Always Be Dancing Expressive Arts

Yoga and Flamenco for Every(body)


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Book Review by Eve: Pancho Bandito and the Amarillo Armadillo Written by Mike Sundy; Illustrated by Jonathan Sundy

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Well right off the bat, let me say, I love anything armadillo. They have to be the coolest animal on the planet! They are literally present-day dinosaurs and are the only mammal with a built in suit of armor. They can hold their breath for up to 6 minutes and the 3-banded one can roll up arm3in a ball to protect itself from predators. They are also coolly adaptive creatures as they have minimal vision and hearing but they have a great sense of smell. They are my spirit animal!

The Sundy Brothers are a dynamic duo! This epic cowboy tale, written by Mike Sundy, is accompanied by the adorable illustrations of his brother, Jonathan Sundy and together these two pack a punch. With the resounding moral of the story being “what seems insurmountable is not” brought together with a giant sized bandito and an equally giant sized amarillo armadillo throw in some spicy hot Hatch chiles, a true southwestern staple, and a generous dose of humor and you have a highly entertaining story for children and their families. I love that the rhyme scheme is peppered with Spanish words. This delightful book has gripping action scenes, teaches about the importance of friendship, is multicultural and promotes diversity. One more thing, when reading out loud, it must be read with a drawling cowboy accent! Too funny! This book will definitely put a smile on your face and I promise, your mouth will be watering thinking of those vinegary, spicy peppers!

I highly recommend this book. Kid and grown ups will love it and it can be read again and again. The pictures are adorable. I love each emotive glance, whether human or animal!

How will I use this book?

This is a great book to use when teaching kids about the differences between the Fight or Flight stress reaction and the Relaxation Response. The F/F stress response occurs naturally when stress is perceived and it is designed to protect us from bodily harm.

The Relaxation Response is a accessible and beneficial way to turn off F/F stress response and bring the body back to pre-stress levels. Unlike the F/F stress response, the Relaxation Response must be practiced as it is not a natural occurring reaction to a situation. The beauty of it is, though, that the more you practice it, the stronger your ability is to calm down after stress. The RR can be initiated by deep breathing, yoga, visualizations, and other calming modalities.

Stress comes from how we perceive things. We need the Fight or Flight stress response in situations when stress is real, like when a tiger walks into the room. You need to decide whether to fight or run away, and your body needs to be ready to act-fast! But what happens if you expect a tiger to walk in and you get all stressed out and anxious, your sweating, your heart is beating fast, maybe you get a headache or your stomach gets upset and then in walks a kitten. No stress at all but your body is ready to fight or flight. Now you need to calm down fast! Take some deep breaths. Bring your heart rate, your blood pressure and your energy down. Try not to predetermine that a tiger is going to walk in every time. Let life unfold and allow it to happen. Your Fight or Flight stress response will be there when you need it, but you do not always need it.

Full disclosure: The author sent me a copy of this book. All opinions are my own.


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(Coloring) Book Review by Eve: Color Me Happy, Color Me Calm: A Self-Help Kid’s Coloring Book for Overcoming Anxiety, Anger, Worry and Stress by Lori Lite

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This coloring book is full of positive affirmations and fun pictures to color.

Each 2-page layout has a great advice bubble and an accompanying picture to color. The pictures are all very emotive and capture the essence of the affirmations perfectly. The pictures are simple, allowing each one to be finished in a sitting, which is very satisfying. The flow of the lines is very pleasant and they add to the overall calming effect of the book.

Each page of this delightful book offers a mini-mindful moment including a progressive muscle relaxation script, yoga, visualization, a bubble thought exercise and gratitude pages along with a variety of other ways to connect mindfulness to your senses, functions, emotions, and activities such as dance, listening to music and exercise.

The book itself allows for lots of space to breathe and to express yourself creatively. I love how it touches on so many ways to experience mindfulness. This book offers both young and old coping skills to help calm anxiety and bring about peace of mind. Coloring is proven to be a great calming activity and is a great way for families to enjoy some quiet together time. I highly recommend this book for families, therapists, yoga classes (which is what I will be using it for) and for anyone else who wants to access their creativity and share calming strategies with children.

How I will use this book:

IMG_7627In my yoga/mindful movement classes, I love to offer many avenues to my students to absorb coping skills. This book will come in super handy when I need an activity that passively activates the still quiet place inside where peace abides and anxiety is dissipated.

 


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¡Olé Namaste!

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Pictured above from top left: Two students strike a pose, Hurley School, Boston; Eve Costarelli (AKA Eva Lorca); Students learning palmas at St. Stephens after-school program, Boston, MA; Visual representations of flamenco; Antonio Tiriti and Eve performing at the Natick Farmer’s Market; Students performing the story of Ferdinand The Bull; Eve teaching how braseo to students of St. Stephen’s after-school program, Boston, MA; Eve and some students. (Thank you to Celebrity Series and Robert Torres for the pictures of Eve and St. Stephen’s)

I am a flamenco dancer. Through this dance, I communicate my kinship to the gypsies, a group of wanderers/nomads/pilgrims who migrated from Northern India during the 8th and 9th centuries. One route that they took was through Saudi Arabia and Northern Africa, before arriving in Spain through the Straits of Gibraltar. These gypsies were comprised of expert metal workers, animal tenders and entertainers. They arrived in Spain when the country was controlled by the Moors (made up of Arabs, Syrians and Berbers). In Spain, the gypsies mixed freely amongst the veritable melting pot of cultures. In Andalucía, a region in Southern Spain known as the birth place of flamenco, the gypsies found a land that suited them and found a sense of connection with the people who lived there: the Jews, the Moors and the Spaniards. The gypsies absorbed the diverse cultures around them: the music of the Moors, the songs of the Sephardic Jews and the dances of the Spaniards and then coupled with their heritage from India, they transformed the music, song and dance into the art of flamenco.

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My journey to become a flamenco dancer has been a deeply personal artistic pursuit. I have found that the greatest joy of flamenco is discovering my interpretation and style within the art form. As a flamenco dancer, I possess the capacity for self-controlled passion and emotional expression which becomes the underlying energy which motivates me to dance. This is my life force, my soul, my chi, my prana. Duende, the passion and inspiration within, is the heart of the flamenco artist. It is the transfer of emotions across space. It is the energetic imprint of the raw emotion released as a result of a performer’s intense emotional involvement with the music, song and dance. It is in the sum the energy the dancer takes from the earth, drawing it up through the soles of their feet. It travels through the body electrifying the the base, the core, the heart and shines forth through the crown of her head.

It is in this sensation filled space that I find the connection between flamenco and yoga. I speculate that the gypsies created the movements in flamenco directly in correlation to the yoga body. The energy centers, the chakras, directly speaking to the emotional output of the artist. I believe that the gypsies brought with them an underlying understanding of yoga and that this physical, emotional and spiritual connection to the body was then naturally incorporated into flamenco’s expression. It is fascinating to teach flamenco under the label of mindfulness. I incorporate it (plus a smattering of other rhythmic and contemplative movement forms) into all of my youth yoga classes. I find that flamenco is a perfect addition as its many benefits go hand-in-hand with the benefits of yoga.

Flamenco and Yoga both:

  • Stimulate memory, thinking and retention
  • Increase the ability to focus, listen, observe and absorb
  • Reduce Stress
  • Strengthen the heart muscle, both physically and emotionally
  • Increase positive energy
  • Develop balance, flexibility and coordination
  • Strengthen confidence, patience and risk taking skills
  • Build community
  • Deepen sense of self
  • Expand world view
  • Heighten happiness
  • Help you get in touch with your emotions and give you a safe outlet for their release
  • Cultivate accessibility, adaptability and inclusivity

When you want to plant a flower, you first need to till the soil, nourish it, plant the seeds, water it, and then sit back and wait to see the blossom….now in relation to the flamenco body. If you imagine that the soil line is at the hips, so your legs and your feet are the roots below the surface. The roots grow down and ground the dance to the earth. From the waist up is the blossom, growing from the soil line (which is your hips). This is the blossom. With good, strong roots, you then use the upper body to create the shapes and lines true to flamenco, building out of the hips and allowing the legs and feet to move separately.”

My favorite part about teaching is sharing my love of movement and making both the arts of flamenco and yoga accessible. Yoga is not one tangible thing. It is not movement; it is not breath; it is not meditation. What it is, is all of these things. Each of these elements leaves an energetic imprint, a vibrational frequency on the person, and that is the yoga. I love both yoga and flamenco in my life and I live to share them. With each personal exploration of my own energy’s movement, I teach. Yoga and flamenco are deeply connected to my soul, and I am constantly evolving. I choreograph the dance between effort and surrender. I find such joy in these sensations. All I want to do is to share them with my students.


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Book Review By Eve: Giant Pumpkin Suite by Melanie Heuiser Hill

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This is a charming read! The characters are delightful and the beautiful sense of community that rises around the growing of the giant pumpkin is a true testament to love they neighbor and brotherly love. The author obviously has a great knowledge of Japanese things as her description of the tea ceremony is so full of rich detail that you can practically smell the tea in the air and feel the warmth as it passes through your lips.

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Also, she brings in the concept of Kintsugi. While most people would likely conceal damages to their pottery, the Japanese art of Kintsugi follows a different philosophy. Rather than disguising the breakage, gold is used to restore the broken item incorporating the damage into its aesthetic, making it part of the object’s history. This theme weaves together most of the book and like the beautiful rivulets of gold in the pottery, we see time and time again how imperfections make us more real, more appealing and even a bit more perfect. In addition, the beautiful mathematically organized music of Bach is the soundtrack to this lovely story! This is a book of substance and is full of practical knowledge! I highly recommend this read to children and families.

Full disclosure: Candlewick Press sent me copy of this book. All opinions are my own.


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Book Review by Eve: Rain written and illustrated by Sam Usher

 

51CvOVlNB8L._SX361_BO1,204,203,200_This is a magnificent book where the artwork carries the full weight of the story. There is simple accompanying text but the rain drenched watercolor illustrations are where the true magic happens. From the washing out of reality to the rich reflective life in the puddles, this wonderful story unfolds from the imaginary life of a little boy, stuck inside on a rainy day. CVVUQRXWcAM8jXw

I love how the sharp lines of objects dissolve into the rain and how the shadows of people at the window melt into the watery scene, creating a sense that the world will soon be covered with water.

All of a sudden, it all comes alive! When there is a break in the storm, the boy and his granddad head outside. The images the boy had created in his mind to pass the time appear in full color, replete with flags a fluttering, horns a blowing, clowns a drumming and even a cupcake eating queen, now draping the previously washed out scene with vivid colors, activity and joy! Cfxqu1HWcAAb1U6

I highly recommend this book, including the awesome, tactile, un-jacketed book cover. The story is sweet and the delightful illustrations are captivating and could hold a child mesmerized as they take in each little detail.

Full Disclosure: Candlewick Press sent me a copy of this book. All opinions are my own.


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Dance In The Schools- Day One: What is yoga?

Dance In The Schools- Day One: What is yoga?

Dance In The Schools- Day One: What is yoga?

(Included at the end is a classroom/home assignment: How to make a Happiness Collector)

Funded by both Dance In the Schools and Friends of Baldwin, I am thrilled to be back for my sixth year at the Maria Baldwin Elementary School, Cambridge, MA, teaching my own Always Be Dancing Adaptive Movement program with their amazing second grade classrooms. This year, they have three second-grade classrooms and I am able to see each group 5 times. Having this opportunity to grow each year with the students and staff is priceless. Also, I love seeing the past participants who are now in third, fourth or fifth grade. Whenever they see me, they jump into tree pose or even strike a flamenco pose (as I also integrate my program with flamenco). This school has great community spirit and I love the diversity and how it is celebrated.

Good Behavior In Yoga:

Good Behavior In Yoga Class:

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I deliver the rules verbally, also pointing out that they can read along that there is a picture for each rule that shows what I am asking them to do. That way there are many ways to help them remember the rules.

  1. I stay on my mat. This is so each child has personal space. We take a moment to look at our mats, the size, the color… I asked them to think of a color that makes them feel happy. Holding an imaginary Hula Hoop, we then cover our whole mat, including ourselves, with a bubble of this color. Inside our bubble we feel happy, good and safe.

  2. I listen with my ears. That way they can hear the directions that are being given

  3. I watch what my yoga teacher is doing. I remind them that I will most likely being doing what I am asking them to do, so if they watch me, they will always know what is being asked of them.

  4. I try my best to do each yoga activity. Yoga is about trying, noticing, feeling. Just give things a try and if you need help…

  5. If I need help, I can ask my yoga teacher. If one child needs an adaptation of an activity, we all do it. Its just something else to try!

  6. If I need a break, I can take Child’s Pose or I can sit quietly on my mat. OK…a big one. I stop everything here and I go through and teach what I call the “three resting poses” First, I teach Child’s Pose, have everyone take a breath or two to feel this pose in their bodies. Then we roll forward onto our bellies, for Crocodile Pose, everyone needs belly-time! Once again a few breaths to feel the pose. Then we flip over onto our backs, and I teach Gingerbread Man Cookie Pose. This is the traditional savasana pose. Take our breaths. When we all sit back up, I ask them to think about which pose was the most restful for them because I will ask them later during class to do that pose.

  7. I use a quiet voice. Enough said!

  8. I keep my hands to myself. (OK this one should really be up by “staying on your mat” That will be on the updated poster!) Here I bring back the color bubble. Keep your hands to yourself. Do not pop anyone’s bubble….img_6145

After the rules (I only do this one time but I bring the board each week as a reminder, classes started with belly breathing. A great way to begin! I am a strong believer of breathing in and out through the nose, as an exhale with the mouth actually feels like a balloon that is losing air too fast (insert “balloon deflating too rapidly” sound here….FFFRRRAAPFT). I encourage breathing in through the nose, as if you are smelling a lovely flower and then letting the air gently leave through the nose on the exhale. It is more calming this way. Of course, there are two exceptions. If you have a cold/allergy or if you feel nervous and it makes you uncomfortable to breath that way.

One reason I bring yoga into classrooms is to help students and teachers that yoga is an accessible safe choice towards embodying self-control. Yoga is all about the self. Yoga is all about what it feels like inside your body. Only the individual knows what is feel like because no one else is inside another person’s being. The individual knows what is safe, what makes them feel good and how to calm themselves down. With increased self control, classrooms can flow more smoothly and teachers do not have to be noise/distraction monitors. For sure, yoga is not a cure-all, but it is one very accessible, adaptable and enjoyable tool for a person’s emotional intelligence tool kit.

Class begins with the ringing of the chime. Sometimes the best way to start class is form a relaxed and calm position to pave the way for better focused minds, bodies and energy. We inhale on the ring and allow the slow breath to release as we listen to the echo of the sound. Each child gets a turn. And with each chime, we focus our attention on the sound and on our breathing.

I will continue to use the bell as a way to bring back focus to the class. I want them to understand the difference between silent and noisy and stillness and movement. We all get a bit noisy, making silly sounds, talking, wiggling and then suddenly I ring the bell. The room quiets down. Of course, I made need to ring it again, but usually one ring is enough. Sometimes I play with the level intensity at which I ring the chime (loud vs soft), so they really have to be alert for its sound.

What is yoga?

Group 1

  • stretching

  • feeling relaxed

  • relaxing moves

  • movement

  • flexible

Group 2

  • calm down

  • stretching

  • getting flexible*

Group 3

  • relaxed & feeling good

  • stretch to become flexible

  • breathing to calm

  • de-stress

  • peaceful

  • floating

Each class came up with similar responses, but the one I really liked was “getting flexible”. I love how it implies an opportunity for growth, for change. Just what yoga is about!

Jumping right into a short sequence:

Cow/Cat (adding moos and meows)

Downward Facing Dog (with barks)

Cobra (with hisses)

Child’s Pose (giving hand options to help the children figure out what feels best for them: under the forehead, fist-on-fist or hands by feet, palms up)

Now asking the students if doing  that little bit of yoga make them feel calm/good/happy or like they were getting more flexible? I refer back to the word list they created and use them. I often throw in the question, “Is being able to touch your toes or do a backbend the only way to show that you are flexible? You might need to direct them away from more physical action descriptions for flexibility then someone can come up with alternative ways to be flexible (i.e. mind, energy)

One of my favorite yoga books and the one I have been using the longest is My Daddy Is a Pretzel by Baron Baptiste. It is a great kicking off point for basic yoga poses.

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The kids think the title is hysterical and I immediately tell them to create their own version of a pretzel yoga pose: tie yourself up, twist and curl any which way.

What I have found is that the real focus of the book is in the varied types of jobs the children in the story say that their parents do each day. There is a gardener (tree), vet (downward facing dog), architect, (triangle), pilot (airplane), builder (bridge), farmer (plow), marine biologist (fish), works in Africa (lion), baker (pretzel). These jobs open up our ability to talk about what these job’s actually mean you do and kids either know or can piece together these answers by looking at the accompanying pictures. To make my teaching fully inclusive and to make sure I can make any adaptation necessary, I teach going into and out of poses my own way, so I do not use the accompanying pose descriptions. That way I can adapt and grow each pose organically with the group, rather than follow a set path. At the end, of course, we get to try another “make-your-own” pretzel pose. Lots of laughs and then I offer up the resting pose choice. We take a short resting moment.

One of my favorite moving meditations is “Yogini Went To Sea” by Shakta Kaur Khalsa (for only $9.99 you can buy the album Happy through iTunes). Shakta is the first children’s yoga teacher I studied with and she taught me the invaluable lesson of allowing your self to grow with each experience and also, she recorded the only recorded yoga songs that I use in my classes! 

Classroom/Home Assignment: Create a Happiness Collector.

A Happiness Collector is a jar, bucket, basket or any other receptacle you choose where you put in small piece of paper that have on them written or drawn things that make you happy. These things can be anything that make you happy. They can be something that you did, that you saw or that you had done to you.

  1. Choose your Happiness Collector

  2. Every day take a moment to remember something that made you happy.

  3. Write it down or draw it on a small piece of paper. Fold the paper.

  4. Put it into your Happiness Collector.

  5. Messages can be read whenever a bit of sunshine is needed, at the end of a week etc…

Children can be prompted with a phrase such as “I feel happy when I _________.

Thank you!

Ole! Namaste!


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Book Review by Eve Costarelli: Thelma’s Tap Notes. A Step-by-Step Guide To Teaching Tap: Children’s Edition

Book Review by Eve Costarelli: Thelma’s Tap Notes. A Step-by-Step Guide To Teaching Tap: Children’s Edition by Thelma Goldberg 2013
Theme: Non-Fiction. Instructional Manual for teaching tap dance to children ages 6-12.
Guiding Principles: Release, Relax, Rhythmic Progressions and Full Bodied Rhythm-Making (TM)

My dear friend, Thelma Goldberg, sent me a copy of her newly self-published book Thelma’s Tap Notes. A Step-by-Step Guide to Teaching Tap: Children’s Edition. This is a beautifully laid out manual and I love the catchy and useful sticky note style highlights throughout the book (I also received an accompanying sticky “Tap Notes” pad-which made it very easy for me to jot down my own notes as I went along the book.) Right from the very beginning, Thelma lays out exactly what her approach is to teaching tap to children ages 6-12 and she methodically breaks down her methods level-by-level.
I appreciate how Thelma refers to herself as a student as well as a teacher. I have had the pleasure of taking classes with Thelma, so I know first hand what a dedicated and enthusiastic student she is. I also have seen a number of her studios productions over the years and can equally say she is a committed, passionate teacher, choreographer and leader. Because of this, I can say that Thelma is deeply rooted and she never stops growing!
Thelma’s Tap Notes is guided by four principles: Release, Relax, Rhythmic Progressions and Full Bodied Rhythm-Making (TM). In the first part of the book, Levels, each age group: 6 & 7, 7 & 8, 8 & 9, 9-11, 10-12 is broken down into goals, review, musical rhythms, class outline, next step, combos, choreography ideas and improvisation activities. The second part of the book, Series, brings in more tap series needed for the growing dancer: Rudiment Series (courtesy of the Condos Brothers)-basically the ABC’s of tap dance; Double Heel Series-to execute clear and specific single sound movements; Shuffle Series-to get loose and increase crispness of sound; Slap and Flap Series-do I hear a challenge??; Paddle and Roll Series-a very advanced series needed for really good technique; Spank Series-to embody the principle of release; and Time Step Series-a series that spans classical steps through present day creations. Thelma gets into the nitty-gritty needed to develop dancers feet, musicality and expression. The closing of the manual brings in various tap dancers biographies, tying the deep seated tradition of jazz tap to its modernity. Thelma has created not only a clear, accessible teacher’s guide but a great reference manual for avid students and seasoned teachers. To note, I too am a children’s dance teacher (flamenco, tap and yoga), and I found that this guide will be a great addition to my practices of teaching-especially in helping me to lay down my own step-by-step approach. Bravo Thelma! Encore!
Thelma adds: I invite you and others to send me questions and comments so that I can continue to clarify my method in a way that helps other teachers understand my suggestions. Video support will be coming slowly to the website Thelma’s Tap Notes to demonstrate the ‘series’ exercises that are at the core of my approach.

Buy The Book Here