Why Hello There 2016!

Happy New Year! 

               I’m so excited for 2016 and look forward to what this year has in store. I took a long hiatus from my blog but I’m back and ready to continue posting about my dance journey. This year I would like to take more dance classes (more ballet, musical theater, hip-hop, contemporary and of course dance forms from different cultures), choreograph, have more performance opportunities and teach dance more! I would also like to travel 🙂

2015 Recap

  1.  Traveled abroad for the first time to Panama with Movement Exchange
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At the University of Panama 

Check out previous posts from the exchange!

     2.   Performed for the first time on stage with Ajna Dance

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I participated in the Bollywood and Bhangra and Semi-Classical Performance Intensives

     3.    Volunteered with Dance to Unite (<<<check out this cool video)

            And went to an amazing Around the World Benefit for Dance to Unite last June (where we ended with a cypher !!)

STAY TUNED FOR THIS YEAR’S BENEFIT!

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Professional Ballroom dancer and Dance to Unite teacher Monica, performing with her partner for the benefit.
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 Professional Kathak dancer and Dance to Unite Teacher Vaishali, performing for the benefit.
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Anh-Tuyet, President of the Board, speaking to the crowd

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Board of Directors

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Dance to Unite volunteers

     4.   Becoming a dance major at Hunter College and starting Ballet!

I’ve always held on that it’s not too late for me starting dance later in life. There are a lot of negative, misguiding messages in the world that tell people how to think about themselves and their lives, and I think it’s important to realize that your own thoughts about yourself and your life outweigh those of others…because in the end, no one can live your life except you. It’s personal power to decide if you want to live by other people’s definitions and/or ideas of possibility or your own.

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”

Eric Roth

Movement Exchange 6 Part Series: Part 5

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Day 5

This morning we took an awesome Aerial class! Aerial is NO joke. If you ever watch an Aerial performance and it looks easy to you, it’s not!!

Much respect for Aerialists and for our teacher who was very encouraging!

I loved this class because it was challenging like the Contemporary class. I pushed myself to do many of the movements and succeeded in most. But, DAMN, I had no idea the upper body strength needed for Aerial.

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My partner Kourtney! She had a tough time doing some of the movements and I could see at some point she felt like giving up, but in the end she conquered the difficulty of the movements! Fall down seven times, stand up eight 🙂
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Hayley kicking ass
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I’m very grateful that I got to take an Aerial class with this beautiful group of women.

Last Day at Aldea SOS Panamá

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One of the kids showing Caeli, Kim and Hayley a dance move perhaps?!
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playing the name/movement game!
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across the floor practicing different motor skills

Performance Time!

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The older group performing!
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The younger group performing!

After the performance, one of the older girls asks if we can do the Bollywood dance again. I am really surprised that she, along with some of the older kids want to do it again. I put on Balam Pichkari (the song used for the choreography) and we bust out the moves one last time!

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Group photos are the best!
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Packing up and giving last minute hugs 🙂

Movement Exchange (NOW 6) Part Series: Part 4

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Day 3

Starting the morning by hiking to the top of Ancon Hill :D
Started the morning by hiking to the top of Ancon Hill (which overlooks Panama City) 😀
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Then we make our way over to the University of Panamá; Kim leads warm-up.
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Kim and Olivia lead a combination!
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Olivia starts teaching this bad-ass choreography

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Everyone loved the class!
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After we eat lunch, we drive to Aldea SOS Panamá. It’s been a long day already, but I’m loving every moment of it!
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Around twenty minutes after arriving, it’s time to dance! After Kim leads a warm-up, Ruby leads across the floor!
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 I’m teach a Bollywood piece that I learned from Dance to Unite Teacher, Vaishali

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End of first day at Aldea SOS Panamá!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Day 4

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Contemporary class that was very fun and challenging!

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Folkloric class at the University of Panamá

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Last day at Malambo! We start off by working with the little kids first. Hayley and Olivia lead the class!
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Meanwhile, the other group works with the older girls. Jenn is leading warm-up!
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I had a chance to teach Bellydance choreo that I learned from Dance to Unite Teacher, Nooshi
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The other group switched over to work with the little ones. Here is Ruby and Jenn!

Lessons Learned

     1. Accepting that I’m a beginner dancer and I may not catch onto choreography as quickly as more advanced dancers. As Olivia said one time, “everyone has their own dance journey”.

2. Be more confident when I teach.

3. Sometimes letting the kids lead dance activities helps them stay more engaged.

4. Asking kids what they want to listen to may motivate them to participate more. One of the little girls was persistent in letting me know she wanted to listen to Don Omar’s “Zumba”. I played the song and she kept asking me to play it over and over again. So I learned that making dance classes really student-centered can change the dynamic.

5. I need to listen to more music from Central and Latin America!

I found Remezcla, a website dedicated to Latin culture and music!

Movement Exchange 5 Part Series: Part 2

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Day 2

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We travel an hour and a half from Panamá City to Portobelo, Colón, a region of Panamá with a large Afro-Panamanian community.

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Here we are on a boat ride!

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We later stop at a market with crafts created by the Kuna people, an ethnic group in Panamá. Above is a photo of a woman selling molas.

Afterward, we head to Aldea SOS Colón!

When we arrive, our bus pulls inside what reminds of a gated community. What I would come to learn with all the other orphanages is that there are little houses where the kids stay based on age. In each house (at this particular orphanage) there is a living room, small kitchen, dining table,  a certain number of rooms where the kids sleep and a bathroom.

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  Before we start dancing, the Tias of the house cook a meal for us! We all talk about how delicious the food is, especially the rice which has been cooked in coconut water.

After we clean up, we start dancing with the kids!

My group throughout the trip includes Olivia, Hayley and Kim.

We work with the older group first, beginning with a name game where a person says his or her name and compliments their name with a movement. Then everyone says the person’s name and copies the move.  Afterward we some more dance/movement activities.

My group doing mirror partner dancing with the older kids
My group and the older kids mirror dancing with partners
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Kim and Olivia leading across the floor!

For rest of the time, we practice a very cool combination that Kim created.

Not too far away, the other group works with the little kids!

Ruby, Kourtney, Jenn, Chaeli and Kate dancing with the little ones
Ruby, Kourtney, Jenn, Caeli and Kate dancing with the little ones

When it’s our turn to work with the little ones, we play the name game again. But soon they became restless so we bring out the hula hoops, light up balls and drawing paper. I’m caught up in talking to one of the girls, she’s telling me to hold her light up ball so that no one takes it when it suddenly starts pouring. And I mean pour! There is no warning, no trickling of rain…it is like several clouds have been holding their bladders for way too long and just can’t handle it anymore.  Some of the volunteers and kids dance in the rain, others continue drawing or playing with the hula hoops. After a while we move to where the older kids are dancing and it becomes an all out dance party. First, each group performs the routines they learned and then we have a kick-ass cypher.

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The memory of dancing in the rain with everyone will always be etched in my mind. I can hear the pouring rain now, I can see different people dancing in the circle and the moment Tinna and one of the girls have a mini dance off!

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Good times!

We are having so much fun, it’s hard to leave. But, when we do say goodbye to the kids, I think to myself, “man I wish I had more time with them” (because you know haha, my Spanish was horrible and I really want to talk to them more!).

When we get back to Magnolia Inn, we take showers and get dressed to eat at a nearby cafe. I love walking through the streets in Casco Viejo ( the historic district where the hostel is located) and observing my surroundings. I feel like a tourist though, like I’m looking at everything through a snow globe or something. I’m very far away, where even though I’m close, I can’t see the details of Panamá, of the people. I know that spending more time here could erase some of that feeling, and hopefully (even though it’s only the second day) I can return to Panamá to really understand and learn about the country.  After we sit down and order food, Tinna officially welcomes us to Movement Exchange. Everyone goes around the table to talk about their apples and onions (our ups and downs during the day). My apple is of course, the whole day! My onion is the language barrier and having a hard time having a conversation without stumbling over words (I SHOULD HAVE LEARNED IN MIDDLE SCHOOL, HIGH SCHOOL, COLLEGE…hellooo Simone what were you doing all those years?!!).  Despite that onion,  I had so much fun!

Key Lessons Learned:

1. I’ll always remember the experience of dancing despite the down pour and applying this to the challenges in my life

2. I need to build my movement vocabulary

3. DEFINITELY need to work on my Spanish

Movement Exchange in Panamá!

A day before December 25, 2014 I wrote a letter to myself:

Dear Simone,

It’s the day before Christmas, a couple of days more before the new year. I encourage you to live bravely, boldly and fully in 2015. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Don’t be afraid.

Love,

Simone

To 2015…

movement exchangeIf you would have asked me if I were going abroad for the first time in my life, to volunteer with a dance service organization, I would have said “I wish!”. I would have quickly chipped the possibility down to a nub by over-analyzing how it WOULD’T WORK…no money, no time, I just started dancing again, will I be good enough to teach? I would have been swallowed by all of that, literally in one gulp. But because I was absolutely floored when I found Movement Exchange on a Ballet blog called “Setting the Barre”, and because I immediately applied, I didn’t have a chance to think about why it wouldn’t work.

Move-Ex in PanamaAnd here I am getting ready to travel to Panamá tomorrow to be a Dance Diplomat with Move-Ex. I applied to volunteer because of the combination of dance, working with kids, travel, social change and connecting with and learning from others.

When I first learned that I was accepted to participate in the open call I was 100% excited and 0% afraid. Every step I took to move closer to actually going to Panamá, my excitement level increased. My fear level also increased, so much that the last few days I’ve been asking myself “am I supposed to be doing this?”, “do I belong here?” and “what are you doing Simone?”.

Though I still have some anxiety, I snapped out of that mindset. Volunteering with Movement Exchange could be a wonderful way to give, learn and grow and I want to be fully present to experience it all. Follow my group’s Move-Ex dance adventure, we will be blogging throughout the week!

Stay tuned for these future posts:

Around the World: A Benefit for Dance to Unite 

My Experience as a Dance Diplomat with Movement Exchange 

My first year as a Dance to Unite Volunteer 

Dear Dance Teachers…You Live, You Learn

OMGG NYC Dance Parade 2015!

On May 16, 2015 I went to the NYC Dance Parade. I really really LOVE this parade. I woke up that morning excited and nervous because I was prepared to dance in the parade. I was so pumped, so ready to go. I had to be at Broadway and 21st street by 12pm and when I arrived at the ferry terminal I found out the 11am ferry was cancelled.

I panicked for a second and then decided to play around and document my experience before the experience haha. The day before, I listened to an interview with an entrepreneur who talked about going with the flow in life. The day before that I read an article about going with the flow and being open to the unexpected (because, you never know the unexpected could be better than what you planned). Two days before that I switched my cellphone screensaver to a picture with the words:

“sometimes you have to just let go and see what happens”

When I finally took the ferry and the 4 train to Union Square and walked seven blocks (it felt so long people, so long), I turned left onto Broadway and was overwhelmed with joy at seeing all the dancers preparing and practicing in their different costumes.

About fifteen minutes later I got a phone call and found out my group would be late and couldn’t make the parade.

At that moment I didn’t remember A DAMN THING about flow and being open to blah blah blah. My heart sank and the world closed shut with a bang.

Before I found out I couldn’t dance in the parade, I met up with Dance to Unite volunteer Vaishali, who teaches Bollywood and Kathak. When I told her about my group she invited me to walk with her and another dance-service organization she volunteered with, House of the Roses. I was so grateful for her invitation and for the group leader’s invitation as well.

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The day didn’t turn out as I expected, but I still got to be a part of the parade! I can’t wait until next year! If you live in the NYC area or plan on traveling to the city next year sometime in May, I highly recommend dancing in or attending the dance parade!

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dance parade 2015

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(sources: Gog in NYC, Village Voice and Gothamist)

Power.On Pointe.

On April 10, 2015 my grandmother and I went to New York City Center to watch the Dance Theatre of Harlem company perform Power. On Pointe.

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(source)

We LOVED the performance. We saw four works; “Agon”, “Coming Together”, “In the Mirror of Her Mind” and finally “Return” . When I lived in Denver in second grade, my grandmother and I went on a school field trip to see “The Nutcracker”. I have absolutely no recollection of that experience so really, Power. On Pointe. was my first time attending a Ballet performance! My grandmother and I enjoyed every single piece and were really surprised that songs like “Mother Popcorn” and “Superbad” by James Brown could be used for Ballet (view part of “Return” below). Definitely check out Dance Theatre of Harlem’s New York Season next year!

Creating A Dance Vision Board

“Dance is Life”

That is what one of the new group leaders said a few Thursdays ago during Nooshi’s Bellydance class in the Bronx. I couldn’t agree more! When I first started my dance adventure I took Bollywood classes. I thought that afterward I would be able to remember all of my dance experiences fully and clearly. I had the idea that I would look back on everything and remember what I was wearing, other faces in the room, the music, specific movements, emotions, feelings, what people said… the moment to moment happenings. But, dance doesn’t work like that. When I dance (and I’m sure when others do) I’m in the moment. I’m so present that it’s hard to describe. I love that about dance and at the same time whenever I’m not dancing I wish I could go into an immaculate library in my mind filled with all kinds of dance experiences and replay them exactly how they occurred so I could relive everything.

When I’m fully present in a dance class or Dance to Unite class I get a lot out of the experience. This makes me think about life in general; if I’m intentionally present on a daily basis I can get so much more out of life than disconnecting from the flow of it and entertaining anxious, worried fearful thoughts. I can feel fulfilled so much more dancing through life than future tripping or “over analysis leading to paralysis”. I encourage everyone to let go and dance through life!

Dancing in the City

Highs

Beginner Bellydance classes at Serena Studios

I’m learning hip lifts and drops, how to make different figure 8s and different ways to shimmy, how to do large and small hip circles and have proper posture. Shimmying is really hard for me, especially with my shoulders. My arms also get tired from being up, so building arm strength is something I have to work on. Even though I get self-conscious sometimes about being thin and not being really curvy, I feel excited about taking the class.

Congolese with Funmilayo Chesney

I’m taking Congolese with Funmilayo Chesney at Asase Yaa in Brooklyn! This class is energy medicine for me, meaning that after I take this dance class my energy level is through the roof. I come home and end up staying up until 2am (when other days I can hardly keep my eyes open). I have never felt so awake after a dance class, it’s very reinvigorating mostly because of the live drumming, the energy the teacher brings and the energy of everyone else dancing and connecting with each other through dance, music and singing. At the end of class we all form a big circle and different people dance in the circle one at a time. I have always been deathly afraid of dancing in the circle by myself. I have danced in the circle twice. I really want to dance in the circle with confidence by the end of the year!

Going to dance classes with friends!

Getting dance deals (helloo Living Social, if you don’t know, now  you know, you know)

Lows

Not having money

 Living in NYC is expensive, and when I don’t have money for dance classes I feel down sometimes.

Commuting from Staten Island

Between walking to the ferry, the process of loading and docking and walking to the train and getting off and walking to my destination after I get off the train (and often going to three different boroughs in the same day sometimes), by the end of the day I don’t feel like dancing because I’m so tired!

Knee pain

On a daily basis my knees hurt and it really makes it difficult to get around

In the end, I’m so grateful for the dance opportunities I have had and that are happening now!

Dance/Movement Goals

What also keeps me going is the fact that my grandmother and I both made dance/movement goals. We have different goals, but a few similarities are doing yoga at least once a week, learning more about dance travel/tourism and a secret goal I won’t reveal until June or July. One of my personal dance goals is to focus on exploring and studying different dances from Africa and the African Diaspora and Bellydance. This summer I want to take a break from those classes and study Semi-Classical Indian dance and Beginner Ballet. Another goal is to just explore different dance styles without studying them for long-term until I’m done with what I’m already studying. At the beginning of February, my grandmother and I sat down at the kitchen table and talked about our dance/movement goals, then I typed them up and now we have them taped to our walls.

Over the weekend we also created Dance Vision Boards to inspire and motivate us!

How to Create a Dance/Movement Vision Board

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On my board I have pictures that reflect the dance classes I’m taking right now (Bellydance and dances from the African Diaspora), the barefeet logo because I want to do what Mickela Mallozzi is doing, which is traveling around the world learning dances from different cultures, meeting different people and eating lots of delicious food! There is a white rose with musical notes on the petals to show my love for music, yoga poses by Yoga Rachael who I follow on Instagram and Dance to Unite’s logo for inspiration to learn more about the 13 Steps to Unity, and to remind me about the kids we serve. Under the ballerina on the right is the logo for the upcoming NYC Dance Parade in May which hopefully I can participate in. There is also a photo of a field of daffodils and that represents a very special aspiration I will blog about later on. I have a photo of two people dancing because one day I would like to try social dancing! I haven’t touched upon everything, but finally there are inspiration sayings like: “wherever you go, go with all your heart” by Confucius, “the quickest way to acquire self-confidence is to do exactly what you are afraid to do” by anon and “be brave with your life”.

1. Buy a poster board at Michael’s or another art and crafts supplies store (OR I’m totally for DIY, you can use the side of a large cardboard box instead).

2. Research dance/inspiration related photos on sites like Pinterest, Tumblr or Google Images

3. Copy and Paste to a Word Document

4. Print the document and cut out the pictures/words with scissors

5. Glue (or tape) them to your board

This was just a suggestion! You can create your vision board however you want 🙂

Bare Feet with Mickela Mallozzi

When I think about returning to dance and joining Dance to Unite, I feel a lot of joy. I also feel very passionately about learning about other cultures, especially through dance. I’m grateful to live in NYC where there are a plethora of opportunities to engage with people, places and things that are different than myself. When I’m not dancing in a studio or space around NYC, whenever I have time and money, I still continue my dance adventure online. Two weeks ago I was researching dance blogs and came across a woman who is doing exactly what I want to do. I was floored when I found her website, I could barely contain my excitement finding this lady, who travels and explores the world through dance.

It’s been six months since I’ve started this adventure and I’m literally at the very very tip of the iceberg with learning, experiencing and understanding the different dance forms in the world. I think I’ll be on this dance adventure for my entire life! I want to challenge myself along the way, and dance challenges for me are anything that deals with a lot of footwork, various social dances (because I’ll be nervous about messing up),making my movements clearer and catching on to choreography quicker.

Surely there will be surprise challenges, for example, Bellydancing. Two weeks ago I took my first beginner Bellydance class. Watching belly dancers online and having a little bit of experience with bellydance movements, I previously thought that bellydance would be easy. But after that class, I realize my perception was way off! Bellydance is more than drawing a figure eight with your hips. At the beginning of the class we focused a lot on making serpent-like movements with our hands and let me tell you, it was hard! The teacher demonstrated the move and I was like, “what the hell, how is she doing that?!”. My goal with Bellydance is to learn as much as I can and take a performance workshop.

I encourage you to try a dance that scares you! Or a dance you know you will suck at, haha! It will be well worth it to show yourself that you can do something you think you can’t do! Flamenco scares the shit out of me because of the footwork, but sometime at the end of the year I’m going to start taking classes.

Dance+Travel+Communing and Connecting with other People…This is it right here baby!!! Plus food, we can’t forget that!

Experience the world, one dance at a time with Mickela!