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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Princess and The Pillow

There's a first time for everything and one of my favorite 'firsts' was the first time I ventured to Jacob's Pillow in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.  We arrived in the Berkshires after a beautiful drive filled with good company and good conversation. 

The property is as beautiful as the dancers who grace the stages, barns, grass, classrooms and theatres of Jacob's Pillow.  An inviting feeling welcomes visitors to tour the grounds, peek in on classes and rehearsals, and see what dancers and art lovers have been fascinated with for decades.

Some of the world's top dance companies have performed and introduced new works on the stages of Jacob's Pillow.  On my first visit we were blessed with a spectacular performance by Ballet Hispanico, one of the best shows I have ever seen!  The quality of dance and education at this beautiful place is beyond measure.

For dancers, it is a privilege to audition for the School at Jacob's Pillow.  There, dancers study with some of the world's most prominent dance luminaries. 

This summer feels like a good time to return to the Pillow (as it is referred to by those in the know).  I'll take my 'dance-major-daughter' and a couple of friends to experience this gem!

Monday, April 1, 2013

More on harmony

"On The Beat"  when googled, up pops a 1962 comedy film, a dance studio in California, this blog, a definition of the word 'beat',  a Chinese action series, news reports from a police department, and a wild disco song by the band BB & Q.

A life lived on the beat can mean different things to different people.  Some have their 'finger on the pulse', maybe this points to one who knows what is going on in the 'cool pool', maybe one who keeps up on current news or one who lives their life according to order. 

Let's talk about one living their life in order, on the beat, with their finger on the pulse.  Are you someone who must do the same thing at the same time each day?  Is this considered OCD?  When one must repeat their steps of the previous day or suffer much stress?  Is this living on the beat?

For me it's living life in harmony.  Letting the chips fall where they may.  Living on the beat.  Going with the flow (yet not too much).  Dancing to the beat of a different drummer.  Loving the life I live, trying new things, I'll walk the talk and talk the walk, will you?

Meanwhile enjoy the beat....

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Music is the universal language

"Music is the universal language"

What a clear message to "Peace Hope and Understanding".
In this world where so many people are absorbed by technology, there are so many lines from this song that, if followed by more of us, could make the world a better place.
Remember Rodney King after the LA riots was quoted saying, "can we all get along"?,  such a powerful statement and I am so glad that was captured on video.

Everyday life can be busy and filled with negative encounters.  Whether it's the clerk at the store, a driver with road rage, a coworker, a customer or other, most of us must encounter some form of negativity at least once in a regular day.   It's how we deal with this that is the important factor here.  Now don't get me wrong, I can foster some good ole negativity myself, yet I pride myself on being able to "Put on a Happy Face" and work through any left over aggressions.

What do you do with your negativity? 
Back to the song above, "I Believe"; one of my favorite lines in the song:

"To make people wanna stop all their fussin' and fightin' long enough to sing along"

There really are people out there who make it their life's mission to attempt this.  Crazy that it even needs attention.
Really, why can't we all just get along?

Peace, Hope and Understanding - three words that ring the beat clear for me. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The combinations are endless - no pun intended!

What differentiates one style of dance from the other?

That is the question.

Some say technique is what separates one style from another, yet what happens when one dance form melds into the other can be confusing yet delightful all at the same time.

 Ballet is ballet, most of the time.  Tap is tap, most of the time.  Hip hop can be hip hop but when combined with contemporary is a magnificent blend.

Ballet, the timeless classic representing a variety of techniques while remaining just what it is called;  Ballet.  The methods of technique vary from class to class, teacher to teacher.  There's the RAD (Royal Academy of Dance), Vaganova, Cicchetti, American, Russian and many more.  That said, Ballet is beautiful to watch when danced with technique and passion.

Hip Hop!  Wow, so many variations of hip hop exist.  Old school - my favorite-, Breakin', Poppin', Locking, Tutting - Street, and so many more.  There is something for everyone in the Hip Hop Dance Genre!

Modern dance is defined by its' classic techniques;  Horton, Limon, Graham, to name a few.
This beloved style lives strong in the college setting and is making a comeback in the studio.


When you talk about jazz you might think about Fosse, Giordano, or Luigi, however, todays Jazz infuses Pop, Video, Funk and more with all of the above.  I say, "nothing like a good Fosse piece".

When you talk about Lyrical you might think of a more storytelling style of Ballet as it contains similar technique. 

Contemporary Dance is many times confused with Lyrical.  They say that contemporary dance is the exploration of the total movement potential of the body.  There is no official technique involved in the teaching of this style, yet it is best represented by a dancer with good technique.

Tap;  I saved my favorite for last!  There is nothing so harmonizing as watching a tap dancer execute rhythms while dancing upon the stage.

When all is said and done (and choreographed), you might see a
  • Hip Hop/Contemporary piece
  • Contemporary Ballet
  • Jazz/Tap
  • Modern/Lyrical
  • Hip Hop/Jazz
  • Contemporary /Tap - not likely but possible
Anyway it is choreographed -
The combinations are endless... no pun intended!
Happy Dancing!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Dance Crazes Gone Too Far

"Enough already with the 'Harlem Shake"' they say!
A librarian gets fired for staging this trendy video/dance craze with students in her library?
That's a little ridiculous.
Have we had enough?  Just about!  We've seen it take place in the work place, grocery stores, garages, offices, even the post office.  Someone told me they considered the "Baby Shake" version, including a baby in the opening.  I haven't seen it yet, but you can bet it's out there.

Just as Gangham Style came and went, so will the Harlem Shake,  maybe.
Who creates these and how do they catch on so quickly?
After a little internet research I found that:
"This nonsensical meme was the brainchild of some teenagers in Australia, who uploaded the first Harlem Shake video at the beginning of February." - WUSF News  

This version claims to be the ORIGINAL.  Who knows?  Wonder why the superheroes?
Just as every trend has it's time, so will the 'Great Harlem Shake' soon become a thing of the past.
Meanwhile . . .

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

On The Beat with rhythm and rhyme

Dance class etiquette

Dance Class Etiquette...

Here are a few standard rules of dance class etiquetteto help keep you on track:

Whenever possible arriveearly to class and stretchindependently.  This is your time to warm up any areas of chronic pain andto prepare yourself for the business of dance class.  Use this time toswitch your focus from your daily concerns and prepare your body and mind forthe rigors of class. 

Demonstrate respect for the instructor andaccompanist by standing as he/she enters theroom.  For ballet class, assume your position at the barre.  Standcenter floor for jazz, tap, modern and contemporary styles.  It istypically fine to verbally greet the teacher and musician; however, keep itbrief.  This is their time to center their thoughts on goals for the classand to communicate these plans with each other.  If the instructor andmusician are already in the room when you arrive, be certain to stand (prepare)at the instructor’s first mention of beginning class.

It is customary to briefly inform the instructor of any injuriesthat prevent you from dancing full out during class time.

Be on time. Punctuality is paramount to your success in a class.  The best advice forlatecomers is to not enter class.  However, if you find an instructor ispatient with slight tardiness (no more than 5 minutes) you should wait at thedoorway to see if the instructor makes eye contact with you.  If yes;kindly ask if you may be allowed to join the class.  If granted permissionto enter, say ‘thank-you’ then quickly and silently assume an open position atthe barre or center floor, depending on the class format.  Apologize toboth the instructor and the musician after class.

Adhere to dress codein footwear, clothing, and hair.  Above all, appropriately support andcover your body.  Nobody enjoys seeing more than we should of students andclassmates during class time.  Also realize dance clothes are fitted so thatalignment and technique may be appropriately assessed and corrected.  Becertain to remove all jewelry; it hurts having an earring pulled through itshole or to be scratched across the face by someone’s ring.

Wear deodorantand, when possible, come to class freshly showered.

Silence your mobile phone and do not ever text or take a call during class time.

Be quiet duringclass.  There are generally moments of conversation during class. The general rule is that any conversation is initiated by the instructor.

Hold your placement throughout the class and allow your body the necessary time to rehearse its bestalignment. Instructors format class to help your body warm up and align in aparticular sequence.  Slumping between center floor or the barre exerciseswill undo much of the progress you make during class time. 

Center exercises and progressions are primeterritory for lost class time.  Payattention so you know when to switch lines orwhen it’s your turn to feed into an across the floor sequence.  Manyinstructors have zero tolerance for students who fail to keep up with thisresponsibility.

Listen and try toapply to every specific and general correction during class time.

Individual corrections are positive attention fromyour teacher.   No matter howfrustrated you may become, a simple ‘thank-you’ when the correction is given isalways appreciated.  Immediately try to apply the correction so theinstructor may give additional guidance.  A correction should only need tobe given once, however mastering it may take longer.  An experiencedinstructor can discern if you are trying to apply the correction. Maintaining a corrections journal helps many dancers organize their long termgoals for specific classes.

Instruments are to be kept free of any debris andshould never be used as physical support for the dancer.  Be sure you do not ever place anything on top of a piano,drum set or other instrument.  And yes;that includes your elbow.

Always dance port de bras full out, even when marking the rest of the movement.

Remain in your role asa student during class time.  No matter how comfortable you feel with yourclassmates, do not offer corrections to them. 

Do not take pictures or video during class timewithout the expressed permission of theteacher and students in the class.  And; likewise, do not ever post classvideo or pictures to any social media site without first getting permissionfrom the instructor, musician, and classmates.

Acknowledge the musician and instructor followingrĂ©vĂ©rence by applauding as a group and shakinghands or verbally thanking both the musician and instructor before yourdeparture from the classroom. 

Feel free to approach the instructor and/oraccompanist after class regarding additionalclarification or advice, but realize that he/she is probably on a schedule andvery likely off to teach another class.  Ask the instructor for anappropriate time to meet.

Following these basic rules of classroom etiquettewill help maximize your artistic and technical growth during class. Individual instructors are likely to have additional guidelines for theirclass.  If you are ever unsure about what to do, ask the instructor (afterclass).

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