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

Theater Review: Nice Work If You Can Get It

images1Saturday was what I like to call a “matinee kind of a day.”   After work I walked through the crowds of people and the scorching heat to the s’wonderful, s’marvelous, air-conditioned Imperial Theatre, just a block east of Broadway Dance Center.  At 1:30pm I was still able to purchase a student ticket for the 2pm show (clutch?) and took my seat in the mezzanine of the beautiful theater.  Sometimes theaters will place student ticket-holders in the “worst” seats in the house (ie. far corners in the front or back, partial viewed seating,etc.), but that was not at all my experience! Check out tickets here.
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This was my second time seeing “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” having seen it back in April during previews for my mom’s birthday.  I decided to see the show again after taking Samantha Sturm’s “Nice Work” master class at BDC.  [*Jeffrey “Shecky” Schecter, who has taught several BDC master classes in the past as part of BDC’s Broadway Choreography Series, is also part of the show!].  Back when I saw the show in April, I was so infatuated with the experience itself – seeing a Kathleen Marshall musical starring big-names like Matthew Broderick, Kelli O’Hara, Judy Kaye, and Michael McGrath.  So this time, I focused on (surprise!) the dancing.

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Like I mentioned, Kathleen Marshall directed and choreographed “Nice Work.” Marshall has won three Tony’s and two Drama Desk Awards for “Best Choreography,” so it is no wonder that “Nice Work” has more than just your average “Charleston!”  Ben Brantley (NY Times) noted, “And as fluent as always in the period she means to evoke, Ms. Marshall has drilled her agile dancers to perform every possible variation on the Charleston.”

“To choreograph on Broadway it’s really important to know style.  This is a show that takes place in the ’20s, the last show I did [“Anything Goes”] took place in the ’30s, so I think it’s important to understand different eras and different styles.  Look at old movies, watch old TV shows, watch old MGM musicals, old “Fred and Ginger” musicals…understand how those classic musicals “work” and then you can turn around and make it your own.”

~ Kathleen Marshall

Judy Garland, More Than Just a Voice

August 19th marked the final performance of Broadway’s “End of the Rainbow,” an enchanting musical play about the last few months of Judy Garland’s life.

“It’s December 1968 and Judy Garland is poised to make a triumphant comeback… again. The drama unfolds in a London hotel room as she prepares for a series of concerts at the famed Talk of the Town nightclub. Alongside her young fiancé and trusted pianist, Garland—with her signature cocktail of talent, tenacity and razor-sharp wit—takes on her most challenging role ever: herself.” (End of the Rainbow). The role of Miss Garland is played by the flawless Tracie Bennett, who won a Drama Desk award, Outer Critics Circle award, and a Tony nomination (not to mention several Olivier awards in London).

The play, housed at the Belasco Theater, held a relatively short run (March-August, 176 total performances). However, the play began at the Syndey Opera House back in 2005, went on to London’s West End. After Broadway, “End of the Rainbow” will begin performances at the CTG/Ahmanson Theatre March 12 through April 21. A national tour is also in the works. Bennett will also star in the upcoming film adaptation of ‘End of the Rainbow'” (Ticket News).
images1Since “End of the Rainbow” deals with the end of Judy Garland’s life, there is not a whole lot of dancing involved. Most people know Judy Garland for her tremendous voice and whose volume and vibratto seem much too big for a woman her size. But if you look back to her countless movies with MGM and beyond, you’ll see that Judy was the ultimate triple threat. She began dancing at the Ethel Meglin studio in 1928 (where Mickey Rooney, Ann Miller, and Shirley Temple also trained), and made her film debut with the Meglin Kiddies Dance Company. She went on to dance with legends Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly to name a few.

Here are clips showcasing Garland’s dancing prowess:

Book Review: Our Story, The Jets and Sharks Then and Now

images1I picked up this amazing book at the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids Flea Market a few weeks back.  “Our Story” is a sort of “joint” memoir that was written by twelve performers from the film adaptation of “West Side Story” (1961).  Each chapter is essentially a diary entry by one of the dancers and includes “then” and “now” photographs.  The memoir includes both Jets and Sharks (the two rival gangs in the musical; Caucasian and Puerto Rican, respectively), many of whom originated the same roles on the Broadway stage.  This incredible book takes you behind the scenes of the classic movie musical and gives you an inside look at the dancers who created those characters on the big screen.

Did you know:nyv_zoe_20160203_sharks_courtesy_photofest

  • Jerome Robbins (choreographer) was “fired” from the film production because he cost the producers too much money.  Robbins was a perfectionist and would insist on many, many takes of each scene from nearly every angle. (Check out the clip of “Cool” at the bottom of this post and notice the brilliant, and obviously tedious, camera work).
  • The Jets and Sharks were required to take a full-length ballet class each morning before rehearsals/shooting.
  • Robbins encouraged actual rivalry between the dancers who played the Jets and the Sharks.  He would not let them interact during the work week in order to build camaraderie within the “gangs” and tension between them (on film, that is!).  The Jets and the Sharks even played pranks on each other!
  • Most of the film was shot in LA (at MGM studios), but the Prologue was shot on a lot in New York City where Lincoln Center now stands.
  • In the film version, Robbins included the Shark boys in, “America” to make the scene more dynamic.
  • The King of Rock n’ Roll, Elvis Presley was originally considered for the role of Tony!

I won’t give any more juicy tidbits away.  Discover them for yourself!  Order the book on Amazon and then re-watch the film to get re-inspired by the stories, choreography, and masterpiece of “West Side Story!”

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!

Happy Halloween!

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Happy Halloween from Broadway Dance Center!  Dress up in costume for your dance classes tomorrow because we’ll be giving away prizes to dancers with the best costumes.  Some BDC faculty will even be teaching Halloween-inspired choreography in class!

Here are some spooktacular dance numbers to get you in the Halloween spirit:

Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”

“Time Warp” – Rocky Horror Picture Show

“This is Halloween” – Dancing with the Stars

“Zombie Dance” – So You Think You Can Dance

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!

Balanchine, Broadway and Beyond

On the evening of October 8th Dancers over 40, a non-profit organization that honors the lives and legacies of the dance community, hosted “Balanchine, Broadway and Beyond” at St. Luke’s Theatre on 46th Street.  The underground theater was filled with dance legends in their own rites, including Donna McKechnie and Arthur Mitchell.  The evening was comprised of rare film clips of Balanchine and his work as well as panel discussions with some of Balanchine’s featured dancers:

  • Merrill Ashley
  • Vida Brown
  • John Clifford
  • Gene Gavin
  • Allegra Kent
  • Frank Ohman
  • Barbara Milberg-Fisher
  • Bettijane Sills
  • Carol Summer
  • Barbara Walczak
  • Patricia Wilde
  • Marge Champion

The panel of esteemed dancers all referred to Balanchine as “Mr. B.” and talked of many occasions where he would come up with choreography on the spot – a true mark of his artistic brilliance.  In the composition process, choreography changed quite a bit.  Balanchine would make up the movement, but it was your (the dancer’s job) to remember all of it!

Everyone on the panel spoke so highly of Mr. B. while reminiscing their dance performances of yore.  When constructing a new solo piece, Balanchine would highlight a dancer’s technical strengths and affinities but add some challenging steps as well.  Merrill Ashley described how this “was meant to ‘show us off’ while giving us all a little prod to work harder.”

George Balanchine was a Russian-born choreographer who is regarded as the most influential contemporary ballet choreographers of all time.  Balanchine’s father was a Georgian composer, and young Balanchine studied music and composition during his early years.  This passion for music clearly translated to his ballet career for which he brilliantly united the dance and the music as “one.”

[Balanchine] emphasized balance, control, precision, and ease of movement. He rejected the traditional sweet style of romantic ballet, as well as the more acrobatic style of theatrical ballet, in favor of a neoclassic style stripped to its essentials – motion, movement, and music. His dancers became precision instruments of the choreographer, whose ideas and designs came from the music itself. – Gale Encyclopedia

Balanchine choreographed nearly 400 ballets, 20 Broadway shows, and 5 Hollywood films.   Balanchine notably founded the New York City Ballet in 1948.

Some of Balanchine’s most memorable works include:

“We must first realize that dancing is an absolutely independent art, not merely a secondary accompanying one. I believe that it is one of the great arts. . . . The important thing in ballet is the movement itself. A ballet may contain a story, but the visual spectacle . . . is the essential element. The choreographer and the dancer must remember that they reach the audience through the eye. It’s the illusion created which convinces the audience, much as it is with the work of a magician.” – George Balanchine

BDC Faculty Featured in Dance Publications

Be sure to check out BDC contemporary jazz teacher, Mishay Petronelli, in the October 2012 issue of Dance Spirit Magazine.  In the magazine’s “Style Lab: The Look” section, Mishay is featured for her eye-catching personal style.

In the article, Mishay advises, “Couple unique items with something classic.  Always remember the importance of creating clean, strong lines.  Make choices that will flatter you in the particular style you’re dancing.  And, of course, always be yourself.”

Mishay teaches Contemporary Jazz classes at Broadway Dance Center but has trained in nearly every dance style from commercial to ballet to tap!  She performed in Whitney Houston’s “Million Dollar Bill” music video, Madonna’s “Gimme All Your Luvin” music video, on “Saturday Night Live” with Kanye West, and in commercials for Converse and Verizon.  Mishay is currently a member of Dana Foglia’s dance company.

“Mishay Petronelli is probably the most inspirational person I have ever met. The way she dances and choreographs is out of this world! She truly cares about each student equally and strives to make every dancer improve. After taking Mishay’s class I feel as though I grow as a dancer. She always pushes me to be my best! Mishay Petronelli’s class is incredible and I highly recommend it!” – Makenzie Dascenzo (PS F’12)

“What I loved about Mishay her classes is her eye for detail. Although it was really hard for me to do exactly the thing she wanted she made me want to get her way of moving. She also made me watch better when a teacher was showing something so I could figure out the details myself. Mishay was my mentor, a great teacher and a very inspiring dancer, and I just really like her as a person and dancer!” – Nathalie Bilderbeek (ISVP ’11)

Here is Mishay’s choreography from the 2012 NYC Gala Opening Number of The Pulse: On Tour:

And wait, there’s more! Did you see BDC’s own Matthew Powell featured in Dance Informa?  The extensive article recounts Matthew’s journey from aspiring young dancer, to American Ballet Theater company member, to “A-Rab” in the International Tour of “West Side Story,” to a successful graduate of LEAP, and finally, to acclaimed NYC ballet teacher.

Matthew admits that a strong sense of balance (no ballet pun intended) is much to that for his successful career.  “You have to have a good network of support around you…if you don’t, people will see that and it’ll show in your work too.”

The article explains, “Despite his undeniable success as a performer, it is evident that Powell thrives most with being a teacher. He has a boyish charm and calm demeanor that provides a very welcoming feeling for anyone who takes his class. “

Matthew teaches six ballet classes per week at Broadway Dance Center – Advanced Beginning, Intermediate, and Intermediate/Advanced.  Matthew also has taught/currently teaches at Marymount Manhattan College, the International Tour of “West Side Story,” Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, The Rock School, Brooklyn Ballet, “Billy Elliot” on Broadway, and Ballet Academy East.

“Matthew Powell is a teacher for all students. He has the ability to light a fire underneath you and give you a class full of vitality, substance and liveliness. He offers classes that literally replenish you and leave you with the confidence that you worked hard. It’s very rare to come across a teacher who not only pushes you to perform to the best of your abilities but inspires you to succeed, as well. I would encourage everyone to take his class.” – Alexa Erbach (PS F’11)

Here is a short clip of Matthew’s teaching shot for Dance Teacher Web: