Category Archives: Just for Fun

Is Dance a Sport–and Should We Want it to Be?

I was planning on writing a post a post to discuss whether or not dance should be considered a sport, but Misty Copeland’s ad proved that dancers are athletes in less than 120 seconds.  Don’t believe me?

She has more muscle in her calves than I have in my entire body.
 

Sometimes a gif is worth a thousand words.

The real question is not whether or not dance is athletic enough to be a sport, but do we want it to be one? 

Risa Gary Kaplowitz writes in her article on Huffington Post that  in response to the “Olympian approach to ballet” and other dance disciplines is making dancers lose their artistic edge in order to focus on gaining an athletic one (read the whole article if you have time–it’s a great read!).

Some might not see a problem with this approach.  It’s easy to applaud the backbreaking, leg-splitting, gravity-defying tricks that are so popular today, but I think Kaplowitz points out an important trend that dancers should be aware of.

In making dance a sport, we then confine it to rules, and its dancers to mere players.  In creating rules, we make breaking them a taboo.  And yet dance thrives on breaking rules and doing the unexpected.

As artists, we have the freedom to be our own agents.  A basketball player may comment on the game, but rarely does their opinion matter on the outcome of the final score.  A dancer’s interpretation of the dance steps can completely change the meaning of the piece.

Take for example, these two different interpretations of “Too Darn Hot,” a musical theater and dance competition fave.

Both dances are amazing.  In the first clip from Season 10 of So You Think You Can Dance, Makenzie Dustman’s long legs flash through our ennui.  We can appreciate the flawless execution of the lightning fast turns and sizzling footwork.  Right from the start, Mackenzie’s limb-tearing extension promises us a show, and delivers.

In the second clip, performed by the UK cast of Kiss me Kate, you can practically see sweat dripping off the languid yet sensual movements of the dancers. It’s a feeling many of us can sympathize with (particularly if you’re caught in this heat wave in California at the moment).  Whereas the first clip promised to wow me from the first developée, I was constantly surprised at the turns the dance took in the second.

Both dances were performed by professionals.  Both featured amazing extension, technique, and tricks. So who’s the winner? 

No one—and that’s the beauty of dance as an art form and not a sport. Both dances are saying different things: the first seems to say that their moves are too hot for the rest of us, whereas the second revels the delicious yet draining heat.  If dance were a sport, once would have to be deemed “better” than the other.

Dance is a form of expression.  It is a universal language that can be found in every culture.  It is a way around the rules of language, borders, class.  For every social or political line that exists, there is a dancer toeing their way around it.

Why would we give up that freedom for a trophy cabinet?

Bonus question!  Which version of “Too Darn Hot” did you like best?  I personally love the fun surprises and comedy (particularly the trio around 7:15) of the UK Kiss Me Kate cast, but I’m also a musical theater nerd, so I’m  predisposed.  Speak up in the comments, or on our Facebook and Twitter pages!

Name that Dance Movie!

How can you possibly stand the wait until Stretch performs onstage again at Carnival?  There’s no real cure (except perhaps watching our YouTube channel), but I’m here to help.  In honor of our Carnival piece, inspired by the upcoming movie Maleficent, I’ve put together a quiz of movies inspired by dance.  How many dance movies can you name?

Step 1: Match the quote with the movie and see how many you can guess correctly.

Step 2: Watch all the movies for the answers you got wrong.

Step 3: Watch all the movies for the answers you got right.

Step 4:  Come see Stretch perform at Carnival on April 30th!

Can Can
Are you excited to take my quiz?!?

1. A: So are you two sisters?
B: We dance in the same company.
A: Ah, ballerinas. No wonder you two look alike.

2. You won’t get any dancing here, it’s illegal.

3. You need to take off that 5th grade dance lookin’ top.

4. Just because I like ballet doesn’t mean I’m a poof, you know.

4 Singin' in the rain

5. A: I told you to bring tights
B: Do I look like I own tights?

6. She can’t act, she can’t sing, she can’t dance. A triple threat.

7. I do ballet because it has nothing to do with the people. Give me tiaras and boys in tights any day.

8. I’m not dancing with you, all right? I’m not dancing with you ’til you dance like you’re supposed to!

3Save the Last Dance

9. A: It’ll never work.
B: Why not?
A: Because I hate you.
B: There’s only one business where that’s no problem at all.

10. I’d kill to dance like that. It’s like sex on hardwood.

Show me the answers!

1strictly-ballroom-still
Waiting to hear the results is always the hardest part.

Question 1: The correct answer is the Black Swan.

Question 2: The correct answer is Footloose.

Question 3: The correct answer is Save the Last Dance.

Question 4: The correct answer is Billy Elliot.

Question 5: The correct answer is Step Up.

Question 6: The correct answer is Singin’ in the Rain.

Question 7: The correct answer is Center Stage.

Question 8: The correct answer is Strictly Ballroom.

Question 9: The correct answer is Chicago.

Question 10: The correct answer is Take the Lead.

 

Pointe Break: Dancers on Break

Sometimes, when I feel horribly uninspired to make it to dance class, I fire up my Pinterest and drink in dancers leaping through the air and reminding me that watching So You Think You Can Dance is not the same as taking a dance class.

But there are some inspirational photos I enjoy much more than dancers wrapping their legs around their head…that is dancers doing the complete opposite.  Sometimes, it’s nice just to see dancers not when we’re they’re on, but who they are off-stage.

Window ballerinas

 

Smoking dancers

 

Feet up

 

 

hip hop dancers

 

 

Flamenco dancer

Mark Your Calendar for Dance Holidays in 2014

I recently had to compile a list of weird holidays for work, and I found all sorts of unexpected days.  I figured if they have a Plan Your Epitaph Day, there’s bound to be some amazing dance holidays.

As usual, I was right.

Ballet Heart

February 7 – Ballet Day 

Get your tutu on!  Every day should be a ballet day, but February 7th is the time of year when you put a bit more oopmh into your plies!

March 20-April 13 – National Cherry Blossom Festival

You might think that a Cherry Blossom Festival would be a traditional Japanese celebration–and you’d be half right.  This festival takes place every year in Washington, DC to commemorate the gift of cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki from Tokyo back in 1912.  The relationship between the United States and Japan was just beginning to blossom at that time, and each year Americans and visitors alike appreciate traditional dancing, singing, and even kimono fashion shows.  This is a clip of one of the dancers rocking it out old school style.

April 29International Dance Day 

International Dance Day—not to be confused with National Dance Day–celebrates the unifying abilities of dance and its ability to connect people across cultures, borders, and even language barriers.  You don’t have to be a professional dancer to appreciate the universality of dance!

May 1 – May Day

Back in the day, the May Day was a pagan celebration of the beginning of summer.  While the exact traditions for May Day vary based on time and country, the May Pole is one of the most recognizable remnants of the festival.  The dances involved with the may pole are as diverse as the celebrations, but most versions involve patterns that weave the streamers into a braid.

May 14th – National Dance Like a Chicken Day

No explanation needed for this one, but in case you need a visual…

May 25 – National Tap Dance Day

Who says the government doesn’t appreciate dance?  Congress voted to make National Tap Dance Day on legendary tap dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson’s birthday.  While it’s nice to have a day dedicated to tap, I think we need to take it a bit farther and have competitive large group tap numbers, like England apparently does…

July 26th – National Dance Day

So You Think You Can Dance and the Dizzy Feet Foundation team up to present National Dance Day–a special day that inspires movement and creativity among amateurs and professionals alike!  National Dance Day is a relatively new holiday, starting in 2010 when Nigel Lythgoe, co-founder of the Dizzy Feet Foundation, started the day to promote dance as a healthy way to combat obesity, relieve stress, and explore creativity!

August 24 – World Hip Hop Day

August 24 is World Hip Hop Day–a time where artists and amateurs come together to explore the power of hip hop.  Dancers show off their moves at block parties, on stage, and in the streets.

September 19th-28 – National Ballroom Dance Week

National Ballroom Dancing week is a time to share the knowledge and fun of ballroom dancing with the public.

Oct 31-Nov 2 – Day of the Dead 

The Day of the Dead is a traditional day to honor and remember the dead, and is observed in Mexico, South America, and parts of Europe.  Scholars believe that it can trace its roots back to Aztec traditions, though it has evolved over time.  The living bring gifts of food and goods to the graves of their loved ones.  Some traditional dances include shell costumes that make noise enough to wake the dead!

 

November 29th – Square Dance Day

November 29th is the one day of the year that’s okay to be a square.

800px-Square_Dance_Group

 

Dec. 11 – National Day of Tango (Argentina)

The U.S. hasn’t caught on yet, but Argentina proudly dedicates December 11 to tango.  Tango originated in South America in 1890s, and went from village dance to one of the most well-known types of dance seen on stages and in spy movies alike.

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.

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.