Los Angeles

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Nutcracker Recap

This past Sunday I participated in a production of The Nutcracker for a dance school at which I occasionally teach.  As I have mentioned before, I functioned as a kind of assistant director for the rehearsals, and I ended up dancing the part of the Sugar Plum Fairy (as I did last year.)  

The show went so well, and all the kids had a wonderful time, which was incredibly rewarding to see.  I am, of course, knackered after the whole thing, but I was almost surprised just how much I enjoyed performing....I felt like I danced really well and it was the most fun I've had dancing in years.  I felt totally in my element, so jubilant and totally on my balance, which helps.  But after such a high, coming back down and getting back to my real job has been a bit of a struggle this week.  I call it post-performance-depression.  I feel like Cinderella the day after the ball when the tiara is gone and it's back to house work!

But I still have the memory of the performances and in honor of that, here are a few photos from last years performance....This year's probably looked similar as I danced the same part and wore the same tutu!  
Did you see any Nutcrackers this year?  Or maybe dance in one?  I must admit, for a time I couldn't even hear the Nutcracker music without getting annoyed, but now I love it!  It brings back wonderful memories....I guess I'm just getting sentimental in my old age!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Camp Ballet: Joffrey

I am really excited to see this film.  My first summer program was with Joffrey Ballet when I was 14 and I loved it.  And I remember being fascinated with Billboards, a ballet completely set to the songs of Prince, when that came out in the early 1990's.  Now I know several company members with Joffrey, of whom I am very proud, and I am very excited to learn more about the formation and early days of the company in what looks like a thrilling documentary.  

What do you think?  Would you go see this film?

Monday, December 19, 2011

I Made this Monday: Nutcracker Ornament

Over the weekend, I performed and co-directed a local dance school's annual production of the Nutcracker.  I did it last year too and had such a good time I just couldn't resist dancing and teaching it again. 

Basically I help to rehearse all the kids in the Party scene and the mice and soldiers in the Battle, along with helping set Clara's dances, her pas de deux with the Prince and the opening sequence of Act 2.   But for extra fun, I also participate in the performances as a parent in the party scene and the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Kingdom of Sweets.

Nutcracker is always a lot of work, but also a lot of fun!  It almost doesn't feel like Christmas if I don't dance a little bit of the Nutcracker Suite.  It's been a tradition since I was a toddler and as much a part of the Christmas Season as Gingerbread and Christmas lights!

So in honor of all that, I made a little Nutcracker ornament to give to the owner of the dance school as a thank you for everything she did this year! 
So cute and really simple to make!  You need: 

Half a clear ball ornament (you can buy plastic ones at Michael's that open up like an easter egg)

Piece of cardboard (you could use the side of a cereal box, or any piece of cardboard you have lying around.)
A Christmas picture - I scanned a card I liked from Rifle Paper Co, printed it at a smaller scale, added some stickers and voila! You can use any image you like...A Christmas card, whatever!

Glitter, felt, lacy trim, small ribbon, wintery stickers, gems and anything else you may want to use for embellishing
Use the half of the ornament ball to trace circles from the cardboard, felt, and your image and cut them out.  Adhere the image to the cardboard and add any embellisments or writing you wish. 
Next glue your lace trim around the backside edge of the circular image and then glue the felt behind that.  
Finally, draw a line of glue around the perimeter of the circle and adhere the half ornament ball to the front.  You can add fake snow or glitter to create a snowglobe effect if you wish; I just left mine plain.  Then add a loop with a bow for hanging and you're done!

 Happy Crafting!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Desolation Dance No: 2

The boy and I shot this way back over the summer and we just finally got around to creating the newest edition of our Desolation Dance Project!

Dancing in the grass in my pointe shoes was actually surprisingly easy.  This was a fun one to create and hopefully it won't be too long before we have our next installation of Desolation Dance Project! 

I'm performing this weekend, wish me luck!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Politicoooo Plies

I am not political.  I am not a democrat or a republican, I am an independent because I refuse to be defined by partisan politics.  But try as I might to avoid blogging about political issues this comment really just flat out pissed me off...And given this blog is rather ballet focused, I felt compelled to put in my 2 cents. (I included some pics of Balanchine's Stars and Stripes just to make this rant a bit more pleasant. )

In an interview on Sean Hannity's Fox News Talk show, Sarah Palin is quoted as saying:

"NPR, National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, all those kind of frivolous things that government shouldn't be in the business of funding with tax dollars -- those should all be on the chopping block as we talk about the $14 trillion debt that we're going to hand to our kids and our grandkids. Yes, those are the type of things that for more than one reason need to be cut."

So I have to ask, why are the Arts "frivolous?"  Why is that a profession that people are always willing to cut first?  Let me tell ya, if we had more artists working in business and politics you'd be surprised at the results.  Artists are creative thinkers and know how to think creatively to solve problems.  Artists are aware of the world around them, they take it in and they let it affect them as often this is what inspires them to create.  They naturally see problems and want to address them.  Artists can be dramatic and sensitive, yes, but that passion usually comes hand in hand with perfectionism and ideals...Ideals that they will do anything to uphold.  That's right, artists know what it's like to "suffer" for their art.  They commit themselves to the job they have chosen to undertake and they put everything they've got into it, no matter what it will cost them.  They want to do it right, they want to be perfect. 

They want to create something lasting, something meaningful and something good.  In my opinion, we need more artistic people in power.  And how the hell will that happen when arts education and endowment programs are completely slashed from the budget?  

No matter what people may say, the arts are a huge part of our economy and our quality of life.  Would you want to live in a world with no music, movies, television, dance or theater?  Cause all those mediums, including television, rely on artists and were built by artists.  

But I don't need to wax on about it.  The numbers speak for themselves.  According to this recent article in the LA Times:

"Debt reduction would barely be affected by penciling out the small federal arts agency, which currently operates on a $161-million annual budget.  "Reality is we have 15 million Americans who are out of work," said Palin. Nationally, the nonprofit arts and culture industry supports 5.7 million jobs and generates $166.2 billion in annual economic activity, according to Americans for the Arts. The NEA is one linchpin in that sizable economy."

So with Palin's plan we raise that number of out-of-work Americans to over 20 million.  Yeah, great idea. Look, I know that there is an argument to everything and spending cuts are inevitable, but I'm angry that for whatever reason, the arts are always the first to be attacked, and in reality how much damage are they really doing?  I can only think that people attack the value of the arts because they themselves have no artistic talent and I suppose they just don't get it.  They are uncultured, unoriginal, mindless drones who have no imagination or intelligence.  And I suspect that most people know that...particularly when it comes to Palin.  I just wish people would stop putting her on the air. 

Ok, I'm off the apple box.  (Until the next rant!)  

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Black Pointe Shoes

Worked on a new project today that involves these bad boys...

Oh yeah! 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Dancing Days

A couple of weekends ago I danced in a show with Creations Dance Theater called Cornucopia.  It was a lot of fun, really casual and laid back and I had a great time!  And just a few days before, the boy took me to see the Ballet Nacional de Cuba at the Music Center performing Don Quixote--- That's definitely one of my favorite ballets!  I love the music, the choreography and especially the humor.  

The company was incredibly skilled and tight, especially the men.  The precision of the lead Matador and his girlfriend Mercedes was incredible and inspiring!  However, Kitri, danced by , while having gorgeous extension and perfect technique, seemed to lack the fire, pizazz and attitude that the part needs.  It was like she was on auto-pilot.  Very strange.   But still enjoyable and fun.  

I love the Music Center so much.  It's one of my favorite places in Los Angeles and The Dorothy Chandlier Pavilion holds a special place in my heart. 

Here's a little clip from rehearsals for the last show...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Camp Ballet: Mr. B's Ballerinas

It's one of those things that is simultaneously intriguing, inspiring and terror inducing:  George Balanchine's legacy.  

I think that Balanchine is far and away the choreographer that I personally like the most.  I love both viewing and dancing his works.  I love the Balanchine style, but alas, I was never going to be a Balanchine dancer.  I was never going to be accepted into the School of American Ballet.  And while his choreography suited me quite well, and my training was primarily Balanchine based, I would never be a NYCB dancer because I knew from a very young age that I did not possess the "Balanchine Body." 

But what can you do, eh?  Nevertheless, Balanchine is like one of Ballet's Biblical characters; a Messiah of Dance if you will.  People are always quoting him, questioning him and struggling to wrap their heads around his genius.  He gave so much to dance and he was such a complicated person.  He was so influential and such an enigma.  Understanding Balanchine, the person, is like trying to understand Shakespeare-- a lot has been embellished and remains a bit of a mystery.  

But that's why I want to see this film.  It looks incredible and it tells the story of Mr. B through the interviews of his ballerinas, most of who were also his artistic muses and his wives.  Really intriguing stuff!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Desolation Dance

The boy and I are collaborating on a new film project called Desolation Dance.  Here's our first video.  Enjoy!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Camp Ballet: Vintage Tutus

In case you haven't requested an invite to Pinterest (love how they try to make it seem super exclusive) here's my attempt to pursuade you to check it out.  Not only is it a great site to organize your photos and photos you love, but it also lends itself to providing fabulous photos that you were unlikely to find on your own.  

My current favorite pins are these vintage ballerina snaps~

Are you on Pinterest?  I'd love to see your pins if you are! 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

American Ballet Theater Review from Sarah

When Sarah of the beautiful blog, Desirous of Everything, contacted me a few weeks ago asking if I knew about the 18/29 Club with the American Ballet Theater I was intrigued, curious and envious!  This brilliant blogger is a New Yorker, ballet aficionado and my new best friend as her review of ABT's recent production of Don Q makes me feel like I was right there in the action!  Check it out:

We all know that there is NO TALKING in ballet right?  But if there was talking in Don Quixote this is what it would be: "You thought that was amazing?  You ain't seen nothing yet.  Dude, check this out!"  Because that is what this ballet is like.  And after having seen it twice now, I think I've decided that it is my favorite ballet ever.

On Monday, May 23, I saw Don Quixote at the Met performed by the American Ballet Theater.  I bought my tickets via their 18/29 Club and was in the fifth row! And paid $30 for the tickets!  I know, it's amazing.  If you live in NYC- DO THIS.  We were surrounded  by old people, because young people can not afford those tickets,  but no matter, the seats were amazing. This was my view:

And no matter how many times I've been to the Met, I always find myself pausing and looking around in awe.  The chandeliers, the height of the balcony, the smell of the place, the little cone shaped paper cups by the water fountain, it all feels so special and comforting at the same time, like it's the only place in the world that I want to be. 

But then a man comes by playing on a little xylophone, telling you to sit down now, and the lights dim and suddenly your eyes are glued to the stage.  Don Quixote gets right into it starting with a lively town square scene where everyone just wants to impress each other and the audience.  Kitri, the star ballerina played by Alini Cojocaru (who I couldn't help yelling "I love you!" to at the very end when everyone jumped out of their seats) basically leaped and turned and balanced and arabesque-ed and developpe-ed for two and a half hours non stop.  Whenever she was on stage, I had a huge grin on my face and during her and Basilio's (her love interest played by Jose Manuel Carreno) pas de deux, I literally had heart palpitations of some sort.  Seriously I was so in awe of their talent.

Also, a good ballet is never complete without a dream sequence featuring a ton of ballerinas in tutus, in a forest, all lead by a mischievous little Nymph.  So beautiful.
People could not get enough of this performance and were constantly bursting into applause and cheers during moments when you would think to yourself "wait, she is still turning?" or "wait, she is still balancing in that position with her leg up really, really high?" or "Wait he is only holding her with one hand and then no hands?!?!  It's all too much, I must burst into applause!"

I went to the ballet with my friend who grew up in Austria and said that this bursting into applause thing is a very American way of doing things.  Europeans hold it all in and only clap politely at the end.  While he was surprised by this, and thought that it interrupted the flow of the dancing a little bit, I did not care.  I mean, I couldn't have held it in if I'd wanted to.  I'm sure I would make a fool of myself in Vienna, but here in New York, under the glistening crystal chandeliers of the Met, I felt right at home when Alini and Jose came out for one last triumphant bow.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pointe Shoe DIY

Hi Lovelies!  So first things first, I have to share my joy at the sight of reaching 100 followers on Google.  Thank you so much for your support and for clicking the follow button.  Couldn't have done it without you, quite literally...Now for 200!  ;)

So that brings me to the blog party...Anyone want to contribute?  Bueller?  Bueller?  Let me know.  Festivities take place on May 25th.  Basically I am looking for guest posts, DIY's, recipes--anything that's fun and festive!  Email me if your interested.

And finally, be sure to check out my Pointe Shoe DIY on DIY Dancer.
If you haven't perused the DIY dancer site, be sure to check it out.  Dancers of all disciplines from all over contribute and it's a fabulous blog with lots of interesting articles-- both dance and non-dance related!

Camp Ballet: What's in my Dance Bag?

HI Lovelies!  For today's Camp Ballet feature I thought I'd do a twist on the "what's in my bag" feature that is so popular around the blogisphere.  Here's a little peak at the things I'm keeping in my dance bag these days....

1.  Leo's flat ballet shoes
2.  Red shrug
3.  2 pairs of pointe shoes (yes they're Gaynors)
4. Purple Leotard
5.  Dance Paws (hate these, but I hate dancing barefoot more)
6.  Ace bandage which I use a lot
7.  2 Ballet skirts, black and floral
8.  Spare T-shirt
9.  Jazz shoes
10.  Black tights
11.  Pink tights
12.  Dance shorts
13.  Legwarmers
14.  My favorite sweat pants

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Camp Ballet: Buff Ballerina Arms

For today's edition of Camp Ballet I have attempted to VLOG!  Dum, Dum Duuummm!!!  Please don't judge too harshly.  I am really not sure this is something I will do very often, or ever again...I don't even like the word vlog.  Anyway, in this video I show you how to do some of my favorite exercises to get strong and gorgeous dancer arms.  I hope this will be somewhat handy and informative for all you, but I especially hope you find the exercises to be fun too!  Enjoy!

Buff Ballet Arms from Heather Toner on Vimeo.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Pointe Shoe Repurposing

There's a part of me that will always have a certain child-like wonder when it comes to pointe shoes.   Do you remember how very much you longed to go up on pointe, and what a big deal it was to find your very first pair?  To sew on the ribbons and rise up to your tip toes for the very first time?  Maybe I am just extra sentimental, but I was pretty much in awe of pointe shoes from roughly age 7 to 12.  But blisters, bunions and aching arches replaced the mystery and excitement over dancing on pointe.  By the time I was a teenager I loathed having to sew up a new pair and did just about everything short of taking a blow torch to my shoes to make them softer and more comfortable. 

And yet, there is still a part of me that just adores pointe shoes for their sheer beauty and craftsmanship.  There's something magical about the perfect pair and in a small way, seeing a new pair kind of makes me feel like a kid again.  I remember all the excitement and the impatience as I anxiously waited to go to Capezio's and get fitted for my first pair.  I remember the scent of Baaaalerina Wool and how I used to try to flatten the boxes by placing them under my iron bedposts.  I remember that my first pair of shoes were Capezio Ultimos and I kinda hated them because they were Pepto-Bismal pink. 

All in all, I think pointe shoes have a special significance to most ballet dancers and this simple DIY is in honor of that.  It's also a great way to give new purpose to old pointe shoes! Again I wanted to upcycle dance items I already had but wasn't going to use to create something new and unique.  And so I give you my pointe shoe wreath!

This was made with shoes that I had left over from my pro dancing days.  They were bought for me by the company I was dancing with and I didn't actually end up wearing them much at all.  I'm never going to use them, so I decided to give them new purpose as my own special wall decor.  A little bit cheesy, yes.  But every time I look at it I remember my youthful excitement over pointe shoes.
Simply find a sturdy piece of cardboard (mine was the base of a flat of water bottles.)  Cut into a doughnut shape.  Remove ribbons from pointe shoes and hot-glue in circular shape to cardboard.  Hang and enjoy!  

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dancing Through Life ~ Heather

Yep that's right, I have another Heather as this week's Dancing Through Life's featured dancer.  I think Heathers just must be predisposed to dance as there seems to be a lot of us out there!  Anyway, Heather Partington is a fabulous blogger, athlete, English teacher, Mom and dancer at heart.  I am so grateful that she was willing to share a bit of how she keeps dancing through life!  Check it out:

1.  When did you start dancing?

I started dancing when I was about three.  I was a once-a-week kid until my 8th grade year, when I switched studios and decided that I wanted to really train properly.  From then on I was hooked.

2.  What styles did you train in and which is your favorite?

I trained the most extensively in ballet, specifically the Cecchetti or Italian method.  When I was taking exams, American Cecchetti training still fell under the International Society of Teachers of Dancing, based in London.  A few years after I left my studio, American Cecchetti broke off and became Cecchetti USA.  I trained with them through all the student levels and several of the professional levels and took my Associate’s Teachers Exam when I was in college.  My training also included tap and jazz dance.  I liked jazz, but I basically only stayed in tap out of the fear that they’d cancel the class if I dropped and I didn’t want my friends to be mad at me.

I thought I was done dancing once I got married, but a few years ago after having children I returned and studied Contemporary.  I love Contemporary dance. I feel like it blends the best of ballet with the angles of modern and the interest of pedestrian movement.  I am most at home dancing Contemporary or (as I came to discover I also loved) doing improv.

3.  Did you dance professionally or in college?  If so, where, what schools, companies and/or shows?

I was an apprentice to Sacramento Ballet after college.  My college degree is in English Literature.  I also danced as a company member for CORE Dance Collective, a Contemporary company in Sacramento, California.

4.  When did you decide to pursue a career other than that of a dancer?

My parents told me dance wasn’t a career option, so it was always this thing I did over on the side while I pursued academics.  Strangely enough, though, I found myself making it a vocation when I apprenticed, and then again when I earned my Physical Education credential so I could teach dance and English at a public high school.

There have been three times when I decided to make a departure from dance.  The first was when I got married.  I had been a big fish in a small pond at a small studio for some time.  I decided I was “done” dancing, I chopped my hair and… three months later I was dancing with a professional company because the opportunity presented itself.  I decided I was “done” again when I had babies.  My body transformed so much that I thought there was no way I’d ever spend time dancing myself again.  And then I found myself auditioning for CORE.  The latest departure came when I decided I could no longer run my school’s dance program because I needed to focus my attention at home.  So I’m not currently dancing but I’m actually okay with it.  I’ve been teaching English for ten years too, and that (for now) is enough.

5.  What do you do now?

As I said, I’m an English teacher.  I teach 9th grade English and AP English Literature to 12th graders.  Even when I was teaching dance and dancing full time I was nurturing a love of literature.  I’m very grateful for the teaching experience I received as a young dance teacher.  I started teaching when I was sixteen and the training I underwent (even to teach) was strict and rigorous.  I know that has impacted how I compose myself as a teacher.  When I got my teaching credential I felt like I already had a leg up (sorry for the pun) because I’d been teaching dance for years.

I’m also a mom.  I have the two best monkeys any mom could ask for.

6.  How has dance affected your life?  How does it inspire you?

 Dance taught me discipline, manners, hard work, how to take criticism and not cry (that’s a hard one!) and how to continue working toward something for every day of my life.  It also taught me a lot about the unspoken bonds between people.  Performing, rehearsing and improvising with someone is a very intimate experience.  I learned a lot about me by working so closely with other people.  You sort of have to learn to be a good partner and you have to think about what it means to work toward a common goal.

Dance has also helped me to see that people are capable of much more than they give themselves credit for.  I have worked for several years with non-dancer teachers at my high school and it never fails to be rewarding.  To help someone go from clueless about movement to giving a confident (even if silly) performance of a final product is amazing and uplifting.

7.  Do you feel like your dance background helped you in other aspects of your life?  Did it contribute to your other successes?

 I feel like people respect the discipline of dance, so sometimes it has been an advantage.  I also feel like a lot of people don’t understand that world, though, so I have probably given equal time to the answering of questions from people who don’t “get” why I’d want to spend hundreds of hours in pursuit of something like it.  It’s an art, though, which means it serves no purpose except to inspire.  Some people aren’t on that wavelength.

But yes, dance has contributed to my other successes in a big way.  Through dance I’ve been given many opportunities to show what I can do—whether it is running a company or choreographing or dancing myself—and people notice those risks.

8.  How do you keep a hand in the dance world?  How do you support it?

I don’t have too much of a hand in the dance world, currently.  I’ve backed off to let other areas of my life bloom a little bit more and I’m okay with it.  I still go to see my friends dance and that makes me supremely happy but I don’t feel the call right now.  There are times when I think that I might want to go back—what I miss most is improv, surprisingly enough—but my priorities are different for the time being.  Dance can’t be a halfway thing, from my standpoint.  I think knowing that I’d have to be “all in” makes it easier to step back.  If I can’t do it right, I don’t want to do it (for now).

9.  Do you have a favorite dance film, book or dancer?

I was obsessed with Dirty Dancing for most of high school, so I’d have to say that is it for me.  Most of the dance things I like are little bits and pieces of weird things.  Remember the GAP ads in the 90’s with the swing dancing?  And the Joe Boxer dancing guy?  I always enjoy random dance scenes in movies like the prom scene in “She’s All That” and the dancing park people in “(50) Days of Summer” and “Enchanted.”  It’s little things like that which make me smile.  I’m a fan of the “Safety Dance” from Glee and I have to say hands down my all-time favorite dance experience to watch is Revelations from Alvin Ailey Dance Company.  It electrifies the room.

 10.  Do you plan to keep dancing throughout your life?

Even though I’m not dancing now, yes.  I think running has taken the physical place of dancing for me right now and oddly enough, blogging has filled the need for a creative outlet.  But I have a dancer’s heart—there will always be dance in my life in some form

Thanks Heather!  I just love what she says about dance revealing unspoken bonds between people and how it helps you to learn how to work and support others.  I think that is completely true and an aspect of dance that I often overlook or take for granted.  But maybe that's why I feel a special connection with all my dancer friends.  If you'd like to be one of my featured dancers, let me know!  I would love to hear from you!   

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Camp Ballet- The Dancer's Body

 I debated whether or not I should do a Camp Ballet post about body issues, as it can be a sore subject for a lot of people (including myself) but it's been on my mind lately and I felt like it was time to write something about it.  

I often joke that I quit ballet because I was hungry.  Usually (depending on my audience and my delivery) I get a laugh from this comment, but in all seriousness that statement is basically true.  I have a strong and muscular body, I'm fairly short, and I have a wide rib cage.  While I have never been fat or overweight, I don't have an ideal ballet body type--I was told this when I was 10 years old.  Ballerinas are supposed to be thin, tall, long and lean and (you may hate me for saying this) but there's a reason for that.  

More than any other form of dance, ballet has tradition.  There is a tradition in the stories, in the costumes, in the way we take class and the lines we are expected to achieve with our bodies.   Certain lines and particular positions look better on certain body types and I think that's just a fact.  So I understand why certain choreographers and artistic directors want dancers that look a certain way.  It's a visual art form, so it makes sense for there to be a standard for how it should look and that a lot of that depends on how the dancers look.  So I understand all that.  

But that doesn't mean I agree with it.  Because I didn't have the right "look,"  I spent a lot of time making up for that in technique.  I thought that if I could dance better than the skinny and tall dancers, my short stature and muscular legs would be forgiven.  I worked extra hard to be able to jump higher, turn more and dance more gracefully than the next girl.  I also made up for my body type with stage presence and strong acting chops.  I think I got most of my jobs based on my ability to win the audience over with my stage presence.  And I tried to do this all while dieting and limiting my calorie intake to about 1200 a day.  

But still, I'd see less able dancers (who were skinnier) getting cast in parts over me.  I'd see them struggle with the turns and steps that I could do so easily and I would feel so frustrated.  No matter how good a dancer I was, I couldn't ultimately change the way I looked.  By the time I was 20 I was exhausted.  I had spent a decade worrying about my body.  Hating my ribs for being so wide.  Pinching my skin and wishing it would just dissolve away.  That's when I stopped.  And it was the right thing for me to do.  

As soon as I took a step away from the dance world, I got a new perspective.  I had an amazing body in the real world.  In the real world people would ask me how I got such toned and muscular legs.  In the real world I was told I looked too skinny and need to go to In & Out.  In the real world I could eat!  In the real world I could be happy about my body and feel proud to be healthy.  I started to feel happier and I stopped putting so much pressure on myself to look a certain way, and you know what?  As soon as I did that I lost weight!  It was like my metabolism changed and everything balanced out.  I felt happier, healthier and I think I looked better than I ever had before!

So what's the moral of all this?  Why did you just read 5 paragraphs about my body issues?  Well, I suppose that I wanted to share with you how I was able to overcome my feelings of dissatisfaction with my body-type.  The ballet world will always supply some pressure for ballerinas to look a certain way.  I think it's getting better than it was, but it will always be there.  There will always be a pressure on dancers to be thin.  And that's just part of the gig, to a degree.  But I hope that none of you allow it it affect you the way it did me.  Regardless of the crap you may be getting about your body, there is no reason to cultivate self-loathing over the way you are shaped.  You really are beautiful!  And remember it's all relative.  What is too heavy in the ballet world may be super thin in the real world!  You just need to remember the bigger picture.

Since going back to dance, I have never been told I need to lose weight and I think it is mainly because I look the way I should and I am dancing for myself.  I don't allow the pressure of how someone thinks I should look dictate my life.  I've found a balance in eating healthy and exercising, while still taking pleasure in eating and accepting the way I look.  Every now and then I find myself looking in the mirror and starting to pick out the flaws just like I used to...when that happens I stop myself, take a breath and go have something to eat!  ;)     

Friday, April 15, 2011

Dancing Through Life ~ Lauren

Lauren, today's featured dancer, is a wonderful dancer, mother, wife and friend.  We trained together at the same dance studio when we were teenagers and have managed to stay in touch over the years, even though we haven't danced together in over a decade!  She is a very inspiring and strong woman with a rich and full life.  I am so happy to share how she dances through life....
 1. When did you start dancing?

I started dancing around 4 years old.  I switched to a much more professional studio in Van Nuys around 15 years old.

2. What styles did you train in and which is your favorite?

I trained in them all (and was required to as part of the training program I was part of): ballet, tap, jazz, modern, I even took locking, plus voice and acting.

My favorite is/was ballet.  Oh, how I wanted to be a ballerina.  But, alas, my body type did not lend itself to ballet and by the time I started really training the way I should have, it was probably too late.  My body type fit jazz better, and I love jazz, and thought I was pretty good at it. 

3. Did you dance professionally or in college? If so, where, what schools, companies and/or shows?

In college I was a theater major and did local musicals in at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center.  I continued to take class randomly at the Van Nuys studio.

4. When did you decide to pursue a career other than that of a dancer?

Probably all along – I never really auditioned or went outside of the comfort zone of the studio, and how could I get jobs if I didn't audition?  I have always been interested in, and had, several things going at once; several plates spinning at the same time.  It was once suggested that I would make a good producer because then I could have my finger in several pies.

5. What do you do now?

Everything!  I have a degree in theater with a minor in economics, but I work full-time as a legal secretary, I am a full-time mommy, and I have just started a non-profit foundation, Slice of Lime Foundation, as a result of losing my dad to lymphoma recently.

6. How has dance affected your life? How does it inspire you?

I recently went through a really rough time personally when my dad was taken ill with lymphoma (a blood cancer).  One day I was so emotionally wrought that I just wanted to dance.  There is something so freeing in being able to express emotion without words, just movement.

The devoted dancer has a certain ethic.  There is a commitment to the craft and to the other dancers.  That has been instilled in me from a very young age.  In junior high and high school, when my peers were hanging out all afternoon, going out late on Fridays, I was at the studio.  When fellow high schoolers were getting into trouble, I'd go from school to the studio until 9:30 at night then come home to do homework to get up and do it all again.  Especially being in the trainee program, I had to be committed.  And that is something that has carried through.

7. Do you feel like your dance background helped you in other aspects of your life? Did it contribute to your other successes?

Yes!  I think the commitment aspect, the ethic, like I mentioned above has made a huge impact and is a contributing factor for any success.  There were also teachings, or lectures, from class that apply to other aspects of life that I think of often.  And of course, there is a certain awareness of your body and the space around it, the choice to move certain ways, and the grace that accompanies the training of a dancer that certainly carries into the rest of the world and adds an air of confidence or control, or grace that others may not have.

8. How do you keep a hand in the dance world? How do you support it?

My daughter just started taking dance class (she is 4) so I am getting re-involved in a dance community now.  I like to try to keep up with my friends who are still dancing and I try to make sure I know of any performances happening.  My girls are just getting to the age where I think they'd appreciate a dance show.  And of course we love watching So You Think You Can Dance.

Lauren's girls--so precious!
9. Do you have a favorite dance film, book or dancer?

Film: The Turning Point.  I LOVE this movie.  Mostly for the dance sequences (sometimes I skip all the acting and just go straight to the dances parts).  But I also really like the story.  I have always identified with Deedee (Shirley MacLaine's character).  Something about the jealousy of making a different life choice, or just not wanting it enough, or whatever.  I first saw this movie as a pre-teen and identified then, but still do as an adult.  And I can see how difficult yet exciting it would be if my daughter, like Deedee's, took the dream that extra step.

10. Do you plan to keep dancing throughout your life? 

YES.  In fact there are times I'll bust out a little ballet right in my kitchen.  I still remember a few of the dances from the classes I took – my first jazz performance number at the Van Nuys studio and several others.  I have always had in the back of my mind the desire to do some sort of a dance show.  One day I hope to.  In the meantime, I miss taking class.  I miss it all.  I watch the teen classes at my daughter's dance studio and just want to get in there and see what I can still do.  I want to give notes and corrections.  One day, I'll be back…

Thanks Lauren!  I am so glad we're friends!  Be sure to check out the Slice of Lime Foundation and remember that a portion of all sales at my shop, Red Ribbon Fox, are donated to this meaningful and important cause.  And if you are interested in being a featured dancer on this here blog, let me know! 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Dancing Through Life~ Larissa

I am so excited about today's Dancing Through Life's featured dancer as she is the first dancer that I actually met through this here blog!  Meet Larissa Taurins-- a dance administrator, avid crafter and former dancer from Canada, but she's also a blogger (Yay dancing bloggers!)  I really related to  Larissa's feelings towards dance; they parallel mine in so many ways.  I was thrilled to become blog buddies with her and find yet another person who shares my ambivalent feelings towards the dance profession.  Check out her sweet blog, Purl Knitting, her etsy shop and read on to learn more about how she keeps dancing through life.
1.  When did you start dancing?
I started dancing in my living room around age 2 or 3. When I was three I went to the see the National Ballet of Canada’s Swan Lake and I sat through the entire thing, completely mesmerized. From then on, every afternoon I danced to my record of Swan Lake by myself, having my dad come and do the lifts with me. When I was 8 I started taking lessons.
2.  What styles did you train in and which is your favorite?
Throughout my childhood I was seriously into ballet, but then I got into an arts high school where I was a dance major, and fell in love with contemporary dance. I enjoy both forms equally, but I am more comfortable dancing and performing contemporary technique.
3.  Did you dance professionally or in college?  If so, where, what schools, companies and/or shows?
Throughout high school, I danced with the school’s company, and we got tons of performing experience that impacted me for life. I also was part of a youth company at my studio, the Pia Bouman School for Ballet and Creative Movement, where I now work.

After high school I attended a professional training program, The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, but left after two years.
Larissa's the one in the tutu--so cute!
4.  When did you decide to pursue a career other than that of a dancer?
When I was professionally training, I realized that it wasn’t the place for me. That kind of daily intensity and total immersion in dance was not really living life.  I was unhappy and confused, and it has taken a few years to let go of my dream and pursue a more balanced, varied life. However, I still consider myself a dancer, at least at heart.
5.  What do you do now?
I am currently finishing a degree in dance studies from York University, and working as an administrator and rehearsal mistress at the Pia Bouman School. I have also re-embraced my love of knitting, and opened an etsy shop (called Purl Knitting).  It has become a true passion for me. Otherwise, I have placed a lot of importance on the joys of daily life, including baking, reading, and spending time with loved ones.
6.  How has dance affected your life?  How does it inspire you?
There is a magic to dance that will always stay with me. It is ingrained in me as part of who I am, and I will always have that with me. The fact that so much emotion can be expressed through the moving body, and be universally recognized, brings me a lot of joy.
7.  Do you feel like your dance background helped you in other aspects of your life?  Did it contribute to your other successes?
I feel like my background in dance training has been a huge support to my current lifestyle. The dedication, work ethic, and sense of responsibility for oneself  still carries me through my days.
8.  How do you keep a hand in the dance world?  How do you support it?
I am still very much a part of the dance world, just not in the way that I imagined myself to be when I grew up. I have been studying dance academically, I started a magazine for emerging dance artists in Toronto with some friends which has been running now for 5 years, and I love my job as a dance administrator. I still have some unresolved feelings about performing, as I would like to still be able to do it in some capacity. I have suffered from chronic migraine headaches for the last few years, which stops me up. But I have started to make dance films (which I dance in) as a way to perform.
9.  Do you have a favorite dance film, book or dancer?
Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn are a continual inspiration for me. Also, the Ballet Russes era amazes me.

10.  Do you plan to keep dancing throughout your life?
About me (Larissa Taurins): I am a twenty-something crafter, dance administrator, and dancer at heart. I live in Canada with my love, and have a passion for tea, knitting, crafting, longs walks and vintage clothing.
Thank you Larissa for sharing how you keep dancing through life.  As always, if you are, were, or simply would like to be a dancer and want to share how you incorporate dance into your life, email me or leave me a comment! 

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