Your top ten (x2) for 2012!



Today’s post began with one top ten list for students, and by the time it was complete there was a list for teachers too! Taking the time to plan your day or week allows you the opportunity to focus your thoughts and prioritize what you need to do to prepare yourself.  The lists are not necessarily new, breakthrough ideas – but serve as reminders that there are some simple ways we can guide ourselves and our students towards progress and the fulfillment of our potential.



Top 10 Items every dance student should have in their dance bag…

[drumroll please!]

  1. Yes, you need a dance bag.
    • Once you get past the point of your parents coming with you to class and ensuring that you’ve brought everything you need – it’s the best way to keep all your dance things in one place.
    • Parents begin this with your young dancer (even 3 and 4 yr olds) to build the habit of preparing your dance gear (and thoughts) beforehand.
    • And remember, dance bags do not need to be expensive or fancy (nor dance specific), your local sporting goods store will have some reasonably priced options!
  2. A water bottle.
  3. First aid kit.
    • Hand sanitizer – lots of people use studios, which means viruses and germs are present (and they love the humidity)!
    • Band aids – for your fingers, toes, knees, elbows, etc.
    • Tissues- for your nose.
    • Asthma/allergy medications such as inhalers and Epi-pens.  These should also be brought into the studio with you and your teacher should know why you have them.
  4. Hair supplies.
    • Several strong hair elastics, hair pins, hair net, brush/comb, bobby pins/barrettes/clips for the wisps.
    • Tidy and secured hair serves three important functions.  First, it prevents the distraction of the hair being in the dancers face when moving.  Second, it allows the teacher to see the alignment of the shoulders and neck clearly.   Third, dance is about creating lines with the body, essentially from the center (spine) outward to the limbs – the audience (and the teacher) needs to see the lines that the dancers are creating throughout their technique.
  5. Dance shoes.
    • Ideally you want to you find a bag that has a separate shoe compartment, to help prevent the ‘sharing of smells’.  A waterproof bag of some sort is helpful as well – that way if your water bottle/hairspray/ lunch leaks during transport your shoes won’t get soaked.
    • Remember to allow your shoes to dry at the end of your day.  Once you  have arrived home take your shoes out of your bag and leave them out to air dry.   Don’t forget to put them back in your bag in the morning!
  6. Pointe shoe kit.
    • For those that take pointe class, you should all have a small sewing kit in your dance bag.  Needle, thread, small scissors, and  toe tape  should be in your kit.  For students that need to wear band aids it is recommended to use toe tape on top of the band aids so they do not slide off your toes when on pointe, creating additional friction (blisters).
  7. A snack or two.
    • If you bring a dry snack it can be in a Ziploc bag, or if you bring a wet snack that needs to be kept cool try an insulated lunch bag.
  8. Dance wear.
    • Again, its great if your bag has a specific compartment for your dance wear, but if it doesn’t it is best to have a waterproof bag to put your dance wear in at the beginning and end of your day.
    • A spare pair of tights and a bodysuit/leotard is helpful for those days when your aren’t as prepared as you thought!
  9. A lock.
    • This might not apply to every situation, however if lockers are available for your use it is recommended that you lock up your dance bag and personal items during class.
  10. A notebook or journal.
    • Remember those goals you set for yourself earlier this year? Jot them down in your notebook or journal.  When you have a break in your day (between classes or rehearsals, waiting for your ride, in the car, etc.)  read through your goals and make note of where you are at with them.  While you are at it – jot down any corrections that you received today.  Did you understand the correction?  Did you achieve the correction? What do you need to work on next time?

Need extra compartments for all of your stuff?   Go for the simple solution – good old Ziploc bags and containers work very well, for pennies!  Re-useable pouches can also be found at travel stores such as Mountain Equipment Coop (in Canada) or REI (in the US) – equally as inexpensive in the long run.


Alright teachers, you have not been forgotten…


Top 10 Items every dance teacher should have in their teaching bag (or locker)…

  1. A good nights rest!
  2. A body that is ready to teach.  Have you warmed up your muscles before teaching?
    • Before you head into the studio try taking a yoga or Pilates class, doing your own barre or a brief aerobic warm up and a few light stretches.  You will be able to demonstrate more effectively and will enter class focused, energized, and positive.
  3. A water bottle.
    • Reaching for pop or coffee is far too easy sometimes, staying hydrated will foster the pliability of your muscles and joints, and boost stamina – this practice also sets an example for both parents and students.
  4. A small snack or two.
    • Dried or sliced fruit, cut vegetables, a small sandwich, greek yogurt (high protein!) or even a bit of chocolate.
    • This also sets an example for the students and parents, reminding them to bring healthy snacks, and to take the time to eat them during breaks.
  5. Hair supplies.
    • Though I don’t believe that teachers need to have their hair in a bun (for ballet) I do believe that our students can see our alignment and facial expressions clearer when we wear our hair up.   A tidy presentation is key.  If students are expected to have tidy hair then it follows that teachers demonstrate the same.
  6. White athletic (toe) tape.
    • Learning to tuck in your drawstrings on your ballet slippers can be a hard lesson when you are young.   Use athletic tape to secure the drawstrings of your students shoes into the toe of the shoe (after they’ve been trimmed).    Keeps them out of sight, helping children to focus on using their feet rather than fixing their drawstrings.
    • Also comes in handy when fitting and labeling costumes!
    • Here in Winnipeg hockey tape is abundant , it is inexpensive and works just as well as pricey ‘toe tape’.
  7. Teaching shoes.
    • Every teacher has their preference of what they like to wear when teaching.  Truth be told, we need to be aware of the health of our feet as it impacts the lower legs, hips and lower back in particular.  Keep your feet and back healthy by keeping your shoes in good repair and having a few pairs to rotate throughout your teaching week.
    • Check in with your physiotherapist to see if you need an orthotic to be fit into your teaching shoes as well.
  8. Teaching clothes.
    • If alignment is a key element in your class (which I hope it is!), ensure that students can see your alignment as well.  Avoid overly baggy tops and pants.   If the school dress code requires that students be fully covered, then teachers are advised to demonstrate the same.
  9. Music!
    • An Ipod chock full of your entire music collection.  Thank the lord we don’t have to haul around those vinyl LPs or piles of CDs anymore!
    • An adapter.  If you change locations often this can save you from having to sing your entire class or having to dig through what few cd’s you might have available to you.  According to tech-y  advisors they are called a ‘1/8th inch stereo male to stereo RCA male’ adapter.
  10. Teaching notebook/ journal.
    • This probably goes without saying – do take the time to outline your classes beforehand.  Have a focus in mind for your class.  Having a notebook handy proves useful when noting what needs to be worked on next class/week, or ideas for choreography as well.

Cellphones. We all have them in our bags don’t we?   Just a reminder to keep them on silent while you teach.  If you need to keep it at hand due to a family emergency let your school director know in case any parents/students express concern.


Now its your turn – what is the most essential item in your dance/teaching bag?


A gift for you: Appreciate and celebrate, without hesitation

RWB: Zhen Guo Chen as The Mouse King & RWB School Student in Nutcracker. photo: David Cooper

[Guest post by Philly D]

Dance is a form of movement that I am passionate about, so I am so honoured to be a part of this blog and contribute in any small way. In my short time with you I want to simply remind you how valuable you are and offer you a few keys to unlocking that value on your own.  Every day as young people you are faced with many challenges, and that’s why I’m so happy a blog like this exists.  It’s a place that can help you face some of those challenges in a supported way.

When you were a little kid, we often got the message, “you are special”.  However, we’re made to feel like we’re only SPECIAL “IF”.  If we have the right body type, and fit the right stereotype for dance.  Outside of dance, just trying to make it through school we’re always made to feel like we’re only special “IF”.  If you wear the right clothes, IF you hang out with the right people, IF your family has so much money, IF you go to the ‘right’ school, IF you score this many points in the game for us, IF you bring home the RIGHT grades.  From all areas of life, the message we seem to get is that we’re special alight, but there is a big IF attached.

It’s not true.

The truth is, that you are special BECAUSE, first and foremost, simply because of who you are.  The sooner you realize that, the sooner you see it in the people you dance with, go to school with.  When you do realize it, you can reduce your stress and anxiety and DANCE from a more passionate place.

Easy to say, harder to do.

So let me offer you three KEYS to Unlocking The Value you hold within side yourself.


  • It always begins with a little appreciation. When you can actually just stop, see the value in the things that you DO have. It’s to easy to get drifted away in what you don’t have and what you want.  Unlocking your value begins with a little appreciation.


  • This is can be broken down like this, celebrating WHO YOU ARE leads to who you can become.  The problem is that hiding all the parts we don’t like about ourselves is to easy.  We can hide behind our screen names and websites, we can hide behind our clothing, our books, and we can hide behind our circumstance in life.  When you hide who you are, you forget about who you can be.  By this I mean you limit your growth.  Celebrating who you are awakens new growth every day!

No Hesitation

  • You can appreciate, and celebrate, but when it comes time for action, doing what’s right, you can not hesitate.  This key to unlocking your value is all about ACTION.  But don’t overwhelm yourself thinking it always has to be some large action.  Real growth and change happens in the day in day out small action steps.  Don’t hesitate to be a part of your life and see that you are special because of who you are…NOT IF.

Guest contributor Philly D is a passionate human being. He loves to share Mindfulness, Hip Hop and Yoga together in one unified force of uplifting fun. Phil tours his [dharma] Hip Hop Yoga program around the globe. At home, he is a business owner (Moksha Yoga Winnipeg and Minneapolis)  and, more than this, he is a husband and father!


Photo courtesy of Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

Prevention and ‘cure’ for mental burnout…

Mental fatigue (aka. burnout, being in a funk, feeling drained/mentally exhausted) affects all ages.  Multitasking is commonplace in our daily lives, creating situations in which we rarely give our full attention to one activity/individual, and even less often focus on our own needs.   Over time mental fatigue can affect the immune system, our ability to problem solve and concentrate,  our mood and coordination, and ultimately, our quality of life.    Mental fatigue can be a symptom of a larger issue (stress) and can cause issues in the long-term if ignored.

As lover of lists I thought I’d post a short list of straightforward ideas for recharging your batteries, boosting your energy and creativity!

  • Teachers – Take time to BE the student.
    • Find a class that you can take for yourself, try Pilates, Yoga, Zumba, Jazz, Tap, Ballet – anything that  feeds your need to move.  I suggest purchasing a to class card for yoga or pilates so you can attend as often as you like (need).
  • Students –  Give yourself a break!
    • Take a break from the homework and studying, go for a walk outside, or crank up some tunes (with or without earbuds) and have a dance party in your room – by yourself or with some friends.  Take an afternoon off and go to a movie with a friend or family member.
  • Parents STOP. You also deserve a break.
    • Find yourself spending a lot of time waiting for your dancer to finish their classes for the day (after your own busy workday)?   Claim that waiting time for yourself and go for a walk, or bring something to do that is just for you – maybe knitting/crocheting, reading, a movie, listen to some music.  Or better yet, talk with other parents from your students’ class – take a coffee break together!

Claim your Peace this holiday season: When you wakeup in the morning take 10-15 minutes for yourself before you do anything else.  Sit in the silence of your home.  No technology, just silence. Do whatever you need in that moment:  Sit quietly, watch the sunrise, meditate, breathe, do yoga, etc.  And when you are ready to begin the day, make a mental list of what your priorities are for the day (as opposed to a list of everything that must be done).    This can be a great way to begin the day with a sense of calm, cultivating focus inward and on the people/things that are important to you.


New inspirations can also be a great way to recharge. Since beginning AD4L I have discovered some great blogs and articles  that have sparked my creativity as we move into the winter months.    Here are a few…


A Dancers Brain (great dance quotes)

Educating Dancers

A great article on the longevity of Sylvie Guillem.

And for some non-dance inspirations on living simply – Zen Habits.

And a little video inspiration…

How do YOU recharge? Drop us a line in the comment section and share your tips for recharging for yourself and your students/children.

November Newsletter

The focus for this months newsletter is Balance and Alignment.

Our contributors have been busy – this month you will find articles on balancing meals for best performance, attaining physical alignment via the STOTT Pilates method, and using the mental skill of Imagery to balance the cognitive and physical aspects of dance.   We are also very excited about an interview with Rachael McLaren of The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre!

And to help keep the ideas flowing we have included handy teaching tips and ideas for incorporating this month’s topics into your dancers’ training and daily routine.

Here is a taste of what you’ll find.




Continue reading “November Newsletter”

A ghoulish ballet for a ghoulish kind of day…

Happy Hallowe’en AD4L readers.   Below is an excerpt from the film version of Mark Godden’s Dracula:  Pages from a Virgin’s Diary, filmed and directed by Guy Maddin.   The dancers are from Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, this excerpt features the recently retired Tara Birtwhistle as Lucy, and Johnny Cheng as Dracula himself.  Ballet and ghoulishness — perfect!

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Feet, feet, feet, feet….what do you do with a pair of feet?

This weeks blog post is from the physiotherapy team with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, focusing on the importance of taking care of an essential tool for dance – our feet!    Dancers of all ages and teachers should consider the following when searching for just the right fit.  The search may be lengthy, but the health of your feet is worth it in the end.



Foot care:

As a dancer your feet are your most important “tool”.  Proper foot care is vital to avoid injuries and painful feet so that you have an enjoyable dance experience.  And while there is no way to completely avoid irritation or injury, there are a number of things that you can do to minimize the risk.

1)      Dance shoes-

  • Make sure your shoes fit properly, no matter what type they are. Remember too, that your feet continue to grow even when the rest of our bodies stop growing so the size of shoes you wear at age 16 may not fit at age 20. Tip: If the material at the back of your pointe shoe extends more than an inch beyond the end of the shank of your shoe, your pointe shoe is probably too small.
  • Make sure the shoe is still in good condition and not worn out, torn or over stretched.
  • Let your shoes dry out well after use rather than just stuffing them in your dance bag until you use them again.  This helps cut down on odor and reduces bacterial and fungal growth.

2)     Skin-

  • Look for areas of redness on your feet that may indicate areas of excessive pressure or friction that could later lead to blisters or painful joints.  This may indicate an improperly fitting shoe, a worn out shoe or poor technique.
  • Do not break open a closed blister.  Protect it with a doughnut pad and tape.  If the blister does break, use an antiseptic to clean it and cover with a bandaide until healed.
  • Wash and dry your feet well after you dance to protect your skin from infection.  Your feet perspire a great deal in a dance shoe and this warm moist environment is a good one for bacteria and fungi to grow.
  • Keep your toenails trimmed short (close to the quick in the centre) and straight across to the nail edges. Nails cut short at the edges can lead to ingrown toenails. Maintain a consistent thickness to your toenails by using an emery board or nail file.

3)     Technique and alignment-

  • Good technique and body alignment helps to reduce the stress on your feet.  Do not force your turnout or over grip with your toes.  This places a lot of shear stress on your joints and on your skin and can lead to painful joints, blisters and ankle pain.
  • While stretching and flexibility are important in dance, strengthening your foot and ankle muscles is important too.  These muscles help to absorb the forces and loads you are putting through your feet when you dance.

4)     Outside of the studio-

  • Wear good shoes or runners when not in the studio.  A mechanic always puts his tools away in his secure tool box.  Your feet, like the mechanics tools, need to be protected and supported well when you are not dancing.  Avoid long walks or prolonged standing in non supportive shoes like flip-flops, sandals, or slippers.

Following these few suggestions may help keep your feet happy and healthy through your dance season.  Should a problem arise, however, you should promptly seek the advice of your healthcare professional to get it sorted it out early.  In this way, you will avoid a more serious problem that will keep you out of dancing.

Authors:  Kevin Dyck/Janine Didyk/Sam Steinfeld

Continue reading “Feet, feet, feet, feet….what do you do with a pair of feet?”

Empowering Progress



Now that we are all fully into our new schedules for the year, getting used to new classes, students, and teachers,  its time to think about those goals again.  Goal setting can be an effective tool for building habits of excellence in our dance training and teaching, instilling positive habits which will foster the achievement of our goals and ultimate success in dance, and life!

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.  (Aristotle)

In our last newsletter Aman discussed the importance of goal setting and the differences between short term and long term goals.     He discussed several different types of goals including:

  • Dream Goals
  • Realistic Goals
  • Goals of Self-Acceptance
  • State-of- Mind Goals
  • Focus Goals
  • Daily Goals

Each of these are functional and can be incorporated into your/your childs training, and your teaching.   There are some general guidelines to follow when goal setting, you may have heard of them before – SMART goals.

S is for Specific

  • Be specific and clear about what you want to accomplish.

M is for Measurable

  • Form your goals in measurable ways, this will help to give you an objective perception of whether or not you have accomplished your goal.

A is for Action Oriented

  • What actions are required of you to achieve this goal?   What can you do to work towards your goal?  Do you need to enlist the help of  a friend/parent/teacher?

R is for Realistic

  • Set goals that are realistic for you, at this point in time in your training and life.  If its too easy – you may not have the motivation to reach it as you will achieve the goal to quickly.  If its too hard – you may lose confidence in your abilities as it will take longer and require more effort to achieve the goal.

T is for Timely

  • Set a specific timeline for the goal to be accomplished.   You may feel that some goals need to be accomplished in 1 or 2 months, and some perhaps 6 or 9 months.
  • Short term goals are helpful as they can keep you motivated AND be the stepping stones to achieving your long term goals.


Students and Parents:

Working together to form a set of goals for the dance season can be a great way to guide your dance student through the dance year, as well as a way to touch base with them regarding how they see their role within the dance community.  Perhaps this year they are focused on a specific exam or performance, or maybe their focus has changed to the pursuit of a career in dance.   We encourage you to take an active role in your child’s goal setting process and achievement in dance.


Goal setting in the studio can be a useful tool for both you and your students.  Goals can be written down and reviewed from time to time throughout the year providing students with a more tangible way to assess their progress. Students can often have an all or nothing attitude about goals,  with your guidance students can come to understand that striving for goals is a process – just like developing our strength, flexibility, and technique.  Process takes time, and patience.

If Aristotle was correct in declaring excellence as a habit, then exploring the process of goal setting with your child/your students is a positive step towards building (training)  positive habits which empower the student dancer to take an active role in their progress in the studio, on the stage, and in life.

Now its your turn…

Students: Do you set goals for yourself during the dance season?  For school?  What has worked for you?

Teachers: Do you set goals with your students?  For yourself?  What has worked for you?


Author:  Jacqui Davidson

Note:  This post has been entered in the Dance Advantage Circle Time!


September Smoothies


Coming up with new, quick, and easy ideas for breakfast and/ or snacks can sometimes be a challenge.  Considering the number of daily servings of fruits and vegetables that are recommended in Canada’s Food Guide – it can be difficult to get all of those servings in!    Smoothies are a fun and easy way to get your fruits and vegetables (and you fiber too!).

An all around good for everyone treat – smoothies can also make those saturday morning treks to the studio a little more interesting for everyone.  One for the dancer, one for the parent driving the dancer, and, of course, the teachers need energy too!

Contributing dietitian Jorie Janzen has some delicious smoothie recommendations to add to your repertoire of breakfast and snack ideas.   We encourage our teen readers to give these recipes a try – they are so simple you can mix them on your own!   Try your own spin on the mix of fruits – maybe even venture into the exciting unknown and throw in some spinach (you cannot even taste it!) and cross one leafy green off your list of vegetable servings for the day.

You don’t do dairy?   Try soy, almond , or hemp milk!  Do you get enough dairy?  Try using a fruit juice and adding ice to the mix to make your smoothie a cool, fruity treat. Be creative!

In the comment section below:   Share you favorite smoothie combinations!


Quick Shakes for on the Go Nutrition

Friendly Flax Smoothie

Serves 1


1 cup low-fat milk or calcium fortified soy milk

½ cup mixed berries

½ banana

1 tbsp ground flaxseed


In blender, combine all ingredients and puree until thick and frothy.


Very Berry Smoothie

Serves 1


½ cup low-fat milk or calcium fortified soy milk

½ cup low-fat plain yogurt

¾ cup strawberries

½ cup blueberries


In blender, combine milk, yogurt, strawberries, blueberries; puree until thick and frothy.



(Dietitian’s of Canada: Cook Great Food)

1              banana

1 cup         fresh or frozen berries

1 cup         milk or vanilla-flavored soy beverage

¾ cup        lower-fat vanilla yogurt (or other flavor that complements berries)


  1. In a blender, liquefy fruit with asmall amount of the milk.
  2. Add remaining milk and yogurt;  blend until smooth.

If the shake is too thick, add extra milk or soy beverage.



Why, oh why?

Why now?  Well, why not!  It is never too late or too early to begin thinking about the choices we make for ourselves in dance, and in life!     Though today we are becoming a more health conscious society, it is so easy to lean towards the ‘fast food’ mentality in all aspects of life – easy and quick fixes, instant results, immediate rewards.  AD4L strives to broaden our knowledge and encourage positive choices.

Continue reading “Why, oh why?”

September Newsletter

This month we focus on preparation for a successful year of dance. Physiotherapists Sam, Kevin and Janine focus on an injury free return to dance fostered by self-evaluation and physical awareness. Sports dietitian Jorie Janzen dives into the importance of hydration and best ways to stay hydrated throughout the year. Mental Performance Consultant Aman talks about using goal setting to motivate and improve performance. My contribution is an article on creativity and mistakes working hand in hand.

September 2011 Newsletter


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