Dance Spotlight: The Scandalous Waltz

March 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

medium_3966577401As with most dances, the exact origin of the waltz is a little murky. There are references to peasant folk dances that seem to be early forms of the waltz as far back as 13th century Germany, but these references are more prevalent in the 1500s.

The waltz was originally viewed as a very scandalous dance since this was the first time dancers were seen holding in a close embrace. A man reaching his hand around a woman’s waist in public was unheard of, but by the late 18th century, the 3/4 time waltz had become more mainstream and was finding its way into the more formal halls, ballrooms, and even the royal ballrooms. Since it was still viewed as an immoral dance, it of course, quickly grew in popularity and made its way over to the United States in the mid 1800s. The dance slowly became more accepted, and by 1900, over three quarters of dance programs were just waltzes. The style of the waltz has changed through the years and has become a more relaxed version in later years. However, once the Foxtrot hit the scene around the time of World War I, the Waltz almost died out completely. It still managed to stay around, though, and popularity began to eventually rise again to carry the dance through today.

Even though it is far from being viewed as a scandalous dance anymore, the waltz is still seen as an elegant and romantic dance. Characterized by a graceful rise and fall, the waltz sweeps around the room with smooth, elegant steps and rotating movements. It is still the highlight of many ballroom competitions in the smooth division. While some moves require you to stay in one spot, the waltz is classified as a traveling dance and generally flows around the floor. Waltz is typically the dance people think of when they hear the term “ballroom dance” and is still very popular at weddings and more formal events. There are variations in style between American and International waltz, as well as variations between regions.

Photo Credit: Double–M via photopin cc

Prom Tips

March 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

High School Prom

Photo Courtesy of Saratoga.com

Looking for some tips on how to look great while dancing at the prom?

How about the best way to dance in a fancy dress or tux?

Feeling nervous about getting out there on that floor?

For what to expect on the dance floor at this year’s prom, check out Jenna’s quick tips for Looking Like a Pro at Your Prom in this year’s Saratoga Prom Guide, and you’ll have the confidence you need to look great whether if you know how to dance or not!

Saratoga Prom Guide’s Tips For Dancing at the Prom

 

National Dance Day

July 24, 2013 § Leave a comment

ndd1

It’s that time of year again! Every year on the last Saturday in July, the country celebrates National Dance Day. This Saturday, July 27th marks the day of fun this year, with dance events going on around the country. EVERYONE is encouraged to do some sort of movement to celebrate the day – dancer or not. Many communities are hosting several events if you want to get out and dance, but if you’re a little too shy to be dancing in public, the Dizzy Feet Foundation (the originators of the event) have provided a couple of instructional videos for you to practice in your own home. Go to the Dizzy Feet Event Page for more information on these routines as well as the history of National Dance Day.

If you’re going to be in the LA area, or are looking for a reason to be there, you can also buy tickets to the Celebration of Dance Gala hosted by the Dizzy Feet Foundation. This is a great event that will feature some fantastic dance performances from So You Think You Can Dance, Dancing with the Stars, the American Ballet Theater and many others, as well as a black tie supper.  Tickets start at just $34 so the Gala is accessible for everyone that wants to come out and celebrate for National Dance Day!

Here are  two of the official National Dance Day routines that you can learn right at home!

 

 

Be sure to check out what your community is doing for this fun day that seems to get bigger and better every year!

Are you hosting an event in your community, or know of some of the events going on?  Post your community’s events in the comments section here and let’s get a list started!

Happy Dance Day!

Preparing For Your First Dance

July 2, 2013 § 1 Comment

wedding dance 1-2OK, you’ve picked your song.  The big day is looming closer and you’re ready to start on your dance. What now? What do you need to be prepared for the big song? There are a few logistical things to consider before you can start working on your choreography. You want your dance to go off without a hitch, so you need to get these answers out of the way before continuing on.

If you’re working with a professional, be sure to tell them about the theme of your wedding and you as a couple. You want your dance to be a reflection of who you are. Also make sure you give yourself plenty of time before the big day to start working on your dance. The dance should be an enjoyable part of the preparations, not adding another major stressor, and if you wait until too close, you’ll feel like you’re never going to learn it in time. Here are a few other things to consider when crafting your first dance. Be sure to go over this list with your instructor to make sure your choreography will be ready to go!

1. When during the day will your dance be?
Is it as soon as you walk into your reception? After dinner? During the cocktail hour?
Decide on when you’ll be doing your dance so you will know exactly where you’ll be at the start of it and based on that, how to choreography your beginning.

2. Logistics of the space
A few questions to consider:

  • What is the size and shape of the dance floor?
  • Will the head table and/or DJ/Band be right on the dance floor?
  • Where will your wedding party be during your dance? Are they standing on the floor with you?
  • Where will your guests be? Will they stand around the floor? Sit at the tables?
  • Where will the bride’s flowers be? Will you need to get rid of them before the dance?
  • What is the setup of the room? Where are the entrance/exit points, etc?
  • Where will your “important” people be (parents, grandparents, etc)?
  • Are the tables/guests all the way around the dance floor or all on one side?

These may seem like inconsequential questions but they’re actually very important in determining how you will begin/end your dance, if you need to play up to one spot, how much space you actually have to dance, etc. It’s also important so you’ll know what to expect. One little thing – like your guests standing around the dance floor when you expected them to sit at the tables – can be enough to throw you off and you don’t want that to happen! The size and shape of the floor is also important when you’re practicing so you can map out the space and be sure you are practicing in the right area. Don’t be afraid to call your wedding venue and ask about this. They are used to these types of questions and will gladly give you dimensions of the floor and go over the layout.

3. Reminders
It may sound like something that should go without saying, but you’d be surprised – Remind the wait staff not to cross the dance floor during the dance. Also remind your photographer and videographer to be sure to get some whole body shots too. Those close-ups are always nice, but you’ve worked hard on your dance and you want to have some pictures of the dance too!

4. Are you dancing to live music or a recording played by the DJ?
If the answer is a DJ, your job is easy. Make sure your DJ has the exact version of the song you want and have been practicing to. Then make sure he knows what the cue is for him to start the music. If a live band is playing your song, ask the band for a recorded copy of exactly how they will play the song so you can practice to their version. When you are about to take your first step on the dance floor is not the time to find out that a song you thought was going to be a Foxtrot has been remixed into a rumba! Also, be sure to go over the appropriate cues with your bandmaster as well.

5. Be sure to tell your instructor:

  • If you plan on dancing the whole song by yourself or if you’re inviting your wedding party and/or guests to join in partway.
  • To give you at least 1 or 2 “picture poses” during the dance so you can be sure your photographer (and grandma) can get a great shot.
  • To have some freezes and back-up steps – These are great just in case you lose your step, someone does walk across the floor, or something else happens to throw you off. These types of steps help you to regain your composure and get back into the dance without ever letting your guests know that something happened.


6. Consider the dress.

Something to think about – How big is your dress? Will you be wearing a crinoline underneath? Is it flowy? Tight? Long? Short? Heavy? How is the bustle hooked, and will the back still be longer than the front?

Yes, these all do make a difference in how you will do your dance. If you have a long, pouffy, heavy dress, there are just some moves you will not want to attempt. They not only will be hard for you to do, they just won’t look good. Simple things like the bustle or the amount of space your legs will have will make a big difference as well. And just the fact that you are wearing a dress at all may throw your partner off, pouffy or not. There’s something about the fabric moving between the legs that often throws even the best leader off. Be sure to practice ahead of time with some type of dress or skirt on. If you know you’ll be wearing a crinoline underneath, practice with that on. Both you and your partner will be very happy you did, trust me! If you don’t have anything to practice in, pin a bedsheet around your waist. It sounds stupid, but it does help to feel what it is like to have all that extra fabric around your legs (for both of you!).

7. Other wardrobe considerations –

  • Will you be wearing your veil during the dance?
  • What shoes will you be wearing?
  • Is he wearing a tux jacket? Tux shoes?

These make a difference too. If your guy is wearing a tux jacket, be sure he practices a couple of times at least with a suit jacket on. It feels very different dancing in a jacket than it does in the t-shirt and jeans he’s used to. Tux shoes are also very slippery and often stiff. Have him practice in the slickest pair of dress shoes he has and be sure to try 1 or 2 moves that day beforehand in the actual tux shoes. Your shoes are also very important. You want to feel totally comfortable moving in them, so if possible, practice in your wedding shoes as much as possible. Also, remember to take some backwards steps at your next fitting to ensure that your seamstress is altering the dress short enough to make sure you will not trip on it while dancing.

8. Practice at least once every day.
Everyone thinks that they need to set aside at least an hour to practice, but reality is, those extra hours don’t come around very often. Aim to have at least 3-5 minutes a day to practice. Make it a part of your daily routine – brush your teeth then run through the dance, or something like that. Even just running through it that once will help you immensely. Dance has a lot to do with muscle memory. So the more regularly you use your muscles that way, the easier and more natural the dance will seem. On the extra busy days, just run through it that once. On the weekends or a lighter day, set aside a little more time to work out the kinks.

9. Smile!
No matter what, your guests are not going to remember every step you do. But they will remember if it looked like you were enjoying the moment or not. Even if you heaven forbid screwed up completely, if you keep smiling, all anyone will remember is how cute you looked and what a sweet dance you had.

10. Relax and enjoy the moment.
Remember, this is your special time to celebrate your union. Your two lives become one out on that dance floor, and no matter what happens with anything else, that’s all that counts. You will get to dance together for the rest of your lives but you only get your first dance once, so enjoy every second of that song!

Tips For Picking Your Song

For more information about wedding dances, or to book a wedding package with Jenna, contact us at info@silverpenproductions.com.

If you’re in the Capital District, check out the Saratoga SAVOY Center of Dance for more information on available wedding packages.

Photo Credit: Original photo by Peter Finger Photography

Suddenly I’m Flying

June 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

flying dancer2

I know I’ve said it before – Dance is magic. Theater is magic.
Blah Blah Blah

But true.

If you’ve never felt that feeling – that electric feeling – then I truly feel sorry for you. It is a feeling like no other that I have ever experienced. Nothing can compare to that natural high, that freedom you feel. Even a chemically induced high is just not the same.

I was lucky enough to see Billy Elliot the Musical this past weekend. There were many wonderful things about that show – I could do a whole post just on that. But I’m not going to go into the impressive transitions, the kids, the story, the symbolism of the choreography, or the general choreography of the whole show (the workings of the show was like a ballet itself!). But I do have to talk about the Swan Lake scene where Billy is dancing with his older self.

What a beautiful moment for live theater! The hair on both my arms stood on end the entire scene. I’m not even sure if I breathed until it was over. There was electricity in the whole room. I could hear and feel the reactions of the audience. I could feel the presence of the actors. But at the same time, everything was blocked out as I was transported into this dream world of Billy as he was able, for just those few minutes, to be free. Everything in his life – literally and figuratively – faded into black and he was just dancing. As he lost himself more and more into the song, his dance literally took off – sending him soaring into the sky – free as the highest bird.

I sat and I watched this thinking – wow, that’s exactly what dance, any dance, feels like – like you’re flying. Like you’re free. Nothing else matters. It’s your release. Your escape. Pure freedom. What a wonderful physical representation of a feeling that is so hard to describe. I remember the first time I was able to let go while dancing and first experienced that feeling of flying.  It was one of the most exhilarating things I’ve experienced and a memory I will never forget. I’ve always believed that dancing is the purest form of communication because you don’t have to talk. And that scene in Billy Elliot was a beautiful example of that.

Thinking that scene was my big moment for the show, I sat back feeling like the entire price of my ticket was worth that one scene alone. Then, later in the show, the “Electricity” song came on. The interviewer asks Billy what it feels like to dance. And through the combined power of music and dance, he explains it once again:

“I can’t really explain it,
I haven’t got the words
It’s a feeling that you can’t control
I suppose it’s like forgetting, losing who you are
And at the same time something makes you whole
It’s like that there’s a music playing in your ear
And I’m listening, and I’m listening, and then I disappear.

And then I feel a change
Like a fire deep inside
Something bursting me wide open, impossible to hide
And suddenly I’m flying, flying like a bird
Like electricity, electricity
Sparks inside of me
And I’m free, I’m free….”

Have you ever had that feeling?
That feeling like you’re suddenly flying? I think that’s a very simple and precise way of describing the Arts. What a wonderful feeling. What a way to round out not only the human experience but of humanity itself!

I can’t imagine this world without the Arts. What a sad, boring, and miserable experience it would be. I am sickened every time I hear of yet another Arts venue or program closing. I hate to think that I may someday live in a world where I might not be able to expose my own daughter to these wonderful things.

If you’ve never experienced the power of the Arts – that electricity – try it. You’ll never forget it.

If you have a chance to support an Arts program or institution, please do. Bring your children. Enroll them in a class or group. It’s important that these programs stay around. It’s critical that we have a world that allows our children to experience the full range of the human existence (and not just the bubble sheet tests they’re subjected to at school – Don’t even get me started there).

Everyone should have a chance to spread their wings and Fly….

 

Photo Credit: torbakhopper via photopin cc

Diamond Dance Turns Diamond – Again

June 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

Diamond Dance May 2013 29 Private Frank

Photo by Saratoga Savoy

I always say there is magic in dance, in so many different ways. I’ve seen many wonderful things happen through dance. (That is something for another discussion, for sure!) But the other night, I was privileged to witness the sweet and romantic side of dance that provided a perfect memory for one special couple.

Setting: The Diamond Dance at the historic Saratoga Music Hall, hosted by the Saratoga SAVOY Center of Dance. The stars are out. The band is swinging. The floor is crowded with dancers of all ages enjoying a night out on the town. It could have been a scene from 1942, but it was indeed 2013. And one lucky lady got a very special surprise during the band’s break.

The DJ announced a snowball dance (one couple starts and then grabs more dancers at various points in the music), and in honor of Memorial Day asked a serviceman in the crowd to lead it off with his special gal. “Marry Me” starts playing over the speakers as the couple begins to dance. The rest of the crowd circle around them on the dance floor and no one else joins in. About halfway through the song, he drops to one knee and holds out the ring. The crowd cheers, she of course accepts, and they finish the dance.

The first thing every woman has said to me when I’ve told them this story is, “Ohhh, how romantic!” And indeed it was. It was the perfect combination of old-fashioned charm with a modern twist. A sweet moment that turned into a lifetime memory for Private Richard Frank and Sarah Guldner.

This wasn’t the first proposal the Diamond Dance has seen. In fact, it was the third. SAVOY owner, Dave Wolf, said that in addition to the 3 proposals, he also heard on a couple of occasions that the Diamond Dance is where people had a first date with their future spouse. What is it about the Diamond Dance that seems to bring all these couples together? We’ll probably never know, but certainly the combination of fantastic music; historic location; fun, laid-back atmosphere; and of course the magic of dance must have something to do with it. And apparently, the Diamond Dance was very appropriately named!

Congratulations Private Richard Frank and Sarah Guldner!

The Diamond Dance is open to the public and held every third Friday at the Saratoga Music Hall in Saratoga Springs, NY. Click here for more information, or to see other pictures from the engagement and the dance.

Picking a First Dance

May 1, 2013 § 1 Comment

First SongborderSpring is here and that means that wedding season is starting to kick into full swing. The big day is coming soon and now is the time that many couples start panicking about their First Dance.

Some couples know what song they want instantly. Others can never seem to find just the right song. And regardless of what they will end up choosing, all of the couples just want to make sure they don’t look stupid.

It’s easy to get into panic mode at this point. Everything is starting to snowball these last few months, and yes, it can wear on your nerves! But try not to let choosing your song become one of those annoyances. This should be a fun and special event for you two to do together. Yes, sometimes there seems to be a lot of pressure on that first song, but hopefully the following tips will help take some of that pressure off.

If you already know what your song is then you’re almost done! Now you just need to put together your dance. If you’re going to work with a professional, try to give yourself at least a month or two to prepare. Those last couple of weeks get crazy and you don’t want to be stuck trying to learn new steps at the same time. Other tips on making sure you’re prepared for your first dance will be posted soon, so be sure to check back!

If you still need to find a song, start by deciding what’s more important to you: Are you looking for a song with words that are just right regardless of the type of music? Or, do you want a certain sound (i.e.: slow & romantic, big band, Latin style, show tune, dramatic, rock, etc.)? Or maybe you know you want a certain style dance – like a tango, swing, or waltz. Once you decide what aspect is most important to you, you can narrow down your search.

If it’s only all about the words, then buckle up – you’ve got a long ride ahead. There are so many great songs with meaningful lyrics, but only you will be able to tell if they mean something for your relationship, so you’re going to have to sit down and listen to a lot of different songs to try out the lyrics.

If you want a certain sound, you can plug that style in to a YouTube or iTunes search to get a good starting point. Then work your way down the list to find something that fits the feel you’re going for and will meld with the theme of your wedding.

If it’s all about the dance, then you may want to talk to a local studio, dance teacher, or professional dancer. They work with a plethora of music and will be able to give you an idea of what kind of music will work best for the type of dance you want. Here is a link to a good starting list to look at from a local studio. There are, of course, many more to choose from – this is just a sample to get you started.

Don’t know what the heck you want, but do know you want to do some kind of dance? Then you might want to schedule a time to meet with a teacher in your area. You can use your first lesson to hear different types of music and try out a couple of basic steps for different styles of dance. This will give you an idea of what feels more comfortable to you, or what you think may flow with your special day the best. At that point, you can go home and search through that kind of music only and it’ll be much easier to find a suitable song.

It sounds stupid, but the key is to relax. Chances are, unless you know a composer, you probably won’t find a song that is absolutely perfect in every word, tone, length, style, etc. But if you decide which aspect is most important to you, you’ll be able to make the rest of it work. You don’t want to get too stressed out about it and make it too much of a chore. That will show in your dance if you do, and no one wants to watch that. Remember, your guests likely are not going to remember the song itself, but they will remember watching you dance if they can see how special the moment is to you.

The most important thing is that this is the first time you get to dance together as a married couple. It should be all about this private moment between the two of you (forget about the fact that all your guests will be watching). All the planning, stress, craziness, stops for this 2-4 minutes while you get to do nothing but dance, hold each other in your arms, and celebrate your lives finally becoming one. That moment is a memory you can’t re-do, so enjoy it. Treasure it. It doesn’t matter if the music is perfect. That one moment between you two is all that’s important. The rest will come!


Photo Credit:
kennymatic via photopin cc

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