Los Angeles

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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