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 3

Monday, June 8, 2015

Day 3

Today we are at the University of Panamá!

Olivia and I
Olivia and I

Before Hayley and Kate teach a class we go on a tour of the university. I love that there is so much beautiful and cool art on the walls!

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Outside the dance studio we see a board describing Black Ethnicity Month

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Soon class starts, and after a brief warm-up, Hayley begins with a Brain Dance exercise involving three partners. Then we do an awesome combination across the floor called “Running Man”. Shout out to Hayley for helping me, because I had a hard time catching on!

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 Then Kate leads a really cool activity where we have a balloon and we have to keep it in the air while dancing. We do this solo and then with partners. I love the activity because it makes me think how to use my body creatively!

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 Then Hayley continues the class with some awesome choreography. It is really hard for me to catch on quickly, but I try not to be hard on myself because I started dancing last year.

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Class goes by so fast! For the most part I am present during the whole session, there are a couple of moments when I become really self-conscious. I have a chance to briefly talk to one student! I wish we could have a pre-session where we do community building activities and get to know each other first. But, it was SO cool dancing together 😀

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Post dance class we go to the cafeteria and have lunch (rice, lentil beans and meatballs with passion fruit juice…mmmMMMm)!

Afterward we head over to Malamabo, an all girls orphanage outside of Panamá City. When we arrive we go on a tour of the orphanage, stopping in the baby and toddler wing and then each house arranged by age.

We split into our teaching groups. Hayley and Olivia lead the name game and warm-up ( I love introductions!) and Kim leads across the floor!

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 I teach the Bellydance choreography I learned in the Dance to Unite class I assisted this past year with teacher, Nooshi. I am really nervous and mess up a little, but Tinna and Olivia help me by translating. The girls learn the choreography quickly and ask for more. I’m really happy they like it! They ask me to perform for them and at first I’m really nervous and feel awkward, like I’m taking up time that should be used for something else. But, they keep asking so I do the whole dance. Afterward, one of the girls asks me questions about Bellydance, about the music I played and if she can see a photo of Nooshi. I think, how cool it is that girls in another part of the world are learning the same dance students in our Dance to Unite Bronx class learned! I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be here, to teach and learn from the other volunteers 🙂

I feel like the girls wanted to see more because maybe they have not seen Bellydance or heard Arabic music before. The moment I was performing I felt like Dance to Unite was shining through me because they were being exposed to a dance form they possibly (because I don’t know) had not seen before. Being exposed to another culture through dance can cause people to become curious and want to learn more about that culture.

During NYC Dance Week, I took a Classical Japanese dance class at RESOBOX in Queens!

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Just taking one Classical Japanese dance class has encouraged me to learn more about Japanese culture and history, and connect with Japanese people.

 I’ve had friends from many different backgrounds, but I haven’t had many Asian friends (from Korea, China, Japan). As a kid I didn’t learn about any Asian cultures (and that’s why I am a strong advocate for multicultural music, art, literature and general education during early childhood) and so I grew up being around Asian kids in class but I did not know anything about their culture. I grew up in disconnection, whether disconnected from knowledge, disconnected from interaction and even just plain exposure. It wasn’t until recently that I started asking why is that? For example, I’m obsessed with traveling, but I initially shied away from traveling to some Asian countries. I asked myself why, and I think it’s because I was never exposed to different Asian cultures in school, home or saw images of Asians on television and movies. Now that I recognize this, I want to travel to different countries in Asia (and find media outlets that focus on different Asian communities)! But, even before that happens, there’s plenty to learn here in New York City! I want to continue to take Classical Japanese classes and visit the Japanese Society this summer.

Cheers to Dance to Unite and Movement Exchange!

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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! “.

Yoga, One Love

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Tal, Kayla and two students!

Since I started volunteering with Dance to Unite last October, many new Teachers and Teacher Assistants have joined the organization. I wanted to visit a few other classes before the end of the school year and had the opportunity a couple of weeks ago. After work I made my way to the Lower East Side to join Tal’s yoga class at PS 140.

When I first walk in I see a room filled with kids preparing for class and see Tal welcome me with a big smile! I then say hello to Teaching Assistants Brooke, Kayla and Bar ( I always love getting to know the other volunteers). We all sit on our light and dark green mats in a circle and Tal starts the class by asking us, “what makes you happy?”. Everyone shares their answers by passing around a small ball (like passing around a talking stick) using our legs and feet. A few kids say they are happy to have pets. I say I’m happy to have my glasses in order to see. After that activity, Tal begins Circle Talk by introducing what she called the word of the day:

Giving

Tal continues Circle Talk by discussing how Giving is when you give someone a physical gift or kind words from the heart. She asks the kids about times they have given something or kind, loving words. It is a really great Circle Talk and the kids have some great responses!

After Circle Talk the class show me their fusion Hip-Hop yoga dance, choreographed by Kayla who teaches a Hip-Hop/Jazz class in Chinatown. As I’m watching I become inspired. I don’t know why but I am. I love how the yoga poses align with a Hip-Hop song about love. After they practice once, I join in on the second practice. While I was dancing I felt like I could see this happening in classes around NYC. Yoga and Hip-Hop have a bright future. Dance to Unite has a bright future!

 Students (and Brooke to the upper far right!) performing Hip Yoga to MC Yogi’s “Give Love” 

After practicing the choreography we play freeze dance. I LOVE FREEZE DANCE PEOPLE. Bar plays different songs like Becky G’s “Shower”, and the rest of us dance in a moving circle doing our own dances and when the music stops, we freeze in a yoga pose. Other times the group dances in a moving circle and follows the leader’s movements and then FREEZE…Tree pose or Boat pose! Of course everytime the music stops the only yoga pose that comes to my mind is tree pose. I think to myself, I need to get back into yoga because my asana vocabulary is lacking!

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I absolutely loved Tal’s yoga class. Kids need movement, it’s healthy for their bodies and brains. Yoga is one of many ways to get kids moving and aware of their bodies. I love that yoga can be adapted to the world of childhood, that it can be really fun and uplifting and a great foundation for when children want to continue to explore and practice yoga as they get older.

Tal’s 6 Tips for Teaching Yoga for Kids

Tal

1. Establish a certain routine for each class- start with a calming breathing exercise to calm the body and focus the mind. Using a chime is a great centering activity.

2. When teaching yoga poses, there’s no need to provide too many detailed directions- keep it simple and the children will naturally follow through. Younger children in particular, enjoy practicing poses that mimic animals like dog, snake, etc.

3.Kids enjoy stretching to a sun salutation sequence (a traditional yogic warm up). Incorporate songs that direct children to follow a particular flow of movements.

*Kids of all ages love Kira Willey’s ‘Dance for the Sun’  

4. Create a ‘kids’ Yoga playlist’  with all the songs that you will use for each class  – choose current music that kids enjoy listening to but make sure that you listen to the lyrics first as some songs may have inappropriate words or themes.

5. Incorporate Yoga games and other activities that allow children to release excess energy-kids can’t get enough of playing ‘Freeze Dance yoga’- they love to dance to their favorite tunes and find creative ways to freeze and connect poses with their peers – it’s a great way to foster a sense of community within the classroom and promote our Dance to Unite’s mission of unity and peace!

6. End each class with savasana (Sanskrit word for ‘relaxation’)- most children (especially older ones) embrace and appreciate the opportunity to relax on their yoga mat at the end of the class. Put on soothing background music like nature sounds or use a variety of guided meditations.

The students in our 5th grade yoga class frequently request the following guided meditation: ‘Water- journey into the Ocean’ by Chitra Sukhu.   
  
Tal has been a devoted practitioner of Dahn Yoga (Korean style) for the past 7 years. Her passion for working with children as well as for the philosophy and practice of yoga sparked her interest in getting certified as a Yoga instructor by ‘YogaKids’; an internationally accredited program…(read more of her bio)

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!