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!

SPOTLIGHT ON DANIELLE!

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!)

I NOW WITHOUT FURTHER ADO – I INTRODUCE YOU 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! http://38595.zumba.com/ 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 www.ultimatepilatesworkouts.com. 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.

Spotlight on Cara!

First of all, I would like to thank everyone who is following this blog for following this blog!  Secondly I would like to thanks several of my friends who offered to contribute their expertise to help make this blog more informative.  I sent out a questionnaire, and they kindly filled out their answers.  The first person I would like to spotlight is Cara.

Cara is an inspiration to everyone she meets.  A multi-talented, intelligent, kind, beautiful young lady who truly embodies the “never give up” attitude. You would be hard pressed to find someone who genuinely loves performing as much as she does.  She is also a true role model on how to always be supportive of friends and cast mates.  She has performed with several ballet companies, in a production of Cabaret, and as a solo dancer at the Met Opera!   You can see her in “Great Performances” production of Thais starring Renee Fleming!    She is currently performing in the Vegas Spectacular JUBILEE! much to the dismay of all who miss her presence in New York.  Vegas is a lucky city!

Without further ado – here is her advice for dancers who are just beginning to discover the art form in which she is building her career.

M4M: What is your pursued career?:

Cara: Musical theatre performer (singer, dancer, actor,) dance focus, currently a female dancer in Jubilee! (Las Vegas)

M4M: What are your favorite forms and exercise and why?

Cara: Well, nothing can compare with a good dance class. If I’m having a rough day, class always perks me up. It’s a great workout for mind and body, not to mention your creative side! I’m also addicted to pilates! I can feel the difference in my body when I’m out of pilates for too long. It just makes me feel centered and fit and prepared for my class or performance. Pilates is a great workout that is easy to adjust based on your fitness level or just how you’re feeling that day.
M4M: What are you favorite classes in New York?

Cara: My fav classes in the city are:
 For Pilates, definitely Robin Powell’s class at Steps! She is such a great and supportive teacher (as well as person, she helped me get the job I have now!) and her class will work you’re whole body.
 Diana Laurenson’s Musical Theatre Performance class at Steps and BDC (Broadway Dance Center) You actually learn Fosse rep from a true Fosse dancer. She works on your whole performance, even encouraging students to sing! She is super nice and takes a personal interest in all her students. Plus it’s a joy just to watch her demonstrate!
 Dana Moore’s Theatre Dance class at Steps. No one is more just plain cool than Dana, and her combos reflect that. She uses her own choreography, but it’s in the Fosse style. I also love her warm up, it gets you all warmed up and feeling good for class (with great music).
 Crystal Chapman’s Tap class She goes through everything step by step and it’s amazing how much she can fit into one class. She’s one of the best pull-back teachers in the city. She gives every student individual attention so even beginning tappers can make real progress.
Debbie Roshe’s Jazz class She tought me to dance to counts (no small feat!) which is a very important skill for dance auditions. Her class is a mix of jazz , hip hop, and balroom, and she focuses on precision.***
Martha Chapman’s ballet class at Dance New Amsterdam lot’s of fun, great for beginning or intermediate ballet students, or more advanced dancers who want to focus on technique.
James Kinney’s Theatre Dance class (subs at Steps and BDC) upbeat and fun with a great combo!

M4M: What do you do at home or on the road to stay in shape when you can’t get to a gym?

Cara: I often give myself a little pilates mat at home. It’s easy to do in a small space and a great workout.

(M4M note: Pilates will help you get an awesome bathing suit body like Cara’s!)
M4M:  How do you approach a dance or movement audition?

Cara: First I always make sure that I look the part, so I wear something form fitting that somewhat reflects the show, but not over the top. I also make sure my hair and make-up look polished and nice. I also try to know what the style of choreography is going to be, so research the show or choreographer.

M4M: What advice would you have for non-dancers in a dance audition?

Cara: I think the most important thing to remember at a dance audition is not to overthink yourself. Don’t be afraid or stressed. Stay calm and just think about learning the combo and performing it as taught. Also, don’t have a Chorus Line moment of “Please God, I need this job!” There was an audition yesterday and there will be another tomorrow. This audition will not make or break you. Also, I swear casting teams can smell desperation! Last year, I had a job coming up but kept auditioning, and I got kept twice as much as I normally do! Why? I think because I wasn’t psyching myself out thinking “I have to get this”. Which is not to say act like you don’t care. Have a nice smile and warm personality, but don’t cram it down people’s throats.

****
We are hoping to feature Cara again in our blog in a FOSSE special!  She is truly amazing at FOSSE choreography and will be able to give you some amazing Fosse poses to work on at home.  She was recently features in a production of Cabaret where she stole the show!:)

***Muscles for Musicians note.  Debbie Roshe’s class is amazing, but will probably be a little more than appropriately challenging for a beginner.  

The Pilates Hundred

Hello lovely people out in blog world.

If you are stuck inside due to the great New York blizzard (or any of your local snowy weather – since there is now snow in 49 of the 50 states!)  you now have the PERFECT opportunity to sit in front of the television and work on your core muscles! But how?  And why?

If you are a singer, you of course know how important your diaphragm and core are since they support your breath and sound.  In dance, your core does exactly the same thing – it gives you support.  A strong center gives you the freedom to move your limbs about freely and effortlessly, just as a it gives you the freedom to hit long sustained high notes!  A strong core will also protect you from injury.

I am personally a huge fan of pilates to increase understanding of core strength, as well as your strength itself.  I recently was certified to teach beginning and intermediate mat through Power Pilates.    They have studios all over the U.S. and their system is incredibly effective and easy for a beginning students to understand and follow.  If you belong to a gym or dance studio, they usually offer fabulous classes as well.  At Steps on Broadway, I highly recommend Robin Powell’s class, or Annie Russ and Danielle Pierce when they teach as subs.

I am going to attach a video of me doing a basic pilates “hundred” which is the exercise that most pilates classes use to warm up the body, get the blood circulation moving, and oxygen moving to the muscles.  It is also a really wonderful ab strengthening exercise.  It is freezing outside now, but just you wait until bathing suit season!  You’ll be happy you did it!

A modification is to lower the legs anywhere from 70 degrees to 2 inches above the mat.  The lower your legs the more challenging the exercise.  Make sure that as you do this you always engage your abdominals.  I think that I am “scooping” through the abdominals.  The imagine in my head is that my belly is a very large tub of ice cream (which knowing my love of ice cream may be accurate) and a giant ice cream scoop  is coming down making my abdominals create a “scooped out” shape.  
Well – that was a lovely insight into my overactive imagination.
Now – go get some abdominals!