Dancer's Diary May '17

The last one!  Now we've come to the end of the academic year, we've also reached the last edition of The Dancer's Diary.  Here's the lineup for this final entry

  • Top Tip for pupils ~ it's a warm one, perfect for summer
  • Top Tip for teachers ~ one for your website
  • A quick update ~ positively the last word on Fabletics.  Probably
  • Video of the Month ~ 360 degree dance.  Dizzying
  • Fumble of the Month ~ A Russian ballet director drops the ball
  • Classic dance clip ~ one that shaped my youth
  • And finally, a chance to be really nosey

Top tip for pupils ~
What NOT to do in the summer break

When is it better to not dance at all, rather than dance?
When you’ve taken a break from classes for a while (like over the summer), and then decide you really should do a bit of exercise. Your brain remembers all the moves from class and tells your body to go for it.  You kick your leg, or spin quickly or suddenly reach into a huge stretch and BANG.  Ouch.  You’ve torn a muscle, shredded a tendon, hit the wall.  Why?  Because you didn’t warm up. 

I know how this goes because I’ve done it myself.  I once gave myself the most spectacular bruise you’ve ever seen.  Black, dark purple, scarlet crimson, and it was a whopper, wrapped around the entire circumference of my upper thigh.  I got so worried about it that I had to go and see my doctor, and even she was impressed by the size of this thing.  My ‘accident’?  A high leg kick without warming up.  I know, I know.  And that’s the thing.  I really do know.  But sometimes, you just put that music on and the mood takes you, you’re home alone and you dance.  And dance and dance and get swept away and the whole “I’m dancing, it’s amazing, yay!” kicks in and before you know it, you’ve high kicked and man, that’s sore.

Warm up. Warm up. Warm up.

And don’t think that because you feel warm, as it’s summer and the sun is shining, that you’re warmed up – not the same thing at all.  Oh no.  Doesn’t work like that.  You need to gently stretch those muscles for around 10 minutes before you start flinging yourself about.

So, the trick is to fall in love with the warm up itself.  To enjoy just doing that on its own.  If you love it, you won’t skip it. 

Ever heard of JETSA exercise?
In fact, a really effective warm up can be all the exercise you need in a day - it’s JETSA (Just Enough To Stay Alive).  So if you do nothing else at all, do your dance warm up.  That’s it. 

Did you know that all four of our main dance warm-up routines are free right here on the site?  Just click the image.  You can pick the one you like the best and do it any time you like.

Top tip for teachers

Our Top Tips for dance teachers have all moved to our blog that’s dedicated just to dance teachers, called, cunningly, Just for Dance Teachers.  Amazing.
If you’re a dance teacher looking for a few tips, it’s a great place – head over right now

Fabletics, one last time

Aaaand, the Fabletics tales of woe keep rolling in. 

I’m going to leave the last word on this to good friend of Hana, who had this to say.

"Yes, many of the Fabletics outfits are 'cute' (bordering on sexy), and the leggings (I can only vouch for those) are very good quality.
However, they sell out of sizes and styles very quickly and generally don't restock. It’s also true about the quiz at the start – it’s very annoying that you can't just look through what they have to offer on the website without having to fill in a bunch of info about yourself. And absolutely 100% true that their business model counts on people forgetting to 'skip the month' so that they can bill you US$49.95! Sure, it's a store credit. But it's still money you may not have wanted to spend. A shady way to do business, if you ask me.
Another major hassle is having to ring them to cancel your membership, especially when you spend half an hour on hold waiting for someone to answer your call!
As for my experience… I ordered a pair of leggings which I had to return. The refund came (eventually), but I didn't get my tax refunded. So I had to ring them to get the tax refunded and was so annoyed that I asked to cancel my account at the same time. I was offered extra store credit to not cancel my membership, so like any self-respecting athlete who loves her leggings, I accepted. Did the store credit ever end up in my account? NO. So I messaged Fabletics via Facebook… twice. Did they answer? NO. I had to message them PUBLICLY on Facebook before I got a response. Not the kind of company I wish to support, 'cute' outfits or not!"

So there you have it.  Looking through all the many stories you messaged me with, the overall impression I have is that the gear is (usually) very good quality, but the sales tactics are not.  I'd proceed with a little caution if you're thinking of signing up.  Good luck.

Video of the Month ~
360 degree dance ~ hot or not?

Boy oh boy.  I'm not so sure about this.  But it's worth a try.

OK, first a few instructions from the film-makers...

You can view the film below in several ways:

  1. Using Google Cardboard or similar headset to view via the YouTube smartphone app.
  2. View the 360 video on your tablet or smartphone without a headset - move your device to move around.
  3. View the 360 video on your laptop or desktop and move around by clicking and dragging.

Ready to have a go?

The premise of the story is that a seemingly perfect, well-suited and loving couple, are deeply unhappy beneath the surface. Here, they try to recapture the feelings that first drew them to each other.

So... how did you get on?

Me?  Not so good.  I wanted this to be really great.  I'm obviously a huge champion for using video to draw more people into the world of dance.  It's exactly the principle that was founded on and has been its bedrock ever since.
Given this, I think the aim of the project was good, but the execution?  Not so much.

First, I found this piece difficult to get into.  It ended up feeling like it was really long, when in fact it's less than four minutes.  My goodness, it felt like twice that at least.

Next, I found following them around a little disorienting as I had no real feel of where they would go next - I wanted my optimal path through the story to be clearer so I could concentrate on their performance more.  But I felt I had to work hard at navigating the video itself.

Also, although this technology now exists, the whole thing did have a very rough, 'we're just trying this to see if it'll work' feel to it.  Some shots were fuzzy, and the navigation a little clunky. 

Last, I confess I found the choice of music lazy - we've heard it a million times before and it sets a tone all of its own which didn't help the story here one bit.

Overall it seemed like a tech experiment and not a finished piece.  A nice try, but not something that I think will satisfy either die-hard dance aficionados nor those seeking a new way into the dance world. 

Fumble of the month

Photo Credit: YouTube

In an interview with The Sunday Times recently, Valery Gergiev, famed musical conductor and now director of the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, Russia, managed to reduce ballet and female ballet dancers in particular to a collection of ridiculously narrow stereotypes. 

To me, even though Gergiev appeared to be drawing comparisons between dancers 'then and now', he sounded an ancient tone of female dancers never being 'perfect' enough.  Among his more eye-rolling observations were

  • Ballerinas are now taller and therefore harder to lift
  • And small breasts are required for the correct 'perspective'.

No mention at all about the superior training techniques now taught that enable everyone to dance in a more athletic way.  And no mention either of the fact that if female dancers are getting taller, then surely their male counterparts are too?  No, just lots of thinly disguised complaining that there’s always something 'wrong' with a ballerina's body. 

His remarks could have been made at any point in the last 100 years.  Anybody unfamiliar with the world of ballet, reading this, would have thought the whole industry sounds creaky and out of touch.  It’s not.  It's just that Gergiev really should stick to waving his little baton around.  So to speak.

Classic dance clip ~

Oh, just because it’s the end of term.

Hands up anyone who tried to dance like Molly Ringwald at the school disco.
Me.  I’ve got both hands up.

And finally...
Watching me, watching you

It’s coming into that time of year when dance schools and studios often open their doors for watching days – which is just what it sounds like; an opportunity to go along, no obligation, and observe classes and sometimes performances too. 

This can give you a great flavor of what a school or studio is like, what the teachers are like, and most importantly, whether that style of teaching and that style of dancing would suit you. 

And it’s not just schools and studios that do this – have a look at your nearest college or university.  Higher education facilities often have performing arts programs, or even just run classes for their own students which they often open up to the general public. 

Even if you already attend lessons, it’s great to peek into other studios and see other teachers at work – you may find a dance style or instructor that really piques your interest or inspires your dancing to go a different way.

So keep your eyes open for any of these watching or open days – they’re free and can be really fascinating.

Signing off...

I hope you’ve loved reading the Dancer’s Diary for the academic year 16/17. 

Thank you to all of you who’ve written to me with your own stories and feedback. 

Have a wonderful summer, and of course, as always, happy dancing

Just so you know...

On some of my diary pages, there will be featured items that you can buy.  I do a lot of research into items to recommend - I don't just fling any old crap at my readers.  The things I recommend are things I genuinely use, or can see that have been well-received by their target audience via reviews and feedback.  When I post links to products, I generally try to find the product on Amazon for you, so you know you're dealing with a reputable supplier and that their customer service policies will cover you in case anything goes wrong, or you're unhappy for any reason.

If you follow a link that I've posted to products and do go on to buy something, Amazon pays me a tiny percentage of the profit of that sale.  It helps to keep free and keep me researching and writing about dance for adult beginners in a way that I hope you find useful and insightful.  I think that's fair and hope you do too.

Dancer's diary › May 2017