reminder that life is what you make of it and we need to keep the same dedication we had as children and carry it into adulthood.  Without that drive we only end up sitting on the couch watching netflix and getting lazier with everyday that passes.  Find that drive and energy you had as a kid, and remember that anything is possible with hard-work.

Boy Bands – The Music that Gets you Dancing

keep-calm-and-love-boy-bands-6We all know that boy bands have a life span.  The popularity of any boy band that has been in existent hasn’t lasted more then four or five years.  They tour like crazy to maintain their popularity and be in the public eye, but in the end their fans grow up and releases the drama that goes a long with liking this kind of a group.  Now, I am not saying that you stop liking their music or if the group comes back from a hiatus you don’t buy tickets to their reunion show, I am talking about the hype that comes along with a boy band.

When I was a teenager a lot my friends liked NSYNC.  So, at thirteen years old I went to a concert and all any girl was doing was screaming.  I was screaming too, but only when they finished a song, not while they were actually singing and dancing.  I was to memorized by their moves, and I was busy dancing into the girl next to me and lip syncing to my friends in our little circle of joy.  All screaming girls and boy cuteness aside, no one can say that boy bands don’t have some of the best dancing music dating back to the Jackson 5 to today.

Every boy/ man I know out there will say that boy bands ‘suck’ and ‘why do you listen to that?,’ but lets be serious for moment.  If you grew up in the 90s you know every word to ‘I Want It That Way’ and ‘Bye Bye Bye.’   Boys around today (including my little brother) know every word to ‘What Makes You Beautiful.’  Would my brother admit that?  Probably, but he is of a different breed and doesn’t really get embarrassed easily.  When a song is popular and is played on the radio 24/7 you learn the words whether you want to or not because it is constantly around; it’s like in your face propaganda with all that boy cuteness and pop style.

Needless to say boy band music just has that great danceability.  I’m sure it has something to do with the four four count, solid consistent beat, and the catchy lyrics that brings everyone to the dance floor.  First you got the beat, which includes a combination of instruments and/ or a sound machine that brings in the counts.  Let’s look at ‘I Want You Back’ by the Jackson 5.  The first thing you hear is the piano with the break through of the cymbal as the guitar and bass come in to give you a nice rhythm.  The drums slowly come in to give you that solid beat as the continuing of that four count beat that was created in the beginning.  The lyrics are catchy and simple.  The most typical word in any boy band song is ‘baby.’  From ‘I Want You Back’ by Jackson 5 to ‘Tearin’ Up My Heart’ by NSYNC to ‘Kiss You’ by One Direction they all have the word ‘baby’ throughout each song.  So the next time you don’t know the words to the hot new boy band song just fake it by not singing it, but dancing to it instead.  Also, I bet if you throw the word ‘baby’ in there a few times you would probably be half right throughout the song.  Click here for some great boy band tunes!

Lauren Lovette – The Next Prima Ballerina?

Lauren Lovette has been raising star at the New York City Ballet (NYCB) since 2009.  Lovette has the impidiemy of the Balenchine ballerina body, with legs for days, long arms, and tiny torso frame that gives her that perfect look for any dancer on stage.  She started dancing at 11 years old which is late for any dancer, let alone a dancer that has become a professional with one of the best dance companies in the world.  She started her training at the School of American Ballet at 14 years old, an apprentice at NYCB at 18, which soon followed by a corps contract, and now she is a soloist (background on Lovette found at Dance Spirit Magazine Article by Margaret Fuhrer)

Even through she has the perfect body for the ballets at NYCB, she also has an effortless quality about her when she is dancing on stage.  Having a dance background, the first thing I look at are a dancer’s feet.  I am usually mesmerize by their feet that I never look up at their face.  There are only a select few ballerinas where I am fully focused on facial expressions, leg work, and grace within their upper body, and Lovette has that power.

Last year (2014) at the Vail International Dance Festival she danced excepts of ‘Giselle’ with NYCB male soloist Chase Finely.  My entire attention was on Lovette, from the adagio where her arms floated like an extension of her dress as they extended with each lift and arabesque, to the ever so tilt of her head as the excerpt led into a petite allegro with quick changements, passés, and littles jumps that glided across stage like a gazelle.  She has this power that brings you into the dance and makes the audience members live with her in that moment including every feeling – love, anger, hurt, adoration, happiness, and sadness.

In my opinion, being a ballerina is one of the most difficult professions.  There has to be not only a love of dance, but a full dedication and willingness to sacrifice.  By sacrifice I mean giving up your adolescent social life to spend time in the studio practicing and rehearsing, to being dedicated as an adult by being willing to live from contract to contract, as well as working multiple jobs till you get your big break.  Incompassing all of this you need to keep your body in perfect health by eating the right foods, cross training in coordination to eight hours worth of rehearsals, and getting the proper amount of rest.

Lovette is one of the many ballerina that NYCB has helped to develop, but when she is on stage she has light that makes her standout.  Now that she has concurred Juliet this year (February 2015), I hope to see her dance Odiet in the near future as her light continues to rise at NYCB.

Music Peer Pressure

As a teenager we all felt the peer pressure of our friends and society about the kind of music we should like, or what is considered ‘good’ music.  As an adult, we read reviews, follow trends, and still allow society to dictate what we buy and listen to throughout our lives.  So what is it about society and the need to follow the crowd?  Recently, I have been reading a book entitled Blockbusters: Hit-making, Risk-taking, and the Big Business of Entertainment by Anita Elberse, who talks about how people want to follow winners, whether it is the head of a record label pushing an artist to superstar status, to targeting a group of people to grow the popularity of said artist.  The goal and need of the label is to make this artist a winner and to gain followers and momentum within their career, because if they don’t, the artist is dropped and everyone fails, including the artist, the label, and the fans.

A big controversy when I was a teenagers in the late 90s to the early 00s was the battle of the two biggest boy bands in the world – N’SYNC and the Backstreet Boys.  You couldn’t like both.  Nope, you only had the option of liking one or other.  As a teenager I had a secret, which was the fact that I had albums of both bands, and yes I broke the rules.  Do you think I would have ever told my friends?  No way.  As I got older, and got more into the liner notes of the albums I bought, I realized that the  music was written by the same person!  So why couldn’t I like both bands when the music was not only written by the same person, but the same manager developed both groups too?  Another hater group when I was growing up was the group of kids into hip-hop.  The years of the popularity of the Wu-Tang Clan, the Beastie Boys, Diddy, the Fugees, and the starting of Eminem.  Basically, anyone who liked pop music was not in any kind of agreement on what constituted as good music.  Again, I had albums of both the Wu-Tang Clan and Beastie Boys and I can still recite every lyric to ‘Intergalactic.’  Finally, you have the group that is into alternative music, like Jimmy Eat World, Less Then Jake, Goldfinger, Radiohead, Oasis, and Fall Out Boy.  I’m sure you have started to see my pattern here, but this group was more opinionated then anyone.  If this group of teens found out you listened to pop music then they had more then a few words to make you feel degraded and question your own taste.

Like everyone, I had a big fear of what my friends thought of my choices from music to fashion, but why does it matter if the music you listen to is considered winners?  Can’t individuals like music because they like the song?  The voice of the artist?  The technique and the sound of the band?  Back in 2010, when I first heard of Ariana Grande, she was a reoccurring character on a show called Victorious, and everyone of my adult friends made fun of me for watching it since it was a kid’s show.  Now, the majority of them listen to her since she is a superstar.  Leading the trend is always better then following it.  So, sing those songs that get you dancing in the car, or better yet grab that hair bush as you are getting ready for work and become that pop star singing your favorite jam, because guilty pleasures never go out of style.

Love this song, Elizabeth Gillies, and Ariana Grande – circa 2010

Ballet – The Best Form of Dance

Ballet-Pointe-ShoesBallet has always been my favorite form of dance.  When I was a little girl, it made me feel like a princess, and as I got older, the grace and beauty that I saw made me want to be just like Suzanne Farrell, Julie Kent, Darcey Bussell, and Sylvie Gulliem.  Suzanne Farrell was my favorite ballerina which is probably why I have a soft spot for the New York City Ballet.  I was lucky enough to take class from her during a Paul Taylor Dance Intensive and she was one of the most inspirational people I have ever had the privilege to learn from in a classroom.  Her expressionism and the way she describe movement and music when we were learning excerpts from Paul Taylor’s ‘Airs’ was like listening to a fairytale.  She had a way of describing a dance like it was a story and that as dancers we need to dive into the work mind, body, and soul because if we didn’t the audience would not engage.  I think Ballet teaches dancers to have this type of attitude in the classroom, and it continues to carry over to other styles of dance as well as on stage as young dancers grow as artists.

Now as an adult and teaching ballet to students three to nine years old, I am working on instilling those same thoughts and mind-sets to my students.  I have taught all ages of students over the years, but having students from the beginning of their ballet days is the perfect opportunity to mold new dancers to have the correct habits from the right form of technique to the mind-set of dedication, discipline, and determination.  Teaching kids can be hard.  All they want to do is run around and yell since their attention span is two seconds.  I have learned that you have to turn everything into a game and use descriptive words that relate to animals or images that they know.

There is one girl who is nine that I have been teaching for the last four years and it is amazing how her technique has grown from her turning ability, the strength of her balances, and the way she carries her balletic style.  She has now started taking tap and jazz classes with me this year, and through ballet she has developed the skills to catch on quickly to new movement, knows the importance of her shifting weight, and  brings confidence when she is learning new steps.

I wish I could say that I came to the importance of ballet when I was a kid, but I can honestly tell you that I didn’t really understand the importance of ballet until college.  My biggest suggestion to every dancer out there is to never stop taking ballet.  It gives you the skills such as a strong core, arms, and legs as well as develops a support system within your body that can carry into other styles.  No matter how hard a ballet class is, as a dancer you need to fight everyday to be better.  Ballet makes you do the impossible, and with practice, makes the viewer think that the movement is possible by anyone.  So fight for that better balance, that longer arabesque, or that perfect pirouette.  Take a ballet class at least once a week and if you can’t afford it, give yourself one by taking a video or a book out of the library, or find someone you know and give each other class.  In the words of Suzanne Farrell, “You don’t learn from a situation where you do something well. You enjoy it and you give yourself credit, but you don’t really learn from that. You learn from trial and error, trial and error, all the time.”