4 Things I Learned At Nuvo Dance Convention

Happy almost-Friday! I don’t know about you, but I am so glad the weekend is only hours away. Before I throw in the towel for the week I wanted to share a few things I learned last weekend when I attended Nuvo Dance Convention  in Boston!

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Nuvo is a big treat for me because I’m able to take class, observe amazing dancers and learn from some of the greatest teachers in the industry. It’s honestly like a trip to Disneyland for a dance teacher. Plus any weekend with dancing + Cheesecake Factory + drinks with the girls is a win in my book.

Below are just a few of the many things that I took away from the weekend.

1. Improv is Everything

Improvisation is built into every single class, whether it’s before the start of a combo or as an exercise itself. And the kids are AMAZING at it. It’s something that I try to work on with my students, but now I know that it’s even more important for them to be comfortable with it and at an even younger age.

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Improv Tip: For contemporary classes I like to start class every now and then with an improv warm-up. Instead of doing the usual isolations and stretches I spread the kids out, put on a song and give them prompts to lead them through an improvisation. I ask them to stretch a bit before they begin and limit their improv to smaller movements if they haven’t taken class yet. This warms their muscles, their minds and helps them practice improvisation.

2. Lay Down To Get Aligned

Proper alignment is very important and something I struggle with communicating to my students. Chantel Aguirre took us through an enlightening Floor Barre exercise that forces you to align and activates the correct muscles while you’re laying down, making it easier for your muscles to remember to activate when you stand up.

Floor Barre Exercise

  • Lay on the ground and put your hands on your hips. Tilt you thumbs towards the ground and tuck your pelvis. In this tucked position you may be a bit lifted off the ground, but engage your abs so you are not arching.
  • Staying tucked, do 4 demi plies, trying to keep your length with each one.
  • Immediately stand up and repeat the same 4 demi plies.
  • Lay down again and in the tucked position do 2 tondues front (right, left) with a flex and then 2 tondues side (right, left) with a flex.
  • Immediately stand up and repeat the same 4 tondues.

4. Forget Your Legs

Dancers these days are so obsessed with getting their legs higher that they forget about their arms. They can do the kick, but their arms are dead in the air.

Tip: Stacey Tookey had a great tip – make the dancers perform their combo without using their legs at all. Just have them stand in 2nd position, but do all the same arm movements that are required in the combination. It forces them to focus on the arms and make sure they are fully extending.

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4. Verbalize Tap Steps 

In Anthony Morigerato‘s class he talked about the importance of dancers verbalizing the sounds they are making with their feet. One way to practice this is to associate words and syllables with a step, with the number of syllables denoting the timing of the step. To make this easy for kids to understand, Anthony associates the steps with names of fruit and calls it “making a fruit salad”.

Anthony’s Fruit Salad Tap Exercise

Do the step, right and left, and say the word at the same time, exaggerating the syllables. Repeat each step 4x before going to the next one.

Step = pear

Dig heel = ap-ple

Shuffle step = pine-ap-ple

Paradiddle = wat-er-mel-on

 

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Overall it was an awesome weekend of dancing and we all came back with a little more knowledge and a little more swagger, which helps in class, at the club and in life in general.

Have a great weekend friends!

 

5 Stretches You Haven’t Tried Yet

Happy Tuesday! How is your week going so far? Today we are talking about stretching!

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I want to talk about stretching, not just for performance, but also for general well-being. Everybody knows that stretching is important for injury prevention and flexibility, but it can also be key to feeling balanced. Read on to find out why! (if you’re impatient scroll to #5)

Below is a list of some of my favorite stretches that are geared to challenge your normal and make you push a bit further.

5 Stretches You Haven’t Tried Yet

1.Foot Stretch – Point

This stretch will be most enjoyed by the dancers and yogis looking to work on their point and foot flexibility.

HOW TO: Start on your knees and bring your right leg in front of you. Gently roll over your point. Use your left hand as support and use your right hand to firmly press against your heel, leading your heel forward and pressing your arch further. Hold for 10 seconds and then switch to #2 below. Repeat 4x on each foot.

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2. Foot Stretch – Ball

This is part 2 to #1 above. Simply flip your foot so that you are stretching the flex position of your foot on the ball. Again press your heel forward with your hand. Alternate between this and #1, 4x on each foot.

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3. Split Stretch – Reach Back

This stretch will be enjoyed by anyone looking to increase their flexibility in their split. Only attempt if you already have your split, meaning you do not have to support yourself on either side and your thighs are completely touching the ground. This stretch can be very intense for your hips, so make sure to stretch before attempting.

HOW TO: Once you are fully in your split, reach back with your right hand. At the same time lift your back left leg up to meet your hand. Hold for 30 seconds. Do #4 below and then switch to the other side.

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4. Split Stretch – Flex & Lift

This stretch is again only for those who want to further stretch their split, this time the front foot. Only attempt if you are fully down in your split already. This stretch can be very intense for your calves and hamstrings, so make sure to stretch them before attempting.

HOW TO: Once you are in your split, flex your right front foot and grab and lift with your right hand. Hold for 30 seconds.

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5. Stretch. Every. D@m#. Day. 

My 5th and final stretch tip is not a specific stretch, rather a challenge to incorporate stretching into your life every day.

Throughout the day stress builds up in your body and causes muscles to contract, making you feel tense and generally uneasy. All this tension can lead to negative affects on your mind and body. Bah! We do not want that. Especially when the solution is so easy.

Stretching loosens muscles, increases blood flow and releases endorphins (love those guys!), all of which helps you to relax and feel balanced.

Even if it’s just a quick toe touch and a shoulder stretch, try to fit stretching into your daily routine to reap the (easy and free) benefits! Why not?! Dancer or not, stretching is good for everyone.

 

Plank & Split Exercise

There’s something refreshing about being upside down. All day long we live our lives right side up, so when the opportunity arrises to get those legs in the air, it can be a really nice change of perspective. Plus being able to support yourself with your arms is a great core workout in itself.

planks and splits exercise

This exercise combo is something I use in my Jumps & Turns classes to get the kids to practice their splits and at the same work on core and arm strength. But it’s not just a dance exercise, it can be good for anyone who wants to work on their flexibility and core strength. You can modify the number of commandos and push-ups based on your ability.

planks and splits exercise

I would definitely recommend some dynamic stretching before attempting this combination, especially for your legs muscles and hips flexors. Dynamic stretching is active stretching, meaning muscles are repeatedly put through the range of motion. For example, bending over and touching your right toe, but lifting the right toe 8x while you’re in the stretch. This helps the blood flow to your muscles, warms your muscles and is proven to help increase performance compared to static stretching (no movement during stretch).

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Plank & Split Exercise

  • Start standing with your back to a wall
  • Walk your hands down your legs to touch (or reach for) the floor
  • Walk hands out to high plank and hold for 16 counts
  • 4 commandos (left arm down, right arm down, left arm up, right arm up)
  • Walk hands back to legs
  • Extend right leg up wall and hold stretch for 16 counts
  • Walk back out to plank (bring leg down as you go) and hold for 16 counts
  • 8 push-ups
  • Walk hands back to legs
  • Extend left leg up wall and hold stretch for 16 counts
  • REPEAT

planks and splits exercise

You leg may not look like this, and that’s OK! Hey, it might look even better, and that’s awesome! The goal is to try to get your hips as close to the wall as you can. The wall and your hands pushing on the ground give you the right leverage to really deepen that split and push your flexibility (safely of course).

And you might even find some new perspective while you’re down there. Just don’t look at your face if you’re looking into a mirror like I am…upside down face can be quite frightening.