Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

My dear readers,
I hope you all have a very Happy New Year! I know 2010 will be a great year! Do you have any goals or wishes for the New Year? Here are a few of mine...

1) Grow even more as a teacher and a person. I have made HUGE strides this year, but I know I can push myself further!

2) Become Certified in Teaching Children's Yoga- This year I will finally take the workshop at Karma Kids Yoga in downtown NYC. I have been saving my dollars and looking forward to adding creative yoga to my toolbox!

3) Attend Dance Teacher Summit, and NDEO conference this year. I want to be as present in the world of dance education as I can. Meeting and learning from new teachers will only make me a better one!

4) Get 100 followers on this blog! Dance Educators Rally! We can do it right?

What about you? It seems that I always have a goal, when I meet one- I move right on to the next one. What are your professional goals this year? I would love to hear...

In the meantime Happy 2010!

(photo by Kathleen Rose O'Hara)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Brain Compatible Dance Education

Look what my boyfriend (Dan) got me for Christmas! The Anne Green Gilbert book about Brain Compatible Dance Education! I have wanted the book for so long! I can't wait to read all of the good stuff in here and share it with you. I wrote another post about it a while back, you can find it here.

Have any of you read about the brain dance yet? If not I will post more about it in the coming weeks. I just got it last night and if I wasn't so tired from traveling yesterday I would of stayed up all night to study it! I am so happy that other dance educators are writing books full of tools to implement with children in the dance room! Now to start reading and planning my classes for next week...Yippie!

(Thank you Dan!)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Looking Back on Dance Costumes

This week I had the urge to get out my old costumes out from when I was little. Oh my goodness was that fun! And to my surprise, I could remember what the songs were too! Do you ever have the urge to reminisce about your dance past? If you still have yours, you should try it!

My very first costume, Bunny Rabbit Blues...
Popcorn Machine...
My first ballet costume...
Hobby Horse... (I was also a leader this year for the babies)
Surrey with a Fringe on Top...

And there were tons more! How do you feel about a year end show and costumes for kids? I really love the way Mark Morris does their school. No show, and no costumes, just parents day. It has a very different feel. There is no pressure for teachers, students, or parents. I also know that having costumes and year end shows is a lot of fun and something to look forward to. Now what to do with all of these costumes.. I have at least 50!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Celebrating Dance at Christmas

When I arrived home on Tuesday to my parents house, I was admiring the tree they had so lovely decorated. I quickly noticed how many ballerina ornaments were on the tree! I realized that over the years I have collected a great amount of dance ornaments. (At least 10) It makes me happy to see dance a part of decorations on the family christmas tree. Here are some of my favorites... others were to high up on the tree for me to get a good picture. Do you have dance ornaments that are special to you and are part of decorations at Christmas?

Below is a gift my brother, Kevin got me for Christmas! I always loved this quote! Of course I can't take it back with me on the plane... but I look forward to hanging it in my school someday! Won't it look nice in the waiting room or the studio? Thanks Kev!

Did any of you get anything for Christmas that you can use in your classes or for your business? What was your favorite gift? I would love to hear!

In the meantime movecreateeducate...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Class of 1

This week, because of the holidays, I had very low turnout in my classes. It got me thinking about what the benefits are to teaching just a few students or just one student. This doesn't happen very often, so I take advantage of it. Here are some things I tried this week.

1) Change the structure + more fun!- If there are only a few students I usually try to throw out the structure the class is used to, and do something completely new that I have never done before. Example- In creative movement we danced a picture book (which is harder to do with a larger class, but with just a few students there is more room and more concentration.) They loved it, after that we danced and sang to holiday music from the piano. They left with smiles!

2) Practice- In tap class, I had one student this week. We worked on a few steps she was having some trouble with and broke down the combination to make sure she was getting all of her sounds in. I then taught her about what a choreographer does, and told her that she could help me choreograph the next step and help me pick the music for the next dance. It was really fun, and she loved it too!

3) Talk- I find with a large class it's hard to get to know my students the way I would like to. Knowing just a little bit about their life and their personality, I believe helps me to be a more engaged teacher and leader. In a one on one environment I can ask them questions or take more time to listen to their ideas.

Teaching a small class makes for great new opportunities with your students. What do you do different when you have just a few students show up? Anything special or different? I would love to hear!

In the meantime movecreateeducate...

Shea Socks

One of my students got me these for the holiday! I tried them out last night, what a great gift! They make your feet so warm and soft! And the shea butter lasts up to 25 washes! What a simple way to pamper yourself and make your feet feel good after a season of teaching dance! Go get a pair!

(Find them at Bath and Body Works, $7.50)

Friday, December 18, 2009

3 Tips for Working with a Live Musician

Do any of you teach classes where you work with a live musician? I work with a live pianist every week for my creative movement classes. I have worked out some kinks and thought I would share some tips with you!

1) Build a relationship- First and foremost build a friendly relationship. Since I have worked with the same woman for 3 years now, it is important that I maintain a relationship. I ask her how her weekend went, how her other jobs are going, etc.

2) Exchange Ideas- I always love to hear the ideas she comes up with. Since she is looking at the dance class from the music perspective, I think listening to her feedback and ideas are essential for the class. I love that every week she comes in with new music and not just any music, but music the kids will enjoy and recognize! They really love it, and look forward to it. If she isn't sitting at the piano right at the start of class, they say "where's the music?" It's almost like they refuse to dance until they can hear the music!

3) Teach the kids to Respect- It is important to me to let the kids know that the musician is part of the class. We say "HI" to her at the beginning, tell her what we plan to do for the day, and then of course on our way out we say "Thank you. " I know this is teaching the kids an important lesson, even if they don't see it now. They will remember it down the road, and always remember to thank the musician if any of them move on to be professionals some day.

Do any of you have any ideas or something creative you teach your kids about live music? I find live music really enhances a dance class, I miss it when I don't have for my other classes during the week. If you are lucky enough to have one, make sure you are thankful for them everyday!

I would love to hear your thoughts on this!
In the meantime movecreateeducate...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Maria's Movers Creative Movement

Here are some pictures I wanted to share taken of my Tuesday creative movement class. These 3 year olds are so much fun! I hope you enjoy them!

Tic Toc Clock...

Bean Bag Bop...
Surprise Face!...

(Pictures by Kiasa)- Thank you!

P.S. More pictures of little ballerinas to come!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ok, so I know this is the second video I have posted today... but I have to share this one! I just love it! This is the 5678movie, created by the co-founders of to inspire and advocate the importance that dance education has in the lives of people all over the world.

Thank you to Suzanne Gerety at Dance Studio
Check it out!

In the meantime movecreateeducate...


Legion of Extraordinary Dancers! WOW! Amazing!
I enjoyed watching them on SYTYCD so much last week, I just had to post the video in case you missed it!

(Video From Fox)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Mommy and Me Ballet- Help!

My dear readers,

I need some help! Are you up for it? I am putting together a creative ballet mommy (daddy-nanny-sister-grandma) and me class for 2 year olds! I have some ideas and can of course use some of the material I offer in my independent ballet classes, BUT I am wondering if any of you amazing dance educators have done or are doing a class like this? I would love any advice you can offer on what worked and what didn't work. Even though it's called creative ballet, I am aware that most of the activities are creative based with the ballet infused inside.

I think what I am most afraid of 1)Transitions. Moving from one activity to the other, from one spot to another as a group. Any ideas on how to make this smooth? 2) Incorporating the adults. Do you think they should do movement as well or should just be there to guide the students and keep them on track?

Thank you in advance for any ideas you can offer. 2-5 year olds are my speciality, and I want the class to be really great... but I think this might take some trial and error to figure out what is challenging, educational, and fun!

In the meantime movecreateeducate...

(picture by Rafael Concepcion (RC))

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Look into my Plan Book

I am interested to find out how other dance educators do their planning for their classes. On a busy week I teach up to 25 classes a week. I teach so many varieties of dance and such a age range that sometimes it's hard for me to keep up. I feel sometimes that I am all over the place. This year I tried 3 new things to help me organize-

1) Get a plan book- color code it- write what you do for each class, so next week you can look back and remember what you did. (it's impossible for me to keep it straight with out this) I also believe this is a great way to keep track of your curriculum and see where new ideas can be added in.

2) Pick a Theme- I have tried incorporating a theme into each week. For example: shapes, pathways, breath. Or a book, such as Where the Wild Things Are? Or a specific creative new song to introduce. I find this keeps me from having to many lessons in my mind and gives a base to build off of for the week. No matter what age try to incorporate the theme you pick into every class throughout the week!

3) Gather Ideas from the kids- I find that the kids have the best ideas. They have favorite songs, books, and props that they are so excited to explore. My favorite is when they tell me about what they are learning in their classrooms and can connect those ideas to movement!

What about you? Do you use a specific way of planning to help you organize your classes? I would love to hear since these are new ideas I am trying out, but would be willing to try out anything else that might help!

Thanks for reading! In the meantime movecreateeducate...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Holiday Gift Guide 2009

2009 has been a great year for me as a dance educator and now I believe I can call myself a dance blogger as well. Since I started blogging, I have felt so empowered to share my ideas with you. I also now know that it is alright if something isn't working in class; I realize that teachers are the hardest on themselves. The best outlet for me is that I can come straight to the web and someone somewhere has written about it. So today I decided to put together a gift guide for everything and everyone dance in your life. There is something on the list for your students, your dance teacher, your dance colleague, and your children. I have also put some materials on here for you (the dance educator) if you happen to be looking to spruce up your classes or your classroom! I hope you enjoy browsing through it as much as I loved putting it together!

Move n' Grove Kids
Creative Dance videos for kids! 3 pack DVD collection.
(side note: the woman (Deborah Damast) in the videos was one of my professors in graduate school at NYU)

Ballet Knee High Socks by Sugar and Bruno
I would love a pair of these! Have you ever seen anything like it? So cute!

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barret- Barnes and Noble
I love using this book in Creative Dance class! Have you tried it yet?

Creative Dance for Learning: The Kinesthetic Link by Mary Ann Brehm and Lynne McNett- Barnes and Noble
I have a ton of books on Teaching Creative Movement and this is another that is on my list.

Degas Wallet by Ballet Boutique
Wouldn't your best girl love this wallet?

Wrist Ribbons from Lakeshore
I use these everyday and they are a lifesaver (different colored ones!)

Kids Yoga Mats from Yoga Direct
For your littlest Yogi!

Nutcracker Notecards from Ballet Gift Shop
So unique and fun!

So there you have it! Is there anything you would like to add? I would love to hear!

In the meantime movecreateeducate...

Friday, December 4, 2009

1st Grade Fairy Tales

As a teaching artist for New York City Ballet I visit public elementary schools around New York City and introduce them to ballet. It's a great program, just this week all the schools in the program went to Lincoln Center and got the opportunity to see the Nutcracker! In the program the students write their own Fairy Tales and my job is to collaborate with them to come up with ballet and creative movement to tell the story. Yesterday, I visited 1st graders in Queens and they had characters and settings for us to explore together. I thought I would share with you how we infused ballet and made the story.

Look at this dark and scary forest! What comes to mind?
In one of the classes the setting was a dark and scary forest! I mean just think of all the movement images that you can think of when you hear those words. The kids had so many ideas- 1) growing slowly into releve 2) making a trees shape with arms and legs as branches 3) wind- swaying back and forth 4) storm-turning 5) breaking branches to fall to the ground
* Helpful Hint- I used my drum to help them make a mini-dance out of it, the sounds really help them remember the order

We then thought of animals that we would find in the dark and scary forest. They thought of a hungry fox, hungry wolf, bats (this one is super fun, we flew around and then we slept upside down) rabbits, snakes, owls and many more. I made sure we exhausted many of the movement these animals portray. They learned so much about the animals. Some of the students were naming animals that lived in the Jungle. That was a great opportunity for us to talk about animals that live in the forest vs. animals that live in the jungle! (Science lesson in a Ballet lesson, wow!)

Now look at these vegetables! What shapes do you see?

Another one of the classes wrote a story about a vegetable garden! (this is a new one for me, but so incredibly creative!) We made shapes of all the vegetables, even cilantro! There was a bird in their story, so we became a bluebird, peacock, crow, and a dove. It is a challenge to make them all look different when they are all the same animal. Next week we will put the vegetable shapes in rows to make it look like a garden. I can't wait to see what else this story brings.

After we were done exploring the movement and shapes in both classes, I split them up into two groups. This way, 1) I can teach them how to be a good audience 2) they can watch their classmates and see what the dance actually looks like. I told them to watch for any ballet movements they might see. They saw a lot of ballet and thought that the movement looked exactly like what their story was about!

Can you tell I love this? Leave a comment and tell me one activity you did this week that really worked and that you loved! I would love to hear!

In the meantime movecreateeducate...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy

Today in my baby ballet class, one of the girls brought the music Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. Her mom had e-mailed me and told me they had been watching So you think you can dance and that song came on. Mom was singing and dancing and her daughter couldn't believe that she could sing and dance. Mom's words in the e-mail -"you should of seen her face." It gave me the idea to have a dance party! Today at the end of class I invited the mom's and babysitters in to have "free dance." It was so fun and everyone left smiling! What a great day to be a dance teacher to the littles!

Have you done anything in your classes for parents to join in and participate? I am looking for more ideas since it was so much fun!

In the meantime movecreateeducate...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tools for the Toolbox

Greetings from Cleveland, OH! That's where I will be blogging from this week for the holiday. On my way last night on the plane I was doing a review of my classes from last week and this week (since it was a short week) I realized that I have been making some breakthroughs with my kids and incorporating some new and different stuff that I haven't used before. The good news is, I have been expanding my toolbox and not even know it. I would like to share them you incase you find yourself stuck for ideas at the beginning of December!

1) Head- shoulders- knees- and toes backwards- Have you ever tried it? It's not so easy, and the kids are better at it than I am! Always do it forward first and then for an extra challenge see if they can do it backwards!

2) Teach Skipping via a book- I have a book called READY-SET-SKIP... they love the book and it has so many action words in it like leap and creep and hop. By the end it has them skipping (or attempting to) and they seem to love it! I love it to because it really works!

3) Turn a beanbag into a telephone- this is the cutest and most fun! We turn the beanbags into a phone and we talk to each other about our day, or sometimes people call us! The whole class does it at once and it's so funny to hear all the conversations that three year olds have the phone. So fun!

4) Reverence- I taught my 2 and 3 year old ballet classes Reverence. I couldn't believe how easy it was for them to pick up. It was short and sweet, I gave them the back story of why we do a reverence and why it's important to do it at the end of every class. They wanted to do it over and over and over! Now reverence will be a part of our class and that makes me smile!

5) Turkey Pokey- After spending most of November looking for an appropriate song to use for Thanksgiving I thought of this little ditty! We remembered all of the parts a turkey has (did you know the thing that hangs down in the front that makes them gobble is called a waddle? I had no idea) and them put them to the song- "You put your feathers in, you put your feathers out, you put your feathers in and shake em all about" They went running out of the room to teach their parents! A huge hit, and so easy to create!

Do you have any tools to share? Just sitting down and thinking about all the little things that makes a creative movement or creative ballet class is fascinating! I hope you find the tools helpful and a great addition to your class!

In the meantime Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Mark Morris Dance Group + $720,000

Have you ever read the Downtown Brooklyn Newsletter? I didn't even know there was one until today! I was planning my classes at Mark Morris today when I saw this on the table. I opened it up and there was an article (pictured below) about Mark Morris Dance Group receiving the Mellon Grant.
I was so happy to hear about the grant! They put an addition on this summer and it has completely transformed the school and the space. As the article states "the grant will allow Mark Morris Dance Group to maintain and expand the current free and low-cost high quality dance and music programs for the Brooklyn community."

Mark Morris Dance Group serves over 800 children and teens in the BK! At least 100 of those children are mine! Congratulations Mark Morris Dance Group!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Performance in Pictures

What have you been up to this weekend? Here is a photo log of what I have been doing. Performing!

Here is the group of dancers I have been rehearsing and performing with! Such a fun group! (I am second in from the right)

This is my good friend Laura and I in the dressing room. We had a lot of time after we were finished on stage. We kept taking pictures until we got the right one... this one seems great to me!

Some of my very best friends from Graduate School came to see the show on Friday night! After the show we met up for some snacks and drinks! It was so great to see them, and catch up. These are some of the best dance educators I know! Let's do it again soon ladies!

That's all for now, I have one more show today- thank goodness because I am exhausted, but of course I can't sleep since my body is used to getting up in the morning to teach. More blogging to come this week, I have a lot to tell you about!

In the meantime movecreateeducate...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cup of Ideas

I have a student who is SO creative he and has the biggest imagination. I love this about him and I am so happy he is in my class and has an outlet to share his ideas. Sometimes he has so many ideas that the other kids in the class (6 more) don't get to share their ideas. He also gets really upset when I don't use his ideas. I hate to discourage him from giving ideas, especially at age 3 when it's so important to listen and execute.

The director of the preschool helped me come up with this idea. 3 popsicle sticks in a cup. Each stick represents an idea. When he gives me one of his ideas, I take a stick out of the cup. It really works! The other kids feel like they have a voice, and there are no tears. Thats a great creative movement class in my book.

What about you? Do you use a creative way to allow your students to share their ideas without getting upset or pushed to the side? I thought I would share this idea in case any of you are facing a similar situation. Please share yours, I would love to hear!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Educator- Educator-Educator- Dancer

This weekend I am dancing in the student and alumni concert at NYU! I haven't danced in this concert since I was in the masters program in 2006- (wow! that was a long time ago!) I am really looking forward to being on stage again. All of the pieces are student works and vary in genres from tap, modern, ballet, and folk dancing. Here is the flyer! Isn't it perty!

As an educator, I think it is important to take class, rehearse and perform. Right? I think I need a new goal: as much time as I spend on educating, (it is a lot!) I should spend on dancing. I just don't take enough technique classes anymore. So after this weekend, I will be a free to be cast as a dancer! Anyone? (hehe)

How important do you think it is to keep dancing while and after you have started your career as an educator? How do you keep the balance of teaching and dancing? I would love to hear what other educators do to fit it all in. What is important to you?

In the meantime movecreateeducate....

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Butterfly Body Parts

Look what I found at Barnes and Noble today! I have been searching everywhere for a butterfly puppet to teach my students body parts. Eric Carle is celebrating his 40th Anniversary and has made all of these great puppets to go along with his children's books! Of course this one goes along with the very hungry caterpillar, it's so perfect for what I will use it for!

Look how colorful! My baby ballerina's will love this!

To teach body parts, I have the butterfly fly around the room and then all of a sudden lands on a body part of one of the students (a different child each time, so the butterfly lands on all of them at least once!). We identify the body part and then try to move that part in isolation. Here the butterfly landed on my shoulder!

Do you have puppets you use in your dance room to teach a lesson? I would love to hear all of your ideas!

In the meantime movecreateeducate...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

It's time for The Nutcracker!

Can you believe it's time for the Nutcracker already? (YAY!)Here is a drawing that a 3rd grader created about George Balanchine's the Nutcracker. I love to see what the kids are thinking after they see a ballet. Here is his reflection....Enjoy!

In the meantime movecreateeducate....


Check out these photos of Chicago Ballet Dancers! They are so inspiring!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are!

So, my fabulous 4 year olds in creative movement class gave me this great idea. They asked me if they could go to where the wild things are? At first I was like sure we can do that, and then I thought well maybe I could make it into a really great experience for them. I went to the bookstore and got the book yesterday and read through it once with a literacy lens and next with a dance teacher lens. There are a ton of ways to put this book into movement, just a few of my ideas are as follows...

1) "The forest grew and grew and grew"-
What's in the forest? Vines, flowers, leaves...

2) "The ocean tumbled and thrashed"-
waves, and a sailboat shape...

3) "Let the wild rumpus start"-
This part is shown with pictures. I looked at the pictures and came up with action words. One of the pictures is below... what movement words do you see?

Since the movie just came out, I am so excited about turning this story into movement. I would like to find the sheet music for the soundtrack to give to my live pianist. Anyone know where I could begin to look for that?

(Where the Wild Things Are was written by Maurice Sendak)

I hope to have the movement story done by parents day in December! Actually, I have a bunch of parents days coming up. Do any of you have parents days? What are your ideas? I would love to hear!

In the meantime movecreateeducate...