9 Reasons I’m a Thankful Dancer

Dancer loves to dance

As we approach Thanksgiving I am moved to recall past events or routine encounters in my daily life that make me grateful I’m a dancer. I’m sure that dancers everywhere appreciate the values that dance, and especially ballet, instill into them. I’m grateful that dance taught me to keep trying until I figure something out, to be on time (if not early) to any appointments, to be patient with myself and others, to notice the beauty of things all around us, to recognize classical compositions and composers, and to keep myself healthy and strong — to name but a few!

Dancer Dilemmas flowchartAre you really a dancer?

What reasons make you thankful to be a dancer? Leave them in the comments!

Here are 9 of mine…

1. One time my dad and I got stuck on the way to ballet in a snow storm and kept frostbite at bay by putting lamb’s wool in our shoes.

2. In 9th grade I got upset over a boy and ate a whole bag of Reese’s cups without gaining a pound.

3. On final exam day I didn’t hear my alarm clock but wasn’t late because I could get dressed in 30 seconds flat.

4.  I’m thankful I can get whipped cream on my hot chocolate at Starbucks.

5.  I’m thankful I can hop up on the kitchen counter to reach something on the top shelf of my cupboard.

6. I’m thankful for the ability to jeté over puddles.

7. I’m thankful to walk into my closet and only have skinny clothes to choose from.

8. I’m thankful that no matter how bad a mood I’m in, hearing ballet music in public makes me smile.

9. I’m thankful I don’t have to clutter my  bonus room with gym equipment; I can just pull out a chair and do barre.

Here’s a bonus one that’s not so weird, but I’m thankful that I know how much work it takes to become really good at something worth doing.

Leave a comment telling us why you’re thankful for dance in your life!

Interview with Carmen Shaw AEDA - The Arts Academy


Many thanks to Carmen Shaw for this interview! AEDA The Arts Academy is a performing arts school based in Nottingham, UK. AEDA launched in September 2013 and has just seen the first intake of full-time vocational students to its ‘Performing Arts Professional Program’. New appointments to the teaching faculty include Bolshoi Ballet Maestro Gabor Menich, Allison DeBona and Rex Tilton from US based company Ballet West and Jon Orton previous vocal coach at Stage Door Manor (and tutor to Lea Michelle).

The school aims to set a new national standard for the delivery of vocational training, taking into account all elements of health and wellness, while in pursuit of professional technical excellence.

What does AEDA stand for?

A – Alison
E – Ernest
D A – Dorothy Alice
My mother , my maternal grandfather and my maternal grandmother. These people have been the biggest support and inspiration throughout my life. My grandmother took me to my first ballet class at the age of 3 years old and my grandfather would work extra shifts at the local coal mine when I needed new dance shoes, an exam fee or private tuition. My mother always told me to follow my dreams and fought for me to be able to take my place at ballet school when I was accepted at the age of 14 years old. For both Stuart and I (AEDA Directors) acknowledging the importance of our families’ encouragement, support and contribution has been extremely significant. Our largest studio the ‘Shaw-Begg Studio’ is named in honor of their legacy.

How long has your school been in existence?

The school officially opened in September 2013 after a planning and development process of 18 months. Although, in actuality I think I had always wanted to open a training facility of my own since my early days at ballet school. We opened with three planned phases. The first of which was to operate as a part-time provider at weekends and evenings. The time scale of our building project didn’t allow for anything more ambitious than this! It wasn’t how we originally hoped to start, but it was a useful process and we used this period to launch our brand, build our reputation, test drive the premises and make plans to achieve the ‘bigger picture’. We realized the second, and for us most crucial, phase in September 2014 with additions to our faculty and the launch of full-time vocational training. The third and final stage of development – our Easter and Summer intensives opening in 2015, will see the completion of our initial business plans.

AEDA AttitudeTell us about the people who founded the Arts Academy. What kind of careers did they have and why did they start an Academy?

I (Carmen Shaw) founded AEDA with Stuart McPherson, a friend who at the time was running his own UK based professional theatre company – ‘Upstage Left’. Stuart came on board as Artistic Director in 2012 and was a driving force in planning the level of tuition the school would eventually deliver. As Executive Director, most of my time during those early days was taken up with practicalities and legalities. We realized that our roles developed naturally and that as a partnership we complemented each other well. Stuart trained at Bretton Hall, completing his BA Acting with Honors in Dramaturgy. He also holds a Masters in Media Production and has extensive directing experience. Alongside developing his individual work, Stuart oversees the artistic vision for AEDA the school and all our students. As part of the wider work we undertake Stuart is also responsible for the ongoing support we give to new creative individuals and organizations. I trained at my local dance school (the Marilyn Baker School of Dance) from the age of 3 years old and at 14 years was accepted at Elmhurst Ballet School. I also studied at the Russian School of Ballet (now no longer in operation). I was privileged to work with and learn from, such luminaries as David Wall, Alfreda Thorogood, Christopher Gable and Dame Antoinette Sibley, and it was in recognition of the opportunity that had been gifted to me that I decided to open AEDA. I danced professionally in classical ballet and performed in musical theater, but always had a passion for the pursuit of excellence through training and it is this that motivates me every day as I work with my own students. [Read more…]

Rond de Jambe a terre 3/4

Begin 5th position R foot front

1               Tendu R to side
2-3           Temp lié onto R (stay in fondu) and tendu L, port de bras away from barre
4               Temp lié to point tendu R, arms 2nd
5-8           Rond de Jambe en dehors 4 times finishing point tendu front on count 8
1               Close 5th position plié
2-3           Releve passé to developpé derrière
4               Close sous-sus back
5               Plie 5th position
6-7           Relevé passé inside leg to developpé derrière
8               Close sous-sus back
1               Tendu front in fondu on supporting leg
2-4           Straighten and rond de jambe en dehors 3 times
5               Finish lifting leg to 90° front (arm to 5th en haut)
6-7           Grand rond de jambe en dehors to arabesque
8               Close 5th position back
1-4            Grand port de bras forward with inside leg front in 5th position
5-8           Grand port de bras back with inverted arm
1-24         Repeat all en dedans
25-32      Grand circular port de bras in sous-sus and balance arms 5th en haut

Teaching Creative Movement

Young dancer

Ballet class with children ages 3-5 is often called “creative movement” rather than ballet class. Then at age 6 it is sometimes referred to as “pre-ballet”, which is when they are usually ready to stand at the barre and learn the mechanics of alignment and ballet positions. Creative movement can be taught many different ways—none better or more effective than another—so I will just share some of the things I did with this age group (and felt were effective) when I was teaching them dance.

First of all, kids this age don’t have a very long attention span! Two minutes is about as long as you can stretch one activity before moving on to something else. I always felt that a 45 minute class was the absolute longest these kids could handle, unless you are combining it with some tap, too. I’d also say that if you have more than eight children in the class then you should probably have an assistant there to help you out.

I structured my creative movement classes more or less the same way each week. Kids do like repetition and it helps them feel more comfortable if they have a good idea what to expect. We would begin sitting on the floor in a circle, wide enough that when they put their arms out to the sides they wouldn’t touch their neighbor. At the beginning you can have them sit cross legged or with the soles of their feet together or their legs stretched out straight in front of them. Sitting cross legged is easiest for them, and when you want them to focus attention on sitting up straight and using good posture through their backs, necks long, and shoulders down, this is helpful. [Read more…]

Pirouette in 3/4


Begin 5th position R foot front en face

1-2          Tombé R, pas de bourrée to 4th position en face preparation plié
3-4          Pirouette en dehors to cou de pied devant in fondu
5              Relevé and extend R leg 45° side (arms 2nd)
&             Fondu supp leg and cou de pied R leg back
6&a        Pas de bourrée entournant to 4th pos. lunge prep for pirouette dedans
7-8          Pirouette en dedans on R to finish L foot front 5th en face
1              Balancé to R
2              Balancé to L
3-4          Soutenu turn to R finish 5th pos. croisé R foot front
5              Tendu R croisé devant
6              Lower to 4th lunge prep for pirouette
7-8          Pirouette en dedans to finish L foot front, en face
1-16         Repeat all to L