Movement Exchange 5 Part Series : Part 1

movement exchange

What: Open Call Movement Exchange Trip with people from different parts of the United States

When: June 6-June 13, 2015

Where: Panamá

Why: To connect with and learn from others through dance and movement! To support personal growth and social change through dance!

Day 1

June 6, 2015

Departure: 3:55pm at Newark Liberty International Airport

Arrival: 8:15pm at Aeropuerto Internacional de Tocumen  

(source: geology.com)
(source: geology.com)

I can’t believe it. The airplane is taking off, up, up, up…I’m on my way to Panamá City. It’s my first time abroad and for a dance diplomacy/exchange trip no less. I don’t feel afraid, instead mostly curious and a little anxious about being prepared and getting off the plane alive (I love traveling, BUT I hate planes). I feel myself starting to get sick; stuffy nose, fever, tight lymph nodes. I hope it goes away. I sleep during the almost five hour flight. When I open my eyes, the plane is thirty minutes from landing. It’s a big deal for me to travel because I never thought I would get the chance to travel in my twenties. It was always a dream of mine that would happen someday. But, here I am, getting off the plane, going through customs and immigration. Here I am in another country.

I meet up with our group leader Tinna, who is much younger than I expected. We join the other Open Call Move-Ex group members; Olivia, Hayley, Kim, Jenn, Kourtney, Caeli, Kate and Ruby! Everyone welcomes me with a hug. We load on the bus and off we go to get something to eat.

 After dinner, we head to Magnolia Inn. There is a big room filled with twelve beds waiting for us. I choose bed 3 and end up near Tinna, Hayley and Kim. After we all get settled into our beds and lights are off, I lie there in the dark, tired with my stuffy nose slowly falling asleep, thinking “I can’t believe I’m in Panamá! “.

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)

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 🙂

Special Guest Ballerina Visits Bollywood/Kathak Class

1397389_409454665846170_8539383243999551167_oSpecial guest artist and professional Ballerina, Emily Anton, joins Circle Talk in Vaishali’s Bollywood and Kathak class.

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(source)

Emily is a part of Ballets with a Twist dance company.

>>>Learn more about Emily and her experiences by checking out her blog!<<<

On March 30, 2015 there was a lot of excitement at the beginning of class as the girls practiced their Bollywood dance while they waited for Emily. When she arrived, it didn’t take long for the girls to start asking questions about life as a Ballerina. There was never a dull moment during class. Emily introduced herself and answered the girls questions from what’s her favorite move to her favorite part about being a Ballerina. Some girls asked if she had ever had an injury, what dancers do if they mess up during a performance and how male ballerinas are able to lift female ballerinas. Emily then demonstrated some Ballet moves and explained the reason why she enjoyed Ballet was because of how expressive she could be.

After an initial Q&A, this happened…

Emily passes around a special pair of Ballet Pointe shoes

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“I was 13 years old when I got my first pair of pointe shoes. They are special to me because dancing in pointe shoes is unlike anything else on earth – you are quite literally standing on the tips of your toes using shoes specially designed to help you do that. It feels like you are floating, rising above everything else, flying, spinning with the greatest ease. I also enjoy the additional challenge pointe shoes present the ballet dancer, everything becomes slightly harder and additional strength is required in the ankles and feet to allow the ballet dancer to rise all the way up on to the tips of your toes!”

We watch a short video of her performing in “Cocktail Hour: The Show”

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then the whole class joins her in learning different Ballet moves

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Port de Bras

At the end of class the girls performed their Bollywood performance for Emily.

She didn’t leave without a lot of thank yous, more questions and hugs.

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Quotes that INSPIRE Emily 

“In life, as in dance, grace glides on blistered feet” -Alice Abrams

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. – e.e. cummings
“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” -Anonymous

Dance to Unite Team ( Jenae, Galit, Emily, Vaishali and Tal)

Dance to unite team ( Jenae, emily, Simone, Vaishali and Tal)

Dear Dance Teachers, my Hip Hop Quest started something like this…

This is my first Dear Dance Teachers post. As a new dance teacher (literally just hatched haha) currently gaining experience as a Dance to Unite volunteer, I want to learn as much as possible about what it means to be a dance teacher and how to teach a class in a fun and effective way. Look out for Dear Dance Teachers posts sharing teaching tips. 

I went on a mini Hip-Hop quest at the beginning of February to find appropriate Hip-Hop songs for kids. I knew I would have a difficult time finding songs without lyrics purely revolving or hinting around sex, drugs and violence, but I didn’t know it would be THAT difficult.

I wish there was a plethora of Hip-Hop songs for kids. Children and Young Adult Literature exists and flourishes because the need for it is acknowledged, valued, recognized and given attention. It would be a cool if there was a whole genre of Kid/Teen Hip-Hop with age appropriate lyrics and relatable content that received as much respect as explicit songs/artists do. Maybe Nicki’s “Anaconda” beat could go with a song about doing well in school or putting lyrics about negative experiences with bullying and overcoming the situation to Timbaland’s “Bounce”.

I wouldn’t tell any Hip-Hop artist with explicit content to change because that’s their art and artists create what they want. Not only that but I just realized that it makes no sense to complain about the content of some Hip-Hop and Rap and how it sends the wrong messages to kids. Not because it’s not true (it’s true all right!) but because I’m not looking in the right place. I’m not sure many Hip-Hop and Rap artists with explicit content are thinking about kids/teens while they are in the studio.

 So where is the right place to look?

There’s something missing.

It would be so cool if there were music review websites and a ceremony like the Grammys or Billboard Music Awards dedicated to artists who created Hip-Hop and Rap exclusively for youth. If any Hip-Hop or Rap artists out there are reading this, whether you are well-known or just starting out, kids and teenagers need songs too!

Below are ideas for your Hip-Hop class! The playlists by no means represent all of Hip-Hop.

Song Suggestions and Tips

Note: Many of the songs below are still explicit, I suggest this list because there are parts of different songs that you can use.

Tip #1: Using the following keywords during research can be helpful: Hip-Hop, Old School, clubbanger songs, playlist, remix, dance trends, instrumental

Kid-Friendly and Semi-Kid Friendly Hip-Hop

Old School Hip-Hop

Tip#2: Find Hip-Hop songs with lyrics or just instrumental on these four online platforms: Spotify, Soundcloud, Youtube and Pandora.

Hip-Hop Dance Trends

Tip#3: Youtube Hip-H0p Dance Trends from past and present

Remember the Harlem Shake Craze?!

Check out the Original Harlem Shake below!

Fusion

Tip#4: Fusing Hip-Hop with other genres:Hip-Hop+R&B, Pop, Rock and Roll, music from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, musicals, film soundtracks, dancefloor hits ranging from house to dubstep

Tip#5.Taking parts of songs that are explicit and creating a medley

Tip#6. Slow Hip-Hop ( I realize routines don’t always have to be fast-paced Hip-Hop)

Tip#7. You’re sitting in your car at a stoplight and you hear the car beside you playing this really cool song, or you’re at a party and you really want to know the name of the song getting everybody on the dance floor. This is where Shazam comes in. Many people already know about this app. I love Shazam, the idea is genius. Whenever you’re on the go and you hear Hip-Hop (and other) songs you would like to try in your class, pull out your phone and Shazam, you know the name and artist of the song!

Tip#8. Research music review/media sites based in other countires and look for Hip-Hop artists/dancers from around the world like Les Twins

Looking at Youtube videos of parents dancing with their kids can be inspiring too!

If you have any ideas for Hip-Hop songs, please comment below!

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!