Dancing – Dance Advantage http://www.danceadvantage.net Solutions For All Stages Of Your Dance Life Fri, 12 Jan 2018 12:02:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.1 Blossom This Summer at Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company’s Summer Intensive http://www.danceadvantage.net/kibbutz-summer-intensive/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kibbutz-summer-intensive http://www.danceadvantage.net/kibbutz-summer-intensive/#respond Sat, 06 Jan 2018 05:35:39 +0000 http://www.danceadvantage.net/?p=45850 If you are a young dance artist, consider a summer intensive in Israel, a region rich in groundbreaking contemporary dance, and study at the International Dance Village, a place of inspiration, creation, community and peace of mind.]]>

If you are a young dancer serious about spending a summer immersed in movement with like-minded peers and stellar faculty, consider looking abroad toward Israel, a country rich in groundbreaking contemporary dance, and one of its leading companies, Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company.

Smiling Kibbutz intensive students


While most top dance companies are based in major urban areas, Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company’s heart and home is located in a kibbutz (a communal village) located in Ga’aton on the rolling hills of the historic Galilee region of northern Israel, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.  The International Dance Village is truly a unique location unlike any other in the world.  It is the life project of world-renowned choreographer Rami Be’er, the Artistic Director of Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, widely-recognized as one of the top international contemporary dance companies. Through his vision, leadership and dedication over the years, the International Dance Village has developed into a first-class dance center, offering 10 dance studios, a performing arts center and theater, a café and restaurant, a swimming pool, a social hall and much more.  It has truly become a haven for dancers and dance students from all walks of life, from around the world. Read on and learn more about the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company’s  Summer Intensive program, and visit their website for more details.


DA: What makes Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company’s Summer Intensive special?

The Summer Intensive program hosted by Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company is one of a kind for several reasons.  But first and foremost it’s because it’s the only one taking place at an International Dance Village. This special dance place has a strong tradition of innovation in contemporary dance, as the founder, Yehudit Arnon, a Holocaust survivor, envisioned bettering the world through the creation of a strong dance community.  She founded the dance company and the International Dance Village in Kibbutz Ga’aton in Western Galilee of Israel in the early 70’s and shortly thereafter, collaborated with renowned choreographers such as Mats Ek, Ohad Naharin, Jiří Kylián, Christopher Bruce, Kei Takei, Susanne Linke, Hada Oren, and Oshra Elkayam with the purposed of keeping the contemporary dance community in Israel fresh and innovative.  Her work has been proudly sustained and continued by Rami Be’er, the Artistic Director of Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company.

In this context, 10 years ago, the Summer Intensive was born to offer young and aspiring dancers, high school and university aged dance students from all over the world, the opportunity to discover a unique and innovative dance environment, where they could express themselves and evolve as professional dancers.

We can proudly attest to the fact that alumni and past participants at our Summer Intensive have repeatedly said that they’ve gained a new family here, aside from learning a lot of impressive and advanced dance techniques from renowned teachers.  They’ve also developed a deep connection with one another, which was one of the best take away from the Kibbutz Summer Intensive. Young students get to live in the beautiful and inspiring International Dance Village along with Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company’s dancers, teachers and choreographers. They have the opportunity to learn so much from them while also seeing them perform live.  It’s like no other place you’ve seen before.


Smiling dancers at Kibbutz Dance Company's Summer Intensive

For dancers coming to study and live here; whether they’re company dancers or studying at our Summer Intensive, it’s really a dream come true and a place of inspiration, creation, community and peace of mind.


Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company - Horses in the SkyDA: Can you tell us about the audition process and what students can expect?

Coinciding with our belief and desire to offer young and aspiring dancers from around the world with a first-class dance education during their summer break, we’ve made it a point to not require dancers and dance students to audition for the Summer Intensive.  Instead, we’ve created a Summer Intensive, offering an opportunity for dancers of all levels to attend and study with us.  From beginner and intermediate level dance students to more pre-professional dance students and dancers, we offer five different group levels so that the Summer Intensive can accommodate for all students of all levels and all backgrounds from across the world.

DA: How can students best prepare themselves for an intensive summer program abroad?

There is nothing specific that students necessarily have to do in order to prepare for the Summer Intensive aside from getting themselves psyched and excited to have the time of their lives; dancing and learning from one of the world’s leading contemporary dance companies in an International Dance Village like no other in the world, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea while making lifelong friends and new connections like-minded dancers and inspirational teachers from across the world.

International Dance VillageDA: What kinds of cultural or social activities can students participate in during this Summer Intensive?

Having the opportunity to live on a kibbutz (a communal village) where the International Dance Village is situated alongside our main and second companies, is quite a special experience.  This is your chance to live in the serene, beautiful, and historic Galilee region of Israel where you’ll be able to explore the region, its historic landmarks such as the ancient city of Akko, Jerusalem, float on the water of the Dead Sea (the lowest place on earth!), and hang out with friends on the beaches of the Mediterranean Sea.  Following classes each day, we offer free time to swim and relax by our pool with friends and around the kibbutz and after dinner, we have fun and engaging social activities of all kinds.

DA: What specific advice do you have for students, so they can get the most out of their experience with world renowned faculty?

Our best suggestion is to arrive to the International Dance Village and the Summer Intensive as a ‘sponge,’ willing to listen and absorb all the new information, dance techniques, and repertoire that you’ll be learning together with fellow participants from our teachers and company dancers.  This is a truly special opportunity to be able to study firsthand with professional dancers, choreographers and international teachers with vast experience and offers a tremendous chance to improve yourself exponentially from a technical standpoint but at the same time, develop yourself as an artist while developing on a personal level from such an international dance experience.

DA: What are two or three tips you can share for dance students traveling to Israel for the first time?

Israel is truly a wonderful and unique region of the world with a plethora of history, diversity, culture, great cuisine and is also widely known as global leader in innovation and technology.  With that said, the dance scene in Israel is also world-renowned and therefore there is much to offer for dancers and dance students coming from abroad for these special summer dance workshops.  Naturally, summertime in Israel offers perfect summer weather, so prepare yourself for that as well as being immersed in an extremely welcoming community that is the International Dance Village; where dancers from all backgrounds are welcomed and are given support and guidance by our staff and faculty as they continue to develop in their careers as blossoming dancers.

Go deeper inside Kibbutz Dance Company’s 2018 Summer Intensive, learning more about the faculty, classes and how to register at 4dancers.org.


Visit the website for the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company’s 2018 Summer Intensive.


Rami Be'er at Kibbutz Summer Intensive
Artistic Director Rami Be’er, Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company



Disclosure: Dance Advantage received compensation for publishing this sponsored post.
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Managing Money as a Dancer on Tour http://www.danceadvantage.net/managing-money-on-tour/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=managing-money-on-tour http://www.danceadvantage.net/managing-money-on-tour/#respond Sat, 09 Dec 2017 14:28:33 +0000 http://www.danceadvantage.net/?p=45809 Touring dancers must be smart about their money. Take it from a dancer who has been on the road and be prepared. Know how you're getting paid and where the money is going so that you can have some fun along the way.]]>

When I was little, I didn’t know growing up to be rich and famous was out of the ordinary. I thought it was just something you could do.

Imagine if you told that little girl that someday, people would pay to see her dance, and she still wouldn’t be rich. Or famous.

While I’ve long since made peace with the fact that I’ll likely never be fabulously wealthy, I find my fame in standing O’s and curtain calls. Besides, nobody said that a touring dancer had to be a starving artist.

I did my best to be fiscally responsible while I was traveling, and I walked away financially sound and experientially wealthy. A little bit of planning can go a long way towards being a financially successful touring dancer.

Travel money

Employment Status

Start with finding out if you’re being paid as an employee or as an independent contractor — both are feasible in the world of performance dance. The biggest difference is the way you file your taxes.

You also need to find out what expenses you’re responsible for. Does the company provide your gear, or do you? Are you responsible for your own lodging and food, or is the company providing it? Are they giving you a per diem to use as you want for those expenses, or are they making umbrella decisions for the whole company?



If you’re an independent contractor, your “employer” doesn’t pay or extract any taxes from your salary. It means a prettier paycheck now, but if you’re not prepared come April, your tax bill can be a rude awakening. It also means you’ll likely be in charge of providing more of your own equipment, but those expenses are potential deductions.

We all like to save wherever we can. If dancing is now your primary means of income, your leotards or Latin heels may be eligible for a tax write-off.

If you’re paid as an employee, your employer will take taxes out of your salary and pay a portion of what you own the government from the business’ bank account. You’ll also be provided with workman’s compensation coverage and possibly medical coverage.



In addition to the cost of food and lodging, it’s important to find out if you have any sort of medical insurance or health care stipend included in your pay. You are about to take on a physically challenging job, and there’s a possibility you may be injured. You may also require maintenance health care during your tour stint.

For example, when I left on my second tour, I was under regular chiropractic care to rehab a shoulder injury. Under the company I was dancing with, medical care and insurance was my responsibility, so I made it a point to select travel medical insurance so that I was covered everywhere we went. If you have a recurring prescription or other regular condition, this is exceptionally important.



Just because you’re on a new adventure doesn’t mean that your tried and true money habits get to go out the window. In the absence of rent, grocery bills and other costs of living, it may seem like all your income is disposable. I promise, it’s not.

While your expenses may be significantly diminished, you will still have things to pay for on the road. Making a personal budget will help you allocate money for any responsibilities you still have back home, potential medical expenses, a looming tax payment or simply put away some money for later.

Many touring companies pay their dancers a per diem amount in addition to their salary to cover food and lodging. If this is the case, that means you need to budget your food out of your salary in addition to other expenses you may have. However, it also provides an opportunity to save money by eating inexpensively if you’re looking to put away some extra money.

Finally, make sure you’ve got some money to live it up while you’re on the road. You’ll want to budget so that you’ve got pocket money to see the sights. When I was in New York, I spent my off evenings at Broadway shows and famous restaurants and in California I visited some of the most beautiful vineyards I’ve ever seen.


Final Thoughts

The long and short of it is that smart money management doesn’t really change just because you’re on tour — so don’t act like it does. Make sure you understand how the company is paying you and what that’s for, and then allocate your earnings to cover your expenses. Just don’t forget to have some fun along the way.


Alyssa Robinson is a lover of words and movement who happily resides in the Pacific Northwest. She started dancing at 19 when the ballroom (and latin) bug bit her, and she hasn’t stopped since. If she’s not writing about food, fitness, and dance, she’s in the studio training for her next ballroom competition.

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Dancing on Tour: Surviving Life on the Road http://www.danceadvantage.net/surviving-life-on-tour/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=surviving-life-on-tour http://www.danceadvantage.net/surviving-life-on-tour/#comments Sat, 18 Nov 2017 21:00:07 +0000 http://www.danceadvantage.net/?p=45810 Traveling to perform as a dancer means that few of your days are ever the same. Alyssa provides tips to survive the sometimes chaotic experience of life on tour.]]>

In her book “The Cranes Dance,” Meg Howrey writes, “When you step from the wings onto the the stage you go from total blackness to a blinding hot glare. After a moment you adjust, but there is that moment. Like being inside lightning.”

I spent my touring days reveling in that electric moment and chasing the excitement. I thrive on (a little bit of) chaos. I love the energy it lends.

a woman stands in a spotlight

But that feeling isn’t for everyone. To be a successful performer, it’s the moments before and after standing inside the lightning that matter. It’s the day in and day out that fuel your performances.

Traveling to perform as a dancer means that few of your days are ever the same, including what you’re eating, where you’re staying and what the stage feels like. It takes a special level of effort to work the unpredictability of tour-life into a functional schedule.

Develop Routines and Rituals

When your days get wonky, routines are absolutely your best friend.

On tour, I have little routines for a lot of things — my hair and makeup playlist are set in stone, I always do the same thing before bed and I have little rituals with some of my castmates before every show. This makes transitions easier, no matter how hectic the day has been.

Bedtime and morning routines are especially important to your well-being on the road and can help combat jet lag from time zone changes. If you’re not getting a full night’s rest, especially in a physically taxing environment, your mental and physical health may suffer.

Manage Your Free Time

Along with a flexible routine comes free time; figure out how to use your time wisely to get the most out of it.

Remember that on tour you likely won’t have the discipline of daily workouts or technique classes to keep you in line. Your workout routine and technique practice are all up to you.

  • Do a barre every morning.
  • If you get studio time, take it.
  • Find and save some easy, hotel-friendly workouts.
  • Check to see if your gym offers its members location-wide access.
  • Toss on running shoes and explore your new locale while getting your cardio on.

Just make sure you’re moving and practicing. Dancing every night might be a workout, but doing the same show ad nauseam can create a sense of security and complacency in your movements, not to mention, create muscular imbalances that can be improved with a bit of cross-training.

Take Care of Your Body

Caring for your body means more than hitting the gym. You need to make sure you eat well and stay hydrated. This seems obvious but it is easy to over- or under-eat while traveling.

I always keep a squirrel stash of power bars in my dance bag for emergency situations when I’m traveling. Figure out which snacks work for you and stock up. The healthier your approach and the more regular your eating routine, the better you’ll adapt to new environments and schedule disruptions.

Take Care of Your Mental Health

Caring for your spirit is equally important while on the road. You cannot be a successful performer and give energy to your audience and your fellow dancers if you do not give energy to yourself.

It can be impossible to find a quiet moment on tour. You’re constantly coexisting with the other members of your company. Take it from me: headphones are a godsend. Blocking out the world without actually having to disappear makes putting on your makeup a private ritual and sitting in the company van, a little retreat.

Add moments into your routine where you take stock of yourself and what you need and then prioritize making time to fulfill that need. My favorite opportunity for introspection while on tour is hot showers — no one bothers you when you’re showering post-show. I have also used apps to track my mood and to remind me to be grateful. Remembering to smile can help in all the chaos.

Center yourself by keeping in contact with friends and family back home. The world of tour can become all-consuming, and sometimes you may forget there’s life outside the stage. Call home to get an emotional reset and an outside perspective.

Make the Most of Life on the Road

Take whatever free time you have while on tour to get out and explore. You may feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere but that tiny rural community might be hiding your favorite boutique of all time. The best tactic I’ve found for exploring a new location is to find a local coffee shop (i.e. not Starbucks) and ask the baristas what to see, taste and experience to best get to know their town in 12 hours. Regardless of how long you’re in town, asking what to cover in that 12-hour time range elicits the truest responses.

Of course, after going to the trouble to ask, go do it! Eat, walk, see, smell and experience where you are. Make some memories and take SO MANY PICTURES. Live it up. You can always nap on the plane.

Newsflash: You won’t be successful with all of the above advice all of the time. Take each day as it comes and don’t expect perfection. Enjoy where you are, listen to your body and strive to be the best you can be, both on and off the stage. Shape the chaos of touring in a way that works for you and, while they last, chase those moments that make you feel like you’re inside lightning.

Alyssa Robinson is a lover of words and movement who happily resides in the Pacific Northwest. She started dancing at 19 when the ballroom (and latin) bug bit her, and she hasn’t stopped since. If she’s not writing about food, fitness, and dance, she’s in the studio training for her next ballroom competition.

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Setting New Year Nutrition and Body Goals That Stick http://www.danceadvantage.net/setting-new-year-nutrition-and-body-goals-that-stick/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=setting-new-year-nutrition-and-body-goals-that-stick http://www.danceadvantage.net/setting-new-year-nutrition-and-body-goals-that-stick/#comments Mon, 09 Jan 2017 21:03:41 +0000 http://www.danceadvantage.net/?p=45459 Healthy dancing goes beyond diet, exercise and willpower. Here's how to make sustainable and lasting changes to your dance life and your food plan.]]>

A New Year can be a really awesome time to set some nutrition goals that are innovative and more importantly effective. However, it can also feel totally overwhelming if you’re tackling a number of different areas of your life all at once.
This can lead to overwhelm and major disappointment when a couple of months go by and you start to feel like NOTHING is changing.

It is possible to set nutrition and body goals that stick but it’s first important to think about the reason WHY you’d like to achieve them.

Is it about dancing at your peak and getting a professional job? Is it about getting stronger and staying injury free?

Set goals around your performance in the studio and on stage and stay away from goals that are purely driven by a number on the scale or a comparison to another dancer.

Your unique shape is beautiful and the sooner you embrace that and love yourself exactly how you are in this moment, the easier and faster you’ll start to see positive, tangible changes in how your body looks.

It’s also important to make sure these body goals are yours.

If you want to change your body because of feedback from a teacher or artistic director, it is going to be a lot harder to stay positive and motivated.

Don’t let anyone else’s opinion influence how you feel about yourself.

IMAGE The top of a bright red pepper IMAGE
Photo credit

When it comes to the actual adjustments to your food plan, keep these 5 – ideas in mind:

  1. Brainstorm healthy foods you could eat more of (think greens, colorful vegetables, fruit, nuts, beans, seeds, avocados).
  2. Set up a plan to make those healthy foods more accessible: pre cut veggies so they’re easy to grab and go, stock up on frozen organic vegetables, display your healthy options front and center so they’re the first foods you see when you’re prepping a meal or grabbing a snack.
  3. Once you’ve started habitually loading up on the good stuff (this could take 2 – 4 weeks), brainstorm what unhealthy foods you’re eating that you could eat less of i.e. sweets, processed carbs, sugary beverages, low fat dairy. Start to cut back on those foods gradually.
  4. Remember you should not be hungry. If you’re feeling unsatisfied or perpetually hungry, you’re likely not getting enough healthy fats. Those are some of the most satiating foods.
  5. Have a backup plan and don’t let one slip cause you to fall off the wagon completely.

Your mindset around these New Years nutrition and body goals is majorly important. If you’ve got a story in your head that you’ll never be able to make the changes – you likely won’t be able to do it.

That story in your head will be a self – fulfilling prophecy and any time you fall off the healthy eating wagon you’ll tell yourself “see, I knew I couldn’t do it”.

Switch your story now.

Remind yourself of the times you have succeeded or stuck to a goal. Remember how much you are capable of and harness all the power and positivity you’ve got.

Reaching your best body goes beyond diet, exercise and willpower. There is no such thing as a 21 – day fix or detox. To make truly sustainable and lasting changes to your body, you’ve got to adjust things gradually and accept that it takes some time.

Dancers Best Body Program

Reach Your Body Goals

If you know you’re ready to reach your body goals but you need some help, check out The Dancer’s Best Body Program from The Whole Dancer. This program was designed exclusively for dancers and the unique pressures you face around your physical appearance.
If you’ve ever been told you need to lose weight, or a certain body part needs work, or you don’t have the body needed to be a professional, or you’d simply like to get stronger and stay injury free – this program is for you!
Over the course of 8 – weeks you’ll take a guided, deep dive into the topics of what to eat, how to plan your meals, how to eat for muscle repair and injury prevention, how exactly to cross – train and much, much more.

For full program details, pricing and to save your spot CLICK HERE.

Don’t delay, enrollment for this program is closing on January 15, 2016 and this exclusive LIVE round begins on January 16.


Jess Spinner - The Whole DancerJess Spinner is a professional ballet dancer turned health coach and founder of The Whole Dancer. Driven by her own body struggles as a dancer she is inspired to create programs that are an enriching force of support and positivity in dancer’s lives. She has had the privilege of working with dancers from New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and Boston Ballet (to name a few) and she can’t wait to work with you!

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Sibling Rivalry – When Your Sister Is A Dancer Too http://www.danceadvantage.net/dancing-sisters/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dancing-sisters http://www.danceadvantage.net/dancing-sisters/#comments Sat, 17 Dec 2016 21:25:17 +0000 http://www.danceadvantage.net/?p=44720 Ballerina sisters offer their real-life experiences and advice about competitive feelings toward a sibling who also dances.]]>

The story is as familiar as it is painful to many a dancer. A promotion or a lead role, just within reach, is irrevocably lost, given to another dancer. Someone you admire and respect, someone you might have toiled and danced alongside for years. Now you’re hurting, and all you want to do is go home, grieve, cry, vent, in the security of your home. Only this time it’s more complicated.

This time the other dancer is your sister.

While I myself have five sisters, none shared my passion for ballet while growing up, so as an adult, I decided to explore the situation fictionally. In Outside the Limelight, Book 2 of the Ballet Theatre Chronicles, professional dancer Dena, three years her sister Rebecca’s junior, gets the promotion to soloist that Rebecca had been anticipating. The story follows the sisters’ ensuing relationship, through its bumps, challenging circumstances, dramas and traumas, and the ultimate realization that the bond of sisterhood surpasses all others.


Real Life

Real-life ballet sister scenarios play out quite frequently, I’ve since discovered. In a 2013 New York Times article, Patricia and Jeannette Delgado, both principals with Miami City Ballet, discussed their own situation. Much like in Outside the Limelight, younger sister Jeanette, after years of being the subordinate, excelled extravagantly, prompting dance critic Alastair Macaulay to call her “one of the world’s most marvelous ballerinas.”

Patricia, older by two years, was taken aback. “I closed my eyes and opened them, and said, ‘Oh, my God. My sister is amazing,’ I knew she would have opportunities I wouldn’t get, and that was the first time I was dealing with that.” In the long run, however, Patricia credited Jeanette’s success as helping her to elevate her own dancing. “She was blowing me away, and I said, ‘I’ve got to turn it up.’ ” And she went on to do just that. (Read the full article here.)

Ballet sisters Zippora and Romy Karz, who both danced with the New York City Ballet, offered their own perspective.

Photos courtesy Zippora Karz. Top: Zippora and Romy, Bottom: Karz siblings
Photos courtesy Zippora Karz. Top: Zippora and Romy, Bottom: Karz siblings

“I am blessed—my sister is my best friend,” said Zippora, the eldest, who rose to soloist rank. “We went through growing-up years, for sure, and I didn’t always turn to her, but she was always there. Romy and I were very different dancers and personalities, and different life happenings, so I don’t think we ever compared ourselves to each other.”

Romy, three years younger, agreed. “I never put myself on her level, and so the competition was not a struggle. I loved being her sister. When I first started at the School of American Ballet, she wouldn’t let me live with her. She wanted me to carve my own place, and for her to have hers, without taking care of me. Within a year, we found great comfort in our relationship with each other, and the desire to live together because we actually wanted to. Being her sister felt like a great honor to me.”


Other Challenges

Challenges for ballet sisters can come in other forms. Zippora, who wrote The Sugarless Plum, a memoir chronicling her battle with Type 1 diabetes while dancing, did not share her illness with the other dancers. This increased the sisters’ closeness. “I knew of her incredible struggles with her health,” Romy said. “I knew how hard it was, so I worried a lot about her. That was stressful for me. It was hard to separate from my connection and caring of her, within company life.”

Sister ballerinas, Lauren and Corinne | Photo by Ashraf

Lauren Jonas, artistic director of Walnut Creek-based Diablo Ballet, had not one but two ballet sisters, growing up. From the family’s home base in San Rafael, the three of them trained at the Marin Ballet. Mindy was five years older than Lauren, Corinne two years younger. All three went on to dance professionally, although Mindy was forced to retire at a very young age due to a bad foot injury that never healed properly. Lauren joined the Milwaukee Ballet after completing training, and Corinne joined the Houston Ballet.

Here, then, is another challenge ballet dancer sisters face: the prospect of being geographically separated. Cuban sisters and principal dancers Lorena and Lorna Feijóo have spent their professional careers in San Francisco and Boston respectively. Sisters Maria Sascha and Nadia Khan, Montana natives, are based in Russia and Rome (and have two brothers, also professional ballet dancers, based in London and St. Petersburg). The Jonas sisters dispersed to New York, Milwaukee and Houston.

“It’s hard being in different companies,” Lauren admitted. “Living far apart, not being able to seeing the other dance, after those years of training together. You’re used to having that support right there, and then it’s gone.”

Years later, in an intriguing twist, Lauren co-founded Diablo Ballet, and a few years later Corinne joined the company, the two younger sisters finally dancing together on the same professional stage. This did, however, bring new sister-related challenges: Lauren had to refrain from showing any administrative favoritism toward this new dancer who was also her sister.


Advice on feeling competitive

Lauren and Corinne | Photo by Ashraf

I asked Lauren what helped the two of them overcome any sense of competition in their youth. “It helped that we were very different dancers,” she replied. “I was very Don Q, good at fouettés, jumps, pirouettes. Corinne was more Juliet, lyrical and flowing. Although, we looked alike and choreographers liked playing around with that.” In choreographer Sally Streets’ 1997 ballet, Encores, Lauren danced in front of a mirror, where she encountered her mirrored self: her dancing sister.

I asked these ballet professionals what kind of advice regarding sibling rivalry they might offer today’s aspiring ballet dancer sisters. All were in agreement: figure out what you yourself are good at, what makes you unique, and work to improve and refine that.

“We all have to carve out who we are,” Romy said. “It’s a natural thing to feel jealous of someone who has what you want, and that may be better arches, extensions and parts in a ballet, and that may be your best friend, your worst enemy or your sibling. I think it’s healthy to feel what you’re feeling, and then to examine what you can do about it. Harboring those feelings won’t bring you closer to your own goals, but focusing on your own work and keeping your focus on your own goals will.”


Famous ballet sisters

Outside the Limelight is available on Amazon.

Here are but a few names of professional ballet dancer sisters through the past generation. Can you add to the list?

Maria and Marjorie Tallchief
Patricia and Coleen Neary
Johnna and Gelsey Kirkland
Tina and Sheri LeBlanc
Kathleen and Margaret Tracey
Laura and Elise Flagg
Svetlana and Yulia Lunkina
Leigh-Ann and Sara Esty
Mary Mills Thomas and Melissa Thomas
Zenaida and Nadia Yanowsky


Terez Mertes Rose

Terez Mertes Rose is a writer and former ballet dancer whose work has appeared in the Crab Orchard Review, 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 Bachtrack.com and blogs about ballet and classical music at The Classical Girl. She is the author of Off Balance and the newly released Outside the Limelight, Books 1 and 2 of the Ballet Theatre Chronicles respectively.


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Getting Started With Essential Oils For Dancers http://www.danceadvantage.net/athletes-dancers-essential-oils/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=athletes-dancers-essential-oils http://www.danceadvantage.net/athletes-dancers-essential-oils/#respond Fri, 28 Oct 2016 15:12:54 +0000 http://www.danceadvantage.net/?p=44212 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] ]]>
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7 Things To Remember In Phases Of Uncertainty In Your Dance Life http://www.danceadvantage.net/phases-of-uncertainty-in-dance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=phases-of-uncertainty-in-dance http://www.danceadvantage.net/phases-of-uncertainty-in-dance/#comments Mon, 24 Oct 2016 14:00:20 +0000 http://www.danceadvantage.net/?p=44187 If you feel like you've been thrown off the path in your dance life; if you doubt yourself or your decisions, dancers: Read this!]]>


We all know this situation:

We are gently flowing along in our dance life and feel comfortable in what we are doing, and suddenly something happens that completely throws us off our path. May it be a note, a new teacher, a challenging performance, or an injury – from one moment to the other we question our entire existence as a dancer and as a human being.

Into the Unknown by Edwin Land is licensed CC BY 2.0 [text added]
Into the Unknown by Edwin Land is licensed CC BY 2.0 [text added]
It is often that we slip into this state of insecurity and uncertainty through events that make us think about who we are and what we want to achieve with our art. For example, we take class with a new teacher who has a totally different approach to what we are used to. He may see and correct things that have never been mentioned to us before which makes us question our own approach and style, seeing ourselves from a different perch. It is then that we put different expectations towards our own dancing, and if we do not fulfill these expectations, we get frustrated and disappointed at ourselves. We develop a feeling that we are floating around, unsure about what we do and who we are.

There are a few things to remember if we are experiencing states like this:


1. Life is change

I know that it may seem convenient to think that one day we know who we are, maybe after a certain number of performances we have done or pieces we have choreographed. But it’s – of course – not that easy. The only constant thing in life is change. That we can depend on for sure. There will never be a moment in which we can say “Ahh, so this is me now!” Only moments of “Ahh, I have figured out what characterizes me right now. But that can change tomorrow, next week, or next year.”

The moment we become aware of and open to change, we are able to accept it and rid ourselves from fears.


Sunny Kluge Tap Dancing
The author, Sandra “Sunny” Kluge

2. Everybody goes through this

You think you are the only person who experiences these insecurities– maybe because you are not good enough? No. Talking to many different people about this topic, I realized that these states of uncertainty happen to anybody, regardless of style, age, and experience. And if you think about it – even (or especially?) people at the top of their field never dance the same way throughout their career. Tap dance master Savion Glover for example started with Broadway tap dancing, then was famous for his heavy “hitting” style and today is a leading figure in jazz music, establishing deep grooves over a long time period. His style evolved, and so does everybody’s. Our journey would be boring if it was any different.


3. Change your perspective

It seems like the moment we are in this insecure state of being we want to get out of it as soon as possible– perceiving this transitional period as something negative. But what if those times are actually the best? We never learn and grow as much as when we question ourselves, when something pushes us out of our comfort zone. We should not make it even harder by fighting against our feelings. Instead we should embrace everything that comes our way and live in the moment. Sooner or later we will realize how helpful this struggle was and that we go out of it wiser and stronger than before.


“Sooner or later we realize that from the struggle we come out wiser and stronger than before.”
Click To Tweet


4. Don’t compare yourself to others

Everybody is on a different journey. So don’t compare yourself to others in your class or company. They are where they are and you are where you are. Everyone’s life goes at a different pace, and we experience different things at different times. There is no right or wrong. Don’t assume that the girl in the first row who seems to dance the choreography exactly as the teacher pictures it never struggles. She is just at a different place, and you also don’t know what she thinks and feels – maybe she is as insecure as you are? Get inspired by the light that other people radiate, embrace it, and soon you will be able to shine bright again, inspiring others to do the same.


5. Don’t judge anything

Speaking about not comparing you should also not judge anything – yourself, your feelings, other people. Accept everything and tell yourself it’s okay to feel whatever you feel. Don’t get angry at yourself because the pirouette doesn’t come out the way you want it to. Your body and mind are adjusting to a new state of being, and it’s completely normal and okay if some things need a little time. You don’t know what life has planned for you, so you might as well surrender to your inner guide and be open to the experience. Even if something feels weird or uncomfortable or frustrating –

“The more something upsets you, the more it is meant for you. When it no longer upsets you, it is no longer needed because the lesson is complete.” (Bryant McGill)


6. Go with the flow

This state won’t last forever. It is just a transitional path that takes your dancing to a new, higher level. Also, life never runs linear. You might have to take three steps back in order to move four steps forward. In any case, everything is for the best. If you experience a setback, an uncomfortable or embarrassing situation – it may feel ugly in that moment, but in the end everything is a lesson for you. And lessons are not always easy. Sometimes we have to hit the bottom to realize certain things. If something feels really nasty and we are able to learn from it and then let it go, it is a deep, long-term lesson.


7. Don’t take anything too seriously

And finally, do not take the situation or yourself too seriously. Of course we are prone to a sensation of “world weariness” if everything seems to be uncontrollably floating in space. But does worrying change anything? At the most it will make everything worse. So realize that your purpose as a dancer and as a human being is greater than your temporary insecurities. Even though it might not feel that way, life is still beautiful and a gift. If you are able to maintain as much positive energy as possible, everything will fall into its right place sooner or later.


“The more something upsets you, the more it is meant for you.”
Click To Tweet

Uncertainty is possibility


Sandra Sunny KlugeSandra “Sunny“ Kluge is a tap dancer originally from Germany. Partly self-taught, she was influenced by many different teachers and mentors, such as Barbara Duffy, Sebastian Weber, Pia Neises, Derick Grant, Sarah Petronio, and Heather Cornell, to only name a few. She sees herself as a musician, deeply influenced by the language of jazz music, and is always striving for the most genuine and sophisticated musical expression possible.

However, her style is not only influenced by jazz. Other important aspects of her journey as an artist – as well as a human being – include visual art, singer/songwriter music, world music, different cultures, psychology, and meditation.



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Strange Sounds Dancers’ Bodies Make http://www.danceadvantage.net/strange-sounds-dancers-bodies-make/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=strange-sounds-dancers-bodies-make http://www.danceadvantage.net/strange-sounds-dancers-bodies-make/#comments Tue, 02 Aug 2016 14:37:55 +0000 http://www.danceadvantage.net/?p=43770 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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How To Make The Most Of Your Dance Classes http://www.danceadvantage.net/things-to-do-in-every-dance-class/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=things-to-do-in-every-dance-class http://www.danceadvantage.net/things-to-do-in-every-dance-class/#comments Tue, 14 Jun 2016 19:30:22 +0000 http://www.danceadvantage.net/?p=43451 Beneath the physical discipline of dancing, your attitude toward learning matters. Successful dancers do these six things in every class.]]>

Dance class is an investment. A lot of money, time, and energy goes into learning how to dance. The last thing you want is for any of that to go to waste by not making the most of every dance class.

You might think that the best dancers become successful by stretching longer, sweating harder, or practicing more than everyone else but that’s not the whole story. If you really want to benefit from your time training in dance, start with your mental attitude toward learning. Here’s how:


Take responsibility

Learning anything is on you, friend. Dance teachers just navigate (and occasionally cheerlead) your dance journey. It’s your job to fuel and drive the car.


Photo by Ed Schipul is licensed CC BY 2.0
tango and curves by Ed Schipul is licensed CC BY 2.0


What are some ways to do that and take responsibility for learning in dance class?

  • Arrive early
  • Come prepared
  • Practice proper dance class etiquette
  • Stay focused
  • Take and apply corrections and direction
  • Ask and listen to questions and really absorb the answers
  • Take notes
  • Think ahead
  • Spend more time on the things that need work than the things that don’t
  • Be eager to revisit the basics
  • Listen to your body and keep it in top form with cross-training or conditioning
  • Develop professional relationships with your teachers and mentors
  • Find great teachers you can trust and then actually put your faith in their methods


Make mistakes

Dance class is THE place to mess up because the stage is the last place you’ll want to. Give yourself permission to try big and fail hard in dance and in life.


Photo by Ed Schipul is licensed CC BY 2.0
Freneticore The Sacred Harp by Ed Schipul is licensed CC BY 2.0


Discover something new

Notice we didn’t say you should wait to be hit over the head with or bowled over by new information. Make each dance class a quest to learn something new– even about the same old stuff– through listening, watching, trial, or error.


Freneticore at Bayou City Arts Fest by Ed Schipul is licensed CC BY 2.0


Feel uncomfortable

Your best growth often happens outside your comfort zone. If dance class feels too easy, it’s not always about class level. Are you pushing and stretching yourself in all of the above ways? If not, maybe class seems effortless because you’re not making an effort to push beyond your limitations.


seen, because you can, dance, because you love by Ed Schipul is licensed CC BY 2.0
seen, because you can, dance, because you love by Ed Schipul is licensed CC BY 2.0


Enjoy the process

Achievement and accolades in dance are awesome but the celebration lasts a blip before you realize that when it’s over, there’s just something new to accomplish. Dance training includes periods of growth and periods of plateau. Make that process the fun part of dance class and you’re golden.


Houston Uptown Dance Company by Ed Schipul is licensed CC BY 2.0
Houston Uptown Dance Company by Ed Schipul is licensed CC BY 2.0


Give thanks

Do celebrate those accomplishments and your dancing body. Be grateful that you get to enjoy the benefits of dance and appreciate the people helping you and motivating you to get the most out of every dance class.


tendering at freneticore theater by Ed Schipul is licensed CC BY 2.0
tenderina at freneticore theater by Ed Schipul is licensed CC BY 2.0



Thanks, Ed Schipul for making your beautiful photographs of Houston dancers available via CC.

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3 Life Lessons My Students Learn In Dance Class http://www.danceadvantage.net/dance-lessons-on-living-fully/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dance-lessons-on-living-fully http://www.danceadvantage.net/dance-lessons-on-living-fully/#comments Fri, 03 Jun 2016 19:11:11 +0000 http://www.danceadvantage.net/?p=43625 The benefits of dancing go beyond the classroom. Learn more about what dance teaches you about life.]]>
"Dancers in the air" by Gabriel Saldana. Licensed under CC Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.
Dancers in the air” by Gabriel Saldana. Licensed under CC Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic. [Changes: text added]


We’re all dancers here, right?  So we all know of the many benefits of engaging in the practice of dance. We know about the obvious physical benefits, how our rigorous training keeps our bodies and minds in great shape. We know that spending a great amount of time with other dancers in classes and rehearsals helps develop social skills. We understand that navigating complex spacial arrangements and managing those in-the-moment quick fixes when something goes wrong in a performance builds problem solving skills.

And I haven’t even addressed the spiritual connection some of us experience when we dance, that awareness of something special taking place in an inner soul level that gives us healing, peace, joy, and a sense of purpose. I mean, the list can go on and on and on…and on.



I teach all levels of dancers, and most of my students are actually pursuing careers in other fields. So it has become important to me to leave them with nuggets of wisdom they can take with them once they leave the studio and apply to other areas of their lives.

What nuggets are those, you say? So glad you asked.


1. Embracing risks


"IMG_9361.JPG" by Gabriel Saldana. Licensed under CC Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.
IMG_9361.JPG” by Gabriel Saldana. Licensed under CC Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.


One of the main concepts I reinforce is the importance of taking risks and pushing yourself to grow. I teach tons of hip-hop classes, and while the idea of dancing to your favorite songs in class sounds fun, you’d be surprised how fear takes over once they realize they’re actually learning stylized movement and are charged with the ever-so-dreaded task of freestyling.

As I hold their hands through each step of learning and retaining a new style of choreography and then ease them into the act of freestyling after a few guided exercises, I find that it’s still necessary to give them those extra nudges of support. I’m constantly reminding them that the discomfort they’re feeling is a sign of growth, and that if they want to leave the class better off than how they began it–which I expect, by the way—then they’ll have to push themselves to work through the discomfort.

Which brings me to my next nugget. In those moments where class turns into a support group (fellow educators should know what I mean here), I talk a lot about the idea of progress over perfection. Again, because there’s a range of skill levels in my classes, a level one course can often have a complete novice in class with dancers who have 3+ years of experience.  And because they’re human, and we all do this, they compare themselves to their peers. They feel embarrassed when they don’t catch on as quickly, and they shy away to the back of the room.

2. The Importance of Progress Over Perfection


"IMG_9365.JPG" by Gabriel Saldana. Licensed under CC Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.
“IMG_9365.JPG” by Gabriel Saldana. Licensed under CC Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.


It’s in those moments, I must remind them that they didn’t all start at the same place, and therefore shouldn’t be expected to perform at the same levels. I talk a lot about not comparing yourself to others and about learning to be comfortable where you are. And wouldn’t you know, even with all of my experience and credits, I’m still learning to take my own advice in that area.


What Dance Has Taught Me About Life - Fear


3. Not Fearing Failure


"Contemporary dance" by Gabriel Saldana. Licensed under CC Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.
Contemporary dance” by Gabriel Saldana. Licensed under CC Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.


Finally, at least within the confines of this article, I emphasize to students that there is life after their mistakes. I notice that fear of failure causes students to either quit once they’ve made a mistake, or decide not to try at all. I’m sure you’ve seen it too. When it’s time to perform the combination in groups, there are always a few who completely freeze after a mistake or those who conveniently need to excuse themselves to the restroom.

So in addition to my class mantras, “Be strong and wrong!” and “Don’t be afraid to crash and burn,” I figured out a few tactics to keep the idea of quick and seamless recovery on their minds. I point out the fact that in dance, as in life, the show must go on after a mistake. I encourage them to acknowledge their humanity, and to then jump right back in wherever they left off.

Now, whether or not my students realize the “life coaching” I’m doing, or whether or not they even care, I have no clue. What I do know is that many of my students leave my courses having grown tremendously throughout the semester. I’m not talking just skill mastery either. I’m talking about growth in courage and, more importantly, in self confidence.

One of the things I find most rewarding is that as my students are learning to step outside of their comfort zones, to accept who and where they are in their own process, and to keep going after their mistakes, I am being inspired to do the same.


Just another benefit of dance.  As we learn to dance fully, we are learning to live fully as well.


ShateEdwardsShate’L. Edwards is a professional choreographer and dance educator in Dallas, TX.  She is the creator of TheWorkingDancer.com, where she gives aspiring dancers the insight and inspiration they need to become working dancers.


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How One Dance Studio Is Promoting Healthy Body Image http://www.danceadvantage.net/love-your-body-week/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=love-your-body-week http://www.danceadvantage.net/love-your-body-week/#comments Mon, 25 Apr 2016 14:30:06 +0000 http://www.danceadvantage.net/?p=43407 All That Dance studio tells us about Love Your Body Week at their studio and how they are helping students develop a greater appreciation for their bodies while encouraging teen leadership.]]>


When it comes to the relationship we have with our bodies, a dancer’s status is often “It’s complicated.”

It is the paradox between both celebrating and fighting our bodies during the training years and beyond that motivated Seattle dance studio, All That Dance, to develop Love Your Body Week at their school.

“Managing and facilitating Love Your Body Week is by far one of the most rewarding parts of my job, and having it as a part of our studio calendar each year makes me proud to be a faculty member at All That Dance.” – All That Dance, ballet department leader, Mary Gorder.

Love Your Body Week at All That Dance


What Is Love Your Body Week?

Love Your Body Week is an annual event on the All That Dance calendar filled with class-time activities focused on fostering healthy body image in the school’s dancers.

Love Your Body Week at All That Dance was started in 2005 by Rachel Stewart after she witnessed some of her 5-year-old students comparing the sizes of their thighs. Rachel wanted to counteract the negative messages about our bodies delivered from outside sources and acknowledge the additional internal pressures that young dancers face. Rachel’s idea was received with great enthusiasm from All That Dance studio founder and director, Maygan Wurzer who has nurtured a supportive and accepting environment at her school.

Rachel and fellow instructor, Emily German, turned immediately to the studio’s student leadership to help with the event. The high school dancers in their chapter of the National Honor Society for Dance Arts (NHSDA) are in the studio’s top technique levels, maintain high GPAs at school, participate in dance-focused service work, and are very involved in the studio community. Love Your Body Week has become a big part of their mission. NHSDA members spend a Sunday afternoon preparing and decorating the studio to kick off the week and visit classes to lead activities with younger dancers as well as with their peers throughout the week.

Mary Gorder is the NHSDA Chapter Sponsor and oversees the facilitation of the event. She works to develop the Love Your Body Week curriculum each year. We were so inspired by Love Your Body Week, its mission and implementation, that we asked Mary some questions with hope that it will inspire you, too!


Dance Advantage: For over 10 years this program has been a part of the culture at All That Dance. When does the positive impact of LYBW became crystal clear for you?

Mary Gorder: I think what shows Love Your Body Week’s impact the most is how much of a normal part of our school year the event has become. The dancers who are now in charge of facilitating LYBW activities first experienced it when they were six or seven years old, and they do not remember a time before LYBW. When I announce in class that LYBW is coming up, the response is just as enthusiastic as when I tell dancers that we are starting choreography for a performance.

One of my favorite things to overhear in the hallways or lobby between classes are the moments in which dancers remind each other of LYBW’s message throughout the year. Numerous times I have heard a dancer start to speak poorly about him/herself, only to be met with a chorus of peers shouting “LOVE YOUR BODY!”. This is not to say that we can prevent our students from ever experiencing feelings of self doubt or of a negative body image. But it is our hope that by creating an environment that encourages self acceptance, we can help them to have the strength to overcome such negativity. As a studio community we value support over competition, and Love Your Body Week is one facet of that mission.

LYBW allows for impactful movement experiences as well. For example, every year I use the same improvisation exercise in all of the teen lyrical levels I teach. I ask dancers to start with some journaling about a body part they love, then about one they don’t. Next, they watch each other improvise first using their favorite part as an initiation point, then their least favorite, then both. I am struck every year by how much power this seemingly simple exercise holds, especially for our most advanced teens who have danced the same exercise a number of times over the years. In each dancer I see such courage, intention, and passion. The fact that these students are brave enough to dance so fearlessly and with so much heart is overwhelming to me each and every time. I am so proud to teach at a studio that has created a safe space for these young artists to move, explore, and express, and this exercise always exemplifies and reinforces that for me.



DA: Tell us a bit more about NHSDA, which is a program of the National Dance Education Organization, and what that’s brought to your studio culture.

MG: Our NHSDA chapter is made up of our higher-level teen students, mostly Juniors and Seniors in high school. Our goal is to use NHSDA to promote community, leadership, scholarship, and service among our students. Aside from LYBW, NHSDA hosts events for younger dancers (a sleepover and “parents’ night out”), and teach classes to children staying at our local Ronald McDonald house while in treatment for serious illnesses. They also attend performances as a group, and read and write about dance. They produce a concert of student choreography each winter, and create collaborative group choreography for our studio-wide shows in the spring.

NDEO’s support has been integral in the development of our teen programming this these past few years. Having an NHSDA chapter has allowed us to create exciting opportunities for our most advanced dancers, who are looking to commit time and energy to dance outside of their classes and rehearsals. We love that it gives these dancers a chance to build closer relationships with their peers, which in turn helps to strengthen our community as a whole. It creates greater investment from our oldest dancers, as well as great modeling for the younger ones. Teens serve as such powerful role models within the context of our studio, and the opportunity to connect them directly with little ones is incredibly influential across our whole community. We hear from young dancers not only that they want to someday dance with our company, but also that they want to be NHSDA members to help carry on the LYBW tradition.



DA: What does a typical Love Your Body Week at the studio usually looks like? 

MG: Most of these activities happen during class time, with the exception of the prep work that NHSDA members do before the week begins. We offer a variety of different jumping-off points for conversation in classes based on age and dance genre (picture books for our pre-school dancers, photos, videos, and readings for pre-teens and teens). For our older dancers who experience a number of conversations over the course of the week, we also incorporate movement exercises, both choreographic and improvisational, to create a well-rounded experience. Our goal is for dancers who take multiple weekly classes to examine the concept of body image through a variety of different lenses.

NHSDA members visit classes over the course of the week to lead LYBW activities. There are generally about 20 members in a given year, and they facilitate conversations in pairs or trios. NHSDA members visited over 100 classes over the course of the week this year, so it is certainly a substantial time commitment for those dancers. We are intentional about taking time to fully prepare NHSDA dancers l to help them feel confident and prepared, as well as offering them resources and support throughout the week.

Here is an example track of LYBW class activities for an advanced dancer:

  • Jazz – Video and discussion of dancers as athletes.
  • Modern – Choreographic task inspired by a word each dancer chooses to describe his/her body.
  • Ballet – Photo timeline of the evolution of the “ideal ballet body”, discussion of how these ideals (for both male and female dancers) have changed over the course of history.
  • Tap – Discussion of body positivity from the perspective of thankfulness. Dancers write thank you notes to their bodies to post on the mirror.
  • Lyrical – Dancers choose a favorite body part and a least favorite body part, then improvise movement initiating with each of those parts.



DA: Do you incorporate wellness/nutritional education?

MG: In general, we do not incorporate much from a nutrition standpoint, as we are not experts in the field and do not want to inadvertently offer potentially damaging advice. In general the conversations will touch on the importance of eating well to keep active bodies fueled, but nothing more specific than that. We are lucky enough to have Rachel Stewart, who also works with children and teens as a counselor, as a part of our LYBW program.  She offers an info session at the end of each LYBW so that parents and teens can access clinical resources.


DA: Has the event grown beyond All That Dance?

MG: A number of other studios across the country have contacted me for more information, and many have instituted similar programs at their studios. I am happy to share our curriculum with anyone who is interested! I love having the opportunity to share our materials, and to discuss ways of implementing similar programming in the context of other studios. The best way to contact me is via email: maryp@all-that-dance.com.


DA: What resources or sources you can suggest to studios interested in helping students love their bodies?

MG: The National Eating Disorder Association has a website with tons of fantastic links and resources. We have also had great success searching for inspiring quotes and articles on Pinterest. Dance Magazine and Dance Teacher Magazine have published wonderful articles about body image, building confidence, and using studio mirrors as helpful tools that can be found on their respective websites. There are of course several fantastic articles on Dance Advantage, too!

Here are the books that we have used successfully in our classes for young children:


Through Love Your Body Week, All That Dance students are learning to be kind to one another and kind to themselves, as well as developing an appreciation for their bodies. They will take these lessons into college and adulthood, making time spent in the dance studio about even more than technical proficiency, discipline, and work ethic. What an amazing gift!


How do you promote healthy body image at your studio?



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What is Intuitive Eating and Why is it Good for Dancers? http://www.danceadvantage.net/intuitive-eating/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=intuitive-eating http://www.danceadvantage.net/intuitive-eating/#respond Mon, 04 Apr 2016 14:30:20 +0000 http://www.danceadvantage.net/?p=43211 Dancers tend to trust their physical body but rely on external cues when fueling it. Learn the principles of Intuitive Eating and trust your body when it comes to food.]]>


Intuitive Eating is an approach to food and diet created by dieticians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, that utilizes your bodies’ awareness and understanding of its’ own internal cues for hunger, satiation and cravings, in order to guide food and diet choices. Unlike many fad diets, Intuitive Eating does not tell you what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat. Intuitive Eating is actually based on the premise that your body is really smart, and it knows exactly what it needs at any given time. It is your job to listen to it. Through the process of becoming an Intuitive Eater, you learn how to create a healthy relationship with your food, mind, and body – where you ultimately become the expert of your own body.

As dancers, when attempting to achieve a certain aesthetic appearance, it can be all too tempting to fall prey to various dieting schemes and fads. Most typical diets involve following sets of rules and regulations that tell you what to eat (or not eat), and when to eat (or not eat), creating a scenario where the dieter utilizes external cues to guide their eating behavior, resulting in a disconnect from their bodies’ internal cues. This causes body awareness to decrease, which is arguably not a “good thing” for the aspiring dancer.

In order to be a successful dancer, you need to be highly aware of your body – whether you are working on trying to get a higher extension without gripping your hip flexors, or you are trying to decide what to eat for lunch in order to have the best energy for afternoon class/rehearsal. The process of Intuitive Eating teaches you to attune to, and trust, your own bodies’ needs. This ability allows you to make food and diet choices, based on simple nutrition, that will fulfill and satisfy your bodies’ needs at any given time, resulting in less stress around food and eating, greater body/self awareness, increased confidence and strength, not to mention peace of mind around food and eating, allowing you to focus your energy and mental capacity on improving your dancing rather than fretting about your diet…Sounds pretty nice, huh?

If your answer is “yes,” read on to learn about the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating, and how they may be able to help you become a healthier, happier and more aware dancer.

Intuitive Eating
“Eat!” by Joshua Rappeneker is licensed CC BY-SA 2.0


The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating

1. Reject the Diet Mentality: More and more (and more) research is showing that diets simply do not work. They may work for a short period of time, but the weight loss resulting from any one given “diet,” is unsustainable and, once the diet ends, the dieter will gain back more weight than they lost. As dancers, we need a sustainable approach to food and eating that will allow us to sustain our bodies’ health and wellness for year round training and performing. While going on a “diet” may yield short term weight loss results, in the long run, it can actually set you up to disconnect from your body and gain weight – not necessarily the outcome you were hoping for.


2. Honor Your Hunger: Hunger is a good thing. Our bodies are smart. They know when we need fuel, and they use signals to inform us. Hunger signals might appear as a growling or cramped stomach, light-headedness or dizzy spells, shaky hands or an inability to focus, or, my personal favorite, a bad (bad) mood…often referred to as becoming “hangry.” These signals are actually survival tactics, and, they are to be listened to. As a dancer, learn to listen to your bodies’ hunger cues, and try to satiate them when they arise, so you can continue to have energy for your craft, while staying present and conscious to make good food choices through out your day.


3. Make Peace with Food: Food is good. No, wait, food is great. It is yummy, and delicious and fun, and to be enjoyed, not feared. When attempting to achieve a certain aesthetic, it is far too easy to make food the enemy, leading to restrictive eating behaviors. This restrictive behavior around food can lead to a slew of negative results for the body. Do not prohibit yourself from eating food, for this may cause feelings of deprivation and could eventually lead to over indulgence, i.e. disconnected weight gain. Food is your friend. Use it to fuel your body for your craft, and try to have some fun with it during the process.


4. Challenge the Food Police: The “Food Police” are those voices in your head (no, you’re not crazy, I have them too) that like to chime in when you are eating something that might be on your “bad food day” list, or your “I could never in a million years eat x, y, z” list. Most people have a “list,” and everyone has different things on their “list,” usually determined by their past experiences and beliefs around healthy/unhealthy food and eating. When your “Food Police” chimes in, challenge them. Try to rid your mind of any guilt-provoking and negative thoughts that arise when eating certain foods. Remember, food is good, food is your friend, and, as a living and breathing human being inhabiting this earth, you not only get to eat food, you actually need to eat food.


5. Feel Your Fullness: Again, your body is smart. It will tell you when it is sated. Learn to listen for body signals that show you are full or content. Once you start to notice that you actually do get full, and that, no, you won’t eat the entire bag of chips every single time you allow yourself to eat chips, you start to build confidence in your self and your ability to eat intuitively. This is a really important part of the process. What might it feel like for you to feel comfortably full? Remember, it is not an exact science, and your experience will vary.


6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor: Eating food is a sensory experience, and it deserves to be a satisfying one. Notice the different elements of taste, texture, color and aroma of the foods you eat. Eat in a pleasant environment, perhaps with nice china and silverware, or while listening to soothing music. Identifying the pleasures related to your experience of eating can help you be present, allowing you to more easily attune to your bodies’ needs.


7. Cope with Your Emotions Without Using Food: We’ve all done it. Bad day in class or rehearsal or a performance, or, (eek) all three, and we decide to say, “Screw it, I’m eating everything in the house.” We grab the bag of chips or cookies or whatever, plop down on the sofa and drown the sorrows and unfairness of life in delicious, yummy and comforting food. The funny thing is we usually don’t end up feeling better after an episode like this, we typically feel worse. If you find yourself in a particularly emotional state, and you have the tendency to reach for food for solace, try to explore new ways to comfort, nurture, and resolve your issues without using food. Perhaps take a walk, or a hot bath or call a good friend to vent. Once you’ve calmed down, THEN try to make your food choices based on what your body is telling you. If you still desire a cookie, have a cookie. Just try not to set yourself up to mindlessly eat as a way to cope with your emotions.


8. Respect Your Body: This is my favorite – and arguably one of the most challenging. As dancers, we expect SO MUCH of our bodies. Let’s remember to take a little time to appreciate all they do for us. They not only endure the countless hours of training, but they also keep us breathing, digesting, self-regulating and much (much) more, without us ever really thinking about it. And then we berate them on top of this for not appearing this or that way? Sounds a little unfair if you ask me…Let’s try to be realistic with our bodies – respect their natural shapes and sizes, and work with them, rather than against them. This does not mean you can’t work and train hard, just try to respect your body as you work hard.


Dancers tend to trust their physical body but rely on external cues when fueling it.
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9. Exercise – Feel the Difference: Obviously dancers exercise (duh, they dance all day!). This principle is about exercising with the intention to feel good. Recognize the benefits you are gaining from your training – more energy, stamina, endurance, control – and feel how good they feel, rather than placing all the focus on the amount of calories you’re burning.


10. Honor Your Health with Gentle Nutrition: And finally, we get to nutrition – gently. I love that this is the last principle of Intuitive Eating, and that the word “gentle” is tacked on to it. Not that nutrition isn’t important for health – it is extremely important – but, often times, aiming for nutritious eating can lead you down the path of dieting and disconnection from your body. Use your knowledge of nutrition to make food choices that honor your health and taste buds while leaving you connected to your body and feeling good.



*Resch, Elyse, and Evelyn Tribole. Intuitive Eating. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1995.

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How To Cultivate And Keep A Winning Mindset http://www.danceadvantage.net/winning-mindset/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=winning-mindset http://www.danceadvantage.net/winning-mindset/#respond Mon, 28 Mar 2016 16:52:56 +0000 http://www.danceadvantage.net/?p=43370 A dancer’s most important tool is a winning mindset. Here's how to develop a positive mental attitude so that you're at your best every time.]]>


Your big moment has arrived; you step inside the studio for the biggest audition of your life… you’re warmed up and ready…

if only you could make your hands stop shaking and remember how to breathe.

Make no mistake, going for your dreams requires bravery– lots of it– whether you’re attending a cattle call audition, making a video to wow that top dance company in Europe, or picking up the phone to ask if you can take company class. Stepping out of your comfort zone can feel like taking a leap off into the dark. Whether you realize it or not, your thoughts and attitude make the critical difference between failing or flying.


"Champion" by Gordon is licensed CC BY-SA 2.0 [cropping, text added]
“Champion” by Gordon is licensed CC BY-SA 2.0 [cropping, text added]

Here’s how to cultivate and keep a dancer’s most important tool–a winning mindset–so you’re at your best every time.


Clarify your vision

When you activate your imagination and visualize your success, you’re onto one of the best-kept secrets of Olympic athletes and high-level sports coaches. Visualization is the first step to creating anything, so it’s the first thing we need to implement. If you think about it, anything that exists began as an idea first, whether it’s the chair you’re sitting on, the clothes you’re wearing or the transportation you use to get around.

Take a moment to close your eyes and clarify your vision.

Consider these questions: What does it feel like to live your dream? What do you see yourself doing? Where are you? Who are you with? Sketch in the details until the vision comes alive in your mind.

Once you get a clear picture in your mind, take a few minutes each day to revisit your vision, either just before you go to sleep or first thing in the morning.


Create affirmations

To affirm something means to declare it’s true. Affirmations are positive statements you repeat to yourself in order to impress them in your mind.  They are written in the present tense, as if they are already happening, using simple language that is easy to remember and repeat. For example: I bring my best effort to all that I do.

Write your affirmations down (get creative–make them artsy!) and post them where you can see them first thing (the bathroom mirror is a good choice), and throughout the day. Keeping your mind filled with positive thoughts is powerful; tell yourself something often enough and it becomes a belief.


Focus on your process

When you’re in the middle of an audition it’s easy to get distracted. Being thrown in a room with a bunch of strangers is disorienting and uncomfortable by definition! You may wonder who has better turns, or the highest jumps, or how your extensions compare. But every time you fall into the trap of comparison you get pulled from your process. When your focus wanders, you’re no longer paying attention to what you’re doing…which means you aren’t giving your best effort.

Keep our your attention on what you are doing and nothing else. No distractions, no comparisons.

Instead of watching other dancers when you’re not dancing, use the time to go over the choreography, repeat affirmations, or take a moment to visualize yourself doing the combination perfectly.


Positive thinking

During an audition it’s understandable to wonder about what others are thinking, particularly the people who have the final say in whether or not you’re chosen. You might catch yourself thinking things like,”They’re not paying attention to me. They hate me. I’ll never get picked.” But it’s impossible to know what others are thinking, and while you can’t control outer circumstances, you are in control of your thoughts.

Remember, the thoughts that flicker through your mind will either be helpful or hurtful, so strive to keep your thoughts positive.

If you catch yourself slipping down the rabbit hole of negative thoughts, take a moment to silently repeat your favorite affirmation or flip the offending thought on its head and think about what you want to happen instead of what you don’t.


Your thoughts will either be helpful or hurtful. Use them to develop a winning mindset.
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Let yourself shine

Even though auditions are nerve-wracking, you never know which one is going to be the one that could change your life. Don’t you owe it to yourself to dance your very best and enjoy the moment?

Instead of worrying, think instead about how you can fly, then spread your wings and go for it! Smile, have fun and be yourself.

You’re out there doing it, taking the next big step to live the life you dream about. It can be uncomfortable not knowing what will happen…will they hire me or will they hate me? No matter what the outcome may be, a winning mindset guarantees you’ll be at your best. Put these tools into action and take your first leap toward success today.



Grier Cooper
Grier Cooper

Grier Cooper left home at fourteen to study at the School of American Ballet. She’s performed with San Francisco Ballet, Miami City Ballet, and many others, totaling more than thirty years of experience as a dancer, teacher and performer. She blogs about dance and has interviewed and photographed a diverse collection dancers and performers including Clive Owen, Nicole Kidman, Glen Allen Sims and Jessica Sutta. She is the author of the Indigo Ballet Series ballet novels for young adults. Visit Grier at http://www.griercooper.com

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Teaching Students to Use Breath to Enhance their Dancing http://www.danceadvantage.net/teaching-breath-coordination/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=teaching-breath-coordination http://www.danceadvantage.net/teaching-breath-coordination/#comments Tue, 15 Mar 2016 14:50:07 +0000 http://www.danceadvantage.net/?p=43283 Young dancers need help learning how to connect breath to movement. Here are 4 ways dance teachers can encourage this development in dance class.]]>

All dancers use breath. After all, breathing is a natural and necessary function that occurs whether we think about it or not. However, not all dancers understand how they can use their breath to maximize their dancing.

At the most basic level, dancers should use inhalation to emphasize growing movements, and exhalation to extend shrinking movements. This use of breath provides a greater fluidity of movement, musicality, and often creates an enduring quality that fosters enjoyment of movement.

"Cold" by However Improbable is licensed CC BY-ND 3.0
“Cold” by However Improbable is licensed CC BY-ND 3.0

Despite these benefits, young dancers are often unaware of how to connect their breath to their movement. Many tend to hold their breath, in class and on stage, because they are focusing their attention on performing the choreography above all else.

So, as dance teachers, how can we teach our students to connect their breath to their movements?

Experience has taught me that this is a quality that cannot be taught in a day, but must be fostered throughout a dancer’s development. Below are several exercises that I have found helpful in encouraging the use of breath in my students.


Begin at the Barre

Dance training often begins with ballet, and ballet begins at the barre. Therefore, it only makes sense that the incorporation of breath should start at the barre.

Every so often, use a CD of songs that are familiar to your dancers (one of my favorites is Divas for Ballet by David Plumpton). Holiday CDs also work well for this exercise. Teach your ballet class as you normally would, but invite your dancers to hum along with the music. Humming naturally incorporates breath into the exercise and the dancer becomes more closely involved with the musicality of the exercise.


Improvisational Breath Exercises

The following improvisation exercises can be done singularly at the end of a modern or contemporary class, or could be extended into a longer workshop.

Individual Exercise: Using Breath in Movement

Spread the dancers out in the space. Play soft music that the dancers can hear you speak over. Then, ask them to improvise movements while coordinating audible breathing. Encourage the dancers to experiment with the way they breathe, such as varying the speed of inhalation and exhalation, pushing air out in contrast with pulling air in, and changing the pitch of their breath sounds.

Partner Exercise: Using Breath to Communicate

Pair your dancers up and spread the pairs out in the space. Again, play soft music that the dancers can hear you speak over. Then, ask the dancers to improvise movements while incorporating audible breathing in a conversation, or call and response, with a partner. One partner begins by improvising a movement that uses breath their partner can hear, and the second partner responds, also breathing out loud while improvising a movement. I like to encourage contact between the dancers during this exercise to form a more intimate connection between the pairings.


CC0 Public Domain
CC0 Public Domain

Perfecting With Performance

Challenge your dancers to breathe out loud during a rehearsal run of your piece. This will force the dancers to think about their breathing as they dance. Give them places in the choreography where they should incorporate specific breathing patterns, such as inhaling when arms or legs are lifted or at the initiation of a jump, and exhaling at the beginning and end of a turn or during the landing of a jump. After the run has concluded, allow the dancers time to process their experience individually.


Encourage Experimentation

While the structure described in the rehearsal example above provides a great starting point for dancers to explore the connection of breath to movement, it is important to not always apply such a rigid arrangement for breathing. Every body is different, and every dancer will find that a different, specific breathing pattern assists his or her technique and performance.


Once a dancer understands the basic principles of using breath with movement, he or she can master this on his or her own body through discovery and experimentation. Ultimately, this process will lead to a deeper understanding and enjoyment of the dance.


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Foam Rollers: Flawed Fad or Functionally Fundamental? http://www.danceadvantage.net/dancers-and-foam-rollers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dancers-and-foam-rollers http://www.danceadvantage.net/dancers-and-foam-rollers/#comments Fri, 11 Mar 2016 16:02:54 +0000 http://www.danceadvantage.net/?p=20344 Seems every dancer's doing it but what is the purpose and value in using a foam roller? And, should you be doing it too? Here's the 411 on fascia and foam rolling.]]>


Stretching is an important ritual for many dancers before and after class, and the effectiveness of pre-class stretching has been previously discussed here.

Personal Trainer Jessica Johnson is "besties" with her foam rollers. Find the pros and cons of foam rollers and SMR in this post!
Personal Trainer Jessica Johnson of Illinois is “besties” with her foam rollers. Find the pros and cons of rolling in this post!

Since writing that article, a number of new warm-up and stretching techniques have risen in popularity, particularly the use of foam rollers to get your morning “crunchies” out. In fact it’s hard to find a dancer these days who’s not toting a foam roller under her arm.

Foam rollers are not the only way to get your roll on. Foam rolling is part of a bigger category known as Self-Myofascial Release (SMR), or self-massage. So, whether you use a foam roller or a roller that looks like a tire, or if you roll around on a softball, or use a foot massager, or stick those squishy spiked Franklin balls under your heels… it’s all the same principle, sharing the same philiosophy as massage therapy and other manual techniques used for many, many years.



Fascia 411

To better understand self-myofascial release, it’s helpful to understand a little bit about fascia:

Fascia is a web of tissue connecting the body’s compartments. Fascia’s job is to provide stability and directional pull for the muscles to best accomplish their jobs. Injury and repetitive use can contribute to fascia becoming less pliable, essentially building scar tissue and resulting in reduced range of motion, pain, and shortening of the surrounding muscles.

Myofascial release is designed to massage the damaged fascia and restore its natural pliability, while suppressing receptors that are stimulating the associated muscle tightness. Self-myofascial release allows the individual to monitor pain by conducting this process herself.

SMR brings additional blood flow to the area you are rolling, and perhaps for this reason has been integrated into many athletes’ warm-up routines. While this may prime the body for movement and sometimes feels good (other times it feels like a million needles poking into your thigh), the body responds in much the same way it responds to static stretching before activity.


So, why do people foam roll?

Is it just hype, or is there value in foam rolling?

Some clinicians feel that SMR manages the neuromuscular connections between muscles, creating a potential for improved movement patterns. The link between this idea and athletic performance isn’t too convincing at this point, but many athletes report better range of motion from foam rolling, and muscles tend to perform better when they can achieve full range of motion.


The simplest answer to the question, “to roll, or not to roll” is probably:

“Who knows?!?”

The jury is still out on whether foam rolling is bad, or good, or neither. At the time of this writing, it’s an emerging area of research and the argument in favor of foam rolling is largely justified by a whole lot of anecdotes.

Many athletes and coaches swear by their SMR routines, and most will likely tell you, “I don’t know how it works, but it works.” This seems to be the general consensus among researchers too, and until we have more concrete answers, it is unwise to make broad statements about foam rolling preventing injury or improving performance in any athlete.


Another possible answer to the SMR question is: “It depends.”

As dancers, we are obsessed with mobility. Any crunchy or tight area is perceived as a detriment. While foam rolling is thought by some to address areas of tightness and maladaptive movement patterns, we must also recognize the importance of balancing mobility with stability.

Our bodies’ joints form a kinetic chain in which alternating joints are ideal for providing stability (as in the knee and lower back), or mobility (ankle, hip, and thoracic/middle back areas). When in balance, our bodies move with ease and efficiency. However, through repetitive use or faulty movement patterns, we can change this balance and run the risk of getting injured. Dancers’ extreme hypermobility leaves us susceptible to injury, and so an intervention aimed at exacerbating mobility – which you already have a lot of – should be approached with caution.


#Dancers report better ROM from #foamrolling but the balance of mobility and stability is important.
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Knowing where to roll isn’t as simple as it seems.


Dancer Dylan Roth from Chicago demonstrates a glute roll that targets piriformis
Dancer Dylan Roth from Chicago demonstrates a glute roll that targets piriformis

Muscle pain can result naturally as a part of the training process, or may be the result of overuse or faulty movement patterns. In using a foam roller, it’s tempting to simply attack the muscle that hurts, but the answer might not be so simple.

Understanding how the body compensates for a lack of muscular efficiency and knowing how to correct faulty movement patterns will help make the most of your time on the roller. For example, hip and knee pain is often attributed to the iliotibial band pulling at the side of the knee.


Jessica Johnson demonstrates a glute roll for gluteus maximus and the upper hamstring.
Jessica Johnson demonstrates a glute roll for gluteus maximus and the upper hamstring.

A common misconception is that tight IT bands are the culprit, when in fact poor or faulty musculature of the hip is often to blame. Plus, the IT band cannot simply be stretched out by foam rolling – it’s an incredibly tough, tight structure whose job is to stabilize the knee. In other words, even if you could roll out your IT band, you want it to be tight. A better approach is to combine SMR of the hip, glutes, and quads with some hip strengthening in extension and the lateral plane.



The article below from “hello healthy” gives additional insight on how to get the most out of foam rolling:

Are You Foam Rolling All Wrong?


The long and the short of foam rolling:

Will foam rolling make you less sore? Maybe.

Less tight? Probably.

But remember that soreness and tightness in small doses are a healthy part of the training process, and a signal to perhaps slow down a little bit instead of willing our bodies into submission with a softball.

There is a lack of convincing evidence to support long-lasting changes in muscle length by using SMR techniques on their own. In other words, SMR may not cause increased flexibility, per se, but can make traditional strength and flexibility training more effective by altering how the brain communicates with muscles to produce effective movement patterns.

There’s not enough research out there to definitively say whether or not foam rolling is “good” or “bad.” It just is. If it feels good (“good” being a relative term), do it, but understand that certain areas of your body are supposed to be tight. So go for it on your hips, butt, calves, thighs, and upper/middle back, and avoid the joints that are designed for stability: your knees, lower back, and neck. If you’re feeling pain in those places, spend time and energy seeing a doctor or physical therapist instead.


Additional reading:

National Academy of Sports Medicine: Why Should Foam Rolling Be Used in Group Training (Kyle Stull)


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