Dance Bloggers Share Their Best Of 2015

 

Kicking off a new year at Dance Advantage isn’t always easy.

“Where to begin?”   “What’s that first post of the new year going to be about?”

In the past I’ve hosted a Top Dance Blog contest between one year’s end a new year’s beginning and enjoyed its success. The contest itself got a little too big for my time budget but my favorite part was simply being able to share and support the work of other dance writers and bloggers.

So, in that spirit, our January Dance Circle roundup (we’ll do these monthly with different topics) features the posts or articles that these writers consider their best of 2015. Go ahead and click away. I hope you find something new. We’ll be here when you get back.

 

10 Essentials For The Adult Beginner’s Dance Bag — The Classical Girl

Dancers love “what’s in your dance bag?” posts – we can’t help but take a peek. The Classical Girl, Terez (who is an author and a favorite guest at Dance Advantage), shares the essentials. They work for any ballet dancer, really, but adult beginners will love this and the other posts at The Classical Girl website.

 

What Not To Do In Ballet! End Game. — The Accidental Artist

Inspired by a video from Wayne Byar, The Accidental Artist‘s post is a pitch to dancers to be more mindful of their approach to how they work. She encourages you to put intention into the process, rather than work to the “end game” of getting the highest leg, the highest jump, the most turns, the best turnout. Getting noticed by cheating your technique is not the end game… so what is the end game?

 

The Dancer with Cancer — CABARRET

Nicole is a dancer, a creator, an inspiration and in this post she reveals her diagnosis and some of the things she’s learned so far in her journey and fight against cancer. She writes, “Being diagnosed with cancer has not made me suddenly wise. If anything, it has shown me how much I don’t know. Not just about the world, but about myself and my body, subjects with which I thought myself to be intimately acquainted.”

 

An Interview With Monica Wellington (Creator of My Ballet Journal) — Picture Books & Pirouettes


As a teacher and parent, when I’m looking for insight and recommendations for children’s literature about dance and movement, I visit Kerry’s site, Picture Books & Pirouettes. Read her interview with author/illustrator Monica Wellington to find out more about MY BALLET JOURNAL, a journal and coloring book for young dancers she created with her daughter, Lydia (a professional ballerina with NYCB). The book is a perfect keepsake for school-age dancers who want to record their dance memories throughout the year!

 

Bowling Dance — Maria’s Movers

As usual, the year’s best at Maria’s Movers is a great idea for your dance classes for little danccers. Turn the dance studio into a bowling alley and do a bowling dance!

 

Joffrey’s ‘Sylvia’ breaks from tradition, just like it used to (Review) — Art Intercepts

What do YOU know about Sylvia? Chicago dance writer, Lauren Warnecke of Art Intercepts writes, “Throughout its history, critics have felt that Sylvia‘s one redeeming value is its magnificent score, and indeed, it’s hard not to love Leo Delibes’ splendid music. John Neumeier’s version, performed last fall by the Joffrey Ballet, has so much more than that going for it. Honestly, Sylvia‘s only problem is that nobody has ever heard of it.”

 

All Shadows Whisper of the Sun — Setting The Barre

On a chilly February morning, Kirsten of Setting The Barre explores the connection between light and darkness and its prevalence in the ballet world.  From sweat, toil, and callus comes one of the world’s most ethereal art forms.  Featuring photos by Jenay Evans and the custom Setting The Barre leotard, designed especially for the blog by Miss Jones Dance.

 

{artist} challenge — Tutus&Tea

Throwing back to 2015’s ‘Artist Challenge’ that decorated Facebook, Instagram and various realms of social media, Shelby of Tutus&Tea reflects on ballet’s relevancy beyond the stage, the luxury of savoring our favorite moments performing as live artists, and the joy of shedding light on the fellow dancers that inspire us to keep aspiring for more.

 

Super Ballet Ads — Clara’s Coffee Break

What makes a memorable video promo for a ballet? Rachel shares her thoughts on ballet trailers at Clara’s Coffee Break

SwanLakePromoStill

 

Dancers: Let’s Talk Core Control — 4dancers

4Dancers Dance Wellness Editor, Jann Dunn has written a thorough and thoroughly awesome piece on core control, otherwise known as back stabilization, that breaks it down so that students and teachers might really understand the concepts. Seriously, if you read no other article on core control in 2016, make it this one.

 

Improving the Dancer’s Arch: Do Foot Stretchers Really Work? — The Healthy Dancer

Dancers spend a lot of time trying to improve the arches of their feet. Using a foot stretcher seems like it would be a great idea – but do they really work and is using one a healthy way to improve a dancer’s foot? Find out at The Healthy Dancer.

At Ballet to the People the post that seemed to rile readers the most this year, to blogger, Carla Escoda’s surprise, was not her assessment of Milwaukee Ballet’s Giselle set in a Nazi concentration camp, nor her intensely personal reaction to Ai Weiwei’s political art installation on Alcatraz. It was her proposal to ditch the 32 fouettés! Read her post to find out why she wants to kiss them goodbye…

 

Sara Esty – A True American in Paris — A Dancer’s Days

Blogger Rhiannon Pelletier of A Dancer’s Days takes the opportunity to talk to Sara Esty, “Lise” alternate in the new Broadway hit An American in Paris, about her experience with the show, what made her transition from the world of classical ballet to the big world of Broadway, and how her training aided that change (along with a few other juicy details!).

 

OffDayThe Off Day Ballet Dictionary — Adult Ballerina Project

Messy classes are unavoidable, despite our best efforts. So, perhaps we should make lemonade and think of “off days” as a unique subset of ballet with its own rules and definitions. Rachel Hellwig explains further in her contribution at Adult Ballerina Project.

 

3 Mindset Changes You Must Adopt to Succeed in Dance — The Dance Training Project

To train the body without taking the mind into consideration will not allow a dancer to succeed. Physically, we encounter the challenges of technical plateaus, becoming over-trained, and injured, but mentally we start to doubt ourselves, our chosen path, and our ability to be great dancers, which can be even more detrimental, as before we can do something, we must first believe we can do it. These three mindsets are crucial to tapping into your true potential as a dancer. Read more at The Dance Training Project.

 

How to Cope with Loss – Part 1: Mourning the Untimely Death of My Future Self — The Girl With The Tree Tattoo

The Girl with the Tree Tattoo‘s best post of 2015?  The complete upheaval of her ballroom dance journey.

 

25. Crystallized : Contemporary — Jessica Maria MacFarlane

“Contemporary dance hitches a ride on the fame and fortune of classical ballet, while classical ballet tugs at contemporary dance for an awakening,” writes Jessica Maria MacFarlane (J.M.M.). “I’m swayed between the two, and this image of pointe-wearing improv pieces haunt me. They don’t really work together in the very strict sense. I’ll continue to eat it up nonetheless and welcome contemporary dance choreographers to classical ballet companies, but I know we must try to not just crystallize or blur the lines of both dance forms for the sake of blending. We must keep dance at the forefront with separate education and awareness on all genres of dance that interact and collaborate together…” Read more of Jessica’s musings as she writes about the past, present, and future of dance at her self-titled site.

 

Rules Of The Game — Enforced Arch

Enforced Arch founder, James Koroni shares the exciting news that he has been invited by Jonah Bokaer, media artist and choreographer to participate in Rules Of The Game, a multidisciplinary work featuring visuals by Daniel Arsham and music by Pharrell Williams. Learn more about the work in this recent post.

 

SoundsOfATaplifeSounds of a #TapLife

Whether we are willing to accept it or not, the universe works in mysterious ways. Seen or unseen, there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes of life. Over time, Anthony Lo Cascio has discovered the universe will try to teach the same lesson over and over again until one is willing to respect it, recognize it, or learn it. Sounds of a #Taplife premiered in early December in NYC and is a reflection of some of the greatest lessons Anthony has learned and a connecting of those dots. See the performance in this recently released video.

 

 

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Ballet Competitions On the Go

Whether you are a pre-professional ballet student, a young professional in the early stages of your career, or an instructor coaching classical ballet-hopefuls, ballet competitions are definitely on your radar.

Dancers at the Genée International Ballet Competition

Genée International Ballet Competition 2013, Photo by Andy Ross

These international events afford invaluable opportunities: to hone skills with renowned teachers and choreographers, to gain increased performance experience, and in some cases, to earn medals, scholarships and contracts. But international ballet competitions are about more than the final results; more than the bragging rights; more than the prizes. They are artistic journeys, where technical excellence, creative growth, and life-long connections can be cultivated.

And not just for participants, the competition circuit is also for the serious ballet enthusiast; a platform where the up-and-coming talent in the world of classical dance is featured.

Ballet Competitions Around the World

Over a dozen different ballet competitions happen throughout the calendar year, around the globe.

The USA International Ballet Competition will soon return to Jackson, Mississippi.

Varna International Ballet Competition runs for the second half of July in Bulgaria;

February in Switzerland means the Prix de Lausanne.

And the Youth America Grand Prix is held in various locations throughout the US (and internationally) during the Winter/Spring months.

This list would not be complete without mention of the Royal Academy of Dance’s Genée International Ballet Competition.

One of the longest running international ballet competitions, this year’s highly anticipated program will be held in Antwerp, Belgium from September 18th to the 27th. Though the 2014 Genée is still four months away, the 2013 Genée app allows you to start gearing up now.

Genée On the Go

A free download from RAD’s Dance Gazette, the 2013 Genée app gives a detailed inside look at last year’s competition on your smart phone or tablet. Join the dancers, directors, choreographers and judges as they progress through the historic two-week intensive program.

Arranged in calendar form, each page of the Genée app reads like a live journal, documenting one particular phase of the competition – the arrivals, class, semi-finals, rehearsals and the concluding medals ceremony. Each ‘entry’ gives comprehensive information about eight highlighted Genée topics; details, descriptions and context through written blurbs, video clips, and collections of gorgeous still photos.

Additional background, historic data and other specifics can be found by clicking on the ‘read more’ or ‘factfile’ buttons in the bottom right-hand corner of each individual page.

Day 2 travels “In The Studio” as the fifty-eight participants work to perfect their classical variations; Day 6 (“Dancer’s Own”) showcases work on original choreographic solos, a new category in the Genée competition; and in Day 10’s “The Final”, twelve remaining competitors perform in the 2013 Genée International Ballet Competition’s culminating concert.

This fun, engaging and educational format allows a rare glimpse into the dancers’ story, the choreographic and coaching process, as well as the overall Genée adventure.

From the user perspective, the 2013 Genée app is straightforward and easy to navigate. In fact, the first page you encounter (following the digital front cover) provides a helpful tutorial – clear and precise instructions describing how the app works and how to guide yourself through it.

Just one minor sound issue requires mention. The video sound is adjusted using your mobile device’s volume controls. But the ringer/sound effect switch must also be in the ‘on’ position for full audio access to the video excerpts. While this may seem obvious, many programs still run at full volume even when your ringer/sound effect switch is off, so a more pointed reference would have been helpful.

Genée International Ballet Competition

Dance & Technology

This is an exciting time for dance and technology; the relationship between the two is in a constant state of growth, development and innovation.

It would be wonderful to see any number of the international ballet competitions in person, but that’s just not possible for everyone. Modern tools, like the Royal Academy of Dance’s 2013 Genée app, allow broad, general access to these and other types of performing arts events. These new virtual applications bring with them opportunity and possibility; unique and different perspectives. But most important, they offer yet another invitation to connect with dance and choreography.

The 2013 Genée app is currently available for download in the app store of your smart phone or tablet.

Dance Commentary by Heather DesaulniersHeather Desaulniers is a freelance writer, critic and dance historian based in Oakland. Her article “Archiving Dance – The Necessity of Collaboration” was recently published in Bourgeon: Fifty Artists Write About Their Work. She is the dance curator for sfarts.org, a frequent contributor to “In Dance” magazine and the SF/Bay Area columnist for criticaldance.org. Visit her blog at heatherdance.com.

 

Lovable Stefanie, “Biggest Girl in the Ballroom”

Last year, Stefanie walked away the Editor’s Choice winner and a Top 10 finalist in our Top Dance Blog contest for her blog, “Biggest Girl in the Ballroom.”

I chose Stefanie for my pick because, despite my lack of ballroom dancing experience, I always find her insights as a student, performer, and human being valuable and completely relatable.

Stefanie and partner, IvanShe shares anecdotes about her partner and teachers, and frequently shares technique guidance they’ve given to her. Her stories about her Bulgarian pro instructor are funny and endearing. The blog includes information about pro/am competitive ballroom that can be difficult to find elsewhere: pointers on first competitions, buying shoes, choosing an instructor and more.

Writing openly about her journey to lose weight and to become the best dancer she can be, Stefanie has also built a community of support among other dancers, women, bloggers, and anyone working toward their goals.

Her most recent community-building effort is the Ballroom Village, a growing list of blogs about ballroom dancing. Stefanie says there are so few blogs with this focus, she wants to band together to connect and “play.” So, if you aren’t blogging about ballroom, Stefanie wants you to get going! If you already blog about ballroom, she wants you to join the village.

If you aren’t familiar with Stefanie’s blog yet, you should at least get to know to her.

Theme song

Watch this video on YouTube.

Honestly, the video above may tell all you need to know about lovable Stefanie. However, she stopped lip-syncing and gliding around the ballroom for a moment to answer some of my questions, too, and her answers are worth the read!

On Dance Blogging:

Dance Advantage: When someone asks you what your blog is all about, how do you answer?

Stefanie: My blog is about a real person doing competitive pro/am ballroom dancing, and all the struggles, triumphs, and insights that happen during the process.

When it comes down to it, the blog is where I basically share me, my journey, my experiences in life from the gym to the ballet barre to ballroom lessons to competitions.

My tagline is “Ballroom dancing, Weight loss, Inspiration, Community,” and I think that pretty much sums it up!

DA: Please share with readers what 2 things have most helped you develop an audience for your blog.

S: One, being authentic and interacting with others on my blog, via their blogs, and via other social media outlets.

Two, sticking with it. People find me, I don’t even know how most of the time. I keep writing and tagging posts and the more I write, the more tags I put on the blog, the easier it is to find me on a web search.

DA: Sticking with it, is a BIG one! Speaking of, what’s the hardest thing about keeping a blog active?

S: Creating the time to write. My blog posts are way, way longer than the average post so they take a big chunk of time to complete. I usually have so much to say and life moves at a fast past so keeping up with all I experience in a week is quite a challenge, but so worth it!

DA: What’s so great about blogging about dance, anyway?

S: Blogging about my dancing has been another way I have found, reclaimed, strengthened and developed my voice. I bottled up so much when I was dancing as a kid with self-esteem and body image issues, but now as an adult, the blog is a place where I can process all I experience while dancing.

I’m just doing what I’m doing and people seem to connect with my experience. So, the best part is that not only am I working out my own stuff, but I’ve found a community of like-minded people, other dancers, others who inspire me and who are inspired by me.

DA: What experience in your dance study best prepared you for your dance blogging experience?

S: Honestly, there was no preparation for this! I just started writing thinking that my mom and maybe, if I was lucky, my best friend would read the blog, while knowing that my husband had already fulfilled his quota listening to me blather on about dance.

All I do is share from my heart. That’s all the preparation needed. Well, that and a (somewhat) firm grasp on the English language.

It is kind of like dancing – you need a base of technique, but what moves people is the heart you put in it.

On Dancing:

Stefanie "Biggest Girl in the Ballroom"DA: You’ve talked candidly about weight and body issues. Have you ever felt judged by fellow students or even teachers when you begin a new class?

S: I am blessed that in the environments I dance in now, I am encouraged and supported.

As a kid, I certainly felt more judged, and the honest truth is we are all judged, and judging others, and judging ourselves, all the time. Of course I am being judged when I compete. In fact, I am deliberately putting myself in a position to be judged.

More than anything, I think it has to do with the attitude I bring to the situation. Over the years I have gained a modicum of confidence in myself and my dancing, which at some moments can be fragile, but most times I trust in it and figure that those who have the eyes to see, will see.

Those who can’t see beyond their judgments of my outward appearance, well, I have no power over that, so I don’t put too much thought into it. It is a larger problem the judgment I place on myself, when I reject myself for not being as I think I should be or wish I were.

I do not actively seek to please others but rather focus on fully expressing myself as best as I am able, which means dancing as I am. Dance, being a subjective art form, will always involve a level of judgment – that is part of the game I have chosen to play. So I accept that and seek to please myself, and my instructor/pro dance partner. As long as we feel we do our best, feel the dance, tune into the connection, and stay present in the moment, I am satisfied with that.

On Perceived Shortcomings:

DA: Amen. If you had only a few lines to convince someone afraid of beginning a dance class because of their perceived shortcomings, what would you write?

S: I would say if you have a desire in your heart to dance (or anything else in this world for that matter) then do it! Life is a journey and we all have to start somewhere. Dancing, especially, is a process of self-discovery, experimentation, and a practice.

I think it is incredibly sad when we limit ourselves or deny ourselves experiences due to perceived shortcomings and it is really a matter of choosing to engage in life, to say yes and risk it, or to say no, and slowly waste away. Courage is not the absence of fear but rather getting on with it anyway in the face of it. And that is where the growth is, outside our comfort zone.

It is amazing what one choice to step out into a new experience like taking a dance class for the first time can blossom into. It is worth the 45 minutes of courage. The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

On Being Awesome:

DA: What’s the most wonderful, exciting, or inspiring thing a reader of your blog has ever said to you?

S: My readers inspire me all the time. It is difficult to pinpoint one particular example because I have been blessed and surprised by the many kind words sent to me.

However, I was most surprised to receive a letter in the mail once. The author mentioned things she admired about me – that in her eyes I am a warrior, an athlete, someone who could write a book or speak about my experiences, that I have mental strength and determination. That she took the time to write that letter this day and age is so incredibly special.

Even so, I value and appreciate all the interactions I have been fortunate enough to experience along the way, and sometimes the encouragement is what gets me through. Just to know people care, that they are even rooting for me as I take on my life, like no kidding, is a gift beyond measure.

This article wouldn’t be complete without sharing Stefanie’s fantastic dancing with you.

Check out her sexy, showcase Cha Cha!

Showcase cha cha

Watch this video on YouTube.

If that doesn’t inspire you to leave your comfort zone, nothing will!

Congratulations Top Dance Blogs of 2013!

Nearly 3000 votes were counted!

Here are the Top 20 Dance Blogs of 2013:

Top Dance Blog 2013

UnlikelySalsero

Top Dance Blog 2013 – 26% of votes

2. The T.D.O.T. Blog

3. Dancing With Stefanie

4. Rince go Bragh

5. Odette’s Ordeal

6. On My Toes

7. Maria’s Movers

8. Jade Belly Dance

9. Albany Dance Fitness + Tamara Bally Dance (tie)

11. Dance Commentary

12. 2Pointe Social

13. Ballet Shoes & Bobby Pins

14. Art Intercepts

15. The Healthy Dancer

16. My Son Can Dance AND

Life of a Freelance Dancer

18. Inside Ballet Technique

19. The Dance Training Project

20. Adult Ballerina Project

 

Category Winners

 

Recreational Dancer

Rince go Bragh

46% of votes

Industry Support

The T.D.O.T. Blog

59% of votes

Teacher Talk

The Unlikely Salsero: Don Baarns

66% of votes

Speaking Dance

Dance Commentary by Heather Desaulniers

56% of votes

Editor’s Choice

This is always a VERY difficult choice.

This year, I led with my heart. DancingWithStefanie.com is positive and uplifting. Stefanie is enthusiastic and dedicated to dance. And, as she blogs about her adventures as the “Biggest Girl In The Ballroom,” her readers learn and share and celebrate dance right along with Stefanie.

I think this photo says it all!

DancingWithStefanie.com - Biggest Girl In The Ballroom

Thanks again to ALL who entered.

I’m happy that such a variety of dance forms and dance blogs were represented this year.

If you haven’t already, visit the list of blogs who participated. I have so many favorites in this list, including those who did not make the Top 20!

Everyone in the contest is a winner just for entering. It takes just as much bravery to blog as it does to enter. These folks put themselves out there every time they hit publish, and they do it in the name of dance!

Give them a cheer with a comment below!