BDC Works: Richard Bowman

 

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We recently sat down with BDC Ballet Faculty member Richard Bowman for a Q & A session, and here’s what he had to say.

What was your training like growing up?

I started dancing when I was six years old. My mother was a dancer with the Royal New Zealand Ballet and my father was the company manager at that time. They settled in Auckland and my mother decided to put me into ballet class. When I was 14, I went to the Royal Academy of Dance’s International summer school in Wellington, New Zealand. They had teachers from the Royal Academy of Dance and The Royal Ballet. It was the first time I had been in a class with just boys, and being taught by a male teacher, as well.

At the end of the International Summer School one of the ballet masters was very interested in my potential.  I was invited the following year to the International Summer School in Brisbane, Australia. There I was offered me full scholarship to the Royal Ballet School in London. After training there for two years I was offered a position in Vienna at the Volksoper. Shortly thereafter I auditioned for the Vienna State Opera Ballet, during my time with  the Vienna State Opera I was offered a position as a soloist with the Royal New Zealand Ballet.

While performing in New Zealand, I decided I needed to learn more about my profession so I returned to Europe. I accepted a contract as a soloist with the Leipzig Ballet under the direction of Uwe Scholtz.

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How did your mother affect your career?

She was the basis for my training from the time I was a child until I went to London. She is a wonderful children’s teacher.

Who has been the most inspiring person throughout your career?

As a dancer one of the most inspiring teachers that I ever had was Jiahong Wang (Mr. Wang). I trained with him in the Royal Ballet School in London and years later when I was joined the Australian Ballet he was a ballet master. It was great to work with him as a student and then a professional dancer. His wealth of knowledge was unbelievable. As a teacher there have been so many teachers who have inspired me. Most recently was David Howard.

Can you tell us about the ABT® National Training Curriculum?

My experience with the ABT NTC is that it is a wonderful set of guidelines that aims to assist all teachers in training dance students in how to use their bodies correctly, it focuses on kinetics and coordination, as well as anatomy and proper body alignment. Artistically, the National Training Curriculum strives to provide dance students with a rich knowledge of classical ballet technique and the ability to adapt to all styles and techniques of dance.

untitled14What do you see dancers falter on the most?

I see dancers falter on their posture. It is a bad habit, which can be corrected with good training.

What is your advice for preparing for an audition?

You need to be in shape. Get plenty of sleep the night before. You have to be at the top of your game when you walk in that door. You also have to look like you came out of bandbox. You have to look like you’re a million dollars in other words. You can’t have dirty shoes, holes in your tights. Your hair and makeup have to be perfect. If I am auditioning somebody my first impression is what I see. That’s a tough lesson to learn. Make sure that you are prepared for whatever is going to be thrown at you. If you are going for a ballet audition, ladies make sure to have a couple pairs of pointe shoes ready to go. Make sure that you’re prepared to maybe even show a variation. You should have one already prepared in the back of your mind that you have been rehearsing. It has happened to me before out of the blue. They needed to see a variation. “Do you have music?” Sometimes it’s necessary since directors may want to see you outside of a classroom situation. Be prepared for anything.

What has been the most challenging obstacle for you in this business?

Trying to make sure as a teacher that I help and connect with every single person in the room.

Do you still take class? What kind of styles?

I would take class if I had time, but my schedule is very full at the moment. I used to take class maybe two or three times a week but recently it has become harder. I think it’s important to take other styles depending on what you are looking for. It doesn’t matter what style of a dancer you are, ballet class sets you up for every other genre. It’s a very good foundation for all dancers.untitled15

Can you tell us about the dance school you and your wife opened?

When I retired from performing full time with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre we moved to California and opened our own school. It was an amazing experience. A few years later my wife and I were invited to direct and manage an already established school and we were able to help turn the school around and make it very successful. In 2011, my wife was appointed the assistant principal of the Jackie Onassis School at ABT. Where I also teach now.

Do you have any upcoming projects?

Yes, I do! I will be teaching at BDC this summer, as well as the American Ballet Theatre Summer Intensive in NYC.

What would you say is the biggest change you’ve seen over the years in dancers?

Over the decades, I find that the dancers are stronger now than they have ever been before. One thing I find that is missing is there are not many storytellers out there anymore. I see lots fantastic dancers who have difficulty portraying their characters. Imagination has a lot to do with that. What I mean is its not just about the steps, you actually have to become the character, a good way to work on this is to encourage dancers to think about what they are doing and why they are doing it. I think that’s where the fun part comes in. If you can’t have fun then you cannot act or portray roles. Then it becomes very superficial.

Which of your projects are you most proud of?

My passion is training good dancers, so I try to be proud of every project I do.

How has your teaching experience been at BDC?

I really love teaching here. It’s a positive experience and always filled with energetic people who want to learn and that makes it fun.

BDC Works: Cecilia Marta

For years, Cecilia Marta has given students a taste of her culture in her classes at Broadway Dance Center.

As a Native Panamanian, Cecilia grew up in a one- bedroom apartment with seven other family members. Dancing, music, and drumming were a way of life, and her community and family instilled within her a sense of love and stability that is still with her today. Before coming to America, she knew nothing about our dance culture, and her eyes quickly opened to a whole new world. She eventually traveled all over the world and learned more about herself and her movement.
marta_cecelia_interview1We had the fortunate opportunity to sit down with Cecilia to learn more about her upbringing and the secrets to her longevity and health. Her advice and tips are sure to motivate any dancer to get back into the studio and train harder!

 

What was your childhood like growing up in Colón, Panama?

I was born in the ghetto in Colon, which is outside of Panama City. We were a family of eight in a one- bedroom apartment; three boys, three girls, mom, and dad. I grew up dancing; not as in training, but for us dancing was a way of life. We drummed as well, not necessarily on drums, but on walls, tables, and on each other’s heads. We would dance for each other and with each other, and the girls would partner with the boys. Somehow we managed to have a lot of celebrations. We used to have parties that consisted of people dancing their butts off all night long.

I was always outside enjoying the sun, playing with bugs, or playing soccer. Soccer by nature is rhythmical; almost everything I did was related to rhythm and dance. We didn’t have a refrigerator, so I grew up eating fresh food when we had food in the house. Inevitably, even though there are a lot nasty foods out there, my tendency as I grow older is to go back to how I was raised. So I eat a lot of fresh foods, like vegetable juices. Although we were poor, my upbringing served a great purpose. I am very grateful for dance, music and great food. I am staying very healthy and maintaining a great sense of self. I managed to gain a great deal of longevity thanks to my upbringing, my parents, neighbors, and community. That sense of community is still very strong for me. Even though I have been out of Panama, Panama is still in me.

 How did your childhood affect your work today?

I would say my childhood has completely affected my work! I came to the United States when I was nearly 13 years old. I didn’t know anything about dance studios or being a professional dancer. We didn’t have the funds to investigate that kind of stuff. It was not until our high school dance teacher saw my sister and I doing salsa that I considered making dance a career. She walked us to a dance studio in San Francisco, and it was then that my sister and I began our venture into the dance world, knowing nothing about it. Both of our lives changed that day. It’s pretty amazing. We are still friends with that teacher today, and she has been very supportive and an amazing mentor through the years. My upbringing has served an amazing purpose. I am still reaping the benefits of it, and I give thanks for it all the time.

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 Can you tell us about your World Jazz class?

World Jazz came to be from all my years of traveling and exploring different genres of dance. The travel I have done in different countries has exposed me to different cultures. Since I was born in Panama, I found myself being very sensitive about arriving to a different country and dealing with the natives of the land. Just when you think you aren’t being influenced by certain people, you may find you have been influenced. I left New York after fourteen years and moved back to San Francisco, where I started my dance training. I taught at a studio, and it was there that I met my most important ballet teacher. He gave me great training and took me in. It was then that I started to explore myself and my own movement.

I remember reading an article about a DJ from India living in London. I went and bought his music and listened. Right at that moment I felt like I was changed. I ended up doing choreography I had never done before, and a whole world opened up for me. So when I came back to New York, I felt that to call my work “jazz” wasn’t doing it justice because I was playing with so many genres.

I have traveled to so many places and I have been back to them so many times, that I feel like a citizen of each country I’ve traveled to. I feel like a citizen of the world. I have this relationship with spirit and I have been blessed enough to study so many different genres of dance. The idea of World Jazz has become even clearer as I grow older, and it has become very easy for me. I don’t plan on choreographing a certain way, it just happens. I open up and listen to the music; the music inspires me. It’s almost like a bridge has been built, and as I walked across it I found something new. I decided to tap into them as opposed to disregard them or be afraid. I am really grateful for that exploration.

How does music play a part in your choreography?

I am a music freak. When I first came here from Panama I started Junior High in San Francisco. My first thought was that I wanted to study music. My mom had a new husband and he ended up saying no and I never pursued it. I feel like I have great taste in music because I am so connected to it. I call music my lover. I tell the dancers that study with me that when you think of music as your partner, you are always connected to it and that eliminates the idea of having to work hard.

One of the blessings I have experienced in having a company is that I had music composed for me. I was able to be on different ends of the creation of music. I would hear the music and tell a musician or arranger what to do. I would actually be a part of producing. What I feel I experienced is further education in music. I learned how to create a sound that I am inspired to choreograph to.

Music plays an integral part in my work. I have been blessed enough to venture into choreographing by way of just hearing specific rhythms and then having music created after. Most of the time, I have the music first and then am choreographing to that, but one time I challenged myself. I have also used live music on stage for one of the pieces that I choreographed. It’s been an amazing journey for me. marta_cecelia_interview3

Can you tell us about the Cecilia Marta Company and what you’ve been up to?

I had just got back from a trip to Japan and I was working at the original Broadway Dance Center. There was a lot of inspiration in the air and Richard was very supportive of what I was doing. One night I was talking to my roommate about how I had choreographed and performed, but I had never put on my own show. I wanted to direct, choreograph, and rent a theater. I decided to venture into what I called Project 1990. I did two of those. I had a lot of amazing dancers in class so I asked them to join forces with me. Because of the work that went into that and all that I learned, I was inspired to start a company.

I’ve had my company on and off since 1992. It was dormant for some time when I went back to the West Coast. I restarted it in 2008 when I came back to New York and we were invited to perform in a festival in Quebec, CA. We’ve performed for Summer Stage in Brooklyn and Summer Stage in Central Park, Latino Commission on AIDS, and Dancers Responding to AIDS. I was really honored to perform in Central Park! I didn’t think they would ask us. It was an amazing process. Through another project we actually met the person who organized Fashion Week at Waldorf Astoria and he invited us to perform in it. It was about creating a piece of choreography on their U-shaped platform that the models used as their runway. That was awesome!

Recently, we were invited to participate in the Summer Stage 2014 Harlem Dance Caravan at the Marcus Garvey Park. It’s under the Summer Stage umbrella but they bring in different companies to perform on the same stage and my company will perform one piece. In April I am going to Brazil to teach a work shop. I mentioned to them that I have a company and that I wanted them to perform over there. That’s a conversation for us to have, but I already planted the seed. That’s basically what I am constantly doing.
I have dancers from all over the planet. I feel that my dancer’s represent World Jazz pretty well. We represent all of the people as opposed to everyone having to look a certain way. The main focus for me is finding and connecting with dancers that have a very strong sense of self and intuitiveness. Their intuitive character plays a strong part in World Jazz.

What do you think the secret to your longevity is?

I haven’t stopped training, exercising, and dancing. I participate in my classes I teach and do some of the exercise that my students are doing. There are certain rituals that I have such as meditation, breathing, and yoga. I do different kinds of yoga that has been very helpful in maintaining my physical body, strength, and my core. For a lot of my students I tell them I treat myself like a queen. I know that has contributed greatly. I also have to say my parents and ancestors have a lot to do with my longevity. It has a lot to do with where and how I was brought up, and how I lived in a community. I have a memory of what I was given and the kind of love that I was exposed to. The neighbors loved you as well as your family members. I feel like that kind of energy and love holds you up through the years, even when times get rough.

I can’t say it’s just the dance and the training; it’s a combination of being consistent, disciple, eating well, and my connection to people, family, and the universe. I feel like there’s a rhythmical vibration that I pay attention to that really helps me. Quiet time is so important. When I share that information with my dancers they say they don’t know how to be quiet. If it stresses you out to think about meditation then don’t close your eyes. Just sit quietly, turn the lights down, and chill out for 5 minutes. I have honored that aspect of my life and I feel like that has infused me with energy and it keeps replenishing me.

I am no different from everyone else, I get tired. I am able to take time to slow down my rhythm and vibration so that I am able to keep going. That serves an amazing purpose for all of us. It’s the matter of me acknowledging that it works and honoring it. I tell my students the warm up is a meditation, class is meditation. You have to be present and breathe properly.

What are your tips on how to train a dancer?

It’s not just about how to train a dancer. What does training mean? What is training? I feel like we are living in a time where so much has been commercialized. I feel like the dance community shifted a bit when hip-hop got popular. There is nothing wrong with hip-hop; I admire hip-hop artists because they have something very organic, animalistic, and fierce. For a lot of people they remain within that environment pursuing only what they already know, as opposed to stepping outside of it to learn other things. A lot of the kids don’t understand the concept of training. They think it’s about doing something they already know. Part of my teaching has been based on educating those that are interested in learning. I tell them the whole idea of training is to repeat the same thing at least three times a week. Twice a week is doable, but the more you do it the more your muscle memory strengthens. We are attempting to do great at something we forgot because too many days have gone by and the muscle memory is weak.

For a lot of people I feel like they are waiting for someone to convince them that they should be training as opposed to having that excitement and knowing what they need to do that day. A lot of students think going to class means following their friends or going to classes that are popular. It becomes a little bit competitive. Competition doesn’t equal to gaining training. It actually kind of takes you to the opposite extreme of what training is. You’re not focusing on self-acknowledging what you need in order to succeed.Part of the training is to have the disciple to acknowledge everything that I said. Without the discipline we don’t get to tap into what that training is. It’s about being wise enough to find the proper teachers that will help you. If you’re not getting any attention don’t take it personal, but go to classes where you will get attention. Our jobs as teachers are to look at you and help you understand what needs to be corrected.

Part of what I am passing on is basically how I train and what my teacher did to help me. I was consistently present in class, even if I was out late night. I would always be in ballet class at 9:30am. When I started taking ballet at age twenty-four, I took it seriously and started to take it every single day. I wasn’t trying to be a ballet dancer, so it wasn’t about having to prove anything. It’s about being smart enough to say that you want ballet, need ballet and you know it’s going to help to transform your body and mind. Rather than thinking of the destination, acknowledge the process. The process is actually the sweetest part of the journey. To make a real dancer the training is extensive. When you put in the time and take care of your physical body and mind, you gain longevity. I am still here and dancing. In fact I am probably stronger than ever. Your muscles are a support system and I call the muscles an army. When that army works together you have magic. We are the magicians and we create the magic based on the knowledge that we have gained.

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Do you have any more advice that you’d like to share with dancers?

Trust your voices; trust what you feel, and what you hear. That’s your intuitive nature speaking to you. I feel very blessed because of the way I was brought up. I was able to trust that as a child and that has been my guiding force throughout my life, and it hasn’t steered me wrong. I don’t believe that I am capable of that only because I am from Panama. I believe we all have that ability. I feel that because a lot of people don’t take that quiet time they kind of disconnect from the concept of “I can.”

We have to begin to own the idea that we are capable of a lot more than what we think we are. We don’t’ have to feel like we have to set the clock and accomplish this or that by a certain age. Individually, we all have our internal rhythm and we have to trust and honor that internal rhythm because that’s our clock.

Photos courtesy of Cecelia Marta; Photos by SPINKICK PICTURES, Thomas James, & Tim Grant 

BDC Works: Jared Grimes

Broadway Dance Center’s Jared Grimes is not only a triple threat; he’s also a producer, director and choreographer! His unique style of blending tap, jazz, and hip-hop within his performances leaves audiences speechless. Jared has showcased his talent through nearly every facet of the entertainment world, from appearing on television shows such as FOX’s Fringe, touring with stars like Mariah Carey, and recently debuted on Broadway.

He lent his imaginative choreography to commercials for Macy’s and Chili’s, as well as appeared in commercials for Coca-Cola and Subway. He danced alongside legends like Gregory Hines and Wynton Marsalis, and even performed for President Barack Obama. Grimes gives us the chance to take a closer look into his world, and tells us more about choreographing for Cirque Du Soleil and the production of his project Broadway Underground.

What was your dance training like growing up?

My mom was actually my first teacher. I would watch her dance and think, “I want to be just like her!” So, I started off taking tap, and then I tried different styles at other dance studios.

Where did you get the idea for Broadway Underground? Can you tell us a little about it?

When I first moved to the city no one would let me perform, and it was just because no one knew who I was. It was the first couple of months that I had moved here, and I was new. I was like, damn! I called this person and he said no, or this person said that she didn’t have any space. I always wanted to create an outlet for people that gave them an opportunity to showcase their talents, whether they just moved to the city or they recently started dancing. I hoped that one day I would be able to do something like that, and the vehicle that I came up with was Broadway Underground. The whole idea was to mix my Broadway friends with people who are not on Broadway; passionate people who are just looking for a chance.

How can artists become a part of Broadway Underground?

Broadway Underground the remix is kind of like an open mic. In a way, we revolutionized the whole thing. Everybody can bring their own CDs, choreography, and costumes, and showcase their talents. I always have agents, producers, directors, and casting agents there to pick up people that are looking for an opportunity. The acts should be under three minutes each, and the first thirty numbers that sign up get to perform. Then there’s the element of putting together a show on the spot with these acts, five minutes before the show starts. I look at the list, craft the whole show and make sure that it’s all balanced. There can’t be too much of one style of dance back-to-back.

How did you get the opportunity to choreograph for Cirque Du Soleil? What has that experience been like?

They actually saw me at Broadway Underground! A long time ago we used to do it more like a choreographer showcase. It was a production of people that I would see around the city and ask to perform. They happened to come one night, and I guess that some of my material was exactly what they were thinking for their show. I want to say just two or three weeks later I was having auditions for the show. I was one of six choreographers at the time, and I ended up being the only one. Cirque Du Soleil was tough! You know when you envision such an entity, and you have so many thoughts about what it will be like before you get into it? For me, none of those were accurate. It was a lot of mountains to climb daily, in terms of what they expected and how they expected it to be. I didn’t enjoy it at times, but did enjoy at other times. So it ended up being a challenge and one of the toughest and greatest experiences at the same time. I always say if I can make it through that, I can do anything!

Do you prefer appearing in commercials or choreographing for them? What’s the difference for you?

I am a performer first and foremost. I’m really not sure how all of the choreography stuff even started. I began doing choreography in college and then through Broadway Underground, and I didn’t mind doing it for my own projects. Then my career kind of took off, and I started doing everything at the same time. In a way, I was killing many birds with one stone. It was easier to hire me to perform, choreograph, direct, produce, and even compose for one project. To me, appearing in commercials and choreographing for commercials are each their own form of freedom. When you are actually performing, you get to indulge in freedom in the moment. When you choreograph you feel that freedom for a second and then you have to live vicariously through the people that get to do it every night. It’s very bitter sweet.

What would your advice be for any artist trying to pursue a career in entertainment?

My advice would be to do as much as possible. I came to the city and thought that I was just going to be a tap dancer. Then thanks to all of the training that I had done growing up, I broke down all of the doors. The fact that I could do more than one discipline was a huge plus. So, take as many classes as possible and train as much as possible. You need to eat, sleep, breathe your dreams, and you need to be constantly thinking about how you are going to achieve them. There is no down time or time to relax. As soon as you relax, somebody passes you by. So, always keep busy and constantly work. I always say that you should practice as if you are not good; as if you suck! You should be afraid of becoming complacent. The entertainment world is one of those worlds where people become comfortable with their names or their resumes and they sometimes feel that they can relax. I think that’s unacceptable for people that are up-and-coming, and even for people that have already made it. To me, it’s about the heart and it’s about propelling the genres and taking them somewhere. Then maybe one day people will be saying your name. Duke Ellington for example; people will know who he is forever because of how hard he worked.

Who has inspired you the most throughout your career?

My two idols are Fred Astaire and Sammy Davis Jr., for very obvious reasons! My whole goal was to be a different, updated version of those two.

Can you tell us about The Jared Grimes feel?

That’s my band! It’s like Pop and R&B Jazz. We are kind of like the Dave Matthews Band. Well, we don’t play that type of music, but when you hear DMB you know that they have a signature sound. I thought it would be cool to do something where everybody kind of connected to tap and music. I always wanted to be in a band. I am one of those people who set a goal in my mind and the goal was to breakthrough into the music industry, and to change the whole landscape. Jared Grimes Feel is the name of the band because we are probably the only band where the front man can sing, write, compose, and dance as if my tap shoes were a guitar or piano. So we came up with the idea to throw a party at B.B. King Blues Club and Grill where we open up for choreographers that I admire. We do a 45-minute set, and after that we clear the table and open up the floor for the dance performances. It’s kind of like a new version of a speak easy. It’s a Vegas type of feel with a little twist, but in New York. 

Can you talk a little about your experience with After Midnight?

 It’s cool! It’s actually my first Broadway show! I’ve done a lot of regional theater shows and I am really kind of tired of doing regional. I love it, but the whole goal of regional is to hopefully do a show that comes to Broadway. I have done so many shows that haven’t, so it was kind of cool to do something that was Off Broadway but kind of seen as Regional Theater. I always thought it would be cool if it went to Broadway, but in the back of my mind I thought it probably wouldn’t. So, when the buzz started about it might go on Broadway, my good friend, who is one of the producers, brought me on as one of the choreographers. It’s been a blessing, but it’s also still kind of surreal. It really hasn’t hit me yet, because this world is so new to me. It’s a show where I can do whatever I want on stage. I almost feel guilty about that. I have hustled so much until I got to that point, so that was kind of a big payoff. I am blessed an honored and excited to see where that takes me after.

You have been a part of so many amazing projects. Is there one you’re most proud of?

I don’t think that there’s one in particular. Everything is school, and everything is a lesson. With Cirque Du Soleil, I learned how to be a crazy choreographer, with After Midnight I get the opportunity to grow every night in the show. I never look at it like I have a project; I just think about what choreographer I get to work with or how I can’t wait to work with a certain director. I see all of my projects as an opportunity to enlighten myself and those around me, and see what I can add to the pot.

What has been your most memorable TV/FILM moment?

I think it’s the movie I did, The Marc Pease Experience, with Anna Kendrick and Ben Stiller. I got to improvise with Ben Stiller for two scenes. Everyone thought that I was pretty funny, and I don’t think they expected that. Ben and I dug doing improve scenes outside of the stuff we were given to see if we could find anything. I thought he was going to be this really light, fun, loving guy on set but he’s really not. He’s funny but he’s all about the scene and devoting as much energy to the take. So, here I was all smiles ready to do a scene with him. There was a balance between his professionalism and my ambitious personality. I saw it as a challenge to not get blown out of the water, but yet add comically to the scene. The other projects that I have done are more dramatic. Its fun to do more dramatic roles because its challenging, but I enjoy comedy the most because being silly is more my true personality.

Take Care!

“Me time” is important to maintaining a healthy mind and body. Here are a few ideas and ways they can benefit every dancer’s well being. 

Massages

Excerpted from Dance Informa magazine interview with Stefan Karlsson, a former professional dancer and massage therapist. 

images2How does massage improve our health?

A massage improves your health by assisting in the elimination of toxins like lactic acid and it improves circulation to tissues within the body including the skin. It can elongate tight muscles, keeping joints ‘less stressed’ from being compressed by tight/short muscles (like those surrounding the knee for example). A major benefit of massage is that it decreases the pain we feel in our muscles after training, rehearsals and performance through the dispersal of the lactic acid. A good masseur will also give specific stretches to target problem areas. Massage will increase the range of movement through your joints, speed up the recovery after hard training and increase energy flow.

Does massage help our immune systems?

Massage helps the immune system as it increases the number of white blood cells in the body. Research in Florida showed an increase in neutrophils (the most common type of white blood cells) after massage. We know that white blood cells protect the body by eating bacteria, for example, so yes, massage boosts the immune system!

It also helps the release of emotions and stimulates inner organs through nerve stimulation, as in Chinese acupuncture. Some masseurs use a similar system called Trigger Point Therapy, and some, like myself, use a combination to suit the individual body

Can massage help in injury prevention?

Massage is considered to help prevent injuries by assisting the body to stay supple, de-stressed and in better shape. As there is less tension in highly used muscle groups they react better to the ‘stress’ of dancing.

Can massage speed up injury recovery?

Massage is often associated with injury recovery, depending on the type of injury. Always seek advice from a physical therapist first who can check whether there are hairline fractures or spinal alignment problems, a severe inflammation or contusion –  bleeding after an injury to the muscle.

The physical therapist often recommends massage as treatment in recovery from injuries which produce swelling in muscles and joints. But it is important to have a good understanding of the injury before applying massage, because a deep massage to a freshly injured muscle will only increase the problem and damage the muscle fibre further.

Sometimes a dancer may use their ‘turn out’ muscles to such a degree that it prevents them from being able to ‘turn in’, limiting the range of motion in the hip. Recommended stretches and massage to correct the one sidedness of the training can help. (Always think of doing the opposite moves from the normal class movements. And please always stretch after training/rehearsal or performance as it will help prevent soreness the next day and keep your muscles supple).

When should dancers get a massage?

A dancer’s body is highly tuned and sensitive, and a deep massage with strong release techniques can make our body parts sore for a day, until we reap the benefits. It can also give us the feeling of being in a different alignment or ‘place’, so that lifting our leg up or doing a turn could feel completely different than before – we might feel ‘out of sorts’ or ‘out of tune’ so to speak. If that is the type of massage you need, please make sure you get one just before a rest day, but not on a performance day or even a day before as it can ‘throw’ you.  However, shorter massages on local areas such as the calves or thighs, if you are getting cramps or lactic acid build up, are beneficial right there and then even during rehearsal/ performance.

There are special techniques I use with fellow dancers to gain quick recovery during a performance. There are stretches specifically designed for the dancer’s body, and other methods of targeting lactic acid build up which can be extremely helpful when applied at right moment.

How often should a full-time dancer have a massage?

I would seriously recommend a dancer to have a decent massage at least once a month, if not every fortnight, depending on your schedule. A good massage once a month, before a rest day, will keep you free from problems building up over time


Pedicures

images3I did a little research and found mixed reviews about pedicures for dancers.  For the most part, ballet dancers (specifically pointe dancers) are discouraged from getting pedicures because their callouses will be shaved off. Fresh, supple skin is more prone to blister and cause pain. Furthermore, pointe dancers shouldn’t paint their toenails because the polish may infect blistered toes.  On the other hand, many online sources do suggest pedicures for dancers that want to protect their feet, at least aesthetically! It’s safe to get a polish-less pedicure without having the nail technician shave your hard-earned callouses.  And that leaves more time to enjoy the foot massage!

Power Naps

images4Power naps have been associated with reduced stress, increased alertness and productivity, increased memory and learning, heart health, increased cognitive function, exercise motivation, boosted creativity, and overall improved health.  “The short duration of a power nap (under 30 minutes) is designed to prevent nappers from sleeping so long that they enter a normal sleep cycle without being able to complete it (leaving a person groggy}.”  So don’t be embarrassed to curl up in the corner of the studio for 20 minutes.  Your friends might think you’re “lazy” until you dance circles around them in class!


Getting Fresh Air

images5Get out of the studio.  Yes, I said it! Dancing is obviously a great form of exercise and a way for many people to de-stress, but it can also be the source for stress.  If you’re in a “dance rut” (i.e. not getting seen at auditions, not enjoying yourself in dance class, being too hard on yourself, etc.), step outside and talk a walk outside.  Explore the historical theater district, rent a bike to ride around Central Park, or lay out in Bryant Park to read or just relax.  It’s important to get at least 10-15 minutes of sun exposure each day to boost your body’s Vitamin D (deficiency may actually lead to depression).  So take a break and get outside!



Meditation

images6Meditate every day or every other day at the same time. Just like pliés, making it regular helps it become natural for your body.

Do these practices make us better dancers? I think they do. They certainly make us happier, more satisfied with who we are, and that in turn makes us better at what we do. Meditation is relaxing, and relaxation unbinds a storehouse of energy. It helps us become more integrated. We become more realistic about who we are and what we can do. We develop realistic goals. We know and respect our physical and emotional parameters. We strive in a healthy, integrated fashion.

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“We love dance and all its benefits for body and soul. But running a business and teaching a physically demanding activity can be stressful. There’s a lot going on, and most of it requires focusing away from our own bodies and feelings. From my time as a professional dancer, dance professor, and meditation teacher, I know meditation gives us a moment with ourselves, develops our ability to focus, awakens awareness, and opens us to deepening embodiment, sensation, and relaxation. This simple act of rebalancing, tucked into the day, is a worthwhile, sanity-reclaiming skill to cultivate.
Meditation doesn’t require much time or need fancy equipment or gear. It does require your full attention.
I have a saying: Sometimes you have to do the “not doing” in order to undo the overdoing. Dancers are especially good at continuously holding muscles taut. As well, we tuck emotional strain into crevices between fascia, hiding our anxieties until some other time when we imagine we can better handle them. Then, given a moment to relax, we feel restless. We need to relax, but we can’t, and being unable to unwind is stressful.
Because dance people are kinetic creatures, the first step in our meditation work is to consciously let go of tight spots. Fully letting go is more than plopping down on the couch. We need to release not just the big outer muscles but the clenched jaw, gripped neck, the diaphragm, and the pelvic floor as well.”
~Dunya Dianne McPherson on www.dancestudiolife.com

You’ve Been Schooled: Walking in Heels

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On August 15th I made my way through the crowds of Times Square to the W Hotel. I found my way to our room on the fifth floor and almost collapsed in amazement…There were shoes everywhere!

Let me give you a little background info. I applied for a job on Casting Networks (an AMAZING casting website, especially for little gigs as “extras” on TV shows and such) for a webseries by Nine West where girls would learn how to walk in high heels. Runway maestro Mac Folkes and “America’s Next Top Model” judge Kelly Cutrone were our instructors and gave us (myself and 12 other young women) tips and tricks to walk like pros.

Oh, and did I mention..

  1. We were in the MIDDLE of Times Square.
  2. We weren’t just walking down the sidewalk. Oh, no! We had to master 4 different surfaces: wet wooden floor, grass, sand, and cobblestone!
  3. It started pouring rain in the middle of our shoot! (But we just had to keep walking!)
  4. We got to keep a pair of shoes!

Mac and Kelly were tough but great coaches. Here are some of the tips they gave us:

  • 320244_3974983171996_1812253091_nKelly showed cameras how wearing stilettos can make your body look totally different (you looked longer, leaner, and more toned without having to hit the gym!).
  • Mac said to walk as if you have strings attached to your body: 1) The crown of your head lifting up 2) your shoulder blades squeezing together 3) and your hip bones leaning a bit forward.
  • When walking on slick, wooden surfaces, Kelly told us to scuff up the soles of our heels with scissors or a knife. She said, “You should only land on your back by invitation, not by accident!”
  • When walking on wet surfaces, Mac instructed us to take each step confidently, placing your full weight (heel-toe) on each slow step.
  • In grass and sand, stay on the balls of your feet or your stilettos will end up sinking.
  • And for cobblestone? Well, BE CAREFUL! Kelly told us about how she landed in the hospital when she wore wedges in the Meatpacking District. Don’t be afraid to take it slow – but despite your speed, keep your body poised and confident!

556483_3974986452078_1795644819_nNow, I realize that this post isn’t directly dance-related. However, most gigs for female dancers nowadays REQUIRE that you dance in high heels – Rockettes, Broadway, music videos, tours, you name it! Last summer I even performed in a flash mob in Times Square that was in high heels. But, if you can’t get Mac Folkes and Kelly Cutrone to teach you the basics, be sure to drop in for BDC’s Stiletto Heels classes, taught by Dana Foglia on Monday and Wednesday nights.

Check out the webisodes here!

Wish Upon a Star – Becoming a Disney Princess

Every girl has dreamt of becoming a Disney princess. Yet, magical childhood dreams of becoming Cinderella, Aurora, Belle, or Snow White can come true…well, sort of. You can audition to become a “princess” at the wonderful world(s) of Disney (Disneyland, Disney World, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Paris, and Tokyo Disney).

E-how.com – How to become a Disney Princess:

  1. Check Disney’s pre-audition requirements to see if you qualify. Women must be age 16 or over, authorized to work in the United States, and stand between 5 foot 3 and 5 foot 7 inches tall. Performers in the Walt Disney World College Program cast members and anyone already playing a character are not eligible to audition.
  2. Watch the Disney films with princesses and note the appearance, mannerisms and voice of any princess you’d like to portray. Walt Disney World has roles for Cinderella, Snow White, Belle, Ariel, Aurora, Tiana, Pocahontas and Mulan.
  3. Check the audition calendar on Disney’s official website. Auditions are held regularly but not at any established time. Princess auditions are listed under either “Disney Princess Look-Alikes” or “Character Look-Alikes.”
  • A background in theatre or acting is preferred, since cast members must convincingly portray their princess not only in appearance, but also in manner and voice.
  • Arrive early to the audition with resume and head shot. Disney recommends all princess candidates dress comfortably for the audition. Disney may ask all of the hopefuls to learn a short movement routine as part of the audition process.
Sadly, unless Disney comes out with a new extremely tall, pale, and freckle-faced princess, my only chance of becoming a princess is to marry Prince Harry…
But to all of you who do meet the requirements, be sure to check out www.disneyauditions.com!

Dance-Related Careers

Dance Teacher

Jim Cooney teaches Theater dance at Broadway Dance Center and is also the Faculty Adviser for BDC’s Professional Semester and Summer Intern Program.  Cooney was dance captain for the revived national tour of The Music Man and was part of the original company of Nights on Broadway.  In addition to teaching, Cooney has choreographed for countless events and organizations such as “The Today Show,” “Extreme Home Makeover,” Bloomingdale’s, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week,and the NephCure Foundation.

Choreographer

Dan Knechtges received his BFA in musical theater from Otterbein College in Westerville, OH.  His Broadway choreography credits include Sondheim on SondheimThe 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling BeeXanadu110 in the Shade, and Lysistrata Jones.  Additionally, Knechtges choreographs for TV/film, concert dance, and opera, directs productions such as Encores! Merrily We Roll Along, and teaches at dance studios and universities across the country.

Professor

Gail Abrams is a Professor of Dance at Scripps College in Claremont, California. She received her master’s in Dance from The American University and certification from the Laban Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies.  Abrams teaches Beginning Dance, Modern I and II, Laban Movement Analysis, and Dynamics of Human Movement courses.

Company Director

Heidi Latksy gained recognition as a principal dancer for the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company.  In 2001 she formed her own modern company, Heidi Latsky Dance (HLD), which has toured at theaters, festivals, and universities in the United States and Europe.  “The mission [of HLD] is to bring contemporary dance to a broad audience in a visceral and emotional way with performers whose unique attributes, physical and otherwise, are honored and utilized in highly dynamic, virtuosic and provocative ways; and to expose people to alternative ways of looking at their lives through community programs that emphasize discourse, experiential risk-taking and body work.”

Talent Agent

Jim Daly started his career as a singer in New York City.  When he saw the chaos in his own agency, he offered to become an assistant to his agent.  Daly now works as the “legit” talent agent (focus on film, TV, and theater) for Bloc.

Nutritionist

Emily Cook Harrison danced with the Atlanta Ballet, Smuin Ballet, Boston Ballet II, and Ballet Internationale before attaining her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nutrition from Georgia State University.  She is now the head of the Centre for Dance Nutrition, associated with the Atlanta Ballet.

Non-profit Director

After touring around the world as a professional ballerina (Bolshoi Ballet, Metropolitan Opera Ballet, American Festival Ballet), Jane Bonbright went on to pursue her master’s and doctorate degrees in Dance Education.  Bonbright founded the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO) in 1998 to promote quality dance education in the United States.

Discounted Tickets

Broadway/Off-Broadway:

  • 20%-50% discounted tickets (to select shows, subject to change) at the TKTS booth in Times Square.  Booth opens at 10am for matinee performances and 3pm for evening performances (check TKTS website for specific hours).
  • ~$30 rush tickets are often available the day of a performances.  Check a theater’s specific website for rules and regulations (ie. what ID is necessary, when to line up, etc.).  Popular shows such as “Wicked” and “The Book of Mormon” hold a lottery for rush tickets.
  • ~$20 are less common standing room tickets.  These can be purchased about 2 hours prior to a show’s sold-out performance.
  • During “Broadway Week” you can get 2-for-1 tickets to Broadway shows.
  • Other discount ticket websites: Broadway Box, NY Tix, and Theater Mania – these sites also have tickets available for dance concerts/company performances such as the American Ballet Theater and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

New York City Ballet:

  • $15 student-rush tickets can be purchased on the day of a performance either online or in person.  These tickets are available for full-time high school and college students up to age 29.
  • $15 tickets for the “fourth-ring” rows C-O of the theater.

Joyce Theater:

New York City Center:

  • Peer-to-Peer (P2P) program for students – simply fill out the online application to receive periodic e-mails about discounted shows for students.
  • “Fall for Dance” is a 10-day dance festival starring companies from all over the world.  ALL tickets are just $10 but the festival sells out within hours.

Carnegie Hall:

  • $10 student rush tickets.  Simply present your student ID at the Box Office on 57th and 7th to purchase up to 2 discounted tickets.

Madison Square Garden & Radio City Music Hall:

  • Sign-up for the MSG Insider to receive e-mails about upcoming presales and discounts.

Snack Attacks

As a dancer, your body is your instrument.  Fuel your body with the right foods to get the most out of your dancing.

When you have a long day of dance ahead of you:

  • Bowl of oatmeal with flaxseed and skim milk.
  • Greek yogurt with berries.
  • Poached egg with whole grain toast and an orange.

When you’re running to dance class/rehearsal:

  • 1/4 cup of mixed nuts and dried fruit.
  • Lara bar or Kind bar.

When you’re done with dance class/rehearsal:

  • Small banana with 1 tablespoon peanut butter.
  • Apple with string cheese/baby bell cheese.

When you’re under the weather:

  • 1 cup tea with lemon and honey.
  • Foods high in Vitamin C: oranges, broccoli, and sweet peppers.
  • Chicken and vegetable soup.
When you want to build muscle:
  • 1 cup of cottage cheese with canned fruit (in water).
  • Canned salmon with whole grain crackers.
  • Protein shake with protein powder, raw oats, and flaxseed.

When you’re sore:

  • 1 cup low-fat chocolate milk.
  • Smoothie with blueberries, banana, and low-fat vanilla yogurt.
  • Foods high in potassium: raisins, melons, apricots, avocados, squash, beets, and dairy.

When you have butterflies/are feeling nervous:

  • 1/2 cup blueberries.
  • Small piece of dark chocolate.
  • Cup of herbal, decaffeinated tea.