Now & Then – The Soundtrack to Generations Growing Up

Growing up during the 90s, me and three of my friends were obsessed with the movie Now and Then.  We would watch it at my friend’s birthday sleepover ever year and think that we were those girls, and we were going to be them when we got older.  We thought that we would be friends forever, but time changed and we grew apart.  Now, I sit watching this movie in Boston alone and all I can think about are my parents.  We all wonder what our parents were like when they were kids.  Did they like the same hobbies we did?  What were their friends like?  What mistakes did they make?  What was it like for them in their first relationship?  Did they have people they didn’t get along with in school?  What was their favorite song when they were thirteen years old?  Watching this film these are thoughts that run through my head, and I realized that I don’t know the answers to most of these questions.

Now and Then is a coming of age story about four thirteen year old girls who made a pack to be there for each other no matter what, now and forever.  The film has flashbacks between present day and the 1970s, which in my parent’s case they would have been around thirteen too.   The girls grow up in that year – one them has feelings for a boy for the first time, they deal with death, understanding divorce, the loss of just having faith, and realizing that your parents are not always right.  We put our parents on these pedestals as kids; that they are untouchable, perfect, but in reality they are human too.  They make mistakes, can’t handle situations, and do things the best way they know how.  These four girls meet people throughout the film that teaches them these lessons, and the soundtrack is intertwined in those lessons if you listen closely.

The film soundtrack uses popular songs from the 1970s to set the stage. The movie flashes to the beginning of the summer of 1970 as ‘Daydream Believer’ by The Monkees plays in the background.  This shows the innocence that we all have when we are young.  The belief that anything is possible, full of hope, happiness, and faith.  The girls are riding their bikes on their next adventure singing along to ‘No Matter What’ by Badfinger.  Right after hearing this song, they run into the boys of the neighborhood who are constantly taunting them, which we all know is the universal sign of I have a crush on you.  The girls converse, where they decide it is payback time for all that has been done to them by the boys.  ‘Sugar Sugar’ by The Archies plays as they paint the garage, dancing around and having fun with another; thinking that nothing will ever change, that nothing will ever separate them, but as an adult, people that you always thought would be there, sometimes leave – they get married, create families, and drift apart from their childhood.

As a kid you think that nothing will ever separate you with the people that you care about, but as we get older we lose what’s important.  We get caught up in our own lives and the mundane routine that controls it.  We lose touch with people (family and friends), get caught up in the failures that happen, and forget that sometimes you just have to have faith.  So, I leave you with this, “Things will happen in your life that you can’t stop.  But that is no reason to shut out the world.”   Call that person that you haven’t spoken to in years, break your routine everyday, and dance like a crazy person in the aisle of a grocery store with your best friend to your favorite song.  Continue the soundtrack of your life living with the good, the bad, and the ugly, not everything everyone says (including your parents) is right, ask your parents those burning questions before you can’t, and know that the people of your past are the people that made you who you are today.

Click here for a playlist of the Now and Then Soundtrack, and then go watch the movie!

Choreographing a Kid’s Dance Routine – Not for the Light Hearted

Kids under seven are difficult to work with in any classroom let alone a dance classroom.  They yell because they want to be with their parents. If they aren’t use to public interaction with kids, it is difficult for them to get along with other children their age. And finally they can’t sit still for more then two seconds.  Over the last eight years I have been a dance teacher I have grasped an understanding on how to handle young kids and teaching them a routine.  There are three rules to follow:

Firstly, keep it simple. As a child, they are still learning the world and trying to understand everyday life, like their right from their left, why they can’t hit someone if they don’t get their way, or tying their shoes.  In a class where the kids are four to seven years old always kept feet and arm movements separate.  Trying to put them together is disastrous and you will end up with kids slamming into one another and falling down. Use simple dance movements that they have been learning all year. For a tap class some moves would be toe taps, heel digs, and big arm movements. If you tie in the movements that you do all the time in class, the kids are more likely to retain the dance when they get to the stage performance.

Secondly, relate to their lives.  I know relating to a life of a five year old can be hard since your an adult, but I promise you were a child once. When I start to develop a children’s dance the first thing I do is start listening to a ton of music.  Depending on what kind of dance you are teaching will depend on the music.  Let’s take tap as an example.  Back in 2008-2009 I was teaching a tap class for five to seven year olds.  I decided to use the song ‘My Girl’ which was probably one of the greatest kids dances I ever choreographed.  Since the song is super slow and has a repetitive chorus it gave me the opportunity to utilize the words in the song for arm movements, and during the instrumental parts we did toe taps, knee bounces,and shuffles, as well as gave the kids something easy to sing-a-long to.  Also, using imagery that they can relate to is important to get them to perform, like pretending that mommy is in the front row.

Finally, keep repeating the routine for fifteen minutes at the end of class every week. This sounds tedious and boring, but it is difficult for many children to remember things that are not repeating everyday.  So, when a child is only going to dance class once a week it is even harder.  This repetition will get the kids to understand the patterns of the movement, to understand the song, and how the two mesh together.  Routine is important for a child to have consistency in dance classroom is just as important as the child’s everyday life.

Just a little My Girl throwback for you to sing along to:

Dance Competition Survival Kit

Dance_sports_bag_large_Energetiks_DB21_Blk_turquoise__79496.1405440585.1280.1280For most studios, competition season is done, and it is the beginning of dancers going off to summer intensives.  So, this post is really to prep you for the Fall season and get you ahead of the curve.  You should have three types of bags walking into every competition.

First and most important is you dance bag. This bag should include every type of dance shoe you own.  Don’t take a risk that even if you don’t need a certain shoe, don’t take them out of your bag. You never know when a fellow dance may have forgotten his/her shoes and you happen to be a perfect match for their feet.  At that point, you’d be able to come in like superman and save the day.  Second, you should always have a small first aid kit including neosporin, band-aids, medical tape, gauze, peroxide, and an ice pack. It may sound silly to have something like this in your bag, but having cut myself more then once at a competition I had to keep learning the same lesson multiple times.  Third thing is extra tights.  Tights are constantly getting runs in them, and you never know when you are going to snag them on a piece of wood of the stage in the middle of a performance and they become unfix-able.  Fourth thing is a change of clothes, because who seriously wants to be constricted by tights or have to explain yourself when you walk into some place public like a restaurant? No one.  Final and fifth thing in your dance bag should be multiple bottles of water.  Always stay hydrated.  Find where the closest water fountain is and continue to refill as needed.

caboodleThe next thing you should have is a caboodle.  I’m not sure if that is what they call it anymore, but it is basically a makeup case.  It has every kind of makeup from foundation to eye shadows to lipsticks, to eyebrow pencils.  Being a competition kid you learn about various kinds of makeup at a young age.  You should also have miscellaneous items, like tweezers, nail clipper, clear nail polish (to stop runs in tights), make up remover, cue-tips, cotton balls, and nail polish remover.  This little kit was everything that was needed to make me not look washed out under the harsh lighting on stage.  I have very fair skin, so I had to wear a lot of makeup…I always felt like I had to shower three times before I could get it all off my face.

Third and final bag is your food survival bag.  I wish I had known now, what I didn’t know then about food, because I feel like I would have had more energy at shows and better eating habits as an adult.  Anyway, don’t have your parents or another parent get you fast food like burgers, french fries, chicken nuggets, or soda.  You are not helping yourself in anyway!  Bring nuts, apples, bananas, water, Zero Vitamin Water, and veggies that you can pick at in Tupperware.  Don’t, and I repeat do not eat starbursts and goldfish all day.  It will give you a high and then you will seriously crash and feel like crap.

Do yourself a favor and follow my bag rule. You will be a much happier dancer, performer, and student.

Entertainment Down at the Beaches of Los Angeles

VeniceSo I have a big announcement readers…I am moving to Los Angeles in less than ten weeks and much of my immediate family has decided to move with me, including my parents and younger brother. During some time out there in April, my brother and I spent time down at the beaches (of course!). Unlike normal people on vacation who feel the need to cram every tourist like activity into a few days we were way more low key. We spent a lot of time walking around and checking out the beach communities including Playa del Rey, Marina del Rey, Venice, and Santa Monica. The beaches are covered with people playing instruments and trying to pass samples of their music to people passing by in hopes that they have given their CD to a record executive.

So, here is what you got – Playa del Rey and Marina del Rey are the local crowds. Friends hanging out, passing around their guitar, and just relaxing. Venice is where people are passing around music with headphones and then once they give you the music they want a donation for giving you something, which to me is kind of shady.  If you are going to give out your music maybe you should do some promotion with the people that your talking to instead of giving them a CD and asking for a donation.  Your best way would be to get personal and give them a flyer to your next show.  Maybe they are a record executive and you just missed your shot by being lazy.  Anyway, if you are looking to avoid this “let me give you a CD and then ask for a donation thing” – during the day it is less frequent, but in the late afternoon/ evening it becomes a heavy crowd of ‘artists’ doing this.

The third area is Santa Monica. This is the best area to really hear people play music. We hung around the Third Street Promenade where there were many art acts from ‘Dancing Dave’ who didn’t really have much rhythm to musicians. There were two types of musicians – really hot guys who decided it was best to play with an open shirt.  I mean seriously dude have some respect for yourself.  If people like your music they will come and listen, and if not then keep practicing and playing eventually it will happen.  Is it really necessary to have your shirt open and make yourself a piece of meat?

Then there was this violinist.  He played all current radio hits like Shake It Off (Taylor Swift), Jealous (Nick Jonas), and Love Me Like You Do (Ellie Goulding).  Now mind you I am not a huge fan of Ellie Goulding’s new song and I made that known every time we were in the car and it came on the radio and I changed the station.  Do you know when you hear a cover of a song and you don’t recognize it at all?  Well, when this violinist started playing this song I made my brother sit and listen.  I was totally mesmerized by this young man’s playing and I am pretty sure I was going on and on about how beautiful the song was that the violinist was playing.  Of course, having complained about this song all week my brother started laughing and thought I was kidding. Needless to say I didn’t hear the end of it for a few days, but it was totally worth listening to him play.  He slowed down the tempo and had a smoothness to his playing.  Plus in my opinion everything sounds amazing with a string instrument.  He had business cards to promote himself saying that he played at parties, weddings, and studio contract work.  He also had CDs to sell as well as stayed in the area to talk to people after he was done playing. He was extremely personable and connected with his audience.  Street musicians study this man!  He knows what he is doing.  We came back for two or three days in a row and he always had a crowd around him.  I wouldn’t doubt if we see him playing Walt Disney Concert Hall someday.

Careers in Dance – There is More to Dance then Being a Performer

11412211_10100594299141981_7579294585861180014_n (2)Recently at a baby shower, my college friends and I were reminiscing about the past, the choices we have made after college, and where the future is headed.  In life everyone makes choices and it is a rarity that everyone can have it all.  A college dance friend is currently seven months pregnant, another dance friend is getting married this fall, and I have aged one more year closer to thirty.  Do I believe that you can create your own destiny?  Absolutely, but anyone who is successful will explain the sacrifice they had to go through to get there, and as a performer there is a lot of sacrifice.  As a performer you could be struggling in a big city like Los Angeles or New York working from stipend to stipend or contract to contract.  Performers are also working multiple jobs like bartendering, serving, or being a hostess, but there is more potential in the dance field than just being a performer.

First you could become an instructor. At dance studios, a person with extensive dance training can command $15-$30 an hour depending on if you are living in a big city or a small town.  There are also opportunities to teach at high school and college levels, but teaching at either level requires you to have a masters in dance education as well as specific certification.  If you have an extensive performance background this might get over looked at certain colleges if you decide to teach at the college level.

Besides teaching, you could go the health route.  Get certified in Yoga, personal training, Pilates, or massage therapy.  These jobs will allow you to work and coach athletes such as dancers in their cross training endeavors to keep their bodies up to par during their performance years.  A few friends of mine are doing both, still performing as well as doing some health related job so they can make money and live in the expensive room that they are renting for $1200/ month in NYC.

Finally, there is arts administration. Granted you can get a masters degree in arts administration, which I have, but if this is a field that you want to get into there are ways around getting a masters degree. For example, I did an internship in communications and development at a small organization of two people called the Natasha Trifian’s Performance Group in NYC before I was hired at another company as the Assistant to the School Director.  From there I moved up in the organization and eventually moved to another organization when I stepped into a new city. With arts administration you can also go the for-profit/ commercial route working at talent agencies, booking agencies, publicists, and performing arts center presenters.

If you haven’t figured it out the possibilities are endless. Limiting yourself as only a performer can be career ending.  Think ahead, and know that with the right moves, a good head on your shoulders, and some drive you are already ahead of 80% of the general population.