Thursday, January 4, 2018

Gettin' crabby

Are you ready to start the new year with some "crab-itude"?

As an instructor, I'm always looking for a new way for my students to approach their technique. Students are so individualistic that an image that works for one might not work for another so it's a constant search to find unusual ways to express a technical correction or mental image.

I've noticed recently that many of my students lose their cores when they move without the barre. I call it having an "ooey gooey center." It's hard to control your torso, especially when you shift your weight from two feet to one.

A good visual image is that of a crab:

By © Hans Hillewaert, CC BY-SA 4.0, 

Picture yourself like this crab with a strong and inflexible center while your arms and legs move independently. Each time you shift your weight, hold fast to your center and extend the arms and legs as far away from you as you can.

Be the crab.

Happy new year and happy dancing~

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Using a Crissy doll as a model for pulling up (& my holiday schedule!)

Hello beautiful dancers!

If you're not of my generation, you probably have never heard of a Crissy doll. She was a red-headed toy, about a foot high, with a button in the center of her body that, when pressed, allowed you to lengthen her hair from the top of her head. A knob at the back would retract it. This is what she looked like:

So why am I mentioning a forty year old doll? And by the way, I had more than one of these dolls as a kid. I kept cutting her hair off and expecting it would always be replaced, as if she had a never-ending supply of hair in her tiny body.

Many times when I ask dancers to pull up, they hunch their shoulders up to their ears or they expand their rib cages. It can be a difficult concept to grasp and sometimes you need a visual image. Some common images are:

--Press your belly button to the back of your spine
--Imagine the top of your hip bones connected to the bottom of your rib cage
--Drop your tailbone as if it were weighted down

To this list, I add the Crissy doll:

Imagine yourself as a Crissy doll with a button in the center of your stomach and hair that can be pulled from the top of your head. 

Picture that button being pressed in and your spine being pulled up through the top of your head like Crissy's long red hair. 
center of Crissy's doll's stomach

It can be helpful to place yourself within that doll's stiff body. Crissy wasn't a soft-bodied doll like a Raggedy Ann or Cabbage Patch Kid. Instead, she was like a large Barbie: plastic with a soft head. I don't want you to always be stiff and unyielding but it can be a good visual aid when you find your center sagging.

HOLIDAY SCHEDULE REMINDER: All of my classes are as usual through the end of the year, except NO CLASS on Christmas Day. I will be using holiday music for my classes from 12/18-12/23 if you want some fun non-traditional music to dance to. I am also thinking of holding an open-level class at 10:30AM on New Year's Day to start 2018 with a fun morning of ballet. Email me if you are interested so I can reserve the studio!

Happy dancing and Happy holidays!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Leigh's December schedule for classes

Happy holidays to all of you!

A few notes about my classes at Inspire Dance Studio and Dance Arts Academy in December:

At Inspire, no classes on Monday 12/4, Wednesday 12/6 and Saturday 12/9
At Dance Arts, no classes on Tuesday 12/5 and Thursday 12/7


If people are interested, I WILL teach a late morning class on New Year's Day at Inspire Dance Studio. Please email me or tell me in class if you would like that!

Happy dancing!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Holiday event & book launch for Nutcracked by Susan Adrian

For my local students and their families!
On Sunday, November 12th, Jennifer Ward, the owner of my favorite dance shop, Priscilla's Dancewear in Montrose, will host a delightful holiday party for kids and their parents which will include an appearance by Susan Adrian, the author of NUTCRACKED, a charming book for kids. She'll be on hand to talk about her life as a dancer, to offer some advice to young dancers and to sign copies of her book (makes a great gift!).
The Montrose area is a lovely little town with coffee shops and bookstores and lots of locally-owned businesses. It's a great place to do a pre-holiday shopping trip, before or after the fun event at Priscilla's. 
To give you a taste of what's to come at the party, I asked Susan Adrian to share a bit about herself and what her book is all about. Thanks so much, Susan!
Nutcracker Life
By Susan Adrian
I first saw The Nutcracker when I was 7 years old. I watched the big tree grow and grow on stage, lit by Clara's single candle, to Tchaikovsky's haunting score, and I was absolutely entranced. I wanted to be part of that magic so badly. I told my mother after the show that I wanted to be Clara.
I got ballet lessons for Christmas that year.
I worked hard at the small local studio. When I was 10 I auditioned for The Nutcracker with the Sacramento Ballet, the same company I'd seen. I got the part of a second-cast Marshmallow Child. That Christmas I got lessons at the Sacramento Ballet Company, 45 minutes each way.
The next year I got Party Child, second cast. The third year I got Party Child first cast, and a lamb in the Shepherdess dance. The next year, when I was 13, I got to be Clara, in the same theater I'd watched it.
I have a vivid memory of being in a performance, in my nightgown with my single candle, with mice lurking behind me around the stage. A little kid in the audience called out clearly, "Watch out, Clara!" That was the dream come true. I was making the magic real for others now.
Years later, I don't dance anymore, but I found another way to make Nutcracker magic real for kids. I wrote a book about being Clara in The Nutcracker, being 12 or 13, and having to balance that with the rest of your life, your family and friendships…but now there's real, more tangible magic too. This Clara—Georgie—gets drawn into the Nutcracker's world every time she dances with her company's antique Nutcracker. The Nutcracker is in real danger, and now it's trickling through to her real life too. Georgie has to save everyone while still keeping up with rehearsals.
NUTCRACKED has magic, ballet, family, and friendship struggles and successes. For me, it's a full circle. I'm just living my Nutcracker dream in a different way now.  

Friday, November 3, 2017

Time change? Change the time!

Hello local students!

This weekend we Fall Back but this Thursday, we will Spring Forward!

Thursday Advanced Beginner Ballet will now begin at 7PM

Just like my Tuesday Advanced Beginner class runs from 7-8:30PM at Dance Arts Academy, so too will its Thursday counterpart, starting November 9th. We will even be moving into the same studio (studio D) as the Tuesday class so it will be like we never left...(cue spooky Halloween music).

Tbh, it's always bothered me that the 2 classes started a half hour apart - how confusing is that for a new student? How confusing is that for the old teacher? Seriously, though, I wanted to make it easier for people to attend if they were coming from work. It's a bit rushed to get to class by 6:30PM, especially if you are in crosstown traffic or are looking for a parking space. This gives you just a bit more time to get to class - so NO EXCUSES! Get to class!

To recap for the TL:DR crowd:

Advanced Beginner Ballet
Tuesdays & Thursdays, 7-8:30PM
Dance Arts Academy
731 South La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036

See you in class! And don't forget to change your clocks! Happy dancing~