Make a New Year’s Resolution That Matters: Support the Arts in 2014!

It’s that time of year again.  Time for throwing out the cigarettes, getting a gym membership, and going for one last binge of all the chocolate in the house so that you can start the new year right.

This year, instead of making a New Year’s resolution that you probably won’t enjoy (because no matter how much you say you want to eat healthily, it’s no fun saying no to cookies), why not try something that enriches your mind and keeps the arts alive?

This year, why not make it your New Year’s resolution to support the arts?

Saying that the arts are the first to go in times of economic hardship is so cliché, you almost don’t need the statistics to paint how hard it is for theaters to survive in today’s cultural climate (but don’t worry; I have the numbers to prove it, too).

Closed Theater - National Theater
We lose more than just the performers without support. The National Theater was built in 1911 and is a registered historic building, but has fallen into disrepair.

First Lady Michelle Obama believes that “our artists challenge our assumptions in ways that many cannot and do not. They expand our understandings, and push us to view our world in new and very unexpected ways…. It is a form of diplomacy in which we can all take part.”  History proves her point. The first African American musical performed on Broadway in 1898, almost 60 years before the first integrated public schools.  The first gay actor came out in 1933, 75 years before  California legalized gay marriage.

But not all government officials believe in the power of the arts.  It’s strange that the arts budgets are cut first, particularly by as they generate $9.59 billion annually in federal tax income alone, and pump in over $60 million into the economy each year.  In comparison, a proposed spending reduction act in 2011 that threatened to eliminate funding to the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities would save $167.5 million a year—a mere fraction of what the arts brings in.

Arts for Humanity
Arts education has shown that test scores can jump 20-22% in Math and English in elementary and middle school students.

And the trouble with the arts doesn’t stop and start with theaters.  Over the past ten years, elementary schools offering performing and visual arts opportunities dropped from 20% to 3-4%.    This is a critical time to begin learning, as students who study music consistently outperform (literally) their counterparts in math and science national tests, and arts students are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement.

There are so many ways to support the arts, and each one plays a vital role in the health of the arts.  I’m not saying you have to go out and donate your entire life savings to your local theater.  But theater is about building communities–and we can’t do that if you don’t click out of the YouTube videos, change out of your pajamas, and meet us halfway.

See community theater. See professional theater.  Go to an art exhibit.  Help the local school paint their sets for their show.  Give a gift basket for a theater’s fundraiser.  Skip Starbucks for a week and donate the money you saved to a theater.  Support the arts.  You’ll be fulfilling your New Year’s resolution to cut back on coffee, and supporting institutions that build stronger, more open-minded communities…and that’s a New Year’s resolution that will last far beyond 2014.

 

Photo credit: http://afterthefinalcurtain.net/2013/01/24/the-national-theatre/http://www.artsforhumanity.com/about-us/funding/

Stretch - Donate

 

Six Unlikely Items You’ll Find in a Dance Bag

Dancers have all sorts of odd things in their dance bags.  My car, for example, will never entirely be free of glitter, bobby pins, and the occasional fake eyelash that escapes my makeup box every now and again (it’s always only one eyelash–and it’s terrifying every time).  There are some items that you expect every dancer to pack in their dance bag, but here are a few items you might not expect:

Hair Extensions

Hair extensions – Do you ever hate dancers for having picture perfect hair even after a six minute dance break?  You can hate them a little less; it’s one of the many illusions that dancers have naturally perfect hair.  Dance competitions switch extensions almost as often as Lady Gaga does.

Epsom salts – Dancing has a lot of great health benefits, but long hours of holding your leg in front of your face or spinning on your head can be tiring on your body.  Dancers beat the pain by taking epsom salt baths, which help leech the soreness from muscles.  If you’re ever sore, take a page out of our dance manuel: it’ll work wonders!

 

Tennis Ball for DogsTennis balls – If the salt bath hasn’t done the trick, then it’s time to break out the tennis ball.  Tennis balls are usually used on feet to help roll out sore arches and improve the line of the foot.  They’re also great at working out tight knots that the salt bath didn’t take care of!

 

Screwdrivers – If you’re a tapper, nothing is more indispensable than a screwdriver, some extra screws, and a broken toothpick.  Tap shoes often lose their screws, and a crushed toothpick can add the extra FRICTION to keep your shoe in place.

 

Fitness with elastic band

Lambswool – Ever wonder how ballerinas manage on pointe for hours at a time?  Dancing on your toes isn’t a walk in the park, but many dancers use lambswool to pad their toes against the pain of the floor.  Gel pads, tape, and plastic pads are also commonly used to guard feet from the unforgiving floor.

Leotards – Chances you already knew that many types of dancers wear a leotard at some point or another.  The weird thing is that something that something so unattractive is still in use.  Leotards show everything–not just that extra serving of fro yo from last night’s dessert, but sweat stains (both old and new) are also fair game.

The Gift of Dance

Stumped for holiday gift ideas?  Maybe you have relatives or friends visiting from out of town and you’re tired of making the drive up to Hollywood to show off the Hollywood sign from a gas station parking lot.  Maybe you just have some extra time on your hands and want to ward off the winter chill with some indoor cardio.

LA’s dance scene is as diverse as its demographics.  Whether you’re a thrill-seeker, a social dancer, or a focused barre flower, Los Angeles has countless gems for dancing.  Here’s just an idea of what you can find to get you out of the house and into the spirit of dance!

Cicada Club
The Cicada Club mixes vintage dress, dance, and delicious drinks all in the same classy nightclub!

Swing Dancing

If it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing, then head on over to one of LA’s swing dancing clubs!  Lindy Groove in Pasadena is one of the largest swing events in Southern California and offers lessons beforehand.  Swing dancing is a fun way to meet new people and learn some new moves in the process.  If you really want to class things up, doll yourself up and waltz through the vintage nightclub, the Cicada Club.  Dress up in your favorite vintage duds, take in the stunning art deco architecture, and enjoy the live Big Band music while you dance the night away.  Did I mention that they also have delicious drinks?

Great for: Social dancing, dressing up (optional, depending on venue), date night

 

Bollywood
These classes take the structure of a dance class with the fun of the Bollywood movies.

Bollywood – Spice it up this winter with Bollywood dancing!  Bollywood dance is a highly energetic dance form found in Indian films and often combines elements of classical Indian dance with modern movement and music.  You can find classes all over LA, but LA DanceFit Studio is great for a more workout-focused class, while NDM Bollywood Dance offer an experience focused more on the dance itself.

Great for: Structured classes, ridiculous amounts of fun, multicultural experiences, effortless cardio

 

Line Dancing
Cowboy hat: optional. Cowboy boots: necessary.

Line dancing – If country music is your jam, grab your boots and head to one of Los Angeles’ country bars!  I just got into line dancing last year at a friend’s birthday party and have been getting my friends addicted to the boot stompin’ moves ever since.  Line dancing is a fantastic for beginners because the steps repeat themselves, and most bars have free lessons if you get there early enough.  My personal fave is Cowboy Country in Long Beach, but Montana’s and In Cahoots are also solid options.

Great for: Beginners, cheap learnin’, and people watching

 

Aerial silks class
Aerial classes are like learning to be ninja, but half the mortal peril.

Aerial

Want to take your dancing to the next level (literally)?  Twinkle your toes in the air with one of Los Angeles’ many aerial studios.  Choose from hoop (lyra), silks, trapeze, and many others.  If you’re not afraid of heights, aerial is like an adult playground.  It can be a drag picking up the basics, but few classes can compete with the athleticism, the dynamism, and the all-out fun of aerial.  Try Cirque School, Hollywood Aerial Arts, or Fembody Fitness to get your circus career off the ground.

Great for: Intermediate to advanced dancers, athletic friends, adventure seekers (P.S. Make sure you’re not afraid of heights!)

 

Feel free to chime in in the comments if you know of any dance gems in Los Angeles!

100 Years of Silly Dances

It’s already December, which means it’s just about time for Facebook newsfeeds into nostalgia mode.  This year, let’s take it back farther than last year’s silly memes and look at the last decade’s silly dances!  I’ve posted the videos, so you can try out a few moves to work off that extra turkey by doing the mashed potato!

 

Turkey trot – 1900s

Like any great dance, the turkey trot was made outrageously popular by being publicly denounced in the early 1900s when it was banned by the Vatican for being too suggestive.  Despite being banned at public functions, the dance was made all the more popular by its risqué status.

 

The Black Bottom – 1920s

The Black Bottom dance originated in New Orleans, then made its way to the Apollo Theater in New York with the George White Scandals.  It was a hugely popular dance was composed by African American pianist and dancer Perry Bradford.  The dance was so popular, it ended up overtaking the Charleston.

 

The Jitter Bug – 1940s

The jitterbug is a type of swing dancing that became hugely popular in the ’30s and ’40s.  The dance itself doesn’t look that silly,but the name is another matter.  Inspired by Cab Calloway’s “Call of the Jitterbug,” the name comes from these poignant lyrics: “If you’d like to be a jitter bug,First thing you must do is get a jug,Put whiskey, wine and gin within,And shake it all up and then begin.”

The Mashed Potato – 1962

Just in time for the mashed potato leftovers, this dance started with the “Mashed Potato Time” by Dee Dee Sharp.  How it resembles mashed potatoes, still remains a mystery.

 

Time Warp – 1973

Part parody, part genius, the Time Warp encompasses all the fun kitsch found in the movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  

Thriller – 1983

What’s more iconic about this music video?  The makeup, the skintight leather pantsuit, or the dance moves that even Lady Gaga wouldn’t mind stomping to?  Michael Jackson’s music video was groundbreaking in that it mixed screenplay with a music video.  Even 30 years later, it is still regarded as the most influential music video of all time.

 

Macarena – 1994

The Macarena is one of the the greatest international hits of all time, ranking number 7 on Billboard’s All Time Top 100.   The song is one of the few foreign hits to make #1 on American charts.  The iconic dance moves were as popular across the board as the music itself.

 

Dougie – 2007

Inspired by 1980s rapper Doug E. Fresh, Lil’Wil taught the whole world to how to “Dougie.”  According to Corey Fowler, member of the Cali Swag District whose “How-To Dougie” video garnered over 20,000,000 views says that “Everybody does it different…The way you do it defines you.”

Gangnam Style – 2012

No list of silly dances is complete without Gangnam Style. The song pokes fun at the trendy, high class lifestyle of those who live in the Gangnam District in Korea, but even those who can’t find South Korea on a map can appreciate the invisible horse and elevator dancing that, along with a fun beat a lots of energy, made this song an international sensation.