Tag Archives: Dance

Reflections of a Wannabe Dance Teacher

Trinity_Academy_of_Irish_DanceAs long as I can remember, my life has pretty much revolved around dance. I was three when I first watched an Irish dancing performance, was hooked on Riverdance from the time I was four and my neighbor gave me a VCR. I’ve been taking class the past 12 years of my life, and competing for the last 8. But now I’m seventeen, and it’s time to look into the future: college, a career. How can dance fit into the picture? It’s not easy with all the uncertainty.

The answer came (at least sort of) when I turned up to class too early one day in mid-November, and I watched a beginner doing a move wrong. Normally, I would have let it slide—my teacher would fix it later, when the class wasn’t so large—but, honestly, seeing this step done wrong killed me. So I walked over, and I taught the dancer how to do it properly. My teacher saw, and invited me to come assistant teach the following class. And so I did. Turns out, I love it.

One of the most emotional days of teaching was when I taught a beginner jig to a young dancer. This particular dancer, while talented, would have most likely been better off in our first beginner class, but she had moved into the second level because her friends had been moved up and the class was getting quite large. That Saturday morning, the dancer and I spent a good 45 minutes working on the newly-taught steps. I wrote this “note to myself” after this class:

The life I changed today was not really my own. It was my student’s. [My teacher] said that she’d never seen [the student] so involved, so focused. Today, I reminded a little girl that she can dance. Today, I was the teacher I would have wanted. I did work that I can be proud of, and work that I’m good at. Today was pretty great!!!!!

Continue reading

A Rant about Dance Books

PointeIn the interest of full disclosure, I meant to write about Pointe, the first novel of Brandy Colbert.

However, I quickly realized that everything I was writing became a dance book rant, so I gave up and decided to (officially) write about the challenges of finding a good dance book for someone over the age of 10.

See, generally they fall into one of the several categories below:

1) The Children’s Book.  There is nothing wrong with this form, per se, but there are two ways this book can go: the instruction manual (which is always oversimplified and often inaccurate); and the dance story in which everything is hunky-dory. The characters are always full of promise, dance all the time, and never get injured (I’m looking at you, Ballet Shoes). I understand that no one wants to scare children, or kill their dreams, but this just isn’t reality.

2) The Book Where the Author Has No Clue What They Are Writing About.  We’ve all heard the saying “write what you know.”  Unfortunately, many authors completely forget about this when it comes to writing dance novels. I recently read Withering Tights by Louise Rennison, which I started because the main character was an Irish dancer.  However, I soon realized that Rennison had not done her research: she called one of the moves “twisty ankle things.”  Not only would no self-respecting Irish dancer describe a move like that, but it is not descriptive.  There are so many moves Rennison could mean:

As you can tell, all these moves are very different and all could be described as “twisty ankle things.”

3) The Author Has Actually Done Research And Still Doesn’t Get It.  Even if the author has learned about dance, and really has done their best, it doesn’t mean they can describe dance.  I do understand this: I’ve been dancing for years, and I often cannot describe the sensation of dancing—partly because it may change on a day-to-day basis, but mostly because I can’t really explain to non-dancers how it feels.  Even so, why would one try to write about something they can’t describe?

However, there are a few beacons of hope for people looking for good dance books.  The first is On Pointe, by Lorie Ann Grover.  This is the story of a young dancer forced into early retirement when she grows too tall to dance, and is written in verse.  The second is I Was A Dancer by Jacques D’Amboise, a lovely (if not always perfectly written) memoir.  Finally, try Bunheads by Sophie Flack.  Each of these explains what if feels like to dance, and I’ve re-read these several times.  Happy dancing!

–Emma, Greenwood Teen Adviser


Dylan’s Dance Floor: Inspiration and a Crash Course, Ballet-Style

kathrynmorgandanceIf you are in any size shape or form involved in ballet, I most highly recommend that you chasé right on over to Kathryn Morgan’s YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/user/Tutugirlkem). Morgan followed the path of a prodigy during her youth. She moved to New York when she was 15 to train at the School of American Ballet, and joined New York City Ballet just two years later at the age of 17. After being cast in several leading roles to critical acclaim, she was promoted to soloist, again just two short years after she joined the company. But this prodigious path diverged when she was diagnosed with a very complex and devastating thyroid condition. This forced her to leave New York City Ballet.

However, this diagnosis does not make her a pitiful character. In fact, it is what makes her so inspiring. After she received the right medication for her condition, she started intensive training to get back on the stage, even though many told her that that would never happen. It is when she talks about how she threw caution to the wind and did whatever it took to get back dancing that I am inspired. You can hear the resilience in her voice, and you just know that she will be back very soon. Continue reading

The inside scoop on Irish dance

I recently spent five days surrounded by incredibly talented kids covered in fake tan, wigs, and Swarovski crystals. I realize this reads like an oxymoron, but for those of you who are familiar with Irish dance, you’re probably not surprised. See, the event I’m talking about is the North American Irish Dance Championships, this year held in Montreal, Canada. Over 2,000 Irish dancers from age 7 to adult danced in both team and solo competitions.

Emergency hair pinning.

Emergency hair pinning.

This year, my sister and I were two of these dancers. I competed in the Under 17 B group along with 140 other girls, while Fiona, my sister, was in the Under 13 B group. Our school, Tara Academy of Irish Dance sent 8 dancers, all in the solo competition. Solo dancing competitions involve two to three dances, each judged by three well-trained and well-respected adjudicators. Continue reading


Today, to show how much we love New York City, we’ve got stories from that indomitable city.  Some present, some past, and some from a future we hope never arrives!  Any way you cut the Big Apple, there’s a slice for everyone!

All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin.  In a future where chocolate and caffeine are contraband, teenage cellphone use is illegal, and water and paper are carefully rationed, sixteen-year-old Anya Balanchine finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight as heir apparent to an important New York City crime family.

Bunheads by Sophie Flack.  Hannah Ward, 19, revels in the competition, intense rehearsals, and dazzling performances that come with being a member of Manhattan Ballet Company’s corps de ballet, but after meeting handsome musician Jacob she begins to realize there could be more to her life.

The Diviners by Libba Bray. Evie O’Neill is thrilled when she is exiled from small-town Ohio to New York City in 1926, even when a rash of occult-based murders thrusts Evie and her uncle, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult, into the thick of the investigation.

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork.  Marcelo Sandoval, a 17-year-old boy on the high-functioning end of the autistic spectrum, faces new challenges, including romance and injustice, when he goes to work for his father in the mailroom of a corporate law firm.

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.  HS student Nick O’Leary, member of a rock band, meets college-bound Norah Silverberg and asks her to be his girlfriend for five minutes in order to avoid his ex-sweetheart.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.  As her mother prepares to be a contestant on the 1980s television game show, The $20,000 Pyramid, a 12-year-old New York City girl tries to make sense of a series of mysterious notes received from an anonymous source that seems to defy the laws of time and space.

Do you have a favorite NYC book?  Or movie?  Tell us about it!

Dancing in School

Ballroom-DancingThe typical day to day activities in my Spanish class are doing worksheets, practicing pronunciation and answering questions. Recently however, instead of doing the normal day-to-day stuff, we got to dance! A dance instructor came in and taught us how to do a bit of the cha-cha, salsa, and mambo. The cha-cha also called the cha-cha-cha originated in Cuba in 1953 and is counted in 4/4 time. The salsa, derived from a dance called the Cuban Son and is danced with eight beats. The mambo originated in Cuba and is counted in fours.
We started off with some warm ups and weight changing exercises, basically shifting our weight from one foot to the other. Then we got to incorporate some Spanish and practiced counting so we could keep time while we were dancing. First we learned a few different moves from each style of dance. Then we learned how to do pivot turns and how to spot ourselves while turning. At the end we got to put it all together into a several minute dance. It was really nice to get out of the classroom and get to experience more of the Spanish culture, rather than just talking about it.
If you would like to learn more about Latin American dancing you can check out this book, entitled Latin American Dancing from your local library.
There are also many other books about latin American dancing or any type of dance. It was really nice to have this opportunity and I hope you can enjoy this art in some way too, whether that is through a book, on television, in movies, or even doing the dances yourself.
Maddie, Northeast Teen Adviser

Swing Time

Ever since 6th grade, I have had a love for the famous dancing couple of the thirties, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. They did 10 movies together, but for me, one stands alone.

Swing Time follows the basic thirties romantic comedy musical storyline. Boy meets girl. They fall in love. Boy makes mistake. Girl is upset and does something stupid (such as becoming engaged to a man she doesn’t love, or ignoring the boy for an extended period). Boy redeems himself. They live happily ever after. (With a few songs and dances in between).

But Swing Time is different simply because of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Although there may be a weak story line, the dancing is spectacular as are the costumes and the music. Astaire and Rogers’ dances are always flawless and fit the music perfectly. Fred Astaire was always known as a perfectionist and as a result, his dances are astounding. Every time I watch them dance, I get a “a thrill” (as Anne Shirley would say).

Watch Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ Swing Time Dance

Borrow this movie from SPL- Swing Time

-Mack, 16

Teen Center Advisor