Breathing and Abdominal Strength!

During my Friday night pilates class, it occurred to me that several pilates exercises would also make fabulous breathing exercises for singers!  Even better, while improving my breath support for singing, I can also help get my abs bathing suit ready!  Wahoo!  Two for one!  I would like to share a few pilates breathing exercises with you.

If you are feeling particularly creative, you can incorporate more of your singing exercises into the breathing exercises.  For example, on the exhales sing notes, trill your lips, do an “open mouth hum” (also known as singing “hungggggg”) or practice a section of an aria.  Have fun!  
The first exercise is the Double Leg Stretch.  To make it easier, extend your legs straight up to the sky.  To make it more challenging, extend your legs to 70 degrees, 30 degrees, or even two inches above the ground!  
The second exercise is the Roll Up.  No not the fruit roll up!  The abdominal roll up!  Make sure if the full roll up is too challenging that you watch the second video for the HALF roll up!:)

The last breathing exercise is called (morbidly) The Saw.  If you need to make it a little easier, you can bend your knees OR sit on a slightly elevated object such as a pillow, block, or folded mat.  If you are feeling extremely bendy and flexible, try increasing the distance between your legs a little, but make sure you always keep BOTH HIPS anchored to the floor!

Enjoy breathing and increasing your abdominal strength!


Once upon a time, when I was directing shows not performing in them, I met a wonderful girl named Dina.  She played a magical talking orangutan in a very interesting (interesting can be taken many ways) outdoor one act play I directed.  Dina is a yogi and fully utilized all of her yogi moves to embody the physicality of an orangutan.  The physicality she was able to incorporate is what made the show.  Without her daily exercise routines, she wouldn’t have had such a wealth of movements to tap into.  (She was doing handstand, it was amazing.)

At any rate, she has since moved to California, lucky state, and decided to help share her love of exercise with others.  She has a website called Get Exercised  where she posts yoga poses other other fitness tips you can do at home in a fun and interesting way!  Her goal is: 

Get Exercised began with my desire to teach anyone around the world with web access the most beneficial exercises I know while making it fun and entertaining to watch.

Until I am able to get my camera up and running and post new exercises and choreography ideas, I highly suggest checking out her website.  It’s amazing!  If you are IN California, check out one of her classes!


Next in our SPOTLIGHT series is the gorgeous, talented, and infinitely generous Danielle!

I first met Danielle in ballet class at STEPS where her long legs were the envy of everyone in the class and her cheery hard working personality inspired all!   Though she hadn’t chosen teaching as her profession at the time, she was already working as a teacher at the “School at Steps.”  She asked me to be her teaching assistant for a class of three year olds.  This task seemed incredibly daunting to me, but I was soo gobsmacked by how Danielle made ballet fun and appropriately challenging each of her students, from the one who would rather be coloring outside to the one who would be future prima ballerina.  They were truly lucky students.  (Her students today continue to be lucky students!)

She also has a super power that I can only dream of – she is a FABULOUS TAPPER!  (I am quite possibly the world’s most horrendous tapper.  I have virtually zero sense of rhythm, I’m a ballerina so my feet always want to point and be above my head instead of relaxed and tapping near the ground, and to make matters worse, I’m actually allergic to the metal the taps are made out!  Now if that isn’t a sign!)  At any rate, Ms. Danielle generously offered to help me learn to tap, and I cannot even begin to express how grateful I am for the patience and humor she brought to each of our sessions.   Knowing my unwavering love of THE LITTLE MERMAID, she would even bring in arrangements of UNDER THE SEA knowing that if any song was gonna get me tapping, that was it!

THE BEST NEWS OF ALL is that YOU TOO can take class with Ms. Danielle!  She teaches both Zumba (at Steps Wed. at 8 p.m. and Ballet Hispanico Thursday at 7 p.m.) and Pilates (at Pilates on Fifth!)

Here’s a description of her Zumba class:

The Zumba® program fuses hypnotic Latin rhythms and easy-to-follow moves to create a one-of-a-kind fitness program that will blow you away. Our goal is simple: We want you to want to work out, to love working out, to get hooked. Zumba® Fanatics achieve long-term benefits while experiencing an absolute blast in one exciting hour of calorie-burning, body-energizing, awe-inspiring movements meant to engage and captivate for life!

***(M4M note – Zumba is a FABULOUS way to get into dance, even if you have never danced a day in your life!  We will hopefully be doing a Zumba special in the future featuring Danielle!)


What is your pursued career?  (Singer, dancer, actor, lawyer?) 
I refer to myself as a “Movement Educator”. I primarily teach dance to kids, but I am also a licensed ZUMBA Instructor and Certified to teach Pilates (Mat and Machines)

What are favorite forms of exercise and why?  
I love to move so I try to mix it up regularly! I did a lot of Pilates before I started teaching it but I am trying to rekindle my love for it. I am currently loving Yoga and Gyrotonic. Of course, there’s also dance class- ballet, tap, jazz, modern….Since I started teaching Zumba I have no interest in Cardio equipment except the rebounder.

What are your favorite classes (in any form of fitness) in the city and what do you love about them?
Classes at Sonic Yoga, especially those taught by Johanna Aldrich (she is AMAZING- you will think about your life in ways you might not usually- while you have your shoulder tucked under your elbow and your other knee by your ear-it’s everything yoga shoud be- contemplative, yet hot and sweaty, and flowing and a kick tush workout!)  They also do 6 week beginner workshops regularly for people who have no yoga experience at all.

Barre Sculpt and Cardiolates at Pilates on Fifth– These classes take pilates ideas and meld them with ballet barre work and weights and the rebounder, respectively, and they are fun ways to mix up your routine.

ZUMBA (is it too self serving if I say taught by ME) I teach at Steps on Broadway and Ballet Hispanico, but you can find amazing classes all over! It’s FUN and it is a non monotonous way of doing cardio!

What do you do at home or on the road to stay in shape when you can’t get to a class or the gym?The flexband is your best friend. It’s tiny and portable and makes doing mat work or just toning and stretching exercises more interesting on the road. I also like Its a free service if you want to use it on your laptop, or you can pay to download workout videos to your mobile device. Katherine and Kimberly Corp lead a whole slew of awesome Pilates workouts to suit every need and level.

How do you approach a dance/movement audition and what advice would you have for non-dancers in a dance audition?  
I don’t (audition) anymore, because I’m an amazing teacher and a mediocre auditioner. However, I had the most success at auditions when I was wearing something that I felt good about my body in. (Leotards, goodbye. Hello, Lululemon tank and Skort). I also found that I performed best when I was really relaxed and didn’t get over invested in any specific call. If you put forth all of your energy when you take dance class, treating an audition “like class” in your head really helps. If you take class regularly and give it your all and take risks in class (It’s great to fall on your but in class), you have a stronger arsenal of things to help you in auditions.

The Grapevine and Three Step Turn

Two basic steps you will see a lot at movement calls are the “grapevine” and “three step turn.” You will see many variations of the steps at different speeds, with different arms, different “buttons” or endings, and different moods.  (They can be made “peppy,” “sexy,” “western,” “graceful,” etc.  Play around with them.  See how quickly you can get your feet moving.  See if you can put your arms on your hips, above your head, waving around.  Put on different music and see how Beyonce informs the movement differently than “Grease Lightening,” or a Strauss Waltz.    They are super easy to practice at home!  It’s Sunday!  Have fun!:)


Pirouette Exercises

I’ve received many questions about pirouettes, which makes sense since audition season is upon us and the first question after “do you dance?” is often “can you show us a double pirouette.”  It may strike fear into your hearts, but don’t worry!  There are so many wonderful helpful exercises you can do at home that will quickly improve your pirouettes and make them a much beloved step.

There are many types of pirouettes, turned in, turned out, en dedans, en dehors, leg out to the side, in arabesque, arms every which way, but for today we will only address the classic turned out ballet pirouette en dehors.

This pirouette will be in a passe position with the arms out in front of you, turning towards the leg in passe. has a wonderful step by step description of how to do this pirouette.

What I would like to share are some exercises that you can do at home that will help your pirouettes.  The first exercise is a “spotting” exercise.  Spotting is important because it will both keep you from getting dizzy whilst turning and also give you the momentum needed to complete a turn.  The video below demonstrates the spotting exercise.

The next exercise deals with the “passe” position.  To have consistent strong pirouettes, your “passe” must also be consistent and strong.  The most common problem (that even the greatest ballet dancers have) is leaning forward, backward, or even to the side in their passe position.  You want to have a strong center and keep your torso as straight as possible.  The correct position is demonstrated by Colleen here:

Of course having a teacher or outside eye can help you know which way you tend to lean, but you can also tell for yourself.  If you fall out of a pirouette, notice which direction you fall – that is most likely the direction your are leaning.  If fall backwards, you are leaning back.  If you fall forward, you are leaning forward.  If you fall to the right, you are leaning to the right, and if you fall to the left you are leaning towards the left.  To help compensate or “fix” the problem, think about leaning the opposite direction.  (I.e. if you fall back think about leaning forward.  If you get to a point where you are now falling forward, you took the correction just a little too far, so bring it back a bit.)  Don’t get frustrated, it’s a career long struggle that all those dancers at performing at Lincoln Center grapple with.  You are not alone!
Here is an exercise you can do at home to strengthen your passe position!

Lastly, you don’t necessarily want to start out by working on a full pirouette.  If you looked at an aria or concerto you would break it down into sections.  You can do the same with a pirouette.  Here is how:
Happy twirling!:)*
*While “pirouette” means to “twirl” in French, if you think about “twirling” you will most likely have a really great time, but not a successful pirouette.  So, spot spot spot!:)