Dancers Need Space… For Their Thoughts

photo: Janaea Rose Lyn, dancer: Liz Malloy, Artwork: Laura Higgins Palmer

Photo: Janaea Rose Lyn, dancer: Liz Malloy, Artwork: Laura Higgins Palmer

Being a dancer and a writer, I have a fondness for dance journals.

Whether keeping, suggesting, assigning, or just admiring a collection of pages set aside for thoughts on dance, I’ll admit I get a little giddy over the potential in a blank page.

Just in time for the start of the new year, I received a copy of the Dance This Notebook, a journal created by Dance Advantage guest writer, Janaea Rose Lyn and artist/collaborator, Laura Higgins Palmer.

Opening its pages, I was first struck by the amount of white space available to the dancer to fill. Around half of the pages in this 110-page paperback are completely blank. The rest feature quarter-page embellishments with Palmer’s wispy line drawings of dancing figures and original quotes of inspiration, written by Lyn.

Each message and drawing speaks directly to the creative spirit of dancers:

“Questions, like movements, lead to more and better ones.”

The imagery playfully echoes or relates to the quotes:

A figure in a stag jump, accompanies the text, “Leave the earth and see a new perspective.”

Words and pictures even guide the creator:

“A sacred space invites imagination to visit.”

“How to begin? Simply start and then continue.”

At roughly 6×9 inches and less than 1/2 an inch thick, the Dance This Notebook fits easily in your dance bag or satchel.

Unlike many journals, the pages are unlined, providing an uncluttered space to freely record your creative ideas, choreography, class combinations, questions, reflections, corrections, accomplishments, or even your own drawings or visual representations.

For my college ballet course, I require students to keep such a notebook for class. This book, because it is created by instructors of dance and art, is a perfect tool for such an assignment. The attractive, simple design and messages will inspire any student or dancer.

Record your audition experiences
Janaea Rose Lyn

Artwork by Laura Higgins Palmer

Janaea Rose Lyn has been offering her audition tips and advice here on Dance Advantage. Check out her posts and use the Dance This Notebook to reflect and recall details about the auditions you attend or plan to attend.

Let Dance Advantage prompt you

We offer the 4 for 40 E-course. The most popular component of this course is the “Dancescribe” journal prompts which are delivered weekly into your email inbox for 40 weeks – an entire year’s worth of dance classes. Once again, a great pairing with the Dance This Notebook!

More dance diary ideas in our Reflection and Journaling for Dancers post.

More about the Dance This Notebook creators:

Janaea Rose Lyn (McAlee) is the currently full-time faculty and Dance Coordinator at Estrella Mountain Community College in Arizona. Previously she was Assistant Professor of Dance and Performing Arts Program Coordinator at Cecil College in Maryland. She is the author of Dance This Notebook with Artist Laura Higgins Palmer and is a contributing writer for Choreoclinic. Janaea was Founding Artistic Director of both Convergence Dancers & Musicians and Dance Matrix, and she remains active as a Third Generation Isadora Duncan Dancer. Information at

Laura Higgins Palmer has been working directly with dancers and choreographers for more than two decades. From countless volumes of her drawings Laura creates finished paintings based on improvisations, observations, characters, and theatrical productions. Laura’s work has been exhibited internationally and she has taught drawing, painting, design, figure and anatomy to students from elementary school through college and beyond. See her work at or

Dance This Notebook

An uncluttered dance journal to freely record your ideas, reflections, accomplishments, or corrections with original quotes and line drawings that directly speak to the creative spirit of dancers.

The Procrastinator’s Dance Gift Guide

By now your stockings have probably been hung by the chimney with care…

But you’ve still got dancers on your gift list! And Amazon is telling you that paying expedited $hipping fee$ a dose of Elf Magic is your only Ho Ho Hope for the timely arrival of those gifts.

Never fear, the digital age is here! These gifts are a procrastinator’s dream:

Dances To Go logo - Our Perfection is your PerformanceChoreography for Teachers provides à la carte choreography for a variety of dance levels and genres. They’ve got a great group of guest choreographers with years of experience as teachers (and I’m not just saying that ’cause I’m one of them)!

One way to gift it: You may not know which choreography would be most useful for the gift-recipient. Since Dances To Go uses PayPal’s services, you could send money to your dancer friend or family member (they will need a PayPal account) for use at the site. While you’re at it, send them an iTunes gift so they can grab the music, too!

DanceStudioOwner.comHelp for Studio Owners gives studio owners what they need to be successful – e-books and articles, monthly teleseminars, templates, checklists, customizable forms, and plenty of support in an often isolating job. This is one of my favorite resources because they offer so much value at affordable monthly and yearly membership plans. Gift a membership and make your favorite studio owner very happy.

4 for 40 e-courseA Weekly Action Plan for Success

A new year. A new commitment to going the extra mile in your dance classes. We at Dance Advantage deliver the keys to make this year outstanding with an e-mail course that provides terminology, an inspirational quote, something to Dancescribe in a dance journal, and something to do EVERY WEEK in a 40-Week E-course.

Let us sustain and motivate your favorite dancer the whole year through. Yes, you can “gift” this e-course. It’s called 4 for 40 and you can find it right here.

Digital Reading

Whether your gift-recipient is Team Nook or Team Kindle, you can give specific digital publications as gifts at the Nook Store or Kindle Store (just look for the Buy/Give as a Gift links on the book’s purchase page).

Here are some of my favorites and books I’ve read this year: [Read more…]

Creative Process: 10 Ideas for Moving Beyond the Steps

I view dance as THE liberal art.

When working within the concert dance realm, we combine movement with music, acting, and principles of visual art while exploring topics in other academic disciplines. This helps provide meaning behind each motion and informs the process by which we create.

When I hear some K-12 (and studio) dance educators talk about the works they and their students present, I often feel they are missing what I consider to be my favorite part of teaching- getting kids to think about real things in real ways. This should include the field of dance.

IMAGE A winding path cuts through a grassy park IMAGE

“The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.” - Don Williams, Jr. --- Photo by Ian Sane

But what if your career has never ventured into professional dance performance? What if your college dance experience only explored a small number of methods in making dances? What if your understanding of process means little more than practicing dances over and over until they are “performance ready”? What does “performance ready” even mean?
Concert Dance, to me, is determined by process- the ways movement is inspired, how it is developed, edited, and finally presented. The style of dance is irrelevant in many respects, it is all about the intent and the journey, which lead to the product.

If this idea is new to you, here is a ten-step list of how to engage in a process. The order of these events could certainly be played with, as could the methods for determining these events. [Read more…]

Sneak Peek at the New Dance Advantage E-course

I’m thrilled to unveil something new and exciting happening at Dance Advantage.

You know that we, my columnists and I, provide fantastic (if I do say so myself) free content covering all things dance for everyone involved in dance training. We give an edge to dance students, teachers, AND parents…

You’ve heard that somewhere, right?

But now for the first time, I am releasing premium material for those who want to unlock new doors in their dance training.

IMAGE The 4 for 40 Dance Advantage IMAGEWhat is it?

An e-course, sent to your email inbox every week for 40 weeks (TEN months – the length of an entire year of dance study at your school or studio).

Every weekly email includes four components (detailed below).

Who is it for?

4 for 40 is designed for students who want to be better, smarter, stronger dancers and dance students by the end of the dance year.


Ask a teacher to describe their strongest pupils. Regardless of any identified talent, they’re the ones…

  • who THINK about dance even when they’re not in the studio,
  • who go out of their way to LEARN and digest all they can even when it’s not their turn or even when they’re not in the studio.
  • who don’t expect to unconsciously improve as a mover but are motivated from within to put ACTION behind their goals.
This course is perfect for that kind of dancer…

AND it’s perfect for those who want to be BUT

need the extra nudging for their brains, the extra guidance for their bodies, the regular attention to themselves that teachers don’t always have time to provide in or outside of class.

What does it cost?

The course costs less than you’d pay for ONE private dance lesson. But it costs more than what you’d be willing to set aside on some shelf collecting dust or stuff in a dance bag, never to see the light of day again.

After all, I want you to actually USE it!

4 for 40 puts physical, mental, and emotional goals, actions, and lessons into the hands of YOU, the student week after week. I guarantee you’ll be an improved, more whole dancer than when you started and that your peers, family, and probably most of all, your teachers will notice!

With something to DO every week, the course will draw out real effort.

But 4 for 40 is also fun and creative and EASY.

No task should take more than an hour to complete. Most will require only minutes from your day or week.

In other words, it won’t feel like work!

IMAGE A peek at the 4 for 40 e-course IMAGE

In each email you’ll get:

A relevant and INSPIRING quotation to apply to your tasks and to your week in class.

A chance to grow your vocabulary

These aren’t the ordinary terms you find in every online glossary. Only rarely will they be the names of steps or ballet terminology. Instead they’ll be words and phrases that matter to students of any form or genre. They are must-know because they are often used but infrequently explained. You will LEARN, or at least be asked to THINK in a new way about each vocabulary term.

A reminder that dance is a verb

IMAGE A peek inside the 4 for 40 e-course IMAGEYour action assignment could be a physical exercise to perform daily. It could be something physical or mental to enhance your work in class(es) for the week. It could be a task to boost morale and get your creative juices or commitment energy flowing. No matter what, there will always be something to DO each week.

A way to ‘de-scribe’ dance

Though it may not be physical, it helps us digest all the yummy stuff we absorb each lesson, each week, or during each experience in dance. So with a mix of creative and reflective writing, list-making, and goal-setting each journal prompt is all about YOU, Dancescribing where you are and where you are going in dance so that you can look back, be present, and move forward in the way you THINK, FEEL, and PERFORM in your dance classes.

Find out more:

IMAGE The 4 for 40 Dance Advantage IMAGE


Can I purchase and then give this to a student as a gift?

Yep, you’ll have the opportunity to buy and then enroll your child, grandchild, or friend, adding their name and email to our e-course participant list.

Can teachers use 4 for 40 in their classes?

As I mentioned, this course is designed for students. 4 for 40 regularly asks the student to learn, think, reflect, and act on given tasks independently. This encourages and develops the necessary skills and motivation to eventually self-initiate their own habit of recording and investigating dance.

4 for 40 is most effective when the student can work through this process from beginning to end. While most any of the elements could be taken out of context and delivered or assigned to students as a class, the underlying lesson gets lost if they are not “working” the course on their own.

Teachers, YOU can definitely benefit from examining and/or working through the course yourself but paying for the course only to redistribute portions of it to students reduces its effectiveness and may even be a waste of your money.

In the future discounts or incentives for teacher-endorsed enrollment in this e-course will be offered. Until then, I invite you to learn more, ask questions, and give the course a try.

I gratefully welcome your recommendation of 4 for 40 as I welcome and appreciate your recommendation of any of the content here at Dance Advantage.

Enroll Today!

IMAGE Click here to get started with 4 for 40! IMAGE

Click here.

Celebrating Successes With A Dance Journal

“Sometimes in ballet it is easy to recall the corrections, but it is harder to celebrate the successes.”

Fellow dance teacher Nants Foley wants to help her students do both. And so, she suggests they keep a journal of their progress in class and write down their combinations and corrections.

IMAGE Nants Foley IMAGEShe’s created a special book for her students, including space for recording their class work and progress as well as additional content like checklists, quotes, ballet vocabulary, foot care, and more.

Thinking (and rightly so) that other students and teachers might benefit from her efforts, she has published the 70-page journal and workbook and is making them available beyond her own dance school.

I know many of you are actively aware of the value of logging your progress in dance and some use dance diaries as a tool with your own students. So, I caught up with Nants to talk with her about A Dancer’s Steps and ask how she encourages journal-writing in her own ballet classes.

Dance Advantage: Give us a little background on your dance history.

Nants Foley: I have been dancing all my life, though never professionally.  I was fortunate enough to train under Olga Ziceva and Richard Gibson in San Mateo, CA for many years, though I chose college over career in dance.

I came back to ballet seriously 15 years ago when my daughter was 6. I live in a small town in the central coast region of California.  I wanted her to have the same great training I did and there were no teachers!  I found my excellent training and my background in business teaching made me a valuable resource in the dance community.

I am blessed to be teaching at San Benito Dance Academy in Hollister now.  It is a studio with a commitment to excellence and a mission to nurture the bodies, minds and spirits of its students.

DA: Did you keep a dance journal throughout your own dance training?

NF: When I was young, people kept diaries and scrapbooks. I had a scrapbook where I kept all things ballet related:  Ticket stubs from performances I attended, pictures from favorite dancers, the combinations I was working on.  I still have it and it makes me smile.

The Artist's Way on

I have used journaling as a creative tool ever since discovering Julie Cameron’s The Artists’ Way years ago.

DA: Ah! I’m familiar with and have practiced some of Ms. Cameron’s techniques.
When did you first start encouraging your students to bring a notebook to class with them? Do you require it?

NF: Right now I am doing our summer intensive. This is the first time a notebook has been required.  They may bring any type of notebook.

I have been encouraging it for awhile, and many already had developed the discipline to use one.  I made it mandatory because this intensive is really intense!

DA: What does the process do for the student?

NF: The use of a book is an exceptional tool for many reasons.  Students write their combinations so they can practice at home.  They make note of their corrections so they can review them before their next class.

These are some of the obvious benefits day to day.  But the most important component is that they have a snapshot in time of where they are in their ballet education and growth.  In ballet, it is so easy to focus on what one is doing incorrectly or poorly.

The writing process allows them to go back and reflect and remember, allowing them to see how far they have come in their journey.

DA: How do you incorporate and encourage the use of this journal in your classes? Do you give them “homework” in each class or, is what they do with the notebook pretty much self-led?

NF: What they do with the notebook is self-led.  It is a tool offered to them.

The truly dedicated students go for it. I don’t give them homework with one notable exception.  I work a lot with students on how to set goals.

For summer intensive, each student was required to set three goals.  These were written in the notebook.  They also wrote the specific action items needed to achieve each goal.

There is a time limit…the end of the summer program.  Already we have seen several students complete a goal they set at the start of summer.  It is really inspiring for them, for the other students in class and, of course, for me!

I set three goals for myself:  To regain my right split, to lose 7 pounds and to eat 5 fruits or vegetables per day.  I’m doing really well on all three!

DA: Congratulations! I am a total advocate of goal-setting. I’ve used goal pages and journaling in my own classes and find myself talking about it a lot when students e-mail asking for advice. It’s all over Dance Advantage – for lesson and career planning, too.
What has been the most rewarding feedback you’ve received from students about keeping their journal?

NF: There has been lots of it!  The completion of goals is huge. The parents are noticing the change in their children and sharing it with me.  And my personal favorite is when a student asks me to autograph a copy of my notebook!

IMAGE A Dancer's Steps IMAGEDA: So, back to A Dancer’s Steps. At what point did you decide to put together the book?

NF: I looked for a journal like this for my students, and found nothing .  There are fabulous ballet reference books.  And beautiful journals abound.  I just couldn’t find the two things combined.

DA: Do your dancers use them in class?

NF: My dancers use them in class daily.

I have a short break mid-class, and many take the opportunity to write in them at that time.  I have a weekly set barre and center based on a theme introduced the first day of the week and repeated without further discussion all week.  There is a lot of writing on the first day of the week!

DA: The book is a mix of content and open spaces. How did you decide what would be in the bound workbook?

NF: I included the reference information I would have liked as a young student and my favorite quotes found over the years.

My undergraduate and graduate degrees are in architecture and design, so I enjoyed playing with the design of each page, choosing the form and the function I felt would be most usable for students.

DA: I really appreciate the design. It’s simple and attractive without being too frilly – good for all ages and genders even.
Which is your favorite section?

NF: I think the whole piece on SMART goals is the most valuable piece.

If we don’t have written goals that are truly achievable with a time limit, we only have dreams. “Someday I will be able to do the splits…or a triple pirouette…or be able to jump for 3 minutes without stopping.”  I encourage the use of goals in all areas of life.

DA: That would be my pick too. I think I’ve found a kindred spirit in you, Nants! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your journal with us.

If you are a student or teacher and would like a copy, contact Nants atIMAGE nantsfoley AT gmail DOT com IMAGE

A book shipped to an individual is $12.  They can be paid for by sending the money through PayPal.

Copies of A Dancer’s Steps: a Ballet Journal and Workbook are sold at San Benito Dance Academy for $10.

If a teacher or studio would like to purchase these for their class, Nants would need about two weeks lead time.  There is a discount for multiple books. Just contact her via that e-mail address above.

Do you keep a dance notebook or journal?

Do you require or encourage their use in your classes?

What do you put in your journal?

As you know, Dance Advantage values highly any tool that helps students log their progress and self-examine the learning and creative process. Having been sent a copy of A Dancer’s Step for review, Nichelle feels it is worthy of recommendation.

DA is also excited to announce an upcoming project and e-course that is designed to help you reach that next level in your dance study with a mix of goal-setting, progress recording, creative writing, and more. We will unveil this very soon. Please stay tuned!!