Monthly Archives: June 2013

Day 6 — NYC Week Dance Festival 2013

7.00 – 8.30 pm – Beginner Ballet, taught by Teresa Anne Volgenau @ Joffrey Ballet School

Nestled between some of NYC’s hippest happeningest neighborhoods, the Bleeker area, Union Square, and Washington Square, the Joffrey Ballet School is as much fun to find, as it is to be in.  That hip happening eclectic vibe definitely continues indoors at Joffrey, where tango dancers teach ballet and ballet dancers teach core synergy.

Tonight’s class was Beginner Ballet taught by a spicy redheaded instructor named Teresa Anne Volgenau, who also specializes in tangoTeresa Anne VolgenauShe began her love affair with Argentine Tango in 2004 and has since traveled to Buenos Aires to study with maestros, as well as collaborating with numerous partners to further develop her authenticity and style.  Her teaching clearly expresses her passion for the art of movement.  The class that I found myself in was full to the brim with eager dancers of all different levels and ages, from pretty experienced to no experience whatsoever.  Teresa was able to accommodate all of the participants, always showing variations to allow beginners to catch on at their own speed.

Now here comes the part where I divulge my love/hate relationship with ballet.  I hate that I love it, and it loves to hate me.  Yes, I have personified a dance form, mainly because my struggle with it has been so visceral that it’s palpable.  From the beginning of one’s dance career — mine started at age 6, you are told how important ballet is as a fundamental element and vocabulary in your training (or at least that was my experience).  And yet my body was always more suited for more rhythm-based dances that require undulation and gyration, dances that are more forgiving of full figures and celebrate things like…hips.  What a conundrum for me as a young dancer, knowing that dance is one of my gifts and my preferred form of expression, and yet feeling separated from my own identity, in a sense, by not being able to perfectly grasp this exquisitely beautiful but extremely difficult dance form that I had been told is fundamental to me improving my gift.

Every single time I’ve walked into a ballet class, from age 6 to now, these thoughts are somewhere rolling around in my head.  Even if I am not specifically thinking them, I am feeling them.  We all have our challenges and this one is mine.  Thank goodness for maturity and spiritual awareness though, because I am now able to see that my fears are much like Don Quixote and his windmills; there, but only in my own mind.  And as such, I can control how I react to the fear and if I even allow it to exist at all.  The fact is, I love ballet.  I relish every time I get to take a ballet class. I love the way it feels when I try it on, luxurious, regal, elegant.  It is like breathing in a rarefied air for a brief moment, taking it into my lungs and body and making it a part of me.

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Posted by on June 28, 2013 in Uncategorized


Day 5 — NYC Dance Week Festival 2013

6.30 pm – Advanced Beginner Modern Dance, taught by Mike Abbatiello for Dante Brown @ DNA

Today marked the half way point in the festival and my fabulous journey seeing New York City through dance. So many different studios, styles, and faces so far and yet the heart and the intention is the same at each place: to lose oneself to dance.  To make a statement, with instructors as guides, that is somehow bigger than oneself.  To tap into a collective pulse and to offer up one’s own particular, peculiar, singular light.

Dante Brown 1That said, somewhere between Day 4 and Day 5, I hit a wall.  Slammed right into it.  And not just any wall, a very special wall that all dancers are familiar with when the mind and spirit have the best intentions, but the body just will not go on.  My wall had muscle soreness and fatigue written on it.  All the hardcore dancing and trying new things (in addition to being a Zumba Instructor with regular classes) finally caught up to me.  On Monday, I wisely called off all my daytime activities to stay home and recuperate.  I still made it to dance class in the evening though!

This evening, my choice of class was Modern dance with Danté Brown | Warehouse Dance at Dance New Amsterdam aka DNA. Taught by one of the Warehouse Dance company members, Mike Abbatiello, the class was full of pleasant surprises; not least of which was heavy use of improv as a warm up technique. Guiding us across the floor, initiated by various body parts, Mike encouraged us to find the space between the movement and see where it takes us. He, himself, was extremely light on his feet and agile as he spun, dipped and rebounded. The playlist was equally versatile, from Daft Punk disco beat to Kanye West and random songs in between. Dante Brown 2

It’s the kind of dancing where the less you try, the better you get at it. Though less was more in this style, it was hard sometimes not to force the movement in an earnest attempt to ‘get it’ and instead to just allow the movement to be, in one’s presence, on one’s body, like a loose but seductive summer dress. It pulled me in and freed me simultaneously.

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Posted by on June 26, 2013 in Uncategorized


Day 4 — NYC Dance Week Festival 2013

1:30 pm — Afro-Cuban Folkloric Dance, taught by La Mora @ Cumbe Center for African and Diaspora Dance

The experience at Cumbe is total immersion.  From the moment I walked in the door, I was engulfed in a community-like atmosphere. The pulse of rhythmic joy can be felt even in the hallways as people greet each other and share their enthusiasm to be back, once again, to dance.  As a newcomer, that enthusiasm was infectuous.  Even still, I was not completely prepared for what I was to experience in La Mora’s class…. 

La Mora, who also teaches at Alvin Ailey, takes Afro-Cuban dance to a whole new level, bringing in the old dance styles and traditions from Cuba and making them accessible to modern day hustling bustling New Yorkers.  Her class evokes the dominant presence of the Orishas — spirit kings, queens and warriors of Cuban Santería based on the traditional Yoruba pantheon of West Africa.  The class begins easily enough, with stretches and rhythmic exercises to live drumming and singing.  All fairly standard routine for the opening of a good African dance class of any kind.  With La Mora welcoming us all the while with her gorgeous and enticing smile. 

And then…. she shouts, to be heard above the drums: ‘across the floor!’ and all the dancers, led by those who have been there8652-8-Danys-La-Mora-Perez-Franciscos-current-wife before, line up into rows of three, waiting for the moves that will take us across the floor diagonally.  Some of La Mora’s movements are flirty and seductive. Some of her movements are fierce and in attack mode.  All of her movements require singular focus, fortitude, and stamina.  You can not cross the floor with these movements without feeling some kind of conviction.  Whether you believe in Orishas or not, the power is in the movements themselves, with the cutting of sugar cane, the brandishing of machetes, the charging, the retreating, and the constant undulation of the back providing an ever-present undercurrent of the rolling sea.

I walked into class expecting typical fare and walked out a princess warrior.  It was fantastic and fantastical!  Best of all were the moments of waiting in between where I could watch others dance and see how they took the movement into their bodies, punctuated by my own moments of bliss and exhaltation as my turn came to go across the floor. 

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Posted by on June 24, 2013 in Uncategorized


Day 3 – NYC Dance Week Festival 2013

2.00 pm – Samba & Brazilian Fusion, taught by Leticia Taylor @ Mark Morris

4.00 pm – POP UP SLAM / STREB Block Party @ Williamsburg Walks

Leticia Taylor brazilian headressMark Morris Dance Center flung it’s doors open to the public this Saturday for three free classes. Along with Gaga.dancers — a movement language developed by Ohad Naharin in Israel to help dancers and non-dancers reconnect to the way they move, there was also Contemporary dance in the Simonson Technique taught by Laurie De Vito, whose classes I use to take and love when she was still teaching at Dance Space before it moved and became Dance New Amsterdam.  My poison of choice for the day was Samba & Brazilian Fusion, taught by Leticia Taylor.  And how deadly it was!

Leticia TaylorFirst of all, it does not go unnoticed that Leticia is gorgeous and tall and fabulous.  Second, the way she breaks down an extremely complicated step such as Samba into three distinct movement groups (the feet, the hips, and the arms) makes it seem like butter!  She was also excellent at sensing when students got it and just wanted a chance to fly with the step.  Having taken Samba with one of it’s most regaled New York City queens, Quenia Ribeiro, at Alvin Ailey, I was truly appreciative for this return to basics with the step.  I’ve always known my Samba was passable, but just a little bit off.  Leticia broke it down to it’s most basic elements, giving everyone from first-timers to the more experienced a chance to access this wonderful dance style.  And the choreo segment at the end with the music selection was like a big warm hug, straight from Brazil.

I decided to top the day off by visiting the STREB POP UP SLAM / Block Party which was a part of the last weekend of Wiilliamsburg Walks – a wonderful four weekend reprieve in Brooklyn where several blocks of Bedford Avenue are blocked off and covered with grass patches for pedestrians and joyous lollygaggers. The pictures describe it best.  See for yourself…

Streb 1 Streb 2 Streb 3 Streb 4 Streb 5

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Posted by on June 23, 2013 in Uncategorized


Day 2 – NYC Dance Week Festival 2013

7.00 – 10.00 pm – Community Class, taught by H+ Crew @ Hip-Hop Dance Conservatory

When you walk into a hip-hop dance class, the last thing one would expect to be doing are Chinese meditation exercises.  But this is in fact the way the three hour class began last night, and what a treat it was. H+ stretch Led by Principal Dancer, Sara Ahn, participants were instructed to extend their arms out to both sides of their body like a ‘T’, keeping them at shoulder height with both wrists flexed up for an unspecified amount of time (turned out to be about 10 minutes!).  The goal is to strengthen the mind body connection. What does your mind do when your body signals to it that the arms hurt? Or when they begin to feel like lead weights?  Sara suggests that these moments are gifts.  They are opportunities to reassert your mind’s power over your body, to allow it to try something new and grow.  This was the spirit and intention carried throughout the class.

What a breath of fresh air that was.  This message reached right in and released a pressure valve for me.  As a dancer — actually, as a human, I sometimes get caught up in ‘am I doing it right?,’ ‘what if I look foolish?,’ and ‘everybody here knows something I don’t.’  Instead, Resident Choreographer Raphaela Riemer, encouraged us to keep moving H+ videographyno matter what, and to try something new and grow, with her bad ass b-girl styling and liquid flow.  When I grow up in hip-hop, I wanna be dope like her!

Then… Woom!  Wam!  Wam woom!  Boom kack!  Diggie diggie dah dah! These were the sounds of the choreography learning segment, otherwise known as ‘videography.’  Artistic Director, Safi Thomas, advised the class that the best way to remember choreography is by assigning value to each move or phrase.  ‘You remember the things that are important to you,’ he asserts.  The organic rhythmic sounds coming from the H+ dancers as they rehearsed and showed us the steps definitely made each move feel memorable and important. Soon the whole room was singing along with enthusiasm.  All in all, the H+ experience was enlightening, invigorating and inviting, a whole lot more than I bargained for, a true community.

*Photos courtesy of AK47 Division

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Posted by on June 22, 2013 in Uncategorized


Day 1 – NYC Dance Week Festival 2013

10.00 am – Zumba, taught by me @ Flushing YMCA

6.00 pm – Lila, taught by Oscar Trujillo @ Studio Anya

7.30 pm – Elisa Monte and Jennifer Muller @ New York Live Arts Academy

Yesterday, the first day of NYC Dance Week, was the trifector for me – being a teacher, being a student, being an observer.  And now writing about it. A dream day in a dancer’s world.  The only thing that could have topped it off for me was if I was choreographing as well.  Although, I’m coming to see that all of life is a work in choreography.  An artist is always in the process of creating work just by observing life and storing images and memories in preparation for the next great moment of creative expression.

My festival activities for Day 1….

ZumbaSOBs - crowd picAdmittedly, the Zumba class I taught at the YMCA today was not a part of the festival.  Just my regular (awesome) Thursday morning class and my favorite group of crazy Zumba lovers who have been with me since the beginning of my Zumba journey.  I always get a thrill out of teaching this class.  The energy is super high and sweat is pouring.  We eat up the moves together.  Today I introduced three new choreos (songs) for only the second time.  We have something new to gnash our teeth on for while.

Then I headed downtown to try a class called Lila (pronounced “leela”) at Studio Anya in Chelsea taught byLila Class - Oscar Trujillo Oscar Trujillo.  Inspired by a Hindu concept meaning sacred play or cosmic dance, Lila combines ballet barre, modern dance, vinyasa yoga, pilates and tai chi.  I had to try it to believe.  And yes, the experience is true to it’s word.  Of course, there is only so much one can do in a 60 minute class.  My guess is, if one keep’s coming back, you would likely see more of these different styles and techniques woven in, probably leaning more towards one style or another depending on the day.  It was a fascinating experience.  My body is thoroughly confused and thankful for it.

My thrilling day got even more exciting as I accompanied the fabulous Christine Jowers of The Dance Enthusiast to see Elisa Monte and Jennifer Muller at New York Live Arts.  The new work by Muller, GRASS, was one of the more memorable works for me of the evening.  Performed on actual ‘grass’ turf lining the stage floor, to a live cello soloist, the piece is a whirling winding story of couples and threesomes and individuals, in a constant flow of breaking and remaking.  There are many singular moments that stand out, but the overall message that I received is that humans can come together and make something beautiful.  And this beauty is in the wholeness as much as it is in the cracks.  Watching this piece was an experience in wabi-sabi.JM's GRASS 2

In my cruising around on the web for info related to NYC Dance Week, I found the following tool that maybe be helpful for you as you are taking classes.  It’s a website by FitEngine that gives reviews on a bunch of classes, many of which are offered for free during this festival.  It can be helpful as a kind of ‘know before you go’ service

All my best.  And until tomorrow, let the rhythm get ya!

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Posted by on June 21, 2013 in Uncategorized


dancing Dancing DANCING!!! 10 Glorious Days of Dance @ the NYC Dance Week Festival

Dance finds you where you are.  And here I am, again, ready to dance.  NYC Dance Week 2013 backdropThis week I will be embarking on something special.  Tomorrow is the first of 10 glorious days of absolutely free dance classes in New York as part of NYC Dance Week 2013.  Anyone who’s ever tried taking dance classes in New York City knows that the average dance class, around $17 per class, is cost prohibitive for many, especially dancers trying to keep their craft up and body moving while keeping a roof over their head.    Founded by Tasha Norman of FitEngine, NYC Dance Week takes down this seemingly insurmountable barrier for 10 wonderful days in which some of the City’s top dance studios open their doors for free. There will be classes at the Joffrey, Alvin Ailey, Mark Morris, DNA, STREB, and more… It is a veritable smorgasbord for those who love movement.  And since, that is my favorite form of self-expression, I will be at the table for the feast.

ZumbaSOBs_055 And don’t you worry, I will be be bringing you along with me.  Stay tuned for daily descriptions, photos and possibly even video of my experience in some of NYC’s most hallowed halls of dance!  Below is a list of what’s on my agenda for the 10 days so far.  Of course, this list is subject to change and can also expand if I receive good suggestions.  And who knows, maybe I’ll see you there!  If you see me, definitely say hi. I will also be blogging this experience at The Dance Enthusiast so be sure to go there and check it out as well.  PS – I went to the opening gala for this event.  It was a rockin’ time, check out the pics here.

6/20: Core Synergy Conditioning @ Joffrey

6/21: Capoeira for Beginners @Arte Capoeira

6/22: Contemporary – Simonson Technique + Samba & Brazilian Fusion @ Mark Morris

6/24: Modern Dance with Danté Brown @ DNA

6/25: Beginner Ballet @ Joffrey

6/26: Bollywood Funk @ Ripley Grier

6/28: Community Class @ Hip Hop Conservatory

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Posted by on June 19, 2013 in new york, Uncategorized


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