Christmas in July - A Sugar Plum Ballerina Party!

Since the weather in upstate NY has been more December like than July like lately, it feels extra appropriate that I'm flashing back to the winter months in today's blog. Last year I started offering Sugar Plum Parties in the spirit of holiday magic, and everyone's favorite ballet, The Nutcracker. The parties were such a hit that I'm totally planning on bringing them back in 2017, but maybe with a few fun changes.... TBA, so stay tuned! Until the hap-hap-iest season of all, remember, you can always dance on the daily with me, enroll in a camp, or book a birthday dance party; there's so many options to get your dose of dance, I make it that easy for you! ;)

It is extra fun when I get to party with people who love to decorate and get into a theme as much as I do, and that was definitely the case for this particular Sugar Plum Party. I mean, look at these adorable decorations! Banners and cupcakes and hats were all on hand to get the dancers in the mood to have sugar plums dancing in their heads!

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After reading the story of The Nutcracker, the dancers and I marched like toy soldiers, sprinkled sugar plum fairy dust around the room, and galloped through the Land of Snow. Oh, and everyone got their very own tutu to wear for our party, which just makes everything more awesome, dontcha think? 

All my parties include a craft to tie our theme together and provide some hands on sensory time, so for this Sugar Plum party, the guests made their own crowns. Stickers, sparkly gems, and markers were all on hand for the kiddos, and man, did they let their creative juices flow! It's always so fun to see their creations and hear them talk about their work!

So. Fun. Right?! Ah, I just get all warm and fuzzy remember all the fun I had with these kiddos! Will you be partying with me come December? Holla at me and let me know!

July Book Review - Of Thee I Sing

It's July! That means not only is it America's birthday month, but it's time for a new Book Review! I was so thrilled with the response of last month's book review (Chelsea Clinton herself responded to my tweet letting her know her book was up on my blog! Hi Chelsea!) that I figured I'd continue the trend, and bring you another beautiful book by another hero of mine, Barack Obama.

Though written for his daughters, Obama's book is wonderful to read with both sons and daughters, and perfect for the month of 4th of July. It's tender and sweet, but empowering and encouraging, and I LOVE the diversity of the individuals featured, brought to life by Loren Long's extraordinary illustrations. We see trail blazers like Albert Einstein, Georgia O'Keefe, Ceaser Chavez and Jackie Robinson, all diverse and different, but common in that they each have qualities that we want to see and encourage in our kids: courage, curiosity, integrity, and kindness. Look at the cutest First Family, getting their read on - love it!

Don't be surprised if you start tearing up while reading this with your Littles; it's just the book for them to know you value, and more than likely, just the words that you need to hear as well. Check it out, add it to your collection, and then holla at me and tell me what you think! Happy Reading!

*Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means I receive 4.50% if you make a purchase using this link.*

Consulting Packages & Video Subscriptions Are Here!

Hay Haaaaaay Friends! Big news today! I've got some sweet new offerings up on my menu, and I want to give you the DL on what's what and why I'm pumped about it!

Consulting Packages

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Sometimes I think we forget that in addition to being an art, dance (and teaching dance) is also a business. And like all businesses, it's work. A lot of work. Especially with creative businesses like dance, our work can feel isolating. So many dance teachers and studio owners go it alone, and are left to their own devices to figure everything out, or simply get burned out and overwhelmed with everything on their to-do list. That's where my new consulting packages come in! You'll get the one-on-one support you need to identify what's working in your biz and what's not, as well as tools, tips, and training on how to keep your work manageable, and all of your hair from going grey. I wish these consulting packages had been around when I was first stepping out on my own as an independent teacher, and I'm super stoked to be reaching out to my dance community to offer my experience and expertise in crafting a unique and profitable dance business!

Video Subscriptions

I've set a new goal for myself to reach more people through my videos. I've been posting my monthly Brain Dances for several months now, and love sharing them with you, so I'm upping the ante! Very soon, you'll be able subscribe to a 4 month video service and have customized dance lessons delivered to your inbox every month! A great option for moms, nannys, or school educators, these videos include all the bright, fresh, and big-hearted experiences that make my classes the best (#humblebrag). AND each subscription includes a delivery of fun props and tools, as well as music suggestions and a private FB group to meet up and connect with other dance lovers!

YAY! Can I get a what-what for taking big, bold steps, hand raising, and general bad-assery ya'll?! I can't wait to meet you, my new clients and subscribers (I know you're out there!) Let's Do This!

July Brain Dance - Stars & Stripes Foreva!

Summa, summa, summa-time! YES. I'm so pumped it's here! I'm just about to finish up a marathon of summer dance camps over in St. Helena, CA, but with 4th of July around the corner, summer is really just getting started! Here's your July Brain Dance featuring all things patriotic - grab some streamers, your favorite jams, and happy dancing!

Intro

Breath

Tactile

Core/Distal

Head/Tail

Upper/Lower

Body Side

Cross Lateral

Vestibular

Did you dig our theme this month? Have something you want to see next month? Let me know!

Behind The Scenes With Pointebrush

Happy Tuesday All! If you've been following me on social media (do you? if not, you should!), you'll know that I'm up to my elbows in dance camps, which is what's prompted me to repost an oldie, but a goodie from The Ballerina Birthday's blog. I love doing crafts in my dance camps, it's a pretty awesome (and integral) part of my brand, and that got me thinking to this interview I did with Margot, creator of Pointebrush. She creates stunning work, and every time I look at it I just sigh and fall in love all over again. Links to her website are in the images, so click away and get familiar with her gorg work!

Like many students, you started ballet at a young age, and continued your training with the RAD. What is it about the RAD method that spoke to you, and how would you describe your early impressions and experience of dance?

I started my ballet education at a small neighborhood dance studio so my RAD training started a little later, around 7 or so when I entered a more formal ballet school in Hong Kong. Entering an RAD based school came as a bit of a shock for me at the beginning because I was coming from a much smaller, recreational school that didn't have any formal training system. I remember having to audition to get in and at the beginning it all seemed quite austere and military (the headmaster even had a large wooden cane that she would rap against the floor!). To be quite honest, I don't know if the RAD system was best suited for me (or maybe it was the way my school was set up) because the focus seemed to be very heavily geared towards exclusively preparing for exams every year and let's face it, exams have never been my favorite thing in the world, dance or otherwise! I was always very much attracted to the romanticism and artistry of ballet but wasn't really able to reconcile what I saw on stage and on videotapes with what I was doing in class. That's probably one of the main reasons why I quit ballet as a teenager. What I did love however, was when some of my favorite teachers used various types of imagery to get us to understand the lines and positions in ballet. I remember one teacher showing us some basic épaulement and telling us to hold our shoulders and necks as if we were covered in diamond necklaces. Or another time, I remember the teacher showing us how to carry our arms as if we were carrying beautiful baskets filled with roses. Maybe it's because I'm a visual person at heart but those exercises always really worked for me!

Do you have a favorite early memory of dance? (rehearsing for a performance, seeing a particular dancer?)

One of my earliest memories of falling in love and being totally enchanted with ballet was receiving a videotape of Marcia Haydee's production of Sleeping Beauty with the Stuttgart Ballet. I remember being completely enamored with Tchaikovsky's music, especially the iconic rose adagio, which to me was just the most beautiful piece of music I had ever heard! It's still one of my favorite ballets ever even though as I've grown older, I've become increasingly more passionate about Neoclassical ballet.

Who are your dance heroes and why?

n the professional/historical world of dance, I would say that my biggest all time heroes are Margot Fonteyn and George Balanchine. They're kind of opposites in a way, especially stylistically, but what they have in common is that they practiced their art in a way that I find to be incredibly soulful, honest and moving. Margot Fonteyn is a ballerina that no matter how many times I watch her in any particular role, I can always find something new and interesting about her interpretation. Her Juliet brings me to tears every single time and to me she's just the pinnacle of grace and what it means to be a prima ballerina. George Balanchine similarly, is someone who's choreography I can watch over and over again and still uncover more layers of understanding every time I watch it. Serenade, Symphony in C and Symphony in Three Movements are among my absolute favorites and I admire any artist who takes risks which he certainly did by reinventing and challenging the boundaries of classical ballet.

On a personal level, as an adult ballet student, I have to say that some of my biggest sources of inspiration are adult recreational dancers and adult beginners! Most of the adult ballet students I've come across, whether in person or on social media, exude so much joy and passion when they're dancing it's truly infectious! I find them so incredibly inspiring and there's something about seeing someone dance because they just love it, regardless of their age, gender, size, physical facility, etc... that is exciting to watch! I sincerely do believe that ballet is an artform that can and should be shared with many people of all ages and walks of life!

How did the idea for Pointebrush come about?

Pointebrush started out as just a small side project and hobby for me to get back to my pencils and paints. As a full time graphic designer, I spend a lot of time designing on the computer so I was looking for a creative outlet to get back to pencil and paper and make art just for me. Ballet is such a big thing in my life so I was naturally drawn to painting dancers. I came up with the name “Pointebrush” to express the combination of ballet and visual arts.

What is the most challenging aspect of your work/art, and the most rewarding?

s my portfolio of Pointebrush work grows and I tackle different subjects in the world of ballet, it can sometimes be challenging finding a fresh perspective and creativity. It can be very easy to fall into routine or habit, especially when creating art. Sometimes, as an artist, you can get stuck in what feels safe, or comfortable and what everybody expects you to do. But the whole reason I created Pointebrush was to be able to find a safe place for me to experiment and try new things, so getting too comfortable or too much into a routine would be a disservice to why I started this project in the first place! Recently, I've been trying to challenge myself a little more stylistically and experimenting a little more with art techniques, creative styles and subject matter. I've found that painting more diversity in ballet really inspires me so I've been looking for imagery of ballet from across the world, as well as bodies and ethnicities that aren't seen as frequently. For a very long time, ballet had been primarily dominated by caucasian, affluent, thin dancers but by no means are those individuals the only ones that can dance!

One of the most rewarding things about this whole journey has been connecting with people from all over the world on social media. I've been very fortunate to receive a very warm response from both dancers and non-dancers alike on Instagram and I truly love connecting with all the people who follow me. I've made a ton of friends! It's also a joy to see my work inspire others to dance or to draw so that has been an unexpected, but incredibly rewarding aspect of my work.

What gets your creative juices flowing?

I love visiting museums, galleries and attending performances. There's something about experiencing other artist's creations in person that is really inspiring and gets me thinking about other perspectives and techniques and how I can apply what I learn there to my work. There are so many talented artists out there who have really unique points of view and tackle their work differently to me so it's always refreshing to take a step back from what I'm doing to see how others take different approaches to their craft. Living in New York City, I'm very fortunate to have access to some of the world's finest museums and galleries and there's never a shortage of new and exciting performances! Recently, I really enjoyed watching the Lion King on broadway and I'm always excited to see what's new and exciting at New York City Ballet. The energy and talent at that company is particularly exciting to me, especially given the fact that I hadn't had much exposure to neoclassical ballet growing up.

The Book Report: She Persisted

Summer! It's nearly here and this is like, the best season for reading. I mean, not that you need a reason or a season to read, but there's nothing like a big stack of books just waiting to be read with an iced tea and sunnies in hand, am I right? (Yes. Yes I am.) This month's Book Report is short but sweet; it's all about a book that you may have heard about, and without a doubt you've heard its title, and you know the phrase by heart. It has become a rallying cry for women around the world, lifting up voices and hands and the spirit of shared experience. It's a beautiful thing, and has become a beautiful book: She Persisted.

She Persisted is written by Chelsea Clinton, and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger (who has illustrated some of my favorite dance books), and simply, but beautifully, teaches us about women from various times, cultures, and backgrounds, who just never took no for an answer.

Besides being timely, what I appreciate about this book is its diversity. These aren't all white privileged women; they represent a variety of experiences in the meaningful and profound way that children's books are so good at. Spoiler Alert: there's even a dancer among these wonderfully illustrated and written pages!

Will you be picking up a copy to read with your kiddos this summer? Let me know what you think! And I'd love to know what else is on your bookshelves this summer! Happy Reading!

4 Props for Awesome Summer Dance Fun

I start my first Summer Dance Camps this week, and I'm SO excited! I'm that nerd who totally geeked out on organizing her school supplies every year, so it's no surprise that I've been jamming away this past week getting all my supplies in a row. That's the inspiration for this week's post - 4 props that you can have on hand at home, or in your dance studio that can be used tons of different ways to encourage the kiddos to move, groove, shake, and bop it out. Click on the pics to purchase your own, and let me know how they work out for you!

1. Parachute

No surprises here. Kids are drawn to parachutes like moths to the flame. Like Baby to Johnny. Like President Trump to Twitter... But I digress. There are so many ways to have fun with a parachute besides just jumping around with it. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Guess the Shape/Body Part - one person goes under the parachute, makes a shape, or isolates a body part, and the others have to guess
  • Rhythm Master - find a song that has fast and slow beats, and try to pulse the parachute on time with the changing rhythms
  • Singing - pretty much all nursery rhymes can be sung with a parachute and you can come up with corresponding movements (skip to my lou, ants go marching), or let the kids come up with their own

2. Ball

Super basic, but not when it comes to use! Grab a few in different sizes, and try these out:

  • Bounce the Rhythm - similar to the parachute game above, choose some tunes and challenge students to bounce the ball to the rhythm of a song. This can be done solo, with a partner, or group
  • Hands Off - what if you used the ball with every body part other than your hands? Can you walk with it in between your knees, toes, elbows?
  • Hit a Move - write several different movements on pieces of paper and tape the to a wall, then let each kid throw the ball at the wall. Whatever movement the ball hits (or is close to), has to be performed by that person

3. Hoola Hoops

Aside from the most obvious way to use a hoola hoop, they are great tools for coordination and vestibular work.

  • Spins - practice spins and turns by holding the hoola hoop waist height and spinning in place, and through space
  • Through the Loop - have kids line up single file holding hands. See if they can pass the hoop from one person to another without letting go of hands
  • Skip It - you know you remember the original Skip Its, but try using a hoola hoop to hop on one foot, it's pretty challenging!

4. Tunes

Yes, I totally consider my tunes and speakers a prop and a tool! Nothing says 'dance party!' like a good playlist. Sometimes the best activities are ones that are child driven, where adults have little to no input about structure. Put on some jams and let the kids move it out however they want, it's a win win for you, and for them! If you need a little playlist inspo, check these out!

*Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means I receive 4.50% if you make a purchase using this link.*

Dino-mite June Brain Dance!

Hey hey friends! It's a new month, which means I've got a new Brain Dance to keep you moving and grooving all month long! I'm pretty excited about this month's exercises and theme. Since I'm doing a dance and story time event next month with Lake Pleasant Library in upstate NY, and we'll be reading We Are The Dinosaurs, I drew my inspiration from that, and June's Brain Dance is all things dinos! I've even got an awesome craft to go along with this month's theme. You can get instructions on that here, check out a dino themed playlist here, and keep scrolling to get the moves for this month rolling!

Introduction

Breath

Tactile

Core/Distal

Head/Tail

Upper/Lower

Body Side

Cross Lateral

Vestibular

Don't forget to holla at me and let me know your favorite moves from this month's exercises! Happy Dancing! 

5 Body Love Phrases To Add To Your Dance Class (& Life)!

Body Love. It's one of those phrases like 'self-care' that's being batted around and is popping up all over your newsfeed, notifications, and headlines. If you're like me, it might make you a little uncomfy, because, well, just what the hell is it, exactly? For starters, if you haven't seen Mary Lambert crushing it with her piece Body Love (Part 1 & 2), you should check that out. But here's my definition:

Body Love (verb) - the act of acceptance of your own body, and the bodies of others, and the practice of appreciating, praising, and loving those bodies just the way they are.

Easy? Hell to the no. Important? Very much so. I'll never forget the time I was in a dressing room at Macy's, trying clothes on, and overheard the conversation of a mother and daughter in the stall next to me. Mom was trying on clothes and making exclamations over how nothing fit and she hated the way she looked. Baby girl was asking why her momma wasn't happy, to which mama replied 'I just don't like the way I look'. And my heart fell on the floor. We can't teach our girls this. The epidemic of women hating their bodies and passing that legacy to their daughters has to stop. Like I said, it's not easy - I still look in the mirror some days and can hear the little voice start tearing me down, but that's where body love comes in: 'the practice of appreciating, praising, and loving'. It's a practice, which means it will evolve every day. So, in that mindset, today I'm sharing 5 phrases that encourage body love that I've made a commitment to bringing into my dance classes. Teachers, I hope you'll consider doing the same, but don't think you have to be a dance teacher to incorporate these; use them with yourself, with your kids, friends, coworkers, and let's be the change. Who knows what we're capable of when we start pulling ourselves and each other up from the dressing room floor, and refocusing how we see our reflections in the mirror -  I have a feeling it'd be pretty damn awesome.

body love

1. Look How Strong You Are!

There's so many opportunities to use this phrase in a dance class. I like to use it especially when I get a request from a student to 'Look at me!' (which is usually, every 3 seconds). These words refocus both members of the conversation to how things feel, rather than how they look. I also like to use this phrase when a student hasn't quite gotten the hang of a movement yet; for example, if we're working on leaps and the student hasn't quite mastered moving their weight from one leg to the other, and is still technically jumping, this is a perfect phrase to use because it acknowledges their effort and strength without giving false praise.

2. Show Me How You Can...

Again, this is a wonderful phrase to redirect a student when they haven't quite got it, or if they're feeling discouraged. If a child is telling me they 'can't' do something, I find it more effective to say 'show me how you can...' and lead them through a progression of what they CAN do, rather than right away responding with 'Yes you can!'. That's a canned response, and kids can smell it coming a mile away.

3. It's Amazing When You...

I love this affirmation for kids both when they've done something amazing, and when you're trying to guide them to do something amazing. 'It's amazing when you stretch your feet like that!' rather than 'look how pretty your feet are'. The second phrase doesn't emphasize that the student has anything to do with their body, the first phrase puts them in the driver's seat of their body, and abilities. Similarly, 'it's amazing when you're thoughtful with your partner' is a gentle reminder of the behavior you'd like to see.

4. How Do You Feel When You...

Are you sensing a theme yet? :) This is another good one for redirecting focus to feeling rather than looking, or appearance. Plus, it's a great conversation starter! I learn so much from my students (and usually get a good giggle) when I ask them open ended questions like this. 'How do you feel when you spin?' 'How does it feel to quickly move high and low?' Questions like this encourage communication, articulation, and engagement; the trifecta of powerful learning!

5. What Muscles Are You Using?

When I tell people that I'm a dancer, a common response is to hear something like 'wow, dancers are so graceful/pretty', or to see someone reach their arms overhead and spin around (if you've ever done this to a dancer, please stop. Like, now). And I get that dance is a visual thing, and people identify dancers by how they look onstage, but all of that grace and pretty-ness comes from muscle. Similar to question #4, asking a dancer what muscles they're using while they move asks them to stop and think, articulate, and absorb. I teach muscle groups to kids as young as 3, and they can tell me what big muscles they have (quadriceps, glutes), and what they use them for (jumps, leaps, getting up and down). Again, we're focusing on what the body can do, rather than what it looks like.

body love quote

Will you be incorporating any of these phrases into your life, or striking up a conversation with the kiddos using these tools? Let me know if you do, and what kind of response you get!

Book Premiere! What Dancers Look Like

OMGEEEEE. You Guys. Today is a big day. Why? Well, just because I'm sending my very first children's book out into the Universe!

HOOOOORAYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!

It's now available through Kindle Direct Publishing, and word has it you can check it here, but wanted to show it off here first. If you've poked at all around my site, you know that I'm pretty darn passionate about making dance accessible for everyone. One of the obstacles that people often feel is a barrier to being a dancer is their body type (raising my hand here, I feel that often), so What Dancers Look Like is all about zooming out on that perspective and refocusing on the amazing dancers that have been different and paved the way for us, and zooming in on the realization that we can look exactly the way we do, and still do anything we want. It's that simple. Another really awesome thing about What Dancers Look Like is that one of my former ballet students from Sonoma Conservatory of Dance, Natalie Anderson has done a GORGEOUS job with the illustrations I asked her to make for the book. I'm in awe of her many talents, and so glad to have her handiwork accompany my story. As nervous as I am to put this little work of mine out into the world, I would still love for you to not only read it, but share it and let me know what you think! So, without further ado my friends, I present, What Dancers Look Like!

What Dancers Look Like

Lizzy loved to dance. She was excellent at chasses and plies, and her port de bras was much better than when she started dance lessons. Her teacher, Miss Louise even said so. Other things Lizzy was not so good at yet. Sautes were really hard, and it was difficult not to get dizzy when she practiced her turns. But Lizzy practiced every day, and she loved watching the older dancers at her school, imagining the day when she would look like them.

            One day, when watching the big girls, something began to nag at Lizzy. She started to notice that many of the big girls all looked.... the same. And Lizzy noticed that she practiced the same way as her classmates, and wore the same clothes as the older dancers, but she didn’t really look like any of her classmates. This worried Lizzy.

            Then Lizzy had an idea. Miss Ellen would surely be the person to talk to! Miss Ellen owned the ballet school, and was always very busy in her office, but when Lizzy went there with her mother the day before she started ballet, Miss Ellen made silly faces at Lizzy when her Mom wasn’t looking, so Lizzy immediately liked her. Lizzy had also loved the wonderful posters of all kinds of dancers Miss Ellen had in her office.

What Dancers Look Like

So the next day after ballet class, Lizzy stood outside Miss Ellen’s office for a while. Nothing happened, so Lizzy poked her head inside the office door.

            “Yes, Lizzy? You’ve been hanging outside my door for 5 minutes now, what do you need?” Miss Ellen said over her spectacles.

            “Miss Ellen, will you tell me about the dancers in your pictures?” Lizzy asked, feeling a bit nervous.

            “Why?” asked Miss Ellen, She put down the papers she was reading.

            “Well, all the dancers in your pictures, they all look so different,” said Lizzy, “and I look so different from anyone in my ballet class.”

            Miss Ellen looked at her, then said “Certainly,” and stood up.

            They walked to the first poster. It had a ballet dancer, standing in an arabesque en pointe, reaching for the sky.

            “You know what kind of dancer this is, don’t you?” asked Miss Ellen.

            Lizzy nodded. “It’s a ballet dancer.”

            “Correct.” Said Miss Ellen. “Ballet tries to defy gravity, the force that keeps our feet on the ground, but other types of dance try to stay close to the earth, like this one.” Miss Ellen pointed to the next poster, of an Indian dancer surrounded by trees. Her knees were bent in plie, and she looked like she could have been a part of the swaying branches behind her.

            Lizzy and Miss Ellen moved to the next picture. These dancers were barefoot, and one dancer was in a wheelchair, and stretched his body like the letter T, while another dancer reached her legs like the letter V, upside down and doing a cartwheel.

            “Some dancers dance in chairs, like this one.” Miss Ellen said.

            “Why?” Lizzy asked.

            “Because that is how they get around. Some dancers walk, some dancers use a wheelchair, or crutches. It does not matter how we move, only that we each find a way of moving that suits us.”

            The next poster showed hip-hop dancers on a basketball court. “Some dancers don’t perform on a stage like we do, some dancers dance on sidewalks, rooftops, or mountains, or deserts.”

            “Why?” asked Lizzy.

            “Because that is where they feel most at home.” And Miss Ellen moved to the next picture. It had a round shaped woman and man singing and dancing on a beach.

            “Dancers can be different shapes too. They can be men or women.”

            “But I’ve never seen a boy dance!” Lizzy giggled.

            “This boy started dancing when he was young and then made one of the greatest dance companies in the world.” Miss Ellen pointed to the next picture, which showed a strong black man soaring high in the air like a bird. Lizzy thought about how much she loved jumping, and that she’d like to be able to jump as high as this man.

What Dancers Look Like

“Sometimes dancing is for children.” Miss Ellen said, and stopped in front of a group of small boys and girls dancing inside of a long, twisting costume that looked like a dragon. “Other times adults dance, for an audience, or just for themselves.” And Miss Ellen struck a pose like the two tango dancers in the next picture, who were dancing all alone in an empty room.

            “Some dances tell a story, or are a way for people to ask for what they need, like rain, food, or protection.” Miss Ellen touched the corner of a poster of Navajo dancers, who wore large headdresses and had painted their bodies’ red and black.

            They had visited all the posters in the room, but Miss Ellen stopped in front of a long mirror by her door.

            “And I see two more dancers right in front of us, in this mirror. One old, and one young, but that doesn’t make us different from each other when we dance, does it?” asked Miss Ellen, putting her feet in first position.           

            Lizzy smiled and put her feet in first position to match Miss Ellen. “No, I don’t think so.” She thanked her teacher with a hug and grabbed her bag to leave.

            “Lizzy,” said Miss Ellen as she walked to the door. “Every body can dance. If you ever need a reminder that dancers come in all shapes, sizes, colors and from all around the world, you can always come back here.”

            “Thanks Miss Ellen” Lizzy grinned.

            “Or, you can always just look in the mirror.” Miss Ellen winked at her. So that’s exactly what Lizzy did the very next day back in her ballet class, and for many ballet classes for many years, until she too had a place on the wall in Miss Ellen’s office.

What Dancers Look Like

Calling All Movers! Summer Dance Camps Enrolling Now!

Question Time:

  • Do you have kids who need something to do this summer?
  • Do said muchkins love moving, music and creating?
  • Would you love to give them something productive, engaging and educating to do while you do that thing called 'life' and 'work'?

If you answered YES to any of these, I have a solution for you!

There's just a few more weeks to enroll for Summer Dance Camps in St. Helena, Ca! I'll be offering awesome 1 and 2 week camps in the following areas:

  • Creative Movement

  • Ballet

  • Hip Hop

  • Musical Theater (Beauty & The Beast)

Every camp includes technique, choreography, crafts, and concludes with an informal performance for friends and family. Camps will be held at the Carnegie Building in St. Helena, Ca, only for the month of June. Upstate NY - you have this opportunity too, but in July and August! I encourage you to GET ON IT, because spots are limited! These programs are all in partnership with St. Helena Parks & Rec, and you can register by hitting that beautiful pink button below!

After you've done that, get pumped with this playlist, and holla at me if you have questions, or just want to shout out how excited you are! I'll see you at camp!

3 Easy Steps To Spring Clean Your Studio's Website

“I have so much free time I just don’t know what to do with myself!” Said no dance studio owner ever. Operating a dance studio is a more that full time job; there really is no down season, and the to-do lists can pile up faster than you can say “plie”.  It can be easy to fall behind, especially in today’s world, where in addition to having all your duckies in a row in the studio, business owners are expected to keep online content up to date, fresh, and engaging. If you’re nodding your head right now and saying ‘yaaaassss’ to your computer screen then keep reading, because in the spirit of spring cleaning, I’m sharing 3 easy tips that will have your website and online presence spruced up, perky, and ready for whatever comes your way this season.

1. Make It Someone Else's Job

Yep, you read that correctly. You’re a busy person, and you’ve got a lot to do. Getting a fresh set of eyes on your website is one of the easiest things you can do towards getting an unbiased opinion on what is working and what isn’t. Ask someone you trust and who is knowledgeable about your business to dedicate at least an hour to combing through your website, links, blog, Facebook and Instagram accounts and get them to make a list for you of what is clear, doesn’t make sense, is working, and what’s fun. Be clear that you’re not looking for judgment or even suggestions. You should ask someone that you’d feel comfortable getting this information back from. Once you have that list, go about checking things off it. Make sure links are correct and working. Delete text or information that’s not up to date or incorrect. 

2. Get Important Stuff 'Above the Fold'

You CAN get your site spiffy without going crazy!

You CAN get your site spiffy without going crazy!

After you’ve gotten rid of what’s no longer serving you, or correctly representing your business, you should be left with the important stuff. Your philosophy, your accomplishments, the things you’re proud of and want people to know about you. That’s the content that we want to feature ‘above the fold’. Or, in other words, the stuff that people don’t have to scroll down for or look too hard for. People often don’t scroll down on their computers or iPhones. Extra text gets lost and people won’t search for very long to find what they’re looking for. Get the most important info out there and at the top of your page. Test it yourself on your own computer and on your own phone. Remember, less is more. 

3. Is It Relevant, On Message, Helpful?

Now you should be left with only the most relevant, on point(e) (sorry, couldn’t help myself) and helpful content on your site. The key is to maintain that. Ask yourself these 3 questions before you include any info on your website or social media posts. All of the content you publish and put out into the world should point back to the things that make your business yours, and while that will vary for every business owner (maybe you’re highlighting the fact that you’re an RAD school, or perhaps you’re particularly proud of the fact that you have a community outreach program), all of your content should be relevant to your brand, consistent with the message you want to promote about your studio, and helpful to your clients. If you can put these things in to practice you’ll be golden!

So there you have it! Do you feel ready to sweep out the old and welcome in the new? Awesome! Let me know how these tactics work for you, I love connecting up on social media, and feel free to share these ideas with any other studio owners you think might benefit from a spring cleaning overhaul.

May Book Report - Mamas, Moons & Mirrors

Ok, you all know I love an alliteration, but I promise I really didn't mean for this month's Book Report to have so many, it just happened that way, but clearly, this post is brought to you by the letter M. All the same, it's appropriate considering Mother's Day is around the corner, and included today are some sweet pics for the mamas in your life. Let's dive right in!

Many Moons

You don't have to be a science nerd to appreciate this totally unique book. Many Moons teaches the phases of the moon in a fun, humorous and simple way that both kids and parents will dig. Follow along as the moon transforms from the shape of a smile to a mother's budding belly, to a round of cheese (my personal favorite phase). Bold and beautiful, I have a feeling this book will captivate and be a favorite in many libraries for years to come.

Raisin - The Littlest Cow

I don't think I've ever seen a cow as cute as Raisin. Raisin is a sweet little calf nugget who's having a hard time adjusting to having a new sibling around. Raisin has the voice of that kid who has big plans, might be a little too cool for school, but still needs a good old bear hug every once in awhile. If you've got a new sibling on the way, this is a great choice for families to read together to prepare, share a smile, and a couple laughs.

You Made Me a Mother

Have your tissue box handy, because You Made Me A Mother is sure to have you sniffling in no time. I actually used this book as a Guest Book for a baby shower I helped to throw last year, and it served up a double punch as causing all the moms to coo and pucker, as well as get their sentimental juices flowing to write the sweetest wishes for the mom-to-be. Here is a perfect choice for a gift for moms at any stage, from newbies or grandmas; bonus points if it accompanies breakfast in bed with a side of mimosa for mom!

Mirror Mirror

I've been looking forward to sharing this book for a long time; Marilyn Singer is one of my favorite children's authors, and Mirror Mirror definitely doesn't disappoint. Imagine all your favorite storybook classics turned on their head (a la Once Upon a Time, but waaaaay less confusing). Add catchy rhymes, plays on words, and unexpected twists, and you've got a recipe for giggles, thought provoking conversations, and a story time full of fun. I'm a fan of any untraditional princess/fairy tale, and this is definitely one of those books. It's a great option for older readers who know the routine tales, and/or kids who like poetry and word play. The illustrations as well are super fun, remember those old school Magic Eye books? Kind of like that, but less likely to give you a headache.


Will you be adding any of these to your reading list this month? Let me know which, and what you think my fellow book worms! Happy Reading!

*Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means I receive 4.50% if you make a purchase using this link.*

May Brain Dance: Bloom & Grow

April showers bring May flowers, right? RIGHT? Upstate NY, where are all the flowers, yo? California peeps, send me some bloom love, because while the mountains and lakes here are gorgeous, I know all that California rain you got this winter is making for some beautiful gardens right about now. This is the spirit in which I bring you May's Brain Dance! Lots of fresh, new, and fun exercises bundled up in this month's videos, and if the space I recorded in looks new, that's because it is! Just one of my makeshift recording studios for the next few months :) Friendly reminder that you can download a free print out of all the instructions to go along with this month's Brain Dance right here. You're welcome! Now, onto the dancing!

Breath

Tactile

Core/Distal

Head/Tail

Upper/Lower

Body Side

Cross Lateral 

Vestibular

To sign off, I'm going to tell you what I'd just super, duper love... share yourself participating in this Brain Dance with me! Hit me up in one of the many ways we can find each other and let me see you shaking your groove thing this month! Sharing dance and seeing it all come full circle gives me all the warm and fuzzies, so get moving and let me know how it goes! Cheers!

The Phenomena of "First": Why Misty Copeland Isn't What You Think

I'm going deep in today's blog, because as I've promised, in addition to being a space for the fun, educational and inspirational facets of dance, this is also a space for honest discussion about the challenges and problems the dance world has and is facing. 

Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland

You'd probably have to be living under a rock to not at least recognize the name of Misty Copeland. She's a talented, versatile, strong and dynamic dancer with American Ballet Theater. She is also a woman of color. These two facts have created a lot of buzz in the social media world, and credited Misty with being the first African American Principal Dancer at ABT, which she is. But before that, she was incorrectly labeled as the first female African American soloist dancer at ABT. It's that before bit that needs to be spotlighted, because it doesn't give credit to the path that was cleared for Copeland. It was an extremely unrepresented path (let's do better, dance world!), but it was still there. And to not give credit where credit is due is not only not fair to the artists who dedicated their lives to dance, but dangerous because it dilutes the vibrant history of dance and its pioneers.  

Debra Austin, Principal Dancer at Pennsylvania Ballet in the 1980's

Debra Austin, Principal Dancer at Pennsylvania Ballet in the 1980's

My issue isn't with Misty Copeland at all. She's badass, much needed voice in the dance community, not to mention a phenomenal dancer. What I have a problem with is the proliferation of words like 'only' and 'first'. Today we use these terms to convey admiration, respect, and fame, further fodder for the popular notion that we're nobody until we're somebody who's done something singular. Here's a spoiler alert: not only are these terms and ideas not true, they're ridiculous! It's 2017! It's all been done before. It's all been done before, but not by you. Whatever "it" is that you do - dance, draw, sing, write, that "it" has never been heard by the world before because you haven't been here until now. That is the first that I wish we could focus on. Rather than using first as a negative (that what you have to offer will never be unique unless you've done "it" first/differently/as its never been done before), what if we used it as a jumping off point to celebrate our individual voices and strengths? Would we be a little more accepting of ourselves and others? Would it create a little more room for everyone instead of cramming the first and select few into tidy little boxes? I don't know, but I can tell you from experience that when we make room for everyone, we also make more room for ourselves and the fear of not being seen falls away. A universal truth: we all want to see glimpses of ourselves as we navigate through our lives. While 'firsts' can help highlight our fellow crewmates,  and inspire us, 'firsts' can also isolate us even further from the larger communities we seek.

Raven Wilkinson, the first African-American woman to dance with the Ballet Russe

Raven Wilkinson, the first African-American woman to dance with the Ballet Russe

So, here's what I think: the next time you see something touted as being a 'first', #1, ask if that's really true. Dig around, and find out for yourself. #2, don't allow 'firsts' to make you feel bad. You're already a first by being here, in the world, as yourself. You do you boo. You don't need Google or Wikipedia or social media to associate your name with 'first' to be valued. #3 shout out the people/places/things that give value to your journey. I'll go first:

  • Misty Copeland - Principal Dancer of color with ABT - #fierce 
  • Nora Kimball - Soloist Dancer of color with ABT, Nederlands Dance Theater & Frankfurt Ballet in the 1980's and 90's

Your turn! Who and what are giving life to your creative lives? Did you learn something new from this post? Want to tell me how much you love Misty and why? Let's talk it out, yo! I'm always interested to hear what you have to say.

PS: Here's some further recommended reading for you on this topic!

Different Drummer Goes Bi-Coastal!

Greetings from upstate New York! If you've been following me on my social media channels (which you totally should be, btw), you've probably figured out that I've made a move! I'm blogging today from Speculator, NY, a tiny town in the Adirondack Park, where my fiancé was born and raised, and is now a business owner!

My view as I blog today... the ice on Lake Pleasant has almost broken!

My view as I blog today... the ice on Lake Pleasant has almost broken!

I'll be spending the next several weeks here helping him get his new business off the ground (and by that I mean painting, sweeping, and generally avoiding doing any heavy lifting), and getting some projects for Different Drummer lined up and ready to launch!

Getting friendly with the local wildlife (in the library, of course)

Getting friendly with the local wildlife (in the library, of course)

I'll be partnering with Lake Pleasant Public Library to offer some story times and movement classes, and am hoping to visit as many kiddos in my new home as possible with the fresh, bright, and big-hearted classes that Different Drummer is known for. If you know of any places I should reach out to, or are interested in working together, let me know! In the meantime, I'll be planning and prepping for some amaze-balls summer camps that will go down in June with St. Helena Parks & Rec. You can get those deets here; and I'll also be rolling out Dance Daze - single day dance camps for individual and small groups that are totally customizable and give you all the tools to keep your dance skills fresh all summer long.

Future home of Camp Store!

Future home of Camp Store!

I'm really looking forward to sharing my upstate New York adventures with you all! Follow along with me for all the updates and news as I (try to) embrace all the crazy change that I know is on the way! Cheers!

3 Egg-Celent Ways to Start an Easter Dance Party

Hippity Hoppity, Easter's on it's way! As we spring towards the holiday this weekend, I'm totally feeling all of the buds, blooms, and freshness of the season. There's a change in the air, can you feel it? Personally, I'm embarking on a pretty big adventure this week (more on that to come!), and there's something that feels so right about it being during this season. If you're anything like me and this time of year inspires you to do a little cleaning, organizing and redecorating, you may find yourself up to your elbows not only with bags to donate, but at a loss with what to do with all your cute Easter decorations (I blame you, Target dollar bin), but wondering what the heck to do with all the cuteness after the season passes. Fear not! I have 3 fresh ideas for you to reuse and recycle those Easter eggs that will have your kiddos bopping and hopping around in no time. (Maybe burning off some of that excess energy from all the chocolate?) Get your notepad and pencil out, and get ready to get inspired to get your dance party on all spring long!

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1. Movement Eggs

Get yourself a handful of eggs and a sheet of paper. Write down different action move(ments) on a slip of paper and tuck them inside of the eggs. Here are some of my favs:

  • Hop
  • Spin
  • Skip
  • Roll
  • Tip Toe

Hide them around your yard (or inside if it's raining), count to 3 and let the Littles have at it! Once they find the egg they perform the movement around their space until they find a new egg. Later, rise, and repeat!

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2. Fill With Rice/Beans

It is a truth universally acknowledged that given any kind of percussion instrument, kids will go nuts. Insane. So I only recommend this one if you're up for listening to that, or if you can remove yourself from the scene of the crime, but the kids will LOVE this one. Reuse your eggs and make them into shakers by filling them with rice or beans, or even beads. Put on some fun music (need suggestions? I've got just the playlist), and leave them to it. For older kids you can fill eggs with different things and have them try and listen for the difference in the sounds, and/or fill the eggs with different amounts of the rice/beans and ask them to listen for the difference (is one egg softer sounding, louder sounding?).

3. Red Light, Green Light Variation

Use up some of that leftover Easter grass by assigning slow, medium and fast movements to a color of grass (you could use red, yellow, and green, or just whatever color grass you have on hand. OR, use leftover candy, but follow the same theme; red jellybeans mean stop, green mean go, etc.). Let one kid pick a few eggs from a basket and reveal/call out what speed the others should move.

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There you have it my friends! 3 new games that you can incorporate into your Easter/spring traditions that get everyone up and moving! If you've got a party coming up, these are also great icebreakers to get everyone giggling and comfortable. Will you be trying any of these out this weekend? Let me know how they go, and as always, Happy Dancing!

4 Questions to Ask to Find the Perfect Summer Dance Camp

I know spring has barely sprung, but 'tis already the season to start planning those summer activities for the Littles. I'm currently knee-deep in plans for my own summer dance camps in partnership with St. Helena Parks & Rec (it's going to be the best. summer. ever.) and for those of you already fighting a migraine thinking about hauling the kids to and fro and working up a sweat wondering WHAT exactly your cutie will be doing all day long at their summer camp, take a deep breath; today I'm sharing 4 questions to ask that will help you find the perfect dance camp/summer activity for your student. Reading through this list will help you sift through the options to get a clear picture of not only what your options are, but what you and your kiddo want. Ready? Let's go!

1. Language Matters

This is a a bit of a no-brainer, but really, so important. What kind of vibe do you get from the school's website, flyer, and general language? It will speak to what their focus and teaching philosophy is. Do they mention what kind of technique/syllabus they use? RAD = Royal Academy of Dance, which is my fav (because that's style in which I was trained). The RAD focuses on solid and safe technique, with an emphasis on musicality and performance. The Cecchetti method is rooted in Italian tradition (btw, did you know ballet actually was born in Italy, NOT in France?), and was the first to codify a syllabus. The technique is very lyrical, but also focuses strongly on anatomy. The Vaganova technique was developed by Russian dancer Agrippina Vaganova in the early 1900's and fuses Italian methods with traditional French Romantic technique, with a focus on whole body consciousness. Look to see if these terms are mentioned. If not, ask what the focus is, and don't be afraid to ask the director to explain his or her background and mission in teaching.

2. Watch The "Big Girls"

One of the things that I find so special about ballet studio culture is how the "big girls" (aka, the older students) are trained to look out for the younger students. A lot of the time this is because the older students will serve as TAs to the teachers, and studio owners will encourage the more experienced students to guide the younger ones during rehearsals and shows (hey, we need all the help we can get when we've got a room full of fun-sized minions), and in my experience, the older students love not only being helpers, but wearing the role model hat. That being said, look to see if the studio has any older dancers. #1 it's a good indication that the studio has a strong following and that they foster students who stick around and who have been through ranks, and #2 watching the big kids will give you a good picture of what your student might grow up to be like.

3. Quality vs. Quantity

Most summer programs are all about variety. Many schools bring in guest teachers to offer classes in disciplines that may not be normally offered during the school year. Exposing dancers to all kinds of techniques is great, so checking out both a summer and fall schedule from your studio is key. But, that being said, there's nothing wrong with a program that only focuses on one or two disciplines. In fact, many ballet studios will focus only on their syllabus (see above re: RAD vs. Vaganova, etc.) Know if you're going for a focus on ballet or jazz, or hip hop, or a variety of styles. There's no wrong answer here, but it's good to be clear on what you and your student want from the program before signing up.

4. Go With Your Gut

It's easy to get overwhelmed when planning summer activities, and studios are still businesses; they want to sell enrollments, so it's important to trust your gut. Does it sound/feel/look like a place you'd want to spend the day? Then go for it! If you're feeling uncomfy or unsure, move on. There's no lack of schools offering summer activities, don't be afraid to keep shopping around. If you have any other questions about how to choose a summer program, feel free to hit me up on the social medias, and... (shameless plug)... I'm also offering summer camps in St. Helena this summer, so check it yo, and let's dance together this summer! :)