Dance and Photography: A lovely collaboration

I recently had the pleasure of working with Diana Brandt of Diana Brandt Photography in Central Park. Check out more from this international artist here.

Diana Brandt Photography
Diana Brandt Photography
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Diana Brandt Photography
Diana Brandt Photography
Diana Brandt Photography
Diana Brandt Photography
Diana Brandt Photography
Diana Brandt Photography
Diana Brandt Photography
Diana Brandt Photography
Diana Brandt Photography

An evening of dance and poetry

Love and War Flyer

Poetic Theatre Productions Poetic Licensee Presents: Love and War welcomes the vulnerability of love and the war love brings to the surface. Infused with dance and poetry, Love and War pushes boundaries and asks all the hard questions we keep tucked away, leaving us exposed and eventually free.

Produced and Choreographed by the lovely Keomi Tarver, this show is one not to miss. I am so excited to be a part of this production with dance and vocalization.

Come out, be moved.

Get your tickets for this Cabaret Series here

This is my life

There are times in life where you encounter a transformative experience; those times are rare and sometimes you don’t realize until later the extent of their impact. My latest encounter occurred two weeks, at a summer dance intensive called ArchCore40, 2013. It was school on how to get your life together if you really want to make commercial and/or concert dance your career. If only I could experience that week again… and again. It is no exaggeration to say you experienced EVERYTHING a working dancer experiences or you got to talk to people who are making waves in all areas of dance life- therapists, agents, choreographers, videographers and photographers. Being around that creative energy not only helped me go to a very vulnerable place in my own choreography, which I presented in the showcase, but also helped me realize that art reflects life, life reflects art and art is my life.

After the intensive, I feel prepared to whole heartedly dive into dance and all of its possibilities. Since starting dance training in high school (yes, I did do baby ballet when I was three, but that does not count), I have always had to prove myself; prove that it was worth taking a risk on an inexperienced dancer, prove that I can do more than social dances and be strong yet graceful, prove that I have the confidence to captivate an audience. So I was no stranger to stepping into another situation where I had to prove how bad I want to dance. When you dream dance, eat, sleep and breathe movement, you know you were meant to move.

My relationship with dance during my high school and undergrad education did not include summers spent on dance retreats and intensives, taking class, going to workshops, exploring movement, and communing with creative individuals. For the most part they were spent in labs and hospitals to gain valuable experience to use toward my degree in Neuroscience and Behavior and future goal to be a Physical Therapist. For quite some time I was afraid to claim dance as my job, my career, for its lack of practicality or simply because I thought I should use my undergrad degree as more than just a conversation starter. I feared that not working toward an impressive set of letters after my name would mean a waste of four years and a whole lot of money. But college is more than the degree you earn, it’s the individual you become and the preparation you do for the road ahead. This has been quite a winding road, with some pit stops and speed bumps, but what is a life if not for the challenges that develop character?

Dance allows me to fulfill my purposes in life- to help people, live creatively, and promote the mental, physical and emotional well-being of every individual. Most recently, though, I have gained clarity in my path and choices in life thus far. My purpose in life, the reason I am where I am, living the life that I do- dancing and promoting health and fitness, is starting to become clearer. I am a dancer. I am a mover. I want to share the joy of movement with others.

So I leave you with some final thoughts… for now at least.
This life we live is too short to apologize for living to your fullest extent. Declare to yourself and those important to you what you have chosen as your life path. Some people will stick with you, others may not, but when your mind is clear and your goals are set, nothing can stand in your way.

And do not be afraid of change… it is inevitable.

Open yourself up to the best of possibilities and gain strength by learning from the worst of opportunities. Allow yourself to love yourself and where life has taken you; enjoy your journey.

On Observation

Do you ever stop to really observe the world around you? Stop to smell the roses, take a second to take in a beautiful view? Well, in a city in constant motion, stillness and observation can really bring a greater sense of your place in the world. I’m not suggesting that everyone now has to take a bus to the Catskills and meditate in the meadow, but take a deep breath once in a while. I mean the kind that makes you expand on all sides, that rushes through your body like a breeze on a beach. (I bet you just took a deep breath… I know I did). Getting too caught in the routine of our every day separates us from the beauty of exploration and the gratitude and appreciation we should have of the things around us.

Too granola and yoga for you? Well, let me put it in the dance perspective. Let me start from the beginning. I took a really challenging and engaging modern class today (5/2/13); a room full of dancers moving across a glistening hardwood floor exploring the length, smallness, peeling, ranging, expansive qualities of our bodies. After progressing through phases of a guided floor series we rose to learn some movement phrases. The phrases thoroughly progressed our floor work, allowing us to find the nuances of the movement. Towards the end of class, we were encouraged to weave into and out of the space and time, watching and observing as well as doing and moving. By the second round, the rush and rage of the sea of bodies fighting to catch the movement and be present in the moment became overwhelming for me. All I could do was watch. I just needed to look with my eyes, feel with my skin, my limbs and breathe. And that was ok. I might have forgotten a good chunk of the phrase work (and of course remembered everything again after class), but the watching was a far more impactful part of the learning process.

I challenge you to really see someone, not just try to practice the phrase as you watch them, but see his earring, her freckles, take in the whole person in that moment. Because at the end of the day, the moments you take to look can be the most profound.

Audition time!

April 13, 2013

So today I braved the unknown world of the commercial dance agency audition. Me, along with every other dancer I’ve taken class with or seen around BDC and a few from DNA, waited anxiously for our chance to show the Rhapsody James and the Dance agents what we can do (yes, the added “the” before Rhapsody was intentional). I’ve come to appreciate the wait (all three hours…well, technically around two… since I got there early) because you get to meet some interesting people and the best part of my days are spent laughing. I met two guys from Boston while waiting to register. The conversation began with commenting on the wait and number of people in the small holding room, and the fact that a mother had a one year old (who was wailing to the heavens the whole time) in a stroller in the room as well. We introduced ourselves and I got the “Candace? as in Candace Brown?” bit (one day soon I’ll be on her level #progress). I will continue with a disclaimer: I know my hearing is a little suspect, especially when talking on the phone. But how I thought one guy said his name what “Martin” when he said, “Rony,” is beyond me; they don’t even rhyme. That was a running joke until we parted ways after reaching the golden desk of opportunity and registering… just call me Gina.

I’m proud to say that I’ve done quite a few auditions for various things over the years; big productions, small shows, modern dance companies, up and coming artists, and each provided good learning experiences. But the agency audition is a whole different animal. I knew to expect the girls to be dressed to the extreme—leggings, bustieres, a serious face beat. But then there was the GLITTER BUSTIERE…

 glitter_bustiereNo shots, the girls who wore them, rocked them. But it drove home the fact that we have to look the part and image is a HUGE part of the industry. So I walked confidently into the audition room with my purple crop top (Thanks to Aurelia and our shopping trip to Forever 21), black harem pants and combat boots and did what I do. I charged myself with a few things for this audition:

1. Add personality from the moment you begin learning choreography; even from the moment you enter the room

2. Use your face just as you use any other part of your body as you dance

That was enough to get me through to the next round where the agency videoed small groups of dancers performing the combination to take their time and further make their choice! I am truly grateful for the strides I’ve made thus far in my career and the help and guidance I have received from talented, driven and inspiring individuals along the way. Now, we await our fate…

On another note, the physical fitness and health professional in me also reflected on the audition process in another way. So, you’re in an extra crowed holding room or squeezing into a nook in the hallway surrounded by coats, bags and shoes and your need to get yourself warm and ready to audition. How do you maximize the space while maximizing your warm-up? Also, so many dancers just do a couple jumps up and down before entering the room and then dance for their lives… That’s not the move, kids: 1. doing high impact movements (shifting weight to one leg, jumping) without warming at least the major leg muscle groups (quads, hamstrings, calf, hip flexors) isn’t safe for the joints 2. you increase the risk of pulling muscles because doing sudden movements when your muscles are cold essentially shocks the body into protection mode i.e. clenching and tensing up; that’s not what you want when you need to be dynamic and full-bodied. There are a few exercises and dynamic stretches that I like to do to get warm and limber that don’t take up much space:

-Plies: Not just for ballet class, these movements, performed in a variety of foot positions, allow you to target the entire lower extremity. Focus on your exhale when straightening your legs and you can tap into your alignment and core strength as well.

-Ankle flexion/extension: simply pointing (plantarflexion) and flexing (dorsiflexion) the foot while standing tall on one leg will help prepare your feet and ankles if the combination involves jumps or quick shifts of weight.

-Quad stretch/ butt kickers: start by lifting the foot toward the butt with the help of the hand. Be sure to hold the flexed foot at the ankle (not the toe) to ensure you are not sickling (twisting) the ankle and to feel the knee drop straight down toward the ground close to the standing foot. Next, add higher impact by alternating butt kicks, ensuring that you are landing softly through each foot.

-Squats; yes, hamstrings, quadriceps and gluts, yes! These muscles give you the power of locomotion. You have to wake them up. Do these in parallel with the toes pointed forward or sumo style with feet turned out in a wide stance… make them spice with variety!

-Arm swings- the shoulder girdle is a shallow joint, you want to make sure that you can utilize your full range without compromising the stability of the muscles protecting and keeping your shoulder in place.

-Knee hugs/ High knees: This dynamic stretch is great not only for warming the hips, ankles and knees, but also brings the heart rate up. Start with knee hugs to stretch the hamstrings, allowing the hips to sink downward as you bring your knees to your chest with your hands. Next, lift the knees as high as you can to the chest and stay relaxed in the upper body.

-Standing abs: A lot easier than trying to do crunches between your coat and bag, and everyone else’s. Start by bringing the knees straight up to the chest, and then add a twist brings your opposite elbow to knee (a la Jane Fonda) for the transverse abdominals, and finally bring the same side knee and elbow to meet for the obliques (side abs).

I can’t stress enough how important warming up is, even if you are being seen for twenty minutes.

What are some of your go to audition warm-up exercises?