Dancer Profile: Ashlee

This week we’re featuring talented young dancer Ashlee Gen.

10947653_1540391072900746_1311999341_n

Ashlee is 14 years old and a year 10 student in college this year. She has been dancing since she was four years old and currently takes ballet, jazz and contemporary dance at Hayley Johnson Academy of Dance. In her spare time she enjoys baking and playing netball.

What do you love about dance?

I love the feeling of being able to move freely. Also I like how I can express myself without using words. I love the feeling of excitement when performing for people. I love being on a stage, with a beautiful costume on doing what I love.

What challenges you about dance? And how to you move past that?

I find it challenging to learn new dance moves, especially ballet moves as I haven’t been doing ballet for long. I guess practice is the best thing to do. But I don’t practice too much. Otherwise I find that I won’t be able to get it.

Who are your role models, inspirations in dance?

I definitely look up to Sophia Lucia. She holds the world record for the most consecutive pirouettes. I also look up to Kalani Hiliker, Jenna Valezuela and Christina Guieb. Christina dances at Hayley Johnson Academy of Dance and she got accepted into the NZSD Contemporary Programme for 2015. Another dancer I find inspirational is Heather Morris – I just enjoy watching her dance.

What is your favourite style?

I have two. I love lyrical and jazz.

What is your current favourite dance track (music)?

At the moment I like Chandelier by Sia.

Must have item of dance clothing?

Leotard and tights.

If you’d like to be featured on The Dance Well Project, please leave a comment below indicating this, or email briejessenvaughan @ icloud.com (just take the spaces out).

Advertisements

Dancer Profile: Emily

This week we’re featuring talented young dancer Emily Hollis.

Emily 2

Emily is 14 years old and has been dancing for nine years. Beginning with ballet as a 5 year old Emily later picked up Tap, and then Jazz after taking a break from ballet for a few years. Last year she returned to ballet, and is now studying towards her intermediate ballet exam and elementary jazz exam. She currently takes classes at Hayley Johnson Academy of Dancing and Angela Goodall Dance Academy, both in Wellington. In her spare time she enjoys reading, writing short stories/poetry, drawing, learning, researching, maths and shopping. Not only is she a amazing dancer, she is also a fantastic violinist and a talented writer. Her future plans include getting involved in contemporary dance and doing well in her approaching major academic and dancing exams.

I’ve been lucky to know Emily for several years now, and I recently caught up with her about dance and what it means to her.

Why do you love dance?

I must admit, beginning dance as a shy five year old did not spark some intense fondness of the art; dance was not love at first sight for me. For those initial years I completed my routines like a perpetual, ongoing process that was neither enjoyable nor undesirable, a chugging train making slow but sure progress. It wasn’t until I discovered the full definition of dance as me, myself that I found myself as a dancer in our large but restrictive world. I can never explain sufficiently how the joy of movement, the contraction and extension of our muscles, can change someone. And those are the best kinds of things. I love dance because it is the only thing in this world that can extend memories into infinity, but also retract the negative until it’s zilch. The feeling when, halfway through a dance, you let go enough to understand you could do this into the early dawn of tomorrow, that a myriad of seconds exist in peace, waiting for you to fill them with movement. I love dance because I cannot describe the feeling of losing yourself in a piece of music and sketching the infinite lines of colour into each note. I love dance because when I move I can be anything I dare or wish to be. Dance can be infinite.

Tell me about something that’s challenged you in dance, but ultimately made you a better dancer.

Because I began more emotional, unrestricted kinds of dance later in my life, i.e jazz, it took me a long time to fully embrace the new sides of myself through this new form of movement. Especially contemporary, it was unusual for me to feel so connected with this art form. I was initially challenged with the transition, but afterwards I felt as though I could connect more often and, although I haven’t done any official contemporary dance I think it has helped me develop my other styles and my choreography skills as I had to observe other dances to widen my dance vocabulary.

What or who inspires you in your dancing?

My favourite ballerinas of late are Lucy Green of RNZB, Carrie Imler from PNB and Miko Fogarty who competes in the America Grand Prix. Others include Maddie Ziegler who performs in Sia’s music videos and of course the dancers around me. They are usually the ones who actually inspire me the most, because many of them are so humble and knowing them personally with all their passion brings me such joy and motivation to aim high and work with them to create something wondrous for the audience, whomever that may be, as well as ourselves.

Describe yourself as a dancer in 3 words.

Connected. Emotional. Imaginative.

So, the hardest question, what is your favourite dance style?

Ooh, that’s a toughie. I’d say contemporary over ballet (just) because it’s the only style I feel completely and utterly alive with.

What is your current favourite dance track?

Elastic Heart by Sia. This is absolutely the most emotionally connective song I have ever danced to.

Must have item of dance clothing?

Leotards, because you can wear it for anything! But tights are up there on the list too!

What are your goals for the future?

My goals for this year and beyond are to generally stay conscious of what I am doing to/putting into my body, for food can be a poison or an efficient resource, depending on how you decide to use it. As dancers I think it’s important to think this way and not think of food as only something to keep you alive. It can be exciting too! Apart from this time management has been, and will continue to be a essential part of life as a dancer, as major school AND dance exams near it can be difficult to stay on track to do well in both (a goal I am determined to succeed in). Hopefully, with a schedule and strong mind I can overcome these plights and transfer and apply time management into later life, where it is very valuable.

If you’d like to be featured on The Dance Well Project, please leave a comment below indicating this, or email briejessenvaughan @ icloud.com (just take the spaces out).

How to Cross Train for Dance

As a teenager growing up dancing in the 90s and early 2000s in a small city in New Zealand, I don’t think the words ‘cross training’ ever passed my ears. Now, many years later, cross training has become an important of my regular training.

So what is cross training?

Cross training is training in other styles of movement that will assist and improve your dance. Things like yoga or pilates may spring to mind straight away, but cross training is about more than that.

Why should I cross train?

A regular dance class is a fantastic way to build your dance knowledge and prepare your body – for dance. But if we only train our bodies in one way, then we’re only working one set of muscles. Those of you who have done ballet will know that you almost never work in parallel. Ballet makes your turn out muscles strong but neglects the muscles that strengthen your turn in – and both are important.

Cross training can not only strengthen other groups of muscles, it is also a great way to build your cardiovascular fitness. Since regular dance classes do not sufficiently elevate your heart rate to increase cardiovascular stamina, cross training can help you increase your stamina so that you’ll last longer when you are dancing and have more power and energy to draw on in those big virtuoso movements. Research has shown that cross training can also reduce muscle fatigue, lowering your chance of injury. If you are on a break from dancing over the summer it can also be a great way to stay in shape while your classes are on holiday.

How do I cross train?

There are lots of different ways to cross train and you need to consider a couple of things. Firstly, what types of physical activity do you enjoy doing? And secondly, what weaknesses do you want to address?  Here are a few options that you might like to consider:

Pilates

Pilates is a great way for dancers to cross train, and one of my favourites. With its focus on core strength it is a great way to strengthen the body and increase the stability and strength of your core – something that is super important for all dancers. Many dance studios provide mat based pilates classes that are customised for dancers, but don’t be afraid to visit a regular pilates studio. Many pilates instructors have experience working with dancers and working one on one with an instructor can be a great way to get targeted feedback – it can be expensive though. For those on a tighter budget, most libraries have a range of pilates books and DVDs which can provide a great introduction.

Yoga

Yoga is another great way to condition your body. I particularly like the focus on breath, as this is such a core part of movement that is often neglected in dance teaching. Yoga not only lengthens and strengthens your muscles, but the focus on the intrinsic muscles in your feet is great for developing stability and balance when on pointe or demipointe.

Swimming

Swimming is probably one of the most effective ways to cross train. Being in the water removes the effects of gravity on your joints, lessening the impact of movement, actually it’s zero-impact. This makes it an ideal form of movement for those recovering from injury.  Not only does it use your whole body, it is also a fantastic cardio workout and great for increasing stamina.

Running

Running has long been a point of contention in the dance world. The main issue is that running turned out is extremely bad for the knees. The constant pounding on the joints can also be damaging for dancers. That said, running can still be beneficial for dancers. Dancers are typically sprinters – the types of movement they are used to are short bursts of intense anaerobic energy, so running can feel quite different. I still personally enjoy the sense of freedom I get from running, but I prefer to keep it to the warm up period of a work out – no more than 10 minutes and usually on a treadmill. If you’re keen on running, go ahead and give it a go it’s a great way to build cardiovascular fitness, just make sure those feet are pointing straight ahead!

Strength Training

Strength training is also known as weight lifting, but that doesn’t mean you should steer clear. Quite the opposite – it’s a great way to build strength. You can do this either using exercises that use your own body weight – think plank, push ups etc. or using free weights or gym machines. Lifting a heavier weight for a smaller number of repetitions will help build strength without adding muscle bulk. Plus it’s a great way to target specific muscle groups. I’ve found this particularly useful for building my upper body strength for contemporary.

Aerobics/Gymnastics

Aerobics or gymnastics are also great supplements to dance training. Aerobics will help build core strength and cardiovascular stamina, while gymnastics helps to increase flexibility and upper body and core strength.

A few important things to remember:

Listen to your body – if something doesn’t feel right, or you’re feeling more muscle fatigue than usual, stop and seek professional advice.

Wear the right gear – supportive shoes for running or going to the gym are really important as they protect your feet and reduce impact. If you are going to be doing these activities regularly it is worth shelling out the money for a good pair of running shoes.

Fuel up – increasing your physical activity will mean you burn more energy – meaning you need to give your body more fuel. Eating a good balance of food and including protein in your diet is really important as is drinking water.

What are your favourite ways to cross train?

Intermediate Jazz Playlist Term 3

This playlist is the one I’m currently using for my intermediate jazz class. A bit of a mix of old stuff and some new stuff.

IMG_1475

 

 

Warm Up 1 – Move by Little Mix

Warm Up 2 – It’s Like That by Run DMC

Tendu – Jumpin’ by Liberty X

Sauté – Go Deep by Janet Jackson

Spotting – Next to You by Chris Brown

Pirouettes – Oops! I Did it Again by Britney Spears

Chainés – No Scrubs by TLC

Combination 1 (Jazz/Funk) – Maneater by Nelly Furtado

Combination 2 (Latin) – Let’s Get Loud by Jennifer Lopez

Combination 3 (Classical) – I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Women by Britney Spears

Jazz Playlist June 2014

Full confession, I love music! And I spend a lot of time finding new music and making playlists, so I thought hey, why not share them with you.

 

Today’s playlist is a real mix of new stuff I’ve recently discovered and a lot of older songs that are still going strong on my playlist!

photo

Jazz Playlist March 2014

Warm Ups:

Exotic – Priyanka Chopra (Feat. Pitbull)

On The Floor – Jennifer Lopez

Karma – Alicia Keys

Call me Maybe – Carly Rae Jepson

Go Deep – Janet Jackson

It’s Like That – Run DMC

Amalgamations/Combinations/Isolations:

Honey – Moby

Yeah! – Usher

I’m Good – Blaque

The Climb – Stan Walker

Teardrop – Massive Attack

Maneater – Nelly Furtado

Free – Rudimental (feat. Emeli Sande)

Great Performance Songs:

Americano/Dance Again – Glee

Proud – Heather Small

I Love It – IconaPop

Brave – Sara Bareilles

Man with a Hex – Atomic Fireballs

Candyman – Christina Aguilera

Stretching:

Halo – Beyonce

Viva Forever- Spice Girls

Pumped Up Kicks – Foster the People

Better in Time – Leona Lewis

Never be the Same Again – Mel C

 

I’m happy to take requests for different playlists, just leave me a comment. Now it’s your turn, what songs are loving for dance right now?

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) or Why do I hurt so much more the next day?

We all know the feeling – you feel great after a tough class just a little tired, but then you wake up the next morning stiff and sore. This is known as DOMS or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.

 

DOMS is the gradually increasing feeling of muscle soreness that occurs between 24 and 48 hours after exercise, but don’t worry it’s not uncommon. As dancers we’re typically pretty fit, and flexible, so what it takes to make us sore is generally a lot more intense than your average person. That said we’ve all had the grueling class that pushes us to our limits, and it’s when we hit these limits that we typically experience DOMS. In fact for students studying at vocational (pre-professional) level, it can be a regular part of life.

 

DOMS typically occurs when muscles are worked harder than they usually are day to day, and is particularly common after a break of holiday from dance or when increasing the frequency or intensity of your dancing increases. It is part of your body’s natural response and adaptation process to working harder. The good news is that it leads to increased stamina and strength as your build up muscle.

 

It’s important to realise that gradual soreness of DOMS is different to the tiredness and fatigue that can happen during exercise or the sharp, sudden pain of a muscle strain which often causes swelling and bruising. Doctors believe that DOMS is the result of microscopic tearing of the muscle fibers. The amount of tearing and soreness you feel depends on how hard you exercise. Although any movements can lead to DOMS, eccentric muscle contractions such as push ups, plies and squats seem to cause the most soreness.

 

So, what can you do to help with DOMS?

Unfortunately, there is no one solution, however the following things may help alleviate some of the soreness:

  • Drink lots of water
  • Try yoga or gentle stretching
  • Make sure you are eating enough protein so that your body can repair muscle
  • Listen to your body – rest if that’s what your muscles are telling you
  • Elevate your legs – lying with your legs up a wall can help reduce soreness
  • Ice any parts that are particularly sore, alternating with heat
  • Wear a compression sleeve, or compression or tight clothing
  • Foam roll or use a tennis ball to gentle massage muscles and increase blood flow
  • Make sure you warm up properly before your next session

 

References:

American College of Sports Medicine. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.

Dance Spirit Magazine. Your Aches and Pains Addressed: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.

Sports Medicine. About.com Muscle Pain and Soreness After Exercise.

Fitness and Exercise. Webmd.com Coping with Soreness After Exercise.

Contemporary Playlist March 2014

Full confession, I love music! And I spend a lot of time finding new music and making playlists, so I thought hey, why not share them with you.

Today’s playlist is a lot of new stuff that I have just recently discovered or that has been recently released. Most of these songs are a little bit different or quirky, and many would be great for performances or just to change up classes.

Contemporary* Playlist March 2014

Intro – XX

On the Nature of Daylight – Max Richter

Set Fire to the Rain – Adele

Teardrop – Massive Attack

Holy Moses – Washington

Where do I even start? – Morgan Taylor Reid

Counting Stars – One Republic

Working for the Company – Willy Moon

In Colour – Shapeshifter

Breath and Life – Audiomachine

Torn – Nathan Lanier

300 Violin Orchestra – Jorge Quintero

Roselily – Drehz

Free – Rudimental feat. Emeli Sandé

Bloom – The Paper Kites

Brave – Sara Bareilles

Human – Christina Perri

* What we call Contemporary dance is usually referred to as Modern in North America.

I’m happy to take requests for different playlists, just leave me a comment. Now it’s your turn, what songs are loving for dance right now?