Sunday, April 29, 2012
Benefits of Being Vocal
More Audition Opportunities.
There are a lot of other men and women out there who want to dance professionally. The competition is fierce, and there are only so many parts each year for all of the dancers out there. Once you know how to sing, you can go to all of the musical theater, theme park, cruise, and other auditions that call for “dancers who sing.” This opens up your audition opportunities by the hundreds. Radio personality Elaine Paige interviewed dance choreographer Anthony Van Laast, the choreographer in the stage and film versions of Mama Mia to name just one of the many hit shows credited to his name.
Anthony told Elaine how important it is nowadays for musical theatre dancers to be able to sing as well as dance and also for singers to be able to dance. He went on to explain that with the tight budgets nowadays in the theatre and film industry, producers can no longer afford to employ dancers and singers and it is easier to get a job if you can do both.
Make More Money
Once you land a job as a dancer and a singer, you will make more money. Not only do the unions usually call for you to be paid more when you provide several talents on the set of professional productions, but there are also separate recordings that go on while you are dancing. You’ll get paid for your dancing AND your recorded voice.
Opportunity to Travel
Think about all of the great musicals and performances going on across the world. If you can sing and dance, you may find yourself doing a European tour, performing on a cruise to Greece, on location for a movie musical or television commercial, and more. While being in a dance company gives you the opportunity to perform worldwide, why not increase your chances of having more travel opportunities by learning to sing?
Express Yourself in a New Way
Sing in church, participate in holiday caroling, sing a baby to sleep, sing to music while you drive. Have fun.
And who knows? You may find that you have a fantastic voice and end up getting more work singing than dancing! Give singing a shot. You have nothing to lose, and many, many benefits to gain.
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Many ballroom, or social dancers believe that the best first exposure to a dance form, as well as the best continuing instruction, comes from the most highly specified, detailed, technical "correct" teaching. We believe this because teachers constantly tell us this. They tell us that they are the experts, that there is only one correct way to do the dance, and they know all of the exacting details of that One Way. To learn otherwise, they say, will "engender bad habits."This sounds convincing, doesn't it? Those teachers know that this approach sells, because that's what most people want to hear.
But you are confused because you know that each of your dance partners is different in a wide variety of ways... different shapes and sizes, different ways of moving, different levels of dance experience, different paces of learning, each having learned from different teachers, or from no teacher – just picking it up on the fly from their friends. Social dancing is for enjoyment, so you respect and even admire that each of their different backgrounds is valid, and you enjoy adapting to their differences.
However there are some dancers and teachers who will disagree with the validity of individuality and personal preference. They feel very strongly that theirs is the one and only Correct way to dance, and that all of the other versions are wrong. They will force their dance partners to dance in exactly their own preferred style, or they'll criticize their dancing as "incorrect."
New research shows that when we're presented with facts as absolute truths, even math and science, we tend to use them thoughtlessly, often making bad, inappropriate or limited decisions. But when we're presented with the same information in a conditional way ("Maybe it's so, but maybe it's also this other way."), we process the information, and use the information, in smarter, more effective, and more creative ways.
Someone may reasonably argue, "Sure I can be flexible later, after I learn the basics of a dance. But in that first learning, I want to do it the one correct way, with all of the precise details." And this is where Ellen J Langer and others most strongly disagree. Ellen Langer specializes in the science and psychology of learning and states that "Whenever we attempt to learn something, we rely on ways of learning that typically work to our detriment and virtually prevent the very goals we are trying to accomplish. The mind-sets we hold regarding learning more often than not encourage mindlessness, although learning requires mindful engagement with the material in question.
Mindfulness, as we use the term, is a flexible state of mind in which we are actively engaged in the present, noticing new things and sensitive to context. Instead of actively drawing new distinctions, noticing new things, as we do when we are mindful, when we are mindless we are stuck in a single, fixed perspective, and we are often oblivious to alternative ways of knowing.
Experimental research, conducted over 25 years, reveals that the costs of mindlessness, and the benefits of mindfulness, are vast and often profound. Mindfulness results in an increase in competence; a decrease in accidents; an increase in memory, creativity, a decrease in stress; and an increase in health and longevity, to name a few of the benefits.
And, as will become clear, there is power in uncertainty, yet most of us mistakenly seek certainty. Facts are typically presented as closed packages, without attention to perspective. Most of what we learn in school, at home, from television, and from nonfiction books, we may mindlessly accept because it's given to us in an unconditional form. The information is presented from a single perspective as though it is true, independent of context. It just is.
One of the "basic skills" of teachers, and all lecturers, is the ability to take a large quantity of information and present it in bite-size pieces to students. For those of us who teach, reducing and organizing information becomes second nature. But facts, whether derived from science or not, are not context-free; their meaning and usefulness depend on the situation. Virtually all of our facts depend on perspective. When we ignore perspective, we tend to confuse the stability of our mind-sets with the stability of the phenomenon. Things are constantly changing, whether we like it or not. And at any one moment they are different from different perspectives, Yet we hold them still in our minds, as if they were constant. This is a part of human nature — an especially unhelpful part.
Learning the basics in a robotic, unthinking manner almost ensures mediocrity. It also deprives learners of maximizing their own potential for more effective performance and for enjoyment of the activity. Consider tennis. At tennis camp I was taught exactly how to hold my racket and toss the ball when serving. We were all taught the same. When I later watched the U.S. Open, I noticed that none of the top players served the way I was taught, and, more important, each of them served differently. And each one varied their own technique to adjust to their different competitors.
The key to this better way of teaching is based on an appreciation of the conditional nature of the world and the value of uncertainty. Teaching skills and facts in a conditional way sets the stage for doubt, and an awareness of how different situations may call for subtle differences in what we bring to them. Here's a quote from Gilda Radner, as she was dealing with cancer: "I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity."
I've been teaching dance conditionally, not absolutely, for decades. But not because of Langer's research. It's because conditional uncertainty is the greater truth of social dance. I've always presented social dance as, "This can work, but another way can also work," because that's the essential truth. The lesson I give my students in their very first week is, "If it doesn't work out one way, it will work out some other way." It's only recently that I've come across Langer's research that shows that conditional teaching also helps people learn better, use information more effectively, and creatively, with fewer mistakes, and enjoy it more. In their first week of learning a dance, they discover that if a move doesn't work out in their expected way, it will work out in another cool way. And they can come up with those ways themselves.
This approach also leads to increased self-confidence. Dance taught me that. Arthur Murray also said that dance taught him self-confidence, back when he was a shy uncertain young man. Do you ever lie awake at night worrying that things won't work out the one way that you believe they must? Or oppositely, do you know that if it doesn't work out one way, it will work out some other way, and you get a good night's sleep? This way you worry less, and you're open to new paths when they present themselves. This is a significant part of self-confidence — knowing that you can make things work out for yourself and friends, one way or another. This also helps us look at life freshly, as it is, and as it's always changing.
To quote Helen Keller, " When one door of happiness closes, another opens - but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us." We need to welcome chance intrusions into our expectations. Beyond dancing, wanting life to go exactly as you wish it, and wanting people to behave just as you want them to, is violating a basic tenet of life. If you have that response, you will find yourself fighting losing battles all of your life.People are going to be the way they are. Do you want to spend your life fighting that? Or wouldn't you prefer to find ways to appreciate and enjoy the great variety of opinions, personalities, knowledge that other people present to you?
Monday, April 16, 2012
“The Astaires: Fred and Adele is a page-turner of a biography, briskly written and immaculately researched. Author Kathleen Riley has, among other things, been given access to audio recordings of Adele Astaire that allow her to tell her story with an authority uncommon in modern biographies. This is an excellent work, well worth reading.”
Sunday, April 15, 2012
What usually leads people to choose one school over another is either a future job opportunity with the school's company or quality of training. Before you send your daughter(or son) off to a professional ballet school, you should make sure he/she knows his or her goal. There are many things that you, as a parent, should be aware of, so that you may help your child make the right choice.
Too few schools offer in-house educational programs. Most schools will help you enroll your child in a nearby high school, or they will help you arrange independent study. Regardless of what your child's goal is a dancer, they should never be permitted to neglect their studies. Things don't always work out in dance, no matter how talented you are. The average retirement age of a dancer is thirty. Your child should not be limited to teaching ballet or choreography after retirement.
Company Hiring Practices.
Just because your dancer is a student at an official school, and quite possibly has been for several years, doesn't mean a guaranteed job opportunity. Most companies do hire from their school, but some only do so as a technicality; a student will be brought in for one year, or less, so that at hiring time, the company can show that they do, indeed, hire from their official school.
One simple way you can check is by reviewing the company's roster of dancers. A dancer's training is most always included in their individual biography information. You can compare the number of dancers who have trained at the company's official school, to those who have not, and come up with their hiring ratio. Remember, just because the official school has put their stamp on a dancer, does not mean the dancer was brought up through the school. As an outsider, it is hard to find these things out, but there are ways. Ask around, you and your dancer have the right to know.
If your dancer's previous training matches the bulk of the company's rep, there is a greater likelihood of success. A well rounded dance education is very important for today's young dancer; contemporary, jazz, ballroom, and flamenco are just some of the things you can supplement your dancer's training with. There are also non-dance activities that are invaluable to a young dancer's growth.
Aside from school-run student shows, most companies use students in their largest productions as dancers, supernumeraries, and understudies. For dancing roles, girls are often used more than boys, because of the larger amount of girls needed for a specific production, but they are typically last-cast. An example of such an occasion is a story ballet: The Nutcracker; it has many more dancing parts for girls. In most cases, girls gain solid stage dancing experience early on starting around sixteen. Boys, however, do not. They are often used as extras, but that is not valid experience. The best thing to prepare a young dancer for dancing on stage, is believe or not, dancing on stage. Classes alone at a professional school are not enough. Lack of experience can greatly hinder a dancer's career, especially when the dancer has been at an official school for many years, and is not hired by it's company.
Curricula vary from school to school. Some have very well rounded programs that include several forms dance, music, and acting, and by contrast, some offer only a few forms of dance. Choosing the right professional school depends on your dancer's ultimate goal.
Every professional school should have both merit scholarship and financial-aid programs. Boys tend to receive scholarships more often than girls do, although the latter is not unheard of.
Some schools have year-round, fully-staffed student dormitories which include cafeteria meal-plans, but most do not. As you know, cost-of-living varies greatly from city to city, state to state. Some dancers are ready to live on their own in apartments at an early age, but many are not. You don't have to have danced to help your child along in the path they have chosen. They might think they know everything there is to know about what they do, but it is to their benefit that you know some things too.
Saturday, April 14, 2012
The word ballerina describes the female dancer who occupies the top position in a ballet company. Historically, attempts to rate the best of these soloists has created the rank of prima ballerina, which means the first dancer in Italian. It is believed that less than 100 ballerinas have achieved this rank.
There’s even a higher title, 'Prima Ballerina Sssoluta' (absolute first dancer), which has been bestowed only upon a dozen performers. It is unclear who has the authority to award this title, which is more recognition than official rank, and why Anna Pavlova, still regarded by many as the most famous ballerina ever, is not among the 11 ‘assolutas.’ The 5 names selected here are all legendary artists. Their selection is not intended as a “top 5” list, but my personal choice of the greatest, most influential ballerinas in history.
List of Prima Ballerina Assolutas in Chronological Order
Pierina Legnani - Imperial Russia, 1893
Mathilde Kschessinska - Imperial Russia, 1906
Alicia Markova - United Kingdom, 1933
Galina Ulanova - USSR, 1944
Alicia Alonso - Cuba, 1959
Maya Plisetskaya - USSR, 1960
Eva Evdokimova - USA, 1976
Margot Fonteyn - United Kingdom, 1979
Anneli Alhanko - Sweden, 1984
Phyllis Spira - South Africa, 1984
Alessandra Ferri - Italy, 1992
My List of the 5 Most Influencial
Anna Pavlova(1881 – 1931) was the first great ballerina of the Russian school of classical ballet and the first worldwide star. Born in St. Petersburg, she studied at the Imperial Ballet School, making her debut in 1899. She became Mariinsky Theatre’s prima ballerina in 1906 and the following year made her first tour abroad. In 1908, Pavlova danced briefly with Diaghilev’s itinerant Ballets Russes. In 1911, she moved to London, where she lived the rest of her life.
Pavlova started her own company and toured extensively on all continents. Before air transportation was available, she was seen by millions in Brazil, Australia, China, Japan, India, South Africa, Egypt or the United States (five tours). She died of pleurisy three weeks before turning 50 while on tour in The Hague, Netherlands. Pavlova changed the perception on how a ballerina should look — from the strong, muscular, compact body popular at the turn of the century, to the delicate, frail look required by romantic roles like Giselle. Her masterpiece, The Dying Swan brought audiences to tears everywhere.
Ulanova was born in St. Petersburg and she studied there under renowned teacher Aggripina Vaganova. In 1928, she joined the Mariinsky Theater. An intellectual, a perfectionist and a wonderful actor inspired by the great Constantin Stanislavsky (of the Method school of acting fame), Ulanova created ravishing, complex performances that made one British critic claim: ‘My memories of Ulanova are, to me, a part of life itself, bringing a total enrichment of experience. To me, hers are not theatrical miracles but triumphs of human spirit. She is so completely identified with the character she impersonates that nothing outside exists.’ Brought by Stalin to the Bolshoi in 1944, Ulanova danced until 1962. Because of World War II, then the Cold War, the West couldn’t see Ulanova in her prime. She was 46 when she performed in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in London, receiving, according to the British press, ‘the greatest triumph of any individual dancer since Pavlova.’
Fonteyn (stage name changed from Fontes, her mother’s father name) joined the Vic-Wells Ballet School, the precursor of the Royal Ballet School, at 14, studying with Ninette de Valois, the ‘godmother’ of English ballet. At 20, she was already a prima ballerina, with principal roles in ‘Giselle,’ ‘Swan Lake’ and ‘The Sleeping Beauty’. Her performances with the Royal Ballet during the 1949 tour made her a star in the US. Fonteyn, then 30 years old, stunned the audience in the Metropolitan Opera House with her performance as Princess Aurora in ‘The Sleeping Beauty,’ her most memorable classical portrayal, wrote the New York Times.
Margot is known worldwide as the greatest ballerina ever. Others have had better technical skill, but Margot had amazing timing, precision and a quality that cannot be taught - presence. atching her, you can notice the way she becomes the role, not just dances it and the joy of performing.
Cinderella, 1953. Watch as she magically appears to float across the room at 1:15 in the video.
Knighted in 1956, Fonteyn was 43 when she first danced with Nureyev in 1962, who was 24. Instead of retiring, as people expected, she made the second part of her career a smashing international triumph. The onstage chemistry and ‘almost tangible sexual tension’ between the two produced memorable performances of ‘Marguerite and Armand,’ ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ ‘Les Sylphides,’ which inspired repeated curtain calls and
Alicia Alonso (1920) is a Cuban ballerina highly regarded for her convincing portrayals of leading roles in the great works of classical and Romantic ballet. She was best known for her lively, precise ‘Giselle’ and for her sensual, tragic ‘Carmen.’ Alonso is a miracle not just for her exceptional qualities as a ballerina, but because she was practically blind throughout almost her entire career, the result of a detached retina. Born in Havana, she took flamenco lessons in early childhood in Spain, then started ballet at eight with Sophie Fedorova, a former dancer with the Bolshoi and Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Married early to a fellow ballet student, she moved to New York where she trained at the School of American Ballet and took private classes with Alexandra Fedorova. She danced with George Balanchine's company and the American Ballet Theatre, then toured as a guest dancer forming a great partnership with Igor Youskevitch. In 1948 she founded the Alicia Alonso Ballet Company in Cuba, which was renamed Ballet de Cuba in 1955, then National Ballet of Cuba in 1959, after Fidel Castro took power.
In the late 1950s Alonso was the first ballerina from the West to dance with the Bolshoi and Kirov ballets in Moscow and St. Petersburg (Leningrad). She did not perform again in the US until 1975, when she was still in exceptional shape. In 2002 the United Nations Educational,, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) named her Goodwill Ambassador for ‘outstanding contribution to the development, preservation and popularization of classical dance.’
Plisetskaya’s signature part was ‘The Dying Swan,’ created in 1905 for Pavlova by Michel Fokine to music by Camille Saint-Saens. Plisetskaya danced this role more than 20,000 times in 50 years. Watching her on youtube.com, a viewer exclaimed with more eloquence than any critic: "she’s the only dancer who has wings, not arms!"
Plisetskaya was born in Moscow in a Jewish family with theatrical and ballet heritage on her mother’s side. Maya was 9 when she entered the Bolshoi Ballet School, 12 when her father was arrested and executed, victim of Stalin’s purges, and her mother was sent to a gulag in Kazakhstan. Adopted by an aunt, Plisetskaya returned illegally to Moscow to continue her studies,and, in 1943, joined the Bolshoi, where she rehearsed some roles with the great Vaganova.
Because of her background, Plisetskaya wasn’t allowed to travel abroad when the Bolshoi went to London in 1956, or Japan and Argentina in 1957. Apparently she was cleared to travel to the West after Aleksandr Shelepin replaced Ivan Serov as KGB chief, and she became instantly an international star when Sol Hurok brought the Bolshoi, with Plisetskaya, to the US for the first time in 1959. The year before she had married composer Rodion Schedrin, with whom she worked on several productions beginning in 1967. The rest of her
Maya as The Dying Swan, age 61 This performance is more physically and emotionally taxing than almost any other to me. Not only do you have to remain n pointe, but express yourself as a swan who is living her final minutes. Maya captures that beautifully, 2nd only to Pavlova in my opinion.
Sunday, April 8, 2012
While you may think you only need to know a certain style, such as hip hop, for this sort of work, diversity and versatility is key. When you show up to audition for a rap video, everyone is going to know how to dance in a hip hop style. What else do you have to offer? In addition, classical training in ballet, tap, and jazz will improve your overall understanding of technique, such as proper body alignment.
Although an agent is not required to secure backup dancing jobs, having one can be invaluable in supporting your career. He can negotiate contracts, guide you to available auditions and ensure that you are properly paid for your work. However, dancers should realize that an agent will have dozens if not hundreds of clients, and is not solely responsible for their success. If you want someone to devote herself totally to you, then you're really looking for a personal manager rather than an agent. In addition, dancers should use caution in selecting an agent. Be wary of agencies that approach you. Most agencies have enough potential clients without seeking out more. They typically take on new dancers through a formal audition process or by accepting headshots and resumes. You should also avoid agencies that ask you to pay upfront for services. Agents should get paid when they find you work, by receiving an established percentage of your income from dance.
Auditions offer you a chance to show casting directors what you have to offer. You need to arrive ready to perform, with a headshot and full body photograph, if requested. The term "cattle call" is often used to refer to large-scale auditions with hundreds of dancers hoping for their chance. Dancers with agents may be able to secure a spot in smaller, more exclusive casting calls. If you are successful, it can be a long day of callbacks as you progress from one stage of the audition process to the next. No matter what technical skills you bring to the dance floor, backup dancing also requires a certain amount of style. Overall, this can be the personality and spirit that you bring to your dancing, showing everyone that you love what you're doing and you feel the beat of the music.
On another level, this also means presenting the right style for a particular performance. If you look too casual or too chic for the director's vision, audition staff may not even give you a second glance. Experienced dancers even recommend bringing additional clothes with you, including shoes, so you can make last-minute changes once you've had a chance to scope out the audition scene.
Backup dancing is hard work, and what may seem like a constantly exciting job can get tedious and boring. If you're working on a video, you may spend the entire shoot repeating the same 30 seconds of moves. You will also likely work long days and nights, with lots of time sitting around waiting for your turn in front of the camera. Dancing for tours is the best way to secure steady, well-paying work. However, this also means going on tour, which can have its own downsides. Nonetheless, despite the difficulties, there's nothing quite like getting paid to do what you love.
Los Angeles and New York City are the key locations for backup dancing gigs. Serious dancers have more opportunities if they relocate to one of these cities.
Backstage Has numerous job/audition listings.
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Teaching your own child can be a challenging task. Many parent-teachers struggle to find the balance between being the mother of a child whose skills they are uniquely proud of and being the teacher of a classroom filled with students they have to treat equally. But a few key strategies can make the pleasure of teaching your child far outweigh the added stress.
Teacher vs. Mom
For mothers who double as teachers, the first step toward avoiding conflict is helping your child differentiate between you in “teacher mode” and you in “mom mode.” Mary Price Boday, an associate professor at Oklahoma City University’s Ann Lacey School of American Dance and Arts Management and the coordinator of the school’s American Dance Teacher Pedagogy Program, suggests beginning when the child is young with a conversation that draws the distinction between you as mother and you as teacher.
“Explain to your daughter that she is one of the students, and when she’s in the room it’s not mommy and daughter anymore, it’s teacher and student,” Boday says. “Mommy and daughter time is afterwards.” In fact, scheduling a specific “mommy-daughter” outing soon after class—a trip to the ice cream stand or the bookstore—can help younger children differentiate between “teacher mom” and “mom mom.” Bevalie Pritchard, the school mistress and principal teacher at the Orlando Ballet School, found this method to be highly successful when teaching her two daughters. “Eventually, they separated me as mommy from me as teacher, almost as if I were two different people,” she says.
Separate, But Not Equal
Isolation from peers is also common among the children of dance teachers, because it is hard for them to define themselves as individuals in their mother’s presence. Boday had trouble with her daughter who, as a teenager, developed an attitude about the other students in class. “Our late-night dinner conversations would be my daughter asking what was wrong with everyone else in the class,” Boday says. “‘Why didn’t you correct this? Why didn’t you try to fix that?’ She kept herself separated from all the other students because of it.”
According to Boday, children of dance teachers often feel overshadowed by their parents, and they have a tendency to think that things should go their way because they are the teacher’s child. In this case, Boday eased that tension by explaining the rationale behind when and how she made corrections in class. “I told my daughter that if I corrected every single thing that every single person did wrong, nobody would get anything done and everyone would have a flattened ego,” Boday says. “So I picked only the most important things to correct.” Boday also suggests preventing isolation from peers by making the rules the same for everybody and sticking to them. “It’s not always possible, but if you can, make it so that everyone has the same part and no one is going to be a soloist,” says Boday. “That way it’s easier for your child to feel equal to the other students, and they in turn don’t view your child as a threat or someone they are jealous of.”
Look at Me!
That same need to define themselves as individuals can also cause teacher’s children to engage in attention-seeking behaviors. Tracy Solomon, director of The Dothan School of Dance, found this was the case with her daughter Ashlie. “Ashlie wanted to be friends with everybody,” says Solomon. “But it was hard for her because I was there in class clamping down on her. She would resent that and, as retaliation, disobey the rules.”
On one particularly harrowing day, Solomon asked Ashlie to leave class because she was disrupting the barre routine. A few minutes later, Solomon looked out the window and saw that Ashlie was right outside of the studio, ostentatiously continuing her barre on the porch. For Solomon, the problem was frustrating on a number of levels. Not only did Ashlie misbehave so frequently that Solomon had to ask her to leave class at least once a week, but Solomon was also disappointed by the fact that Ashlie was wasting time making scenes and therefore not living up to her potential. “I expected her to be everything that I knew she could be, and when she would clown around or not try a hundred percent, it would really ruffle my feathers,” Solomon says. “It was hard to treat her the same as any other child because my expectations for her were higher.”
Boday acknowledges the difficulty of tempering your expectations for your child and recommends actively “checking” yourself as a parent. “You have to have a mental conversation with yourself,” says Boday. “Say, ‘I’m invested in every student that walks through the door.’ You have to give each and every person the same amount of yourself, your child included.” Solomon found that giving Ashlie additional responsibilities as she got older also led her to be more attentive in class. “I would give her younger group dances to choreograph and also let her teach some pre-ballet classes,” Solomon says. “It helped her realize how important it is that teachers demand attention and attentiveness and that the students follow the rules.” Experiencing the challenges of being a teacher will help your child understand the decisions you make in class.
The More Teachers, the Merrier
Giving your child the opportunity to study under other teachers—both at your own studio and over the summer, if possible—is also helpful. “It’s important for your child to have the opportunity to learn from others along the way, so that you aren’t her only idea of what a teacher is,” Pritchard says. According to Boday, working with different teachers will also help your child respect and enjoy the classes she takes with you more, since you will no longer be her only dance authority figure. And summer programs, if affordable, can be even more beneficial. “Sometimes the children of teachers love dance, but they haven’t really buckled down because it’s their mom at the front of the classroom,” says Boday. “Then, when they go away to a summer program, they get so excited about the progress they’ve made that they’re more serious when they come back.”
Solomon hired another teacher to teach Ashlie’s classes during her junior and senior years of high school. “She finally realized that dance class was serious, not just a place to goof off,” Solomon says. “Her junior and senior years were when she buckled down and realized that she wanted to do this as a career.” Even with the challenges, most teachers agree that the experience of teaching one’s own child is priceless. “Watching them grow up is the most exciting thing in the world,” says Pritchard. “Now we’re closer because of it.”
Abby Margulies is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn.
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Ballroom Dance is great fun and benefits you psysically and socially as well. There are 3 types - Social, Competitive and Exhibition. Which one is better? , potential students ask. The answer is that all three forms are valid, each enjoyed by their adherents for good reasons. But it's helpful to know how and why they differ from each other.
First, what is Ballroom Dance? Ballroom dance usually refers to traditional partnered dance forms that are done by a couple, often in the embrace of closed dance position ("ballroom dance position"). These include waltz, swing, tango and salsa. "Ballroom dance" is the overall umbrella term, covering all three forms discussed on this page. Social/ballroom dance forms are important. The earliest dance forms ever described in detail (15th century) were social, partnered dances. Many of today's performative dance forms, including ballet, jazz and hip hop, evolved from social dance forms that came first.
The three worlds of ballroom dance share the same historical roots, similar step vocabulary and music, so the three forms are considered siblings, related by birth. Yes, siblings are known to fight, but they can also be mutually supportive.
What is the essential difference between the three? The main distinction is that they have different audiences.
Who are you dancing for, beyond your own enjoyment?
Social Ballroom -Your partner
Competitive Ballroom (DanceSport) -The Judges,
Exhibition Ballroom - An Audience
What are your audience's expectations?
Social -Your partners want to interact with you spontaneously, for fun, doing steps that also work well for them.
Competitive - Judges want to see that the steps and styles are done precisely and correctly, with great flair.
Exhibition - Audiences want to be entertained, often with a preference for beautiful and/or impressive moves.
Social Ballroom - Sociable, i.e., friendly and kind. Flexibly adaptive. You value and accommodate to styles that are different from your own.
Competitive - Rigorously correct, expansive. Styles outside of the official syllabus are usually considered "incorrect.
Exhibition - It varies widely, depending on the dance form.
Your own reward?
Social - The spontaneous enjoyment of dancing with a partner. The satisfaction of becoming proficient in a dance form. Self confidence.
Competing. - Impressing others. Winning. The satisfaction of becoming proficient in a dance form. Self confidence.
Exhibition - Entertaining or impressing others, enthusiastic applause. The satisfaction of becoming proficient in a dance form. Self confidence.
Standardization of Steps and Technique?
Social - Standardization doesn't function because each partner is different. You must modify your steps and style to adapt to each partner.
Competitive - Rigorously standardized, because competitors need to know exactly what technical details the judges want to see.
Exhibition - In today's sampling culture ("been there, seen that") audiences prefer something they've never seen before.
Standardization of Style?
Social - You develop your own personal style, different from others. Some social forms like swing, tango and salsa especially discourage copying other's styles.
Competitive - You are trained to copy the style of champions before you, working hard to imitate every nuance of that standardized style.
Exhibition - Styles may be unique to the choreographer, thus not standardized, but the performing group usually works on copying and mastering that one style.
Social - No. You make it up as you go along, often based on what the Follow is doing at the moment, and what occurs to the Lead spontaneously. Both Lead and Follow engage in a highly active attention to possibilities.
Competitive - Yes. Competitors usually perform choreographed routines that they have rehearsed. An exception is Jack and Jill competitions, usually in WCS and Lindy hop, with a partner that one has not danced with before.
Exhibition - Yes. Exhibitions are usually choreographed and rehearsed. Furthermore group routines often have everyone dancing in unison. But improvised exhibitions and competitions do exist, especially in swing, tango and blues.
Social - Yes, continually, in both Lead and Follow roles. Increasing your opportunities for split-second decision-making increases your neuronal complexity.
Competitive - Usually not. Most decisions have been made by others, first in providing a restricted syllabus of acceptable steps, then often in choreographing the routine for you. You work mostly on style.
Exhibition - Not often. Most decisions have usually been made by the choreographers. But that's what competitors and performers usually prefer, so this isn't a problem at all. .
Of the three forms, which one is best? It depends on you. Dancers usually have a preference for the one that especially suits their personality. It's important to know the differences for the following three reasons:
To recognize which form(s) best match your personality. It essentially comes down to knowing yourself, and finding the right match for you.
To avoid the unfortunate mistake of applying the rules and attitudes of one form to another.
This isn't just an abstract differentiation — the repercussions can be serious. For instance, occasionally a ballroom dancer (usually a man) pedantically insists that his partner conform to competitive stylistic details at an informal social dance, "You're doing it wrong. You have to do it my way," resulting in the offensive contradiction of antisocial behavior at a social event. Conversely, socially adapting to your partner's mis-step at a competition may eliminate you from that round. Both forms are equally valid, but they have very different attitudes, which you should always keep in mind.
Some dancers do both social and competitive dancing, or all three forms, and many of them are wonderfully adept at knowing which attitudes are appropriate for each. At a social dance, they're friendly, spontaneously adaptive, and warmly supportive of their partner's differing style. Then they are rigorously correct and expansive when competing. It's important to be clear on the differences.
To sharpen your ability to spot potentially deceptive marketing practices. As Juliet McMains points out in her eloquent book Glamour Addiction, some (not all) ballroom studios attempt to change the minds of students who arrive wishing to learn social ballroom dance: Primarily because teaching competitive ballroom dance has proved to be so much more profitable than teaching social dance, the industry rhetoric implies that social ballroom dancing is merely poorly executed DanceSport. Students usually embark on a social dance program with the expectation that they will take a few lessons, learn how to dance, then leave the studio in a month or two.
From a business perspective, studios and teachers are deeply invested in altering this plan. If a teacher can sell a student on competition dancing, their student will have to spend years taking dance lessons to master the difficult competition technique. Very few students enter the studio as aspiring competitors. It is only through calculated encouragement by their personal dance teacher that new students are persuaded to enter categories of competition, initiating them into the DanceSport lifestyle.
Another deceptive practice that occasionally occurs is intentional bait-and-switch — marketing a series of classes in competition ballroom technique as "social dance." The two are not the same thing, at all. In addition to the differences in technique and attitude, the motivations of social and competitive ballroom dance are quite different as well. U.S. Ballroom Dance Champion Stephen Hannah described the competitive motivation this way: "You must want to go to the very top and be the very best dancer. You must be able to use your time [to practice] seven days a week without allowing any other influences to interfere."
Dance studios know that many of their customers are seeking easygoing social dancing for pleasure, not the daily hard work to master competitive styling, so some (not all) studios attempt to give the misimpression that competitive and social ballroom dance are the same thing. Quoting McMains again, "Such attempts to emphasize continuity between these two groups, and downplay the chasm between social and competitive ballroom dance, represents a crucial apparatus of the Glamour Machine."
Yes, there is a chasm between the two forms. The differences are immense. Each form has some benefits and advantages that the other two don't have, but that doesn't mean that one is "better" overall than the others. They're all good. Find the one which speaks to you. Value others' truths. Overall, social, competition and exhibition ballroom dance are all driven by a love of partnered dance. We may each have our preferences – that's only natural – but there is no need to dismiss anyone who doesn't share our preferences. Let's save our criticisms for people who are doing true harm in the world, not for someone whose passions merely differ from our own.
Monday, April 2, 2012
Spring is here, and it’s time for a fresh start. What better way than to set fresh goals? For dancers, goals can be anything from nailing a new "trick", to perfecting a technique, to getting a role, or advancing in class levels. In life, creating goals is a process that requires much thought and motivation. In your life, work and relationships, it is not only an opportunity to take a closer, more in-depth look, into what you want to achieve, but even more,goals require constant attention and action.
To borrow a concept from the business world, a dancer's goals or any life goals should be "SMART" - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time framed.
GOAL SETTING TIPS
1. Your goals should reflect your dreams, values and passions.
2. Identify goals that you truly want to accomplish (not what you think will sound good to others).
3. Goal setting is for you. Share it only with family or friends you know will be supportive and encouraging.
4. You can have as many goals as you want.
5. Goals should be specific and measurable so you will know when you accomplish them.
6. Dreams and goals should be reviewed often.
7. Dreams and goals may change so adjust them over time.
8. The secret to accomplishing your goals is to write them down and review often.
The Specific Purpose of the Goal
First, your goals should be specific. This means, rather than saying "I want to get better at pirouettes," start your goal with "I want to achieve a clean, triple pirouette." By using specific terms (clean, triple), the goal becomes something tangible. Simply saying you want to get better at something does not constitute a goal, since getting better is objective and isn't easily determined to be achieved.
Setting goals helps keep life in balance, but one really important question to ask yourself is: Why do I want to make this my goal? Goals create momentum and when achieved, they give us a great sense of accomplishment. However, not all goals are good goals. The selection process in goal setting is an important one. A goal is good if it is the right fit. Finding the reasons behind the goals is just as important as creating the goal itself. In his book,"How Do I Set Goals That Work?"Tim Brownson suggests that intrinsic motivation is better for goal setting than extrinsic. Finding what is important and what will bring a greater sense of joy rather than what other people expect. Tim mentions the following as being good reasons for setting goals: "I want to leave a legacy, I want the world to be a better place for me having been here, I want to set a great example for my kids, I want to be able to leave my 9 to 5 job to spend more time with my family, and lastly I want to align with my own core values. These are all great reasons to set a goal." To get a clearer sense of what you hope to obtain from goal setting, make a list of the values that are important to you. This will set the stage for goal setting.
In the example above, a triple pirouette is measurable Losing 10 pounds is measurable. Saving $5 a month so that you can purchase a certain dress or pair of shoes is measurable. Having a set goal that you can measure in steps makes it easier to achieve.
Achievable and Realistic Goals
Your goals should be achievable and realistic, in that they should coincide with your abilities and current class levels. If you're a dance beginner, set a goal to master one of the new skills you are learning, such as a time step in tap or a tendu sequence in ballet. Don't try to aim for unrealistic goals outside of your skill and level range. It is better to set a goal that you can realistically achieve, but one that will take hard work and determination in order to reach.
For life goals, Robert Choat suggests. "Once you have the end in mind, then plan backwards."An important rule in goal setting is to make goals that can be reached as well as important to you. It is great to dream big, but if that seems too daunting, try to set smaller goals that are achievable. For long-term goals, use the system of breaking them down into smaller steps to make them more achievable. Being able to reach a goal is a huge accomplishment that can give great satisfaction. However, don't be afraid to make mistakes along the way. Mistakes can be great catalysts for finding a new way of thinking. They can help reveal answers that weren't present before. Tim Brownson said, "“The surest way to fail is to adopt the belief that it isn’t ok to fail.” Failing and taking risks is a part of life and goal setting.
Time Framed Goals And One at a Time
The final component of your goal is a time frame. For example, you could say "I want to achieve a clean, triple pirouette by April 1st," or "I want to achieve a clean, triple pirouette before my summer intensive audition." This goal is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time framed. It gives a specific end date, and puts a timeline on your preparation.
Write down your goal in a place that you can refer to it often. It can be in a journal, in a notebook where you take notes for classes or write down choreography, on a piece of paper tucked into your dance bag, or on the mirror in your bedroom where you get ready for dance class. This will help you to keep sight of your goal or goals as you go through the dance season.
In life, set time frames. Be aware of the time and effort it will take to reach a specific objective, and include this in the description of the goal.
A long-term checklist is a great tool for keeping goals in perspective and keeping efforts moderate and realistic. Work on accomplishing major objectives in a realistic time period, and ensure that each goal gets the amount of attention it needs to be reached successfully. Check off each step that you complete to reach your ultimate goal.
When you achieve your long-term goal, you can set one for the next year. It is important not to get discouraged if you do not meet your goal in the time frame you set. Examine the goal again, and determine how to make it better. Maybe you need a longer time frame, or maybe you need to adjust your expectations a bit. Either way, discussing your goals with your instructor can help you to make sure your goals fit the SMART criteria, and press you to work hard during the dance season.
Review your goal(s) After you have decided on your goal and written it down, tell your teachers and classmates. This helps you to be accountable for your goals, but it also gives you a support system. If you are working on a particular technique or step, your teacher can give you pointers and guide you to achieve it.
Be careful not to overload yourself with numerous goals. Set at least 2 goals for yourself: something you want to achieve by the end of the year (or end of the dance season, or at your annual recital), and then set a goal that you want to achieve in the next 1-2 months. Once you achieve your short-term goal, you can set another one and continue to update your goals every month.
In life, review a plan for reaching a goal every so often. See if the plan is on schedule, or if the plan needs to be reevaluated to take new situations into account. Looking at the steps of a plan can alert individuals to any problems in the plan, as well as any areas of a plan that have been neglected.
Choose a small reward for each completed step of a goal, such as a spa day, a trip to the movies or a fancy dinner. Rewards are a great tool for keeping motivation strong and improve the odds of successfully reaching an goal.
Setting and reaching goals can be a big challenge for many people. However, ensuring that goals are reasonable, well planned and specific can make the challenge manageable. Know what skills are needed and reward each success along the way to help make reaching any goal easier.
As you continue your journey with goal setting use this visualization exercise provided by Tim Brownson, "Sit in your favorite chair and take several deep breaths. Make sure the exhale is about 50% longer than the inhale and allow yourself to relax, When you are well chilled really imagine with all your senses. the more you visualize success, the more progress you will make.
Preparing for Setbacks
Small failures, roadblocks and setbacks are part of working on a goal. Errors and delays are common and can be frustrating for individuals. However, anticipating setbacks and coming up with alternate plans can help individuals deal with achievement problems. For example, prepare for a week of vacation by planning meals in advance to avoid over-eating when trying to lose weight.
Avoid feeling as though a temporary failure or setback makes any goal unreachable. Roadblocks on the path to reaching a goal can test an individual’s resilience, creativity and ability to cope with disappointment; learning these skills can also help individuals as they strive to reach other objectives in the future.
Overall, goals can lead to many great things in your llife as a dancer, in relationships, at school. etc. More importantly, these great things are set in motion by you.
Brownson, Tim, "How Do I Set Goals That Work?"
Choat, Robert, "New Year's Resolutions Are Simply an Illusion and What Really Works"