I dance

 

love_danceDancing has never really been a part of my life, not formally anyways. I never did dance classes when I was young. The small hamlet that I grew up in didn’t even have a dance studio.

My first introduction to dance came when I was in my teens I started going to school dances. I can still remember the excitement/terror of being in the gym with dimmed lights. What? We are supposed to move to the music? Really?!  They were fun, and I just pretended to know what I was doing when I moved around on the dance floor. The fast songs were about having a crazy time with your girlfriends and the slow songs maybe meant dancing in a circle with someone (or at least trying to look cool while waiting on the sidelines for the fast songs to come back on.)

Even though dance had never really been part of my life I still always felt drawn to it. I remember watching some performances at university. I was in awe of the beauty and the storytelling that can happen when people move to beautiful music.

I have been to a few ballet performances that left me breathless as I watched the dancers’ strength, beauty and artistry. And I went to Broadway shows where amazingly talented people danced, acted AND sang.

And then I had my little girl. S showed an affinity for dance when she was about two. It was a beautiful, heart-warming performance that we called her “hula dance,” which she usually performed right before she hopped into the bathtub. “She’s got rhythm!” I remember saying to my husband.

S was about five when I decided to sign her up for ballet class. (I say “I” because as little as I knew about dance, my husband knew even less.)

firstrecital

And so our adventure began. One ballet class led to ballet and jazz, and then hip and tap were added to the mix, and then the big decision to make the jump from recreational to competitive.

As my daughter learns dance, I feel I am learning too. Not the techniques and moves – heck, I’m way too old for that! But I’m learning about the artistry of dance and how it can push you to new limits, take you to new places, and teach you new things – even when you are just the dance momma cheering quietly from backstage.

 

How Will I Know?

S.’s first ever solo was a jazz solo to Whitney Houston’s song “How Will I know?” This was a remixed version, but hearing it still brought back memories of when I was a kid growing up in the 80s with neon colours, shoulder pads, plastic bracelets and very big pouffy hair (don’t judge – we all wore it!)

S. worked with a visiting choreographer and had only three hours to learn the entire dance. It was a big order, and one that made her quite nervous.

She didn’t know her solo song and looked at me doubtfully when I proclaimed it “super cool.” She also wasn’t too happy to hear that Whitney Houston died several years ago and therefore had no recent hits show would recognize.

When dancers are young I think one of the biggest jobs us dance mommas have is calming their nerves. Even though S. was terrified of the thought of spending three hours alone with a choreographer, she seemed to relax a bit when we talked about other dancers that do it for their solos, that she would have the chance to learn one-on-one from the choreographer, and that if she gave it a chance, she would have fun (or at least I had my fingers crossed that this was the case!)

Three hours later she emerged from the studio, sweaty and with red cheeks from the exertion. The grin on her face said it all. Her choreographer, the awesome Dani Matte, had some nice things to say about her efforts, gave her a hug and S. was smitten – both with Dani and with the dance they worked on together.

Next up was a lot of practice time, and then the nervousness of performing the routine on the stage….

So intensive

Intensive week is the kick off to the dance season. It’s when the studio brings in amazing guest choreographers from far off places and the dancers dance, and dance, and then dance some more. S. loves intensive week – she couldn’t wait to get back into the studio and do choreography again. She looked forward to it for weeks.

The dancers usually have four classes to attend that run 4-5 hours in total. The guest teachers focus on a particular style of dance, typically jazz, lyrical, contemporary or hip hop. They also work on conditioning, which is meant to strengthen dancers’ muscles so they can perform even better.

I would say S. is in pretty good shape – she continued dance classes through the summer. And lord knows she is always moving. We can’t go anywhere without her doing dance and acro moves. (Dance moms, I’m sure you know how this is!) Even still, dancers need to watch that they don’t overdo anything because an injury will mean they might have to sit on the sidelines the rest of the week.

Intensive weeks (and conventions) are a great way for dancers to work with – and learn from – different choreographers and to try things that may be out of their comfort zone. But they can be grueling physically and emotionally draining.  Don’t be surprised if you find your dancer collapsing in a puddle of tears mid-week due to overtiredness.

Here are a few tips to help your dancer through it:

  • Prepare physically for it. All the dance time will take a toll on the body so if your dancer has been a couch potato in the weeks leading up to intensive it may be a tough week for them!
  • Get lots of sleep.
  • Pack light, nutritious snacks. Be careful not to overeat right before or you will get cramps.
  • Bring lots of water and drink it regularly.
  • After each day have a bath with Epsom salts.
  • Use a roller on sore muscles.
  • Stretch out well before and after each session.
  • Enjoy the hard work, but don’t overdo it.
  • Consider taking your dancer for a massage in the week following intensive.

Most of all, dancers should have fun learning new combos and techniques from different choreographers. Intensive week should be about working hard and trying new things. Don’t forget to thank the choreographers when the session is done!