Dancethropology – Dance Advantage Solutions For All Stages Of Your Dance Life Fri, 12 Jan 2018 12:02:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A passion for ballet leads to romance in “Cantique,” a novel by Joanna Marsh Tue, 21 Nov 2017 15:00:35 +0000 A handsome prince who finds his gorgeous peasant in a country shop. Their love blooms but then a real princess steps in and claims the prince for herself. Colette's story evokes that of the ballets she loves. Marsh's novel will appeal to aspiring dancers young and old.]]>

Colette Larson, the twentysomething lead in Joanna Marsh’s debut novel, Cantique, is like so many intelligent and multi-faceted young women these days. While her day job is fulfilling financially and occasionally intellectually, there is a creative spark missing, one that she only finds when she’s in ballet class. Not a professional dancer, Colette nevertheless takes her classes as seriously as she does anything else in her life. She studies dance, knows how to take care of herself to best perform in class, and gives it her all when she is there.

Her home life is satisfying, if a bit deficient in the romance department. She ends her days watching documentaries and eating takeout with her roommate and fellow dancer, Sammy, and her cat Garcon. Ballet offers her a physical and emotional lift and gives life to her creative spirit.

Colette’s life takes a turn for the dramatic when she is laid off from her job as an administrative assistant for a clothing company – a job she had hoped would eventually lead to a career as a designer. While out for a run, she spots a “help wanted” sign in a small hardware store. Although she is hardly cut out for screwdriver sales, she has also been without work for a month and is beginning to feel indebted to Sammy. She halfheartedly applies and is shocked when she is hired.

The Ballet, courtesy Isabel, CC license

Tempe’s staff is a charming mix of small-town personalities and Colette is soon baking them treats and admitting that this temporary gig might be okay for a little while longer – especially when she meets the son of Tempe’s owner. James just happens to be one of the company members of the Westmoreland Ballet where she takes class. Handsome and talented, he is instantly smitten when he meets Colette at his father’s store.

Colette can’t believe her good fortune: could this be real?

The plot of Cantique evokes the story of many classical ballets we see on stage: an unlikely couple meet and fall in love but are separated by circumstance or misunderstanding. The ballets with happy endings (e.g. “Sleeping Beauty” or “Coppelia”) bring our couple together again while the darker ones (e.g. “Giselle” or “Swan Lake”) do not.

Ballerina, courtesy Lia Kapelke, CC license

James and Colette are our stand-ins for the handsome prince who finds his gorgeous peasant in a country shop. Their love blooms but then a real princess steps in and claims the prince for herself; in this case, Alex the stunning ballerina who is James’ partner. As mature as Colette considers herself to be, she becomes jealous at the intimacy of the two partners and of Alex’s obvious interest in James.


Which ending will our lovers have? Which ballet will Cantique give us?

The novel is more than a simple love story, however. Along the way, Colette finds her own path to creative fulfillment, one that doesn’t necessarily involve James. It’s a journey of self-discovery and a tale that reminds us to pursue our passions.

As Colette cries to James, “Do you know what it’s like to be so passionate about something that you can do absolutely nothing with?” His response is, perhaps, the author’s own philosophy. “Obviously, God gave you this passion for a reason,” he declared. “Something will come of it.” (p.136)

Cantique is suitable for a broad range of readers, young adult and up, dancers and non-dancers. Certainly many adult dancers, much like my own students, could see themselves in Colette’s story. The novel may be purchased here.

Courtesy of the author

About the author:

Joanna Marsh is a professional librarian, archivist, and recreational dancers based in Kansas City. She holds an MLS degree from Emporia State University and a BA in Humanities from Northwest Missouri State University. Cantique is her first novel. For more information, visit

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Eva Maze: Dance from another angle Tue, 27 Jun 2017 14:45:49 +0000 Eva Maze never quite fulfilled her childhood dream of becoming a ballerina but, as a successful organizer of theatrical productions, she's spent a lifetime traveling the world for the love of dance. Learn more about her story and memoir.]]>
With Ballet in My Soul by Eva Maze
Discover “With Ballet in My Soul” on Amazon

When a little girl begins to study ballet as a child, she typically envisions herself in a tutu and tiara, skittering across the floor en pointe, being held aloft by a handsome cavalier. Traveling the world with her troupe, she imagines visiting the sights of Paris and Milan, of Tokyo and London, cheered on by adoring fans and dance aficionados.

Eva Maze was no different. As a child in Bucharest, Romania, she studied ballet at a local school and exhibited enough talent to be offered a scholarship. Unfortunately, she contracted scarlet fever at the age of seven which often meant, in 1929, a death sentence, due to a lack of antibiotics. However, Maze’s pediatrician performed an extraordinary surgery on her: breaking the bones of her inner ears in order to relieve the buildup of fluid in them. It worked! Sadly, however, her parents would forever consider her “weak” and would not allow her to resume her ballet studies, regardless of how much she, or her ballet instructor, begged them.

Maze wouldn’t return to ballet until long after her family had emigrated to the United States just before the Second World War. As Romanian Jews watching the rise of fascism in their country, they began to fear for their lives and when opportunity knocked for Maze’s father, they fled to New York City. Academics came easily to her, especially foreign languages, and after high school, she chose to attend business school to learn typing and business writing, two additional skills which would serve her well in her future.

Eva Maze studying in London (photo courtesy Eva Maze)

At twenty, she met and married the love of her life, Oscar Maze, a 24 year old Air Force pilot. Together they would travel the world! Oscar was tremendously supportive of Eva, no matter what she chose to do. While Oscar was stationed in Pittsburgh, Eva found the Pittsburgh Ballet where she would discover the second love of her life (again!) – ballet. Even taking class just once a week rekindled the fire she had for the art form and it showed. The director of the ballet invited her to dance in their show, not as a ballerina en pointe, but in character roles, which are a little easier for older dancers to perform.

NB: “Older” in most careers does not refer to someone who is barely in her twenties but in dance, particularly ballet, twenty is ancient if you haven’t been consistently studying since your childhood.

When Oscar left the military, he was offered a temporary job with Pan American Airlines, a position which would become his lifelong career.  For many people, moving around the world as he and Eva did would be difficult but Eva loved it. She embraced every new city and country they moved to, from Germany to India, and in every location she would find dance. Although moving was a challenge, Maze describes the couple’s homes, their friends and their daughters with relish and charm. She found something to adore in every place she moved.

“From the time we landed in New Delhi in 1951 to the day we left for our next assignment in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1954, not a moment went by that didn’t include either a surprise or an adventure.”

Photo courtesy of Eva Maze

Much of With Ballet in My Soul reads as a travelogue, a paean to years past when travel was far easier and more glamorous than it is today. But what elevates this to a truly intriguing memoir is the turn it takes when Eva becomes what is known as an “impresario” and one of the very first women to do it. As Maze describes it, an impresario is a manager of performing groups or a touring agent. At the time – this is the early Fifties – the biggest name in this line of work was a Russian-born man named Sol Hurok. It never occurred to Eva that she would (or could) follow in his footsteps – bringing acts to Europe and touring them around the world – but that is exactly what she did. And by accident! While she and Oscar were living in India, she was asked by a friend to help coordinate some dancers and musicians on a trip to perform there. Not only did she manage it successfully by organizing flights and facilities, she enjoyed it. This soon led to more and more opportunities until she was one of the biggest names in the business, introducing companies like Alvin Ailey Dance Theater and American Ballet Theater to the world and even producing a massive event with the 1972 Summer Olympics.

Maze’s career lasted well into her 70s and began to wind down around the time of her husband’s death in 1993. Although she felt rudderless (she describes herself as the plane’s propeller while he was its rudder, steadying them as they went), she continued to travel until she eventually settled down in Florida where she enjoys swimming and playing with her grandchildren. Although she never did become the professional ballerina she envisioned as a child, she got it all: she performed on-stage in beautiful costumes, she toured magnificent cities of the world with her “troupe”, and she was most certainly held aloft by a handsome cavalier named Oscar.

“I was born with ballet in my soul…I would, in a heartbeat, do it all over again!”

Recent portrait of the author (courtesy of Eva Maze)

Reviewer’s personal note: in my role as teacher, I frequently hear the question from my students, “Is it too late for me?” My answer is always: never. It is never too late to begin, to continue, to explore. As this memoir details, there are many paths to take with the study of dance. Who knows where it will lead you?

Eva Maze is one of the most successful female theatrical impresarios in Europe with a career that lasted more than 40 years. She lives in Sarasota, Florida. Her memoir is published through Moonstone Press and is available here at Amazon.

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Girl Through Glass: Love, Obsession and Ballet in a Novel by Sari Wilson Fri, 30 Dec 2016 18:18:20 +0000 Two tales of love converge in Wilson's mystery novel in which the vibrant backdrop of the 1970s New York City ballet scene serves as conduit for the story.]]>

Girl Through Glass book coverIn Sari Wilson’s new novel, “Girl Through Glass,” two tales of love converge: teenage ballerina Mira’s obsession with a much older man and middle-aged college professor Kate’s desire to reconnect with her past. Ballet in 1970s New York City provides the conduit for these stories as well as a vibrant atmospheric backdrop.

Mira is a pre-teen in the mid-Seventies when her story begins, the only child of a couple who fell in love too young and grew apart quickly; their house in Brooklyn is evidence of their failing marriage. Purchased in order to be refurbished with blood, sweat, and tears, it stands untouched years later, falling apart and cluttered, with neither husband nor wife willing to fix it up. Unhappy in his marriage, Mira’s dad leaves her with her hippy-dippy mom and her ballet classes at the Little Kirov. Soon, however, it’s evident her mother has no business running a household and she takes off for California to find herself; Mira moves in with her father, who eventually falls in love and remarries.

Kate, whose story is told in the present day, is a former ballerina reluctantly sliding into a second career, that of a college professor in dance history. To be truthful, she has been none-too-successful in her new life. She hasn’t yet found the college that wants to keep her. She is unlucky in love as well, having been single for far too long – just long enough that she would fall into the arms of a student, thus putting her already-tenuous job at risk.  When a letter arrives indicating someone she knew in her past is possibly still alive, she makes a bold run from her responsibilities in Ohio to her past in New York to investigate. She hints that she believed she killed this person years ago, although whether she truly believes that or it’s simply hyperbole isn’t clear until much later in the story. A close reader will figure out the connection between Kate and Mira long before the writer ties it up but that’s not crucial to the enjoyment of the novel. Without getting into spoilers, the mystery doesn’t last that long for a careful reader.

Kryziz Bonny bw pointe shoes
Ballet Shoes” by Kryziz Bonny is licensed CC BY 2.0

Maurice is Mira’s older man and he is also Kate’s letter writer. In the Seventies, he becomes a mentor to Mira, introducing her to a more sophisticated lifestyle than an average twelve year old would ever experience: meals at the Russian Tea Room, attendance at the ballet, a large Manhattan apartment with a doorman. Talented though she may be, Mira is also fascinated by love and, eventually, by desire. To Mira’s fellow dancers at SAB – where the great Mr. B takes an interest in her – Maurice is a creep and most certainly a pervert. Hanging around Lincoln Center, watching the girls, becoming too involved from the sidelines, he inspires revulsion in all but Mira who sees only the older man’s love of beauty, his love of her. And as a young woman who is feeling neglected by her parents, Mira embraces the attention.

In Kate’s life, Maurice has largely been absent, but he was clearly a looming figure who had an influence despite his absence. When she receives a letter from him, Kate rushes off to New York City, staying with a former dance friend who has a far more glamorous life than the academic one Kate has.  She’s clearly confused about how she feels, whether she wishes Maurice dead or alive, and eventually when we learn exactly who Maurice was to her, readers can understand why.

Sari Wilson’s descriptions of New York of the Seventies and early Eighties, as well as the ballet world of Balanchine and his young proteges, are haunting. She nails the decade’s clothing and music and the false camaraderie-hiding-cunning of the chain-smoking, coffee-drinking thirteen year old bunheads. And she absolutely gets into the head of a young woman discovering the power of her body, what it can do for her, what it can do to others. Students of ballet, especially those who came of age in the 80s, and readers who appreciate characters and situations that are morally ambiguous, are likely to enjoy Wilson’s debut.


Sari Wilson author photo Elena Seibart
author photo by Elena Seibart

Sari Wilson has been a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford, a Fine Arts Work Center Fellow in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and has received a residency from The Corporation of Yaddo. Her fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in literary journals such as Agni, Oxford American, and Slice.

As a child, she studied ballet at Neubert Ballet Theater, a once-storied Carnegie Hall studio. Later, she studied at Harkness Ballet and as a scholarship student at Eliot Feld’s New Ballet School. She went on to study and perform modern dance with Stephan Koplowitz and at Oberlin College, where she majored in history and minored in dance.

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Costume Design for Dance, Ballet Fashion and the Tutu Fri, 23 Dec 2016 15:34:50 +0000 Love dance and fashion? Explore where these two worlds come together. Here's a start.]]>


The dance and fashion worlds often intersect. That’s because dancers like to look good on and off stage. We’ve provided costume measuring and alteration advice in the past but below our friends help you explore ballet fashion and designing for dance.

“Tutu Shimmer” by Chris Hays is licensed CC BY-ND 2.0

5 Links on Ballet Fashion and Designing for Dance

  1. 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Tutus
  2. Ballet Fashion or Fashion Ballet?
  3. Swan Lake Fashion Boards – If Odette and Odile Walked the Runway
  4. Designing for Dance: Hogan McLaughlin
  5. Dancer Turned Designer: Taylor Morgan’s Story


The first book to explore the synergy between dance and fashion, featuring a wide range of dance-fashion collaborations and inspirations. Get it on Amazon. A must for anyone interested in the performing arts, the intersection of art and design, and costume and fashion. Get it on Amazon.


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Pampered Dancer DIY Peppermint Foot Lotion Thu, 22 Dec 2016 16:56:33 +0000 For dancers suffering with rough, scaly, dry “sandpaper” feet, this DIY peppermint foot lotion makes a great gift.]]>

This DIY whipped peppermint lotion is really special for anyone suffering with rough, scaly, dry “sandpaper” feet, making it a wonderful gift for yourself or any dancer you know.

It can be used anywhere on your body and it is recommended to apply a generous amount to your feet with socks before going to sleep.

Below is the complete recipe (Also found here)


Ingredients: 1 teaspoon beeswax 2 tablespoons cocoa butter 4 tablespoons shea butter 1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil 2 tablespoons Fractionated Coconut Oil 5 drops Peppermint essential oil 5 drops Melaleuca essential oil


1. In small glass container, combine all ingredients except essential oils.
2. Place in saucepan with 1-1.5 inches of boiling water.
3. Stir ingredients until combined (around 5-10 minutes).
4. Once melted, remove from heat and let rest 3 minutes.
5. Add essential oils and stir.
6. Let mixture come to a solid. To quicken process, place in refrigerator.
7. Once solid, use an electric mixer to whip lotion.
8. Gradually come to high speed and whip for 3-4 minutes or until light and fluffy.
9. Place in a container. To use, rub on heels to help soften and soothe them.

What has been your experience with DIY lotions?
Is this something you’d like to try making at home?


Free Peppermint!

For a limited time, if you purchase a 15ml bottle of Melaleuca (retail $25) plus shipping, I’ll send you a 15ml bottle of Peppermint (retail $27) for FREE.

Simply send $30 when you click on this link PayPal.Me/DanceAdvantage.


Interested in other ways dancers can use essential oils?

Essential Oils for Dancers
Sign up for Essential Oils for Dancers. I’ll send you tips and recipes and we’ll learn together!


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10 Holiday Gifts for Dancers Tue, 22 Nov 2016 08:55:40 +0000 Not sure what to buy the dancer on your holiday shopping list this year? Here are some gift ideas that any dancer would love.]]>

Gifts for dancersThere’s a little something for everyone and something at every price level in our 2016 dancer wishlist. Fashionable dancewear and jewelry, holiday ornaments, must-have performance or competition gear, footwear, and more!

We hope this list is perfect for the dancer in your life (or for you) this holiday season.

Happy dance shopping!


1. Love Dance Bracelet – under $10

(assorted colors)


2. Best Dance Teacher Ornament – under $10

Truly adorable!


3. HairpinPal – under $15

Um. Where has this been all my life?



4. Three Massage Therapy Balls – under $20

Perfect for reducing Plantar Fasciitis pain or for myofascial release and tired-dancer massage.


5. Love Dance Leggings – under $25

Let ’em know wherever you go!


6. Freegrace Hanging Hair/Makeup Bag – under $25

This holds it all and is ready to hang out right where you need it.

Freegrace Toiletry Bag


7. Apolla Dance Shocks – under $30

More than just socks, these support and provide traction.


8. Feet Pampering Kit – under $40

(under $30 for wholesale customers

Doterra Feet Pampering Kit


9. Block Warmup Booties – under $45

For cozy toesies in the studio or at home.


10. Closet Trolley Dance Duffle –  $175

Your entire costume wardrobe in a bag.


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REVIEW Terez Mertes Rose’s “Outside the Limelight” Thu, 10 Nov 2016 14:59:14 +0000 Terez Mertes Rose delivers the second book of her Ballet Theatre Chronicles series. This time exposing the underbelly of ballet through the stories of two dancing sisters.]]>

About OUTSIDE THE LIMELIGHT, from the author:outside-the-limelight-cover-tm-rose

Rising ballet star Dena Lindgren’s dream career is knocked off its axis when a puzzling onstage fall results in a crushing diagnosis: a brain tumor. Looming surgery and its long recovery period prompt the company’s artistic director, Anders Gunst, to shift his attention to an overshadowed company dancer: Dena’s older sister, Rebecca, with whom Anders once shared a special relationship.

Under the heady glow of Anders’ attention, Rebecca thrives, even as her recuperating sister, hobbled and unnoticed, languishes on the sidelines of a world that demands beauty and perfection. Rebecca ultimately faces a painful choice: play by the artistic director’s rules and profit, or take shocking action to help her sister.

Exposing the glamorous onstage world of professional ballet, as well as its shadowed wings and dark underbelly, OUTSIDE THE LIMELIGHT examines loyalty, beauty, artistic passion, and asks what might be worth losing in order to help the ones you love.

Terez Mertes Rose returns to the world she created in the first novel of her Ballet Theatre Chronicles series, OFF BALANCE (Classical Girl Press, 2015). [See our review here.]

While not a strict sequel, this new story takes place in the same well-drawn setting of West Coast Ballet Theatre, the fictional ballet company in San Francisco from the first book. In that novel, we were introduced to the characters of Alice, a former ballerina who suffered a career-ending injury, and Lana, a young star of the company who is away from her home for the first time and desperately needs emotional support. In OUTSIDE THE LIMELIGHT, Alice and Lana have very minor roles while our focus turns to a pair of sisters in the company.

Rose sets up the dynamic behind the pair in prologue: younger sister Dena was singled out of the corps for promotion, leaving older sister Rebecca behind, which caused a ripple in their relationship. Complicating family matters was the divorce of their parents, each of whom aligned with one of the sisters: mother Isabella with Rebecca and father Conrad with Dena. A reader might assume this set-up would result in a tale of classic Black Swan-type sibling rivalry but Rose takes it in an unexpected direction, making the relationship between the sisters far more nuanced and complex. Each of the sisters has her own story which, while inextricably linked to the other, doesn’t necessarily involve arch-enemy theatrics.

Dena’s story begins as many dance-related tales do – with an injury that threatens her career. But recovering from surgery for a brain tumor is not the same as rehab for a broken foot or a torn ACL. Dena’s physical issues not only involve stamina, balance, and hearing but also facial paralysis. Rose reminds us just how much expression is expected from a dancer on-stage. We can’t imagine a ballerina without a smile. (We’d probably see how difficult those fouette turns really are!)

Dancing sisters Alana and Arie
Sister Shot” with dancers Alana and Arie by Melissa K Dooley is licensed CC BY 2.0

Interpersonal relationships are also a challenge for Dena. Prior to her surgery, she was often isolated from the rest of the company. She didn’t have as many friends as her sister who lived in a house with a group of other corps dancers. Instead, she roomed with one other dancer, Lana, who was frequently away with her fiance. After the surgery, when her few friends don’t know how to interact with her, Dena finds herself very lonely…

…Until Rebecca introduces her to Misha, her teacher who happens to know a great deal about the post-surgery condition she is dealing with. Convinced Misha is interested in her beautiful sister, Dena settles for building a great friendship with Misha.

Rebecca’s story involves two men – or is it three? First is her current boyfriend, Boyd, another member of the corps who has plans to take a job with a different ballet company and wants Rebecca to go with him. Then there is Anders Gunst, the company’s artistic director whom she has flirted with and loved from afar since she was an apprentice. Could there be a third? Ben is one of the ballet masters and Anders’ right hand, whom Anders uses as the middleman between himself and Rebecca, so no one suspects anything is going on between the two of them. Rebecca too has resigned herself to a life with Boyd, maybe even a move with him too, since her career with WCBT is stagnant…

…Until Dena’s absence suddenly opens up far more possibilities for, both with Anders and with the company. Maybe Boyd is not Rebecca’s future, after all, and maybe there could be more advancement with WCBT.

The love stories for Dena and Rebecca take so many twists and turns that, for much of the book, readers can’t predict the ending, who will end up with whom, or who we want each to end up with, for that matter. I, for one, appreciate that the author does not force any sort of competitive love triangle involving the two sisters, nor does she create a competitive professional triangle for them. It’s never an either/or situation, never a direct contest between Rebecca and Dena, and that allows the author to give them an honest relationship. Their friendship, with its ups and downs, feels very realistic.

Ballet Stage Lighting, courtesy Zaimoku Woodpile, Flickr CC license

Beyond the sisters, Rose populates her story with company members whose presence give further insight into the real world of ballet. Whether a reader is a balletomane, a student of dance or simply someone who enjoys a complex story, the author provides plenty of real-life politics, on-stage and off-stage dramatics, and actual choreography. In fact, one of my favorite treats of this book was Rose’s glossary of dance terms, some of which were very amusing:

Grand allegro – the big run combination across the diagonal at the end of a ballet class. Big fun. Classical Girl’s favorite part of class.

Upstage – see “downstage” for explanation; I don’t feel like writing it twice.

On a final, more serious note, in her acknowledgments, Rose describes her own sister’s brain tumor. This story is rooted in her personal experience.


courtesy The Classical Girl
courtesy The Classical Girl

Terez Mertes Rose is a writer and former ballet dancer whose work has appeared in the Crab Orchard Review, Literary Mama, Women Who Eat (Seal Press), A Woman’s Europe (Travelers’ Tales), the Philadelphia Inquirer and the San Jose Mercury News. She reviews dance performances for and blogs about ballet and classical music at The Classical Girl. OUTSIDE THE LIMELIGHT is her second novel in the Ballet Theatre Chronicles series of books. Both are available at Amazon.



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Getting Started With Essential Oils For Dancers Fri, 28 Oct 2016 15:12:54 +0000 Like athletes, dancers are always exploring ways to improve performance, nutrition, exercise, and wellness in every way possible, including using essential oils as useful tools for supporting the body in natural ways.]]>

Dancers are athletes!

Regardless of whether or not you consider dance a sport, it’s hard to argue that a high level of athleticism is required of dancers in the 21st Century. The rigorous training and performance regimen of elite dancers is equivalent to that of top athletes in other fields.

Like athletes, dancers are always exploring ways to improve performance and stay healthy– optimizing nutrition, exercise, and wellness in every way possible, including applying “alternative” or more holistic solutions to many important areas of their dance lives.

This is where essential oils come in. We’ve seen these natural compounds, which are extracted from plants (or parts of plants), consistently recommended by dancers and experts in dance publications. Typically, it is suggested the dancer use them aromatically. However, oils that meet the standard of CPTG (Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade) can also be a benefit when applied to pressure points or taken internally. No matter how you use them, essential oils are a useful tool for supporting the bodies of dancers in natural ways.

I’m no longer dancing and performing at a professional or elite level. Now that I’m approaching middle age, however, I’m feeling the wear and tear of many years of teaching, jumping, and rolling around on inadequate dance floors. In addition, over the last 2 months I’ve started running. After being introduced to doTERRA essential oils by a friend, I decided to give their Athlete’s bundle and a few other products a try.

Athlete’s Kit

doTERRA Athlete's Kit

Founded in 2008 (the same year as Dance Advantage), doTerra is a company committed to providing the highest quality and purest essential oils to homes around the world. Their Athlete’s Kit is designed to support healthy athletic activity, while counteracting the taxing effects of exercise on the body and includes 5mL bottles of doTERRA Breathe, doTERRA On Guard, Lavender, Melaleuca, and Peppermint and a 120 mL tube of Deep Blue Rub in a compact, reusable zippered pouch.

Essential oils can support athletes in a few different ways: relief from achy muscles, immune support, and boosts in performance are primary goals for most athletes. Some oils may also help with relaxation or even odor-reduction for smelly gear. The Athlete’s Kit actually addresses all of these.

Deep Blue Rub

doTERRA Deep Blue Rub is a cream you apply to the body. It is similar to other products you may have used before that create a sensation of cold and warmth to soothe sore muscles. The smell may even remind you of these other products. The cream is infused with the Deep Blue essential oil blend of Wintergreen, Camphor, Peppermint, Ylang Ylang, Helichrysum, Blue Tansy, Blue Chamomile, and Osmanthus. I noticed immediately that my skin did not feel sticky or greasy after applying the Deep Blue Rub. It absorbs into the skin much like a moisturizer so a little goes a long way. Once applied, the tingling sensation intensifies and lasts for quite a while. I like using the rub before I go to bed when my muscles are sore at the end of a long day but it would be comforting after class too as long as you or your dance buddies don’t mind the distinctive wintergreen scent.

Breathe Blend

doTERRA Breathe is a blend of essential oils including Laurel Leaf, Eucalyptus Leaf, Peppermint Plant, Melaleuca Leaf, Lemon Peel, Ravensara Leaf, Cardamom Seed. My favorite way to use this blend is to put a drop or two in my hands and inhale but you can also put it on your chest, back of the neck, or bottom of the feet (those with sensitive skin may want to dilute with fractionated coconut oil) to promote that feeling of easy breathing and clear airways– especially useful this time of year!

On Guard Blend

doTERRA On Guard has a warm, spicy scent that is great when added to a diffuser to cleanse the air. You can also add it to water to clean surfaces but the blend of Wild Orange Peel, Clove Bud, Cinnamon Bark/Leaf, Eucalyptus Leaf, and Rosemary Leaf/Flower essential oils serve to protect against environmental threats.

Lavender, Melaleuca, and Peppermint Oils

These three oils are versatile and useful to have on hand.

Lavender, you may know, is used widely for its calming qualities. You can add a few drops to bathwater or linens to encourage rest and relaxation or dab a little on your temples before performances to ease nervousness or stage fright. Lavender can also be used for minor skin irritations.

Melaleuca, otherwise known as Tea Tree oil, is also handy for solving skin problems. I’ve used Melaleuca to fight acne breakouts and, because it is known for its cleansing and rejuvenating effect on the skin, some athletes use this oil to keep their feet and toenails healthy and free of infection.

Peppermint can provide a boost when your energy is low. It’s a key ingredient in one of my other favorite doTERRA oil blends, Motivate. Peppermint also works well with Lavender for a soothing massage blend or you can put a few drops in your foot bath.


The Athlete’s Kit above can be purchased when you Shop via the button below. (PS. I do not recommend purchasing doTERRA products from non-doTERRA retailers as you cannot be sure that what you’re getting is the real deal.)


I became a Wellness Advocate after seeing how other athletes and dancers are using doTERRA essential oils and after trying the products. You don’t have to be an Advocate or even a doTERRA member to get the Athlete’s Kit. It retails for $100 and it’s a simple, effective way for dancers or teachers to get started with essential oils.


Wholesale Customers can get the Athlete’s Kit product bundle above for only $75.

If you’d like to become a Wholesale Customer and get 25% off doTERRA products, there’s more information on that if you keep reading below.

Whether you buy the bundle above or not, I invite you to learn more about ways dancers and dance teachers might use essential oils in their daily lives by signing up for our Essential Oils for Dancers newsletter.


Supplementing with Essential Oils

doTERRA Daily Nutrient Pack

Daily Nutrient Pack

In addition to the Athlete’s Kit, I decided to try doTERRA’s Daily Nutrient Pack which includes Microplex VMz and xEO Mega dietary supplements. Microplex VMz provides 22 essential vitamins and minerals, including a botanical blend with greens like kale, broccoli, and spinach and a balanced blend of calcium, magnesium and other minerals. xEO Mega is an essential oil omega complex that’s formulated with a proprietary blend of Clove, Frankincense, Thyme, Cumin, Wild Orange, Peppermint, Ginger, Caraway, and German Chamomile and provides a wide range of omega-3 fatty acids from marine and plant sources. Combined, these supplements are designed to support the body’s natural functions and provide essentials nutrients.*

I’ve tried these in place of my normal multi-vitamin nearly every day for over a month, sometimes taking the full dosage and sometimes just half, and either way feel confident I am doing something good for my body by making sure I’m taking in quality nutrients that I’m not getting from my normal busy writer/teacher/mom diet. In particular, I notice that I feel my mind is less foggy on mornings that I take the xEO Mega.


doTERRA’s Mito2Max supplement provides an extra energy boost when you are tired or low-energy. For me, (again, busy writer/teacher/mom) that’s pretty much daily. I take Mito2Max, an energy and stamina complex of standardized plant extracts and metabolic cofactors, on days that I go running in the morning. I actually regret it on the days that I forget.



Deep Blue Polyphenol ComplexDeep Blue Polyphenol Complex

Deep Blue Polyphenol Complex is another supplement that can be taken daily or as needed. Like the Deep Blue Rub this formula, which includes proprietary, standardized extracts of ginger, curcumin, resveratrol, and other polyphenols is designed to help with soreness, aches, and pains. Any dancers out there who don’t have their share of these?

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.



How To Save

Everything above (the 5 essential oils, supplements, and the rub) are included in a Wholesale Starter Kit for Athletes.

Becoming a Wholesale Customer is how most people get started with essential oils. Why? Because your wholesale membership allows you to save 25% off retail prices. If you’ve ever had a Costco membership, you know how this works – join and you save every time with no obligation to buy or sell.

Wholesale is the way to go. Here’s how:

  1. Click the Get Started button below, enter your language and country and hit continue.
  2. Select “Wholesale Customer” (cannot sell doTERRA) or “Wellness Advocate” (can sell doTERRA) and then hit continue. If at any time you decide to sell the oils, you can upgrade to a Wellness Advocate account. Contact me using the form below if you’d like more info on creating an income in doTERRA.
  3. Input your contact and shipping info.
  4. Select your wholesale starter kit
  5. Enter in your payment information and then hit “Process Order Now and Continue“


Get Started


Unfortunately, the Athletes Wholesale Starter Kit is NEARLY SOLD OUT and may not be offered again by doTERRA so, if you’re thinking about getting started with this starter, don’t wait.

In fact, only the Spanish introductory literature for this starter kit is available and only while supplies last. (Don’t worry, if you enroll and need your introduction packet in English, simply contact me using the form below and I’d be happy to send you what you need. I just don’t want you to miss what is likely your last chance to enroll with a kit specifically geared to athletes). When these run out, you can still get started with any of the starter kits available.


I’m still learning about the many uses of essential oils for dance and all aspects of my life but I’m happy to have been introduced and I hope you are too!

Because this is a dance site and not an essential oils site, we won’t be covering oils or doTERRA on Dance Advantage much beyond what you see above. However, if you want to learn along with me or share what you know, please do sign up for our Essential Oils for Dancers newsletter.


If you have questions about how to get started or become a Wellness Advocate, contact me:


[contact-form-7] ]]> 0
5 Ballets That Will (Happily) Break Your Heart Sat, 01 Oct 2016 02:07:03 +0000 Ballet enthusiasts love a good tragedy. Here we describe five of our favorite heartbreaking love stories and why we love them.]]>

Humans love a good tragedy.

We fall for heartrending tales because watching unhappy stories actually promotes happy feelings. Negative emotions make us think and empathize, and reading or watching fictional tragedies makes our brains release oxytocin (that feel-good hormone). It’s even thought that watching sad or emotional scenes with others can cause viewers’ brains to “sync up,” prompting feelings of harmony.

All the more reason to head out to the ballet for a tug at the heart strings. Of ballet’s tragic love stories these are our favorites.


Sara Webb as Cio-Cio San in Stanton Welch’s Madame Butterfly, photo by Amitav Sardar courtesy of Houston Ballet.
Sara Webb as Cio-Cio San in Stanton Welch’s Madame Butterfly, photo by Amitav Sardar courtesy of Houston Ballet.


Madame Butterfly

Here in my city, Houston Ballet is currently performing Madame Butterfly for its 2016/17 season. Artistic director, Stanton Welch originally adapted Puccini’s opera for The Australian Ballet in 1995 and the two-act production entered Houston Ballet’s repertory in 2002, not long before he assumed leadership of the company.

Cio-Cio San, a geisha known as Madame Butterfly, was forced into her role as a female escort/entertainer following the suicide of her father which plunged her family into poverty. In the ballet, after a prologue during which Butterly dreams of her future and foreshadows her death, Act I begins with wedding preparations. Butterfly is about to marry Lieutenant Pinkerton, an American naval officer with whom she has fallen in love. She has become a Christian in order to marry this man, a decision that causes her uncle to publicly disavow her during the wedding, disturbing the family and guests and upsetting Butterfly. Pinkerton consoles her and his love is convincing but unknown to Butterly, he has a fiancé waiting for him back home in America.

Act II begins several years later. Butterly and her child, Pinkerton’s son, have become destitute as she waits for the return of her husband. Despite urging from others to annul her vows to Pinkerton and marry another, Butterfly’s hope is steadfast. She believes that Pinkerton will come back and her son, who is considered an outcast in Japan, will have a bright future in America. Pinkerton does return but he arrives with his American wife, Kate, who intends to adopt the boy. Pinkerton cannot even face Butterfly. He departs, abandoning the task of convincing Butterfly to Kate and Butterfly’s friend, Suzuki and leaving Butterfly with a broken heart. She gives up her child to Kate and, when they have gone, lifts up her father’s sword to die upon it as he did.



La Sylphide

By Fanny Schertzer (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By Fanny Schertzer (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
La Sylphide is a ballet that premiered in 1832 at the Paris Opera. The tragic story is set in Scotland, considered a wild and exotic land at that time. Choreographer, Filippo Taglioni created the the ballet and the role of the sylph for his daughter, the famous ballerina Marie Taglioni. The version we most often see today, however, is not the original but a version created by Danish Ballet master, August Bournonville.

The story of La Sylphide is one of revenge and tragedy. James has managed to make an enemy of a witch named Madge. He’s about to get married to Effie but on the dawn of the day they are to wed, a sylphide, or winged spirit, comes into his room, kisses and wakes him, and then flits away. Later, Madge tells everyone that James doesn’t really love Effie and prophesies that she’ll instead marry Gurn (a guy who has a thing for Effie, anyway). Next time James is alone, the sylph is back at it, professing her love for him and enticing him to come with her to the forest. She dances among the guests at a party and eventually swipes the ring intended for Effie and runs off into the forest with it. James pursues, upsetting Effie.

In Act II, Madge casts a mysterious spell on a scarf. Meanwhile, the sylph, with whom James has by now fallen in love (naturally), is playing hard to get in the forest. Gurn, who has been leading the search party for James, gives up and heads home. Then, Madge turns up to tell James he can catch his sylph with her bewitched scarf. Clearly a few pleats shy of a kilt, he believes her and eventually manages to wrap up the winged spirit, only to have his heart broken when her wings fall off and she dies as a result. He falls to the forest floor as sounds of the wedding feast of Effie and Gurn reach his ears and Madge, the old witch, gloats.


IMAGE Photo by Michael Seamans - Dancers: Larissa Ponomarenko and Nelson Madrigal (Boston Ballet) - Romeo and Juliet embrace on a bed before a red backdrop. IMAGE
© Michael Seamans – Dancers: Larissa Ponomarenko and Nelson Madrigal (Boston Ballet)



Romeo and Juliet

The original ballet adaptation of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, was marked by its own tragedy and drama. Prokofiev’s score was originally commissioned and completed in 1935 for a Kirov Ballet (now called Mariinsky) production. Communist regime change that led to the executions of some of the ballet’s supporters and an unwillingness to accept the non-traditional “happy ending” Prokofiev’s version introduced, halted the production. The score was then passed on to the Bolshoi Theatre and was rejected. Finally, the Kirov did produce the ballet for its 1940 season but only after bullying Prokofiev into changes that, among other things, included reinstating the tragic ending. It was deemed a success though Prokofiev was very disappointed with the production, and was later produced by The Bolshoi Theatre as well. Many versions of the ballet exist including those choreographed by John Cranko, Kenneth MacMillan, John Neumeier, Yuri Grigorovich, Peter Martins, Alexei Ratmansky, Stanton Welch and more. The score we know and love is the “Stalin-approved” version, however, Mark Morris created a ballet using Prokofiev’s original work in 2008.

The plot of this tragic love story likely needs little explanation but here’s a refresher in case you need it.




Carlotta Grisi as Giselle [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Originally performed in Paris in 1841, with choreography by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, this ballet featured Italian ballerina Carlotta Grisi as Giselle. Wildly successful, Giselle was inspired by Victor Hugo’s Fantômes, with verse about a young Spanish girl who loves to dance and catches a chill at a ball and dies, and Heinrich Heine’s De l’Allemagne, which tells of the Wilis, young women who have died before their wedding day and rise from their graves at night to dance and force any young man who crosses their paths to dance to his death. The productions we see today are generally derived from Marius Petipas’ restaging of Giselle for the Imperial Ballet.

In the ballet, Giselle is a beautiful peasant girl who wants badly to dance but has a weak heart. A young noble, Albrecht pretends to be a farmer and woos Giselle who agrees to marry him. Hilarion, a local gamekeeper, is also in love with Giselle and is suspicious of the farmer, “Loys.”  Surprise surprise, there’s reason not to trust Albrecht for he is already engaged to Bathilde, a woman of noble birth.  When a party of nobleman (and Bathilde) come to the village, Albrecht fears he’ll be recognized but eventually the truth about him and his betrothal come out. Giselle goes mad and dies due to her weak and broken heart.

Tragic, right? Well, in Act II Hilarion weeps at Giselle’s grave but is scared away by the ghostly Wilis, a band of spirits betrayed in life by their lovers. Giselle is accepted into the clan of Wilis by their queen, Myrtha. When Albrecht comes to visit her grave, Giselle appears to him and he begs and is granted her forgiveness. Meanwhile the Wilis catch up with Hilarion and force him to dance to his death. The Wilis then go after Albrecht but, in the end, Giselle saves him. She returns to her grave to rest in peace, leaving Albrecht to mourn her.


Swan Lake

Composed by Tchaikovsky, the ever-popular Swan Lake ballet has many alternate endings and not all of them are tragic. The original ballet premiered in 1877 at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. The production was a flop, though a few critics did recognize the virtues of its score. Swan Lake was later revived by Petipa and Ivanov in 1895 for the Kirov Ballet. Their version is the inspiration for most modern interpretations and restagings of the classical ballet.

By Library of Congress - (neg. no. LC-USZ62-115331), Public Domain,
By Library of Congress – (neg. no. LC-USZ62-115331), Public Domain, via Wikimedia

The basic plot begins as Prince Siegfried is about to come of age. His mother insists that he should be wed soon but he’d prefer to marry for love (and hang out with his friends). He sets off with a group of buddies to go hunting in the woods. As day turns to dusk he reaches a beautiful lake and pursues a group of swans he finds there. Taking aim, he is shocked when, before his eyes, one of the swans turns into a beautiful woman named Odette. Enchanted by her, he discovers a curse has been cast upon Odette by the sorcerer von Rothbart. By day she’s a swan and by night she returns to human form. Just as Siegfried is about to break the curse by vowing to love Odette forever, Rothbart shows up and interferes. Later, at his birthday bash, Siegfried is introduced to a handful of princesses, each a potential bride. Rothbart in disguise shows up with Odile, a woman dressed in black who looks exactly like Odette. After the Prince dances with her, he asks for her hand, realizing too late that he’s mistaken Odile for Odette (dressed in white). The heartbroken Odette flees to the forest and Siegfried goes after her.

Siegfried’s pledge to Odile has made breaking Odette’s curse impossible. And, here’s where plot lines frequently diverge. In most versions the lovers’ mutual solution is to go jump in the lake, whereby their drownings destroy Rothbart’s powers and unite them in death. In some versions, Odette commits suicide and Siegfried quickly follows. Sometimes the lovers die and are shown ascending into an afterlife. In the original, the couple actually defeat Rothbart and live happily ever after. In Stanton Welch’s 2006 adaptation for Houston Ballet, Odette is accidentally shot by Siegfried who then drowns himself with her lifeless body in his arms. In yet another version, Siegfried and Rothbart die, leaving Odette to live on as a swan and in Rudolf Nureyev’s 1986 version, the bad guy wins!


What are your favorite ballet heartbreakers?


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3 Ways To Find Unique Music For Dance Tue, 27 Sep 2016 15:02:29 +0000 Choreographers often find music for dances in the same place: from other dancers, making it tough to use something unique. Avoid overused composers and songs with these 3 tips.]]>

I once went to an emerging choreography showcase where almost half of the choreographers used the same composer: completely by coincidence. While there are a multitude of reasons why this may have occurred, it nevertheless demonstrated the importance of careful  — and varied — musical selection for choreography.

How many times have you been to a dance competition or performance and thought, I want to check out that song or composer for my next work or dance number?

Find unique music for choreography
Headphones” by Nickolai Kasherin is licensed CC BY 2.0 ; modified with text overlay


Musical selection is often hindered because choreographers consistently look for music in the same place. Following are some ideas to shake up your musical selection routine.


Original Music is an Option

You can’t get more original than original music! If you are looking for an original composition for your choreography, you will need to find a composer. The task is not as difficult or unaffordable as you think. A quick Google search will reveal a wealth of freelance composers who are available for hire. To get a more personal experience, consider inquiring with local art schools or colleges or holding a composer competition like Houston’s Frame Dance Productions does annually. Many colleges have composition courses with talented students who would be willing to compose a piece of music for free or at a reduced cost.


It’s All Relative

If you are looking for something pre-recorded and you have an idea of what you want it to sound like, head over to Spotify. I often ask my choreography students to try this when they get “stuck” on a popular composer. If you create a playlist, Spotify will automatically generate a list of “related songs” right below it. This is a great way to discover new artists in a particular genre.

Of course, there are other places to find related music. Tell us your favorite methods and services in the comments!


Licensed for More Than Listening

An important and often overlooked consideration is copyright. Copyright protections cover both the recording of the song, as well as a song itself. If you are creating work in a situation where you will need to get the legal rights to use your musical selection, you may find this is more difficult, or more expensive, than you had imagined.

The internet has a wealth of sites on which you can download and license music for free. These web sites, such as Beatpick, often contain the work of new, experimental artists, and simply ask that you credit the artist wherever the work is used.

There are also web sites like PublicDomain4U and Musopen that house music that is in the public domain, meaning that the works no longer have property rights attached to them. Always check which rights attach to a particular piece of music. It is common that a composition is in the public domain, but a particular recording of that composition is not.


Share your tips for avoiding overused music for choreography in the comments!



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Ballet, boys…and penguins? Jennifer Longo’s “Up to This Pointe” Sat, 27 Aug 2016 14:45:18 +0000 Merely wanting something desperately doesn't make it so. So, a young ballerina remakes her life... in Antarctica.]]>

Up to this pointe coverWhen all you’ve ever wanted to do was dance, specifically to be a ballerina, even more specifically to be a ballerina with San Francisco Ballet alongside your very best friend after focusing on nothing but ballet for your entire life and putting off boyfriends, proms and gooey desserts, and graduating from high school six months early just so you can audition – and then it all falls apart…

…what do you do?

If you’re Harper Scott, a relative of South Pole explorer Robert Scott, you’ve got adventurer blood coursing through your veins and you finagle your way into a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to Winter Over on Antarctica at McMurdo Station. You can’t get much farther away from San Francisco than the South Pole. But Harper discovers that it’s not so easy to leave everything behind: the ghosts of the people and emotions you tried to escape come along, despite your best efforts to ignore them.

Jennifer Longo’s novel for young adults, “Up to This Pointe,” is a poignant coming-of-age story filled with hope and brimming with charm.

Harper Scott is the daughter of a marine biologist and a baker, parents who discovered their passions and followed them to success. Harper’s older brother Luke too has a passion – for video games – and he is also pursuing it at the world-famous LucasArts. It only makes sense that Harper, who has studied ballet since she was a child, and who has thought of nothing but a future as a professional ballerina, would do the same.

As any dancer can tell you – and any teacher of dance can tell you – merely wanting something desperately won’t make it so. Unlike marine science or video games, you can’t simply study hard, work harder, and reap the rewards. Ballet in particular requires a perfect storm of genetics and applied technique and a tremendous amount of luck. You have to literally be in the right place at the right time and audition on a day when you are one of the best at the barre.

And it certainly helps an awful lot to have the support and enthusiasm of your friends, family, and teachers. As Harper’s early graduation approaches – and the SFB audition looms – she realizes she only has one out of these three. While her parents and brother believe in her, her best friend Kate and her longtime teacher Simone do not. This, more than anything else, is the biggest blow to Harper’s ego; indeed, to her very soul. She and Kate have always had The Plan, which includes graduating early from high school, auditioning for SFB and staying in San Francisco together. Kate has admittedly been the better of the two dancers throughout their lives but Harper believes she was a close second. Instead her instructor Simone begins to push her toward teaching – a skill she obviously has and enjoys – and goes so far as to offer to pay for a year of teacher training at the Royal Academy of Dance in London.

But Harper wants to perform – that’s all she’s ever wanted to do – and teaching is not an option. When the unimaginable happens, Harper is not prepared and she is devastated, her heart broken.

How could she have spent so much time loving something that didn’t love her back?

All she wants to do is run away and salve her wounds, figure out how to remake her life – alone. With the ghost of Robert Scott, and eventually (and hilariously) Ernest Shackleton, foremost in her thoughts, she plunges ahead and is accepted into a prestigious program for high school students in Antarctica.

Wintering Over at McMurdo is a real thing and it’s fascinating. It refers to the six months a group of scientists is secluded on The Ice with no way to leave. Applicants must be in top physical and mental shape to withstand the harsh climate and extreme isolation. On The Ice, Harper does what many driven people don’t but really need to: she learns to give herself a break. If you have ever had a dream that was crushed by circumstances beyond your control, you will absolutely empathize with Harper.

“To become a ballerina, it is understood you are taking on Antarctica. You’ve got to prepare accordingly. And you must be willing to eat your dogs.”

Photo courtesy of the author
Photo courtesy of the author



Author Jennifer Longo studied ballet for over ten years before discovering a passion for writing. She has a background in theater and currently lives on an island near Seattle with her family. Up to This Pointe is her second novel for young adults. More information about her, as well as how to purchase her books, can be found at her website,

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Review: Music For Movement and Imaginations Volume Two by Richard Maddock Thu, 04 Aug 2016 14:30:50 +0000 Richard Maddock's second album with piano music to accompany your dance classes for children is just as beautiful, useful and expressive as his first.]]>

Dance Class Music for Ballet and Creative Movement (Children 3 and up)


In 2009, I published my first official class music review and giveaway on Dance Advantage. After receiving the album, Richard Maddock’s Music for Movement and Imaginations quickly became one of my favorites for use in my creative dance classes for children.

Today, I’m happy to share that Richard has finally released a second album created with young dancers in mind- Music for Movement and Imaginations: Volume Two.

If you are familiar with the first volume, you’ll find the same musical support for a class format that blends ballet technique with creativity in the dance studio. There are selections for loosely structured, full-body warm ups like “Skip and Freeze” followed by accompaniment for ballet fundamentals like pointe and flex, pliés, tendu, and port de bras. Several tracks for traveling steps and pieces to accompany enchainments (or combinations) are also included, followed by one of my favorite features from the first album, a series of “dance-a-story” selections for creative movement explorations or choreography.

With 37 tracks, there is more material on this album than a dancer teacher needs for a single lesson, making the music useful for continuing development of little dancers over weeks of class. But beyond being useful, it’s important to note that, like all of Richard’s piano accompaniment for dance, the music is also beautifully expressive and a pleasure to listen to. Diverse in tempo and mood, the tracks range in musical style from dreamy arpeggio to swinging jazz to strutting tango. Each one communicates with an energy that’s appropriate for the intended exercise but could easily support ideas of your own design, all while encouraging an imaginative spectrum of movement from your students.

I recommend Music for Movement and Imaginations, Volume Two to any teacher who would like to enliven and enrich their ballet classes for children. In fact, no creative dance teacher should miss adding both of these volumes to their class playlists.


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Strange Sounds Dancers’ Bodies Make Tue, 02 Aug 2016 14:37:55 +0000 Click, crack, pop! This post is a laugh but has many helpful links about body health and wellness for dancers. ]]>

Click, crack, pop! Can you relate? Yes, you can…

Clicking Feet

Click. Click. Double click. No, it’s not my computer mouse. It’s my feet! What’s your superpower?

Via Giphy

Crunching Knees

No, it doesn’t feel as bad as it sounds. Actually, it doesn’t feel like much at all, usually. But, yeah, it sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it?

Via Giphy

Popping Knees

Not to be confused with crunching knees. A more dramatic sound effect, certain to terrify innocent bystanders.

Via Giphy

Popping Hips

Rest assured, no joints are dislocated in the process…

Popping Ankles

Yes, there’s a pattern here. Any joint that can pop, probably will pop.

Sweat Squelch

100% chance of perspiration precipitation…Slip, slide, squeak.

Cracking Back

Don’t let the term fool you. Few things are more therapeutic. In fact, it’s a daily necessity, like food, water, and YouTube dance video binges.

Cracking Neck

Almost as essential as cracking your back. If it doesn’t happen during class, you will make it happen on your own, whatever it takes…

Via Giphy



Injury management and prevention links:

When Should My Child See A Doctor for Dance Injuries?

Dance Instructors and Injury Management: Leave it to the Pros

Fatigue and Injury: Making room for rest


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Can A Woman In Her Forties Dance The Nutcracker? Thu, 12 May 2016 15:50:44 +0000 "Raising The Barre" is Lauren Kessler's account of the months she spent preparing to dance The Nutcracker with a professional dance company. An exceptional challenge for a forty-something, non-dancer! Read our review of the book.]]>

Raising the Barre, Kessler coverLauren Kessler gives readers a gutsy peek into her life, revealing all her fears and foibles, as she sets a tremendous challenge for herself as a forty-something woman: dancing in a professional company’s Nutcracker.

Kessler’s goal is not a modest one; she isn’t an amateur dancer who simply never danced professionally, nor is she a committed beginner who wants to perform in a local ballet school’s winter show. She’s a non-dancer, having given up ballet when she was a pre-teen who is nonetheless obsessed with the Nutcracker. By her count, she has seen over thirty performances of it as an adult.

After spending a winter season traveling the country to watch various companies perform the Nutcracker – and giving us the lowdown on each one, including the history of each company, a description of its costumes and choreography, and the response of its hometown audience – Kessler decides she wants to be part of one. A mother, wife and college professor, Kessler does have a slight advantage over other women with a ballet goal: she is a journalist and has published non-fiction books that required her to do lots of research and throw herself into something brand new. She’s also a resident of a city (Eugene, Oregon) that happens to have a professional ballet company (Eugene Ballet Company).

The prospect of performing on a stage in front of friends, family and strangers, is a daunting task for anyone. As a teacher of adults, including scores of beginners who’ve never been on stage at all, I know that adults are as fearful of other people’s opinions as teenagers are. We do not become immune with age and maturity; perhaps we become even more afraid. And this is what Kessler specifically wants to attack head on: fear. Not simply fear of humiliation in the face of others but fear of growing older and growing more stagnant, fear of not trying new things, fear of complacency. As a journalist who has attempted all manner of new things, Kessler knows how difficult it is to get the body and mind to stay elastic.

“This is scary but do it anyway.”

Her first step is to contact the artistic director of EBC, Toni Pimble, who is also the company’s resident choreographer. If anyone is going to give Kessler a shot, it’s Pimble. When they meet, Kessler is shocked that Pimble doesn’t dismiss her notion as outlandish; in fact, she ultimately gives the okay, which sets Kessler on an 8-month prep to the next Nutcracker season. The writer in her knows that she must interview experts (company members, teachers, etc.), read (memoirs by Toni Bentley and Gelsey Kirkland, a novel by Maggie Shipstead, biographies of Nureyev and Fonteyn), and watch (YouTube videos, hundreds of hours of Baryshnikov). She applies the journalist’s techniques of research and reportage. She delves deep into the origins of the Nutcracker and its score, its history, its development and its impact on dance companies and audiences across the country.

“This is hope outshouting fear.”

But then…she has to do the work. She has to take classes and build her stamina and strengthen her core. She has to take herself out of her comfort zone and away from her family and friends. She needs to diet! And after months of booty barre workouts and Pilates and Gyrotonics, she has to learn choreography and musicality and staging. She has to hold her own in company class and “work well with others.” There is the tour itself (EBC takes its Nut on the road before coming back to Eugene for final performances) which is a challenge for Kessler, as it would be for anyone to be away from their families for a period of time.

“This is me pep-talking myself into action.”

Through it all, Kessler is humbled by the dedication and passion the dancers have for their art. She is impressed by the hours and hours they spend in the pursuit of perfection from class to class and show to show. And she is grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of it.

As a reviewer, I found Kessler’s book to be lively and engaging. As a reader of a certain age, I found it interesting philosophically and inspiring personally. But as a teacher of adults, I found it even more illuminating: it gave me insight to the minds and hearts of adult dancers, particularly those who come to ballet late in life. My students don’t always tell me why they want to take class and it isn’t always apparent when I meet them. Some want community, some want to perform, some want exercise, some want to recapture what they had as kids. Kessler took me through the thought process, one class at a time. She showed me how someone – even with an actual opportunity to perform! – would not go to class regularly. She showed me how a student could feel intimidated in the most basic of classes, how she could find every excuse not to do something that would ultimately help her and in fact, continue with habits that would do the exact opposite. She invited me into my students’ heads and I found that extraordinarily helpful.


“Kessler invited me into my adult students’ heads…” #RaisingtheBarre
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Lauren Kessler author photoLauren Kessler is an award-winning author and immersion reporter. She is the author of seven nonfiction books, including Counterclockwise: My Year of Hypnosis, Hormones, Dark Chocolate, and Other Adventures in the World of Anti-aging, as well as My Teenage Werewolf: A Mother, a Daughter, a Journey Through the Thicket of Adolescence. Her journalism has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Los Angeles Times Magazine, O, the Oprah Magazine, Ladies’ Home Journal, Woman’s Day, Prevention, and Salon. She also directs the graduate program in narrative journalism at the University of Oregon.

You can purchase Raising the Barre here at Amazon or from the publisher, Da Capo Press.

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Ballet Takes A Thrilling Leap In The Suspense Novel “Dark Turns” Mon, 14 Mar 2016 14:45:18 +0000 Dancers and thriller fans will appreciate the twists in "Dark Turns," a new novel by Cate Holahan, whose research on ballet went inside the dance studio.]]>

A young woman’s body floats in the murky water. Strings of brown hair disturb the surface. A suicide? A murder? In Dark Turns, a suspense novel by Cate Holahan, a ballet dancer at a private school has died and the campus is electric with the possibility there may be a murderer among them.

Nia Washington, the newest teacher at Wallace Academy in rural Connecticut, discovers a dance student’s body in the lake while touring the grounds on her first day. Shocked by the discovery, she is further surprised by how quickly the school wants to cover it up and prevent the girl’s death from destroying the school’s fine reputation. Cops want to charge the girl’s ex-boyfriend with her murder, amid a swirl of speculation among the students.

Nia is a ballerina herself, currently taking a self-imposed break to give her Achilles tendon time to heal. She’s also giving her heart a chance to mend. Her longtime boyfriend, another dancer named Dimitri, broke up with her a year ago. Devastated by the sudden split, Nia joined a touring company to get away from the city but now, with her foot in constant pain, she is giving herself even more time and space away from dance and Dimitri.

At Wallace Academy, Nia is an assistant to the strict older teacher Ms V and a resident advisor as well. The age difference between Nia and the students is a scant few years and she often struggles with the boundary between teacher and student. While she wants to be respected, she also knows what it’s like to be a teenager: she understands the competitive nature of the dance world and also the jealous nature of girls and boys.

Not long after arriving at the academy, Nia begins dating Peter, a handsome boyish writing instructor. Peter has been a mentor to Theo, the teenager charged with the dead girl’s murder, and he doesn’t believe Theo killed her. Nia doesn’t know Theo but she too thinks the boy wasn’t capable of it. In her role as grief counselor, Nia is privy to secrets that could help exonerate Theo but it would mean revealing another secret of one of her students. Should she help Theo – and Peter? Or respect her student’s confidence?

It’s no surprise that it’s difficult to fully review a thriller without risking spoilers. There are definitely twists and turns from chapter to chapter and a few red herrings thrown in to make you question what you think is true.

Dancers and dance enthusiasts will find a lot to like about the studio settings, the relationships between the students, and the descriptions of their work. Holahan has done her homework in regard to the ballet terminology (see interview with her below) so nothing feels “off” about the dancing itself.

Mystery and thriller readers will enjoy the constant shuffling of loyalties among the characters and the tension between them. The school’s top dancer, Aubrey, is just competitive, not evil…or is she? Peter is a kind-hearted teacher with his students’ best interests in mind…right? And Nia herself: what does she want? What did she really see in the water? Is she unknowingly a part of a cover-up?

You may think you know the answers but as with all good thrillers, the truth isn’t revealed until the final tantalizing pages.


And now, Dark Turns author, Cate Holahan.

Leigh Purtill: All our dancers and dance enthusiasts want to know: what’s your dance background? Did you study as a child?

Cate Holahan: I’ve been a ballet fan since childhood…Unfortunately, I was never able to take classes growing up. When my eldest daughter began ballet at three, I started thinking of incorporating ballet into a thriller. However, I knew that being a fan wasn’t enough to write with any authority on the subject. So, I gathered my courage and enrolled in an adult ballet class. I took two to three ballet classes a week at the Myung Sook Chun Dance Center for two years. I wrote the book in the first year and my agent sold it. I continued with classes while going through the editing process with my publisher….the dancers in class were very gracious. They gave me pointers on movement, provided tips they had picked up over the years, and shared stories about auditions. And they let me watch them. Ms. Chun even let me perform in the recital—way, way in the back.

LP: Did you use any outside sources for the vocabulary?

CH: In addition to taking classes, I read the “Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet” by Gail Grant to become familiar with the terminology. I also watched ballet videos on YouTube. Fortunately, many famous schools, such as the Bolshoi, have allowed journalists to film classes and upload them to the Internet. The New York Times had a series, “An American at the Bolshoi,” that was very informative.

LP: You really got into the heads of these characters, the competition in class and struggle to be the best. What was your process like for the teen voices? Do you teach or have teens of your own?

CH: I think the teenage years are stamped into every adult’s psyche because there’s so much fear during that time. For me, it was the first time I had to juggle adult responsibilities, such as work, with more mature relationships and social demands. Friends required more to be considered a pal. Romantic relationships took on a sexual tone that was exciting and, in the beginning, intimidating. Add to all that the competition to outperform peers in academics and extra-curricular activities in order to stand out to college admissions officers. So, despite not having been a teenager for more than a decade, I remember it well.

LP: It was an intriguing choice to make Nia Washington an African-American character, especially considering the recent strides black ballet dancers like Misty Copeland have been making. Did those current events factor into the choices you made?

Cate Holahan, author of DARK TURNS
Cate Holahan, author of DARK TURNS

CH: I am a fan of Misty Copeland. She is a role model not only to African-American dancers, but to anyone who needs the courage to compete in an unfamiliar world.  However, the initial decision to make Nia an African-American woman grew more organically out of the story that I wanted to tell. I wanted my protagonist to be an outsider with insider knowledge. She had to be held apart by the students and the teachers so that she would have perspective that they didn’t and also be unable to convince authority figures, easily, of her theories. Nia comes from a different socio-economic and ethnic background than the students at my fictional boarding school, so she is regarded with more suspicion and, often, not taken as seriously. I also made her an outsider with her age. At twenty-two, she’s older than the high school students, yet not old enough to be accepted as a full-fledged adult. Plus, I’m biracial (black and white) and I grew up in a multi-ethnic community in New Jersey. It’s natural for me to create characters and settings that reflect the diversity with which I’m familiar.

LP:  The story feels cross-generational, like it could be accessible by both teens and adults. Where do you feel the book falls on that spectrum?

CH: I think of Dark Turns as rated “new adult,” a good read for anyone over sixteen. Some of the topics explored in the book may be a bit mature for anyone younger than that, I think.

LP: I loved how you opened each chapter with a ballet term that foreshadowed the upcoming chapter contents. How were you inspired to do that? If your background is not in ballet, was this a challenge to you to find the correct phrases?

CH: I credit my agent, Paula Munier, with encouraging me to include the ballet terms before each chapter. I tend to write in three acts. At first, I had the definitions only before each act. Paula thought that I should do it before each chapter. It was a challenge—and a ton of fun—to find the right term to relate to the scene. In some cases, the title is a play on words. In one case I have “ligne” as the line of the body and also meaning “line,” like when someone says something that isn’t quite true. A guy feeding a girl a line, for example. In other chapters the term refers to an actual movement done in class. When I am introducing the main male character, I use the term “cavalier,” referring to the male partner of the ballerina. Coda is pretty self explanatory.

LP: There was a fascinating parallel between Nia’s romantic life and that of the teens she taught – the near-obsession with boys both she and the girls shared. Was that something that arose as you wrote it or did you set out to create that dynamic?

CH: The boy obsession, to me, was a natural extension of the youth of the characters and their relative isolation. Neither Nia nor the boarding school students have family around. Their friendships are constrained because of the intense competition. (I think it can be difficult to genuinely love someone whom you are actively trying to best all the time—especially when you’re younger and not as confident.) These girls’ lives are dance, dance, dance and then, since it’s often the easiest connection to have with someone, sex. Nia isn’t that different from the younger students in that respect. She’s devoted to her art. Yet, she is lonely and seeking a connection that, in some ways, is not that complicated given everything else she has going on in her life. And, Nia is particularly isolated given that she’s not supposed to fraternize with the students and the majority of the adults on campus are significantly older than her.

Courtesy Mayra Linares, photo of Madison Ballet
Photo of Madison Ballet, courtesy Mayra Linares (Creative Commons license)

LP: In just about every dance studio, you have an Aubrey (top of the food chain, technically superior – and she knows it) and a Lydia (second best but not without her own charms and who might be a bit nicer to other dancers). Did you have people in mind when you wrote those characters? Was it satisfying – as it was for Nia – to write “karmic” comeuppance for certain characters?

CH: I didn’t have anyone particular in mind, though I’d done some academic research to fine tune the personality profiles of the problematic characters. I read some interesting articles in Psychology Today about the psychological profiles of “divas” and “psychopaths.” I think what attracts many writers to the thriller genre is that we want justice done to a degree. I wanted my story to have a moral—though I didn’t want to beat anyone over the head with it. My moral is that achievement is important but it’s paramount to be a decent, honest person—even if society doesn’t always reward goodness as it does accolades.

LP: Many mystery writers begin at the end of their stories and then work their way backward into it. Did you know the whodunit when you started writing?

CH: Yes. I always have a beginning, end and arc in mind before I start writing.

LP: What’s up next for you as a writer? Will you continue with thrillers or work in another genre? Will you continue to dance?

CH: Unfortunately, my ballet teacher moved and shuttered her New Jersey studio. I do still take the occasional dance class. My second thriller, tentatively-titled “The Widower’s Wife,” will be out in August. It’s in with my publisher, Crooked Lane Books, and centers around an insurance agent’s investigation of a young mother’s fall off a cruise ship. I hope it will be the first in a series. I am also working on another standalone thriller.


Catherine “Cate” Holahan is the author of DARK TURNS (November 10, 2015; Crooked Lane Books), a thriller set in the world of ballet, an award-winning journalist and a former television producer. Her articles have appeared in BusinessWeek, The Boston Globe, and The Record and on web sites for CBS, MSN Money, and CNBC. Her short fiction won first place in the 19th annual Calliope competition, a magazine published by the writer’s group of American Mensa. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, two daughters and their dog. Visit her at

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