Accidental Inspiration

Last week, a student came up to me in the middle of warm up, on the first day of class, and said, "Miss Ricki, I will never get sick of seeing your smile." I have already posted this on Facebook, got like 45 likes and pretty much feel like a rock star.
I am bringing it up again, not because I am bragging about feeling Facebook famous, but because I was reminded that you never truly know how much you really are affecting your student's lives.
This student was in my class last year, but this summer she only saw me about two times in class. I'm sure she did a million other fun things, had a blast with the other teachers, and gained a ton of knowledge, but something about the way I smile at her or the way it makes her feel has stuck with her.
Another student has come up to me two weeks in a row now saying, "I want to be a teacher when I'm older. Just like you."
As a dance teacher, it is crazy to think of who or what you might be inspiring. You could be inspiring someone to become a dance teacher, a famous choreographer, a break dancer, an amazing freestyle dancer, or a company dancer. Any of your students could become a Broadway dancer, dance on a music video, or end up dancing on tour with the next big hit music artist. You could even be inspiring a great school teacher, a writer, a poet!  Any of these (plus endless more possibilities) could come from you passing on your passion for the art of dancing to another person.
These sweet little moments have reminded me how extremely important it is to work with, and nurture these beginning little dancers. They look up to you, and aspire to be just like you. It is so important to make each and every one of them feel important. Feel appreciated. Feel successful. 
Correct them. Guide them. Give them a strong foundation. Yell, "Point your toes!", till you're blue in the face. But compliment them. Encourage them. Let them explore who they are as a dancer. Make them feel special. 
My dancers have taught me so much about myself as a teacher, and I still have so much to learn from them. I will constantly feel challenged on how to provide the strongest possible foundation, have fun, and make each and every student absolutely fall in love with dance. It is a challenge I am thrilled to take on, though, year after year after year! 
I believe in the importance of fundamentals. I believe in quality over quantity. I believe that the strength we implement in these beginning dancers is the most important way to insure strong advanced dancers down the road. Mostly, though, I believe that a smile really does go a long way =)

Taking Care of Your Dancing Body

As dancers, our body is our instrument. We go through tough rigorous classes and often forget to take care of and listen to our bodies. We need to think of our bodies like an expensive piano or saxophone, and take the upmost care of them. Every dancer's body is different and needs special attention and needs. I’m going to go over a few things that I find are helpful but wont pertain to every dancer. 
Our bodies need fuel to meet the expectations of what we are asking them to do. As dancer’s our diet should be about 55-60% carbohydrate, 12-15% protein, and 20-30% fat. 
Carbohydrate: During heavy training and rehearsals we should increase our amount of carbohydrate to about 65%. Dancer’s should try to eat before and after dance. During long training hours and rehearsals small carbohydrate snacks should be had during breaks. I highly recommend complex carbohydrates such as: bagels, cereal, bread, english muffins, pasta, and rice rather than simple sugars. The estimated carbohydrate need is 6-10 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight. Carbohydrates provide energy for brain function, nerve cells, muscle/tissues, and cell production. 
Protein: Is the building block for bone, teeth, and cells. Protein helps in wound healing, material for ligaments, tendons, and organs. A good rule of thumb for dancers is to always eat protein after dancing. Sufficient protein ingestion is essential for dancers who are training. Protein is needed to repair the breakdown of muscle fibers that are in regularly used. We need about 0.5-0.7 grams of protein for each pound we way. A 140 pound person needs 50 g of protein but active or injured people may need more. 
Water: We should be drinking 1 glass of water before we dance, 1-2 while dancing, and at least 1 glass after dancing. While dancing we increase our heat production by muscles. If we do not drink enough liquid it will result in dehydration that can weaken performance and mental functioning and make it difficult to pick up complicated choreography. 
Before Class:
I always think its a good idea to take a few moments before class or a night of classes to check in and see where your body is at that point in time. Take just a few minutes laying down (or in the car on your way to dance) close your eyes and really listen to your body. While you are laying there listening to your body make a few goals for each class that day. If your body is very tired and sore make it a goal to focus on performance from the minute you walk into the classroom. If your body feels good and well rested make it a goal to really work on corrections given the class before. Always do cardio before doing any movement and make sure your muscles are warm before dancing.
After Class:

Taking care of our bodies after class often gets overlooked. After a dance class or night of classes I highly recommend a cool down. Cooling down after class will help your muscles feel better the next day. If the last class of the night does not offer a cool down I recommend creating your own. Do a combinations of stretches including: calves, quads and thighs, hamstrings, and second position. The best time to do heavy stretching is at the end of class or night of classes when the muscles are the warmest. Put your warm ups on and wrap up warm as soon as you finish dancing. Its always tempting to drive home with the windows down to cool off because you feel so hot, however you will give yourself cramps and probably a cold. Be sure to drink plenty of water after class and eat protein when you get home. 

For must of us classes have just started back up again! This is a very excited and fun time of year. Follow these simple steps to make sure each dancers has the best health and instrument possible! 

Patrick Pulkrabek 

Dance Educator/Choreographer

Back to ‘Dance’ school!

 9/6 Blog –

Back to ‘Dance’ school!

It’s September and that means back to school for all the kids and off to college for many as well!  For young dancers out there, it doesn’t just mean shopping for new school supplies and preparing an awesome first day of school outfit, but also getting new pointe shoes fitted and re-organizing your dance bag!

Dance studios across the country have a variety of summer programs but the fall dance class schedule means getting back to structured classes for the experienced dancers as well as welcoming the new dancers.

September is such an exciting time of the year!  Imagine how many dancers, of all ages, will be taking their first dance class ever!  For dance educators, this is our opportunity to make an impact.  A first positive experience with dance will create a dancer, a future dance supporter and a happy, healthy, artistic individual for a lifetime!!

For the new dancer, and their parents, there are some things to take note of too:

  • Dance is fun – but proper etiquette is expected and hopefully your dance teacher or studio will explain this to you.  In a world that is becoming more and more accepting of not being respectful to one another and not using manners, dance still holds on strong to these values.  What a great place for young dancers to not only learn to dance but also learn important life lessons to take with them later into adulthood.
  • You are special! Each dancer is beautiful and each body moves differently!!  Dance is an art and each and every single dancer is the canvas.  Appreciate yourself and let other dancers inspire you but don’t compare yourself and put yourself down because you don’t dance like someone else.  Enjoy the art, enjoy the happiness that dance brings to your soul because… you are special!!
  • Even though Dance Moms is a popular show right now – that is NOT the norm at studios across the country.  Great dance parents, dads and grandparents too, know to trust the teachers and studio to provide great training and to just help to support their dancer by giving hugs, compliments, getting them to class on time, being positive about other dancers, etc…

If you haven’t registered for fall classes yet at your local dance studio, do so soon!  September is truly the best time to register.  If you are a beginner, it’s when the teacher will start at the beginning of the syllabus and you will get the best foundation possible by starting slowly with the basics.  If you are a returning dancer, September classes usually start off with review and if you haven’t been dancing all summer… this will be especially important for you.

Allegro’s fall classes begin tonight, September 6th, and I am overwhelmed with joy to know that all those dancers filled with excitement will be filling our hallways soon.  So make sure to include back to ‘dance’ school shopping with your regular school shopping.  There are so many wonderful reasons to dance but you won’t get to experience it if you don’t try it out.  Find your local dance school and go find out for yourself what the hype is about!!  It’s September – let’s get back to dance!!

Tonya MW Goodwillie

Owner of Allegro Performing Arts Academy

 'To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. This is power, it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking.' -Agnes de Mille

Glee: The new Rachel

The New Directions start season four with a bang.

Imagine Dragons? Adele? Billy Joel? That list alone was enough to entice me to watch the season opener of Glee last night, and even though I think it’s going to get really messy with Rachel’s college experience being run alongside the glee club, I have to say, I’m impressed.

The episode started out a little tediously, with the members of The New Directions all vying for Rachel’s coveted spot at the top performer. Tina’s diva persona was the worst, though they were all annoying. They were even breaking their “accept everyone” stance to sit at the cool kids’ table.

But by the time Brittany was making her old funny/stupid remarks, the kids had been put back in their place by a variety of means—one of which was their newest member, whom I adore so far. Yes! Another poor kid! It’s about time, especially given their community, which would likely yield lots of them.I’m a little surprised that the auditions only yielded one new Glee member, though. Sure, they have Unique as well (which is awesome—I am so glad they kept him! But where is the Irish guy? I didn’t notice his return), but they have to replace several team members, and I have a hard time believing that after that many tryouts, there was only one (maybe two) decent performers.

Some highlights from tonight included…

  • All of the Glee couples are pretty much kaput. Sam and Mercedes weren’t officially separated, but he was surrounded by girls. Tina and Mike are done; though Rachel insists she and Finn are still an item, she’s already being hooked by a new (and delicious looking) junior at her college. The only two couples that really remain sort of strong are Brittany and Santana (who did not make an appearance) and Blaine and Kurt—but by the end of the episode, Kurt moves to New York (thankfully; it was beginning to look quite painful with him still in Lima Heights), and we’ve already seen how the long distance relationships have worked out for the rest of the team.
  • Coach Sylvester had her baby, and is already assigning duties like diaper changing to her newest head cheerleader, who is possibly even more of a jerkface than Quinn Fabray once was. Like my sister said, she’s gonna be someone to love to hate.
  • Puckerman has a half-brother he knows nothing about who can sing—and who has a temper. Wow, how original. He’s a cutie, though, so it might be fun to have him around; I’m going to miss Puck this season the most, I think.

It will be interesting to see how the season develops with these new scenarios going on. So far, so good—the comedy is there, the drama’s there, and the songs were excellent so far.

Will you watch Glee this season?

Without Kurt and Rachel, I’m not sure if I even want to.

Sure, I love Tina and Mercedes, and Sam and Brittany are funny—but my two favorite Glee stars (as well as my favorite singer on the show, Santana) are both gone, and now I’m left wondering if I even want to watch.

Then there was this summer’s Glee Project, which was just as big of a joke as the last one. Again, a white boy without any noticeable reason to be on Glee­—no different abilities, nothing people make fun of, not even a personality at all, really—was selected as the winner, leaving me to wonder if Glee is really about the underdog, or about who Ryan Murphy and co. think will have girls squealing over the most.

We had some real contestants who should have made it on the show this year—from a girl in a wheelchair to a Muslim girl to a big, beautiful, confident girl to a couple of shy, coffee-house type singers, we had pretty much an entire Glee cast on our hands! Yet the producers chose the all-American boy. Again.

Well, last season it as an all-Irish boy, which was pretty much the same thing, in terms of what he brought to the show.I want some zits. I want some fat. I want Goth kids, Muslims, Mormons—there are lots of Mormons where I grew up in the Midwest, so I am betting there are plenty at McKinley High. I want more science geeks and definitely more kids with varying abilities. There were always people in my choir with a wide range of abilities and it made it all the more special.

But most of all, I want that underdog theme to continue—and if people like Blake or Brent or Blair or whatever his name is keep being cast, it’s not going to happen. Then who are the kids like Mercedes and Rachel and Kurt who actually exist going to turn to when their favorite show features nothing but Pretty People?

I know where, since I was once there myself. To their friends, or a book, or some music. But the only place that I know of where you can turn to on television right now is Glee—and if it’s going to stay that way, Murphy and co. had better bring it with some coke bottle glasses and braces ASAP, because that’s what makes the show special in the first place. For god’s sake, if it didn’t, it would just be Saved by the Bell with karaoke.

Dance Moms: Pre-teen brides

The Candy Apples rivalry continues.

Abby Lee Miller was in rare form this week. She sort of apologized for all of the drama caused by the dance moms (aka stirred up by Lifetime to boost ratings) and said that she felt terrible when she made little girls cry. She also pushed her nasty poodle, Broadway Baby, around in a baby carriage. This woman gets crazier and more self-important each week’s she’s on cable TV.

This week, Abby filled her infamous ranking pyramid with surprises. Abby puts Kendall back on the very bottom—back on probation—because of her mother, Jill’s, outburst the week before. Jill goes ballistic and pulls her crying daughter out of the studio then and there. Abby shocks the audience by saying she was devastated by Kendall’s tears—a surprising soft spot for a woman who usually tells her students to cry into their pillows.

On the top of the pyramid is Nia, a sort of random choice, who Abby chooses because of her “hard work” and “determination.” In other words, the network wants to hear more from Holly, the nicest and most-realistic mom in the bunch. Nia is the only dancer who gets a solo this week.

Of course, Jill and Kendall conveniently go running into Cathy and the Candy Apples’ arms because Cathy and her daughter Vivi are still in the show’s opening sequence. This doesn’t make a lot of sense, Lifetime, because Candy Apples is somewhere in Ohio, and it doesn’t make tons of sense that families are willing to drive so far for another study. Whatever. I still enjoy this television-constructed rivalry.

The person who doesn’t enjoy this rivalry, however, is Holly. Nia dances well at the competition, but her newly-created competitor in the junior solo competition is none other than Kendall. The girls are sweet to one another, but of course, Cathy and Abby tear each other apart. After Nia loses to Kendall, Holly says she’s had it. I wonder if that means that she’s tired of the overblown constructions of a reality show on her daughter’s life. She never seemed like she would have been into doing this show in the first place.

On the other hand, Abby’s group number beats Cathy’s yet again. She choreographed a dance in which the young girls were supposed to be (slutty-looking) brides (a la Madonna). Cathy choreographed a number about a funeral. Both were made-for-TV to be sure.

Are you still watching Dance Moms?

Dance Moms: Demeaning to Dance?

So I try very hard to avoid criticizing my fellow human beings. It is not in my nature to be a critic. However, every now and then, I feel the need to express myself in a less-than-glowing light. For example, if ever I see even an advertisement of “Dance Moms."

Most of television owners in America have seen the commercials for the outrageous, somewhat exploitative, and definitely dramatic reality TV show called “Dance Moms.” It has found its niche apparently because it is now in its second season. However, when I have come across the show, I am always horrified. I am not exaggerating. I do mean that I am sincerely horrified and appalled that this show goes on and on.

Sure, you may think. That is taking it a bit too seriously. Reality shows are designed to hype up the drama. Why else would people watch in this new era of fake-as-heck “reality” television taking the place of honestly scripted shows? However, when children are involved, I think we all have to take a step back and make sure that things are done fairly and ethically. Yeah, that should be the case anyway, but it’s especially important when children are so integral to the show. Although she show may be titled to their “moms," these children are also its stars, and the drama that circles around with their overly competitive, trash-talking mothers revolves around them.

Dance is a serious craft for adults and even young adults who get to a professional level. It can be a serious hobby worthy of practice for many hours per day. However, it should not be a career for a little girl, and it should be something that is done for fun. You get the feeling from looking at these pained girls that, although they clearly do love dance, it is not a thing of joy as much as it is work and competition. When parents are comparing their children to the two “pets” of the teacher, it is reflected in the things the children then say. The girls then compare themselves to the girl who is the center of the attention and being called the “best,” and some of the mothers force the children to dance when they specifically state that they don’t want to do so. That’s not even to mention the teacher who can sometimes come off as partial and bullying.

It is my sincere hope that the drama on the show is staged. As unhealthy as faking this petty drama may be for the children, it is far better for them than the reality that they truly are capturing genuine treatment of children. If they are capturing how these girls are actually treated on a daily basis, it is a national disgrace in which we are culpable for not all calling the authorities on the dance moms for what they allow their vulnerable children to experience.

The Most Memorable Dance Scenes in Movies

"There is no doubt that the epic ending dance scene in Dirty Dancing is definitely one of the most revered and memorable dance scenes in film"
Dancing has been a very important part of motion picture history since silent films graced the screens at theaters around the country. There are so many movies that depend on dancing to move the story forward, and still others feature dance as a main theme. Yet others including dancing to define and complement certain characters. Dance has many uses in film. Here is an eclectic list of movies that capture great dance moments. 
Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta lit up the dance floor like no other couple in cinematic history in Grease. Whether at the dance or in the electric ending scene where they sing “You’re The One That I Want,” it’s bliss to see. John Travolta really deserve a long list all for himself as he also lit up the dance floor with his mesmerizing moves in movies like Saturday Night Fever, Pulp Fiction, and Urban Cowboy. 
There is no doubt that the epic ending dance scene in Dirty Dancing is definitely one of the most revered and memorable dance scenes in film. Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey were simply magical dance partners. Did you know they have since made two Dirty Dancing inspired workouts? You, too, can learn those famous moves.
Michael Jackson displayed his one-of-a-kind dance movies in the 3D film, Captain EO. It’s a musical with a triumphant dance number by Michael to his hit song, “Another Part of Me.” This movie was made when he was at the height of his fame and success, and he seems euphoric and unbeatable in it. The dances will really captivate you. 
We could never leave out the classic dance scene from Singin’ In The Rain. Gene Kelly himself also had a career of dancing in film, including in his last feature, Xanadu, in which he did a brilliant dance number with Olivia Newton-John to their song, ‘Whenever You’re Away From Me.” 
In a movie that I do not believe is given enough credit for its depth beneath the rich humor, Practical Magic features a fun, although brief, impromptu dance scene with Nicole Kidman, Sandra Bullock, Stockard Channing, and Dianne Wiest in their pajamas before and during the downing of “midnight margaritas.” They move together in a natural and fun way, and these legends just jamming together are a treat to see.
Last, but certainly not least, was Madonna swing dancing like a dream in “A League of Their Own.” The other ladies on the ball team joined, and Rosie O’Donnell’s character also delivers a great performance on the dance floor. Madonna’s outrageous character really steals the show with her fast-paced dance moves as she flirts with the boys while swing dancing up a storm.
While it would take a book to truly include all the great dances ever captured in movies, here are a few to get you started in looking at some of the fun, funny, highly regarded, and always memorable dance scenes in motion pictures.

Kirstie Alley Presents 100 Days of Dance

Kirstie Alley has made an exuberant decision to spend 100 days of dance in 2012. What does this mean exactly? Well, she has committed to a 100 Days of Dance challenge. The premise is simple. She asks that you dance for at least 30 minutes each day for 100 consecutive days, and she is going to do the same. 
It’s not too late to start. Sure, Kirstie started the challenge on January 1, but all the dance videos are conveniently archived by day on the official website of the challenge, Kirstie Alley’s 100 Days of Dance. You can start at Day 1 and go forward from there, or simply start where they are now, then go back when it’s all through. Alternately, you can choose to simply do something like 30 days of dance. Do it at your own pace. It’s put out there to inspire and to help you and others enjoy the fun of dance. Most of us here already love dance, but who doesn’t need some motivation from time to time?
Not only do I love this challenge, but I love its fearless leader, Kirstie. I am such a huge “Cheers” fan that, at the age of 12 when seeking to change my middle name, I picked the name Rebecca. I love Kirstie, and I love this idea for dancing. I’m late jumping on the bandwagon, but I’m jumping on with a passion. Anyone else going to join me? 
You can also follow Kirstie Alley’s 100 Days of Dance on Facebook and Twitter

From "American Bandstand" to "So You Think You Can Dance"

Dancers can find lots of inspiration (and sometimes fodder for jokes) from the many dancing television shows that now grace prime time television. When most people think of dance television shows, they think of the many that have popped up since American Idol became a hit performance show, and reality shows became the norm. However, long before contemporary dance shows, there was an entertainment show incorporating dance as a big part of its success that started shortly after television became popular. American Bandstand aired in some form from 1952 to 1989.
American Bandstand was probably the first and longest-lasting dance show on television. It has been honored and referenced many times in pop culture. In fact, the popular movie and musical, Hairspray, features a dance TV show that was partly based on this show. In the hit musical Grease, which featured incredible dancing from John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, there was a spoof of the show as well called National Bandstand, instead of American Bandstand.
In fact, the show was so timeless that Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest spoke of bringing it back for the new millennium in 2004. Unfortunately, Clark suffered a stroke that year, and plans never materialized. However, a part of the show was (the dance competition) was revived in the form of another great dance show, So You Think You Can Dance. Clark’s company, Dick Clark Productions, is a co-producer of the show, and it is unique as a dance show. It showcases the dance moves of real dancers across the United States who come to audition, and a few stand-out dancers are chosen as finalists. Competing dancers are eliminated throughout the season until one is named “America’s Favorite Dancer.” The influence of a little television show that started in 1952 is still widely seen today.