Always Be Dancing

The Art of Movement for Every/body & Mindful Book Reviews By Eve


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Mindful Book Reviews By Eve: Early Fall Line-Up of Picture Books from Candlewick Press

Flying Paintings The  Zhou Brothers: A Story of Revolution and Art by Amy Alznauer; paintings by ShanZuo Zhou & DaHuang Zhou

Art is powerful and its transformational power takes center stage in this historic tale of the Zhou brothers whose lives and art were shaped largely by the Cultural Revolution in China. This is a heavy theme for a children’s picture book but with the author’s gentle touch of the subject, accompanied by dynamic ink-and-watercolor paintings by the subjects themselves, readers are immersed in the bold artistic style and the courageous spirit of the Zhou brothers. The book focuses not only on the historical moment in time but also on the difficulties that arise in families and those that relate to art, country, and humankind. The book is magnificently illustrated with art by the Zhou brothers themselves, enlivening the tale with a sense of a first hand narrative. This is a wonderful early non-fiction book that introduces two contemporary Chinese artists who were confronted with much suffering and many roadblocks but were still able to rise up and be true to who they really were. 

Grow: Secrets of Our DNA by Nicola Davies; illustrated by Emily Sutton

Knowledge is magnificent and this book is armed to the gills with it. From the beautifully drawn helices on the end pages to the realistic illustrations that bring life to the fascinating world of DNA, this book is a STEAM book for all ages. One of the best takeaways from this book is that although our DNA makes us unique, the fact that uniqueness is a constant for all living creations, only proves that we are all just one giant community. All the same, yet all different. All things grow, all things change. 

The cover drew me right in. The illustrator’s use of a variety of mediums, such as pastels, colored pencils, ink and watercolors are a beautiful blend of the simple and the complex. Although the illustrations are cartoon-like, they craftily capture important details using design elements such as texture, color and line. The illustrations wonderfully carry the science of the subject matter. The characters are diverse, the information is highly accessible and interesting and will surely kick off a larger quest for knowledge. I highly recommend this wonderful introduction to life science.  

Jabari Tries by Gaia Cornwall

Jabari is at it again! He does not let failure get him down. He uses creative thought to problem solve and just has a total CAN DO attitude! The book has a great non-fiction element that celebrates black scientists and doctors who help to fire up Jabari’s determination to figure things out. Jabari is honest and he gets frustrated, but his dad brings in the mindfulness aspect that scientists really need and after a few calming breaths, Jabari is ready to give it another try. Through his efforts, Jabari learns compromise and cooperation and through just enough action and rest time, he learns how to be successful and how to have fun!

The illustrations are fun and I just love the Rube Goldberg machines they come up with and the happy way a family interacts and relies on each other for support and love. Very sweet STEAM focused book and an inspirational story of perseverance, problem solving and creativity. 

Love Is Powerful by Heather Dean Brewer; illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Just like the disco song expresses, Love is the message! Love is, love is the message that I sing to you; Love is the message that I bring to you; Love is the message for a song…. Love is the message for us all! This book shows how a small child, who might be wondering how they can make an impact on the world, that one small gesture can have a much larger effect. This book is a great gateway into the world of activism and brings to light the invisible roots of our global connection. This book gives hope and highlights acceptance and shows how important it is to stand up for human rights for all peoples of the world. This story recounts a true story of the power to unify through love and positivity and how you’re never too young to be an inspiration. The march of diverse characters pulls you right in. They are so endearing with their shining eyes and smiles and pink “cat” hats, the 100’s of hearts floating all around the pages and the beautiful affirmations decorating the signs. This is what the world needs now! I see it right alongside Julian Is A Mermaid, by Jessica Love, as books that will become anthems for the ages. 

Norman: One Amazing Goldfish! By Kelly Bennett; illustrated by Noah Z. Jones

Filled with bright bold colors, this amusing story highlights overcoming fear, the power of the true friendship that one can have with a pet, and a trust in one’s own self-worth. This is a fun read and will keep the attention of young readers who will be able to relate to overcoming shyness when introduced to something new. People might try to douse your inner spirit with negativity but if you are true to yourself, whatever the final result, you will gain confidence, knowledge and above all, self- respect!  Three cheers for Norman the amazing goldfish. This is a delightful story with a positive message!

Will You Be My Friend by Sam McBratney; Illustrated by Anita Jeram

We’ve been waiting a lifetime for this sequel. This book just feels like home. The characters are so familiar and with each illustration of their expressive faces, you fall deeper and deeper in love with them. I just want to stroke the new bunnies sweet pink nose-enough it is cartoon-like, it has an element of realness that just makes them so cuddly. I love the hopping bunnies on the end sheets  that just led you into this story about the joys of discovering a new fiend. This is a warm  and wonderful tale that leaves ample space for children to illustrate the tale for themselves, is a loving portrayal of a young child’s growing independence and the deep seated happiness of finding a new friend.

Thank you to Candlewick Press for all of these amazing books. All opinions expressed are my own.


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16 Picture Books on The Mind for the K-5 Classroom

A Girl Like Tilly: Growing Up With Autism by Helen Bates

Alphabreaths by Christopher Willard & Daniel Rechtchaffen

Angry Octopus by Lori Lite

Angry Octopus: Color Me Happy, Color Me Calm by Lori Lite

Glad Monster, Sad Monster by Ed Emberley

Go Away Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley

I Can Do Hard Things by Gabi Garcia

My Book of Feelings by Tracey Ross

Our Brains Are Like Computers by Joel Shaul

Robin And The White Rabbit: A Story To Hep Children With Autism to Talk About their Feelings and Join In by Åse Brunnström & Emma Lindström

The Adventures of Your Brain by Dan Green

The Brain: Our Nervous System by Seymour Simon

The Girl Who Thought In Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin by Julia Finley Mosca

The Rhino Who Swallowed A Storm by LeVar Burton & Susan Schaefer Bernardo

Winston Wallaby Won’t Stop Bouncing: What to Do about Hyperactivity in Children Including Those with ADHD, SPD and ASD by Joy Beaney and Kay Al-Ghani

Your Fantastic Elastic Brain: Stretch It, Shape It by JoAnn Deak, Ph.D.

Titles are linked to reviews that I have written. All opinions are my own.


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Mindful Book Reviews By Eve: Massive Candlewick Press, Childen’s Book Reviews Roundup! Yeehaw!

 

Alphabet Street by Ingela P. Arrhenius Ages 2-5

This pop-up book is so creative and will inspire hours of play and learning. The book is full of fun and quirky rhymes that take the reader through the shops and to meet the people on Alphabet Street,  all the while leaning the letters and sounds along the way. But that’s not all! This book also folds out and includes a beautifully illustrated play scene on the reverse of the shops and will inspire hours of imaginative play. I can see getting lost in the dreamy pastel artwork by the author and illustrator, Ingela P. Arrhenius. This is a wonderful ABC book and would make a great gift for a budding reader!

Jon Klassen’s Hat Box. Boxed set of Picture Books Ages 4-8

This is a beautiful boxed presentation of the wry and though invoking Hat stories by Jon Klassen. The books included are: I Want My Hat Back, This Is Not My Hat, and We Found a Hat, and a print of that scruffy bear, rabbit and the sought after hat. The engaging watercolor illustrations are enough to tell the story. It’s all in the subtle expressions and side-eyed glances. Each page builds up to the surprise, ending and the wry expressions of the characters add to the slightly racy humor. These are intricately crafted stories of cause and effect and fit in along side Aesop’s Fables. They each have something to teach. There is nothing wrong with a book that does not tie itself up with a pretty bow at the end. Some stories are sassy and these are some of the best! This would make a great gift for the holidays!

Inside Outside written and illustrated by Anne-Margot Ramstein & Matthias Arégui Ages 4-8

Wordlessly this beautiful picture book leads the reader into worlds large and small to bolster creative imagination. Within each two page spread, the reader is drawn narrowly into and widely out of scenarios where they might become a spelunker, a dog inside a doghouse or even a chick inside an egg. These unique perspectives will surely lead to interesting questions from curious kids and can offer great prompts for story telling, creative writing and afternoon day dreams. I love this concept and so appreciate the accessibility of a picture book that can expand to satisfy a larger audience: young, old, those who can read and those who cannot. Wonderful!

Mr. Scruff by Simon James Junior Library Guild Ages 3-7

This adorable book about people and their pets will grab attention with its fun rhymes and super charming ink & watercolor illustrations that will definitely elicit giggles. What is really special about this book is its compassionate story of diversity, acceptance and love. Kindness for animals, understanding that our choices have a resounding affect and that love is what makes the world go round. I highly recommend this heart-warming, heart-felt story.

Just Because by Mac Barnett Ages 4-8

This book is childlike satire at its best of the traditional bedtime avoidance rituals. Just before the lights can out, the fathomless quesions about life commencnse. Isabelle Arsenaults beautifully illustratoes each of the dad’s creative responses with gouche, pencil & watercolor illustrated 2-page spread of dream-scapes including flying fish, dinosaurs floating in space and mice blowing bubbles, all done with gorgeous muted tones that lend to the feel of nighttime and the slowly closing eyes of the sleepy child. This is a really cute bedtime book that will have you running to look up the real answers to these age old questions because curious minds will want to know! I highly recommend it! The expressions of the dog are priceless!

Paper World Planet Earth Illustrated by Bomboland  Ages 8-12

Paper-cutting is the art of cutting paper and this book takes this laser-cut multi-dimensional art-form deep into the earth’s core. I just love the creative use of vivid colors to create dimension, texture, and shadow that literally jump off each 2-page spread. Along with its in-depth scientific teachings, this book creates a sense of wonder.  On top of the already multi-layered aspect of the pages, there are flaps and die-cuts that offer more in-depth information about this big beautiful planet we call home. This truly one-of-a-kind book will appeal to readers of all ages and will bolster the curiosity of budding scientists, environmentalists and highly curious people!

Playlist: The Rebels & Revolutionaries of Sound by James Rhodes Ages 12+

Right off the bat, with the gorgeously colorful marbled paper-art end-pages, you know this book is going to be engaging. This book is a multi-sensory treat exciting not just the eyes and mind but also the ears and the whole body. By including a Spotify play-list, your senses get an extra jolt by adding the emotional quality that only music can bring. Through music, the whole being is able to experience these “original” rock stars of classical music, a genre often overlooked when considering the basis of current music. Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven are hip!
The back stories plus the ties to current day movies, and music offer just enough information to entice even the most stubborn “pop” fan into appreciating the inspiring stories of these great composers. I was motivated to find the full tracks of the songs and really listen to these amazing pieces that helped shaped every piece of music and ring tone we hear today.

This is a great gift book and would look especially awesome on a coffee table or for your favorite band teacher! The collage, silkscreen & digital illustrations by Martin O’Neill are really well done and are very exciting and add a lot to the text. Each one could become a framed piece of art!  

Walk This Underground World by Kate Baker Ages 5-8

Wonderfully informative! This creative non-fiction picture book opens up the underground world by taking the reader from deep in the underground city of Montreal to the subways of Tokyo to burrows of prairie dog and mole rats. This book will inspire curiosity and a realization that what is on the surface is just that and that there are many hidden gems that go into life on this an amazing planet. Sam Brewster intricately details each 2-page spread page with pop-open doors, windows and crevices to give an ever deeper peek into the teeming underground life. I highly recommend this book. It will excite and instill the desire for the young reader to know about our planet helping to create budding scientists, archaeologists, architects and highly interested and engaged people. 


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Mindful Book Reviews By Eve: Give Me Back My Bones! by Kim Norman

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Really fun, quirky rhyming book with a solid description of anatomy of the skeleton, that is perfect for the budding scientist. It brings new words and a deeper understanding of the skeletal body in a fun, non-scary way. The book is very clever and step-by-step reconstructs a pirate skeleton all the while imparting scientific knowledge and answering questions like “what is inside me?” and “what do these body parts do?” This is a great first book of anatomy for teachers scientists, doctors, yoga teachers and is fully accessible to very young children with its endearing, friendly, humerus (ha ha) skeleton and beautifully detailed underwater scenes. This is a great book for the Halloween book shelf and to celebrate “Talk Like A Pirate Day.” I love the big bold colorful illustrations by Bob Kolar and there’s a wonderful skeleton poster inside the jacket. This book is a winner from front to back!

I highly recommend it and cannot wait to share it with my littlest yoga students as we bend stretch, and strengthen our skeletons!

Thank you to Candlewick Press for sending me this book. All opinions expressed are my own.

For more information about me, please visit alwaysbedancing dot com

#bookreviews #children #picturebook #fiction #anatomy #skeleton #halloween #pirate #silly #STEAM #STEM #juvenileliterature #ocean #undersea #treasurechest #alwaysbedancing #evecostarelli #iameve


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Mindful Book Reviews by Eve: You Are Light by Aaron Becker

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This book is simply delightful. From the very first turn of the page, which casts a gorgeous mandala shadow onto my hand, I was drawn into its sturdy die-cut frame and stained-glass creativeness. The poetic prose match perfectly with the play of translucent-jewel toned inserts that radiate around a bright yellow sun, together illuminating the story of the sun’s effect on the water cycle while at the same time reflecting the story back onto the reader. You cannot but hold it up to the light at each turn! It’s truly mesmerizing and joy-inducing. This book is very clever and artfully profound. It will certainly delight young children but it has a wider outreach due to its unique and beautiful presentation of both spirituality and natural scientific facts.

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This book is an absolute exuberant celebration of life. With few words, it reminds us to be mindful of our consumption, of our relationship to mother earth and of our connection to every living thing. It is truly an awakening. This book is the full package: creative concept, engaging story; good for young and old…and it is devotedly dedicated to STEAM. I love it!

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Thank you to Candlewick Press for sending me a copy of this book. All opinions expressed are my own.


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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 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


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Book Review: Growing Up Mindful by Christopher Willard, PSYD

bk04652-growing-up-mindful-published-cover_1I was pleased to receive the book Growing Up Mindful from the author, Christopher Willard, PSYD. As I have become increasingly more focused on bringing mindfulness into situations where mindfulness might not be readily available, such as in schools, offices, and  with the special needs populations, I have enjoyed the wide array of books on the practical applications of mindfulness, that I can adapt to my needs. Dr. Willard is at the top of the game. This book was really user-friendly with just enough scientific knowledge mixed with common sense. A dream book of ideas to help create a sense of balance, ease and flexibility in your life, that of your family and also to those around you. From the excellent mindfulness exercises to the practical advice, Dr. Willard offers creative and useful scripts, examples and ideas on how to bring mindfulness into your day. I highly recommend this book. It is an excellent tool for anyone: parent, teacher, and boss who wants to help young people bring mindfulness into their lives.

He also has an audio companion to his book available on Sounds True and a great set of Growing Mindful card deck that features 50 unique mindfulness activities to teach awareness, how to be present in the moment, and cultivate kindness & curiosity. Perfect for all ages! 514xcamlnel-_ac_ul320_sr192320_

As a special treat, here is a YouTube link to Dr. Willard’s TedX – Growing Up Stressed or Growing Up Mindful?

Disclaimer: The author sent me a copy of Growing Up Mindful. All opinions are my own.


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Eve Costarelli’s preliminary teaching and performing schedule for 2016-2017

Dear Students & Families: past, present and future,

Welcome to my preliminary teaching and performing schedule for 2016-2017. All programs are inclusive and are adaptable.

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  1. This year, as lead youth/teen yoga and mindfulness instructor at Open Spirit Center, Framingham and their Nourishing Teachers, Strengthening Classrooms project, I am aiming to bring yoga and mindfulness to target populations of students and faculty at Framingham High School and Hoops and Homework, an award winning After School and Summer Program serving the most under privileged kids in Framingham, MA. *** My ability to reach these populations is determined by grants and private donations though the Open Spirit/ Nourishing Teachers, Strengthening Classrooms Project. For more information, please visit our donation page.
  2. I will be at Mini Miracles Childcare Center with Eve’s Awesome Yoga for ages 15 months-6 Years. Classes here are only available for center enrollees. 
  3. Anthony Tiriti Tran and I continue our educational program, ¡Olé Flamenco! with both Young Audiences of Massachusetts and Celebrity Series: Arts For All! We can come to your school or community gathering! All programs are inclusive and adaptable.
  4. On the performance front, I will be dancing for the Boston Arts Consort and Song Caravan. On the stage, you will find me either dancing traditional flamenco or my beautiful creative gypsy-freestyle, which blends my life of dance into my own artistic expression.
  5. I am available for *private and semi private work, site specific choreography, educational presentations and master classes. *My private lesson slots are filling fast.
  6. This summer, I had the awesome opportunity to bring yoga to a BINA Farm/Warrior Thunder Foundation event and I hope to do more work with both organizations.
  7. On Saturday September 24, 2016, I will be participating in Open Spirit Center’s Day of Spirit. Please join me for my gypsy-freestyle class and how mindful movement assists in freeing your artistic voice. Check Open Spirit Center/ Day of Spirit for more details
  8. Just throwing this out there: I am looking to create a 11+ yoga boys class. If you are interested or know of anyone, please share my information with them.

Please contact me for more information. All programs can be tailored to fit your needs. 

Thank you and Remember to Always Be Dancing!

¡Olé Namaste!

Eve

 

 


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Yoga For Flamenco Dancers

Yoga For Flamenco Dancers: Mr. Thrifty Skeleton (Señor Esquelto Económico)

Basis for the sequence:

  1. Getting in touch with the spine and pelvis to coordinate movement with emotion
  2. Strengthening the ball of foot for tacaneo
  3. Arch of back/back-bends for Vuelta Quebrada
  4. Ankle strengthen for balance

Take a few moments to prepare your self for practice.

To get an understanding of the sensation of your spine and it’s ability to flex, extend, twist and lean, start on your back, legs out, arms resting by sides, just noticing which areas along your backs/spine touch the floor. I use a Mr. Thrifty Skeleton (Señor Esqueleto Económico), to refer to when describing bones and movement. Constructive Rest

After that, bend your knees into constructive rest, and then notice the changes that happen in relation to your back against the floor. With knees bent, it also made it possible to gently rock the pelvis back and forth. Using Señor Esqueleto Económico, you can see how the spine connects into the skull at the Occiput Occiputand how it runs all the way down to the tail bone. (Interesting fact: We are born with about 300 bones but by the time we reach adulthood, due to fusing, we only have 206). an-elegant-perfect-sunflower-in-a-flower-pot-vector-1650453Imagine that your spine sits into the pelvis as a flower in a pot. With good strong roots and good balance, the stem (spine) grows strong and the energy flows and is able to balance the flowering head atop with ease, grace and strength. The neck spine (cervical spine) is longer than you think. A good way to check into this part of the spine is to notice how it feels when turned and when the head is dropped forward towards the chest. You will notice a pull somewhere between you shoulders and you feel the full length of the neck. The neck spine has the greatest degree of rotation, then the lower back and hip spine (lumbar spine) and finally the middle section of the back spine (the thoracic spine). The joints in the lumbar spine allow for forward and backward movement but limit rotation.

IMG_6454IMG_6455From constructive rest, hug the knees into the chest, allowing the lower back to spread out onto the floor. You can even feel , by your lowest ribs, the floating ribs, the sensation that a pair of wings is unfurling. Then, hold onto your knees, and practice wave breathing: on the inhale, gently allow the knees to pull away, just until the arms straighten and on the exhale, gently pull the knees towards the belly, aiding in the removal of the air; this action is like a bellows. Noticing here, the same rocking of the pelvis you observed earlier and noting now the feeling of the subsequent spinal movement. The knees into the chest are like a forward bend and the knees away from the chest create a subtle back-bend. 

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Seated in easy pose, exploring the 6 directions of the movement of the spine. Always like to pull out Bumpy Camel here, then side-stretch, and seated twist. Move onto hanIMG_6464IMG_6461IMG_6460ds and knees to explore this again: cat and cow (once again noting the flexion and extension of the spine), easy kneeling twist with a chicken wing pose and dog looking at tail pose (for side stretch).

Child’s Pose to Baddha Konasana to Hero’s pose and the discussion of the difference between this position of the legs in relation to the body vs. “W” Sitting (see http://www.skillsforaction.com/w-sitting). Start with the simplest variation of Hero’s pose. To note as you progressed through the pose, you might need to add props if you are not able to sit comfortably on the floor. Some people might be comfortable enough to continue on into Supta Virasana- Reclining Hero’s pose (this of course can also be done with props to attain the full pose). Use the first two poses as preparatory poses to doing Hero and to note some of the benefits of Hero’s pose are : Stretching of the quadriceps; Keeping the knee joints healthy; Keeping tendons in the back of the knees properly aligned; Strengthening the tops of the feet and ankles; Strengthening of the arches and broadening of the sacrum.    

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Standing now. More arch work with Scrunches and Toe Lifts. Imagine you are standing on two silky scarves, one under each foot. Try to scrunch up your foot as you drag the scarf towards your heels. Do this 5 times in a row, 4 quicker attempts and then on #5, a longer hold. Relax the foot and then lift up all ten toes and flare them open, keep the heel and the ball of the foot on the floor. When laying the toes back down, first time is a regular drop, second time, you try to drop the toes baby toe first to the big toe, one at a time and on the third time, you try to drop the big toe first down to the baby toe. I then repeat this whole sequence once or twice more (scrunches through toe lifts). Even if you cannot actually drop the toes separately, just try to imagine that you are doing it. Sometimes the brain needs to tell the toes what it wants them to do to teach them.

Tree on a block. A fun variation of tree pose that adds a little challenge and a little more focus on the core stabilizing muscles that wrap around your lower spine and help it plant deeply into the pelvis so the two parts of your body can work harmoniously. Most physical movement requires a rotation of the torso. Our core muscles actually form an X across the front and back of your body. This means the body acts by connecting the right shoulder with the left hip and visa-versa. From your neck and your upper back, around the sides of the body, through the upper rib muscles, that lift your arm pit, wrap inwards, travel towards the opposite side of the body. They pass by the hips, criss-cross then end up in the opposite thigh. Known as the Serape Effect.

Brief History of Flamenco as imagined through the migrants from India, who arrived in Spain in the 15 century, and came to be known as the Gypsies. These people are believed to have been composed of three groups/castes: metal smiths working in iron, copper and bronze; practitioners of animal husbandry such as horse doctors, farriers and dealers in live stock; and entertainers such singers, dancers, conjurers, magicians, jugglers, fortune tellers and acrobats. These fiercely proud nomadic groups, divided into two major migratory routes with one faction heading northward towards Russian along the Caspian coast and the other faction heading southward through Iraq, Persia, Egypt, Arabia and North Africa before arriving in Spain via Mediterranean Sea through the Straits of Gibraltar on trading vessels and overland caravans trains, known as kumpanias. Both the music and culture of these people were highly influenced by the cultures they had reached along their journey and the melodies and rhythms alive in the culture of Spain that the gypsies heard upon their arrival planted the seeds for the birth of the art of flamenco. Flamenco has evolved as a forceful and exciting art form. It involves both physical and emotional intelligence and is a dance form characterized by hand clapping (palmas), percussive footwork (tacaneo), intricate hand (floreo), arm (braseo) and body movements combined with a highly tuned in emotional structure that spans the deepest songs of the original gypsies through the styles influenced by Cuba and South America all the way to today, with traditional flamenco being fused with jazz, pop and World Music styles. Without dispute, flamenco is the most familiar form of Spanish dance. With its fire and intensity, its insistent rhythms, its soulful guitars and its passion, it has the power to draw people in and after watching a performance, everyone is ready to strike a pose and stomp their feet. ¡Olé!