Tag Archives: hip hop

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

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Wall Running & Bungee

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When I first attacked the hobby year, I created a list of activities I could tackle. That list included everything from pole dancing to surfing-and from hip-hop dance to glass making. And while I did hit all of those things–what excited me a lot through the year was when I found hobbies that weren’t on my list–hobbies that I didn’t even know existed in and around New York City until I really started digging. These hobbies included samurai sword fighting and Jedi light saber training.

Most recently, I was introduced to another little known New York gem: Wall Running & Bungee. I have to admit–I didn’t come across this one on my own. A new friend of mine, Lauren, messaged me on Facebook asking me if I’d be up for trying this great class that involved running on walls and dancing in a bungee at a place called The Muse Brooklyn. She attached a video to the message in hopes of piquing my interest, but I didn’t even need to watch the video to know that I’d be in –it sounded awesome without the help of the video. Shortly after Lauren’s initial message, we set a date (May 1), signed up for the class, and patiently waited for our lesson to roll around.

On May 1, I showed up to the studio and watched as people stealthily climbed to the ceiling in a silks class, and I oooooed and awwwwed as others somersaulted in an acrobatics class. I have to admit, I was a little nervous for the class. The only form of acrobatics that I had really given a shot to during the hobby year was trapeze. Usually anything that involves flipping and spinning is an invitation for disaster for me, but I took a moment to mentally get my energy level up and pursue the evening with an optimistic frame of mind. I didn’t want to get to the wall and have to build up my confidence then.

Soon enough, it was time for class to begin.  Our teacher, Angela, introduced herself with a bright smile on her face and gave us the option of trying wall running or bungee first. Whichever we chose, we knew we’d have a little bit more time to dedicate to it. We opted for the wall running–because let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to spend a little more time feeling like they are Spiderman?

While Lauren and I were newbies to the class, the third woman in our class–was not. She’d been practicing wall running for a good amount of time and she was ready to jump right into a choreography she was working on for an upcoming show. I observed as she moved gracefully back and forth on the wall–like a horizontal ballerina.

“Wow,” I exclaimed. “That’s incredible.”

Before I knew it, she was starting to spin and flip.

I laughed with awe. “Are you kidding me? How freaking cool.”

“You’ll be doing that too,” Angela turned to me and said.

My confidence level was growing, but I still wasn’t sure I would be flipping. Even still, I smiled and nodded along. I appreciated her positivity.

Not before long, it was my turn to give the basics a shot. I climbed up onto the stool, and then stepped off of it. Then I rotated from my vertical initial position to a horizontal position with my feet placed on the wall and my back parallel to the ground. Slowly, I began to bounce to and from the wall. “I got this,” I thought to myself, and then I progressively got into a better rhythm. After a few minutes, Angela asked me to give the “wall running” a shot. I turned to my right,  relaxed my shoulders, and felt gravity begin to pull me down. I giggled. “This is hard, but I can do it.”

I began moving–not nearly as gracefully as the woman who’d been coming for lessons for weeks, but I was certainly moving. I felt like I was performing a scene straight out of the Matrix. As I began to feel my muscles fatigue a bit, I took a break and let my other two classmates take their second turns.

But before I knew it, it was my turn again–and this time, I was going to get to attempt to flip.

“You ready?” Angela asked.

“I think so,” I responded.

“You can do this,” She told me.

And then I gave it my best shot, pushing off my right foot, extending my left leg, and spinning through the air.  As I landed, slightly ungracefully, I started to laugh with excitement. “Oh my goodness…I did it….I just flipped through the air.”

Angela laughed along and said, “Good–now give it another shot.” And so I did–and then I did again–and then one more time. I began to feel muscles in my body that I didn’t know existed. I began to understand parts of my body that I didn’t know existed. I tested out the power in my push off foot–sometimes giving myself a little bit too much of an oomph. Not only did I feel like I was training to be in an action-packed movie, I felt like I was really beginning to understand my body–and the capabilities of my body.

After a few more flips, I returned to the stool and de-harnessed myself. “So cool,” I thought–“so cool.”

And class wasn’t even over yet….We still had harness bungee to jump into–and man did we jump into it. Angela had each of us bounce, turn, and flip within the bungee.

“I feel like Peter Pan,” I yelled!

I added, “Just think happy thoughts.”

All I needed was Tinker Bell to be throwing fairy dust all around me.

As I took my final bounce, de-clipped myself from the bungee, and climbed down the ladder, I couldn’t help but smile. And while I’m not sure that I’m ready to try out for the next Fuerza Bruta cast–or star in a Matrix remake–I do know that  having the opportunity to feel like I had the capabilities of a superhero was pretty damn awesome, and I can DEFINITELY see myself going back to The Muse Brooklyn very, very soon.

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Special Thanks
The Muse Brooklyn
32D South 1st Street
Brooklyn, NYC

Pon De FLO

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“You made it through!”

My new friend Jimmy laughs and takes a sip of his water as our Pon De Flo class comes to an end. I giggle, “Yes I did. That was a lot of fun!”

As some may remember, I kicked off the year by taking two group dance classes–pole dancing and hip hop.

On both occasions, I brought a set of nerves with me. With pole dancing, I was hoping to overcome difficulties accepting my self-image, and with hip-hop I was just trying to overcome the fear of being judged in a group setting. The truth is that prior to this year, group dance classes scared, for lack of a better term, the shit out of me. On a scale of 1-10, my fear of group dance classes ranked around an 8 or 9. To put that into perspective–when i jumped out of an airplane, my fear level was around a 1.5.

I always worried that I’d be judged for stepping the wrong way in Zumba–or for not wearing the right “dance attire,” (please see jazz dance to see what I mean). So if my friend, Tory of LIfe Vest Inside, had suggested the dance craze Pon De Flo before this year, I am pretty sure my response would have been “Pon De NO!” But instead, I jumped at the opportunity for another dance class.

(Sidenote: Pon De FLO is a combination of Caribbean and reggae dance that requires a willingness to have fun!).

As I arrived at Ripley Grier for the 3:00 class with Heather Fay, I didn’t think twice. I slid off my sweat pants to reveal my Princeton field hockey shorts and grabbed a spot on the floor. I looked around and noticed that this class had attracted a great diversity of people. There were men. There were women. And there were people of all sizes, smiling and getting prepped for the next hour and a half of high energy dance. ‘People must really love this,’ I thought to myself. And for a few minutes, I decided to mingle with some of the veterans.

“Get ready to sweat a lot,” said one. “You’ll definitely get hot,” added another. “Just go with the flow,” mentioned Jimmy.

Before I knew it we were flowing right along. “Left, right, left, right, shimmy, left, right, left, right, shimmy.” I kept reciting what Heather was doing in front of the class, in my head. I moved my hips every which way, bounced my booty, and waved my arms. About a quarter of the way through the class, Heather told everyone to move up a bit because the people in the last row didn’t have room. As a member of the last row, I joked, “It doesn’t matter, it’s not like I know what I am doing quite yet anyway.” My back row companions laughed along with me. Just a year prior, I’d be too scared to even speak to another person in a group dance class. Now I was making friends.

A few minutes later, when a step caused us to turn around, forcing me to suddenly be a part of the front row  of the class, I momentarily panicked. However, instead of losing my composure, I just began to bust a move and hope it was right. I can definitely tell you this much: It did not look graceful–but it didn’t matter: It was very easy to see that no one was judging me–not even myself.

I didn’t realize this of course until half way through the class when I had an epiphany–or a hobby breakthrough: As I began giggling to myself while I messed up another dance move (sorry Heather!), I noticed that I didn’t care if people thought I was America’s next best dancer–I didn’t care if people saw me mess up–and I didn’t care if my right foot accidentally went when my left foot was supposed to. Eventually, I felt tears begin to fill my eyes. I wasn’t in pain–and I wasn’t ready to run out of the room screaming. No, instead the tears had developed because a great amount of pride had come over me. I realized in that moment, that the fears and worries that I had carried with me just 11 months prior had now dissipated completely. While it may sound insignificant when written down, it was one of the highest points of my hobby year, because it had meant that the hobby year was coming full circle–revealing bits and pieces about myself and how far I’d come, without me realizing that it would.

After clearing out my eyes, I came back to the present moment and realized that the moves were much faster now. I laughed some more. “Just keep dancing like no one is watching, Libs,” I thought to myself. Then I shook it out. “This feels pretty freaking good.”

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http://www.pondeflo.com

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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