Friday, July 27, 2012

This is Why Dance Matters

What Is This A Picture Of?
I posed the question "why does dance matter to you?" to the followers of my other dance twitter account, @dancequote, and this is a visual representation of their responses.  

What Is Why Dance Matters?
It is a movement to spread the word on why dance is a valuable artform and who it matters to.  Join the movement here:

Read more about the un-scientific manner on how I created this after the jump.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Why Dance Matters

As we are coming up on National Dance Day (July 28, 2012), Nichelle at Dance Advantage has posted the question: "Why does dance matter to you?"  In fact, she's trying to start a whole movement (dance pun intended) of the online dance community to share Why Dance Matters.  If you want to get involved, check it out at, tweet #whydancematters to you or follow our Pinterest board (you know I love a good Pinterest board)!

So here's why dance matters to me:

It's my job.  

But more than that, it's my passion.

No, it's still more than that... it's who I am.


You would not be able to describe me without talking about dance.  

It's a link between my past and my present.

It's what I do when my soul needs mending.

It's the joy that I want to share with my students and friends.

It's a universal expression of joy and love and emotions.

It has created a community of people in my life whom I love and who I feel like I've known my whole life (online and offline).

It's wordless communication.

Dance is part of me.

Join the project and share why dance matters to YOU! 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Creative Movement: Beating The Heat

Hot Sun
"Hot Sun" by Brian Gurrola
Summer is in full swing and it's been hot hot hot where I live for the past two weeks! If it's summer where you live, I'm sure you are feeling the heat.  I feel badly for my city neighbors who have been suffering from super heated subways and sidewalks...  Make sure you're staying hydrated if it's hot where you live!

Because of the heat, in creative movement summer class we've been channeling "cool thoughts".  Here are a few exercises you can do with your classes:

1) Snowy Day Dances.  

Maria explains it best in her blog entry with a ton of great creative movement ideas about snow, and using the book, "Snowy Day" (Maria's Movers)

Snow Man

2) Build a Snow Man (or Woman) - group exercise 

Split up into "Snow People" and "Builders/snow artists".   The Builders will create a snow person out of the Snow People by gently guiding and shaping each snow person into a shape to make one big snowman.

The first time we do this exercise, I assign each Builders a part, like "lower body", "face", "accessories", to help them narrow down what they are creating.  If your crew is really good at working together or you have a small class, then you might be able to skip the assignments and just let them create together.

Remind the Snow that their job is to hold their position, but cooperate if a new Builder would like to shape them differently.

Each of the Builders adds on the creation (stretching arms to create scarves, moving hands for buttons or even suggesting an expression for the Snow to make). Suddenly... Voila! you have a snow man!  Switch the groups and tasks and repeat! 

I love this exercise for my youngest creative movement class (ages 7-10), as it is a great introduction to group work and partnering in a fun way.  This is a very hands-on activity... we learn about communication, leadership and cooperation. 

My older kids get a kick out of it too and you can create some cool lifts (no pun intended) out of it.  With my older ones, I skip the assignments and just split them into groups of 3-5 and tell them they need to create a snow man or woman using their bodies.  Then we take turns showing our snow person and creating storylines about what the snow person does for a living, what he or she is doing at that very moment.  A lot of fun!

3) Ocean Dances 

Check out this page for a lot of great ocean-inspired creative movement exercises!

4) Storm Dance 

Weather and nature is great for creative movement inspiration.  My 5 and 6 year olds enjoy being seeds that blow in the wind and then turn into flowers when the sun shines.  When we are flowers our roots are planted (either by sitting, kneeling or standing in one spot) and just our upper body moves.

Learn From The Way The Wild Flowers Grow. They Do Not Work Or SpinSometimes there is a big thunderstorm coming and our petals and leaves blow very fast (we sort of look like those inflatable tubes that wave all around).  Other times it rains and we drip and droop.  When the sun shines we stand up very tall and spread our leaves to catch all of the sunshine.

Other times we pretend we are clouds that float about the room.  Our clouds can be blown by the wind together to travel in one direction or sometimes we float in different directions. Have fun creating your own weather dances!

5) Other "Cool"Summer Movement Inspiration

- Ice melting and freezing: great for "freeze dance"
- Floating in a pool or stream: oh no! there's a whirlpool!
- Making shapes that divers make (cannonball!)
- Blowing in the wind
- Rain:  light rain, heavy rain, being a flower or plant in the rain
- Fishing: being fish, being on a boat, fishing, being the worm, seaweed
- Fans:  slow fans, oscillating fans, big fans, small fans
- Making Lemonade: adding sugar, ice, lemons, mixing

Music Suggestion:  The David Sun Natural Sound Collection: Sounds of the Earth - Storm The David Sun Natural Sound Collection: Sounds of the Earth - Storm - Sounds of the Earth

How do you "stay cool" at dance class?  Any summer movement ideas?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Yoga-Inspired Ab Exercises, Part 1

Looking to change up your abdominal exercises in class or at home?  Try these yoga-inspired moves that are sure to get your abs firing!

The Exercises

Here are a few exercises to add into your ab sequence during your jazz, modern or ballet warm-up.  If you're not sure how to do them, click on the name for a more detailed explanation from Yoga Journal.  All photos unless otherwise noted are from creative commons on Flickr.

Downward Facing Dog

Yoga basics.  Stretches the hamstrings and gets the blood flowing.  Keep the shoulders pressed down away from the ears.
Yoga- Down Dog
Downward facing dog - photo from Flickr.

Variation - Dolphin Pose:  From downward dog, lower your elbows to the floor while keeping your heels pressed down.  To strengthen arms, you can slowly mover from dolphin to downward dog and back a few times.

Plank or Dolphin Plank

Begin in down-dog and move the shoulders over the palms and hold.  A variation is dolphin plank, which is done on the elbows.

Kumbhakasana (Plank pose)
Photo from Flickr.
Added challenge:  Lift up one leg a few inches off the ground.  Hold.  Switch legs.

Hatha Yoga Core Abs Video - Plank Pose
Dolphin pose with lifted foot, photo from Flickr.
What to watch for:  Make sure your students are keeping their abs tightened and not allowing their back to sway.  Students with arm or shoulder injuries should avoid this exercise.

Hands and Knee Balance

Begin on hands and knees.  Keeping abs tight stretch out opposite arm and leg.  You can make this a moving pose by bringing the knee and elbow in and out while still balancing.  The motion challenges the dancer to use their core to maintain balance.

Watch that students are keeping their hand and leg in line and are not tempted to work their extension by arching the back or kicking their leg higher than the hip.

Side Plank and Dip

Hold side plank position.  For added difficulty, raise and lower and raise hips slowly.  This position strengthens the arms and wrists as well as the abs.  My students found it very hard to balance in this position, especially once we added the dips. Some of them modified it by lowering to their elbow.  Make sure you keep the shoulder stacked over the elbow or wrist.  Also watch out for hyperextended elbows.

Ask A Yogi - 4

Added challenge:  Lift your top leg off the ground - you can do this just by a few inches or all the way until it is perpendicular to the bottom leg (like a side battement).  

Plank Cross 

From the plank position (on hands), lift the right leg and tuck the knee into touch the outside of the left elbow.

High Lunge 

From down dog, step one leg through to a lunge.  Exhale and sweep the hands overhead.
Avoid arching the back or sticking the ribs out.  The ribs should feel "drawn down into the torso".

Crescent Lunge

Half Moon 

From the lunge or Warrior III, rotate the body to face the side and reach one hand down to the floor. Smoothly push up into the half moon pose, stacking the hip bones on top of one another.

Half Moon

To deepen the pose, lift the lower hand off the floor and rest it on the supporting leg so that the student is balance only on the leg.

For a further challenge, raise the top arm perpendicular to the floor (as shown above). Imagine there's a wall in front of you, and press the top hand actively into this pretend wall. Then, if balance is steady, slowly change the gaze up to the raised hand.

Another option is to perform small circles with the raised foot to challenge the balance.

Three-leg Down Dog 

From downward dog, lift one leg so that it is parallel with the torso.  This is the three-leg Down Dog.
Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana Tri-pod down dog

To work the abs, tuck the knee and bring the knee to the right elbow, shifting the body weight over the arms and hands.  Stretch the back out and up, the bring the knee to the left elbow, stretch it back out, and knee to the forehead.  Repeat 3-4x total and then repeat on the other leg.

Putting It All Together

5-minute Ab Sequence #1:   Hands and Knee Balance with knee tuck (4 per side),  Downward Facing Dog, Plank, Side Plank w/Dip (4 per side), Plank, Lunge, Half Moon, Lunge, Plank, Downward Dog, repeat Lunge, Half Moon, Lunge with other side.

5-minute Ab Sequence #2: Hand and Knee balance with knee tucks (7 per side), Down Dog (20 second hold), Plank Cross (4 per side), Down Dog to Three-Leg Down Dog with knee tuck (3 repetitions per side), Dolphin Plank w/small leg lift on each side (hold for 10 seconds each side).

Photo Guide and resource list for each sequence after the jump

Monday, July 16, 2012

New Music Monday: Tap Playlist

Tap shoesAs I was getting ready to teach class tonight, I thought to myself, I haven't done a tap playlist in a while...  so here you go!  Some old tunes, some new tunes, a little bit of everything.

Levels Somebody That I Used To Know Remix - Avicii vs. Gotye
Part of Me - Katy Perry Part of Me - Part of Me - Single
Bamboleo (Dance Remix) - Gipsy Kings Bamboleo - ¡Volare! - The Very Best of the Gipsy Kings

Soft Shoe-type Combinations (laid back summer style)
Ok, It's Alright With Me - Eric Hutchinson OK, It's Alright With Me - Sounds Like This
I'm Yours - Jason Mraz I'm Yours - We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things
Better Together - Jack Johnson Better Together - In Between Dreams (Bonus Track Version)

Fast Jazz & Big Band
My Feet Can't Fail Me Now - Dirty Dozen Brass BandMy Feet Can't Fail Me Now - Our New Orleans
Swing Set - Jurassic 5 Swing Set - Quality Control 
Life Goes To A Party - Benny Goodman Life Goes to a Party - The Essential Benny Goodman (Remastered) 
Shame, Shame, Shame - Roomful of Blues Shame, Shame, Shame - That's Right!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Creative Movement: The Name Dance

One of my favorite activities to do on the first day of Dance Camp or the first day of class is to create a "Name Dance".  It is a simple and fun activity that helps us learn each other's names.

The Name Dance
To begin, start in a circle.  One at a time, each student says their name with a simple gesture. Encourage the students to do whatever movement they want - does not have to be a 'technical step'. Let them experiment with how they say their name - rhythmic, loud, soft, etc.

Go around the circle a second time; students may keep their same gesture or change it.  This time, when a student does their name gesture, the class must echo them in both movement and sound.

The third time around, build the dance.  Link a few name gestures together and practice saying / doing them in a row. See if you can make it all the way around the circle to finish the full Name Dance.

Bonus Name Dance Activities
If everyone is still enjoying the Name Game and you've gotten the hang of it, try going faster, in slow motion, facing outside the circle or going in reverse order.

This game is a lot of fun and students will remember their step for weeks to come - I've had students say "oh, now we're doing The Emma" or "can we add a Sophia in here".  Some of my classes like to greet each other with the other person's gesture.

And by the way, a "Miss Cait" is a very fancy curtsey :)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Dance Photos On The Beach - Tips & Blog Challenge

July's Blog Challenge was to dance "outside and share a picture of it".  Here is my contribution to this month's challenge!  

Hubby and I went to Maine for a few days and one of the days we got up before the sun to go down to the beach and take photos of the sunrise (and dancing!).

The beach at 4:55am.  ::yawn::
If you've never seen the sunrise at the beach, I so highly recommend it!  This was our first time and neither of us are "morning people", but it was still so worth it.  (And we went back to our hotel and took a nap after, so it didn't cut into our sleep.. haha).

Flying with the seagull.  
More photos and tips for taking beach sunrise (or sunset) photos after the jump!

Monday, July 9, 2012

NMM: Agnes Obel - Avenue

A pretty little song from Agnes Obel, Avenue has a music-box-esqe piano melody accompanied with her haunting vocals.  I think it would make a nice group number for ballet, contemporary or modern.

And it's in waltz time!  Bonus!

Grab it on iTunes: Avenue - Philharmonics

Friday, July 6, 2012

Rock Star Camp Day 5: Performance

Looking for the playlist?  Scroll down to the bottom.

See more about this camp here - Rock Star Theme Camp.

Day #5 Set List
  • Warm-Up:  Creative Movement in center & across the floor
  • Class Time:  Practice all dances
  • Craft Time:  Giant Tickets / Programs
  • Snack
  • Class Time:  Dress Rehearsal
  • Performance!
On the last day of camp we put on an impromptu performance in the studio for family and friends.  Unfortunately I didn't have my camera for the final day of camp, but I will try to describe everything as best I can.

Main Craft: Giant Ticket / Programs
You Will Need:
- 11 x 14 Construction Paper
- Crayons

We cut out rounded shapes in the corners to make the tickets look more "ticket-ty".  The dancers decorated them for their audience.

Ideas for what to put on tickets: "Admit One"  "Dance Camp"   "Rock Star Camp"
Ideas for back of ticket (program):  Cast list, show order, message to audience

As our audience members came into the studio, our dancers went out and presented them with their ticket / programs.

Showtime Playlist!
We ended up with a great group of students who were hungry for choreography and learning, so we learned eight little combinations, which was so much fun!  We started off with our four tap songs and then took a quick break to change our shoes.  Then we finished up the show with our jazz & creative movement routines.

Individual playlist list behind the jump:

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Rock Star Camp Day 4: Bling Bling

Read more about our camp here!

Day #4 Set List
  • Warm-Up:  Jazz warm-up and across the floor progressions
  • Class Time:  Jazz class - learn dance #3
  • Craft Time:  Sunglasses & Necklaces
  • Snack
  • Class Time:  Tap class - learn dance #3
  • Fun Time:  Relay Races
On Day 4, we learned our final dances to "We Built This City" We Built This City - Now That's What I Call the 80s by Starship and Hannah Montana's "Rock Star"Rock Star - Hannah Montana 2: Non-Stop Dance Party.

Since we needed more time to practice our dances, we kept craft time shorter than the other days.

Craft #1:  Blinged-Out Sunnies
Supplies:  Cardstock or Folders, Gem Rhinestones, Glue, Paintbrushes
Teacher Prep:  Cut out glasses from cardstock.

Using glue and plastic gems, decorate glasses.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Rock Star Camp Day 3 - Glitter, Glitter Everywhere

Read more about our camp here!

Day #3 Set List
  • Warm-Up:  Jazz warm-up and across the floor progressions
  • Class Time:  Jazz class - learn dance #3
  • Craft Time:  Microphones, Picture Frames, Stars
  • Snack
  • Class Time:  Tap class - learn dance #3
  • Fun Time:  Alphadance
For Day 3, we lip-synced with our microphones to "Rock Around The Clock" Rock Around the Clock - Rock Around the Clock  and did a fun jazz dance to Little Richard's rockin' version of "Itsy Bitsy Spider"Itsy Bitsy Spider - Every Child Deserves a Lifetime 

Main Craft: Glittered Microphone Heads
Supplies Needed:  Styrofoam balls, glue, paintbrushes, glitter, hot glue, painted tube from Day 2

1)  Apply glue to styrofoam balls with paintbrushes (we put the balls on a fork to make "glitterizing" easier).

2) Dip in glitter and repeat until covered. Set aside to dry.

3) *Teacher Step* Hot glue glittered styrofoam to painted tube (from yesterday's step).

Microphones and guitar necks drying.
Our forks wouldn't fit in the small tubes so we let them
dry in the guitar necks.

Craft #2: Picture Frames
Supplies:  foam sheets, foam stickers, hot glue, photos

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Rock Star Camp Day 2: Rockin' Guitars & Hats

See more about our camps here - Rock Star Theme Camp.  
Day #2 Set List
  • Warm-Up:  Jazz warm-up and across the floor progressions
  • Class Time:  Jazz class - learn dance #2
  • Craft Time:  Guitars, Hats, Microphones
  • Snack
  • Class Time:  Tap class - learn dance #2
  • Fun Time:  Limbo & Beanbag pass
Microphone bases (left) and guitar necks (right)
Main Craft: Guitars
You Will Need:
- Various cardboard boxes (tissue boxes, shoe boxes, pasta boxes, etc) - 1 per guitar
- 1-foot piece of cardboard tube (wrapping paper or paper towel tube) - 1 per guitar
- Construction or contact paper to cover box
- Rubber bands (6 per guitar)
- Crayons (2 per guitar)
- Paint & paint brushes
- Hot glue gun
- Glue sticks for glue gun

1.  Paint cardboard tube.  Set aside to dry.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Rock Star Camp Day 1: Tie-Dye

See more about our camps here - Rock Star Theme Camp.

Day #1 Set List
  • Warm-Up:  Creative Movement in center & across the floor
  • Jazz Class:  Learn Jazz Dance #1
  • Craft Time:  Tie-Dye T-Shirts & VIP Passes
  • Snack
  • Tap Class: Learn Tap Dance #1
  • Game Time: Obstacle Course & Freeze Dance

Main Craft: Tie-Dye T-shirts
You Will Need:
- T-Shirts
- Fabric Dye (pink, yellow, blue, purple)

We keep it basic and mix up 4 or 5 different buckets of fabric dye outside the studio (we have a sidewalk with a faucet, which works perfectly).  The kids design the t-shirts inside with rubberbands.  If you want design ideas, here are a few good tutorials.   

We skip the soda ash step and just let the kids dip in the buckets. The shirts end up pastel, but it works for us and keeps it simple.  Once the kids are done dipping, we rinse the shirts out under the outside faucet, unwrap them and hang them up to dry.

Tip #1:  Some kids will want to use one or two colors, others will need to dip in every bucket.  For this reason, avoid darker colors like maroon, navy blue and hunter green - mixing will result in a brown t-shirt!  I recommend at least getting red, yellow, purple and bright blue.

Tip #2: The tie-dye will stain skin and dancewear / shoes.  Our kids bring smocks, but inevitably someone splashes and ends up with polka-dot tights.  In our welcome letter I let parents know we will be tie-dying on the first day in case they don't want to wear their "fancy outfit".  We tie-dye in bare feet and with our smocks on to avoid most of the mess.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...