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!

 

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4 Healthy Snack Swaps For The Food You Crave

Nowadays there are lots of healthier snack options out there to satisfy even the most ravenous sweet tooth. I’ve compiled a list of a few I’ve come across that are actually delicious. Because that’s the point, right? No one wants to be gnawing on cardboard when they just want a cookie.

I’m not saying that you should eat these every day, all day (although you might want to after you try them), but they are each packing some beneficial ingredients and are probably a bit better for you than their classic counterparts.

4 Healthy Snack Swaps For The Food You Crave

#1 – When You’re Craving GUMMIES

The Solution: Trader Joe’s Fruit Bar

I’ve never seen a fruit bar so jam-packed with goodness. This bar has flax and chia seeds and provide 6 grams of fiber! Next time you’re craving gummy worms, reach for this instead and let the superfoods do their work.

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#3 – When You’re Craving CHOCOLATE

The Solution: Lovely Dark Chocolate Coconut Chips

These little guys are my new favorite thing. Organic, non-GMO coconut chips covered in 60% cacao. Addicting, but winning in the antioxidant game. I actually found these in the food isle at Home Hoods.

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#3 – When You’re Craving COOKIES

The Solution: Zema’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies are so cool. They’re gluten free, but actually taste good. Go figure! They’re made with a blend of quinoa, oat, teff and millet flour and also have flax and chia. Not going to lie I enjoyed a few dunked into a glass of milk. Because apparently I’m 5. Or Santa Claus.

Another Home Goods find!

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#4 – When You’re Craving CAKE

The Solution: Kodiak Cakes Cups

The Blueberry & Maple flavor below is actually more of a breakfast go-to for me, topped with walnuts, fresh blueberries and a drizzle of maple syrup, mmmMMmmm!

But if you’re in a “I NEED CHOCOLATE CAKE RIGHT NOW” kind of mood, try their Double Dark Chocolate flavor with a scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt. You will think you have died and gone to healthy-cake heaven.

I buy these at Hannaford or Shaws, but they’re probably available at other groceries stores as well.

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These little cups are chock-full of 100% whole-grain goodness and have a pretty clean ingredient list. Each one has a whopping 6 grams of protein (plus 2 more if you use milk instead of water, which I do, duh) and 5 grams of fiber. This is 250 calories of cake that you don’t need to feel bad about.

Hopefully this list inspires you to upgrade your snacks so that you’re at least getting something good out of that chocolate splurge…may it be fiber, protein, antioxidants or just that good’ol happy feeling of satisfying your craving.

Truly, you CAN have your cake and eat it too.

Pumpkin Apple Oatmeal Muffins

New Hampshire in January can be such a bummer. It’s cold, dark, and we’re all basically counting down the days until we’re back in shorts and flip flops (which oddly usually happens around 55 degrees). There’s a word in the Danish language called “hygge” (pronounced hoogah), which is essentially the art of being cozy and comfortable. It’s all about finding pleasure in mundane things like having dinner at home with friends on a cold night or hunkering down under a blanket during a snowstorm.

Think about all the things that make you feel cozy and warm…cuddling up by a fireplace with a good book, snuggling with a puppy, hot chocolate after a brisk ski session. Hygge means grasping onto those things and appreciating that warm feeling it gives you for as long as you need to…so basically until April. How smart is that though?! We’re all sitting around complaining and the Danish are like guys this is freaking awesome, here’s a cup of soup!

These muffins are my attempt at feeling the hygge. Anything pumpkin, cinnamon and apple always makes me feel cozy especially when warmed and served with hot cocoa or my morning coffee.

This recipe is gluten free, grainless and jam packed with superfood power. The pumpkin provides fiber and vitamins, while the oats and flax keep you full for hours. Plus you could easily add walnuts, raisins or pumpkin seeds to make it even more of a power muffin.

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Traditional oatmeal is awesome, but baked oatmeal muffins are like the quicker, hip version. They pack the same nutritional benefits, but you can eat one as you run out the door on the way to work, or pack one for a midday snack.

Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup pumpkin
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 cups old fashioned oats
  • 2 Tbsp flax meal
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 large apple, peeled and sliced

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together pumpkin, vanilla, egg, maple syrup and milk. In a separate bowl combine oats, flax, baking powder, salt and spices. Mix dry ingredients into wet and fold in apples. Drop into greased muffin pan and bake for 25 minutes. Let cool and enjoy! Yields about 12 muffins.

My suggestion for consuming these blonde beauties is warmed and covered in peanut butter, cinnamon butter or even some cookie butter for a sweet splurge. And being cuddled up by a roaring fire with your favorite someone wouldn’t hurt either…Embrace hygge!

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.

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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

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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.

Fezziwig’s Food and Fountain

Portsmouth is one of my favorite places. It’s like this ever-changing mini city that is constantly evolving for the people that live and play there. When I was growing up there were about 3 restaurants and 2 stores worth visiting in downtown Portsmouth.

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Now it’s buzzing with culture, unique eats and thriving businesses. But still, one of the greatest things about it is that in many ways, it remains the same. The streets are brick and crooked, the buildings are quintessentially old, the stores are exceptionally quirky and the restaurants are continuously surprising and delightful.

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Fezziwig’s Food and Fountain was no exception to that. Probably one of the most unique cafes I have ever been in, Fezziwig’s is a must-stop for anyone visiting Portsmouth for lunch (or breakfast or dinner). This restaurant is a sister to its parent shop Pickwick’s Mercantile, a historically inspired shoppe that flawlessly depicts the merriment, peculiarity and charm of days gone by.

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The festive atmosphere of Pickwick’s seamlessly spills over into the cafe with costumed baristas and exquisite decorum. The elaborately decorated space transcends time and brings you to a fairy-tale place where everything has a little bit more wonder to it.

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And who doesn’t need a little wonder in their Sunday afternoon?! We certainly did, and girl talk and tomato soup was on the menu today.

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The tomato bisque I ordered was creamy and thick, with toasted croutons floating on top, just waiting for us to dig in. The turkey BLT was hearty and wholesome, with a salad and a crisp pickle on the side.

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This is not one of those cafes where you leave and you’re hungry 20 minutes later because your sandwich was made on tiny bread and had two lettuce leaves on it. This food is genuine good eats, and kept me warm and satisfied for hours.

I mean did we leave and go straight to Stonewall Kitchen for free brownie samples? Maybe.

But at least we had our salad first.

 

 

Running + Dance Playlists January 2017

Whether it’s cleaning the house, organizing my desktop or sweating it out at the gym, music is a huge motivator for me. And of course I have to have the hottest beats for my dance classes. Nothing like hearing the same songs during warm-up all year long to make you go crazy.

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I spend a lot of time curating my playlists because one of my biggest pet peeves is overplayed music. I CANNOT listen to Shut Up and Dance one more time, and yet, it used to be my favorite song. For a hot second that is. To me, as soon as a song is on the radio, it’s over for me.

Well maybe not that drastic, but it’s a slow downward spiral after that point.

My running playlist needs to be upbeat, positive and the more it can make me want to dance while running (although not recommended), the better. This is also the playlist I use for my jazz classes and warm-ups.

Running Playlist

My dance class playlists are split up into Hip Hop and Contemporary, mostly because those are two very different music categories. But it’s basically faster music that helps you get your swag on, and then slow chill music.

Contemporary Playlist

Hip Hop Playlist

Happy listening!

Sweet Potato Steak Fajita Bowl

Do you ever have one of those days when all you can think about is eating chocolate? Or a cupcake? Or chips?

Our bodies are actually programmed to crave certain foods for specific reasons. Usually because we are lacking certain nutrients in our diet at the time.

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Being aware of this can be key to understanding what your body actually needs, vs. what you think you need at the moment (ie. Chicken vs. an entire sleeve of Oreos).

There’s a few handy dandy charts floating around the internet that make it easy to see what you should eat based on what you’re craving.

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This recipe came out of one of those craving moments. All day I just wanted something sweet, so I came home, looked at what was available and whipped up a quick Sweet Potato Steak Fajita Bowl. Holy guacamole was it satisfying. And my sweet craving was gone.

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I used steak from our dinner the night before, but you could easily swap it out for some other meat like ground turkey, chicken sausage or tofu. The fajita (or taco in my case) seasoning is what does the trick and makes whatever protein you put it on oh, so, tasty.

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For those of us that are trying to stay away from gluten, the sweet potato acted as a bed for my sauteed ingredients, instead of rice or a tortilla.

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Sweet Potato Steak Fajita Bowl

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 a yellow onion
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 a yellow bell pepper
  • 1/2 an orange bell pepper
  • 2 large mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup cooked steak, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp McCormick Organic Fajita Seasoning Mix 
  • Shredded cheddar cheese for garnish
  • Chopped romaine lettuce for garnish
  • Sour cream for garnish

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cube sweet potatoes, spread on a baking sheet and mix with 2 tbsp olive oil, cinnamon and salt and pepper. Bake for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, saute onions, garlic, mushrooms and peppers in oil until soft. Add in cooked steak and season with fajita seasoning mix. Start layering your bowl first with roasted sweet potatoes then vegetable/steak mixture, then shredded cheese, lettuce and sour cream. Enjoy!

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Super quick, super easy, incredibly satisfying.

One quick meal planning tip for you – add a few more sweet potatoes to your recipe and save the leftovers for an easy and gluten/grain free side to your morning eggs. You will not even miss your toast, I promise.

 

 

5 Things To Make You Feel Healthier Right Now

You know what helps me get excited to get healthy? New cool sh$t. If I have a brand new 800 strap florescent pink sports bra waiting for me in my gym bag, I’m a thousand times more excited to hit the gym. New sneakers? Forget it, I’m a bouncing ball of joy on my way to the treadmill.

So  I’ve compiled a list of the new, cool stuff I’ve been sporting that is helping me feel or be healthier right now.

5 Things To Make You Feel Healthier Right Now

#5 PiperWai Natural Deodorant

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This stuff is the answer to my deodorant prayers. When I started learning about the negative affects of chemicals in conventional deodorants I went on a rampage trying to find a natural deodorant that worked and didn’t feel sticky and weird. One night I was watching Shark Tank and these women came on claiming that it was the next best thing and I immediately ordered one. Hold. the. phone. It worked! At first it was a little weird because you have to rub it on with your finger, but you get over it. The price is a bit high at $12 per container, but it’s worth knowing I’m not lathering terrible chemicals on such a sensitive area of my body.

#4 Corkcicle Water Bottle

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Everyone knows that drinking more water is better for your health, but sometimes it’s hard to remember to do it. For me, if I have a super cute water bottle staring me in the face, I will drink from it just out of pure attraction. Plus, this bottle keeps the water ice cold so it’s refreshing even if it’s been sitting at my desk for 8 hours.

#3 The Leaf

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This is like a FitBit, but is actually attractive to look at. The Leaf is also created specifically for women and not only tracks your activity and sleep, but also tracks your stress level and fertility. So cool! You can wear it as a bracelet, necklace or just clip it to your pants. It can also vibrate you awake if you so please.

#2 Nike AirMax FlyKnit Sneakers

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Cute on cute on cute. ‘Nuff said.

#1 UpTrak Standing Desk

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This standing desk has rocked my world over the past few weeks. I used to get really bad hip pain from sitting so long at my job. Now I can raise it when I want and lower it when I get tired. I thought I would stand all day long, but you actually have to slowly ease into it since sadly my body is not used to standing for long periods of time. But I’ll get there!

It’s funny how just a few items can make a big different in how healthy you feel or how motivated you are to get healthy. It just goes to show that shopping for new stuff is not all bad! Plus it’s good cardio 🙂

What things make you feel healthy?

 

Banana Chocolate Chip Coconut Cookies

The New Year is upon us and that means we all start to take a deep look at our lives and see what we can do better. I’m the first to admit that my pants start to feel pretty snug around the holidays and I may eat a few more (like 10) chocolates per day than usual.

Getting back to healthy eating can be hard, so I like to ease into it with nothing other than cookies.

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These Banana Chocolate Chip Coconut Cookies are vegan, gluten free, easy and help you use the inevitable rotting banana that has been sitting on the counter for 3 days and is really starting to stress you out.

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Now don’t let the word “vegan” deter you! Some people see the word vegan and start running for the hills…or to the nearest donut shop. I see vegan and I think “hey, that’s probably some pretty clean eats right there and will probably make me feel good.”And it usually does, so give vegan a chance.

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Banana Chocolate Chip Coconut Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 super ripe banana
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cup coconut flakes
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mash banana in a large bowl and add vanilla. Chop coconut flakes and add to banana mixture. Add chocolate chips and walnuts and mix well.Form mixture into cookies and place on greased cookie sheet. Form mixture into cookies and place on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 12 minutes. Flip cookies and bake for 5 more minutes. Let cool before eating so that they firm and set.

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These cookies are a perfect post-lunch snack when you’re reaching for something sweet. Swap the day-old office cake for these cookies for an extra energy punch to get you through the afternoon.

They are jam packed with healthy oils and antioxidants so you can feel good about your afternoon snack, instead of shameful and sad (we’ve all been there). Enjoy!

Fall Favorites

For many many reasons Fall is my favorite season; the pumpkin-spice-everything, the leaves, the crisp air and the cozy clothes.

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It helps that I live in an area where Fall is celebrated everywhere you look from early September all the way to Christmas, with festivals every weekend, corn mazes to get lost in and scarecrows lurking around every corner.

This year we were actually going to skip the Fall festivities since we have a very busy October with weddings and our honeymoon, but one Saturday morning we were pulled out of bed by Shawn’s niece and nephew and whisked over to Applecrest – the Disneyword of Fall and one of my favorite places.

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And obviously we had to bring Theo. This guy loves apples more than life itself.

So we did the hayride thing and the apple picking thing and the donut thing and then promptly went home to do the watch-a-movie-and-pretend-you’re-not-napping thing. Crowds + donuts + wrangling an apple monster/dog can be tiring.

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With the plethora of apples taking up space on our counter I knew it was time to get baking. Recipe coming to the blog later this week!

Another one of my favorite things about Fall is that it’s the start of a new dance season. That means new classes, new students and of course new music! So here is my Fall playlist complete with songs to dance to, songs to run to and even some songs to cry to if the mood strikes you.

Time to grab your pumpkin spice latte and pump the jams. And before the season passes, get on your flannel and get yourself to Applecrest to bask in all of its Fall glory.