Harris on Art is a blog and resource for those interested in arts and education, perhaps artists themselves or someone curious about the life of a dance artist.
As, promised, here is the cast list for Sleeping Beauty. Please congratulate one another and be proud of what you've accomplished. Everyone performed great at the audition. Even if you didn't get the role you hoped for, I will make sure each student is featured in the ballet. It's going to be beautiful!
The five fairies:
Candite 1st variation
Coulante 2nd variation
Julia C. (understudy)
Miettes qui Tombent 3rd variation
Canari qui Chante 4th variation
Violente 5th variation
Fee des Lilas 6th variation
Fanfares for Sleeping Beauty Waltz
Lead Party Guests
Corps: Senior Company/ Junior Company
Thank you for the great feedback regarding last week's blog! As suggested, here are some additional tips for musicians who are playing live music for a dance class. The following are standard meters for a classical ballet exercises in sequential order:
At the Barre
Slow Plie (bending of the knees) – 3/4 meter
Slow Tendu (stretching of the foot) - 4/4 meter
Fast Tendu (fast point of feet) - 4/4 meter
Ronde de Jambe (circle of the leg) - 3/4 meter
Slow Fondu (slow bending of both legs one is outstretched) – 3/4 meter
Fast Frappe striking the floor with the ball of foot) - 2/4 meter
Fast Petite Battement (small beats on the leg) - 2/4 meter
Adagio at the Barre (series of slow balances and extensions of the legs)- 3/4 meter
Stretch (leg on the barre and slow stretches) 3/4 meter
Grand Battement (big kicks of the leg) – 2/4 or 4/4 (march or gavotte)
Port De Bras (movement of the arms) - 6/8 meter
Adagio (a series of slow balances and extensions) – 3/4 meter
Tendu (pointing the feet front side and back) - 4/4 meter
Slow Pirouette (spinning on one leg) - 3/4 (minuet)
Fast Pirouette (fast spinning on one leg) - 4/4 (tango) or 3/4 (mazurka)
Petite Allegro (small jumps) 6/8 or 4/4
Boys Jump (medium jumps) – 2/4 (polka)
Grand Allegro (big jumps across the floor) - big waltz 3/4
Maneges (big jumps and turns in a large circle around the room) - big waltz 3/4
Reverence (final blows and cool down) - slow 3/4
I hope this helps! And as always, feel free to contact me.
I was recently asked by a musician friend and colleague for some tips on accompaniment for Modern Dance class. As it turns out, the literature for musicians on how to accompany a dance class is pretty sparse; therefore, I thought it may be a good topic for my blog.
Here are 5 tips for both musicians and dance teachers using live accompaniment:
1. Communicate with one another. – Oftentimes the dance teacher might be so caught up in instructing the students that they fail to recognize the importance of communicating with the musician. Things such as tempo, meter and dynamics need to be discussed. Musicians are smart but they aren’t psychic. That being said, the musician needs to listen closely as the teacher is instructing the students to pick up on visual cues for dynamics, meter and tempo. For example, if there is a big jump on the count of 5, the musician may want to reflect that in the music with a boom/crash sound.
2. Set the Tempo. – When dancers are first learning steps, usually they learn combinations at a slow pace. It is a common mistake that the musician then assumes that this is a desired tempo. Always be sure to work together to set the tempo before beginning an exercise.
3. Consider the goal of the exercise when setting the time signature/meter. – Certain modern dance movements traditionally use a specific meter. For example, bounces, swings, triplets, fall and recovery are mostly done to 3/4 time. The reason being is that this meter’s emphasis on the downbeat pairs perfectly with the body’s natural down swing. For longer phrases, 6/8 works beautifully with the goal being for the student to feel the bouncing and swinging of the arms, legs and torso. When we look at an exercise such as tendu or prances, however, 4/4 time or 2/4 works better since the goal of the exercise is to get students to articulate the feet. The sharpness of a square meter encourages students to move in a more staccato manner. If, however, the goal of the exercise is to encourage students to work on timing and rhythm, try switching from the simple meters to complex such as 5/4, 7/8 or even a compound 12/8. Students who dance to more difficult rhythms learn to really hone in on the music and become more intelligent and dynamic dancers.
4. Try some improvisation. – Improvisation is at the heart of modern dance. Most dance educators are familiar with the wonderful relationship between John Cage and Merce Cunningham. The two really valued each other’s work as equally important. Take time out of class to try some improvisation exercises where both musician and dancers experiment. Set up some parameters and guidelines first to keep students and musicians from being overwhelmed with over-choice. For example, ask the students to move together as a group from one corner of the room to the other corner by the time the musician stops playing. Instruct students to follow dynamic cues in the music. Then ask the musician to set a timer and improvise for 1 minute total. In this exercise, students follow the cues of the musician. Another fun exercise is when the musician must follow the cues of the dancer. I find this works best on a one on one basis (i.e. one dancer with one musician). Ask one student to stand in the center and improvise some movement. The musician must then improvise music to reflect the student’s movement. This exercise builds the relationship between dancers and musicians and also trains dancers on the relationship between movement and music.
5. Work with phrasing. – If a dancer executes each movement with the same amount of energy, the performance becomes dull and boring; therefore, dancers use phrasing as a way to increase the dynamics of a performance. Musicians do the same, often playing very soft after a powerful solo to allow for contrast in the composition. The wonderful advantage of live accompaniment is that you can tailor the music to fit the dynamics of each movement phrase. For example, perhaps the movement begins slowly on the floor then builds to standing and undulating the body until finally the dancer runs across the floor and leaps; the music can reflect this dynamic by mirroring the movement with sound. The musician should begin playing quietly then slowly build the rhythm then layering more sounds until crash. Musicians should look for visual cues and listen to how the teacher explains the choreography to help guide musical choices. The teacher should also be specific in helping the musician to understand how the music might enhance the student’s movement quality.
I hope you enjoyed my blog and it gave you some new ideas. I welcome any feedback or suggestions!
Thank you for reading!
If you haven't bought my book yet, here is the link. The book is full of information for K-12 educators, dance teachers and parents of gifted/highly creative children. I spent about 10 years of research on the theories and methodology in this book. There are plenty of exercises to incorporate in the classroom or at home to develop creativity. I truly believe anyone who has interest in helping children to reach their full potential will love this book. For teachers, I think you may be inspired and have a fresh outlook on the power of dance education.
I finally published my book
My book came out yesterday! Whew that was a lot of work. I have literally been working on it for about 10 years. So much research was involved and then I would lose interest. I'd come back to it again and at one point the book was sitting in the bottom of my desk drawer. It kind of haunted me every time I opened the drawer. I had the first manuscript printed out and it was stuffed in a red plastic reusable shopping bag. There it stayed for years. I had abandoned it.
Then recently, my taekwondo instructor, Master Dunbar, told me that he had published a book and I said, "I always wanted to write a book." So he said, "Then do it. Write it." He said it as if it was so simple, yet somehow, he got through to me. I worked tirelessly for the last 6 months to finish that darn book. Sometimes I didn't sleep at all. And now here we are. Thanks Master Dunbar and all the other people who pushed me to do this. Bucket list, check.
Swan Lake Cast List
Jessica Brotherton, Sunny Harris, Olivia Lovett, Jessica Rosenthal
Understudy - Selbbep Salgado
Jessica Brotherton, Sunny Harris, Emilie Irwin, Jessica Rosenthal
Understudy - Olivia Lovett
Understudy - Laura Naegele
Understudy - Jessica Brotherton
Vision of Odette
Understudy - Emilie Irwin
Pas de deux
Jackson Antoine, Kimberly Chok
Understudy - Sunny Harris
All understudies will learn entire choreography for the stated role. If the dancer cast in the role is unable to perform, the understudy will perform in their place. Attendance is a must. Dancers who fail to come to regular rehearsals will jeopardize losing their role. All casted parts are subject to change at Miss Kelly’s discretion. Extra rehearsals will be added to the schedule as we approach the show.
Congratulations to everyone who auditioned! You should all be very proud of of your performance level!
That Dance is not Age Appropriate!
Ok people, it’s high time we speak out against dance pieces that are inappropriate for children. It’s become main stream for small kids, I’m talking 7 & 8yrs olds, to dress up like prostitutes and bump & grind to assault lyrics as if they’re on a strip pole.
Dr. Tomi-Ann Roberts, PhD is from the America Psychological Associations (APA) Presidential Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. Dr. Roberts was recently interviewed by the Youth Protection Advocates in Dance (Y.P.A.D.) on the hypersexualization of young girls in dance. Dr. Roberts originally joined the task force out of concern for the sexualization of girls in beauty pageants when she stumbled upon dance competitions. She was shocked to find that many of the dances meet all of the criteria that the task force would say constitutes sexualization. Dr. Roberts and Y.P.A.D. along with E.D.I.F.Y. is trying to educate the dance community about this issue.
Watch the Full Video:
Dr. Tomi-Ann Roberts, PhD Interview with Y.P.A.D. about the Sexualization of Children in Dance
Young girls are being objectified on stage and applauded for it. The consequences are that girls begin to self-objectify, thinking their only value is as a sexual object. The study found that girls who are sexualized are more likely to make poor sexual decisions, develop body dysmorphia and eating disorders, are at higher risk for abusive relationships and have poor academic performance. As the girls are so focused on sexual expression, other opportunities get overshadowed or ignored such as academics.
Competitions, choreographers and teachers promote themselves on YouTube and other social media by using these girls’ performances. This creates a snowball effect where more teachers, parents and choreographers are encouraged to participate in the hypersexualization of girls in hopes of getting more “Likes.”
I’ve been teaching dance for over 25 years. I’ve always been cautious when choosing the music, costumes and choreography for children. If I am choreographing a piece for a professional adult dance company, that is an entirely different matter. The only two piece costume I’ve used in 20 years was for a teen class in the ballet La Bayadere. (If you’re familiar with the choreography, it isn’t suggestive.) My students have gone on to perform with NYC Ballet, Disney, the film Center Stage, gotten scholarships to Joffrey and then some. I’m telling you this to prove that they aren’t lacking a proper dance education because I didn’t teach them the latest twerking move.
Be a responsible teacher, choreographer and parent. Pick out appropriate costumes, use radio edited music, and avoid suggestive choreography. It’s not that hard to do and your dancers won’t miss out on anything.
If you want to get more involved, or find more information here are some useful links:
Thanks for reading!
Why Dance Improvisation?
This week I gave a lecture to my college students about Dance Improvisation and I thought it may make for an interesting blog topic as well. What is Dance Improvisation? Dance Improvisation is the process of creating movement spontaneously through exploring different concepts such as weight, shape, space, tempo, and dynamics. Dance improv can’t be attributed to any one founder. Free dance was used by all the pioneers of modern dance such as Loie Fuller and Isadora Duncan.
Students enjoy improv because it’s fun, unpredictable and playful. Improv isn’t just fun and games, however, it serves a deeper purpose in dance education. Improv can help students understand what type of mover they are and find what types of movement resonate with their interests artistically. Improv can often be the first step in choosing a career path as a professional dancer by inspiring students to zero in on a particular genre. For choreographers, improv can help create new material and signature moves. Choreographers can find a new personal direction through manipulating movement using the tools learned through improv.
Recently there has been an increased interest in artistic creation in the fields of cognitive science and psychology. Dancers and choreographers must invent numerous solutions when improvising on a theme. This process of brainstorming and problem solving can be applied to everyday situations and even used in the corporate world. In improv classes, students are given a structure and certain restrictions and then must develop movements and patterns by thinking outside the box. This exercise in creative thinking can be applied to a wide range of professions such as event planning or even aerospace technology.
Another argument for the value of improv is found in the uncertainty of life. Even in the most rehearsed, strictly choreographed performances, something unexpected happens. Sound and light cues are late, entrances are missed and we suffer the indignity of the unexpected wardrobe malfunction. Performers need to improvise on the spot thus embracing the old adage, “The show must go on.” A good improviser knows how to land on their feet in any situation.
Even with all these benefits, improv can be daunting. Dancers are used to being told exactly what to do. Students are afraid of getting laughed at or looking weird when improvising. Here are some tips for getting the most out of an improv class:
And finally, HAVE FUN! Dance Improvisation can be one of the most rewarding classes you will ever take. Feel free to share your experiences by emailing me on the contacts page.
Thank you for reading!
6 Steps to Taking Care of your Dancer’s Feet
If you Google “Dancer’s Feet” you’ll find blistering, bleeding and calloused images. Why do dancers show off painful and possibly permanently damaged feet as a badge of honor? Feet are the foundation for all our movements, but we give them so much abuse.
Here are my 6 Steps to Taking Care of your Dancer’s Feet:
1. Stop wearing tight shoes.
We like our shoes tight to keep us on our center in pirouettes or just to make our arch look pretty; but a dancer needs to be realistic. If your shoes are so tight that it is impossible to spread your toes on demi-pointe, then you could be doing damage. We’ve all been frightened at some time or another when an aging ballerina removes her shoes only to reveal bunions the size of Kansas. If you are feeling stress on the outside bone of your foot, consider moving up ½ a size or purchasing bunion pads at the drug store. If the pain is serious, you need to see a doctor.
2. Take care of cuts and blisters.
Did you know that you can die from a blister? President Calvin Coolidge’s son, Calvin Jr., died from a blister he got from new tennis shoes. Blood poisoning happens when bacteria enters your bloodstream through a cut or tear in the skin. (I had blood poisoning and almost lost my finger once from a hangnail!) If you take anything away from this blog, please take care of cuts and blisters. Soak your feet in warm water and a little disinfectant soap. Dry them completely, use a topical antibiotic cream and cover with a clean bandage. Call your doctor immediately if you feel throbbing, see infection or have a fever.
3. Trim your toenails.
Long toenails pressing against your shoes can lead to bruising of the nail bed and loss of the nail. Trim nails straight across, rather than trimming the edges into a curve. You should also avoid trimming them too short, since this could result in ingrown toenails or infection.
4. Wear support in your street shoes.
Take a hard look at your shoe closet and throw away those flat footed shoes. If you just HAVE to wear those cute retro basketball sneakers, consider investing in some arch supports. Otherwise, make your next purchase a cute pair of sneakers that have medial support.
5. Fight fungus.
Dark, damp conditions is where fungus thrives making those black jazz shoes a perfect habitat. Practicing basic foot hygiene (i.e. washing between the toes, wearing clean tights etc.) is the best way to prevent fungal infection. If you have a mild case of athlete’s foot, use an over-the-counter lotion, cream or spray. Be considerate to your classmates and don’t spread the fungus around. Keep your feet covered at the studio until the fungus is gone. For more serious cases, be sure to see your doctor.
6. Show a little TLC.
Keep a pumice stone in the shower and gently remove thickened skin regularly. A little hardness on the ball of the foot might help you turn, but huge calluses can tear off causing pain and infection. Make moisturizing part of your everyday routine to avoid dry cracked heels.Thank you for reading my blog! What is your foot care routine? I'd love to hear from you.
7 Reasons Why Every Child Should Take Music Lessons
When we look at modern day scholars, we find evidence linking music study with intelligence. It is widely known, for example, that Einstein had a deep love for music. His wife, Elsa writes:
“As a little girl, I fell in love with Albert because he played Mozart so beautifully on the violin. He also plays the piano. Music helps him when he is thinking about his theories. He goes to his study, comes back, strikes a few chords on the piano, jots something down, returns to his study.”
Einstein claimed that music helped him with his work as a physicist. Can studying music help increase your I.Q.? I don't know about that but as a longtime advocate of music education, Here are my top 7 reasons why every child should learn an instrument:
1. In private music lessons, children learn at their own pace, often outside of what is considered “normal” for their age. Gifted and special needs children thrive in this environment, a place where there is no “glass ceiling” on learning.
2. Research indicates that music lessons change the course of brain development and may influence children's success in other, non-musical tasks. Music study is linked to spatial-temporal reasoning and requires you to learn fractions and ratios. Both of these skills are needed for understanding math and science.
3. Music reduces stress. Studies show that children who play a musical instrument have more positive attitudes and are less intimidated by new challenges.
4. Learning a musical instrument enhances creativity. Students learn how to improvise, think quickly and think outside of the box. These skills are needed in everyday situations including the professional environment.
5. Playing an instrument improves hand, eye coordination. Small motor skills are involved in playing and reading notes.
6. Playing an instrument boosts confidence and self-esteem. Children set a goal when learning a piece and gain a sense of accomplishment when they perform.
7. Music lessons encourage social skills and self-expression. Music brings kids into a large community of children with similar interests. This can be very important for kids who have a hard time feeling accepted.
I started my own children with piano lessons when they were in kindergarten. Both of my children are gifted and excel in school. Is this because they took piano lessons? I don't know but I do know that piano has been a wonderful, enriching activity and played an important part in our life. What are your experiences with learning an instrument? Send me an email. I'd love to hear your comments!