Monday, December 10, 2012

Beauty on the Beat 2

Trial Product: Creams and Dreams

Some time ago I was "selected" (yipee) to be part of an Estee Lauder anti-aging eye cream product trial.Pictured here is the product. Was it great?? Yes, quite nice actually, although it didn't turn me into caroline murphy. (pictured below)
When we're not dancing we do love to try new creams, lotions and potions.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Ballet--a new book by Henry Leutwyler 

The new book out on NYCB by Henry Leutwyler has exceptional photos he shot with his Lieca.  His verbal impressions are as insightful and poetic as his images.

"[With this project] I just really went after beauty—that was my only goal. Wherever I found it, wherever I saw it, whatever I thought was interesting, whatever I thought that anyone sitting in the audience would never be lucky enough to see—that is what I wanted to share.”  Henry Leutwyler

Friday, November 30, 2012

Isadora and jooking

I went to Duncan class excited, I
couldn’t wait to learn how to dance like floating fairies or hell bent furies.

It looked simple.
Still how can you make that open legged gallop light as Botticelli’s “Primavera” and strong enough to travel across the stage?  I found myself inside a position and let it go from me. I looked in the mirror and wondered was that me? maybe not, maybe so. I chose not to know. Dancing the Narcissus for me was about feeling and not feeling: knowing your body hard and fast, and then yielding to a moment of flight.

It surprised me how it felt remembered and fresh, alive but ancient. The movement Isadora found and brought to us wasn’t just hers alone. It came from her body, but its source was beyond her. In her book, The Art of the Dance she said she wanted “ bring to life again the ancient ideal, not to copy it, but to breathe its’ life, to recreate it in one’s self with personal inspiration, to start from its beauty, and then go toward the future dance.”
Isadora Duncan, The Art of the Dance p. 96

That’s what makes it beautiful in a way that is so simple it takes you by surprise as you think about again later. When you dance it seems simple and then something happens, a trigger goes off and you feel that you are inside a much larger place. Lois would say Isadora opened up a window. It’s still open, we continue to dance in and out of it.

Alistair Maculay, the dance critic of the NYT, wrote an article a few weeks ago describing how when he saw Lil Buck jooking he remembered a line of Isadora “I have seen America dancing.He felt his notions of beauty art and society were extended when he saw these young LA dancers in rehearsal.

I thought it would be interesting to place clips of these two artists side by side. Examine their innovations, the dance they embody.

The clip of Isadora is the only extant verifiable moving film. It is very short so you have to watch it many times. But look at the utter abandon, the pure lift of the solar plexus and the heart. She yields her body to a great force that runs easy and free through her body. Her dancing body was like a tuning instrument channeling a clear and powerful grace.

In the Lil Buck video I see his desire to embody a form to his own method. Look at the turns with the leg crooked but extended, his feet on a forced point that sides over the side of ankle. His dying swan takes power form the ground and lifts from there and gets almost airborne,  especially toward the end where he see saws and spins into the horizontal mid-plane.

As YoYo Ma plays the music’s sorrow and desire for freedom, watch how it ripples though Lil Buck’s body, elegant and fluid like breath coursing into all the necessary places. Like Isadora I see a body making a dance that is natural to itself and yet in giving over completely to the melding of style and emotion becomes more than that.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Dancing Duncan: Notes on Isadora Duncan article--Coming soon

I had the great good fortune to study Duncan Dance with Lois Ann Flood, a fantastic local Duncan performer and teacher. I am working with Lois on a article on her work and Isadora. In the meantime, here is a tasty video of Anna Duncan, one of Isadora's adopted daughters dancing at Jacobs Pillow. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Intrepid Exerciser and Pelo

The Intrepid Exerciser on Pelo Cycling, 

We don’t have Soul Cycle –we have Pelo. It’s a new Spinning studio near Trader Joe’s at Montecito plaza. 
It’s got state of the art bicycles and instructors all lined up to offer you one of your best workouts ever.  If you ride the roads you’ll see your fitness improve, and if you don’t you’ll feel like, well, maybe you just might …

In a previous life the Intrepid Exerciser (IE) rode “with” the BBC –the Berkeley Bicycle Club. Simply by virtue of drafting and hopping on the back wheel I got to experience just a little bit of the thrill of a pace line, slicing thru the air so fast the sunlight and the shadows blended into the pavement gliding by. So when Living Social offered five classes for $30.00 (IE’s sweet spot $$) she jumped... ready to draft for dear life.

So first thing these bikes are special:  listen to what Alan, the owner, has to say:” ..Pelo bikes are all fitted with sensors to measure the actual power that each rider is generating. It’s a baseline of your fitness and it will regulate how your bike is set up for you.” 

What does he mean? Well Alan does a little look up of you, you tell him how often you exercise, and what types of exercise you actually do (do people really know what “dancing” means? Oh well) Then he goes behind his desk, Wizard of Oz-like, and assigns you a power number. this number is what your bike will be set to each time you come in. 

Well for my first class, Alan was a little too optimistic--or sadistic?? I just about killed myself keeping up: drenched and noodley, but exhilarated.  Meagan took pity on me and put me down a few notches so I could keep up.

Here’s a snapshot of Alan in class:
"Ok everybody, pedal with the beat and adjust your resistance till you're in zone 3. Let your shoulders soften, core strong, toes spread and feet making circles.”  When you do get out of the saddle for an attack, which is a relief after all that sitting, don’t bounce around, stay low and let your butt graze the seat, keeping your core even tighter, hello abs!!

Back to our Alan demo: “ Bikers get 90 RPM, add two gears, ok up for an interval: 105 for two minutes –or 110 for 30 seconds.” The music is Mc Yogi  "Take off two gears and go down to 90. Be in zone 4 or 5 bikers..”

Right about now, dripping and shaky, Alan reminds us, “This is fun, you don’t have to worry about cars or other riders. Concentrate on your form and how hard you’re working.”

Ah yes, this is the all-important- Pelo-point.  All these dials, and the power number system are in place to let the IE gauge just how hard she is working. Now the dancer in me at first rebelled against these “regulators” and especially the three flat panel screen that projects my dial—my workout--- across three sides of the studio.  A dancer is supposed to know how hard she is working: it’s her instrument, and she has to be totally in control of it, handing it over only to a teacher or a choreographer but that’s it. Not to a bunch of dials, one of which is put up on a huge screen for everyone to see!!

However those dials and their readings and their public display all contribute to getting you to work harder and for an hour, that’s a good thing. 

The intrepid exerciser heartily recommends a sprint at Pelo. Jump on the back, who knows you may fly off the front and no one will be able to catch you—Besides, the Tour is up for grabs…

Sunday, November 4, 2012

beauty on the beat

Went this saturday to a facial with Tata Harper,  

   at SpaceNK
 the new luxo-beauty store in the marin mart--

All of Tata's products --Face  this is just one are designed to be a "cocktail of super effective ingredients--not just one" I have to say it is true..

     I especially like the Enzyme Mask

 Me after facial--Noo makeup--Ok so I could have used a hair brush

 Of course I couldn't resist checking their makeup. Wow, the hourglass products are very unique.  Its a cream in the compact--goes on like one and then after you rub and buff,  it changes into a powder--super natural and easy to apply and lasts all day long!! even went for a run and put on sunscreen over it--still looked great!!

I can't wait to get back to Marin mart-- look for new shops coming soon!

Friday, August 17, 2012

ABT-- National Dance Training--Here in Marin

Plie Releve Life is talking to Claudia Alfieri Wallace owner of Fairfax’s newest ballet school, Studio C. 

Studio C   is utilizing a special teaching and training curriculum called National Ballet Technique NBT,  developed by American Ballet Theater master teachers and Director Kevin McKenzie. 

We asked Claudia to talk to us about her unique experiences with the training, her career with ABT and other companies, and finally her aspirations for her newest venture: Studio C. 

Plie Releve Life: What do you think are the strengths of ABT’s NDT program?

ABT' NDT curriculum is different from other schools because it gives the teacher a certain
structure of the fine attributes needed in todays pro companies and what they are looking for these days (artistry, foot work, jumps, turning ability etc) and a guideline of how to achieve those and create those attributes in a young dancer as they grow in a healthy way!!!! 

Right now it's just Carla Escoda 

Carla Escoda
and I who are certified but eventually ALL my teachers at Studio C Ballet will be certified to give a continuous training curriculum throughout the school.

Plie Releve Life: Can you give us some specifics? Can you give us some of the specific methods/ training concepts/ideas you learned during your sessions in NYC at the ABT school?


In training, contrary to what people may think, they don't give you certain steps or combinations to teach. They instead give you philosophies on and the origin of steps
and what different large schools (Paris Opera, Royal Ballet, Royal Danish etc) are teaching and why! And what ABT in particular wants to see and why you need to incorporate different steps and port de bras and movements into your class.

This takes a certain knowledge of professional level ballet to be able to understand and therefore incorporate what they want into your classes. They leave it up to the teacher themselves to explain progression of steps within a class and tie it in throughout different levels. So your teaching can flow smoothly and with thought, musicality and progression. I really like that, they rely on your particular talents as a teacher and what you can bring to curriculum yourself. They'll just push you in the right direction and give you the tools and confidence you'll need as a teacher.

At the end of a very intensive long training you are tested with a written test, one on one discussion and showing of a class structure with the adjudicator. (in my case it was Franco De Vita - Director of the ABT School in NYC)

Claudia and Franco

Plie Releve Life:What are the particular gifts you bring as a teacher given your extensive performing career?


What I have to offer as a past dancer / now teacher- is the same as what I believe made me a successful ballet dancer is the same as what makes me a good teacher...
And that is how much I give of myself! Be it onstage or in class, I give everything I have to offer. Even when I have a class full of students, I engage everyone, constructively
correct, give eye contact and intuitive one on one instruction. I'm able to adjust the class according to who's in there and meet their individual needs as dancers.

At the same time, I don't want to overwhelm students with technique. Of course, dancing is ultimately about moving to music and enjoying being one with our bodies. 
Studio C Fairfax

My class is organic, positive, fun and can sometimes be technically challenging! But isn't that what ballet's about?

Plie Releve Life: What are the advantages to the dancer who trains using the NDT method short and long term.

American ballet dancers are MUTTS. And I mean that in the best way - our training  has been a combination of many different teachers and  a myriad of dance styles.  

But this is actually to our advantage. Pro companies all over the world today need/want only dancers exceptionally trained to be able to conform to ALL styles of choreographers and still maintain the line and technique of a classically trained ballet dancer. Swan Lake one night, 

Mark Morris the next!!! You need to do it all. 


ABT curriculum is the same way, picking and choosing the best technical attributes from all classical training styles and incorporating them into one. I feel very lucky to be a part of this program, it's actually what I've grown up with just put into useable philosophical tools to incorporate into training dancers of all ages and abilities.

Plie Releve Life: On Studio C’s website, you write that you realized it was time for you to “give something back”  and you decided to open your studio. Can you tell us  about your vision for the studio?

Carla Escoda and I have recently teamed up and are opening a new "Studio C" in Sausalito. We will be sharing space with StageDor

StageDor  " Studio C" in Sausalito

Its a 2100 sq ft HUGE studio with massive ceilings, a sprung floor and we'll be using a Marley on top of the sprung floor for all our classes to address any slippery floor concerns. Between Carla, Leigh Donlan and I we will be tag-teaming teaching between Fairfax and Sausalito. We will be opening up our new ballet program in Sausalito on Sept 3rd, 2012!!!

* Our goal is to become an official ABT affiliate school (this may take some time - maybe by next Sept?) 

What that means is someone from ABT will be coming out to our school once a year, accessing our teaching and of course our students and what the levels are.
Our students will benefit from the affiliation with auditions for ABT Summer Intensives and hopefully sending our students, when/if they are ready, along to ABT themselves!!!

Wow! that sounds like a fantastic goal. I can't wait to watch Claudia, the "Studios," and the new dancers grow! 

Many thanks to Claudia for her time and thoughtful responses and for the pictures: all courtesy of Studio C website. Also thanks to Carla Escoda for her photo from her award winning blog  

For another eye witness view of the program read Dance Advantage's article by Deb Young:

Thursday, May 24, 2012

kickbox mania

Ever wondered about those kickboxing classes? Bay Club Marin has several with various names: Kickbod; KardioKickXpress. This entry is a "memorial" for Heather's  last Tuesday 915am Kickbox class. (dont worry she's not gone--just teaching other places--read on!!)

We're assembled in the gym. Looking up, I see several basketball hoops and lots of banners with team names and championships gained hanging down from the ceiling. The floor is shiny oak with red circle markings: half court, free throw etc. These don't apply to us though, 40 women of various ages. The old modern dancer in me is overjoyed: "yeah--no mirrors, yeah--lots of space, lets goooo."

Heather hits the music tower and magically the first song is: "let's get it started..." At first its jumping jacks and jabs. We all try our best to imitate her. When she is boxing the air, it's a real punch. For most of us some punches are real, and some are just hanging out, trying to be tough. But the important thing is, as I throw a punch, and lean forward to kick back, I'm waking up parts of my body and letting them loose. I look around and its the same for  everyone. Our hearts pump, our bodies glow while arms and legs furiously punch and kick. For an hour we are freed and allowed to play with aggressive moves, and depending on the music and however much energy we can throw ourselves into that punch; that kick.

Most of us are working so hard to keep up and remember the sequences: jab--hook-uppercut-retreat--kick front-kick back, that we aren't watching anyone else, or thinking about anything else. That's when we slip into a trance state, an endorphin high.The "work out" becomes a "work in" as you let out-- get out--whatever it is that you didn't even know you were holding in.

Give it a try. Wear some good shoes and let your inner Rocky go. We all have a little of the commando in us. Why not let her out to play?

Check out Heather in her new incarnation:

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

From Studio to Stage: Sat Rep Group Highlights

Joan Lazarus, the Sat Rep Group choreographer is a gifted and prolific bay area teacher and performer. In her classes, especially ballet, she stresses technique as a definite code. But she also encourages each student to discover his or her own version of "technique." I recall her telling me "this is your second position," and showing me where my turnout from the hip really was: at 2:10, not 3:00pm--so to speak. So it follows that her version of performance would be equally radical and include many levels of ability and yet still challenge those brave enough to run the gauntlet.

She summed it up for the audience as her dancers were backstage warming up."What is Sat Rep Group?" She saw it as a natural progression for her dancers. "Class is one thing, rehearsal another and performance yet another." She chose her dancers and the pieces they would perform in order to push each of them beyond their current "comfy-sofa- place" with dance. The dancers took to the stage to show us their journey, building their body knowledge and fusing their passion for dance into a performance.

For me the most successful piece was Romeo and Juliet. The dancers formed two lines each group sparring as they strrode toward and past one another to the the deep bass throbs of Prokofiev.  I felt a defiant freedom in their pointed feet extending like swords as they crossed. Everyone was in union while still allowing for some individual dancing. The strongest dancers in the piece were those who were able to point their foot and move, as if impelled in that direction.

The piece made sense in a contained and logical way as the  dancers delved into the core movements of pointed feet, sweeping legs, a la seconde turns, and purposeful gallant walks.

There was a thrilling ripple as the line moved downstage and in canon each dancer came forward and and did a swooshing turn to the back. The rush of building momentum swept us up with the dancers on their passionate journey.  Beautiful to see!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Studio Time

I am sitting on the studio floor, my back to the mirror, watching my dancer friend Joan G. I am here as dance coach, to critique, to question, to prod. I am here to peer into the steps and ask “Could you do this instead? What are you thinking about when you turn? Why are you rushing  the footwork?" I am not here to choreograph; I accept the steps, the phrases that have been set for the performance. But I  observe her closely, helping her understand how her body makes the shapes. Then we play with what comes naturally and what we can ignite in her body as she moves. I watch. I question. I demonstrate. I watch again. Together we work to make the shapes into clear steps, the phrases into sentences sometimes staccato, sometimes fluid. I tell her what works; what doesn’t and she practices the steps, links together the phrases. I am here to help her find in this dance her own body’s dance.

We cue up the music and the little boom box chugs out Prokoviev’s Romeo and Juliet. The deep bass notes of the opening rock the floor, the boom box jiggles and I sit up taller. I am thrilled to be here again, watching as her limbs take cues; hit the positions. She runs through a few steps and stops, her feet getting caught underneath her.   “Oh that’s not it; I’m too fast. I forgot, that’s not where it’s supposed to be."


She walks to the back of the studio, faces away. I cue up the music and we begin again. In silence, I wait. I remember my own studio years, alone with the mirrors, and I sense her mind's dialogue as it tells her body what to do, firing the conversation like quicksilver. My mind opens, my body leans forward, my chest lifts, my neck tilts. She turns around, I feel the lift of her leg into into a wide, high, second position. I breathe the rush of its downward carving into a backward turn, and the exhilaration as she swirls around, her feet catching up in a little bouree, prancing delicately across the studio.
That was it!