Tag Archives: choreography

Choreographing a Better Life

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If someone had told me two years ago that I’d nearly be spinning in circles on my head, swinging around a pole, getting jazzy with it, or frequenting a fitness based Caribbean reggae dance class three-four times a week by the year 2013, i would have laughed in their face. Two years ago, I was the girl who walked out of Zumba classes because she couldn’t follow the steps of the instructor and felt too embarrassed to go on. Two years ago, I was the girl who judged herself against the professional dancers and professional fitness instructors in infomercials who appeared flawless. Two years ago, I was the girl who didn’t give herself a chance to last through a dance class because she had given up before she had even stepped up.

The truth is that long before those Zumba classes, I had deemed myself incapable of breaking it down to a steady beat. I had thrown in the towel. I was ready to enroll in therapy for the choreographically challenged–to stand up and say–no wait–YELL,  “Hello, my name is Libby and I can’t dance.”

What I didn’t realize two years ago was that by not giving myself a fair shot–or the classes themselves a fair shot, I was holding myself back. And the truth is that too often, that’s what we do: We give up amazing opportunities before we even give them a chance, and in the end we only hold ourselves back. 

So what exactly was I holding myself back from? I was holding myself back from learning to love dance–I was holding myself back from learning to love the way my body moves when I just let it–I was holding myself back from being free and I was holding myself back from…well…put simply–I was holding myself back from learning. And I LOVE learning. I always have. 

I recently had an epiphany, and when I say epiphany, I mean a full-on lightbulb popped over the head, type of epiphany.

As I swung left, and stutter stepped right in a class last week, I realized:

“Oh my goodness. Dance has taught me a lot this year…and by a lot…I mean: Dance could be a life coach.” 

The epiphany itself nearly knocked me off my feet.

So after class I decided to sit and compile the five biggest lessons that dance has taught me not just in terms of dance…But also in terms of the bigger picture: Life.  After reading through, I hope you’ll share some of your favorite life lessons you’ve learned through the activities you’re most passionate about.

Here goes:

1. No one is judging you. Well-Okay maybe one person is. And that’s you. But you shouldn’t be. Getting to the class in the first place is something to be proud of. Getting up and out to do ANYTHING you set your mind to is something to be proud of, especially when the weather–or our moods–or our mind is telling us otherwise.

Pole Dancing

2.  There isn’t an exactness to everything you do. In dance, if the teacher is getting her JLO on and you want to get your Beyonce on during a booty shake then by all means get your Beyonce on. Or men if you want to shake it like Michael when the teacher’s getting down like JT–then just do it. Add YOUR flavor. Just whatever you do–own it. Same goes for life: Own EVERYTHING you do–and never–EVER–stop.

3. Do it wrong. So I cheated on this one. I took this lesson from not just dance class but acting class as well. Do it all wrong. We learn from our mistakes. Our muscles learn from our mistakes. And questions are okay – no wait–they are great. Sure, teachers love flash mobs of amazingness but they don’t teach so that perfectionists come in. They teach because they want people to learn, they want people to get excited about being imperfect sometimes, they want people to embrace their passion. Part of the fun of a class –ANY class– is working your way up. Part of the fun of any challenge you take on in life is getting knocked down and feeling the sense of pride in getting back up.

Breakdancing

4. “When you assume. You make an a…” We all know the saying. We can’t judge a class–or a situation in life– before we even step foot in it. Not only does it reinforce any stereotypes or preconceived notions we have about the class/activity/event, but it also holds us back from possibly finding something we are truly passionate about. Prior to the hobby year, not only had I convinced myself that I wasn’t a dancer–but I had convinced myself I wasn’t fit for group  classes at all–that I didn’t fit the “look.” You know the “look” I am talking about–the look it seems that all the people have who participate in infomercials for the latest Zumba videos or aerobics dvds. The men are shirtless and ripped; the women are in sports bras and spandex–chiseled. That belief I concocted from stupid infomercials was wrong. In each and every dance class I’ve participated in this past year, people of all sizes and of all attire are taking part. People of all sizes and all attire are having a really amazing time. I choose to rock my college field hockey shorts and a white T. Cause that’s comfy–and cause that’s me. (And sometimes me –and sometimes comfy is a tiger suit–see last picture on the page).

5. The most important lesson of ALL. Just freaking dance like no one is watching. Please, I beg you. Refer back to number 1: no one is watching. The world is a wide open dance floor just waiting for you to dance on through, to make your art–to make your life.  So go on. Yes YOU…YOU and even YOU.. Dance. Dance. Dance.

subway

New York City Dance Parade

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Just a week ago, I mentioned that my pre-hobby anxiety before going to CrossFit was at an all-time high. I was worried what people would think of me, if I would be too weak, and if I would fail miserably. As I noted in the blog post—there clearly had been nothing to really worry about, but that didn’t mean that my pre-hobby anxiety never existed.

However, this week my pre-hobby anxiety was at an all time low. The only thing I felt going into this week’s hobby was excitement—pure and wonderful excitement. This week I was doing something totally novel, totally unique, and totally awesome. This week, I was doing the  7th Annual New York City Dance Parade!

I’ve watched the dance parade a number of times over the last few years. The key word in that sentence is “watched.” I should have never been watching…I should have been shimmying and shaking right along!

And not only was I signed up to do the 7th Annual New York City Dance Parade, I was signed up to break it down with the crew that won my heart on January 6—the Pon De FLO crew!

A note: Prior to the hobby year, I’ve written that dancing for me in public was difficult—especially in group       classes. A long time ago, I deemed myself choreographically challenged and found myself walking out of dance classes: I couldn’t get comfortable. I couldn’t keep up. I couldn’t smile and have fun—when that’s all I wanted to do at all–well get fit–but also–just have fun. During the hobby year I took several dance classes including pole dancinghip-hop, jazz, and tap.  And in June, I took part in a flash mob. Finally—dancing in large groups of people was becoming fun.

Then I took Pon de FLO  at the DANY Studio.  And I had an epiphany—dance wasn’t just fun. It was exciting. It was freeing. For the first time in a dance class, REALLY—the first time—I felt comfortable—comfortable to be me—comfortable to be free—comfortable to FLO!

So when Pon de FLO posted on their Facebook page that they were looking for participants to join for the 2013 New York City Dance Parade, I jumped at the opportunity. I didn’t want to be cheering from the sidelines—I didn’t want to be restricted by some barricade. I wanted to be shaking my hips, stomping my feet, and breaking it down freely—I wanted to be in the parade, and I wanted it to be with the Pon De FLO troupe.

Prior to the parade, we had two rehearsals. While my opportunities to take the class since first jumping in at the beginning of the year had been limited due to my own scheduling conflicts, the group of men and women ready to move and groove down Boadway was quick to welcome me into their crew, for the parade, with open arms.

As I sat down in our first rehearsal and Heather (Founder of Pon De FLO) started telling us the details of the parade, I felt a smile spread wildly across my face. “This is freaking awesome,” I thought to myself. “FREAKING AWESOME.” I got so excited that when I left rehearsal I started sending texts to people that I hoped they could come out and support. Whether I looked good shaking my hips or I looked ridiculous, I wanted people to know that I was proud of my group and that I was extremely proud of my decision to dance in the parade at all.  I wanted people to want to dance too.

When I woke up on the day of the parade, I woke up with a smile on my face. And as I threw on my Pon De Flo shirt that Heather made for each of us, and as I buckled my fanny pack (yes, fanny pack), I began to two-step through the living room. “Gosh…the power of dance,” I thought. “Whew.”

fanny

libs

Upon arriving at our group’s meeting place, I could feel the positive energy already FLOwing ;). Everyone was decked out in the yellow, purple, and green Pon De FLO gear. Everyone was chatting—smiling—laughing—gearing up. I began introducing myself to a lot of the people I hadn’t met yet, grabbed coffee with a fellow flo-er, and warmed up for the parade by shaking it out to the music that was blasting out of our speakers which sat on top of our sponsor, Wicked Willy’s bike. Gracefully, I swayed my hips with one of my groupies to the sounds of reggae; freely, I busted a move to the sounds of Call Me Maybe as it blared out of a set of speakers. I guess it was Pop-De-Flo momentarily 😉

PonDeFlo2                                                        Photo Courtesy: Violeta Fabé

Not before long, I bravely took my place in our groups formation. Patiently, we waited to begin moving along the route, and as we turned our first corner onto Broadway, from 21st street—a smile expanded across my face—the same smile that I felt form at the first rehearsal—this one, however, was even bigger. And as we began to choreograph our way towards Astor Place and then St. Thompkins Square, I laughed to myself: “Two years ago, I was sitting behind the barricades, thinking I could never be in the parade. Now look at me—I’m making moves like Beyonce at the Super Bowl.”

The truth is two years ago, I was sitting behind the barricades thinking I would never have the courage to dance in the parade. Sure I’ve danced at parties or at bars/clubs when my friends have gone out—maybe at some karaoke—but never, before this past year, did I believe in myself enough to partake in such magnitude of an event.

Honestly, nothing can describe the feeling of being able to dance so freely down Broadway in New York City. Nothing can describe the feeling of being able to forget what you look like—to forget what other people might be thinking of you; to feel accepted, so quickly, in a group of people who really just met you one night prior. Nothing can describe the feelings and emotions that overwhelmed my stomping feet or my shaking hips, my body—or the feelings and emotions that overwhelmed my heart.

What an amazing parade—what an amazing day.

PonDeFlo

     Photo Courtesy Pon De FLO

The Hobby Hoarder Flash Mobs

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Have you ever watched a movie and said, “Well gosh darn–How do they know all the same dance moves? I wish that was real life!”

For me, that was real life on June 30th as over 400 of us took the “stage” at Pier 84 and performed a choreographed dance that we had learned via video and in rehearsal in just under four days. The event was sponsored by UrtheCast and put together by Flash Mob America. UrtheCast is using the flash mobs as a marketing tool for their earth camera. During the twelve minute flash mob, we formed a # symbol, an @ symbol, and an infinity symbol–before lastly spelling out I ❤ NY.

From the moment I arrived at rehearsal Saturday morning, I knew I had made a great decision for this week’s hobby. People were already waiting outside and they welcomed me with 3pm smiles–when it was only 8am. It was clear that we were all excited to be there, even if it was still four hours of rehearsal away.

I met people from Denmark, Australia, Spain, and Germany. I met people who never had done a flash mob before, and I met the professionals. I met people who were nervous about dancing, and I met people who spent hours watching over the videos so they could be the first ones onto the “stage” per say come Saturday. I met Moms, I met daughters, I met friends, I met boyfriends, I met Dads, I met women, I met men, I met children, I met a multitude of people who came together to bring joy to the lives of others. I met wonderful, amazing people who came together to bring joy to themselves. And I can tell you–it’s much more enjoyable to be a part of the dance than to watch it in the movies. Everyone should do a flash mob once in their life.

Stay tuned for the helicopter camera footage this Thursday from Urthecast.com

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Flash Mob America
http://www.flashmobamerica.com

UrtheCast
http://www.urthecast.com

The Hobby Hoarder Gets Jazzy with It: Jazz/Modern/Contemporary Dance

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All Choreography in video: © Joi Anissa Favor. All Rights Reserved.

Every time I try a new physical activity, I wonder how I was ever a Division 1 Varsity athlete. Between my lack of strength, my inability to follow choreographed dance steps, and my flexibility deficiency, one would think I never played sports in my life–let alone went to college for them.

As a young girl, I took ballet, but never danced my way into any other classes. I left the studio to play baseball with the boys. Over time, I continued to add more and more sports to my list including soccer, basketball, tennis, softball, and field hockey. How I even survived playing sports astounds me. Sophomore year of high school I broke both hands (not at the same time) during my spring softball season, and during field hockey camp right before college I went flying through a goal cage head first. So it doesn’t surprise me that last night I had trouble figuring out how to put my right foot over my left foot and vis versa.

As I looked at the other women in the class, I noted that I was clearly the outcast in my athletic shorts and t–while they sported leotards. Note: Add leotard to the budget. I sweated profusely through the stretching and core work, struggled through the early warm-up dance moves (in which I moved so slowly, I could be called a geriatric patient) and thought to myself–don’t leave–don’t leave: This isn’t like zumba where there’s fifty other people to hide behind. You gotta commit to this Libs…COMMIT!

And so I did.

And not before long, I was gathering the steps, following Joi, our instructor, and moving–semi-smoothly across the floor. Shaking my booty, and getting all groovy–all while singing the Will Smith tune in my head with my own words:

“Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na Getting Jazzzzzzzy with it.”

By the end, I told the girls that I was just hustling them–and that I was truly a professional 😉

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Williamsburg Movement & Arts Center
347 Grand Street
Brooklyn New York

Check out my Coach and Dance Partners
Joi Anissa Favor; Lindsey Springer; Nicky Giuland 

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The Hobby Hoarder Gets her Dance On: Hip-Hop

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What does it mean to be choreographically challenged?

I’d say it means walking out of a Zumba class twice–yes that did happen. I’ve been a bit choreographically challenged since I was born. My parents always brag about me saying my first word when I was only six months old–but I’ve found I rarely–if ever–have heard them brag about my first steps. I bet I crawled until I was six.

It’s not just choreography that I couldn’t ever keep up with–it’s all forms of movement.

During a game of Truth or Dare at an 8th grade birthday party, I was humiliated as I was dared to show my “dance moves” on a chair.

“You can’t just hump the chair.” All the girls laughed at me. At the next school dance, I shook it off, and attempted to show that I truly could dance. The result wasn’t so hot. My, now best friend, laughed and said “It’ll take some work.” “Just don’t hump. Work it like this.”

I had no idea what I was doing. The word “grinding” was what my teeth did in the middle of the night.

Horrified, it took me years to feel comfortable enough to even “dance like no one was watching again.” And it took this hobby project, and two failed Zumba attempts to get back on the “choreography wagon.”

So on Tuesday February, 21 I headed to Dance New Amsterdam for an introductory hip-hop class. And it’s safe to say I think I found my rhythm–thanks to instructor Jonathan Lee.

You watched the video–what do you think?

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Meet Jonathan Lee–My instructor
Dance New Amsterdam

Dance New Amsterdam
280 Broadway
Manhattan, New York

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