Category Archives: General

What’s in your dance bag? Ballet Edition!

Welcome to guest blogger Adult Beginner, who writes about the journey of ballet as a grown-up lady at her blog. If you haven’t checked it out, you SHOULD; she’s funny and smart and insightful and very honest. And she draws fantastic pictures! So thanks, Adult Beginner, for letting us take a peek into your dance bag! This is the second installment of our “What’s in Your Dance Bag?” feature – see the previous post, and read the comments from other savvy dancers talking about their dance must-haves.

Adult Beginner

Huh, pink and black or GTFO, I guess.

From left to right:

1.) Bobby pins. Everywhere. Forever.

2.) Scünci hair band, for keeping it smooooooth.

3.) Sansha Nijinsky full-sole leather ballet slippers, in the mesh bag. That mesh bag is brilliant marketing. I would almost stick with Sansha for life just for the thrill of that mesh bag.

4.) Capezio split-sole canvas ballet slippers. Don’t remember the style name for these. If it was stamped on the bottom somewhere it has long since worn off. The canvas makes a prettier pink color and texture than the leather, but man they get dirty! Gross, sorry for your eyes, you guys.

5.) Sansha Pro 1C split-sole leather ballet slippers, in mesh bag, yay.

6.) Black cotton Motion Wear shortie-shorts, because I constantly worry that I will forget my skirt or shorts or whatever and will be forced to do ballet in just tights and a leotard. That is just way less clothing than I’m interested in. Therefore, shorts in the bag.

7.) The bag itself: just a dumb old cotton tote. Bags with pockets and zippers and compartments and phone holders and magnetic closures and buckles and things seem great for organizing all your business, but in reality they just add weight on the shoulders. A plain old tote is so much easier and lighter. And can be thrown in the washing machine.

What else is usually in there: water bottle. Sometimes a pair of leg warmers. Phone is in my purse. Same for lip balm. That’s all a girl needs.

Stay tuned as we feature more guest bloggers in the coming weeks and look at what’s in THEIR dance bags. Thanks again to Adult Beginner  – seriously, check her out!

Advertisements
Tagged , , , ,

What’s in your dance bag?

Ever wonder what’s in those big ol’ bags dancers carry everywhere? I do! Because I’m unbelievably nosy curious!

So in the spirit of full disclosure, I’m opening up my dance bag. Here’s the essential stuff I drag around every day, that I can’t leave home without.

But what I really want to know is, what’s in YOUR dance bag?

What's in your dance bag?Don’t leave home without a way to send out aweome jams into everyone’s ears! I’m a huge fan of the Mini Jambox by Jawbone – in fact, it’s saved my butt more times than I can count. Usually when I head to a studio to teach, they have a sound system, but sometimes speakers are on the fritz, or the giant tangle of cables is not worth the ten minutes it’ll take to unravel, or there’s just generalized technical difficulty in the air. This little bluetooth speaker packs some serious sound, and it fills up a room without being obnoxious or tinny. Paired with my iPhone, I can pretty much create a mobile dance studio sound system wherever I go. (Also great for travel, teaching on the road, or in clients’ homes!) The battery lasts forever, it pairs flawlessly with any bluetooth device, and it comes in a ton of fun colors.

Don’t leave home without Spotify, either. This app (available for iPhone and Android) is a dancer’s best friend. Instantly stream any music you could possibly think of, right from your phone! The free version is fantastic, but Shawn and I happily pay the $10/month subscription – that lets us stream anything ad-free, forever, and it also gives the option to download files to your device in case you’re in a no-bars situation. Search by artist, song title, album, as well as playlist – seriously, you can search “standard foxtrot” and press play on a pre-made playlist that will have you gliding across the floor in strict tempo. It’s an amazing way to find new music, old favorites, and specialty tunes!

1.) My choreography notebook. I always have this bad boy with me. I like to jot down ideas, keep track of fixes in choreography or routines, write out timing, and generally take notes on lessons. I love using this music notebook by Moleskine; in case I need to write out a little bit of a melody or a rhythm, it makes my life a lot easier. Plus I love seeing a page that reminds me where dancing is coming from – it’s a creative reminder to keep the music in mind!

2.) Apples. You guys, I love apples. They travel well, they’re delicious, they’re crispy and juicy, and I am never without one. I’m at least an apple a day person, but usually more like two or three. It’s a major grocery store emergency at home when we run out of apples – in fact, one of the crisper draws in the fridge is the Apple Drawer. What else would you put in there? Dude. Apples.

3.) KIND bars. Okay, here’s the thing. I get really grumpy when I’m hungry. And I love snacks. (For real, the first question about any party or event I always ask is, “so, what kind of snacks do you think they’ll have?”) Obviously apples are my favorite go-to, but sometimes an apple alone can’t get the job done. Or I’m hungry and I discover that I’ve already eaten the only apple in my bag (DISASTER!). I’m a huge fan of KIND’s bars – they’re made with all natural ingredients, no chemicals, and they’re available in a ton of fun options. I’m not a sweets person, so I really like their savory flavors (honey almond BBQ, jalapeño, sea salt and dark chocolate, etc). I like KIND bars that are low in sugars and high in protein to help keep my energy up between lessons. (All their products are also gluten-free, non-GMO, and kosher.) Plus they survive in my bag, don’t fall apart, and taste great even when I discover one four days later and go, “oooh, hey, snack bonus!”

4.) Burt’s Bees White Tea Extract towlettes. Let’s face it. Sometimes dancing is a sweaty business. Or sometimes you have on a full face of makeup and JUST CAN’T HANDLE IT anymore. I keep these guys in my dance bag to make sure that I can always freshen up after taking class, before a lesson, or after a performance or at the end of a night of dancing. They’re easy on the skin, remove makeup tolerably well (don’t expect too much), and are pretty cheap. That’s a win.

5.) My boy shoes. I have so, so many pairs of shoes. It’s ridiculous. Some I keep for specific reasons (“hey, what if I need to dance outside on concrete in at least a two inch heel but I don’t want to wear a black shoe?”), some I keep because I’m lazy (“hey, I should throw these awa– oh, forget it, I’ll deal with that later”), and some just are…around (“wait, when did I even buy these? I really do not think I have ever seen these shoes before…”). But for most teaching and general purpose practicing, I like to wear a boy’s Cuban heel Latin shoe. (“Boy” because I have small feet and a men’s shoe is still too big.) It gives me enough stability to lead anything, but still enough of a heel to be up off the ground. And, well, usually kids’ shoes are a little cheaper than real ladies’ practice shoes, and boy’s shoes tend to be wider in the toebox which is good for my wide, flat, no-arch-having feet. I love my boy shoes. My go-to shoe of choice in the high heels department is, of course, the unstoppable and unbelievably awesome Ray Rose Drizzle (slim heel in gold).

Not pictured: about a thousand hair ties, my makeup bag, and, three earrings (none of which match), and receipts for about 239842098034234 cups of coffee.

So! What’s in YOUR dance bag? (Tell us in the comments!)

Tagged , , , ,

There are no mistakes on the dance floor

For real. I really mean it. I see you not believing me. That's why I also wrote WORDS. Ha hah!

For real. I really mean it. I see you not believing me. That’s why I also wrote WORDS. Ha hah!

There are no mistakes on the dance floor. What we think of as a “mistake” is really an shortcoming in perception, a failure to perceive what someone else is putting out there.

Hey, here’s a crazy idea. What would happen if we started to really BELIEVE that about our dancing?

Well, instead of starting every conversation with, “here’s what went wrong,” we might get to really appreciate our own and our partner’s creativity. We might be more open to new ideas, to new ways of doing things. We might dance in and with our bodies instead of getting mad at them for betraying us at the crucial moment. (Et tu, corpus?) We might listen to the music.

The really nutball thing is, we all know how freakin’ awesome those states of being are. We’ve all experienced them, at some time or another, even if only for a few seconds. It’s why we keep dancing! 

But what if we really BELIEVED that there are no mistakes on the dance floor? I mean, it sounds good and all, and it’s a nice thought, but who really BELIEVES it?

This cat does. Stefon Harris is a slammin’ jazz musician – he plays the vibraphone. Dude, anybody who literally PLAYS VIBES knows good vibes when he lays ’em down. And he gave a really great TED talk about this very idea. There are no mistakes on the bandstand, he said, and then he goes on to prove it.

There are a lot of excuses we can all make about why that might be true for Stefon but not for us, but here’s my challenge: try it.

Seriously. What are you out? It’s free (recession friendly!), it’s totally internal (you don’t even have to TELL anybody you’re changing your perspective), and if it sucks, you can blow it off and go back to rolling along how you usually do. But try it. Go into your next lesson, your next social dance, your next comp, or just your next practice in front of a mirror and say, “hey, there are no mistakes here, just chances to be better at perception. Rock on.”

I’m here to say: I’m a believer.

Tagged ,

Therapy

We say it all the time with students, but it’s equally true on the other side…

…dancing is therapy. And not always the nice kind with hugs and happy places (although it can be). There is something about dance and the teaching that demands – at least if you want to do it really well – total and unflinching honesty.

It sucks. And it is not a pleasant or easy process. Every time I think I’ve got a handle on things, something turns around and smacks me in the face, reminding me that, no, I do not have it all together, and yes, I need to do better.

So, okay. Tomorrow I will do better, at least a little bit. (Tonight I am going to have a glass of wine and go to bed.)

Ask a Ballroom Dancer

There is a saying that goes, “do the thing you love and you will never work a day in your life,” and it makes me wonder how having made dancing your life’s work has affected how you feel about it, overall. Also, do you ever have a chance to just go out and boogie with someone who can keep up with you, and if you do, do you still really dig it? I’ve often wondered how dancing all day long and putting up with the likes of me affects my beloved teachers.

– M. C.

(1) “Do the thing you love and you will never work a day in your life” = bullshit. Of course you will. Because even if you do the thing you love, you probably do not love all the stupid crap associated with it. Do I love teaching dance and making people happy? Totally! Know what I do not love? The shitty hours, the shitty money, the damage to my body, stupid administrative business foolishness that is necessary for the studio to run, the constant ridiculous petty drama with other dancers, etc etc etc etc. Is it worth it? Well, duh, of course it is, or I would leave and go do something else.

Also, I work super super hard. This is by far the hardest job I have ever had, emotionally or physically. I take exception to the idea that if you do something you are passionate about, it isn’t work. Of course it is. I work so much harder at this because I care about it. In fact, I was just having a conversation with my partner on this subject today.

He was like, “You are so intense! I am used to being the super intense person in a partnership, but you totally care about this even more than I do, which is crazy, because I thought I was the most committed person, like, ever.”

And he’s right. I take it super seriously and I work really, really hard. Is it a silly glittery thing? Yes. But I am dead fucking serious about it sometimes. And where my students are concerned, I am as serious as a heart attack. You have to be, because you can damage people SO easily. Folks who are learning how to dance are often in a really vulnerable place and you have to respect that and not fuck it up.

So I think my version of this saying would be, “Do the thing you love and work your ass off doing it, and all the bullshit you have to put up with will be worth it.”

(2) I don’t go out social dancing, like, ever. I would say that I social dance probably once every two months or so, and it’s usually fun? but not fun enough to make me want to do it at the end of a day of work. But this is also down to the fact that I am actually an introvert and after a day of people the last thing I want to do is see more people. I want to sit in my house by myself and not have anybody need anything from me. I don’t think everybody is like that. I have some colleagues who never social dance because they don’t enjoy it and others who go out dancing all the time.

(2a) I do love dancing, though, whether it’s with my partner or with other professionals or with students. That is always fun. Social dancing just means putting up with the socializing bullshit and making of small talk with randoms, and that’s what can be blah about it at the end of the day. (Besides, sometimes it is nice to do something that doesn’t involve me changing my shoes.) But practicing, or social dancing with people I know and like already…that is super fun.

(2b) Plus there’s the issue of what a small world the dance community is and how much I do or don’t feel like dealing with the people I will inevitably encounter. There are a lot of assholes. I went out salsa dancing this one time and there was this douchebag who was running the event, like he taught the class beforehand and it was kind of his thing at this random bar. And he asks me to dance and I am like, eh, I guess? because he seemed like a tool. And he was, because there was this one mirror in the whole bar and he danced right in front of it the whole time and watched himself dance. When he asked me, he was like, yeah, so, have you ever done salsa before? And I was like, sure. And then he figured out I could actually dance. Idiot. So halfway through the song I deliberately overturned something and made it more awesome and then stopped and apologized.

“Oh my gosh,” I said, “I am SO sorry.”

“No, no, no!” he said, “That was cool! You didn’t do it wrong.”

“Oh, I know THAT,” I said. “I just feel terrible that you aren’t facing that mirror anymore. Let’s turn back so you can watch yourself dance for the rest of the song.”

He got kind of stammery and weird and kept facing away from the mirror and led a lot of basics. Douche.

Have a question? Ask a ballroom dancer! Submit your questions in the comments or email to againstlineofdance@gmail.com. I can’t be much help on your taxes, legal problems, or math homework, but anything else should be cool.

Tagged , , , ,

Gross.

I hate being sick.

I almost never get sick – I don’t have allergies, I have a super tough immune system, and I can eat like basically anything and be good. I am kind of like a goat.

Gregory Goat, you are such a terrible eater!

But every once in awhile, I get legit sick. And the problem is, you absolutely CANNOT go to work at a studio and dance with people if you are sick. Why? Well, DUH:

  1. it’s disgusting
  2. you will probably get your students and co-workers sick too
  3. it’s SOOOOOO GROSS to dance with somebody who’s sniffly and dripping mucus
  4. there’s no way you can have good energy and what not if you are trying to focus all your effort on breathing without coughing like a TB ward

Yet people will come to work sick. And come in for lessons sick. Uncool, people! Very uncool!

(I felt bad that I had to go in for half an hour to pick up work and call my students to clear my schedule for the day. I was all, please swab down everything I touched with some Clorox wipes, I am such a Typhoid Mary.)

Don’t be that monkey from Outbreak. Stay home. For real.

Maybe if I bedazzled one of these it would work…

*     *     *

In other news, I have a partner! Or, I should say, more accurately, I have a person who wants to dance with me and with whom I also want to dance and if everything goes properly and neither of us gets hit by a bus or fired or has a foot spontaneously fall off, then by November/December-ish it should be happening. It’s super exciting!

But I am trying to not get too far ahead of myself – it’s not a thing until it’s a thing, you know? Like, I keep telling myself, don’t go picking out costumes before we’ve even had our first session with our coach. But it’s the best news in forever on the partner front, and I’m really pleased about it. Yay! So that makes being sick more palatable, I guess!

*     *     *

Next time: I review fake nails from the drugstore that cost way less than getting those bitches done at a salon! (I have to do my nails for a little comp on Saturday so I might as well take some pictures and SAY MY OPINIONS, right?)

 

 

Tagged , , , , ,

Cleaning!

So, no, I’m not dead in a ditch somewhere, but my apartment looks like maybe I have been?

Perhaps that’s because I roll through the door, throw shit on the floor and pass out for like six hours before dragging my ass out of bed again to put on a different set of lycra or spandex or whatever and go throw my legs around for some grander purpose.

So I am cleaning. It’s awesome.

PS – Thanks everybody who commented on the body policing post; I have some more thoughts about that when I have a minute to translate them into actual words!

PPS – If you have any desire to READ about cleaning instead of actually doing it (which I often do), go read everything that Jolie says. She is such a clean person and she knows how to get anything out of anything!

Tagged

It’s chickpeas? Shut up.

(presented in no particular order)

*     *     *

So the potential partner definitely blew me off. That’s par for the course. At least this time I actually danced with the dude before the blow off! Although, of course, this being ballroom, I just haven’t gotten a call back for two weeks. That qualifies as a Not Happening in my book.

I really wish DudeBro McLeaderson would’ve had the cojones to just call me and say, listen, you’re great, it’s not gonna work, thanks so much have a nice liiiiiife…

But no. Instead I am going to have to track his lazy ass down and make him actually say it so that there is closure and it’s not weird the next time I see him which will inevitably happen given that the ballroom community has like twelve people in it, half of whom are mad at/screwing/screwing OVER/have been screwed over by the other half.

It’s fine if you don’t want to dance with me. That’s super valid. But don’t be a tool. Just fucking man up and call me.

But then, if you could do that you could probably show up to a rehearsal on time (or at all) which is also not a strength. So that’s a whole thing. Whatever.

*     *     *

I made these weird cookies. I don’t know, I kind of like them. But they’re legit weird. So they were a thing I found on the internet (she said with trepidation) and it seemed like a SUPER GOOD IDEA at the time and I just happened to have 100% of the necessary foo-foo gluten free fancy schmancy ass ingredients in my kitchen. And to the credit of the nice lady who put up all the pretty pictures, they seem like a fantastic idea. THIS IS WHY I WAS SUCKED IN.

Do mine look like this? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, no.

Right? But, so, yeah. These “cookies” (or whatever, baked good kind of deal) are chickpeas, natural peanut butter, agave syrup, vanilla, and baking powder. You toss all that in a food processor and blend the shit out of it.

So, it turns out I am not really 100% sure how to use my food processor? I bought it once and used it immediately (probably with the benefit of the goddamn instructions, which are now LONG GONE) and so I had to use a lot of trial and error. Mostly error. Because this dough shit is basically cement – at one point there was literally smoke coming out of the motor. This, I thought, was probably not a good sign.

But eventually I figured it out using my ape-brain and opposable thumbs and managed to blend together all the shit into a dough-like substance which was sticky as hell. And in the recipe the internet lady put in chocolate chips but it turned out that all I had were milk chocolate chips which I HATE so I had to find the only dark chocolate in my house which was half a bag of dark chocolate Hershey’s kisses. Right?

So I unwrap some of those bastards and throw them in, thinking (like a dumbass) that if I hit pulse they will get chopped up into chocolate chip type things. Uh, no. That is not how food processors work (see above). Turns out it just blended the shit out of the couple of kisses I did science with and turned the whole chickpea cement kind of chocolatey.

(ALLITERATION! Not just for foods with gluten.)

At which point I said, Fuck this, this whole experiment has ceased to be entertaining plus now I am realizing that I have to clean my goddamn food processor and remembering why I sometimes just give up and buy plastic silverware instead of, you know, doing dishes…. so I slapped those bitches onto a pan and threw a Hershey’s kiss on top of each one, reckoning that even if the cookie things were a total loss, at least I would get a warm Hershey’s kiss out of the operation.

Chocolate chickpea peanut butter goddamn pain in my ass cement cookie things…

And IN THE END, they were actually pretty fucking tasty. For a cement chickpea cookie thing. Don’t get crazy, it’s not foie gras or anything. But still. Fuck food processors and fuck me for occasionally thinking that I can actually do things that I have NO BUSINESS DOING.

*     *     *

I really want this dress from Espen Salberg. Which is stupid, I have no dollars and no business buying a super cute dress but it is calling to me! It is saying BUY ME YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO MAYBE YOU WILL LOOK LIKE THIS COOL CHICA IN THE PICTURE IF YOU DOOOOO….

Espen Salberg Leopard Cowl Dress

Psssht, dress, you crazy. I don’t even have bangs!

*     *     *

Maybe I should get BANGS. I need a haircut, for reals.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Citius, Altius, Fortius

Several thoughts about the Olympics:

(1) Probably my single most favorite thing to watch on television, ever.

(2) I am SO GLAD dancesport is not in the Olympics. I am pleased that idea seems to have died out.

(3) Go Team USA!

image

Tagged , , ,

Finding a dance partner

…is like all the bad parts of dating with none of the good parts.

Truly, in many ways, the bitch about partner dancing is the necessity of having a partner. I think that the amateurs have it the toughest; at least as a pro you are around a whole bunch of ridiculous idiots who might conceivably be looking for partners on any given Sunday.  As a pro-am dancer, you can keep rolling through pros till you find one you like, or until you have to give your house back to the bank because you spent all your money on lessons.

No matter what your status, what discipline you compete in, or what style you dance, there’s no denying that finding a partner is an epic pain in the ass.

So. There are a couple ways to go about it:

  1. Be born into a family of ballroom dancers/Russians/whatever and get set up with one from the age of 4.
  2. Be stunningly beautiful or otherwise physically extraordinary.
  3. Be a dude. (There are always extra ladies and even shit male dancers are spoiled for choice in the partner department.)
  4. Be a big-deal champion.

Are you any of those things? NO? That is very careless of you.

If you are not, then you have to rely on a couple other venues. As a pro, the easiest and best possible thing is to partner with someone who teaches in your proximity (either in your actual studio or at one of your regular haunts). It’s simple to set up practices and you are guaranteed to see each other every day. Great.

Did you manage that?

No?

Everybody you work with is either already partnered or not interested in dancing with you or actively despises you or is an unbearable ass or is just honestly terrible at dancing or does not dance the style you want?

CARELESS.

You can throw some ads up on the internets – http://www.dancepartner.com and http://www.ballroomdancers.com are the most common, and although you might think that sounds like a great idea, I am here to tell you from extensive personal experience that you are not going to be turning up a high percentage of winners.

Why? Because the best place to find a serious competitive partner is on the competition floor, but you, because you are NOT TRYING HARD ENOUGH, have not managed to GET on the competition floor recently because…why? Because you do not have a partner. Careless.

So. You have one other option.

Find yourself a Yente and hope she sends up something useful. You put the word out EVERYWHERE – but most especially through coaches and judges – and you hope that people like you well enough to send someone decent your way.

Even if you do manage to find a prospect who is viable, there’s all the regular negotiation bullshit that one would have to do in dating.

Can you get along, do you have similar goals, can you work productively? Added to which are the essential questions you aren’t supposed to ask (out loud, to someone’s face) in dating: do you look good together, are your body types compatible, will you look ridiculous standing to next to one another? Is this someone you can actually invest in, or will he flake the minute someone/something better/more shiny/a squirrel comes along?

Needle, meet haystack. Haystack, needle.

Needle: “Haystack, you are too tall / too short / too old / too full of hay / don’t have enough hay / have terrible leg action / trained with the wrong coaches / don’t sufficiently appreciate my amazingness.”

Haystack: “I just feel like you’re really pointy? And I am just really looking for something less pointy right now…”

It sucks. I have begun my legit appeasls to Yente; it should be completely meshuggeneh. But it will be 100% worth if I can find even one mensch. And by that, I mean: someone tall enough, not acutely horrible, who will dance with me.

(It’s a low bar.)

Tagged , , , , , , ,