Friday, 11 January 2013

Exciting Events: Swingvitation 2013 Teaser Trailer

Here it is! Presenting the official teaser trailer for Swingvitation 2013. I don't know about you but I think I shot out of my seat when I first saw the video. What's a Media student got to do when they see a nicely edited video? 

The video pretty much covered all the highlights that will be happening in Swingvitation 2013 from 25th to 28th April. I've previously written a blogpost on Swingvitation that covers more details on what's happening. The price for the full event pass is $435, and individual workshops are priced at $55. More info for the different party prices are coming soon. 

In the meantime, be sure to practice all the techniques and concepts in West Coast Swing to give yourself an edge for the J&J!

Monday, 7 January 2013

Exciting Events: Singapore International Bachata & Latin Festival

Singapore International Bachata and Latin Festival

Dear Singapore, En Motion organised another exciting event that is coming your way! The Singapore International Bachata and Latin Festival aka En La Pasion would take place on 25th to 27th January. So it's another weekend chock full of social dancing to the wee hours in the morning at SCAPE, which is located conveniently at the heart of Orchard Road.

This event, like its predecessors, will have an Asian Bachata Championship. There are up to $1300 in cash rewards and event passes to be won in the championship, and the winners will get the chance to represent Singapore in the World Bachata Championship. These attractive prizes are not to be missed!

There are more than 20 local and international artiste in the event conducting 20+ workshops over the weekend. The opportunity to learn under the masters of latin dancing is hard to come by, and what are the chances that you get to social dance with an international artiste unless you're at the event's party itself?

Not only that, my university's salsa student performance team will be showcasing their work on Saturday night. Be sure to cheer them on and show your support for young talents!

There will be a Salsa Jack and Jill competition on Sunday, so this is a chance for you to show your salsa dancing finesse to a new face. There isn't a clear indication on whether or not there are different levels for the J&J unlike Swingvitation with categories like newcomer, novice, and intermediate. I would have to enquire about that soon. (Nevertheless, I still don't feel ready to take on a salsa J&J at this point as I still have many aspects in salsa dancing that I need to work on like body movement and taking smaller steps.)

You can still get an early-bird ticket price for the event at $299 by January 24th. The full event pass will cost $319 when you purchase it at the door. So if you're certain that you will attend it, be sure to grab your tickets by then! You may purchase them online at the En La Pasion website.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Reflections: Unfamiliarity breeds consternation

While I should be embracing new faces for a dance scene that is expanding quickly, namely West Coast Swing, I found myself quite terrified of the exploded class size due to the upcoming Swingvitation event happening in April this year. I know I should be embracing change, but this is still quite a shock from the previous familiar faces that I'm used to seeing every Wednesday for my WCS dance class.

There's the phrase that goes like this, "familiarity breeds contempt." This is true only to a certain extent. It's actually comforting to be around familiar faces and doing familiar patterns. The contemptuous feeling comes from repeating the same stuff over and over, but I trust my teachers and classmates enough to know that this is a suitable speed of progression for their and my dance ability. For one, I still have many bad habits to get rid of, and one of the major ones are the way I walk, and another is the way I anchor: it still feels too heavy for the lead, but I managed to find the root in which this bad habit stems. It's mainly because I fear losing the connection that I feel the need to pull tightly on the lead's hand. Hence my teacher subtly teases and said that people like me anchor to make a statement like, "I'm here, I'm anchoring goddamnit!"

Anyways, having new people in the classroom threw me off guard, and the range of skill between classmates varied greatly, perhaps they had different schools of thought and thus their lead felt really different from normal. I'm also talking about people I don't see on the social dance floor too. I only recognised one out of the strangers whom I have danced on socials, and the rest were completely unfamiliar to me. It is also in dancing with people that I find out a few traits that I get particularly pedantic about with a partner: respect for proximity, and sense of tempo. These two things I look out for is mainly because of how I was nurtured dance wise and lifestyle wise. I am thankful of the presence of the regular goers that I've formed great friendships with, and knowing how we grew together eased my anxiety in the classroom.

I feel that my shyness is creeping in face of the strangers I see in class, but I hope that I can resolve my fears soon so that I can enjoy my west coast swing classes again.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Fashion Fiesta: New Looks for the New Year

If there's anything you can kick off your new year with a bang, it's to get a new look! I've done my post Christmas shopping in Australia, and I'm loving some of the trends that are found there. There's lots of laces, floral designs, and baring the midriff, because it's summer and people would burn if there isn't any ventilation in the Land Down Under.

I got myself an A-lined floral skirt in a geometric pattern, but an animal print skirt can be matched with a black, or dull coloured top easily. For example, a black lace tank. Mine was layered and shorter, but the closest I could find on amazon was the one listed above. They come in red, green, blue, and black, but I think the most versatile colours would be red and black.

Studs on a chiffon top also seems to be trending now, and I got one in khaki. The studs on the collar makes a delicate piece look like a standout. It screams edgy, yet feminine. Perfect for one who like the femme fatale image. This would go well with black tights, black skirts, or even just plain jeans. You can even top it off with a few leather accessories like cuffs, leather rings, bracelets and whatnot.

For those who just want something sporty, you can also don the cropped off top and look just as trendy and sexy over low rise bottoms. These activewear would be great for classes that does aerobics like my Jazz and dance technique classes.

Capris have been around since the 1960s, but cuffed capris are pretty recent. These 3/4 trousers in spandex can be easily pulled up into pedal pusher's length, and would look good with hip hop classes. Capris in stretchy material can also be easily worn for jogging or cardio exercises. It's better to hunt down capris on the cheaper end of the scale if you're looking for something that stretches but won't hurt your wallet. Spandex in general can endure body movements, but still, every fabric has its limits.

Personally, I have to probably shop for more sports bras to wear under my tank tops, and for those with a bigger bust, it's often hard to find sports bras that can stop all that unnecessary movement. So far this sports bra had good reviews, and the pricing is fairly reasonable. And it also never hurts to even add a few padding to your shopping list too, because sports bras can also look good on its own, but some bras don't come with padding, which can be a cause of concern.

Wow, it's been a while since I talked about apparel in my blog at all. Hope you had fun browsing and swinging around online!

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Reflections: 2012 Wrap-up

It's been my most eventful year thus far. Other than the fact that I started this blog around the end of May this year and got into a dance scholarship, it's also the year where I forged new bonds with people I have least expected to have as well. From the salsa team to my current dance scholars, this is a year I won't forget for sure.

Swinging Salsera wrap up

Major events in 2012:

My first salsa dance class and salsa social, ever. I had a good time dancing with guys who were beginners like me (or maybe even advanced guys disguised as beginners just to make me feel better.) I was warming up to a supportive community of dancers in Jitterbugs Swingapore, a dance studio that is versatile in dance styles, pioneers of Lindy Hop, and possibly Singapore's biggest dance studio ever. You can't miss it, it's at the Basement level of The Grand Cathay. While movie goers are upstairs enjoying their date, dancers are downstairs plotting to take over the world practicing hard for performances.

I was introduced to west coast swing during March, but only started taking lessons in April. I recall getting my first west coast swing social dance either at the end of March or early April, and of all the details I could remember, I remember dancing in close hold to the song Hate that I love You by Rihanna. After that I was slowly introduced to the idea of tension in west coast swing, and they felt different than salsa. Usually salsa's tempo is really quick, so the push and pull is always easy to miss, whereas in west coast swing, you have a lot of stretch in order to feel the lead and follow. Then again, it was my beginning months into partner dancing, so I was still trying to grasp the concept of lead and follow, and how the feelings are completely different in both.

Watching Jitterbugs' Wanna Dance Recital got me pumped to get better in both salsa and west coast swing, and it also got me excited to perform and chip in a few choreography ideas for my tap dance recital. The highlight was definitely the ballet-jazz number with Zelia, Nicholas, Wei Cheng and Yee Shan. It was  hilarious to watch, yet they displayed technical prowess in dance too. A special shoutout to Fen for the awesome choreography.

I revisit my love-hate relationship with solo dances outside of tap as I step into my first Jazz class with Jitterbugs. All I can say is that the teaching here is much different than what I had experienced 5 years ago. But that's maybe because I was in the kids class, and the teacher was probably more focused in fun choreography rather than technique. I probably wasn't that good, technique-wise, in the advanced kids teens class, and I doubt there was any across the floor work back then. This jazz class was a big sucker punch, as I found myself face to face with a crunch routine that lasted for 3 and a half minutes, and to top that off, planks...I was trembling by the end of that class, and I even suffered from delayed onset muscle soreness. But thanks to the support I got, I decided to audition for the Developing Artiste Programme 2 days later, and I got in!

The Dappies before me perform their graduation show this month, and the fresh Dappies and I were backstage helping them out. Initially, I was quite pressured by the fact that their 10% looked like my 60% - their dance technique seemed like an external limb for all of them! But then I took the time to digest and dissect each of their moves, and decided maybe it can be done with practice during a year or two's time. Needless to say it was an inspiring show as well, and I can't wait to go out there to be like them, or better than them. You'll never know, as aesthetics are generally subjective.

This was the month I had most fun with - performing a tap number, bonding with the salsa team, swinging around with the Mosaic people, and then ending it off by putting on weight and losing my hard earned abs. Damn, I had too much fun for 10 days, and I have to get back in shape for 2013. Oh well, at least I think my demi pointes are getting better. My feet still needs to support my weight though, because my arch looks good on tendus, but not on releves. However, I'm still glad to say that I've definitely lived my life fully in 2012.

Here's to 2013, everyone. Keep swinging on!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

5 Things to do while Dance Studios are Closed

The end of year holidays are here! Which means studios are closing and dancers are left to fend for themselves. No space, no giant mirrors, no stage, no training, and more importantly, no audiences and acquaintances to accompany you through the cold, cold, wintery months (ok that was a relative term. If you count rainy days as cold, then my statement was correct.) So what has a dancer got to do during these lonely days, you ask? Fret not, I came up with a survival list that you could take up in order to kill time until the dance studios reopen again next year!
  1. Keep working on your muscles
    It's bad enough that we're going to fall behind on our dancing skills during the inactive months where bears hibernate. So why not keep to a routine to work on strengthening your core muscles (and other muscles if required) and stretching your tendons to reach the splits and whatnot. Do crunches every morning you wake up, scissor kicks, planks, splits, arches, toe-touching, calf and hamstring stretching, you get the catch here. It's just a matter of finding a spot for you to do such things, and imagining yourself in the studio.

    I know it can feel a bit claustrophobic, but don't be fooled. You also only take up a portion of the studio space to do your warm ups and aerobics. Don't attempt any choreography work unless you're abso-bloody-lutely certain your room is big enough for you to unleash your dance lines of fury. You don't want any accidents occurring in your room do you? Trust me on this one, I cartwheeled in my room before and I broke a glass panel, and ended up having 7 stitches on my left foot. It was a sight for sore eyes.
  2. Take dance photos
    If you're travelling elsewhere in the world, you could practice your lines by posing in front of a monument, cathedral, basilica, castle, plaza, or any other place of interest. When I mean pose, I don't mean those silly jump shots that somehow became trendy over the past decade. Disguise a ballet pose as a touristy pose so you don't get stares. I am not sure how I'm gonna do it, but I'll find a way when I go to Perth for the next few days.

    However, if you really must jump, then strut your double attitudes, fan kicks, a la secondes, piques, and the like. Cute poses are too mainstream.

  3. Haunt clubs that play jazz music, blues music, salsa music, etc. etc.
    Places like Blu-Jazz, Tab, Switch play music that are suitable to swing to. Union Square also has places that play salsa music too. So if you're staying in Singapore in the holidays, go grab your dance friends and check out different clubs, have a feel of their music, and see if you like it. Then, bust a move with your fellow partner dancers and then use that to catch the attention of that cute guy/girl standing there with their buddy.

    Some of my teachers also mentioned that there are kitchen sink drills that you could do. So practice those isolations, steps, ballet technique and whatnot. Then you can go chat up the bartender, sway your hips, do tendus, work on grounding your footwork, while keeping your upper body quiet and still. If you get weird looks from people behind you, you're doing it right, but if the barista is the one shooting you the weird look, you know you're doing something wrong.
  4. Spend time with family
    It's pretty self explanatory. If you've been dancing and neglecting your family, it's time to shift your focus away from your narcissistic tendencies - I mean, technique and lines in dance - into your immediate family members. Quality and bonding times are a must during the holiday season. Everybody falls back to their families eventually, and you don't want to sour any relationships with your family members.
  5. Eat, shop, and do things normal people are meant to do
    There are some days we kind of just forget how non-dancer people live: eat out, go on shopping sprees, go to a theme park, grab a book. Now is a good time to catch up with your other non-dancing friends and do some festive shopping and eating and having a good time. You know what they say: get a life! What better time to do it than now.

    But you should be warned: don't get a "life" that becomes too addictive ie: clubbing and bar hopping. Switching back to your dancer mode will be hard when the studio reopens by then. So it's best to still be a dance-a-holic if you're serious about maintaining your dancer lifestyle. I know I will, because of my dance scholarship.
With that, I shall end this blogpost by saying I will be disappearing from the face of the Internet until I return on 29th December. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and keep swinging on!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Reflections: The Pressure to Look Good

It's inevitable that dancers constantly face the pressure of having to look good all the time, especially when they have an audience. They'll feel constantly watched, and have to be vigilant with every move that they do. Any misplaced finger or shaky ankle can break the lines and render their photo-moment imperfect, and they'll beat themselves up for it.

I'm beginning to get this sensation too every time in dance class. At the choreography sections of each class, we are often divided to smaller groups to perform the steps. I feel watched. Although the audience is a small one, I still feel the need to go full out and ensure that every move is done correctly and with pinpoint precision. What contributes to this pressure further is when you know that there are seasoned dancers in the same class as you. It could be really demotivating when your style, lines, technique and expression aren't as good as theirs, as they set the bar really high.

Knowing that you probably won't be able to do justice to the choreography is probably what hurts more. In the more advanced classes I take such as lyrical jazz, I find that my dance vocabulary is still very limited. My body isn't strong enough to carry axis turns properly, I can't do barrel roll turns, illusion turns, fouettes, back attitudes, arabesques etc etc.

There are also times where you feel that you're lost in your head in your dance comfort zone. This is the time when your instructor will probably call you out, "Amanda, turn out more," "Squeeze your inner thighs," "Don't sickle your feet", "Collect your Passe", "Your toes are slightly clawed", "Louder heel sounds", "Sharper movements." These comments abruptly snap you out of the clouds and ground you back to Earth, where you realise your imperfections and have to adjust accordingly. But when overdone and hyper-vigilance switches on, your train of thought catches every imperfection your doing, that sometimes you feel like you want to stop whatever you're doing. But when you're going across the floor, you're not allowed to stop. Sometimes, it's better to let subtle details like your derailing ankles, misaligned tailbone, and stiff fingers slip away, only to come back on work on them at a later time.

The only times when I feel that my comfort zone can exceed my expectation to look good is during my tap classes. Then again, I've been in tap for about 13 years now, so it's like an extended limb to me. That way I can always put on that sprezzatura look whenever I'm in class.

I can only hope that I'm diligent enough to strengthen my core, work the inner thighs, and maintain a correct posture through the holidays. I should probably do some ballet poses and exercises to work on the lines too.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Tips: The Importance of a Strong Core

Having a strong core is vital to most dances we learn. The core is what keeps us from being able to do spins without falling off, hold our pose, and do isolations. It is also where the center of gravity is, and joins our upper body to our lower body anatomically. If your core is strong, you're likely to be able to hold yourself together for complex techniques, and you can have better dance lines in general because you're able to control your extensions.

I personally have a few set routines to do core exercises and strengthen them, and so far, I have felt that my dance techniques have looked better because of my ability to hold the core and position them in awkward angles if the choreography calls for it. But in order to improve and feel more grounded and secure as you turn, flat back forwards and backwards, dip and do aerial patterns, it’s important to keep training them.

Many dancers I know recommend doing crunches to 5 minute long songs, and even planking for one full minute, and then going on the sides to work on the oblique muscles respectively. But sometimes it’s better to have more dynamic exercises in order to utilize your body to its maximum potential and mobility.

Some of these exercises include lifting your legs into a cycling motion as you crunch, lifting your elbows to touch your knees in the process. Then, you can speed up this exercise, but it’s important to keep your legs straight out as much as possible throughout the exercise. The important aspect here is to maintain that power in each set of exercises you do.

There are programs out there that provide more dynamic exercises too. A good example would be the Six Pack Shortcut system. I’ve tried one for my chest and back muscles and the burn is insane, but it’s vital to work on the back muscles along with the core so that poses like the back attitude and arabesque can look nice and well aligned.

Mike Chang is great at explaining the exercises and you can do these pretty quickly, but you must make sure that you’re really, really pushing yourself as you’re doing the exercises. If not, you won’t get the results as quickly as expected.

Make sure you stretch those muscles out when you're done with the exercises. As dancers, we should aim to develop lean muscles instead of bulky ones. That way we can look really graceful and petite, yet surprise people by our strength.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Bite-Sized Story: A Letter To Santa

Dear Santa,

I've become a more productive individual this year, so I hope those are some good brownie points to put me up on the Nice list. And of all the bad things I've done this year, I hope you can forgive me. Like that dispute in a group project that I wish didn't happen, but happened anyway because I was such a non-conformist.

What I want for Christmas this year, is more dance clothes and dance ability. Yes, Santa. I am clearly obsessed with this new hobby (or rather, revived hobby) and would do anything to excel in it. But I don't want this to turn into a competitive edge that would take away the enjoyment of it, and risk getting me into the Naughty list. I also want eventual financial freedom in order to support myself in this hobby, because for some events, it will require a lot of capital in order for me to push my dancing skill to the next level (travelling and all that, you know?)

I also want to make sure that the camaraderie between my dance scholars are maintained, so that whatever we plan for the graduation show, it will be smooth sailing. I wish that everyone gets their opportunity to shine in whatever they're good at. I can sense that each one of us has a speciality, and it is indeed, a gift on its own. Thank you for that, Santa Claus.

Santa, I also hope you like mug cake. It's a new recipe that I've tried out and whenever you're tired, you can grab some of those to fuel yourself again. Yeah, not all dancers have a strict diet unlike what the media shows them. Even the previous DAP cohort resorted to eating McDonalds sometimes, because it's fast food (as in, really fast, which saves a lot of time, and allows me to do homework in between dance practice.)

So Santa, I hope I can get what I ask for this Christmas. My new year's resolution hasn't been planned out properly yet, but I will get to it eventually.

Cordially yours,
Jitterbugs DAP scholar and Swinging Salsera blogger

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Reflections: My tap number with Dance Arts

I still have yet to recover from my performance high (and soreness.) Gosh, that fleeting moment on stage again becomes something that would etch on my mind for a very long time. Although my brain decided to fart at the first verse of the song, the rest pretty much went smoothly.

I wasn't too happy that I was under-rehearsed, but I guess my projection was fine (I think I winked at a couple of kids sitting at the front row, lol) But hey, 10 months of training with the routine paid off quite nicely.

It didn't matter that the hand styling was still pretty foreign to me, it didn't matter that I screwed up a bit, it didn't matter that our entire group was a bit skewed to the left of the stage near the finale. All that mattered is that we sounded so good and in sync, and the applause we had was phenomenal! I mean, yeah, second last item of the show - who wouldn't forget?

I'm going to miss my time in Dance Arts now that I'm fully devout into Jitterbugs. The past 4 1/2 years of dancing tap with them has been fun, and I learnt a lot from the Al Gilbert syllabus there. But it's about time I started pushing myself further and beyond in my tap dance, along with my other dance genres too. Wanna Dance recital 2013 here I come!