Always Be Dancing Adaptive Movement:

Yoga, Dance and Mindfulness for Every(body).


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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: Triangle by Mac Barnett; Illustrated by Jon Klassen

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I was thrilled to receive my copy of Triangle. Right from the get-go, I loved it! The book itself is a great design/shape and I love the thick board book covers that encase this signature Mac Barnett/Jon Klassen tale. The words are simple, great for new readers and read aloud, and each accompanying illustration enriches the story with beautiful layering of the shapes, with their earthy tones and marbled textures.

Mac Barnett has a wry sense of humor and his book is full of questioning possibilities, as each page turns, allowing the reader to guess what is coming next and to be either confirmed or surprised by the outcome. This book offers lessons in simple geometry, proprioception (knowing where you are in space) and the art of friendship. This book is great for kids and even hipsters, as it will look great on any coffee table!

How will I use this book?

I will use this book in my adaptive yoga program to discuss the geometry of poses!

  1. Triangle Pose:
  • Standing (alone, using a chair for balance, against a wall)
  • Seated in a chair (leg crossed at the ankle or the knee)
  • Seated on the floor (one leg extended, one leg bent in “tree” position)
  • Lying down on the floor (one leg extended, one leg bent in “tree” position)
  1. Square Pose: What can you fit into a square shape?

*Note: Blocks can be used in any of the variations to rest the foot on. In cases of extreme immobility, either gently guide the person into a variation that suits their body where they can enjoy the energetic benefits of the pose. Even just touching the area (left or right; inner or outer thigh) can bring their attention to that spot and thereby give them the benefit too.

Full Disclosure: Candlewick Press sent me a 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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Book Review by Eve: “Princess Cora and the Crocodile” by Laura Amy Schlitz; Illustrated by Brain Floca

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Book Review of Princess Cora and the Crocodile by Laura Amy Schlitz; Illustrated by Brain Floca

This early chapter book, perfect for out loud reading and for the newly independent reader, is a great modern fairy tale complete with a strong willed heroine (princess Cora), parents who just don’t listen, a maid on a mission to clean up the world, one bath at a time and a mischievous, cream puff eating crocodile. Ms. Schlitz’s writing is witty, creative and captivating and the gorgeous accompanying illustrations, by Brain Floca, fit the character of the book perfectly. Readers will find it impossible not to fall in love with the two true heroes of this tale, the saucy crocodile and the zestful princess. The happy ending shows that paying a little attention to what is in front of us goes a long way! I highly recommend this delightful story. croc-and-epergne

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


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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.

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Yogini Flamencini! ¡Olé Namaste!

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Today’s yoga class explored the wonderful art of flamenco!  I am a flamenco dancer. I teach children and adults (of all abilities) to dance flamenco. I created a flamenco performance/workshop for schools (PreK-High school), colleges, senior living facilities and many other community events such as Farmer’s Markets and festivals. This performance is called ¡Olé Flamenco! and it explores the gypsies, the art of flamenco, and diversity. Dance is a form of communication that can be shared by everyone, whether you know the exact steps or not. Dance helps people come together, share the joy of movement, build confidence and coordinaton and feel happy! If you would like to experience the art of flamenco, you can hire my guitar player and I to come to your party or event  and we entertain you all! 09ba3c7e2440eda34c2f330329622c9a_400x400

Class began by my playing my castañuelas or castanets. I create beautiful, rhythmic music with my hands. Then I danced and played my castanets to a Sevillana, which is a folk dance from Spain that the gypsies flamencoized. I had everyone clapping their hands and shouting ¡Olé! while I danced!

 

 

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We read a wonderful folktale from Spain called The Beautiful Butterfly. Ask your little yogini about it! They all loved it! It is a wonderful story of compassion, friendship and has a good funny catch at the end. With each page, we did yoga poses that flowed along with the story. The kids loved listening and were all so attentive and focused and I let them decide what poses we would do, choosing from the lines of the story.

 

We then did one of our favorite partner dances “Happy Jio” which is actually a moving meditation but to them it is just fun, fun fun!

I gave each child a flamenco fan, turned on a fiery flamenco song, and we all waved our fans like butterfly wings, stomped our feet and danced! danced! danced!

¡Olé con olé!

 

 


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Flamenco Arms

flamenco armsFlamenco Arms

There are many different styles of arms, elongated and elegant; strong and sinuous. There is the classic style, lifting from the elbow or the modern style, with elbows bent and lowered first, riding tight to the body. Some arms are wild and unschooled. While still others are technical and calculated. All styles, when they are compatible with the dance, are authentic.

Your arms are never just your arms. They are an expression of your art. Next to facial expression, arms and hands are the most expressive element in flamenco dance. They capture attention as they create line, rhythm and feeling. They are the most difficult technique to master.

Learning to use your arms as part of your overall body line is of utmost importance, no matter what your style is. The arms must be extensions of the shoulders, chest, hips and legs. Arms held overhead are rarely held high enough and droopy arms are distracting and are definitely not flamenco!

 

To create the sweep for classic flamenco arms you must grow wings! Spread your back wide and lift your arms. Keep this image of wings as your back body spreads open to cradle the front body. As arms rise, shoulders must stay down and back. Not wrenched back, so that the shoulder blades pull in, but spread wide open to make the arms even longer than they already are. This is the key to the elegance and gypsy arrogance held in flamenco dance. Elbows must remain high throughout the movement as the shoulders remain down.  Feel the the initial extension of your wings from deep within muscles between the shoulders.  When you arrive at “T” position, shoulders must drop over the back of the rib cage. This will cause the front body, around the collar bones, to open wide, like a display case. There you will imagine that you are wearing a beautiful diamond necklace. This area is your display case, lift it up and display your necklace! Wear it proudly.

The arms must have energy all the way to the fingers; use Dynamic Tension. Feel your arms moving with the strength and unity of the whole shoulder girdle. 
Feel your arm pits are deep caverns with vaulted ceilings. You can create a small hollow opening inside as if to cradle a very ripe, very juicy apricot (do not squish it or drop it).

The passage of the arm must go through all the “stopping” points (3, 6, 9, 12 n  clock face) and create the shape necessary at each point (ie Never just bring your arm up with out passing through:  low “v” to “t” position to high “v” etc…). In low “v” & 6 o’clock,  make sure you do not compress the arm pits. 

Arms must always be controlled. Never throw them around as if you are directing air traffic. Arms are under constant tension. You can imagine from the torso to the wrists, as your arms rise, that an elastic band is pulling tights. Feel the tension, but do not show the tension. There is a buoyancy as they rise, like they are pushing through water. Keep the gently descending line from shoulders to elbow to wrist to finger tips. This picks up again as the arms pass through “T” position and then again the dynamic tension is created from the arms back into the body.  Make sure your arms flow.

A little about hands:

Hand movement are very personal and your hands are an extension of your personality and the emotional content to your dance. They are the fine sable hairs at the end of a paint brush. They add flourish, punctuation and can pull energy into your field or press it away. They add the final important details to your dance. the hands move from the circling of the wrists. The wrist circles do not involve any other part of the arms-so pay attention to your elbows!

 

There are two hand movement styles:

  1. Gypsy: The little finger leads the way in opening and closing the hand-like a fan opening and closing.
  2. Classic: The middle finger leads.
    • Keep thumbs in as you turn your wrist.
    • SEQUENCE: palm, fingers, wrist, fingers
    • Bend wrists as much as possible. Bring your finger tips towards the very inside of the wrist before making the rotation. That is your accents point. The unfurling carries the rhythm till the next accent.
    • Hands move with rhythm not randomly.