Guest Post: 5 Things Good Dancers Do Differently

With competition season rehearsals kicking off for our studio, soloists are always looking for ways to outshine the competition.  This week we have an article from guest contributor Wendy Dessler, about what you can do differently to set themselves apart from the pack – enjoy!  Wendy is a “super-connector with Outreachmama who helps businesses find their audience online through outreach, partnerships, and networking.”  Hope you enjoy her insights!

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In 2009, it was recorded that there were more than 450 million professional dancers in the world. As with any difficult profession, (and dance is a difficult profession) there are levels of expertise. There are great dancers and good dancers and many dancers who are talented but will never reach their ultimate goal of being the best.
There are certain things that a good dancer does differently than the talented but not spectacular dancer. These are tips they learned from someone better than them and incorporated into their lives. This is how we grow. So, let us give you a few tips to help you see the world of dance through their eyes.
  • Take inventory of your surroundings

Every platform and venue are different. The dancer has been practicing in a particular studio and without even knowing it, in their mind, they know every inch of that studio. They know the distance they have to turn, jump, and move. If there is anything around the floor, they know exactly where it is and as they practice, they calculate those inches.
Before a performance, test out the stage if possible. Take inventory of the area you will be given to perform. This will maximize your comfort and control.
  • Floor, lighting, props, and distractions

Check the floor. Where are the markings? How do your shoes perform on the floor? (Always have rosin with you to treat your shoes if needed) Where are the props and what are they made of? Are there mirrors, spotlights on the floor, sound or other lighting equipment? All of these things could potentially distract the unprepared dancer.
  • Cross-train

 

Incorporate other physical challenges into your life. Build your body and muscles in every area for longevity in your performances. Try swimming, biking, or running in addition to your dancing and you will realize a major return on that investment.
  • Dress appropriately

Take into account what you are doing and use your attire as a tool. If you are practicing, wear your dance attire made for that purpose. You can take advantage of a good discount dance supply store and always have the right tools on hand. If you are auditioning, impress them with your talent and the fact that you know what to wear for every style of dance. Few ballerinas will get a part when they audition in hip-hop clothes.
  • Learn to listen to your body

A good dancer is in tune with his or her body. They understand that food is fuel, but the body needs different fuels for different demands placed upon it. If you are preparing for a long performance, you need protein and lots of it. But, if you have been performing for longer than expected, and you are running out of steam, you need some fast acting carbs. Know how to use food. Chocolate milk is a great instant refuel drink for times like that. Experts agree it is better for you than those expensive protein drinks. It gives you instant energy from the sugars and carbs and protein that rebuilds the muscles.

 

While dancers must eat a healthy diet, do not discount the need for special treats and your ability to draw something good from them. You can use candy as a quick fix in some occasions. There are proven benefits to athletes eating small amounts of candy. However, it’s definitely not wise to go to the candy counter every week. You could order some in bulk and have it around for yourself and your dance friends when needed or wanted. For a supplier, check this out.

Practice these tips and you will soon find yourself growing as a dancer and helping others to reach their goals as well.

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Thanks Wendy for your post – Wendy is a super-connector with Outreachmama who helps businesses find their audience online through outreach, partnerships, and networking.

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Candy Alternatives for Halloween Class

As Halloween approaches, we often do special activities at my studio or allow students to wear costumes.  Many teachers like to reward their classes with a special treat, which historically has been candy.  I feel that as dance teachers, we have a responsibility to celebrate healthy choices and I like to search out alternatives to candy–especially with all of the food-allergies and preferences that my students have.

Coloring Pages
Such an easy and low-cost “treat”


Glow Bracelets
This is my choice for this year – trying something new and potentially something that they kids can take with them on Halloween.  I found glow bracelets on Amazon for $8.79 for 100 bracelets, so for under $20 I was able to get enough to cover my 16 weekly classes.

Stickers, Stamps & Temporary Tattoos
My elementary-aged kids love stickers, stamps and tattoos.  Not sure if their parents love them as much, but its fun to do a grab-bag of these items.

Rolls of 500 Halloween Stickers:  $9.99
72 Glitter Halloween Temporary Tattoos: $5.50
24 Halloween Stamps:  $7.95

 

“Haunted House” Class Picture
This one is fun to do with the older kids or students who love social media… the “Haunted House” class picture – take a group picture but tell your students to make a face like they are going through a haunted house – leads to lots of funny faces!

Slap on a filter/background and send to your students and watch them share 🙂

More Ideas For Those Blessed in the Craftiness Department (THANK YOU PINTEREST)

Do you do something special with your classes for Halloween?  Do you hand out any treats?  Share in the comments!

Our “Frozen-Inspired” Dance Camp: Activities & Games

This post is part of our “Frozen-Inspired” Dance Camp Series.

Activities / Creative Movement

Melting & Freezing

We explored the movement qualities of melting and freezing by pretending to be Olaf melting in the summer or freezing with Elsa’s help.  We melted for 16 slooooooow counts, and froze again for 16 then repeated in 8 counts, 4 counts, 2 and 1!  We melted with a friend, froze into different shapes or poses, started on one leg, etc.  Lots of variations to be had with this one!

More Melting Inspiration from Maria’s Movers Blog

Journey to Elsa’s Castle

We pretended to be Anna and Kristoff making their journey to or from Elsa’s castle.  We did this by playing Going on a Bear Hunt, but we changed the words to “We’re going on a journey, we’re gonna go get Elsa, I’m not scared, I’m not scared”.  For the next part (“we can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, I guess we’ll go… through it!”), we encountered :

  • Deep deep snow – big slow marches to lift our feet through the snow
  • A dark forest – tip toes
  • A cold frozen stream – skating
  • A big tall mountain – climbing actions
  • An icy staircase – careful climbing actions

Until we got to the castle and knocked on the door and found… MARSHMALLOW (the snow monster)!  Reverse all the actions as fast at you can to go back to Arrendale and climb into bed with the covers over our head.

Creative Movement based on Scenes or Characters from the Movie

We did a lot of creative movement / free dance, based on settings and characters from the movie.  We would first describe the scene / character, then talk about the movements the characters did (running, rolling, climbing, skating, etc) and then dance them using those movements.  Some of our favorite scenes:

Olaf In Summer – skipping, laying (sun-tanning), swaying, blowing dandelions, floating


Skating on Elsa’s pond – skating, twirling, sliding

Dancing like Marshmallow – “stompy”, angry, slow
They also enjoyed pretending to be at the coronation ball, dancing like the trolls, pretending to be a snow-swirl created by Elsa, and of course, being Elsa.


Games

In addition to the usual run of camp games (Freeze Dance, 4 corners, relay races, etc), we added a few or tailored them to better fit our theme:

Obstacle Course – We set up various obstacles around the room relating to the trip to Elsa’s castle.  We used cones to tip toe around like trees, a tunnel to go under, a gym mat to roll across, a “tightrope” (tape line on the floor) to walk on, ice puddles to jump over (little rugs)

Pin the Nose on Olaf – we had an Olaf-shaped posterboard and had the girls take turns being blind-folded and pinning their “nose” onto Olaf.  Since we had a large crew, we split them between three different groups so we could have three people going at the same time.

Our life-size Anna & Elsa was a
big hit for photos!

Red Light, Green Light, Frozen Variation Basic Red light/Greenlight rules – in our version instead of being a redlight/greenlight, the “It” person is Elsa – and freezes people when she turns around.  We used the terms “WINTER” for STOP and “SUMMER” for GO.  If anyone was caught moving when the “It” person said WINTER, they had to go back to the starting line.  First person to touch the “It” person gets to be “It” for the next round.

One other thing that we used during the week was this Life-size Anna & Elsa – we found this great life-size cardboard cutout from Amazon.  They have other characters, but I really liked the two girls together.  We used them for a backdrop in our pictures and the kids loved “holding their hand” and just seeing them in general.
What other games / activities can be adapted to fit a “Frozen” theme?  Are you sick of the music yet?  Will you use it in your classes next season? Comment below!

Our “Frozen-Inspired” Dance Camp

frozencampheader

 

Our most asked camp question since last December has been “Are you doing a Frozen Camp?”  So due to popular demand… a Frozen (inspired) Camp is what we did!

What works best for our studio is doing a half-day camp, where the students come 4 or 5 days a week from 9am-noon.

Each year we do a different theme and base the week’s lessons around that theme. We hold an impromptu little “show” on the last day of camp for family and friends.

We did the Frozen (inspired) Camp for our Princess age group (ages 4-7) at the end of June, and we actually had to close off registration a week prior because of the demand!  (For comparison, our July Princess Camp was half as full as the Frozen Camp was).

I’m going to break up the posts into a few different sections, and hopefully they will give you some ideas for your own camp.

1) Music (this post)
2) Crafts
3) Games & Activities 

General Camp Agenda

8:50-9:05am – Parent Drop-off and Student Sign-in
9:05-9:30am – Warm-up and “Get to know you” activities – I like doing the Name Game as an icebreaker
9:30-10:00am – Ballet Dance class (learning choreography / technique)
10:00-10:45am – Craft Time
10:45-11:00am – Snack Time
11:00-11:40am – Tap class (learning choreography / technique)
11:40-12:00pm – Games / Cool-down

Dance Camp Playlist

All links open in iTunes – the Dance Buzz is an iTunes affiliate

I know you will all be surprised when I tell you that the most used album during our Frozen-Inspired Camp was… the Frozen album. Shocking, I know! But we also used a few other non-Frozen songs during our camp so that we (the teachers) didn’t go crazy from having songs stuck our head all day!

Songs We Used for Choreography

Songs We Used in Class (for creative movement, games, and technique)

What non-Frozen songs can you think of that would fit in well?

Winter Olympics-Inspired Movement

While my studio is in the process of getting buried under a foot of snow, I figured I would spend my surprise free time planning some olympics-inspired creative movement for tomorrow’s classes.

Pass The Torch – Traveling

You could pass an imaginary torch or a “real” prop (as simple as an orange scarf).  Have your dancers spread out around the room.  When the dancer has the “torch”, them must dance the torch to the next person and then sit down to indicate they already had a turn.  The final dancer brings the torch to the designated “torch lighting station” (could be teacher, or spot in the room).

Pass The Torch – Stationary

Spread out in a line or a circle close enough to touch another person’s out stretched hand.  Begin to pass the torch using different levels and different body parts until it reaches the end.  If you are using a prop, see how far the class can pass it without dropping.

The Slowest Bobsled Race Ever Won

Connect your dancers into teams of 2, 3 or 4 dancers and have them sit one in front of each other in a straddle (like a caterpiller).  Have them hold onto each other at the shoulders or hips so that they are connected.

The goal is to move as a unit over a certain distance (we used tape lines about 5-6 feet apart).  Give them time to practice–they will learn quickly they have to work as a team to move without becoming disconnected!

Line up your “bobsleds” and the first group to completely cross the finish wins.  Disqualify any team that separates.

Variations:  Try a whole-class bobsled!  Or backwards or sideways bobsled race!

Ice & Snow Improv

Adapt usual creative movement exercises to be set at the olympics.

Suggested Musical Tracks

Have you been watching the olympics?  Have you done any lessons based on the olympics?  Is anyone else ready for spring?!

Dance Games, Part 1

Do your dancers ask to play games in dance class or request something “fun”?

As hard as I try to keep class engaging and entertaining, many of my recreational classes still ask for “games” to play.  Often, I will turn to creative movement exercises and label them as “games”.  I also like to throw in some vocabulary builders.  If you’re looking for some new ideas for dance games, here are some alternatives to Freeze Dance (although if you like Freeze Dance, here are a few these variations on Freeze Dance).

When I started gathering ideas for this post and putting together this list, I discovered a bunch of new games.  There are simply too many for one post, so I will spread them out in a few different posts. This post will cover games for Terminology and Vocabulary Review.

Terminology & Vocabulary Review

tap-flashcardsDance Quiz

Basic vocabulary review.  Here are few ideas to keep it interesting:
  • Pick-a-card:  Write down terminology or combinations of steps on note cards.  For younger students, you could draw positions or help them read it.  One at a time, have a dancer pick a card and they must do that step.  For younger students, they get to be the teacher in the front of the room and demonstrate the step while everyone else practices.
  • The Line-Up:  Students stand in a line in the back of the studio.  Starting with the first person, teacher gives them a dance step.  If they do it correctly, they get to move up one step.  If they don’t know it, they pass and the next person gets the same step until someone knows it. Continue down the line with a new term, going back to the beginning of the line when you run out of dancers.  Goal is to get to the front line (we usually play 3 steps).
  • The Line-Up, fast version: I play this version with larger classes. Students stand in a line (facing away from the mirror to discourage peeking) and all close their eyes.  Teacher says a vocabulary step and every does it in place (keeping eyes closed).  Dance teacher taps anyone who is doing it correctly on the shoulder and they get to move up one step. We usually open our eyes at this point and I pick someone to demonstrate what the step was.  Repeat process. Keep going until someone moves all the way up to the front line.
  • Truth or Dare: Teacher asks dancer, “Truth or Dare?”.  When dancer says “truth”, ask terminology questions (how many sounds in a shuffle hop step, which direction is upstage).  For “dare”, they must demonstrate a specific dance step.  You can add “double dare”, which would be a harder dance step.

Roll The Dice


You will need some large foam dice.  Leave one plain (with dots or numbers) and the other add terminology (I used masking tape so that I could change the words for different classes).

For some classes its simple: skip, hop, jump, leap, shuffle, flap, maxi ford, buffalo and for the older classes more complicated, glissade pas de chat, pirouette, jete etc!


Here is how we use them:

  • Dice Quiz:   Have a child roll the movement dice and the number dice and they have to do that many repetitions of the step. If they don’t know the step you can call them out, and see who is left standing, or let them all remain. My kids love it and it’s a great way to test vocabulary.
  • Dice Choreography:  Have each child roll the pair of dice and use the steps to create a dance in succession (two shuffles, four flaps, one buffalo). Sometimes it turns out great and is a very inventive way of creating choreography and other times it’s silly or extremely difficult to transition but it’s still a fun challenge.   You can expand on this idea for tap, by creating rules for rhythm.  For example, we play where every sound must have one count (so shuffle step would be “1 2 3”), and the kids had to figure out what count we ended on.  You can also add “hold” to one side of the dice, so they will need to count “holds” in the combination.

Dance Pie

(or Cake, or Pizza…or whatever you want to make!  Maybe a salad or smoothie? Cornucopia?)I like to use this with age 3-8 year olds in my tap classes – lots of creative movement.  We create a dance recipe using steps as ingredients.

  1. Form a circle and roll out the dough – we usually roll our arms like in Patty Cake or stomp on the ground in tap (for pie or pizza… maybe grease the pan for cakes?)
  2. Ask for a dance step we can add to the pie. Ask how many and what foot to start with.
  3. Dance the step all together and “lift up” the ingredients and throw them in the pie (I like to make different steps heavier or lighter… some are sweet, some are sour, some must be sprinkled, some must be tossed – it adds to the fun!)
  4. Repeat until your “pie” is full!
  5. We march (or another traveling step) around in the circle to mix the pie together, roll the dough on top and pop it in the oven – have to work all together to lift such a heavy pie
  6. Wait.. then eat!  Sometimes we count to 8 or do another activity while it’s “baking”, then take it out and eat it up to make sure we remember all of our steps.

Creative Movement: The Name DanceHot Potato / Pass The Beanbag

Form a circle standing or sitting.  Pass the beanbag (or stuffed animal) until the music stops.  Whoever it stops on must do their favorite dance step.  Or you can have the teacher assign them a step.
 
Sometimes we play where they have to keep doing the step until the next person gets stopped with the beanbag.

The Airplane Game

Ages 3-6, Sung to the tune of Frere Jacques:

“Chasse chasse,

bourree bourree,

clap clap clap, clap clap clap

running like an airplane, running like an airplane

make a shape, make a shape”


Each time, replace the dance terms/clapping with whatever other dance terms you’d like to practice. Once they get the hang of it, you can add in directions (tip toe to the right or dance in a circle).

Here is an instrumental version of Frere Jacques in case you’re not a singer 🙂

Dance Baseball – see this post for full explanation

Sources:

Do you have any “games” or activities do you play to review vocabulary?

Shhhhh… *spritz spritz*

Quiet Spray

“Quiet Spray” – found at The Lemonade Stand blog.  As they suggest: …spray the ROOM to signal children to get quiet.  Or you can just leave the bottle empty.  Mine love the mist in the air….I do not condone spraying a child!  As much as you might want to!  Ha!”

I thought this was a cute idea, even though I don’t have too much trouble with talking in classes (knock on wood…), but every so ofter there is a class that is just the right mixture of personalities to create the chit-chatty class.  Sometimes it only takes one or two chatterboxes to make you want to reach for the quiet spray…especially in my high school classes 🙂

On second thought, maybe I should make some interchangeable labels:

“Pointe-Your-Toes Spray”
“Choreography Cleaner”
“Insta-Turnout”
“Dance Bills-B-Gone”
“Spotting Spray” (NOT to remove spots, but to add spotting to turns!)

Any others you can think of for when you’re having “one of those days”?