Dance Gifts

My Grown-Up Dancer Holiday Wishlist

by Nichelle Strzepek from DanceAdvantage.net

I’m the worst when it comes to gift requests. Just ask my family members. When the holiday gift probe starts going out, I generally shrug. It’s not that I’m too modest to solicit presents. Maybe I just have a poor ‘want it’ reflex. I rarely have something in mind when pressed. My mom says I’ve always been that way.

I do covet a few things though. Often they’re dance-related. So, when Catherine asked me to share my Holiday Wishlist, it wasn’t too hard to come up with 6 things. Should Santa want to leave these under my tree this year, I wouldn’t complain!

joffrey dvd

History Without The Boring

I saw Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance when it came to Houston last Spring and it’s definitely one I want to have in my dance library. This documentary immediately pulls the viewer into the origin story of Joffrey Ballet.

Over 50 years old and frequently on the cutting edge of ballet, the Chicago dance company has continued to rise and move forward despite all kinds of obstacles. The documentary is extremely engaging – a great film to share with students or those new to the dance world, but equally compelling for the dance aficionado.

And, because of my early support and sharing of the film’s release, I appear in the credits! Seriously, why is this not on my shelf already?

ballet necklaceBeauty On A Chain

Last year, Santa brought me Tina Tarnoff’s Great Dancers necklace, featuring Margot, Maya, Isadora, Anna & Martha in silhouette. The images are tiny reproductions of Tarnoff’s papercut series.

This year, I have my eye on her single pendant necklace depicting Sylvie Guillem in a marvelous back attitude. The classical tutu and antique-looking silver pendant base, is a romantic and lovely piece that’s sure to get compliments.

Daily Inspiration

There are always a few dance calendars that become popular around the holidays but Lois Greenfield’s Breaking Bounds wall calendars never disappoint.

The dancers, rather than any particular dance form, are the hallmark of Greenfield’s images, which are always beautiful, powerful, and mesmerizing. Breaking Bounds 2013 is a calendar that would inspire me every day of the month.

lois greenfield calendarlois greenfield photography

 

 

Say ‘No’ To Black

I’ll admit my comfy dance wardrobe includes far too little color. Jo+Jax to the rescue!

Their Let’s Move sweatpants remind me of candy or those bright and bold Crayola markers I loved using as a kid. I love the mint color, though they come in a vibrant purple too. I’d feel way more cute dropping my Kindergartener off at school in these, than black, navy, or charcoal yoga pants.

 

I’d Be Laughing At Clouds

The quintessential American musical classic, Singin’ In The Rain, celebrated its 60th Anniversary this year in theatres, on television, and now on disc.

singing in the rain collectors dvdThe Singin’ In The Rain: 60th Anniversary Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray/DVD Combo) includes 48 page hard cover production book with never-before-seen memos and photos, theatrical poster reproductions, documentaries and outtakes, and even an umbrella!

There’s also commentary by Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Cyd Charisse, Kathleen Freeman, Stanley Donen, Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Baz Luhrmann, and Rudy Behlmer. Oh, if only Gene Kelly were still with us to offer his thoughts!

Snow in Texas

dancer snowglobeYeah, pretty much the only snow I’m likely to see in Houston this winter is the kind that falls when I shake a pretty glass ball.

Ballet dancers and snow globes go together like peanut butter and chocolate. I know some serious collectors of these knickknacks. I’m not one of them, mainly because sparkly tutus don’t normally excite me that much.

The Dancer snow globe from CoolSnowGlobes is ballet bric-a-brac I can get behind though. Degas’ little chin-jutting, slightly hunched dancer has always been a favorite. Vermont artists, Liz and David, who develop a limited edition snow globe collection each year, craft this globe. There’s still no snow in sight, but that’s okay, it sparkles!

Crossed Off The List

I’ve already purchased a few of these delightful Nutcracker cards to give to some special dance friends this season, but I can’t resist including a link to their Etsy seller, The Artful Bumblebee. The artist, Deborah, is not a dancer but a fan of the art form. She beautifully captures the whimsy of The Nutcracker with an excellent eye for correct placement. I can’t wait to deliver season’s greetings with these sweet little cards but they can be ordered as posters, too, if you prefer!

nutcracker cards

Do you have any favorite dance gifts to share? Please leave a comment below!

Want to see what Catherine put on her list? Visit DanceAdvantage.net.

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Review: Muscle Angels Massagers

by Catherine L. Tully

Dancers often have sore muscles–something I don’t need to tell you I’m sure–but each person has their own way of tending to them. There are many different types of massage options out there, ranging from an actual masseuse to hand-held massage devices made out of different types of material. Today we’re going to talk a bit about one in particular…

The Muscle Angels massager has three main parts–a handle, a rounded area with 290 “nubbin fingers” and a sculpted tip. There are multiple ways to use the massager, and the company’s website actually has videos that help walk you through some of the options, which is very helpful.

I used it to relax my feet, rolling the “nubbin fingers” under my arch, and I have to say it did feel terrific. The tip is great for working out knots, and I think overall the Muscle Angel would be a useful tool for dancers who enjoy self-massage.

It’s fairly compact (although it is not light), and would tuck inside a dance bag easily. The “nubbin fingers” reminded me of those slip-on shoes that have the massaging bumps on the bottom, which I think feel terrific.

I’m not a medical professional so I’ll stay away from endorsing any of the uses in terms of treating physical problems you may have, but I can tell you that as a relaxation tool it worked for me. (And I used it on my dog, who really liked it too!)

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Finding Balance: Recommended Reading For Dancers

by Emily Kate Long

Emily Kate Long, Photo by Avory Pierce

Being the daughter of a librarian has its advantages. My mother was head of collection development—in layman’s terms, the book buyer—at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, for over twenty years before she retired last May. She is also a closet bunhead. I have her to thank for the bulk of my personal dance library: Jock Soto’s memoir, Stephen Manes’ Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear, Kavanaugh’s Nureyev biography, the anthology Reading Dance, Homans’ Apollo’s Angels, No Fixed Points by Reynolds and McCormick, and several volumes by Gretchen Ward Warren. She showers me with books faster than I can plow through them, and most of these treasures are at least the thickness and weight of a brick. As a result, I have become a literary grazer. This installment of Finding Balance is my “Recommended Reading List: Works for Enrichment and Escape.” Enjoy, and please comment with your personal favorites!

Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear: Inside the Land of Ballet by Stephen Manes was waiting in a package at my doorstep one January evening when I got home from rehearsal. Delight! Manes spent a season as a fly on the wall at Pacific Northwest Ballet. Reading inside details of the dance world from an outsider’s perspective is both amusing and informative. Manes is a thorough storyteller, examining each aspect of the ballet—organizational machine, community institution, and artistic creature. I wish there could be a new book every season.

I was less than halfway done with Manes’ stellar work when Mom brought me Jock Soto’s Every Step You Take. Of course I couldn’t help but peek inside. Anecdotes, reflections, and recipes fill this easy-to-read, yet profound, memoir. Now forty pages in, I’m having a hard time setting this one aside. It’s like sitting and having a conversation with a living legend.

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Interview With Author Germaine Shames

Today we are happy to share this interview with author Germaine Shames…

Author, Germaine Shames

What is your background in dance?

Like the protagonist in my novel I began taking ballet classes at the age of four with a teacher whom, my parents liked to boast, had studied under Martha Graham. Like other young girls, I dreamed of becoming a prima ballerina.

But I was not like most girls.  Shy, stubborn, I balked at following choreography and often found myself stranded alone on one side of the studio while the class, moving as one body, occupied the opposite side.  And then suddenly, before I had mastered a single step, it was time for my first recital.  A chorus line of us baby ballerinas was positioned center-stage as the towering velvet curtain slowly, slowly opened.  One look at the audience and I froze, mouth wide-open, hands clamped to my cheeks.

My parents removed me from ballet class and enrolled me again thee years later—with similar results.  There would be no more recitals.

Flash forward half a century…

I have ripened into, not a ballerina, but a writer with abiding creative and emotional ties to dance and dancers.  My forthcoming ballet-themed novel You, Fascinating You will be released within days.

The protagonist of my novel, Margit Wolf, begins the account of her life, “They say ballet chooses the dancer.”  Regrettably, I was not among the chosen.  How I envy those of you who are!

How did you become a writer?

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Review: Every Step You Take by Jock Soto

by Catherine L. Tully

I’m fascinated by the lives of dancers. Even though I was one, I can never seem to get past the fact that each of us has such a distinctly different path–and a totally unique perspective on what it is like to live this life.

Because of that, I was excited to read Every Step You Take, a memoir written by Jock Soto (with Leslie Marshall). After all, this is a man that I grew up watching in the ballet world. Soto was a principal dancer with NYCB when he retired at the age of 40, and this book begins with the end of his career on stage. A peek inside the thoughts and fears that swirl around one’s head when the final performance looms, I thought it was a great opener.

Where, I thought, will this book go from here?

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Review: Black Swan

by Catherine L. Tully

Better late than never–right?

It has taken me a long while to get around to doing this review. I was hesitant about watching this movie–not sure if I wanted to see what the depiction was of the ballet world. Somehow I knew it would fall short, and for me it did.

As I had heard, the movie rang true to overarching stereotypes of ballet dancers and what goes on behind the scenes, and I found myself disappointed that it didn’t try a little harder to stretch beyond the typical. After all, not every director is “grabby”, not every retiring ballerina is morose and suicidal, and not every dance mom is overbearing. It would have been nice to depart a bit from these images and strive to create real characters with dimension rather than falling back on old, tired images of these roles. Here, the director played it safe, but, admittedly, it is difficult subject matter to tackle. Still, it would have been nice to have had more range.

The behind-the-scenes look into the ballet world was again somewhat typical, but served as a decent bit of background for those who may not be aware of what goes on in a dance company. Many dancers can relate to things such as the cramped physical therapy office, the nerves as everyone checks the board for their name when ballets are posted and the hush that comes over a room when the director appears.

I loved the scene where you get to see how pointe shoes are “worked” and broken in and the realism of the dancers sitting around in the hallway with their ballet bags. How true, how true. Still, it would have been wonderful to have a little more of that–I think it would have helped explain dancers in a way that would have helped make sense of things better in the movie. After all, there is a lot more to the life of a ballet dancer than people may realize.

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Review: Learn To Speak Dance

I just finished reading Learn to Speak Dance and I was pleasantly surprised at how well this book was put together, as well as how interesting it was. It is very current in that it speaks to kids as they are today–with contemporary language and a warm, engaging tone. Geared for children between the ages of 9-13, this 96 page dance book covers a lot of ground.

The author, Ann-Marie Williams speaks with serious authority. She is the director of the Movement Lab, a dance school for kids, and she is also a certified RAD (Royal Academy of Dance) instructor–and she has also written for The Dance Current. Williams has a knack for simplifying the information she shares about dance while still being interesting–a tough combination that she pulls off with considerable skill.

Some of the topics covered in this book include: what dance is, how to make dances, performing, promoting a show, making costumes and dance videos and information about several styles of dance, including ballet, contemporary dance and flamenco. Peppered throughout are a bunch of quotes from professionals in a variety of fields, which is a cool way to add interest to the book for kids of this age. It’s educational–but it’s fun too.

The language is right–hip and cool without trying too hard, and I think it addresses a lot of the questions that children this age may have about dance–especially if they don’t have a lot of prior experience or aren’t sure how to get started. The book helps to make dance accessible rather than mysterious, which I loved. It really was written in an encouraging tone.

The illustrations by Jeff Kulak were a nice touch as well. Visuals definitely help bring concepts to life, and the imagery worked very well here.

All in all I think this is a great book with mass appeal for the age group it was intended to serve. There’s a lot of information packed into the pages, and I think it is quite readable. A great resource for the dance community–and for parents.

Learn more about the book or purchase it for your child.

If you’ve read it–I’d love to hear what you think!

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