Blog

June - 2017
Constance's Stage Left - July 2017 06-28-17

Summer beginsanother year has flown by. We ended our adult season with a fantastic showing of adult performances at our annual Friday Night at the Barre on June 23rd. I especially love seeing first-time dance performers. It adds a whole new dimension to their class work. There is nothing like repeating choreography over and over, hearing corrections, changing steps and gaining confidence with the memorization of movement. Often in class, our brains freeze when learning new steps. We do not have confidence, and our body cannot respond to our brain's messages. Adults are actually quicker learners than children. What happens is our brain is filled with preconceived notions and we tense in anticipation of failing or, in the dancers’ case, falling! Repetition helps liberate us into experiencing dance as a pure artistic expression. Have you ever fumbled about in class and after class in the hallway it all comes together?

I love the atmosphere of support for each other in class and on stage. This is the most important goal for our community of adult dancers. We come together with a common purpose to dance. It is a secret society that is hard to explain in words. So many adults come back to dance after many years away and bring a new enthusiasm and commitment to the process.

I love the process and as a teacher I continue to grow every time I step in the studio. Last week, I was in New York City with a fellow adult student. I took a ballet class. It reminded me how hard it is! I wanted to say to all my students that I am sorry. By the end I was over the frustrating hurdles, the stiffness and age-related problems. I left sweating, breathless and exhilarated. There are still things to work on and improve and discover.

Summer is a great time to dance. The warm weather makes our bodies feel better. Vacations take away the stress of work that sometimes we bring to class. Adults take over the studio at night and our late night chats in the parking lot are happening in the warm summer night air.

This year’s adult summer intensive will be another special event. Mathew Powell is such a joy to experience, generous and kind, a master teacher. Bringing Jackie Doherty back is another thrill. She was loved by our community when she was a part of our faculty. The other classes will give you a taste of other forms of dance with talented and caring teachers. Dont let fear stop you. I have had adults say I dont think I can dance all dayyou would be surprised. YOU CAN and have fun.

He who reaches his goal has missed all the rest, Zen saying

Adults Dance forever,

       Constance Walsh

May - 2017
Meet Cindy Bragg 05-25-17

Meet Faculty Member Cindy Bragg

Cindy Bragg teaches ballet in our Young & Junior Divisions

1. Hometown? Arlington, VA-- I'm a townie!

2. When did you start dancing? Not sure... Early... I was on a baby blanket in the studio as my mom taught.

3.Favorite dance movement? I have to choose? Brisé volé was pretty exciting when I first got it. That excitement hasn't entirely worn off :-)

4. Favorite thing about dance? The feeling of flying-- that's first... But there are so many close seconds-- the discipline, the challenge (mental and physical), the fact that there's always something new to learn and to work on, losing myself in the meditation of barre work, dancing with others, art + athleticism, self-expression...

5. Favorite class to teach? Again, can't choose.

6. Favorite class to take? There are so many wonderful classes to take! But Ms. Walsh's Monday night Ballet is special because it was my first class back after too long and 2 babies. There was a pianist, there were accomplished dancers in class, there was a feeling of camaraderie, there was Ms. Walsh's sense of humor... I knew that I had found a new Ballet home.

7. What is your background? (Where did you grow up? What do you do in your spare time? Do you have a hidden talent?) Background: Proud local (we exist!). I was raised in Arlington and now live in Old Town Alexandria. I've always danced and always really enjoyed it, but I had other interests too and wasn't always a "serious" dancer. As I gained more life experience, I grew to really appreciate the body awareness and control that dance gave me at an early age... Also, the musicality, the self-confidence from performing, the ability to emote... There were many gifts gained from practicing dance that I didn't become fully aware of until later. I started apprentice teaching when I was 16. I've taught in many different contexts since then, including 4th grade in public school, docents in an art museum, and back-country camping on the Appalachian Trail.

Spare time: I'm a Girl Scout leader (takes up sooo much time!). I hang out at a lot of playgrounds and museums with my 6- and 3-year-old daughters. We attend many festivals and performances as a family. Together we enjoy watching golden-age Hollywood musicals (Singin' in the Rain, Easter Parade, White Christmas, etc.) and many different versions of the Nutcracker (We own at least 6!)-- my kids are big fans! Seeing movies with them usually involves getting up and dancing! My girls and I work (inconsistently) on speaking French and using American Sign Language. I'm also a part-time science teacher. I love audiobooks and riding my bike.

8. How do you feel after teaching a dance class? Tired! Jazzed! Happy! Thinking about what to do for the same class next week.

9. What has dance done for you? I've done other things, but dance is something I know that I will always come back to. It's cathartic. It's exercise, but also artistic expression.

10. What advice or inspiration can you give to new students or those looking to take a class?

First, anyone can dance. Really. Second, receiving a personal correction from a teacher is a compliment, not a rebuke. Generally speaking, it's a sign of the teacher's attention and regard that she or he takes the time to work with you personally. Third, try to lose your self-consciousness as much as you can. It's very hard to do because you have to be conscientiously self-aware to grow, but there's a tipping point where we can easily get in our own way. Most importantly, enjoy it! Don't get so caught up in the details that you forget to actually dance.

11. What’s the best / your favorite thing about BalletNova? The inclusive atmosphere coupled with the sound, body-conscious technique.

February - 2017
Meet Giselle MacDonald 02-28-17

Meet faculty member Giselle MacDonald!
Giselle teaches intermediate ballet classes in our adult division.

1. Hometown?

I’m a local from Arlington, VA.

2. When did you start dancing?

I started dancing when I was 6 years old at BalletNova, back when it was called Arlington Center for Dance.

3. Favorite dance movement?

My favorite part of a ballet class is starting with pliés.  It’s a time where you get to set the tone for your class and start to bring your focus into your body.  It grounds you and sets a foundation to build off of.   On the other hand, I’d say grand allegro is also my favorite for the opposite reasons.  I love to see students loosen the analytical part of their brain that’s so necessary for ballet and just move.  Really making use of the space gives dancers so much freedom.

Outside of class, I think my favorite thing that I’ve done would have to be how we closed the show for The Little Mermaid, which was a collaboration between Imagination Stage and the Washington Ballet.  My partner and I for the production were hooked up to harnesses that came from a central point- and using each other and the centrifugal force, we got to fly!

4. Favorite thing about dance?

It’s hard to pinpoint one thing as my favorite thing about dance.  I love the primal sense of joy that moving your body can give you.   Its so simple and human- which is so important to hold onto especially in a day where technology is becoming such a huge part of people’s lives.  It reminds you of how special it is to be a physical person on earth and dancing itself celebrates that.  I also love how progress-oriented dance is.   Each class gives you something to build off of and work towards.  There is no perfect, or limit to your progress - but little by little you get to build on your knowledge of the steps your doing and discover new ways to build strength and new ways to create something beautiful.  You can come to dance class with your own goals and it can be anything that you want it to be.   It can be exercise after being stuck sitting all day, or a way to express yourself, or a way to hear beautiful music engaging your whole self instead of just your ears. 

5. Favorite class to teach?

My favorite class to teach is ballet class.  I love its structure, I love having music from a pianist, and I love to share the knowledge that I’ve gained through my experiences dancing professionally.  The technique and strength that you learn in ballet class can help you in any style of dance.

6. Favorite class to take?

I take ballet class every morning and it’s my go to class, but I’ve always really liked to take contemporary classes in my free time.  I love how expressive it can be and how it explores more ways that your body can move.

7. What is your background? (Where did you grow up? What do you do in your spare time? Do you have a hidden talent?)

I’ve grown up- born and raised- in Arlington.  I’ve always been a bit of a bookworm and still love reading in my spare time.  And I love to get outside when I can and the weather is nice.  I feel so fortunate to live where I can visit the national mall or sit outside by the Potomac.   A little time in nature helps to re-center me.

8. How do you feel after teaching a dance class?

I leave teaching dance class feeling inspired.  A room full of dancers working hard and growing together is one of the most uplifting things there is.  My students inspire me with their work and focus and I strive each class to inspire them to absorb as much as they can from class and to have the confidence and freedom to be their best selves.

9. What has dance done for you?
Dance and the process of learning to dance and becoming a dancer has taught me more about myself than I think anything else could’ve.  Dance teaches you to be in tune with your mind and in tune with your body.  Dancers practice reflecting back on their habits and changes in the way they function day to day.  Part of learning dance is learning how to adjust to these changes and becoming centered mentally and physically.

From the time I started at BalletNova as a kid to present day, dance has continued to introduce me to communities of people who are incredibly hard working, creative, passionate, and supportive of one another.   The people that I have met through dance are irreplaceable in my heart.

10. What advice or inspiration can you give to new students or those looking to take a class?

One piece of advice I can offer to new students or those looking to take a class is to let your fears go.   I think most people feel anxious when trying something new, but you’re capable of learning so much more when you let this go.  A dance class is meant for you- so let yourself move, and let your inhibitions go.  Come with an open mind and absorb in everything you can.  If you’re unsure of how something works, the faculty and students at BalletNova are a welcoming bunch, and happy to help you along.

11. What’s the best / your favorite thing about BalletNova?

The students are the soul of BalletNova.  My favorite thing about BalletNova when I came up through the school, and teaching now- is how the students work so hard in a positive and constructive way, and support each other as they learn more.  BalletNova has an incredibly nurturing community of staff and students who are passionate about what they do- and in working together they become a family.   

February - 2017
Meet Fiona Green 02-17-17

Meet faculty member Fiona Green!
Fiona teaches jazz classes in our adult division.

1. Hometown? Forked River, NJ

2. When did you start dancing? 3

3. Favorite dance movement? Calypsos

4. Favorite thing about dance? It's both a physical and emotional outlet. No matter what's going on in the world the studio is a sanctuary to either escape or embrace it. 

5. Favorite class to teach? Jazz

6. Favorite class to take? Hip hop or jazz

7. What is your background? I grew up in NJ taking a variety of styles of dance - ballet, jazz, tap, hip hop, etc. In my spare time I enjoy traveling, bikram yoga, a good biography, and spending time with family and friends. 

8. How do you feel after teaching a dance class? Energized! I love working with children and adults and giving them an outlet for their creativity. It's wonderful to see people grow and explore new things with dance.

9. What has dance done for you? Dance is something that's been a constant in my life, like an old friend. It's connected me to life-long friends, as well as opportunities to perform and travel.

10. What advice or inspiration can you give to new students or those looking to take a class? Be fearless! Don't be afraid to look silly. Often times when you "feel silly" you are on your way to something amazing.

11. What’s the best / your favorite thing about BalletNova? BalletNova offers students so many opportunities to try different styles of dance. There are some many choices for drop in classes. You can explore many different styles and teachers. It's a great way to learn and grow.

January - 2017
Meet Leslie Egge 01-23-17

Meet faculty member Leslie Egge!

Leslie Egge teaches ballet classes in our teen & pre-professional divisions. 

1. Hometown? During my earliest years we lived in England, Austria, France, and Quebec; but most of my childhood was spent in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

2. When did you start dancing? I began taking ballet classes in Quebec at age three.

3. Favorite dance movement? I'm not sure I can pick just one movement. I've always loved adagio. I enjoy feeling the music and expressing myself through the slower, more sustained movement.

4. Favorite thing about dance? My favorite thing about dance is the opportunity to connect with an audience.

5. Favorite class to teach? I love teaching ballet to teens - both in the enrichment program and the older Junior and Conservatory Divisions. This is an incredible time of life and it's a privilege to teach these students as they are learning more about themselves and the world.

6. Favorite class to take? My favorite class to take is one that builds thoughtfully throughout the class, beginning with a strong warm-up and an emphasis on placement at the barre. Once we're in the center, I really like to move across the floor in fun and unexpected ways.

7. What is your background? I grew up predominantly in South Florida with Canadian and British parents. I left home at 15 to pursue further study of ballet. After my career in dance, I went to college, worked as a writer, and later began our family. We now have four children and live in Falls Church. I have no spare time! ;) But if I did, I'd continue working on my short stories and other writing, read, garden, go to the theater and try to remember how to play the piano.

8. How do you feel after teaching a dance class? I feel incredibly happy and energized after teaching a ballet class.

9. What has dance done for you? Dance has opened an entire world of profound creativity to me. It's a limitless and inspiring world of which I'm forever grateful to be a part. 

10. What advice can you give new students or those looking to take a class? I would advise new students to be patient and generous with themselves. Dance is an art form that takes years to develop. It's not about hitting goals in a gym or moving as quickly as possible from one level to the next. It's a journey of both athleticism and artistry and every chance to be in the studio should be enjoyed.

11. What’s the best/your favorite thing about BalletNova? My favorite thing about BalletNova is its rich legacy of nurturing young students in all aspects of their lives, encouraging a well-rounded dance education, and unfailing commitment to excellence.

November - 2016
Constance's Stage Left - November 2016 11-01-16

Hello Adult Dancers and Happy November!

    Yesterday, a student came up to me after class and said, “another teacher told me to pull up my inner thighs and I can’t feel my inner thighs.” My response was to start focusing on the sensation of pulling in the inner thighs and then once you can feel that, you can begin to try and pull them up. I left thinking, “What a good correction!” and then thought, “How many corrections go over a student’s head because they can’t feel the muscles we are talking about?” Corrections are the key to making progress, but it also serves to help the dancer focus.

    Somatics (Alexander technique, Yoga) is way to start. I am always watching the student to see what works, what makes them respond and engage. I try and provide the dancer with information to enhance their ability to have the internal sensation and not just the external sensations. It is like building blocks. In my classes I plan an outline of the class with a clear goal. Every class is an experiment: try a particular theory, work on just the standing leg, build on a port de bra or focus the barre on petite allegro. Adults are like sponges, they try everything. I am fascinated the different ways a student will translate a correction. Sometimes a very small step at the barre can make a big difference in the center. Technique gives a dancer freedom.

    If you receive a correction that you don’t understand, ask the teacher after class. Sometimes a student will say that another teacher told them something else. If it works for you, then stay with it, but don’t be afraid to try something else. I love to sit and talk with my fellow teachers and share our methods. Dance training is ever changing. What we did ten years ago has changed. As an older teacher, I have had to face the limitations of my body, but I have embraced the experience and maturity of my approach. You will not hear me say I am old as if I should have an excuse. I am who I am today and I continue to grow.  You should walk into class with an open mind and body - don’t get stuck in limitations. Don’t turn against yourself when learning. Don’t be afraid to fail and fall. It’s the only way to learn to fly.

    I am so proud of our adult community at BalletNova. I want to continue to build and strengthen our program. Please feel free to email me at cwalsh@balletnova.org.

    Elizabeth DeSequirant is leaving us to move to Florida.  She has brought so much talent BalletNova, graphic design, teaching, choreographing, outreach, her company One Lightto name just a few. It is also a friendship that I will always treasure. I wish you and Jeremiah Love and Light in your new life. Thank you!

    Hope to see you all this Sunday, November 6 at 3:00 p.m. at Rachel Schlesinger Concert Hall to hear the wonderful American Youth Philharmonic Orchestra and to see our first collaboration with my choreography to the 2nd Suite of Daphnis and Chloe. www.aypo.org

 

June - 2016
Constance's Stage Left 06-01-16

“Mirror, Mirror on the Wall. Who is the Fairest of them all?”

Our relationship with the mirror is complicated. It’s an important tool to work with during class, but is often misused. I am surprised when I see students looking in the mirror and not correcting their placement. I think to myself, “What are they looking at?” Then when thinking about writing this blog, I realized we are not teaching the use of the mirror. It is there in front of us and not being utilized to improve our technique. Teaching beginning-level students at the barre, I notice that they never even look in the mirror. The beginner is starting to feel the connection of mind to body; trying to understand this new language. The mirror would be a distraction at this point.

   To use the mirror correctly involves critical thinking. It is focused self-correcting. A student must process what the teacher is asking of them and also have a clear picture in their mind of what they should be trying to achieve. Visualization is an important part of class. Recently, I was talking to my son, Connor Walsh, Principal dancer with the Houston Ballet and he told me he has a picture in his mind for every type of pirouette he does from Baryshnikov on.

   To correct our placement, we must understand what the picture is and what our tendencies are. The area we often ignore is our back and front placement – the straight line from the top of our head to our heels. We can look at pictures or watch YouTube to discover what is correct.  First we must feel what the correct line is so that when we check ourselves in the mirror we know what we have to do to fix it. Let’s call it “Beat the Teacher.”

   Use the mirror as your opportunity to beat the teacher to the correction you most often receive. Become your own coach.

    Center work is another story. I think it is the time to let go of the mirror to allow yourself to feel and move. The head is always moving with the arms and the shoulders. Only the eyes can check the mirror or your head will be in the wrong position. It’s time for the mirror to be your audience, not your teacher.

   As a teacher I want every student to become their own teacher, to learn their strengths and weaknesses and to continue to improve. Self-correcting allows the student freedom from the teacher so that regardless of the situation, the student can continue training and learning throughout class. Staying focused in class is difficult, but becoming your own teacher helps maintain it.

  I want to take this time to invite all of you to take the Adult Summer Intensive. Don’t be afraid. BalletNova has an incredible adult dance community that supports each other in a way I have never seen. Ethan Brown is our guest teacher and he has plenty of experience teaching adults. Learn a ballet variation or two. Put all the classes you have been taking to use…Experience the Art of Dancing.

April - 2016
Constance's Stage Left - April 2016 04-01-16

Moving Through Space

Awhile back in Thursday night’s Adult Advanced Beginning ballet class, I asked the students to split into two groups and to do the combination together - one group starting from the left and one from the right. As I watched, I began to focus on the dancers’ use of space and not on the execution of their steps. One of my favorite moments on stage is when a group of dancers is moving together and we create a wind.

How do we move through space as we focus on our technique and artistry? Dance class is not a solo event. We are sharing the space together. It is a developed awareness to be able to dance with others and navigate through space. We have our personal space and then there is the general space. We must learn our line of travel and feel the pathway to our ending spot.

It is amazing to think of the different ways we must be aware- what is front of us, what is behind us, how near we are we to one another, and how much distance do we have? This requires getting out of ourselves and developing spatial awareness.  In grande allegro, all these questions need to be dealt with. How many people are in my group? How far am I going? How much time do I have to stop before the dancer behind me is coming? Am I moving big enough or too big?

I sometimes see a student stop and walk off slowly as the group from the left is leaping forward or I see a student walk through the group waiting to start. Often a more advanced dancer will plow past the slower people in front to complete their turn. I used to think this was rudeness, but I have learned it is a lack of awareness of others.

I was brought up with strict decorum in the studio and I have had to adjust some of my views, especially for the adult population.  My interests are to improve each individual’s dancing and to make my class safe for all. It is not a natural thing and it takes time to feel the space around you as you move. I can feel without seeing. If I move big, I find the other big movers and go with them. If I am unsure of combination, I go in the back to make sure I have it. If someone is slow in front I keep my distance from behind and adjust next time. Find the best dancer in the room and soak up their energy.

I end with a quote from one of my favorite teachers at the Graham School, Yuriko, “During the final portion of the class when the dancer has to get across the space fast, there has to be a sense of urgency. What impels all of us to move fast is a thought, a fear, a motivation, such as one that makes us hurry to an appointment or run for a bus. The motive is what makes you move fast, the body follows.”  

March - 2016
BalletNova Dancer Spotlight: Sara Perla 03-01-16

Thoughtout the year, BalletNova will spotlight our Adult Dance Program dancers. Our hopes are to inspire current and potenial students by showcasing the variety of backgrounds and experience levels within our studio! Whether you're dancing for the first time or you've been dancing for a lifetime, BalletNova has a class for you!

This month we're highlighting Sara Perla! 

Where is your Hometown?

 I grew up in Burke, VA, and took ballet at Buffy's Dance Studio there.

When did you start dancing with BalletNova?

I started about three years ago, after seeing an ad in the Washingtonian magazine.

What is your favorite dance movement?

Well it certainly is NOT the pas de cha. I hate that move, particularly because I sprained my ankle because I got distracted while I was attempting to do it. I am not sure what my favorite dance movement is, but I do love when we move across the floor and finally feel like we're dancing.

What is your Favorite thing about dance?

I'm a musician so I love being able to combine that with moving the body. I appreciate Matt's accompaniment so much and it definitely informs the movements. It's an opportunity to express beauty with the body, to leave everything else behind and really be in a moment.

What is your favorite class?

I take the "beginning for non-beginners" class. I was shocked to find a class title that so perfectly encapsulated my ability level!

How do you feel after taking a dance class?

I feel alive and thirsty!

What has dancing done for you (before vs. after)?

It has been an outlet for both the body and spirit. I'm thankful for my friendly classmates as well.

Any advice for newbies or inspiration for those looking to join?

I would just say that we are a fun group and there's nothing to be afraid of. Nobody loves wearing tight clothes and attempting to move in ways she/he hasn't in years, but if you can just let go of that, it's a time to rest, paradoxically, even while you work really hard. 

What's your favorite thing about BalletNova?

Constance is a wonderful teacher and the music is reliably excellent, but when you're in the class itself, it really is the other people there that make it or break it-- and happily, they make it!

January - 2016
Constance's Stage Left - January 2016 01-08-16

Happy New Year! May this year be the year of dance. In this age of technology, one clings to the art of dancing.  It is so refreshing to walk in to the studio and be free of the electronics, to spend time with our mind and body and to be with others of the same tribe. I love the beginning of class, whether I am teaching or taking, it presents possibilities. It is never the same- it’s like going on a quest for that unattainable perfection.  Moving through space, finding our balance - there are a million little things that keep us all going to class. As a teacher I feel the same, except my role is to try and get you one step further.  It is a responsibility not to be taken lightly. So let’s all move big in this New Year!

 Last week an adult student came up to me and asked if she could wear pointe shoes at the barre. I said she wasn’t ready and I could tell she was upset. This is what I meant about a teachers’ responsibility. I could say ‘yes’ and the consequences of that decision would be the student’s to bear. But I will not willingly put a student at risk of injury. We have requirements for children to go on pointe. There should be requirements for adults. There are many ways to judge readiness including if you can let go of the barre and balance on one leg for a period of time with your knees able to straighten or if you can execute a Grande plié in center with correct technique. Do I think adults should dance on pointe? Absolutely. I just recommend having an honest conversation with your teacher and their professional insight. I once had a wonderful student who started pointe at 70 years old and was able to eventually do basic center work. And just for the record, I am unable to Grande plié in center.

 As I write this, the temperature has definitely entered the cold zone. I can’t say enough about warming up a bit before class. As we have covered before, sitting and stretching is not warming up. Also, start with wearing some extra dance clothes and as you warm up take off the warm-ups. It is easy in the cold not to drink enough, so be sure to hydrate. Have those healthy snacks to keep your blood sugar up. It has been proven that loss of motivation can be from a drop in blood sugar - you know the “couch looks good, I am so tired from work” way of thinking.  Half of an energy bar with water works. Think ahead. You will never be sorry you danced when you leave the studio.
 
Try different styles of dance to switch it up. I am still trying to work my way into tap. When I was dancing professionally, taking a jazz class always made me happy. We have such a great adult community here at BalletNova. It is something I am very proud of, so let’s keep growing, dancing and living life in motion!
January - 2016
Meet Jeremy McShan 01-07-16

Welcome new BalletNova faculty member Jeremy McShan!

1. Hometown? Tuscaloosa, Alabama

2. When did you start dancing? 

I started dancing when I was in high school.  Originally started in gymnastics, and then later switched over to dance.

3. Favorite dance movement? 

I'm a huge "turner."  I think since I first learned how to pirouette, I never stopped.  I think my friends can find me in my kitchen or in a hallway constantly spinning!

4. Favorite thing about dance? 

That you get to express yourself in ways words simply cannot do.  And when I dance I forget about all my troubles and can just live in the moment and be free.

5. Favorite class to teach? Favorite class to take? 

My favorite class to teach would be jazz, especially street jazz. My background is a combo of hip hop and jazz so teaching this fusion is perfect for me.  My students jokingly call me sassy pants because they say my choreography is "sassy."  My favorite class to take at BalletNova has been Elizabeth Lucrezio's Adult Jazz class on Thursday nights.  I love the way she teaches and as a teacher, it's important to continue taking class as well as experience other styles.  Though we both teach jazz, her style is a bit different from mine and pushes me and allows me to be a better dancer.

6. What is your background? 

I grew up in Alabama and went to college in Kentucky.  After college, Iperformed on cruise ships, did lots of regional theatre, choreographed for theme parks, and taught at studios.  In my spare time when I'm not dancing, I'm a huge movie-goer. I probably go the movies once a week.

7. How do you feel after teaching a dance class? 

I always feel energized when I finish.  I never feel tired. I feel like I could keep dancing on and on.  I love the fact that I get to teach people how to dance and let them experience the greatness that dance can do for a person's well-being.

8. What has dancing done for you? 

Dancing has done everything for me! It's afforded me opportunity, it's allowed me to meet a diverse group of people for all walk's of life as well as build a community of life long friends. It's served as a stress reliever, as an expression mechanism, as a way of life for me that I wouldn't know who to do with myself without dance.

9. Any advice for new students or inspiration for those looking to take class? 

Just go for it! The rhythm is inside you and if you allow yourself to not be afraid of trying something new or letting your body move in a way that it hasn't moved before, you will discover so much more about yourself!

10. What's the best / your favorite thing about BalletNova? 

My FAVORITE part of BalletNova is the people.  Everyone I encounter from the staff, to the students are always friendly and welcoming. I always see smiling faces in the hallways or love the quick chats I have with other teachers.  It's a wonderful community that I am excited to be a part of for hopefully a long time to come.

October - 2015
Meet Kristen Stevenson 10-15-15

BalletNova welcomes Kristen Stevenson to our teaching faculty.

 

Ms. Stevenson teaches Junior Division 3 students. Please welcome her to the studio. We're excited to have her with us!

1. Hometown?
I grew up locally in Owings Mills, Maryland, and my family moved there more than 40 years ago from Iowa and South Carolina.

2. When did you start dancing?
I began dancing at the age of 2 with the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Maryland.

3. Favorite dance movement?
My absolute favorite dance movement is simplistic in its approach, but holds major benefits to all classical dancers. If anyone would ask my students what my favorite dance movement
is, they'd reply "RELEVE." If done correctly, Relevés build the arch muscle, the calf muscle, the ankles and can even promote/correct proper alignment between the knee, shin and ankle. A good relevé will take you a long way!

4. Favorite thing about dance?
"Dance is the hidden language of the soul" - Martha Graham. Dance gives us an alternate form of communication without the written and/or spoken word. It leaves an open-ended interpretation and connection from the dancer's soul to the audience that is unexplainable.

5. Favorite class to teach? Favorite class to take?

I absolutely love teaching ballet however, I've created a curriculum for a Contemporary Ballet class completed on Pointe that I both love to teach and take. It's a class designed for advanced dancers trained in classical ballet with a flair of contemporary movements and musical selections. I hope to eventually share this opportunity with the BalletNova students, as well.

6. What is your background (where did you grow up, what do you do in your spare time, etc.?

A few facts about me: I have a two year old son who I adore thus I spend most, if not all, of my free time with him and my husband. We attend several Mommy and Me classes per week at the library, swim club and play ground. When time permits, I enjoy traveling, hiking and exploring new cuisines.

7. How do you feel after teaching a dance class?
I feel exuberant and creative! I absolutely love and enjoy teaching and normally I feel motivated to create new choreography/combinations that will help reveal my students’ untapped potential.

8. What has dancing done for you?
Dance is my earth, moon and stars. It is my calm in a world of chaos and my sunlight on a rainy day. Dance is life.

9. Any advice for new students or inspiration for those looking to take class?
It's important to give yourself time to grow and develop into your craft as a dancer and artist. Keep going!

10. What's the best / your favorite thing about
BalletNova? My favorite thing about BalletNova are the motivated, passionate and dedicated students. It has been a pleasure to work with all of the amazing students.

 

October - 2015
Constance's Stage Left - October 2015 10-02-15

Where did the summer go? While I continue to hope for the childhood kingdom of lazy days and long warm nights, instead the summer flew by, as it usually does, in a whirl of activity and obligations.

As most of you know I had the unique opportunity to attend the Bolshoi Academy Teacher Training in New York City in August. One of the younger students at BalletNova looked at me and asked, “What else do you need to know?”

I laughed and explained this is one of the reasons I chose dance as my life’s work: you never get to graduate. It is also a difficult aspect of teaching, as there is an expectation to know everything, which can lead to a closed mind. I was so inspired by the teachers from the Bolshoi, and the some of the expectations and stereotypes I had of that style of training were dispelled. There was also an enjoyable camaraderie amongst the teachers, and the opportunity to get out of my box and be challenged was incredible.

This is often the feeling of an adult student entering a dance class. Last week a student came to my Thursday Advanced Beginning class and when I introduced myself she blurted, “I haven’t danced in forever and I don’t know what I am doing.”

I told her to try to relax and if she felt something was too hard, or if she had no idea how to do it, it is okay to stop. It is also okay to step out of a combination and watch, but I think sometimes people are afraid to do that, as if it is not allowed.  I suggested she come to a lower level.

Near the end of the class I noticed she was starting to cry, but I chose not talk to her. I wanted to afterwards, but it was crowded and she slipped away.  I thought about her all week. I began talking to other students about when they started, and was amazed by their struggles. One student said that she felt that way for two years.

We want to be good at whatever we do, but facing the reality of not being our child-self in class is difficult. It isn’t just ballet class. The original student did come to the lower level, and I told her I had been thinking about her all week. She looked surprised. I told her that BalletNova’s adult population is an amazing group of positive and supportive people. I would love it if more of you shared your stories.

I have watched so many of you become dancers and to work so hard at this crazy thing called Ballet. The adult students are always teaching me, and our faculty loves the opportunity to dig into the “how to” for each individual.

Warming Up Before Class

Often I see adults plop down on the floor and go right into static stretching before class. This type of stretching should only be done after warming up the body. I have always encouraged students to develop their own warm up with movements they enjoy doing. As professionals most of us developed our own warm up before class and stage that would keep our mind focused and body relaxed. Movement is the key to warming up, and a circular type is great, for example rolling shoulders, “cat and cow,” ankle rolling, gentle hip rolls, and gentle jumping and swinging.

One new addition to warming up is self-massage techniques, which help the body prepare for warm-ups and high intensity movement. Fascia is soft connective tissue that provides support and protection to our muscles. The soft tissue can become tight and tense, so increasing blood flow will help to warm-up.  Don’t just pull out the rollers after class, but also before. 

September - 2015
Meet Kristina Ancil Edwards 09-18-15

BalletNova welcomes new faculty member Kristina Ancil Edwards. 

Ms. Ancil Edwards teaches classes in the Youth, Junior and Conservatory Divisions. We're excited to have her working with our students and want you to get to know her as well!

Welcome aboard!

     

 

 

 

 

 

1. Hometown?

Pittsburgh, PA

2. When did you start dancing?

I was 4 years old and had my first lessons at a local park district.

3. Favorite dance movement?

Petite and Grand Allegro. Specifically brises, pas de chats, and saut de chats.

4. Favorite thing about dance?

Going to class is the best way to start my day off right.

I'm always in search of that magical, elusive moment when the music and the movement come together perfectly.

5. Favorite class to teach? Favorite class to take?

Each class I teach is rewarding in its own way, but I love teaching students, adults or kids who come with focus, a desire to learn, and a sense of humor. Even professional track classes should be infused with joy. My favorite class to take is ballet with a strong musical awareness and lots of jumping, of course.

6. What is your background?

I moved around quite a bit as a kid but mostly grew up just outside of Pittsburgh. I graduated high school, spent a year in the graduate program and then started dancing professionally.

I then moved around quite a bit as a professional as well.

Now that I'm settled in the DC metro area, when I'm not dancing or teaching I enjoy hiking in Rock Creek Park, camping in Shenandoah, exploring all the amazing historical sites, or simply cooking a delicious meal at home with my husband.

7. How do you feel after teaching a dance class?

Honestly, sometimes I'm really tired if it's been a long stretch, but most of the time I'm inspired by the dedication and talent of my students. I leave energized when I see the light bulbs turn on and when ideas click.

8. What has dancing done for you?

Besides the practical things of keeping me fit and healthy, it has been a way of life, a constant. It has taught me patience and perseverance, and been a refuge when times are tough, a way to express things words can't. 

9. Any advice for new students or inspiration for those looking to take class?

Learning a new technique or style can be intimidating, but find a style you love and give yourself time. Don't be hard on yourself or try to rush it. 

10. What's the best / your favorite thing about BalletNova?

I love the dedication of both the students and teachers. I love feeling inspired to be the best teacher I can be.

July - 2015
Constance's Stage Right Dance Chats 07-20-15

This month, many BalletNova Alumni have been back in our studios taking class. Associate Artistic Director Constance Walsh sat down with one of them to ask a few questions. Take a look!

http://www.balletnova.org/video/play.php?v_id=150717111519 

June - 2015
BalletNova Dancer Spotlight: Angelique Pham 06-29-15

Throughout the year BalletNova will spotlight our Adult Dance Program dancers. Our hopes are to inspire current and potential students by showcasing the variety of backgrounds and experience levels within our studio! Whether you're dancing for the first time or you've been dancing for a lifetime, BalletNova has a class for you! 

This month we are highlighting Angelique Pham

Where is your Hometown?
Los Angeles, California.

When did you start dancing with BalletNova?
Fall 2008.

What is your favorite dance movement?
Sissonne failli assemble.

What is your Favorite thing about dance?
Dance helps me developing the connection between the mind and the body, therefore living a mindful life.

What is your Favorite class?
Ballet technique class. I like to develop accurate and clean technique that an adult student can possibly achieve.

What is your background?
I am a computer scientist who spend a lot of my spare time at BalletNova. When I don't work or dance, I enjoy lazy moments at home giving the muscles and mind a chance to relax and recover while watching a good criminal investigation show on TV.

How do you feel after taking a dance class?
I usually take class after work when I'm in the tired, sluggish and stressed mental state. Dance class helps me put all the worries away.  After class I'm so much more energetic and happy.

What has dancing done for you (before vs. after)?
Dance helps building my confidence and gracefully embracing my weaknesses.

Any advice for newbies or inspiration for those looking to join?
Just try it! And try different dance styles too.  You might excel at one particular dance style. We all love doing things we are good at, so give dance some time to develop your technique and familiarity.

What's your favorite thing about BalletNova?
The combination of great teachers, quality classes and extensive schedule available for adult students.

Feeling Inspired? Take Angelique's Advice and Come Dance With Us! 

June - 2015
Constance's Stage Left- June 2015 06-16-15
This month I say a fond farewell to our lovely Artistic Director Nancie Woods. I started teaching at BalletNova in 2007, the last year it was in the old studio, and from the day I started I felt her generous support. Every year she honored my work by giving me new classes and choreography, and I remember one afternoon walking down the hallway with her and Shu-Chen, mentioning how I would love to choreograph something on Shu-Chen. 
 
Nancie turned to me and said “Spring Show, 20 minutes.” I turned to Shu-Chen and we jumped up and down: our chance to work together. That is Nancie. No demands or restrictions, just a show of faith that makes us feel more confident. I respect her work, and for having been encouraged to do my own I am forever grateful. 
    
I started teaching more adult classes, and realized what a unique group of students we had at BalletNova. I went to Nancie and said, “I need a pianist;” she said “Fine, find one.” This is the environment I have been allowed to thrive in. 
 
As hard as it is to say goodbye, as she leaves us to go to Sarasota Ballet, I am thrilled for her new life and hope she is allowed to flourish as she has allowed us all. If you see her in the next couple of weeks, wish her love and luck. 

Tips of the Trade According to me: PARALLEL

A study posted in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health noted, “Over one half of dance injuries occur in the lower extremities with sprains and strains being the most common, followed by falls.”
 
I am a strong believer in doing parallel hip activities such as Yoga, strength training with weights, Pilates, and even working on walking in parallel. Exercises to improve internal hip rotation will not worsen your turn out, and it can help correct muscle imbalances and overuse caused by turning out. 
 
Working in parallel can help ankle and knee stability. My favorite is a slow élevé in parallel facing the barre, which allows you to feel your correct alignment, building stability of knees and ankles, while focusing on spine and pelvis alignment.  Try not to get caught up in that ideal picture of a ballet dancer. A correct position with your leg in 45 degrees can be breathtakingly beautiful. 
 
I will be taking July and August off from my blog. I wish you all a wonderful summer, and that the warm days will make your body ready to work. 
 
Please feel free to contact me.  
 
Be back in September, 
 
Constance
May - 2015
Constance's Stage Left- May 2015 05-20-15

PLIÉ

It is in the beginning of almost every ballet class, and yet it is often neglected as an important component of improving one’s technique. It is integral to any movement and yet too often it is treated as a mindless warm-up. It feels good and is that constant companion to bring your body and mind together to begin the Ballet class. 

Plié as if you are preparing for a jump

 A plié is something that needs to be done correctly.  I have been saying in class “Plié as if you are preparing for a jump, not as if you are preparing for a downward movement.”  The spine is straight, the knees directly over the toes. There should be no difference between your relevé and plié; the placement of the body is the same.  The difficult part is to relax the joints, hip, knee and ankles while maintaining your placement and engaging the hamstrings.

Ballet dancers should work on achieving a smooth plié, which will add to the appearance of effortlessness in all other movements.  At the bottom of your plié you should not let yourself go into a squat, drop your head, or allow the shoulders to fall forward.  When coming out of the plié, do not just straighten the legs but also push into the floor with your feet.

A great image for me is thinking of the body like an exercise ball.  You sit on it and it gives into your weight, but it doesn’t change its shape.  Our bodies don’t change shape as we plié, we are merely sinking outward. For those of you that have taken yoga and stood in the warrior pose, you may have heard your teacher say "Reach your arms outward and pull inward". This keeps your feet properly planted and activates the glutes and hamstrings. This is also a helpful image for Ballet. The basics can be the first to go as we begin to learn more difficult steps. We must remind ourselves to improve what we think we know.

Plié is the first word in ballet

B.B. King passed away recently, and thinking of this great man I am reminded of a special moment in 1978. I was at the Lone Star Café on Fifth Ave. and 13th St. in New York City and B.B. King was on stage.  He reached out to me and pulled me on stage to let me dance my heart out. I had the absolute freedom of doing whatever I wanted, dancing and listening to his guitar Lucille. This is where dance comes from. I believe dance is a language we all should learn to speak, and plié is the first word in ballet.

Monthly Recipe: Fava Bean and Mint Salad with Asparagus

The days are getting longer, and hotter! Cool down with this summer salad receipe. Take advantage of prime Asparagus season and check your local Farmer's Market for the freshest picks. Download the recipe and get started!

April - 2015
Constance's Stage Left April 2015 04-10-15

Pull in your stomach, shoulders down and stop shuffling your feet!

No, this was not my Ballet teacher; this was my Mother. She was a stickler for good posture. When I was a little girl my sister and I would walk for hours with books on our head lip-synching to West Side Story. One afternoon my sister came home from middle school and my Mother proceeded to lecture her for imitating a friend’s walk. We scrambled up to our rooms and practiced walking like Royalty on a tight rope wire, hoping to discover the family walk. This was my normal…

Posture shows our body is in balance. When the body is in balance it is less prone to injury. Often I see Adults leaning on the barre between exercises. I fight the urge to shout “Stop leaning on the barre!” and remind myself that I am not in a children's class. Try taking class while maintaining your posture. Resist the urge to slouch and slump on breaks. This is more important than anything else you may do while listening to the next combination. Finding and feeling the correct alignment for all of class will help prevent injury and it will become a part of your muscle memory. We all admire the natural stance of Ballet dancers, with their beautifully erect spines. Lisa Clarkson gave some great tips last month to work our core and balance outside of class. So let’s take this month to stand tall. In honor of my Mother, “Pick up you feet” and added from me, “Point those feet!”

This month, in lieu of any tips I am sharing a wonderful project from Sara Perla, an adult student from my Monday night Ballet class. Though some of you may remember her from her Grand Pas de Chat that required a trip to urgent care (she is back), I remember her first class and the transformation into the dancer she is today. This is Sara’s take on Adult Ballet! (Audio Clip) 

Enjoy!

April - 2015
BalletNova Dancer Spotlight: Peg Schaefer 04-09-15

Throughout the year BalletNova will spotlight our Adult Dance Program dancers. Our hopes are to inspire current and potential students by showcasing the variety of backgrounds and experience levels within our studio! Whether you're dancing for the first time or you've been dancing for a lifetime, BalletNova has a class for you! 

This month we are highlighting Peg Schaefer! 

When did you start dancing with BalletNova: I started dancing at Ballet Nova in 1987 when it was Arlington Center for Dance at Adams Square.  We had just moved to the DC area. I had 3 little boys and worked as a Montessori teacher.  Needless to say I probably missed more classes than I was able to attend!  When I retired from teaching I started to dance more. 

Favorite dance movement: It’s hard to pinpoint my favorite ballet move, but what comes to mind almost right away is tendu.  I think nothing will improve feet and strengthen technique better than a barre with several tendu exercises. But I also love the Adagio.  

Favorite thing about dance:I think ballet class can be just as beneficial and stress relieving as any meditation practice or therapy session.  I have to leave my stress and problems of the day outside the studio door, keeping complete focus on the present moment or combination given. Even if I do not do the combination as well as I would like (which is often) I have to accept it and move on to the next one. Ballet class is wonderful for the body and disposition. I know if I miss too many classes I start to feel it in my body but also my general mood.  My boys learned Mom should not miss her ballet class!

Favorite class: At Ballet Nova I take ballet class, floor barre and yoga stretch. I also enjoy improv and modern class. I contra dance and English country dance at Glen Echo, but ballet is my favorite.

What has dancing done for you?: I am such an advocate for dance as a life enhancing or life changing activity. I think everyone should find a way to fit some kind of dance into their life.  Especially since the DC, VA, MD area has such a rich environment for all kinds of dance.  

Any advice for newbies or inspiration for those looking to join? Take the corrections/notes the teachers give as if they are given directly to you, try to apply then AND just keep coming to class.

What’s the best / your favorite thing about BalletNova? I love the Ballet Nova adult program because even though I am an older dancer I feel I am getting just as excellent training as if I were a young professional track dancer.  But since I am not a young dancer I can have lots of fun! 

Feeling Inspired? Take Peg's Advice and Come Dance With Us! 

March - 2015
Constance's Stage Left March 2015 03-10-15

For the carriage of the arms, which is most difficult for any dancer: Think of the arms as a carriage as an extension of the spine. The upper arm is connected with love as in hugging.  The use of the upper arm is apparent in all the best dancers.

-Martha Graham

Dancing is movement in space.  The moment we begin our pliés we should try to expand with our breath.  Everything in class leads to movement. We tend to get static, frozen in concentration and tension at the barre. Sometimes a student develops a strong barre, but is then unable to connect steps in the center.

I have always felt we begin our dancing at the barre, the tendu stretches away from us as the foot leads our body in motion.  The eyes see outside the studio walls. The core engages first and stretches up the spine, like building blocks adding layer upon layer, barre and center in tandem. Pressing into the floor, stretching from the inside out, reaching upward with our collarbone. We learn where to put the tension so that it gives us strength, but it doesn't take away our expression. Learning the head and arm positions and applying them at the barre is an important ingredient for a successful class.

Too often adults neglect this part. We forget to enjoy this amazing thing called Ballet Class.  It was the exposure to Graham’s technique that gave me this insight into our body: images can release the body’s apprehensions and breath can free our minds and our muscles. 

Let's keep on dancing, while thinking of the warm spring ahead.

Monthly Excercise Tip: Proximal Stability for Distal Mobility

A concept in the physical therapy world that also applies to dance and movement world is that proximal stability is needed for distal mobility. This means that in order for a dancer’s body to do all the things it needs to do, the dancer needs to have a strong sense of center and balance. Consider an infant growing; before he can walk he needs to be able to sit upright and crawl, using both the muscles that stabilize the spine and the pelvis, as well as the spine and the shoulder girdle. Not to mention, just being able to support its’ own head.

This idea can be utilized in our ballet and dance classes. In order to have a port de bras that looks effortless, the arms need to supported from the back and shoulder girdle. For legs to move without tipping over there needs to be some control over the spine and pelvic girdle.  For a dancer to get through the eleve and releve combination at the end of the barre, their whole body should be assisting, instead of relying on only the foot and ankle to do all the work.

There are different approaches to finding the deep stabilizing muscles. The two dominant philosophies are utilizing core stabilization exercises, and postural or kinetic chain stability.

Core exercises are exercises that intentionally recruit the deepest stabilizing muscles while progressing through positional changes and movements of arms and legs. Types of exercise include a Pilates progression or progression on the foam roller. This type of core work is useful for ballet dancers because we are often trying to find dissociation between our body parts, like lifting the leg without lifting the hip, or arms 5th en haut without shoulders up the ears.

Postural stability is more the concept of being able to adjust to changes in real time, like being able to adjust balance in passé or adjusting in the middle of a pirouette. The best way to work on this type of postural control is to get thrown off balance and make adjustments to stay on balance. Dancers can test their balance by standing on a Bosu doing squats, tossing a weighted ball while balancing on one leg, or closing the eyes while balancing. Perturbations or gentle movements that change input going into joints are the details that make this type of “core” work successful.

Monthly Nutrition Tip: Smoothies

 Everyone loves smoothies! They're easy to make, can be tailored for in-season fruits and work just as well with the frozen varieties. Smoothies also pack a lot of punch and are a great way to start the day. The protein and vitamins in smoothies are delivered for easy absoprtion. Potassium to prevent muscle cramps, cinnmon to prevent swelling and even cherries to help with joint pain! 

This month's recipe from Pat Foreman includes a vitamin and mineral percentages. Gather ingredients the night before and freeze overnight in a bag for a hassle-free morning! 

 Download this month's recipe here!

 

 

February - 2015
Constance's Stage Left February 2015 02-09-15

It takes more courage to be the worst in the class than to be the best.

Those words were spoken to me as I, a little ballerina from New Jersey, began my journey to become a modern dancer in the 1970's. I was fascinated by the scene, but in class I wasn't sure how I was doing. Was I the worst in class? Was my fear as obvious as the sweat sliding off my body? That was the moment I made a choice: be the worst in class while imagining being the best. It was a different dance world then, in which ballet was pitted against modern. After she began teaching at Julliard, Martha Graham started to work with ballet dancers. Paul Taylor was criticized for integrating ballet steps into his choreography. Slowly the styles began to inform each other; it was an exciting time. In today's world dancers must be proficient in both modern and ballet. I admire the mutual respect of each other's techniques. 

This brings me to pirouettes. Bring this subject up to a group of teachers and myriad theories emerge, call it the "search and rescue" for pirouettes. No matter what level we've reached, we need the teachers eye and voice to correct and remind us of what we are doing or not doing.

Training always involves going back to basics:

  • Visualize yourself doing a clean pirouette
  • Practice the position you will be turning into, every turn is a balance
  • Find the rhythm, spotting is something we need to practice and work on 
  • Don't wind up for your turn
  • Connect your arms to your back
  • A strong properly placed plié and relevé will turn you around
  • Engage your core, and keep it strong to keep your alignment. So often dancers use too much force to get them around.
  • Calm down and focus
  • Control your finish, do not let the pirouette control the finish- you control when you come down 
  • Be patient
  • Take corrections from your teacher
  • Practice.

Everyone can learn to turn, it takes courage. 

I called my son Connor Walsh principal dancer with the Houston Ballet and asked him for a tip on pirouettes. I have learned a lot from his male point of view of approaching ballet. “Give as much value to the plie and preparation as the turn itself. Minimize the amount of work you have to do once you are dealing with centrifugal force. Collect the position in the preparation instead of the beginning of the turn."

Monthly Excercise Tip: Pirouette Excecise Tip 

This month's excercise tip comes from Lisa Clarkson of Body Dynamics, Inc.

Lie on your back on a foam roller, make sure neither your head nor your tail is falling off. Take your water bottle or a 2 lb hand weight in one hand and move both arms to second position, bring your arms back to first position and exchange the weight into the other hand. Move your arms back to second position. This could be done from second to 5th en haut as well. 

The point of this exercise is that the weight will try to pull you off of the roller, so in order to maintain stability, you need to recruit your core. Make sure not to grip in the hips or neck.  Things to be mindful of 1. Be sure that you are moving your arms from your back, just as you would with your regular port de bras positions. 2. Be sure the arms are not getting behind the body. 3. Be sure the ribs or lower back do not change position.

Video Example

Monthly Nutrition Tip: Broth! 

This month's tip comes from Pat Foreman. Pat teaches Pilates and Cardio Barre at BalletNova. Pat discusses the latest trend in nutrition- broth! 

Broth bars are popping up all over Manhattan. Broth is a great before dance class treat. Hydration, potassium and all kinds of nutrients in an easily digestible form. The more mature or injured dancer wants to get the most bang for the buck, and broth has a lot of good nutrition in a small package. After you make a batch, pour some into ice cube trays and freeze. After it's frozen, pop it out of the trays and double bag it in freezer bags. The double bag is highly suggested because it picks up other odors very easily. Now, enjoy! Nuke a few pre-class. Pop them into a stir fry or other recipe for added flavor and nutritional value.

Short on time? If you don't want to go through all of the trouble of cooking, you can go to the nearest Pho shop. NoVa has many. Northern Virginia Magazine's January issue has a great guide to all the local noodle and pho places.

Download this month's vegetarian broth recipe!

 

 
February - 2015
BalletNova Dancer Spotlight: Brooke Kilduff 02-04-15

Throughout the year BalletNova will spotlight our Adult Dance Program dancers. Our hopes are to inspire current and potential students by showcasing the variety of backgrounds and experience levels within our studio! Whether you're dancing for the first time or you've been dancing for a lifetime, BalletNova has a class for you! 

This month we are highlighting Brooke Kilduff!

Hometown: I grew up (and started dancing) in Canton, OH.

 When did you start dancing with BalletNova: I started dancing at Ballet Nova inJanuary of 2012.

 Favorite dance movement: Adagio in the center of a ballet dance is always my favorite combination. It reminds me the most of performing, and I like that it requires so much control and focus.

 Favorite thing about dance: When I am dancing, I am not thinking about all of the other aspects of my life. It allows me to tune out everything else and truly focus on myself for that time.  Dancing recharges and refreshes me.

 Favorite class: Ballet – I am a bun head at heart!

 What is your background (where you work, what you do for a living, in spare time, etc): I work for Deloitte Consulting in our Federal Strategy and Operations practice. Besides dancing at BalletNova, I also volunteer with the Board’s Development Committee and performed as a Party Mom in this year’s Nutcracker. In my spare time I enjoy practicing yoga, taking flying trapeze classes, cooking, and learning to golf.

 How do you feel after taking a dance class? Usually I feel a lot of endorphins and very tired! I feel happiest during and right after a dance class and nothing else compares to that feeling.

 What has dancing done for you (before vs. after): I started taking ballet classes when I was 10, anddancing has been one of the greatest constants in my life since then. It has given me a creative outlet outside of school and work over the years and I am so grateful to still have the opportunity to dance as an adult.

 Any advice for newbies or inspiration for those looking to join? Pick a level that you feel comfortable with. If in doubt, try the easier class. Take classes with a few different instructors to figure out which ones you like best. And have fun!

 What’s the best / your favorite thing about BalletNova? The community at BalletNova has such a supportive and positive vibe. The other Adult Dancers, youth dancers, faculty, and staff all are so nice. They have made dancing at BalletNova a really enjoyable experience for me. 

Feeling Inspired? Check out our Daily Class Schedule for Adults and Come Dance With Us! 

January - 2015
Constance's Stage Left January 2015 01-08-15

Happy New Year Everyone! 

Although I am not one for making New Year’s resolutions, I do take time to reflect on the past year while looking towards the New Year with renewed focus and inspiration. During our walk-in weeks, I noticed a lot of new faces in the studios.  Many said it was their first dance class in three, five, or even 10 years.  My response is always, “Welcome back. "

Today an adult student in my Sunday Advanced Beginning class said, “I have been wanting to do this for two years. ”  That is a great beginning to 2015.  After experiencing the progression of a dance class, it is hard not to get hooked. I love the fact that dance is just about ourselves: our mind and our body. You can’t fake it, and sometimes, dealing with yourself is the hardest part. 

I have learned over the years not to take the looks I am getting from students personally. Usually it’s a student being hard on themselves, concentrating on just getting the darn combination, focusing on trying to improve their placement or trying to remember to breathe. The other problem is drifting in class, the mind has trouble staying in the present moment. Our mind is training along with our body.  It’s getting past these negative thoughts that can improve our dancing. I like to run, and the reason I have come to enjoy it is the mental challenge I am faced with.  I want to quit as soon as I start, but to continue requires mental discipline. A dance class is the same; there is always the next combination, next class, next chance. 

I have moments watching students doing Adagio or Grande Allegro and I am so moved…recently a student who always stopped and stood in the corner when we got to going across the floor stepped out and joined a group to take the plunge. Then we have the advanced dancer that takes a step and pushes it and I see my combination in a new light.  Dancing can feel so close to flying. Its thrilling and I consider it all a gift to the teacher.

From the Experts

Each month I will be talking to experts and sharing their insights on training, nutrition, and other topics related to adult dancers. 

Monthly Exercise Tip: Clamshells for the Hips! 

January's tip comes from Lisa Clarkson, Director of Physical Therapy, Scotts Pilates Instructor at Body Dynamics. This month's stretch can be done laying on your side and is helpful in finding and utilizing the lateral rotators of the hip. Download the PDF.

Monthly Nutrition Tip: Pre-Class Nutrition and Recipe! 

January's tip comes from Pat Foreman, Pilates, Stretch and Nutrition instructor, and BalletNova Faculty member. This month Pat goes over the importance of eating well before class and shares one of her favorite recipes. Pat teaches Pilates with Props on Tuesdays and Sundays at noon and Cardio Barre on Saturdays at noon. The new year is a great excuse to try out one of her classes! 

Four Functions of Pre-Class/Performance Nutrition 

  1. Help prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) with its symptoms of light headedness, fatigue and blurred vision.
  2. To help settle your stomach, absorb gastric juices and stop feelings of hunger.
  3. Fuel your muscles, mostly with food eaten far enough in advance to be digested and stored as glycogen.
  4. Confidence that your body is well fueled.

Remember it's not just your pre-class meal but all the meals you've had in the last 24 hours. Allow  enough time for food to digest. High calorie meals take longer to leave the stomach than lighter snacks.

  • 3-4 hours for a large meal to digest 
  • 2-3 hours for a smaller meal 
  • 1-2 hours for a blended or liquid meal 
  • less than 1 hour for a small snack

Recipe: Apple Walnut Cinnamon Muffins 

One of my favorite quick snacks before a class or performance. Protein,fruits and veggies in one tasty package! I always make a double batch as they freeze well and thaw quickly. As an extra bonus, the potassium in dried apricots helps prevent muscle cramps! Download the recipe! 

 

Let’s make this a Dancing, Healthy, and Happy New Year and lets have a great time doing it!  

Constance Walsh 

Assosciate Artistic Director, BalletNova 

 

December - 2014
Constance's Stage Left-December 2014 12-05-14

Seasons Greetings, The Nutcracker is here!

It is a joyful time at BalletNova. A time when all ages come together on stage and behind stage to present a marvelous show. As we continue to grow our adult program, more of you come up to me and ask how to be a part of our Nutcracker or to participate in our Adult demo performance.  I am excited to expand the opportunities for Adults to perform and our effort to enhance your training as Adults. 

This brings me to my monthly musing. I continue to hear the “I am to old to dance”.

I hear this from ages 30 on up, especially those that have danced when they were younger. There is no question our approach to dance changes as we age, but that does not limit our possibilities.  The magic of this art form is that those possibilities are available every time we walk into the studio. It could be the moment the music starts and the plies begin, a short balance that seems effortless, a clean pirouette, finally getting a combination that seemed impossible or a jump that felt higher and stronger.

We are continuously aging. The question I ask is, “do you want to be 40 and dancing or  40 and not dancing?” From what I witness every day, we will keep on dancing!

From the Experts- Hip and Quad Stretches 

Each month I will be talking to experts and sharing their insights on training, nutrition, and other topics related to adult dancers. 

 This month tip comes from Lisa Clarkson, Doctor of Physical Therapy, Stotts Pilates Instructor Body Dynamics. Getting 'up on your legs' with the help of hip and quad stretches. Download the PDF.         

Adult Student Question of the Month 

 Rebecca asks "What should we eat before class?”

Do Not

 Eat a big meal: this can make you lethargic, nauseous and cramp easily

 Skip a meal: feeling hungry is distracting, it is hard on the body and causes fatigue

Do

 Eat Proteins: provides the body with energy and with small amounts fill you up

 Eat Fruits/Vegetables: good energy and can be mixed with a little dairy or protein

 Eat Whole Grains can fuel the body for a long time

 Water before during and after

      *Be Careful of Sport bars and Drinks they are high in sugar and difficult to digest

Examples of Good Foods: 

peanut butter and banana,  apple with cheese, half a tuna sandwich, veggies with yogurt dip, or avocado on whole wheat toast. Even a handful of nuts goes a long way.

See your question answered in next month's blog! Send your questions, I have a wide array of professionals waiting to respond!  We want you to be fit and focused for class. 

 

Lets Stay Healthy Dancing,

Constance Walsh 

Associate Artistic Direct, BalletNova 

November - 2014
Constance's Stage Left- November 2014 11-07-14

Welcome to Constance’s Stage Left!

Starting in December I will be posting a blog each month that will be a collaboration between myself and other professionals. It is my hope to provide tips on technique, injury prevention and nutrition tailored for the adult dancer. I would also like the opportunity to answer some of many questions I receive. Send me the dance related questions you’ve always wanted to ask to cwalsh@BalletNova.org and one question will be answered each month on the blog.

I have always been passionate about teaching adults and BalletNova offers an incredible adult dance program with a welcoming atmosphere. A while back I overheard an adult dancer saying ‘I am hopelessly devoted to ballet class.’ This phrase sums up the array of emotion involved in the pursuit of dance. I am continually amazed at the dedication and focus of our adult population at BalletNova. I have learned so much as a teacher and never take for granted my role in the responsibility that comes with training each adult dancer that takes class. I, BalletNova, and our faculty believe that adults can continue to improve and experience all the joy that comes with dance.

Remember to send me your questions for next month’s blog

Constance Walsh

Associate Artistic Director, BalletNova