Monday, November 29, 2010

Teen Dancer Questions

One of my long time teen dancer's posed some interesting questions to me, in reference to my career as a dancer. I thought I would share my answers:

1) What do you think it takes to become a professional dancer? What strengths must a person have to become a professional dancer? You need to have perseverance; you must learn your craft; you must work hard; you must have personal dedication, strength and stamina; you must follow directions well and take corrections and criticisms well; you must learn from the corrections/criticism that you receive; you must take care of your body and your soul (prevent injuries, eat well, meditate, stretch, yoga); you must take as many dance classes as you can and practice;you must shine on stage! You must audition and I guess you would need to have a flexible job. Understand that dancers do not make a lot of money, do not have much artistic freedom, and must love what they do to survive.

2) What was your motivation to become a dancer? I have never thought of myself as a professional dancer, although I am a professional. I have always thought of ,myself as a professional artist who uses dance as her medium. I love being an artist and was raised by an artist. I did try to become something else but art was just in my soul and I realized I had to recognize it.

3) When and how did you know that you wanted to dance as a career? The career just came upon me. As I learned more and more dance technique and more about choreography and movement, it led to my desire to show people what I could do. I have always natural performer and a natural teacher. Along with being a professional dancer, I am dance teach. My career has taken many shapes and forms: being in a company, creating my own choreography, teaching dance, choreographing student companies, working at studios and teaching and choreographing for them. I have now added creating an in-school yoga program, finding grant funding to get the program off the ground and being hired through another grant program to teach dance in the Boston Public School system.

4) What advice would you give to people who have the same dream of pursuing dance as a career? Follow your dreams and be ready for a wonderful ride. Stay open to all the paths that are presented to you. Find your gurus and learn all that you can. Make sure you are following your dream and not someone else's. Be ready to work hard and love it.

5) Why do you love dance and what is your inspiration? Dancing allows me to express my creativity. I love the structure of technique and the freedom of artistry. I am inspired by my mother, my teachers, my inner spirit, my students, the natural world, knowledge, life, the freedom art gives me. I think allowing myself to always learn new things is one of my greatest inspirations...that is osmething I get from my mom. She was never afraid to learn something new. I love to learn.

Ole dear Corrina...may you find the path you seek. Thank you for allowing me to be art of your journey for so many years.

Ole Namaste!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Residency Wrap Up: One Day Before Thanksgiving Break

This week (11/21-11/23) in the Target In-School Artists Residency Program, I introduced flamenco rhythms and technique; Began work on the flamenco choreography; Introduced Epiphany; Reinforced the Junkanoo steps and music; and Continued our yoga practice.

The students really enjoyed and focused on the flamenco technique; they continue to enjoy the yoga with some kids remarking they want to become yoga teachers when they grow up; they love the free spirited moves and music of Junkanoo.

I note that the children do not deal well with the transitions between the three class elements and it often takes us much time to get them settled back into the rhythm of the class. I have decide to approach the class differently when we return on Monday. I will start immediately with a predetermined warm-up (using flamenco, Junaknoo and yoga movements) for the first 20 minutes which we will return to at the beginning of each class. I will then go right into the flamenco choreography which I will run repeatedly with them and then add more steps as they are ready. If time allows, we will return to a more meditative yoga session at the end of class as a way of closure.

I am enjoying working with my assistant, Carol GS. She is an eager learner and is becoming connected to the class dynamics and has good insights to share n the creative process and on dealing with 33 third graders (ha ha). She is still finding her own way into the class and tries many ways to be involved and effective.

What can I day before Thanksgiving break? The kids were way out there today (smile). But as we noted they come in with smiles and they leave with smiles.

Today, I taught a special lesson on Aparigraha, non-possessiveness, and I explained that each child is born with special gifts....some run fast, some dance well, some are artists, some are good in math, some have straight hair...and that we should each be thankful for the gifts that we were born with. I gave each student a slip of paper  and anonymously they wrote down something that makes them special. They came up with many things such as I stated above but one girl noted that everyone hates her and she has no gifts and she ended by saying "help me". This is a cry for help from her and I have noted previously the ups and down of her moods and the valleys are deep there. We will pay special attention to her and try to keep her involved with the program, to find her place within it. I am trying to decide how to share these thoughts with the students and with the school.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Residency "Happy Moment" of the Day

A boy named Rolando said to me, "I want to be a yoga teacher just like you"

                                              that is satisfaction!

Pepe Torres and Juan del Gastor

Yesterday's performance by Pepe Torres and Juan del Gastor was a phenomenal show. I loved the authenticity and generosity of the performers. The fin de fiesta where Juan sang was one of the most memorable moments as was the opening when Pepe played the guitar solo.

José Barrios in In Case Dawn Breaks with special guest - jazz legend Arturo Sandoval

Suffolk University & Fundación Conservatorio Flamenco Casa Patas
presents the inaugural performance
at The Modern Theatre:
José Barrios in
In Case Dawn Breaks
with special guest - jazz legend Arturo Sandoval
Tuesday, Nov. 30 at 7:30 p.m.

WHAT:              Suffolk University & Fundación Conservatorio Flamenco Casa Patas are pleased to open the inaugural season of The Modern Theatre with Casa Patas Director and Choreographer José Barrios in Por si acaso amanece (In Case Dawn Breaks), with special guest jazz legend Arturo Sandoval; with musical direction by Isaac Muñoz and Jesús Núñez. This internationally acclaimed ensemble explores the fusion of flamenco with jazz, klezmer, and the blues.

WHEN:          Tuesday, Nov. 30 at 7:30 p.m.  
WHERE:       Modern Theatre, 525 Washington Street, Boston  
TICKETS:     $30 general public; $15 Suffolk community, students and seniors. Tickets can be purchased online at or 1-800-838-3006. More information can be found at


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Weekly Wrap: Target In-School Artists Residency Program

My artists residency is at The Ellison Park Early Education Center in Mattapan, MA. This residency is based around the Radio City Christmas Spectacular that is being held at the Wang Center December 3rd through December 29th, 2010. As a teaching artist, I am to present dance, movement and choreography using other winter holiday celebrations as my jumping off point (i.e. Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Thanksgiving, Carnivale, Epiphany...).

I have had great success using yoga as an entry point with kids. They all seem to love the focus it brings to them and the moments of intense focus that I am able to help them reach are quite profound. When the stillness and breath is the only thing notable in the room, a gift blossoms inside each child, even if for only a second. The first few days of the residency were based solely on yoga (first in relation to the seasonal change and the winter solstice; second in relation to Ahimsa or peace).

My assistant Carol Grossi Smolinsky brought a very interesting holiday tradition into our planning stages. She had recently traveled to the Bahamas and had experienced Junkanoo: Junkanoo first began as a temporary celebration of freedom for slaves who were given three days off at Christmas time. Donning scary-looking masks, slaves played homemade musical instruments (drums and bells) and cavorted about freely on the island.

Carol has very enthusiastically taught the students about Junkanoo by showing them videos of the parades, telling them the history and last class, she brought in cups and rice and each student made a maraca that they will use in their Junkanoo parade and later also in their flamenco dance. I have learned a lot along with the students and most interesting to me is that Junkanoo was created in the 17th century by a repressed group of people which relates to the origins of flamenco, also in the 17th century, a a repressed people, the gypsies.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Special $20. ticket offer for Fall Flamenco Festival 2010


CALL WORLD MUSIC/CRASHarts 617-876-4275
For the discount, use the code: FLAMENCO20 upon checkout.

*Discount is not valid for previously purchased tickets and cannot be combined

 with any other offer.  Handling fees apply. Subject to availability.

For tickets and information: www.WorldMusic.org617.876.4275
Read more about the festival in The Boston Globe

Monday, November 15, 2010

Day Two: Citi Performing Arts Residency: Peace on earth!

Day two: Peace on earth; Goodwill to man. What does that mean? Peace on earth means, no fighting, no war. Goodwill means doing good things for other people. Ahimsa is a yoga precept, which means non-violence to yourself, to others, to the planet.

What does Peace mean? A state of harmony between groups or people; a freedom of the mind from annoyance, distraction, anxiety and obsession; silence, stillness.

Different ways to say peace:
1. Om shanti: I am peace.
2. Pax: Latin
3. Shalom: Hebrew
4. La Paix- French
5. La Paz: Spanish
6. Lape (accent over the e): Haitian Creole

Peace idioms:
1. Peace out!
2. Rest in peace.
3. Peace be with you.
4. Keep the peace.
5. Make peace.
6. Leave in peace.
7. A peace offering.
8. Peace of mind.
9. Be at peace.

There is the Peace Corps: an agency of the federal government devoted to world peace and friendship (started by President John. F. Kennedy)

Songs: Peace Like A River with movements (also Yogini Went  To See, which was asked for repeatedly.

The kids shared a beautiful and peaceful Savasana and "Sa Ta Na Ma" Meditation.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Girls Yoga Retreat: Day Two

Sunday morning, the mom's, daughters and I re-communed at Spirit Bear Power Yoga for the second day of our yoga retreat. I woke up that morning feeling very refreshed and totally focused on the morning's class. Where last night had been a calming , restorative practice, I planned for  a more energetci and uplifting class for today.

I began class with a wave breathing taught to me my Barbara Benagh. We lay on our backs, and held our knees with our hands. On the inhale, we let our knees out and on the exhale breath, we brought our knees towards our stomach, naturally causing the air to be dispelled from our body. After that a simple twist, using Eagle legs (causing our hips to be fixed so we could focus our twist in the middle and upper part of our backs). Standing, in time with our breath, we went up and down into Uttanasaa. I explained the use of Ujjayi breathing and that in this up and down time, we would want to make our in and out breaths even. Here I briefly discussed that some people are more prominently exhalers and others are more prominently inhalers. And that poses where were did more exhaling were calming and those that had more of an inhale where energizing.

We did a Sun A series of high lung, to low lunge, and then a rest in Child's Pose. Pressing back up into Uttanasana, we then stood for tree pose. Then taking a wide stance on our mat, we did a flow series of triangle to 1/2 Moon to standing split to Warrior II to Dancing Warrior and then repeated on the other side.

After another Child's Pose, we did Vishnu's Couch, Table Top Balance and then we all experienced Head Stand Prep. I also led the kid's in a simple tripod head stand.

Dropping back into Savasna, I lightly turned on "Chant From The Heart" BY Kitaro, an 8 minute piece and let everyone drfit off into a rleaxation state.

We finished class again with journaling. I read another selection from Buddha at Bedtime and the families and I talked about healthy eating, sharing with our kids, CSA's, and various other topics drfited in and out.

I want to thank Christy Carlson for hosting this wonderful event at Spirit Bear Power Yoga. It was a wonderful way to connect to the community and share my love of yoga. Thank you all for the wonderful welcome to Natick. I look forward to many more enjoyable times.


Day One of the Girls Yoga Retreat

Saturday Night at Spirit Bear Power Yoga:
A beautiful evening spent with 7 girls (ranging in ages 8-12) and 6 mom's. I proposed the question as to what had brought the girls to this yoga retreat and they had varying answers: sports, dance, curiosity and to spend time with their mom's. I appreciated everyone's openess.

We all just dove into our yoga. I opened the practice with pranyama. We sat upright, and using a line from my teacher, Barbara Benagh, I had everyone feel their front body lean into their back body and in return their back body lean into their front. Explaining that these two dynamic forces connect in the middle (the spine) causing it to be stronger, more upright and more balanced. We felt the heaviness of our sit bones and our base. We also tried Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing). I led the class in a Moon Salutation and then a series of restorative poses that heated us up and then cooled us down. There was a prevailing sense of calm in the room. To end our session, we did bridge pose, wheel (where I assisted each girl to get up into or expand their pose) and Viparite Karani Mudra with a block. Then either laying out in Savasana or keeping their legs up the wall, I led them in a short total body relaxation which led into the final Savasana.

We sat up, and I explained how their are 5 sounds in the universe (s-, t-, n-, m-, and a-) and by chanting them we can help to align our energies. We did a short "Sa Ta Na Ma" meditation and then after explaining the meaning of Namaste (which also has all the sounds of the universe incorporated into it); we bowed to each other and gave our expression of respect. I explained how we each should feel a gratefulness to all the people who had shared the yoga experience together and to all htw people in the world.

After handing out paper, crayons and markers for journaling, I talked briefly about the Yamas of Yoga and read a story from "Buddha at Bedtime: Tales of Love and Wisdom for You to Read with Your Child to Enchant, Enlighten and Inspire" :

Ahimsa: non-violence to others, to the world and to ourselves.

Satya: truthfulness

Asteya: non-stealing, of material items, of other's ideas, of other's happiness.

Brahmachaya: Balance of desires, self control, respect yourself and others.

Aparigraha: Non-greediness, the letting go of possessions that are unnecessary to life.

Friday, November 12, 2010

One more day to sign up....only a few spaces left!

Yoga Retreat for Girls

(ages 8-14) ….and Moms too 

with Eve Agush at 

Spirit Bear Power Yoga

Saturday, November 13th:  7:00 – 9:00pm  
RELAX with an incredible stretch, like a giant yawn for the body. We will spend one hour practicing breathing techniques, restorative yoga poses and meditation. The second hour, we will explore journaling, healthier lifestyles and creation of personal mandalas.
Sunday, November 14th: 11:00am – 1:00pm 
Rise and Shine!  We will greet the sun with an energetic practice. Through warming poses, our bodies will breathe in new life and vitality. Students will learn poses, breath, and meditation that will help reduce and manage stress. Expect to leave feeling strong and balanced!

Register on-line or at the studio. Spirit Bear Power Yoga is located in Natick Center at 19 Main Street at the intersection of Route 27 and Route 135
1 student:  $25 for both, $15 single session
Mom:  $25 both, $15 single session
Second sibling:  $15 for both, $10 single session

(508)655-YOGA For more info

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Day one of my dance residency at the Ellison Parks Early Education Center in Mattapan MA. We have 33 third graders in the program. They were an exuberant group of kids, but even the ones who had difficulty focusing still participated (and there were only a few time outs for the session).

I began the session talking about the seasons of fall and winter and how at this time of year animals hibernate, pets grow fuzzy coats of fur and plant life generate more energy under ground than on top. And i also noted that at this time, we do a to of celebrating. We talked about all the many holidays that are at this time of year, starting with Thanksgiving and moving on to Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and New Years. One child noted we had also just set our clocks back, which led me to talk about the Winter Solstice, which is a day that there is the least amount of day time and the most night time.From that point on, the days just keep getting longer.

Today's class was based solely on yoga. I started them with some deep belly breaths and even led them in Nadi Sodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing). We moved on to asanas (poses), did a rousing version of "Yogini Went To Sea" and did two very successful meditations: my "AEIOU-HAHEHOHU" and "We're The Rockin' Yogis'" I actually had complete silence at times. We ended with Savasana (Corpse Pose).

A very successful day one...looking forward to day two where will explore yoga and "asteya" or generosity...Peace on earth, goodwill to men...

Ole Namaste!

Yoga-Snacks Returns to Runkle School

I just received a letter from a teacher at Runkle School, Brookline, MA. She wrote for a PTO grant and was awarded money to bring me back to Runkle for a 6-week yoga session. At this point, I have 4 classrooms included. Hooray for the PTO! Hooray for Yoga-Snacks! Hooray for Justine Sands!

Namaste! It's time for a "Yoga-Snack"

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Call For Action: Jody'sSchool of Dance in Medford

Hi Dance Community-
This is a call for action!
Please help make dreams and unforgettable memories come true this Holiday Season for these LOCAL GIRLS (ages 11-13)!  The dance company from Jody's School of Dance in Medford will be the "OPENING" for the Rockettes if they sell enough tickets by Friday, November 12th!

Buy a ticket or tickets for $73each to the Rockettes performance in Boston, Monday December 27th at 5pm.  
It is the season of giving, you give the to them and they will return the favor with a spectacular performance!
Please email me at for more info or to get tickets! Thanks!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

John Steven Gurley comes to Brown Elementary School, Natick, MA

Today I volunteered for the Cultural Arts Committee at Brown Elementary to sit in on the visit by John Steven Gurney, the illustrator for the A-Z mysteries and writer/illustrator of other books Dinosaur Train (and to our delight we discovered he has  also illustrated games such as "Guess Who? and jigsaw puzzles.

Mr. Gurney began his presentation by telling the students the many different projects he has illustrated, over 120 books now! He told them how he came to be an illustrator and an author. He talked about his childhood love of drawing and how that grew and expanded as he became an adult. I liked that he said "pictures tell a story". He explained that first he reads what an author has written and then using his imagination, he draws his own artistic interpretations. This is his form of communication and he notes that a good picture should tell you what you are looking at but a really good picture keeps revealing more details each time you look at it.

His Power Point presentation began by showing one of his illustrations and his talking about his use of symbolism to communicate what the picture is representing. He explained he needed to think of colors, lighting and character design for each illustration. I liked that Mr. Gurney showed the children an interesting career path and he allowed that many paths can come from a love to draw and that this was only the path he chose and that going to college helped him make wise career choice. He used beautiful strong words, such as imagination, originality and inspiration (both loving to inspire and to be inspired).

He explained when he illustrates that he has to ponder some points:
1. What is the illustration going to be used for?
2. Character Design
3. How to get the characters in the illustration to relate to each other

For a book cover, consider:
1. Main Characters
2. Not to give the ending away, but show what the book is about.
3. Make the reader curious!

The best part of the Power Point was his layout of the rough draft to completion of the book he both authored and illustrated "Dinosaur Train". It was very informative and gave a real slice of life of the journey he took.

 I really enjoyed this presentation especially in connection to the fact that the third grades' next monthly book project is "making a book jacket for a book they have just read. Mr. Gurney is soft spoken, but had the children listening to what he had to say. Even at times when the kids began to squirm, he found a way to pull them back in. I was impressed at how focused this whole group of 3rd and 4th graders were. I recommend his visit especially for the 3/4 grade level as I can see how pertinent his presentation was to their curriculum.

The event ended with some fast and fun group drawing activities that had the all the kids (and me) laughing and collaborating and enjoying themselves.
His website:  (check school visits section)

The following is an excerpt from his website:

The main focus of my presentation is the thought process involved in the creation of an illustration.  I discuss my background and my creative process as an author and illustrator. I touch briefly on the business of publishing. I show a PowerPoint presentation that focuses on my own development specifically, and generally on what makes any illustration an effective device for telling a story (it should be noted that because of the nature of my work, many of slides are quite funny -but don't tell the kids that, let it be a surprise), I demonstrate with volunteers from the audience how I have kids pose as models for my illustrations. In closing I  draw an 18 x 24 caricature of someone from the audience. If we can get the kids some clip boards with paper (or their notebooks) I can lead them in some fun drawing activities. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Burlar: to deceive (but with a fun flair)

To dance Bulerias is to let it all hang out and to really get into the groove of flamenco. It is so guttural, like rap heavy with a bass beat that it sends you into a flurry of movement and expression and feeling. You take the middle of the circle and you lay out what you got. The head spins, the 360's, the calls and rhythm. They walk hand in hand.

Teaching a Bulerias lesson today had me thinking about all that I know about Bulerias as a dance, a rhythm, a feeling.

We can break the rhythm down into 4 Palmas rhythms (and a million can be made form these basics):
12 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
12 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
12 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
12 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

What I realized is that a great analogy for the sound that your hands should make when clapping would be likening the two hands to be like a drum and a drum stick. The drum hand has to have a certain cupped shape (think of the skin stretched across a drum and make your hand be a good strong drum skin. Not rigid not loose. You need to work at it to find your sweet make sure that the drum stick hand makes the best sound when it strikes. I thoroughly believe that the sound that is needed for flamenco is not a sound that ends when the two hands meet, but instead is made when the two hands separate, giving more resonance to the clap and then you can play with the spaces between the claps. The quieter tones cause the hands to be closer together, causing the bellows created between the hands to have a a short puff of air, but for the stronger accents, the hands separate farther and when coming together more air is pressed between the hands causing a hiccup in time and a clap with more accent is then created. This hiccup I liken to the motor of a Harley Davidson which has a patent for the sound it makes. In a Harley's engine, the two cylinders sit at a 45 degree angle with a single pin crankshaft and that gives you the "put" "put" "pause" sound like "potato" "potato" (or "patata" "patata" in Spanish)**

**For those of you who really want to understand this, I have a fully description of the Harley engine below.

**"The classic Harley-Davidson engines are two-cylinder, V-twin engines with the pistons mounted in a 45° "V". The crankshaft has a single pin, and both pistons are connected to this pin through their connecting rods.[6] The design causes the cylinders to fire at uneven intervals. This is an engineering trade off to create a large, high-torque engine in a small space. This design choice is entirely vestigial from an engineering standpoint, but has been sustained because of the strong connection between the distinctive sound and the Harley-Davidson brand. This design, which is covered under several United States patents, gives the Harley-Davidson V-twin its unique choppy "potato-potato" sound. To simplify the engine and reduce costs, the V-twin ignition was designed to operate with a single set of points and no distributor. This is known as a dual fire ignition system, causing both spark plugs to fire regardless of which cylinder was on its compression stroke, with the other spark plug firing on its cylinder's exhaust stroke, effectively "wasting a spark". The exhaust note is basically a throaty growling sound with some popping. The 45° design of the engine thus creates a plug firing sequencing as such: The first cylinder fires, the second (rear) cylinder fires 315° later, then there is a 405° gap until the first cylinder fires again, giving the engine its unique sound.[75]