Dance Fun

  • How Ballet Got Me to The Olympics

    BalletPic Shannon Miller is a 7 time Olympic Medalist and remains The Most Decorated Gymnast in the United States.

    Like many other children, I began gymnastics at the age of five after my parents became terrified that I’d injure myself flipping off the couch or attempting somersaults on the backyard trampoline (there were no nets and pads back then). I fell in love with the sport from the beginning. I was able to flip and turn to my heart’s content. I was learning new skills and eventually stringing them together to create full routines.

    Those that have watched me grow up in the sport know that ballet was a huge part of my career as a gymnast. Even before I started gymnastics, I was taking ballet. In fact, I wanted so badly to go with my older sister to ballet that I called my grandmother and begged her to talk my mother into allowing me to go. She did just that and even paid for my first lessons!

    As a shy child, ballet class was my first opportunity to begin to understand how I could tell a story through movement. Even at a young age, I loved the practice and precision of each move. Those basic classes helped me with body awareness, flexibility, and timing. Of course, I loved the slippers and tights and really loved recitals. For a shy child, I had no problem showing off to a room full of people….as long as I didn’t have to speak to anyone.

    Making the transition to gymnastics did not mean leaving ballet behind. In fact, it was my dance background that helped me understand who I was as a gymnast. During that time, the primary gymnast body type was more of a powerhouse like Mary Lou Retton and then Kim Zmeskal, and the floor routine was energetic, even cutesy.

    I can recall one choreographer trying to get me to shake my hips and my shoulders and “be cute.” Instead I just broke down in tears. I knew it wasn’t me. I knew that if I didn’t love it and didn’t feel comfortable, then the routine would fall flat with both the audience and judges. Ballet was my comfort zone. I wanted violins and dramatic movements.

    I wasn’t particularly powerful. I had these skinny legs and knobby knees. I wasn’t the most flexible or the most naturally talented. However, I loved gymnastics and soon found that I could combine those skills learned through ballet with my gym training to create something incredible.

    Ballet had given me a basic understanding of posture and how important it is to have a solid foundation for larger skills. Ballet helped me understand “grace” in a way that I may not have understood through gymnastics alone. As I grew in the sport, I continued with ballet at least once a week. I found that incorporating what I learned through ballet allowed me to excel on balance beam and floor exercise. I was able to differentiate myself through my dance and attention to detail.

    When someone asks me about my favorite moments, it’s difficult not to think of my floor exercise routines. One of my favorite quotes from a commentator was, “Shannon just pulls in every note”. My goal with the choreography was to stay true to myself. I may not have had the most or even best training, but that foundation through ballet allowed me to connect my movements to the audience, to truly tell a story.

    While I became known for the artistic portion of my gymnastics as much as for my difficulty in skills, I don’t consider myself a great dancer, but rather, a lover of dance. I will always be grateful for my grandmother who gave me my start, for my parents who helped me follow my dreams, and for my coaches who understood the importance of ballet to my overall training and success.

    SM-blog

  • Four Ways to Shine During Your Summer Intensive

    By: Amelia Smith-Fazio, Relationship Manager

    Participating Summer-Intensive-Tips-Iconin a summer ballet intensive is exciting and fun, but can also be intimidating and overwhelming, especially for first-timers. Thriving in a new environment with unfamiliar teachers and students is understandably a challenge for some dancers. However, with the right preparation and mindset, you can leave your intensive feeling confident that you have grown as a dancer, made meaningful connections with instructors from around the world and cultivated lasting friendships with people who share your passion for dance.

    To help you shine during your summer intensive, here are a few tips I picked up while studying at several pre-professional schools including the Sarasota Ballet School and the Virginia School of the Arts:

    Choose your program thoughtfully. Not all summer intensive programs are created equal. There are numerous factors to consider before deciding on the program that is right for you. Many intensives are connected to professional companies, but not all of them. If your ultimate goal is to join a company, participating in a summer program that funnels into a particular company is a great way to potentially get noticed and to get your foot in the door.

    Additionally, you may want to consider the technique and style that each intensive teaches. Some schools, for example, follow the Vaganova method, while others teach Balanchine technique. Consider the style you study at your home studio (if you don’t know, it’s okay to ask!), and determine whether or not you’d like to further your study of that technique or diversify your personal ballet repertoire. Similarly, if your home studio trains in one style, but the company you’d ultimately like to audition for follows another, participating in a summer program offering that training can help build your foundation.

    For some, a program’s distance from home may play a factor. If you’ve never spent significant time away from home before, you might want to select a program within driving distance, so that your family can easily visit and attend your end-of-summer showcase.

    Take care of yourself. Between classes and social events, summer intensive students have very busy schedules. However, regardless of how busy you may be, it’s important that your personal health and well-being come first. Be sure you are getting a full seven-eight hours of sleep every night—trust me, you’ll need that rest to perform your best in class! Additionally, hydration is key. Remember, it will likely be hot outside and in the studio, so make sure to keep a water bottle on you at all times and aim to drink at least the recommended eight glasses of water a day.

    Eating a well-balanced diet will also be critical to your success at a summer intensive. If it’s your first time eating in a college dining hall, try not to be lured by the impressive variety of yummy—but unhealthy—options, like sugary cereals. Instead, eat meals that are full of lean protein and complex carbs. For example, a healthy breakfast might include eggs, fruit, and whole grain toast with peanut butter.

    Put your best foot forward. While you might be able to get away with being a few minutes late to class at your home studio, don’t expect that to be the case at your summer intensive. Plan to arrive at each class several minutes before it starts to stretch, secure your place at the barre and mentally prepare. Once you enter the classroom, keep conversation to necessary interactions only, and stay focused throughout the duration of the class.

    Also, don’t forget to look the part. Your attire should follow the school’s dress code, which is likely a solid color leotard and pink tights (without holes and runs!), and your hair should be pulled back into a neat, secure bun.

    Keep an open mind. Summer intensives are designed to take you out of your comfort zone and push you to quickly grow as a dancer and performer, so keep an open mind. Be open to feedback from your teachers, trying new movements, performing to unfamiliar music and making friends with people from different parts of the world. Also, be kind to yourself. You might not perfect every move immediately, and you might not always feel like the most technically advanced dancer in the room. Be okay with imperfection, understanding that everyone around you is going through their own individual learning processes.

    I recommend that every student serious about their ballet study consider attending a summer intensive at least once. It’s a challenging, but very rewarding, experience that will add tremendous value to your training.

    Have you attended a summer intensive before? If so, we want to hear your tips for success! Share them in the comments below.

  • Dance Competitions 201: From the Mouths of Judges—Tips for a Winning Competition Routine

    Pink-Ribbon-GraphicBy: Terri Gustafson, Relationship Manager

    With competition season in full swing, talented dancers from across the country are coming together for the love of dance with the hope of walking away with a renewed sense of confidence and some hardware to show off back at the studio.

    Last week, I met with a few friends of mine who regularly serve as judges in regional and national dance competitions to get the inside scoop on how they judge competition routines. As you prep for and fine tune your dances, keep in mind the following elements that judges will surely prioritize when determining a score for your performances:

    For Choreographers

    Spacing is key. For group numbers, spacing must be top notch. Dancers should be evenly spaced and formation changes should happen seamlessly and neatly.

    During practice, keep in mind that it can be tricky for dancers to accurately assess the space between themselves and others. To help, consider giving them visual clues that reflect the spacing needs of individual pieces of choreography. For example, you might tell dancers for a specific sequence there should be a “full arm’s length” between themselves and the dancer next to them.

    Bottom line is that sloppy spacing is distracting to judges, making it more difficult to focus on dancers’ technique.

    Keep in mind your students’ capabilities and strengths. While routines that include advanced sequences may be more fun to choreograph, be sure you are thinking critically about what tricks and movements your dancers can realistically pull off during show time.

    For example, if your students are unable to regularly complete a fouette sequence without falling off center or maintaining proper technique, do not include it in your choreography. It is always better to have your dancers excel with simple choreography than struggle with advanced movements they have yet to master.

    Consider your dancers’ ages. Nothing is more off-putting to judges than young students performing very provocative choreography (or mature dancers performing a very juvenile routine). Consider your dancers’ ages and maturity levels when choreographing and selecting costumes. The judges and your dancers’ parents will thank you.

    Diversify choreography. Every choreographer has a unique style. George Balanchine, Martha Graham and Bob Fosse, for example, have particular styles that helped make them renowned choreographers.

    However, while you may have a certain style or set of go-to moves, be sure that there is diversity in choreography across routines, and especially, across genres. It shouldn’t be immediately obvious that two dances are from the same studio.

    For Dancers

    Technique. Technique. Technique! Platinum performances are won in the studio. No matter how animated you are on stage, or how in sync your team is, if the technique is not there, the dance will not stand out as one of the best. Listen to your instructors’ feedback and implement it. Stretch regularly to increase flexibility and turn out. The more you practice the right way to execute your choreography, the more naturally it will come to you on stage.

    Maintain your “performance face.” How frequently has your instructor yelled “smile!” to you during practice? I’m willing to bet more than once! Dance is a difficult art because it requires that you make some incredibly difficult and complex movements look effortless. Part of this is ensuring you don’t drop character on stage, even before a challenging move or after a mistake. Whatever emotion you are supposed to be displaying—happiness, sadness, fear—make sure you are in character from start to finish.

    Handle judges’ critique with poise. Competitions are opportunities to learn and grow as a performer and artist. As such, embrace the judges’ feedback and try not to take it personally. Their critique is meant to help you improve, not to hurt your feelings!

    Just keep dancing. Mistakes happen. Every dancer has fallen victim to blanking out on stage. When this happens, don’t panic! Remember that the judges do not know what choreography you have been practicing. In fact, I worked with a young dancer several years ago who, after completely blanking on stage, carried on with choreography that she made up on the spot. When it was time for the award ceremony, guess who was recognized for best choreography? She was! (And her choreographer let her keep the award, of course).

    As cheesy as it may sound, having fun is the most important part of the competition experience—and this goes for performers, choreographers, studio owners and parents. The opportunity to gather with hundreds of people who share a passion for dance is exciting and invigorating.

    From all of us at Curtain Call, enjoy competition season!

  • Dance Competitions 101: The First-Timer’s Guide to a Successful Competition Season

    CC Blog PostBy: Terri Gustafson, Relationship Manager

    Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to competition season. To those of you who are preparing for your first dance competition as a studio owner or teacher: congratulations and break a leg! While this time of year can be stressful and trying for first-timers, if you are prepared and organized, it can also be highly rewarding and fun.

    As someone who has been lucky enough to judge numerous competitions throughout my more than 30 years of teaching dance, I can attest to the fact that a studio owner’s competition responsibilities can be difficult to juggle. To help manage the chaos, here are a few tried and true practices that I’ve discovered over the years that will keep you, your dancers and their parents calm, cool and collected during competition season:

     

      1. Communicate with Parents: Open the lines of communication with parents several months prior to upcoming competitions. With busy schedules to manage, parents will very much appreciate being made aware of competitions with enough notice to make educated decisions on which ones their child can participate in. To make parents’ scheduling decisions easier, try to avoid conflicts with other studio events, charity efforts, holidays and community events. Additionally, be sure to emphasize and regularly reiterate deadlines for signing up and providing registration fees.Beyond scheduling, be sure to communicate about travel logistics, as well. Providing as many details as you can, including hotel options and travel costs, is courteous and helps streamline the decision-making and scheduling processes.I always encourage studio owners to speak with parents in-person about competitions so that you can provide an in-depth overview of logistics and be available to answer questions or address concerns. Detailed handouts can be very helpful, especially when coupled with an in-person Q&A session.
      2. Inspire Confidence in Your Students: Have conversations with your dancers before each competition about how to remain calm and mature during tricky situations, such as forgetting their routine, or responding to a music malfunction. Helping them feel prepared will translate to helping them feel more confident. Remind your students that you are there for them to review choreography, help them warm-up and to cheer them on. Overall, be a positive role model. Shared lessons you’ve learned from first hand experiences competing or performing. Also, set an example by keeping professional throughout the competition – when your team wins, be humble and gracious; when you don’t, be a good sportsman.
      3. Tackle Competition Logistics Early: Checking registration deadlines and costs, as well as participation requirements, such as age groups and featured dance genres, are the first items to consider when determining if an event is a good fit for your team. When possible, try to look into these details sooner than later to save yourself a headache down the road. You don’t want to commit to a competition to later realize key members of your team are not available!Once you are confirmed to attend a competition, arrive early on the first day and take a tour of the facility noting where bathrooms, locker rooms, stages and water fountains are located and determine a meeting place for your team. After you’ve taken care of these matters, you may find yourself with some down time, in which you can take a walk to check out participating vendors.
      4. Pack Your Survival Kit: Remember to take care of yourself during long competitions by staying hydrated, well-nourished and rested. Help take care of yourself and your team by packing a survival kit.Pack a large bag with water bottles, snacks, back up music, make-up, oil wipes, hairspray, safety pins for clothing malfunctions and bobby pins for hair malfunctions and ice packs. It’s also wise to keep administration materials close to your side, such as an organized grid outlining your personal schedule, registration confirmations, emergency contact lists, floor plans, and lists of students participating in each routine. Additionally, don’t plan to have access to an outlet all day, so be sure to pack a portable battery pack.

    Competition season is an exciting time to enjoy, and a great way for your team and their parents to bond, so prepare as best you can. Remember your smile and compassion and be encouraging to all those participating.

    What are you most looking forward to this competition season? Tell us in the comments section below.

  • Ballets About Love: The Stories Behind the Movement


    Ballets about Love - Curtain Call Costumes

    On the heels of Valentine’s Day, romance lingers in the air, giving us the perfect excuse to talk about love.

    While most of us hope that the love we find for ourselves will be simple and unconditional, ballets explore love in all its forms, from silly and fun to dramatic and trying. In short, ballets feature romantic stories that run the gamut from true, to displaced to forbidden loves.

    Some ballets retell love stories found in literary classics, such as Shakespeare’s comedic and whimsical A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or his dramatic and tragic Romeo and Juliet, a tale of star-crossed lovers from rivaling families. On the other hand, some enchanting love stories, including Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, were fairy tales and ballets well before they were given new life as Disney classics.

    Many ballets feature romantic relationships, but some are lesser known. Yet that doesn’t mean their stories are any less poignant or powerful. Read on for the stories behind two of our favorite ballets in honor of Saint Valentine:

    Coppélia
    Coppélia is a comical ballet in which Dr. Coppélius creates a life-size dancing doll (which shares the story’s name) that sits on a neighborhood balcony. The doll is so lifelike that Franz, a village boy, becomes infatuated with the doll and sets aside his true heart's desire, Swanhilda, to pursue Coppélia.

    One day, Dr. Coppélius drops his keys, giving Swanhilda the opportunity to sneak around and ultimately learn that Coppélia is indeed a doll and not a person. Separately, Franz makes an attempt to get closer to Coppélia, whom he believes to be a beautiful girl. Shortly after, Dr. Coppélius returns to find Franz in his home. Enraged, the doctor gives Franz sleeping powder to ultimately sacrifice Franz’s soul to give Coppélia life.

    Swanhilda, who has been hiding in the doctor’s workshop behind the doll, escapes with Franz who realizes his one true love will always be Swanhilda.

    In the final act, Swanhilda and Franz are about to exchange their wedding vows when the angry Dr. Coppélius appears, claiming damages, but the mayor pays him off and the celebration continues.

     

    See Curtain Call costumes inspired by Coppélia:

    Peasant Dance
    Wonderful World
    Today's Song
    Singing in Spring

    Swan Lake
    Despite its initial unpopularity, Swan Lake, inspired by Russian folk tales, is now one of the most beloved ballets.

    Prince Siegfried, upset about not being able to marry for love, sets off in hunt of swans with a group of friends. After being separated from the group, Siegfried becomes entranced when one of the swans transforms into a beautiful girl, Odette.

    Odette and the other swans are victims of a terrible spell cast by the evil, owl-like sorcerer Von Rothbart. By day they are turned into swans and only at night, with the tears of Odette's mother dropped in the lake, do they return to human form. The spell can only be broken if one who has never loved before swears to love Odette forever.

    Seeing that Siegfried and Odette are falling in love, a concerned Von Rothbart arrives in disguise with his enchantress daughter, Odile, who is transformed so that she appears identical to Odette. Siegfried looks to marry her thinking she is Odette. Odette is distraught at Siegfried’s mistake, accusing him of betrayal.

    Heartbroken, Siegfried chooses to die alongside Odette by leaping into the lake before ascending into the heavens together.

    No matter what type of love these stories feature—tragic or lighthearted, complicated or straightforward—the common thread is that each is told beautifully by ballet dancers.

    What’s your favorite ballet about love? Tell us in the comments below!

     

    See Curtain Call costumes inspired by Swan Lake:

    Shimmering Lights
    Matte Satin Bodice

  • It's Cold Outside: Let's Warm Up!

    Throughout the course of my education and career in dance, I have watched countless peers, students and friends be resigned to sitting in the wings for a season due to heartbreaking injuries that could have been avoided by properly warming up.

    As dancers, we need to take care of our bodies—they are our instruments, after all! As teachers, we have a responsibility to make sure that our students not only take the time to warm up, but understand best practices for avoiding injuries and feeling their very best.

    While warming up is a personal process that will differ from dancer to dancer, there are some general guidelines to follow that can help ensure a warm up is complete and effective. To help communicate these guidelines to dancers of every age and technique level, we’ve compiled insights and tips from various medical and dance resources into the below infographic. Feel free to share it with your students and fellow dancers!
    Have a warm up routine to share? Or ideas for helping students understand the importance of warming up? Share in the comments below!

    Always Dancing,

    Stacey Raab
    Curtain Call Relationship Manager

    Infographic-WarmUp

  • Celebrate Dance!

    National Dance Week April 24-May 3, 2015 National Dance Week April 24-May 3, 2015 Photo Credit: www.nationaldanceweek.org

     

    National Dance Week kicks off today, April 24, 2015 through May 3, 2015! We can’t help but get excited when we hear about foundations whose sole purpose is to bring awareness and inspire others.

    According to a report conducted by the President’s council on fitness, sports and nutrition, More than 80% of adults do not meet the guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities, and more than 80% of adolescents do not do enough aerobic physical activity to meet the guidelines for youth.

     

    For over 34 years, the National Dance Week Foundation (NDWF) has been committed to bringing awareness to the growing problem of inactivity. The week-long event features activities to inspire others to get moving to help celebrate dance and promote fun fitness.

    Events take place across the country both big and small that anyone can participate in. Here are some activity ideas:

    • Start a kickline of your own! Grab your friends and capture your personal kickline with your favorite song. Post the video on Instagram or Facebook to build awareness while having fun!
    • Wear your favorite dance gear! Whether it be yoga pants, t-shirts or even a tutu, don’t be afraid to let others know that you’re proud to be a dancer!
    • Share your story with friends or on social media! We all know being more active is a good thing, but how has dancing benefitted you?

    These are just some of the many ways to celebrate a great cause. To show our appreciation for this celebration, we’re offering FREE Shipping* on In Stock Curtain Call and Curtain Call for Class performance shoes and tights. Follow us on Facebook for daily dance related posts during the week!

     

    *Curtain Call: Free Shipping
    Free Ground Shipping & handling offer valid on U.S. in stock and clearance orders of $75 and over April 22, 2015 - May 3, 2015. Items must be in the In Stock and Clearance categories on the web site in order to qualify for the promotion. Must use promo code FSIS75. Valid for dance studios only. Does not apply to previous purchases.

    Curtain Call for Class: Free Shipping
    Free Ground Shipping & handling offer valid on U.S. orders $35 and over April 22, 2015 - May 3, 2015. Must use code FSNDW. Does not apply to previous purchases.

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