Two Must Have Fall Songs For Creative Movement

If you’re a dance teacher who works with Littles, you know the power of a good song. Incorporating action songs and transition songs into your classes is a great way to keep kids engaged and focused, and is an excellent way to deliver instructions in a fun way.

Today I’m sharing two must have songs to work into your fall creative movement classes. This first one is one of my most watched videos over on my YouTube channel. I originally developed it as part of a BrainDance, but you can use it just about anywhere in your classes.

Additionally, you can nab these fun handouts in the Shop to send home with parents so the fun can continue at home, or share them with your employees!

This second song is a good one for exploring levels and actions. You can replace any of the words with various directions or actions, such as hop, jump, march. etc.

There you have it! If you enjoyed these videos I’d love for you to #1 subscribe to my YouTube channel, and #2, make sure you check out my online shop, where you can find more resources for your young dance classes! Happy Dancing!

UPCOMING! November Backstage Blog Palooza!

Hey Friends! If you’ve been reading the blog for awhile, you know that I try to do a Backstage Blog interview where I chat with dancers, educators, and business owners and bring you their wisdom. It’s one of my favorite things to do here on the blog, and I’m super excited that next month is going to be all Backstage Blogs, all the time!

Yayyyyyyyy!

Now there’s a practical reason I’ve done this as well: if you’ve been following me on Instagram, you know that I’ll be having a surgery in November, so the Backstage Blog Interview Palooza is timed so that I can be hands off on the blog and give myself some time for R&R.

It’s been an interesting process coming to terms with the fact that my body, mind, and spirit are in some serious need of rest when summer-fall have been an extremely busy time for me. (You can read more about that in this blog.) If you want to keep up on this journey of mine and see how I’m getting on, I’d love for you to follow me on Instagram, or search the hashtag r&r&r (that’s what I’m dubbing my November recoup month: rest & relaxation & recovery).

In the meantime, you can look forward to the AWESOME line up of interviews by reading a bit about each of my interviewees.

Leslie Scott of Youth Protection Advocates in Dance. Leslie is well known not only for her talents but her unwavering work ethic, inspiring public speaking, contagious positive energy and bold use of movement to spread a positive message!

Annett Bone, Founder of The Dancepreneuring Podcast which has an international audience that’s been downloaded in 70 countries to date. She’s a big believer that anyone can accomplish great things from where they are, and they can start with what they have.

Tricia Gomez of Rhythm Works Integrative Dance. She is the President of Dance – In a Box Publishing and Global Director of Rhythm Works Integrative Dance. She is considered a pioneer in pre‐school and elementary Hip Hop education, often daring to go where others thought impossible. Her unique Hip Hop teaching methods have landed her on the Dr. Phil Show as their dance expert and as the Head Judge of the CBS TV series “Dance Revolution”.

William Walldinger, Master Teacher. William is a well known and much sought after master teacher, and teaches regularly at Broadway Dance Center and The Joffery School of Ballet. He shares his teaching experience and wisdom on his blog, Classical Ballet and All That Jazz.

I can’t wait to bring you these amazing and inspiring interviews! Stay tuned so you don’t miss them, and be sure to follow me on Instagram so you know when they go live!

October Book Report - Monsters, Ghosts & Dragons!

I couldn’t choose just one book for October’s book report, so we’re going with a trinity of books covering Monsters, Ghosts and Dragons! All three of these books are great additions to your creative movement classes, fun inspiration for spooky themed Halloween choreography, or just to enjoy for a bedtime read.

First up is Monster Boogie by the incomparable Laurie Berkner. Many of you are probably familiar with Laurie Berkner’s songs, and We Are The Dinosaurs is a favorite song and dance game in my classes. Monster Boogie has the same fun and silly feel of We Are The Dinosaurs, and is great for exploring size and shape with dancers.

If you’ve got a fan of nursery rhymes, Mother Ghost by Rachel Kolar is going to be the book for you! It cleverly takes traditional nursery rhymes and gives them a Halloween flair. Instead of ‘Mary, Mary, quite contrary”, we have “Mary, Mary, tall and scary’. Simple, silly, and good for readers who appreciate a good giggle, this is a wonderful option for October bedtime reads.

There’s a Dragon In Your Book by Tom Fletcher might just be the cutest book I’ve seen all year. With an adorable, clumsy baby dragon and interactive text, this book will have young readers engaged in no time. Tom Fletcher also has a book called There’s a Monster In Your Book, which is equally entertaining. Creative Movement dancers will have a blast flying like dragons, leaping over fire, and letting their beastly imaginations run wild.

Which of these will be on your bookshelf this month? Comment below and let me know!

Why Dancers Hate Dance Movies

Well I bet that title got your attention didn’t it? ;) Now before you get all ‘that’s not true, I LOVE dance movies and I’m a dancer!’ on me, let me put out the disclaimer that I know not all dancers hate dance movies, but the vast majority of fellow dancers and educators I’ve known and talked to are iffy at best about most dance movies, and underwhelmed is the adjective I’d use to describe most dancer’s reactions when a new dance movie comes out.

Personally I know that when I see a new commercial or ad for a dance movie, I internally cringe and roll my eyes at the same time. And then I thought ‘well that’s an odd reaction considering I am a dancer’, and got curious about why that’s always my reaction.

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So, like any legitimate investigator, I got on Instagram and Facebook to poll the other dance masses, and it turns out, most of you had the same reaction as I did. Most of you feel that the majority of dance movies are superficial, topical, and lack breadth. Personally, I feel like most dance movies end up bastardizing the art form and reducing it to a few very tired stereotypes. I’ve yet to see a dance movie that correctly captures the dance community, life, and art. To be fair, to do so would be a tall order, but isn’t that kind of the job description of film directors?

I think it’s safe to say that the dance community is tired of seeing dance on the silver screen as psycho Swans (you can read more about my opinion of Black Swan in this article), starving, poor artists, or backstabbing divas. And that’s not even mentioning using non dancers as actors or actresses in dance films. All of these elements combine to make me feel undervalued and misunderstood as a dancer, so it’s no surprise the buzz of a new dance film leaves me feeling meh and somewhat resentful.

Now on the flip side, the thing that got these thoughts flowing was seeing the newest trailer for Disney’s Nutcracker, which I was fully expecting to hate, but was actually pleasantly surprised to see looks somewhat fresh and fun. We’ll see how I feel after it hits the big screen, but hope springs eternal, and I hope Disney will get it right.

I’d love to hear from you! Are you a dance movie lover, or hater, and how do you feel about the new Nutcracker coming to theaters this fall? Leave me a comment and let me know!

MindBody SPARK Is Here! (And Why It's Slightly Incomplete)

FRIENDS! It’s a big day for me, because the creative dance curriculum I’ve been working so hard on is now LIVE in the Different Drummer Dance online store!

MindBody SPARK creative dance curriculum

The store went live earlier this month, and has lots of great resources for dance educators and studio owners (with still more goodies to come!), but the MindBody SPARK curriculum took a little longer, because, well, it’s a big project with lots of moving parts, and I wanted to take my time to give you the best program possible!

I’d love for you to check out the store here, and get a more in-depth look at the curriculum here! But I also want to tell you why the MindBody SPARK curriculum is still slightly incomplete, and why I decided to make it live anyways.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen a series of Instagram Stories I did where I explained my decision, but it comes down to this: earlier this summer I found out I have several ovarian cysts that are causing me pain and discomfort, not only physically, but mentally. Physically because they make me feel bloated and uncomfortable, and mentally because my physical state of discomfort makes my brain say things like ‘you’re fat/ugly’, and ‘your body is out of control’. Not nice things to say to yourself… and especially hard for me to come to terms with when I’m all about body positivity and positive self talk. Yet, I kept pushing myself to complete the curriculum, and I did, minus one part - the curriculum video demonstrations.

I give myself credit for trying, but things kept coming up that would derail me - I forgot to download my music and didn’t have a WiFi connection, I needed a tripod to really get the right angle, etc. Finally I realized that the deep, dark reason I kept getting derailed and not finishing this aspect of my project was because I just didn’t want to see myself on camera. I knew it would send me into a tailspin of self bashing and shaming, and I just didn’t want to deal with it.

My Instagram post on why I didn’t complete the videos for the MindBody SPARK curriculum.

My Instagram post on why I didn’t complete the videos for the MindBody SPARK curriculum.

I was faced with the conundrum: do I force myself to get through the videos and deliver on a product I’d been promising would be complete, making my customers happy but making myself miserable, OR, do I pause the videos and return to filming them at a later date, when I feel better, but risk disappointing my customers (and myself) by not finishing my product on time?

I decided on the latter. It was not an easy decision, but as all of us know, the negative voices in our heads can be so fierce and mean, and as someone who’s business is built around body positivity and encouraging positive self talk and confidence, I knew I’d be letting not only myself and my business down by pushing through, but also my customers and followers who look to me to set an example for embodying positive self image and talk.

So, friends, yes, the MindBody SPARK creative dance curriculum is live and available for purchase (yay!), but the video elements won’t be available until later this year, after I’ve had surgery to remove the cysts and feel both physically and emotionally better. (If you do decide to purchase the curriculum before that date, I will happily walk you through any exercises over the phone!)

I hope you’ll understand, and celebrate not only the publishing of a work that I’m truly passionate about and 100% believe will change the way we educate young dancers, but also celebrate me taking a body positive step forward for myself that was really hard. I really do think that we’re called to do the work that we need to learn the most; I preach a lot about body positivity and empowerment for others because it’s a lesson I will continue to need to learn for myself.

Thanks so much for reading, for sharing, and for your support! If you’re interested in purchasing the MindBody SPARK curriculum, you can get the deets here, email me to chat about it, or punch the button below to get added to my email list to receive further updates.

Your Friend in Dance,

Katrena

September Book Report - Up In The Garden & Down In The Dirt

So it's been a little wet in upstate NY lately, but for this week's Book Report I'm channeling my Northern California roots, where September is hot, hot, hot, and many gardens are in their full glory.

Kate Messner's Up In the Garden and Down In The Dirt is a great book for any kid who loves to be outside and get messy (aka - ALL kids). It's also a great one for exploring ecosystems, and in dance class, levels, and size. That's just one of the reasons (one of the others being its gorgeous illustrations) that this book is also a recommended read in the Creative Dance Curriculum (which you can get a FREE download of here!)!

The Creative Dance Curriculum is broken down into 10 modules, each exploring a different dance concept. Additionally, each lesson plan includes a 'Kickstarter'; a book, poem, or short activity that helps dancers understand the concept they'll be exploring. 

Books like this one are some of my favorite to use with young dancers; they're so accessible, fun, and colorful, everyone can't help but enjoy them and get excited about learning!

Get the first Module in the Creative Dance Curriculum below, and then I'd love for you to join me at my Facebook Live conversation I'll be hosting on date, where you can hear me talk more about why I'm so in love with this program, and what, exactly, makes it unique, and valuable to you as a dance educator!

Happy reading, and happy dancing everyone! Hope you see you on Facebook at date!

Back To (Dance) School Goodies!

Ah September. I can practically smell the glue sticks, Crayola crayons, and Lunchables. It's a bittersweet time for many of us, because who doesn't love the fresh start that fall brings, but also, back to school routines and the ho-hum of everyday life can be a bit blah.

Affirmation coloring bracelets to use with your students are just some of the goodies in the DDD Online Store!

Affirmation coloring bracelets to use with your students are just some of the goodies in the DDD Online Store!

So to curb the blues you might be feeling about facing fall, today I'm sharing some of my favorite goodies on the newly published DDD Online Store!

There's everything from free worksheet downloads for your dance business to affirmation cards you can use with your students, not to mention a FREE download of the first Module in my Creative Dance Curriculum, which is chock full of exercises, music suggestions, choreography, a BrainDance, and so much more!

All 10 of the Creative Dance Curriculum Modules will be available for purchase on Sept 15th, and if you're curious about what, exactly, makes this program different from any others, just check this out:

What makes the Creative Dance Curriculum (CDC) unique is its attention to the WHOLE dancer. This method teaches dance from the inside out, using body positive affirmations, growth mindset statements and attention to each dancer’s individual needs. It teaches not only solid and sound dance technique, but tools that will help students grow into happy and healthy humans - body, mind, and spirit.

I hope you'll browse around and take it all in, then let me know what your favorite items are, so I can deliver even more of those goods to you! Let me know in the comments - what are the top things you're lusting over in the Different Drummer Dance Online Store?

The ONE Thing Dance Teachers Can Do To Help Students

Not too long ago, on the wonderful Business of Dance Podcast, I was asked what ONE thing dance teachers could to bring more body positivity into their classrooms, and my response was to become more aware of their language.

Now post podcast interview me realizes that this is a rather nebulous suggestion (although still a valid one), so I've broken my answer down a bit and am sharing it with you today.

I actually made a little video of it over on my YouTube channel (which I'd LOVE it if you subscribed to!), and am including that below. In the video I talk about how this can bring body positivity into your classes, but you can also use this technique with giving any kind of feedback to your dancers.

Yes, we as teachers absolutely need to be aware of the language we use around our students because words matter (case in point: raise your hand if you can still recall that one thing a teacher said to you 10, 20, 30 years ago that still makes you feel about as special as a a lone sock on the side of the highway), but bringing more awareness to our words is a lifelong process, so here's an easier solution.

PRAISE YOUR STUDENTS HONESTLY AND TACTFULLY

So maybe they had a bad day in class and you can't even think of a single thing to compliment them on. Tell them you're glad they showed up and made it through class. That's not giving false praise, that's encouraging them to be determined, and naming it, aloud to your student sends the message that it's ok not to have a great day, that their value goes beyond how many pirouettes they did that day or how technically correct their alignment was.

Ok, so hoooooooow exactly do you go about praising your students honestly and tactfully? Well, funny you should mention that, because I've got a set of compliment cards for sale over in the Different Drummer Dance store! But you can also just put these compliments into your own words and put them on a Post-It or 3x5 card and hand them to your students at the end of the day.

Which method will you be trying? Give me a shout out and let me know!

Backstage With Rachel Stewart & Mary P. Gorder of All That Dance & Love Your Body Week

SUUUUUUPER excited to bring you all this month's Backstage With blog because it gave me all the feels and I know it will for you too! I got to interview Rachel Stewart and Mary P Gorder, of All That Dance in Seattle. These two, along with Maygan Wurzer, the Founder and Director of All That Dance, established Love Your Body Week - a unique (and ah-mazing) celebration for dancers at their studio of all that their bodies can do. When I found out about Love Your Body Week (LYBW), I literally did a happy dance in my chair, and immediately emailed Mary to get the scoop on their awesome teaching philosophy. Let's dive on in!

KC: What's your earliest memory of dance?

RS: As a young child, I’d wear my mom’s pointe shoes and pretend to be a famous ballet dancer.  I’d wear several petticoats for a tutu, and used a table in the garage as my stage.

MG: My memories are similar to Rachel’s - my mom is not a dancer but a musician, so there was always music in our house. I was constantly moving, and constantly bossing around neighbor kids and making them perform in my “shows”. I think the earliest dance I remember watching was the ballet sequence at the end of “An American in Paris”, when they are dancing inside of famous paintings.  It was absolutely magical for me.

 KC: What's your background with dance? Was it love at first plie?

RS: I started ballet class when I was in grade school. I remember standing at the barre, practicing pliés and tendus with an old ballet record for accompaniment. Honestly, I hated it, and didn’t dance again for several years, when I discovered jazz dance.  I loved jazz dance, it was such a big deal in the 80s. I started tap and eventually fell deeply in love with ballet.

MG: I told my parents again and again that I wanted to be a ballet teacher when I grew up, but I refused to actually go to class for years.  I was the kid that cried the whole time and refused to participate! Every year we would try again though, and eventually I found the courage.

KC: How did you get into teaching? What's your favorite thing about it?

RS: I love working with kids and teens, so teaching became a way to share my love of dance.

MG: I started teaching in college.  I took the job just as a way to make a little money in a way that fit into my class schedule, but quickly fell in love with it and haven’t done anything else for work since.  Dance has always been a passion for me, but in a way I think my heart is more connected to teaching than it ever was to my own training or to performing. Watching kids grow is absolutely my favorite thing about it.  There are millions of tiny ways that happens day to day - the little one that finally figures out how to skip with both legs, the teen that finds that extra bit of bravery to try something new.  Being able to work with the same dancers overtime and watch them develop their artistic voice and identity is what drives me as a teacher.

KC: Who are your dance heroes, and why?

RS: My dance hero is Akira Armstrong of Pretty Big Movement. She is such a talented dancer and choreographer.

MG: Too many to list!  I have had so many incredible teachers over the years that have nurtured and inspired me, and I work alongside so many exceptional dance educators.  They are all my heroes. In terms of famous performers, Michaela DePrince is a huge inspiration. Her story is unreal, and she is truly captivating onstage. I love the messages of self love and persistence she is so intentional about sharing. I also very much admire Hope Boykin as a dancer and choreographer, and as an advocate for and positive example of self acceptance and self care.Ashley Bouder is also speaking up right now about feminism in dance and in ballet specifically, a conversation that needs more attention and more voices.

KC: Tell us about Love Your Body Week at your studio, All That Dance. What is it, and how did it begin?

RS: I started LYBW in 2005 when I was teaching at All That Dance (ATD). I was volunteering with the National Eating Disorders Association at the time. I’d spend hours answering the crisis line, speaking to people who were losing their lives to eating disorders. Then I’d teach dance class and hear 5 year-olds saying they were fat. I knew the dance world needed to change, but I wasn’t sure how to change it. I modeled LYBW after National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, and honestly, I had no idea what I was doing. It’s taken 12 years and a lot of collaboration to figure it out.

MG: The program has grown so much over the years!  Rachel started LYBW in 2005, and then Emily German worked with her for several years on it.  I came on staff 10 years ago, and was lucky enough to start collaborating on it too. Rachel and I now work together to oversee it.  Last year a version of our curriculum was adopted by the National Honor Society for Dance Arts (NHSDA), a program of the National Dance Education Organization.  Rachel and I create and organize body positive activities for each class at ATD to participate in, and our NHSDA students (juniors and seniors in our highest levels) do much of the leading and facilitating in classrooms.  Teen leadership is one of my very favorite facets of our program - it allows for a whole different level of engagement and empowerment for those dancers. Each activity culminates in the drawing or writing of some sort of positive message to post on the mirror, so by the end of the week our mirrors are completely covered up with messages of self love.  

KC: Why do you think body positivity and inclusion is important in the dance community?

RS: Dance is about creativity, expression, and communication. I’m tired of the people in power in the dance world telling dancers how to look. Dance is our birthright, and is a core part of the human experience. Dance shouldn’t be a tool to oppress and marginalize people.

MG: I can only imagine how many brilliant, talented dancers have been dissuaded from pursuing the art form because they were made to feel as though they didn’t have the right look or the right body to do it.  Theirs are movement voices that the world won’t see or experience because of this narrow body ideal. Every body has a story to tell, and everyone deserves the opportunity to be seen and heard.  I feel very fortunate that I chose to continue dancing, in spite of some tough experiences in my own training.  I am thankful that this art is still such an important part of my life, and it’s my hope that teaching inclusively and teaching from a body positive perspective can help encourage others to trust that they are capable, and that they are valuable and worthy as dancers and artists.

KC: What's one of your favorite funny or heart warming stories about teaching dance?

RS: I had a 5 year old student who would come early to class every week and tie all of the scarves to her leotard. She would then choreograph beautiful routines as “rainbow bird.”  I adored her certainty, her expression, and her creativity. To this day, the thought of “rainbow bird” makes me smile.

MG: Just this week a teen told me in pointe class that she is so grateful for her experiences at ATD because her teachers never give her corrections about how something looks, but rather about how it should feel or function.  That is absolutely one of my favorite things I have heard from a student, because it speaks to the body positive culture that our whole faculty works so hard to create.

KC:Are there any cliches or preconceptions about dance you try to correct in your teaching?

RS: I’m not currently teaching dance, but when I teach, I try to use dance to empower students to be their authentic selves.

MG: There is so much dance in the media now, and so much of it is all about tricks.  I strive to foster real artistry and human connection.

KC: What's next for you and your businesses? Do you have any exciting projects on the horizon?

RS: We are presenting LYBW at two conferences this fall. I want to continue to grow the program and share it with others. We celebrate LYBW at our studio in November, it is my favorite week of the year.

MG: Conference presentations are definitely the next big exciting project for us. Dance Educators Association of Washington in September, National Dance Education Organization in October. I am also very much looking forward to continue working with NHSDA as they take on their second year celebrating LYBW with us.

KC: How do you describe what you do for a living to people you're just meeting?

RS: Well, I’m a mental health therapist, so when I tell people what I do for a living, they often get quiet and look uncomfortable.

MG: I say that I’m a full-time dance teacher, and that I love what I do.

And now... just for funsies...

KC: Burritos or tacos?

RS: Both! On the same plate!

MG: Rachel I respect your answer.  I say either, or both, as long as it comes with guacamole.  

KC: Legwarmers or ballet skirts?

RS: Both! Legwarmers and ballet skirts are a match made in heaven. 

MG: Legwarmers.  Well, legwarmer.  I usually just wear one on the right.


KC: Disco balls or rainbows?

RS: Rainbow disco balls! (That must be a thing)

MG:Too hard to choose. Both have their own intrinsic value.  I need time outside and I love the magic of a rainbow, but I can’t say no to anything that sparkles.  

KC: Center Stage or Flashdance?

RS: Definitely Flashdance. I’m a child of the 80s. I still listen to What a Feeling when I need to get pumped up.

MG: Well I came of age in the early 2000s, so  I have to choose Center Stage. I may or may not have stayed up all night at a sleepover learning Cooper’s ballet from the end with a dance friend...I may or may not still know most of it...

KC: One word to describe yourself?

RS: Well, I can’t decide which word to pick, so maybe indecisive.

MG: Tenderhearted

Thank you SO MUCH Rachel and Mary for sharing your insights and time with me! I'm so inspired by your work and feel wonderful having found more body positivity + ballet/dance peeps! Make sure you check out All That Dance here, and the NHSDA page here

Now I want to hear from YOU! What will you be doing to encourage body love and positivity at your dance studio? Get in touch and let me know below!!