25 exercises for Dancers using Pool Noodles

Here’s the trailer for my new workshop:

25 Exercises for Dancers using a Pool Noodle

Summer is approaching and water toys are everywhere! During my days as a studio owner in Upstate NY, I often looked for inexpensive props to use for training my dancers in the studio. The Dollar Tree was (and is) my go to for cheap finds for classroom aids. I developed a ton of exercises using a pool noodle to train dancers in everything from Port de Bras to acro alignment. The noodles were easy to “customize” by cutting them to the correct size for each dancer. I used these techniques over the years at countless studios, teacher trainings and master class workshops and decided to create a workshop video for teachers. During this time of “at home training”, the exercises can all be done in a small area and could be a fun and engaging way to train during virtual teaching.

The Noodles are $1 each and you can get at least 2 props for each dancer out of one noodle. It might be something that teachers pick up and “deliver” to their dancers doorstep with a little note to create some excitement about online class and add a little personal touch.

Many of the exercises I have seen being done with a yoga block ( which is also a great classroom tool). I personally like the noodle because the material is less dense than a yoga block. Dancers tend to be overachievers and use counterproductive pressure when given a prop. The pool noodle will bend if too much pressure is applied, so muscle engagement is activated without being overworked.

The biggest struggle I had recording the video was having a student demonstrator. With the corona pandemic, I do not have access to the dancers I normally work with. I have a client, a non dancer, that I work with on acro /gymnastics at her home during the quarantine, but she is a very new, beginner level client. Most times, teachers have advanced level assistants/demonstrators who can make everything look easy and flawless and I was afraid a less polished demonstrator may reflect poorly on the program. But after some thought, I decided that using a new, beginner student could actually be MORE helpful to teachers viewing the workshop. Most of the students they will be working with will show some of the same “mistakes” and my cueing/correction could actually make the training more insightful for teachers.

The workshop is a 30 minute video recording created for dance educators. To access the video content contact me and I can get you registered. I have reduced ALL of my video workshops to only $10 until June 1st, in support of teacher continuing education during our stay at home orders.

The 25 exercises are probably things that you have seen and done before. However, the approach and use of the props I think can shed some new light for both dancers and teachers. There are literally 100s of exercises you can come up with using the noodles, and my goal is to inspire others to think out of the box when it comes to training. I would love to hear some skills/drills others come up with and use! Please share your exercises in the comments.

Who could be the next “Travis Wall”? They might be found at the Capezio A.C.E. Awards…OR BREAK The Floor LIVE!

Break The Floor Productions announced this week that they will be hosting a FREE 2 day Virtual Convention / Competition featuring faculty from Nuvo, JUMP & 24Seven Conventions. This event, April 18-19, will be hosted by Travis Wall. Travis is a dance icon known to both dancers and non-dancers alike for being a master of his craft as both a performer and creator. With most of the nation under stay at home orders this week and off from school obligations for “spring break” I thought it was a perfect time to share with dancers the life changing opportunities the Capezio ACE Awards offers to choreographers, and invite dance fans to check out some of the 2020 Finalists on Youtube.

In 2009, Travis Wall won the Capezio ACE Awards for his choreography “It’s Gonna Be A Long Walk”. Since then he; had his work featured on SYTYCD, is a 6 time nominee and won an Emmy for his choreography, founded the dance company, Shaping Sound, and has been part of countless projects on stage and screen. And Although many knew of Travis from his journey on SYTYCD, winning the ACE Awards was an important shift from performer to choreographer for him.

The Capezio ACE Awards had always been held in conjunction with the Dance Teacher Summit, an annual event that brings together dance educators and studio owners from across the globe to connect, collaborate, and grow as artists, educators, and business owners. The ACE Awards brought out the best emerging choreographers in the dance world to share their work with Summit attendees, and I was always blown away by the creativity, staging, story telling, and athleticism from both the creators and the performers. It is no surprise that this event, which was part of Break the Floor Productions, often led to faculty and residency positions for many winners. Some past winners that you may know include: Al Blackstone (2011), Talia Favia (2014), Kirsten Russell (2015), Martha Nichols (2016), and Mary Grace McNally (2018).

In 2019, The Dance Teacher Summit was held in Long Beach and was different than year’s past. For me, the most disappointing part of The Summit was the announcement that they were postponing the ACE Awards. I did not hear much about the event and thought that maybe it was no longer being held. In January of 2020, I attended NUVO Dance Convention with some of my dancers in Long Beach,CA and found flyers announcing the ACE AWARDS were being held the following week in Los Angeles, so I immediately contacted the venue and got tickets.

Since I did not hear much hype about the event, I was not sure what to expect, and was pleasantly surprised when I knew 3 of the dancers performing in the very first piece. That evening I got to see so many friends (and some of my friends’ children) perform, and I was inspired by the diverse genres, music, storytelling, and staging that each choreographer had brought to share. And although it was a packed house that night with the who’s who in the LA dance community, I felt like the audience, usually of studio directors and teachers, truly missed the opportunity to see some of the amazing choreographers that the next generation is producing.

During this time of social distancing and “online” study, check out some of these emerging artists. Not only do I think it is inspiring for both teachers and students alike, but with the financial struggles we will all face in the coming months, studios may want to consider some of these finalists for guest teachers and or choreographers for summer programs, or next year’s company work. I have created a “Dance Review of the Capezio ACE Awards” worksheet (www.BrendaBobby.com). On it includes many of the pieces that were part of this year’s show. I encourage you to share it with your dancers, and who knows, maybe inspire one of your students to submit a piece in the next show. Maybe YOUR son, daughter, student, friend, teacher could be “the next Travis Wall”!!

Break the Floor Productions is a leader in the dance convention world and is always striving to provide relevant, necessary resources to the dance community. If you would like more information about the LIVE event that Travis Wall is hosting, visit: https://live.breakthefloor.com/about

You will get to see the creative & inspiring Travis Wall, and quite possibly other Capezio ACE Award finalist, winners or performers at this virtual event!

Acro board game: Homework for dancers during social distancing….

This is a VERY stressful time for everyone, and when things get tough our first priority is to stay healthy! That doesn’t mean that students cannot work at home on structured activities. I have put together a little game for dancers / acro students with the focus being on core stability, balance, & flexibility. The board has 25 activities (most are holding postures) that can be done in living room or bedroom. When the board is completed correctly it should take about an hour to complete ( about the same length as a class). All of the exercises can be helpful to all levels of dancers and you can make more advanced progressions if necessary, ie: side plank ( advanced version may have student lift top leg and hold with big toe to hand). Non dancers can also play along: siblings, babysitters, mom, dad…. I will create another for next week should we still need to shift our classroom to home schooling again. Stay positive, and use this time to enjoy the ‘break’ from normalcy.

Private coaching at a glance…

Any Age, any ability.. One on one training to give you the training that is right for you!

IN Home, On Location or in a private studio setting..

ACRO ARTS: guidance in correct alignment, muscle engagement, weight placement for optimal results with safety being at the forefront of teaching!

PBT (Progressing Ballet Technique): Training of the body using props for core stability improvement and proper body lines.

DanceMED Specialist: Using neurokinetic therapy, fascia release and dance conditioning, dancers can gain greater range of motion, sound movement quality, greater flexibility, and correct dysfunctional movement, often the cause of dance overuse injuries or reoccurring injuries.

Acceler8 Train to be YOUR best!

It’s no secret that LA is the place to be for cutting edge commercial dance. Home to the best and up and coming choreographers, dancers in SoCal have amazing opportunities to take class and keep up with the latest dance trends. Many are already working in “the business” . In the age of INSTA everything, the process of training seems to be a lost art, yet is essential to really have a long, healthy, successful career . Seeing this obstacle, I have created a training program for the focused, serious dancer to keep working technique while not missing out on other opportunities. Acceler8 is a 2 hour per week training program using a blend of methods and my 25 years of teaching experience that focuses on proper alignment, posture, rotation, flexibility, core stability and strength. This program is not meant to replace a studio training program, but enhance technical training . The Inaugural Session begins in 2020. Dancers from anywhere in LA can apply for the program. For more information, or to apply for the program, please contact me directly. Space is limited to 8 dancers per session.

Teacher Training Workshops: FACEBOOK LIVE

Over the summer I hosted my first Acro Workshop for Teachers. After watching acro added to almost every genre of dance while judging for Hall of Fame, I decided that I would like to help others use the tools I have learned and developed over the last 20 years of teaching. I am a HUGE advocate of safe training. I know that no teacher intends to harm their dancer, but without the knowledge and tools, acro is one of those styles that can have lasting negative effects, if not taught properly.

My first workshop in August was very well received, and sold out in my small hometown in Upstate NY. After the event, so many attendees asked when I would hold another. I knew that I wanted to continue to connect and work with other dancer educators, but didn’t want to be on the road so much. I had contemplated doing a podcast or vlog, but I wasn’t sure I would reach the right audience without a following, so I decided I would try LIVE facebook workshops.

My in- person event was a very general presentation and I was not able to cover all that I wanted. And to be honest, not everyone wanted the same material. I decided to focus on one specific “trick” for each LIVE session. This way, teachers can sign up for only the information they are looking for. This structure allowed my to make it very affordable and cover alot of material in one hour. I knew that dance teachers have little “extra” money, but I wanted to charge a registration fee to create some accountability for those registered. Keeping the fee to $15 per workshop seemed fair and allowed me to cover my time and expenses as well. My first LIVE event I sold tickets through Eventbrite as well as Venmo. I decided to try the venmo exclusively this time, because it is easier and costs me less. I may decided to use eventbrite agin the future when the attendance is too much for me to handle independently. I still wonder if people felt more secure when using a ticketing vendor, let me know below which registration method you would prefer.

My first LIVE event was September 13, 2019 on Cartwheels and Side Ariels. I expected maybe 5-10 people to sign up. When over 25 people (from as far as Germany and Australia) registered for that first event, I knew that I was filling a void that was needed and got the bug to create more events. Digitally I am somewhat slow, but doing the event via a private facebook group LIVE was the easiest way for me to get started and for participants to engage. I hope to learn and grow so that I can eventually host these events in a more professional platform, but for now Facebook is working. ( IF it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it).

My second event is Oct 4, 2019 and focus is back bending and back handsprings. I plan to offer these live workshops as long as there is a demand for them. IF you have a topic you would be interested in discussing in one of these live workshops, drop a comment or email me!

Summer reading lists for teachers: Personal Development, Business guidance and relationship insight.

What’s on Your Summer Reading List?

Reading? Who has time to read these days? And while its true reading does take time, modern technology has made reading something you can do while driving, cooking, or getting ready for your day. Taking time to invest in yourself and your business can be done right from you smart phone or tablet and might just be that thing you needed to take yourself, your relationship or your business to the next level.

Remember at the end of the school year, when you couldn’t wait to be homework free, then you were hit with the dreaded Summer Reading List? I never enjoyed reading and rarely got through more than one or 2 books on those lists each year. But as I became an adult, I discovered audio books and it changed my life. I began with a personal development book that a friend “gifted” from Audible. I always hated the idea of self help, but the term personal development was a title that I found more positive and acceptable. I started the audio book while driving in my car. Instead of  music, I could listen to a chapter or 2 each day just running my daily errands. After that first book, I was hooked. Not only for personal development, but for business development and relationships as well. 

As a studio owner, I often took it to heart when a student left or a teacher decided to quit. I was constantly questioning myself and wondered if I was getting any of it right. I struggled to view the studio as a business, and consequently did not make a profit the way a business should. So after that first book, Eat That Frog, I started to look at other titles that I identified with. I joined Audible, a subscription based app for 1000s of titles at your fingertips. After nearly 3 years as an Audible member, I thought maybe there are others that needed that gift that I got years ago. So if you don’t have your list, here are some of my personal favorites to get you started on your summer reading.

Because I often did not think of the studio as a business, I was often robbing Peter to pay Paul, and dreaded the summer like the plague. Shifting my mindset and thinking more like a business woman made a huge difference in development and productivity.

Some of my favorites on Business Development & Productivity:

The Entrepreneur Rollercoaster

The 12 Week Year

Eat that Frog

The Power of Habit

Dare to Lead/ Daring Greatly

As most artists are, I was very critical of myself.  Although I seemed like I had it all together from an outsiders perspective, I constantly questioned my abilities as a businessperson, artist, educator, and parent. Is easy to feel alone and insecure and these things are often taboo subjects, but reading and hearing other people’s experiences and perspectives really helped me regain confidence in myself and all areas of my life.

Some of my favorite Titles on Personal Growth & Development:

The Gifts of Imperfection

Girl Wash Your Face

The Secret

Rising Strong/ Daring Greatly

Relationships are one of the most difficult things to manage. Relationships with parents, students, staff, family, community members, peers and haters really can push your emotional boundaries. These 3 books by far, have changed the way I live and view interpersonal relationships and because of their powerful reminders I re read these books several times each year.  Some of my favorites on Interpersonal Relationships:

The 4 Agreements

5 Love Languages

Braving the Wilderness

I find Audible a great tool that is convenient and easy to use. They have a great program that allows members to gift a free book to friends who are not yet members. I would love to share one of my favorite with you, so leave me a comment or message me and I will send you your first (hopefully of many) audio books you can add to that summer reading list!

Do you have a favorite book that you would like to share?  I would love to discover more titles in the personal/business development area. Drop a comment below, and I will check your must reads this summer too!

And the winner is… a judge’s perspective

Let me first start out by saying that dance competitions at their core are opinions of the people sitting at the table on that day. Because every judge has their individual preferences, it would be impossible for me to give you a tips with 100% success in creating winning routines. 

You might be asking yourself :

Why should I listen to this one perspective then, and to those people I say, maybe this isn’t for you.  Some teachers are very “offended” when it comes to someone else telling them how to do their job. The idea that they are not the “expert” in their own business may create insecurity or fear for those individuals. And for them, this talk may not be for them right now. Or maybe they are getting the results they want with the feedback and critiques they feel are useful and worthwhile. If you find yourself in either situation, then maybe this isn’t for you. But maybe my perspective might help understand the “HOW” of judging.

Before you decide to continue investigating my perspective, let me tell you I have been on BOTH sides of this table. Aside from being a studio owner for over 20 years, I grew my studio from a VERY recreational studio to a national award winning team. In my early years as a studio owner I was very concerned with how others viewed my talents as a teacher and a business owner. The first 5 years of my studio I didn’t even take them to competition because I was afraid that others would base my knowledge and ability as a teacher on how my students performed/placed. 

In years 5-10 as a studio director, we attended competitions and had mild success but not the stellar moments I wanted for them ( and lets be real, for me too). In my early days as a competitive teacher, I would try to put in the hardest things they could “do”, even if the success rate was 50%, cuz 50/50 odds aren’t too bad… Other logic I had was, if I put  hard things in the dances, it validates me and my knowledge as a dancer. I would make the routines as long as the time limit allowed thinking that the more stage time the better.  I would pick music that were “my favorites” regardless of the dancers age/ability because if I had to listen to that song 300,000 times this season, I better damn well like it. Then there was the costuming & props….I would stay up nights trying to be as “creative” as I could dreaming up these extreme props and costumes.   I taught every genre of dance, but you know the saying: jack of all trades, master of none…And well,  let’s just say I could have taken a few lessons myself is some styles. 

Then, year 10 for my studio, I was asked to judge for a few very respected competitions. That was when I had my CTJ, (come to Jesus) moment, a term that I have adopted from the brilliant researcher Brene Brown. As I was sitting there (sometimes for 15 hours) watching dance after dance and looking at these dancers I had never worked with, met, or had an knowledge of their “story”; I was being asked to watch them, give feedback,  and score them based on that one performance. 

I started to watch and  consider HOW I  rated each routine. I begin taking mental notes about the things that would affect my ability to score the routine high. I became aware that when a dancer was struggling with the routine & moves, critiques were basic, because there was just so much to fix that I didn’t know what to focus on to make better. 

My last 10 years , were by far,  my most successful as a competitive studio owner. We began to build a reputation of excellence with dance pieces that were the right fit for the dancers that were cast in that piece. 

Now as I judge, nearly 25 years after first opening my studio, I try to give critiques that can help the dancers /teachers not only tighten up the dance, but suggest exercises to improve on some of the things that need work.

Sometimes giving these type of critiques are difficult because of the routine, not necessarily the dancer. So here are the things that not only myself, but many of my colleagues that judge feel can create a stand out performance:

  1. Keep it Short (2 min for solos, 2:30 for groups). Competition days are long and after watching 100 contemporary solos, we don’t need to see your turn sequence for the 3rd time. Do it once, do it right, and call it day. You should leave the audience wanting more, not checking their program to see what’s next. Which leads me to my second trick of the trade…
  1. Only put in the things that the dancer can do with proficiency 90%of the time. Meaning if they can do an Ariel 9 times out of 10 in a row, and nail it technically then its a keeper. Not only will the dancer feel less anxious about doing it on stage, but it also allows the judges to give helpful feedback. Now I don’t mean that you should hold dancers back from trying that double turn, but practice in class and perform the part of it that you think you are doing well (even if its just a balance in passé). Teachers are asking us to judge the dancer’s skills and provide feedback to improve, but the actual teaching of the technique is the teachers job, not the critic. You don’t get “bonus points” for attempting something way beyond your training. Truth be told, if your dancer practices the basic way often, it will help both you and the judges give pointers on how it might be better. Those small adjustments to the basic move will translate even faster to the more advanced version with repetition. As a judge, if a dancer is doing a triple pirouette and it’s clear they don’t even have the foundation for turns, then giving feedback is overwhelming and the “go to” corrections like point your feet,  are the only definitive things we can say. You are asking us to judge these kids honestly and fairly, so show us their best, not work in progress. In an academic comparison, just because you took Pre Cal does not mean you’re ready for  AP Calculus. And this is why the next tip is so important.
  1. Choreograph to the dancers age & abilities. Although different regions of the country have varying opinions on appropriateness, you never know what region the judges are from. If you even have to ask “is this too much”, then error on the side of caution and go in a different direction. Not only for your dancers, but for your studio’s reputation. If you feel your product is appropriate then go with your gut, but remember you are asking for someone else’s opinion and be willing to hear their perspective and accept the outcome of various opinions.  This is true for costuming and music as well. I am not a conservative by any means, but I have witnessed dances that made me uncomfortable watching. Please edit your music. We all know what the song is saying, but that doesn’t mean EVERYONE does that is in the audience, and your studio’s reputation is on the line when profanity is blatant. 
  1. A clean dance is appreciated over a difficult dance. I understand that choreographers are artists, but if the dancer’s execution is not clean and together, then it is difficult to even focus on the theme or story behind the movement.  When a dancer can execute a routine with confidence, then it becomes a true performance, not just movement. A clean, cohesive, confident performance is generally well received by the judges.

I hope you find my insight a little helpful moving into the next dance season. Winning isn’t everything, so don’t focus on the prize but the progress you can make by entering competitions. Let the judges help you improve your craft by giving them material that shows exactly what you can do and hopefully they can provide tips for taking your student’s dancing to the next level.