Ahnu — Shoes Inspired By Dance

If you are the outdoor activity type, you may have already heard of this company’s shoes–they make hiking boots, trail runners and other performance footwear. Starting out in the San Francisco Bay area in 2007, three founders got together and created a shoe line that reflected the name that they chose for it: Ahnu.

Ahnu is the Celtic goddess that embodies the balance between well-being and prosperity. To that end, not only has the company succeeded in doing well in the industry, but they have also donated over $250,000 to charitable causes–something they plan to continue doing.

The “Zen” and “Karma” shoes are among Ahnu’s latest efforts, and they were inspired by dance. Here’s a closer look at both:

The Zen

The Zen ($80) is a luxe leather slide with a sculpted EVA footbed. I recently wore a pair of these around town for a week, and I’m here to tell you that they are quite comfortable. Although they are casual, they are dressier than flip-flops, but just as easy on the feet, with a little added protection for tender toes. (Note–for the record, they have a toe-seperator like flip-flops do, so those who just don’t like that feeling may want to think twice before purchasing a pair.)

I found these shoes to be incredibly light–kind of like Crocs, but ever so much more stylish. And they are available in black, garden green, plum and smokey brown, so there is plenty of variety.


The Karma

The other shoe they have is the Karma ($90). Made from soft, supple, full-grain leathers, these flats are good for all day wear. The stretchy back heel provides a secure fit and they don’t take up much room in a travel bag. The sculpted EVA footbed is wrapped in micro-fiber suede to offer a soft feel with every step. These shoes are available in black, mood indigo, plum and garden green.

I liked the Zen shoes…they felt more like slippers. The only thing I own that is as comfortable is my (well broken in) pair of cowboy boots. But wearing those in the summer isn’t exactly practical…

What do you wear when you want to rest your feet?


Top Dance Apps Of 2012

Today we have a guest post by Jane Johnson who is going to share 5 fun dance apps she has come across…

Salsa, break dance, tap dance, ballet, tango, cha-cha-cha, swing dance…even though there are hundreds of different types of dance, dancers represent a true niche market audience as far as smart phone apps go. However, did you know that novice and veteran dancers alike can use their mobile devices to look up how to do a proper shoulder groove in break dancing as fast as they can check movie times?

When my daughter first started ballet 5 years ago, I never anticipated downloading smart phone apps for her to use between rehearsals. However, the dance apps that are available for mobile devices are really quite impressive.

As the mom of a prima ballerina (at least in my eyes), here are the top dance apps of 2012:

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Ballet Teaching Aid: Words Of The Week

One of the advertisers on 4dancers is selling a new product that I thought I would share with readers today…”Words of the Week”.

This calendar-style visual aid can help ballet teachers reinforce terminology and help visual learners absorb more easily. Hang in the studio and use to refer to when teaching a new step, or use to theme out the week. There are many different ways to incorporate this neat resource into the classroom. The pages are high gloss card stock, so they should hold up for a long time.

Perfect for the dance studio owner, and good for teaching children of all ages.



Perfect for dance studios, teacher gifts, or any dancer.

This visual aid hangs like a spiral bound calendar and displays over
50 ballet terms or phrases. 18 displays with 2 to 4 phrases per display.

Hang the perpetual display prominently in your studio and
turn the page every week or two. Use the “Words of the Week” as a
reminder to discuss, define and illustrate ballet vocabulary.

Students absorb their terminology much faster when they have a
chance to “see” the term. Having the “Words of the Week” system
helps insure you cover essential terms throughout the year.

8.5 x 11 folded. Full display is 11 X 17.
Printed on high quality gloss stock to last for years.

               Words of the Week    $22.95



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: Bunheads by Sophie Flack

There is almost nothing I enjoy more than pointing out that the qualities that make a great ballet dancer can be harnessed for other things—and this book is a perfect example. Sophie Flack was a dancer with New York City Ballet from 2000 to 2009, and after leaving the company she is now studying English at Columbia University. She is also the author of Bunheads – a thoughtfully crafted novel about life in the world of ballet.

Written with an authenticity that can only be garnered by experience, Ms. Flack creates an inviting cast of characters that draws the reader in right away. The main character, Hannah Ward, is a corps de ballet dancer with the Manhattan Ballet, and the story is told through her eyes. We follow her through the ups and downs of her career as she competes for roles, pushes to improve her dancing and sacrifices much of what a “normal” life would otherwise be for her first love—ballet.

As the story evolves, conflict arises within Hannah when she meets a handsome musician named Jacob. The connection between the two of them is strong, but having a relationship with someone outside of the ballet world proves to be incredibly difficult—a fact she struggles with. Hannah begins to compare her life in dance to the idea of living life without the demands of being with the company, and knows she must eventually choose which path she will take.

Ms. Flack is a skilled writer and it’s easy to disappear into the pages of this book because she has built a solid story that rings of truth and passion. By having been an insider in this typically closed world, she is able to show both the beauty of it–and the strain. Those who have experienced life in a ballet class or company are sure to find themselves nodding in recognition with the trials and triumphs Hannah faces along the way. That said, I think that Bunheads would also appeal to those outside the ballet arena. The book provides a rare peek behind the scenes into the day-to-day life of a dancer, but not in a way that would leave other readers behind.

My absolute favorite part of this book is the way Ms. Flack crafted the circle of friends that Hannah hangs around with in the company. The dancers that she spends every day with are at the same time her closest pals—and her toughest rivals. It makes for an unusual situation, that in ballet is actually very common. Somehow you have to learn to walk the fine line between being a competitor and a confidant. It certainly isn’t easy, and here it is captured so very well.

This is undoubtedly the best fiction book on the life of a ballet dancer that I have read in a long time and I highly recommend it. Younger dancers will find a great story that they can relate to and older dancers will be transported back in time for a bit of reminiscing. This would make a perfect gift for someone who loves dance.

Hats off to Sophie Flack for taking the creativity, determination and attention to detail it takes to be a ballet dancer and writing her first novel. I look forward to the next one.

Read more about the author on the 4dancers feature – 10 Questions With…Sophie Flack

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10 Questions With…Sophie Flack

Sophie Flack

This week on “10 Questions With…” we’re featuring Sophie Flack, author of “Bunheads”… a book about the ballet world. I’m reading it right now, and it’s fabulous!

1. How did you get involved in dance?

When I was seven, the Boston Ballet studios were under renovation and they temporarily relocated to my school gymnasium. I’d see these lithe ballerinas lingering in the hallways as they stretched and spoke to one another between rehearsals. I begged my mother to take ballet classes, but I was too shy to walk into theclass that first day. I wanted my mother to go with me. It took me six months to find the courage to walk in alone.

2. What is your dance background?

I began my training at the Boston Ballet School learning the Vaganova technique. When I was eleven I was introduced to the Balanchine technique by Patricia McBride at the Chautauqua summer intensive. After watching a video of McBride dancing Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, I decided that I wanted to dance with the New York City Ballet, because I wanted to move like she did.

When I returned home, I transferred to Ballet Workshop of New England in order to study Balanchine technique. I spent my summers training with Suzanne Farrell, Gloria Govrin, Violette Verdy and Patricia McBride.

My mother would drive me to New York City in order to take private lessons with Nancy Bielski and Wilhelm Burmann, some of the best coaches in the country. I took open classes at Steps on Broadway alongside New York City Ballet dancers, and regular Pilates privates with Laurie Hurt.

At fifteen, I was accepted into the School of American Ballet on full scholarship and moved to New York City alone. At age seventeen, I joined the New York City Ballet as an apprentice and became a member of the corps de ballet the following year.

After dancing with the New York City Ballet for nine years, I retired from professional dance in 2009.

3. What is your book about, and who is it written for?

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