Dance

The Recipe*

Coming to Portugal, I lost a part of my identity by leaving behind my dance studies and my HipHop crew. It was soon obvious, that while there is a really good ballet academy 2 minutes from my apartment (which I soon joined to keep up with ballet. RAD class award this summer =)), there is NO HipHop community here at all. Well, not that I expected that. I’m in a mountain village, it would have been a wonder 😀
From The beginning on I was supposed to teach youngsters here in my EVS, which would have at least keep me connected to HipHop in general, even when without input from the outside, but due to simply no room available at the right hours, it was impossible.
A few days before Christmas I got the opportunity to teach 60min workshops for a few classes together (usually too many) on the last day before the holidays. Obviously I jumped to the opportunity, developed a choreography (ThriftShop) and had a lot of fun. It was soon obvious that the kids loved it – a lot of adults watched too. So as soon as I returned from Germany after the New Year, someone had been able to find a room. And off we went 😀 Only my project’s kids are allowed to participate, although I got many requests from kids from the school. The inscription list was full fast so I even had to consider if I can take new students in because the room is not that big. AND of course without a mirror. But so far not every student can come every time (the project is during their free time, at that time of the day they are waiting for their bus, but sometimes they have extra classes or get picked up by parents), so I don’t think I have to worry much about that.

Anyway. We started. And I was soon amazed how much talent there is! =) Who expected that, from students who never danced before?! I can even do a lot of technique with them, no complaining … Language barriers? Nah … My Portuguese is already on a level where I can usually communicate without problems, it’s way easier to teach in Portuguese than I had thought.

But back to topic. I actually wanted to talk about teaching without a mirror and teaching in general today 😀

I had thought it would be SO difficult without a mirror. And of course, for them some correction is missing and they can’t control their own movements in the mirror (“Is my arm straight?”), but apart from that? Nearly no problems =)
I had taught classes earlier already, but only for substituting or as a workshop, this was my first ever regular group. So before starting I thought quite some time about how I want to teach, what I don’t want, in which way I want to encourage them, etc. I liked the structure of my trainer in Germany, but there were some things I didn’t like and also a certain time restriction (45 instead of 90minutes n sometimes longer with my crew…). I especially disliked that her students depended on her SO much. She danced with them 95% of the time, so if they were asked to dance without her, they usually failed totally – apart from a few, who had a good memory for choreography and a good feeling for rhythm etc. I was sure that this does not have to be like this. Studying dance, I got used to teachers showing something until everyone had understood the movement, showing it again next class, maybe a 3rd at max and then we were on our own. Talking about daily classes of course.
So I experimented. Also, because without a mirror I won’t be able to watch their progress at all if I can’t turn around. So from week 1, after showing some simple basic steps and a few repetitions, I turned around and mirrored their movements. After 2 runthroughs, I only marked. Then I stopped at all. And you know what? It worked extremely well!
Then I tried the same, but slower, with the choreography we started (we also started that one out very slow in general, as it’s not that easy).

The result of this? In week 3, I can go to the back of the room, and film them doing our choreography (~1min right now) – and the first few seconds were PERFECTLY SYNCHRONIZED, exact movements, nice timing, even with accents. Because that is something else I didn’t like with my teachers – we learned the movements to the music, but always just in “some way”. She was rarely exact about what and how we are going to do stuff. That left a lot of room for self development, which can be very nice – but unfortunately instead a lot of movements were very “wischi-waschi” (German term), which means like nothing exactly at all. Just a mess of arms and legs. Sometimes it was hard to even recognise the movement our trainer gave us. I personally believe, that even given exact movements with exact accents etc there is enough room to develop your own style. Ask 2 professional dancers to mirror a movement you do, and they will never look exactly the same. And how could they?! Every body and every mind is different.

So I’m really proud of my students and happy with the way I am teaching now. It’s exactly what I always missed. Still, sometimes a mirror would be great, a bigger room would be great, definitely regular coming students would be great (we’ll have to see, this week due to some school activities most were missing, the 3 weeks before it was way better), and more than 45min would definitely be great. Nothing is ever perfect 😉

But so far it’s great and I’m happy to do it. As a last thing, I’ll share my playlist for the class. I don’t use every song in every class, but this is the playlist I used for the past 4 weeks – the choreography is to Dark Horse btw 😉

Warm-Up / Technique:
Chris Brown – Turn Up The Music
Mr Probz – Waves (Robin Schulz Radio Edit)

Basic Steps:
Kendrick Lamar – Swimming Pools (Drank)
Missy Elliot – Wake Up
Nico and Vinz – Am I Wrong
Mind Da Gap – Guerreiros

Choreography:
Sam The Kid – O povo unido…
BeyoncĂ© – Lose My Breath
Katy Perry – Dark Horse (feat. Juicy J)

Stretching:
Mind Da Gap – Aqui Nos Mantemos
The Black Eyed Peas – Where Is The Love?

*The title is a song from Kendrick Lamar. Definitely go check him out 😉

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paleo diet?

hey there –

first, i really have to apologize for yesterday’s blog. man, i read through it again in the evening and my english was so fucked up … that’s what happens when you write your blog at work in a hurry (same thing i do now … oh well). so, SO sorry you had to read this – my english is definitely better than that.

on another term, have you heard about the paleo diet? do you practice it? do you know someone doing it? i’ve read frequently about it and i love the approach. but i personally have two problems with it:

1. i don’t like meat. i’m no vegetarian but if it wasn’t for minced meat i could as well be one.

2. as an athlete i’m not sure how this fits together with the diet. as far as i know, high-performance athletes, like full-time dancers, need more carbs than the rest of the world. with paleo, you get your main carbs through meat (there you have point one again).

anyway, i like many aspects and i plan to try to follow them. as in, no convenienced products, lesser grain, lesser dairy products. i already eat nothing but fruits and vegetables during the day because i don’t feel the hunger in training and i can survive the time during stretching and traveling home until dinner. there are a lot diets based on the “no carbs for dinner” concept, but that didn’t work for me at all. i ended up feeling fat in class and hungry in the evening, so i decided that i’d go for no carbs during the day. works perfect!
i’ll try to find something different for breakfast, too. currently i eat muesli every single morning and have done so for – i don’t know, all my life? but there you have it, milk and grain together. i’ll try to go for scrambled eggs instead, but i usually eat breakfast at work which makes this a lot harder …

so, what about you? how do you eat?

love,
Lenny

progress, progress, progress

having stopped this blog pretty soon again after starting it (let’s just admit, i have too little time and am too lazy for this kind of stuff), i just decided i’d give it a go again.
why not record my progresses in dance, even if it’s just my kind of diary, and no one reads it? so what?!

for anyone who just might read this, and doesn’t know me, i’m a very late starter. 4 years of non-pro ballroom until 2009, nothing until 2011, hip hop in 2011, adding jazz in spring and finally ballet in summer 2012 – until suddenly (as sudden to me as to everyone) getting accepted at a private dance academy here in berlin to become a professional contemporary dancer. (yes, berlin, so there’s my excuse for any english mistakes, sry guys.)

so yes, that’s my very very short way to become a dancer (though deep inside i kinda know i’ve probably ever been one) – and that’s the reason how very far my way to being really good is. starting with posture, alignment, using my center, weight (i am the kind of normal weight girl, when all the boys say, you’re pretty fine, you yourself think it’s too much and you don’t like bikinis. yes, that kind of the 90% of every women in the world, that’s me too – yet) and technique. there are some basics to (non-ballroom) dance i wasn’t aware of and i often see myself learning something new everytime. by now i’ve been in school for 6 months, and i’ve grown thousands of muscles (feels like it anyway) and worked hard on everything i could get my hands on.and everyday i still think – there’s so much to do! but i also see the differences, just like everyone around me. my posture has become far better (being a former computer scientist you can only imagine how bad it was), i’m actually using my center in everyday life (only yesterday i realized that it has actually become akward to let my stomach really go, apparently i’m straining those muscles a bit all the time now, at least when standing).
one of my biggest problems is still rushing things. i often don’t even realize, but i soon rush from one movement to the other, without enjoying the movement itself – which makes me being ahead of time pretty often. but well, at least i know what the problem is and keep working on it all the time.without this solved, i’ll never look as good as anyone else.
on the other hand my biggest advantage is definitely learning fast. i learn choreographys much faster than most people and so can start working on myself sooner. though i tend to still concentrate on the choreography too much other than “just fuck the combination” (quote by my cunningham teacher) and concentrate on my technique.

and, last point for today – stretch, of course. a year and a half ago, before i started with hip hop and stretching at least once a week, my stretch was awful. having never stretched for ballroom or any other sport i did (oh, the growin sport addiction, a topic for another time), that was exactly how i looked. i could knock myself over for having been happy to at least being able to touch my toes on straight legs when standing. xD
on the other hand this is what really keeps me motivated when stretching. a year and a half ago, i could barely reach my toes, i would have never dreamed of splits, and sitting on the floor folding myself onto my legs or between my legs in second.
and today? i have my hands flat on the floor, arms bend, i can easily lay my head on my legs on the floor, i’m not far from my nose touching the ground in second and only 2 weeks ago i’m SO close to my left front split (on best days, front leg is flat on the ground, but back leg still slightly bend and about 3-5cm above the ground) and not much farther away on the right side (side split is still quite a bit away, but oh well, most of my class mates aren’t able to as well, though doing years of ballet). just finally ordered a deuser band for myself, to getting this one, too. and a better arabesque, my back leg (together with my back itself), ist just far too immobile. i’m really grateful for having two heights at the barre, i’m nearly looking at the ground when having my left leg on the higher barre (yeah, go laugh, i think it looks damn funny too!) – and no, right leg isn’t really better. anyone any tips for a better arabesque, maybe with deuser band? (apart from the around-the-foot-opposite-shoulder thing, i already know that one)

so it’s work, work, work, everyday. but knowing i only started such a short time ago and seeing where i am now, compared to my class mates having done ballet and other dance since being 6 or 7, i’m extremely proud of myself. though i sometimes wonder, where i’d be now if i’d started then, too.
okay guys, sorry for boring you, next time just don’t read 😀 if you actually have some thoughts, i’d love to hear them, so just comment (haha, as if anyonewould read this – well, mandatory sentence, right?).

i’ll really try to keep this up a sa diary of my own progress (just proving myself there is some).

love,
Lenny

dance music

wow. here i am, second post within 24 hours.

anyway, i think every dancer and every dance teacher is confronted with this problem from time to time: which music to use for class / solo / group performance etc.
i personally think that the music is extremely important for the performance. with the right music, music you can really feel in your body you dance wholly different. i experience it in class again and again when there’s a great new song my teacher has. i also experienced it at my audition where we had to study a short jazz combo – at first it went kind of okay, i did not know all the movements – and then the music started. it was a really good song and it was played extremely loud – suddenly i really was into it, i had so much fun and i think that is what got me into that school.

so, everything kinda depends on the music. i’d like to introduce to you some of my favourite songs – all of them can be unusual for the dance style i like them for but trust me – try it out!

hip hop / street dance
B.o.B. Ft. Hayley Williams – Airplanes
Beyonce Knowles – Run The World (Girls)
Black Eyed Peas – B.E.P. Empire
Jay-Z – Dirt Off Your Shoulder
Kanye West – Gold Digger
Kanye West – Monster
Kanye West – Hell Of  A Life
Missy Elliot ft. Omarion – Wiggle
Missy Elliot – Scream a.k.a. Itchin
Nicki Minaj – Super Bass
Sheek Louch – Maybe If I Sing
Caleb Mak – The Joker
Ting Tings – That’s Not My Name
Wiz Khalifa – Black and Yellow

jazz dance:
Florence & The Machine – Heavy In Your Arms (actually this one was my song for my solo performance for the audition)
Birdy – Skinny Love
Timbaland – Apologize
Fiona Apple – Paper Bag
Sia – Breathe Me
Peggy Lee – Fever
Charlotte Martin – The Dance
Charlotte Martin – Everytime It Rains
Placebo – Song To Say Goodbye

okay, so i suppose that’s it. my personal favourite dance playlist 🙂 there are missing a few songs i unfortunately wasn’t able to find out the artist (trust me, i tried soundhound, googling the lyrics, etc), i think they’re from lesser known djs.

dance and dreams

do you dance?

i do. i’ve done since i was 14 I think, i.e. more than 7 years. back then i’ve been doing ballroom and loved it. i actually only started because of a guy i liked who was looking for a partner. and then suddenly i found myself loving to dance. i realized i had so much more self-esteem when  dancing i transferred into someone else. and i seemed to have a kind of talent for it. i never danced before, but i was very good at remembering figures and whole choreos. and i apparently have a talent to catch movements very fast.

4 years later my class split up and my great partner left to another fucking country. i started to study then but i always missed the dancing. i tried to find a new partner, but didn’t succeed. my boyfriend was not really interested.
so i started to try myself out. i had a modern dance class at my college but i didn’t like it very much and so i decided that solo dancing was not for me. i also tried some salsa with my boyfriend, but still, he wasn’t interested in carrying on.

and then i got frustrated. i missed dancing very very much – i hadn’t danced for 2 years. so i decided i should try out solo dancing again – but no modern this time. i booked a streetdance class. though hip hop was never my style of music i still loved everything with a really really good beat.

finally i had it. in october 2011 i had found a gorgeous teacher who really has some tempo in her class where it’s sometime hard to even keep up. i came hom from my first class with a broad smile on my face because i had learned very much in that one class and i loved it. this was not my teacher’s only class and i ended up doing hip hop in an advanced class and jazz dance soon after. there’s even a crew performing some shows whom i joined after only 3 months of training.
i got known as the one who remembers all choreos. my teacher even started to look at me if she had a blackout. realizing my posture was not the best i also started some ballet in april – nothing serious, only once a week at college.

at the same time i was finishing college with a subject i had already realized i would NOT want to have as a job and i was thinking about what i would do next. i actually started to research a bit about becoming a dancer. i soon realized i was far out of the range for a public dance school. i also discovered a few private schools in my town but the 300€/month shocked me. i also came to the conclusion that it was nearly impossible to get in without a classical education. and i was not the youngest at the age of 21 too.

so i scrapped the whole idea. and then i heard of an acquaintance trying out for my favourite private school in town – and she had no classical education either. she had already tried the year before but failed and went to london for a preparatory education for a year. i also talked with my dance teacher and they all encouraged me to try out.

i gathered all of my courage and went to the audition. and what’s left to say – i actually got accepted! i’ll be starting an apprenticeship as a professional dancer for contemporary dance in october!

so, after all this rambling, my final message is: dreams can come true! don’t be afraid to even try! money’s really going to be an issue, but hey – it’s my fucking DREAM!

i’d love to hear your thoughts on dancing, dreams etc. if i have the time i’d like to use this as a blog of  my progress in dance. so you just MIGHT expect some more posts for the next time.