Dance News

It’s official, times are a-changin’ on “Dance Moms” this week. New moms, new dancers, new rival studios—it’s getting a little hard to keep track! To help you out, I’ve compiled the three most awesome—and three most awkward—moments from the latest episode.

 

AWKWARD The moms’ strategy to get Kelly back to the studio. Because they spend way too much time with their daughters, it appears the moms have reverted back to fourth grade, and have decided to give Abby the silent treatment. Melissa even hides behind her Sweet Tarts box so Abby can't see her. Abby is confused. I’m confused, too. Why would that bring Kelly back? Didn’t Kelly decide to leave on her own? And most importantly, who’s watching all the children while the moms are busy silently loitering in Abby’s parking lot?!?!

AWESOME Everybody’s replaced. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the little cuties that usually make up ALDC, but it’s nice to see Abby finally put her money where her mouth is. We’ve certainly heard her say, “Everyone’s replaceable,” enough times. Plus, these new girls are mega-talented! We knew Ally was phenomenal, but with the addition of Bella and Kaeli, she looks even better (and fits in better height-wise). An excellent threesome, but we’re told another kid is on her way…

AWKWARD Enter Sophia, the “Maddie replacement.” Let’s hold off talking about her dancing for a minute and focus on her voice. Unless Mom Jackie is married to Mickey Mouse, there’s no way that’s natural, right? But even after Abby makes fun of her high, squeaky pitch, she sticks to it. I guess she’s not faking it…Until later, alone in the confessional, her voice suddenly sounds perfectly normal. Something fishy is going on here. I smell a publicity stunt.

AWESOME I wish Abby hadn’t felt the need to hype Sophia’s dancing up as much as she did. Truth is, it was unnecessary. This girl’s talent speaks for herself. And her solo? I still can’t get over those fouettés. Just for fun, check out this clip of her pirouetting on “Ellen”:

AWKWARD A new rival dance-studio owner is emerging, and it’s Yvette, the dance mom we loved to hate (but mostly hated) on “Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition.” Yvette’s daughter is Hadley, who Abby infamously referred to as “road kill” back in L.A. She’s got a grudge, and she’s out for blood. But does this mean our old rival is out of the picture? Don’t get too excited. In a strange, unnecessary clip this week, Mom Jill is "in the area", so she stops by Candy Apples to have an uncomfortable conversation with Krazy Kathy. Ohio is in the same "area" as Pittsburgh, right?

AWESOME The old ALDC girls band together for a mall performance. They choreographed it themselves and the moms put out the word, but will anyone come? Obviously. The mall goes insane! They might as well have been One Direction for the number of crazed teenage fans packing the place and shoving their iPhone cameras in each other’s faces. The dancers did one routine on a makeshift stage, and, while it was cute, it was not up to their normal high caliber. It’s nice to see them having some fun, but Mom Holly admits, "The girls need discipline. They need a dance teacher." Well, duh.

 

And now, the QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

"Hadley wasn't exactly road kill. She was just the road, and Sophia drove right over her." —Abby

I guess Abby feels really bad about that road kill comment. You showed her, Hadley. Oh wait, no you didn’t. Better luck next time.

 

The suspense is killing me for the next episode. Who will still be a member of ALDC? The new girls only got second place, so will Abby kick them to the curb? And what will the poor old dancers we love do without a teacher?! Check back here next week for another recap.

Your Body

Illustrations by Lealand Eve

You always work hard in dance class, but lately, you’ve been a little distracted. During port de bras, you worry about whether your deodorant is working. By petit allegro, you’re sure everyone is staring at your sweat stains. And what if your dance crush sees that giant zit between your shoulder blades?

It can be embarrassing to bring these kinds of issues up with your parents, your teachers or even your friends. You want to fix them—but you don’t want to talk about them. To help you shift your focus back to your dancing, DS spoke to three physicians to find out how to deal.

Excessive Sweat

“Healthy people sweat!” says Dr. Lori Baxter, a pediatrician in Maryville, TN. “Sweating helps maintain body temperature, hydrates skin and helps the body balance fluids and salts.” All of these functions are vital for dancers, whose artistic performance depends upon the body working at its best.

Of course, some people naturally sweat more than others. If you’re feeling self-conscious, you have a few options. Make sure the deodorant you buy includes an antiperspirant component—deodorant alone will not prevent sweating. You can even use a basic deodorant/antiperspirant on locations other than your armpits (for instance, if you tend to sweat beneath your breasts). If you sweat even when you’re cold or inactive, you might have a condition known as hyperhidrosis, where the sweat glands are overactive. In such cases, your doctor can recommend a prescription antiperspirant, such as Drysol.

Body Odor

Sweat by itself doesn’t smell, but it contributes to body odor in a major way. Body odor is produced by bacteria that grow on your skin, particularly in warm, moist areas. Just as some people sweat more than others, some people are genetically predisposed to experience body odor. BO can also be influenced by your lifestyle and diet. Dr. Nicole Carignan, a trained ballet and modern dancer who is now an anesthesia resident at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, points out that the scents of potent foods like garlic and onions can actually be excreted through your skin, for instance.

Aside from using deodorant and antiperspirant, the biggest key to preventing body odor is good hygiene. If possible, shower immediately after class or rehearsal, and put on clean clothes. If you can’t shower right away, change into dry clothes. Sweaty, dirty clothing can harbor bacteria, so wash your leotards and tights in between wears. Finally, shaving your underarms regularly can help decrease both sweat and odor.

Body Acne

Body acne has the same cause as facial acne: clogged pores. And just like facial acne, body acne can be more rampant during puberty because of the sudden increase in hormones. Luckily, the same hygiene regimen that helps fight body odor can help you conquer body acne, as well.

In addition to showering after dancing and making sure not to re-wear dirty dance clothes, try using an exfoliating body scrub or a loofah to remove the dead skin cells that clog pores. “Use a gentle scrubbing motion,” Carignan says, “rather than scrubbing so hard you irritate the skin further.” She also recommends seeking out acne-treatment body washes that contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. The former slows the shedding of skin cells that can clog pores. The latter actually kills the bacteria that can cause acne and helps remove excess oil and skin cells from the skin. Acne-treatment products can dry out your skin, so always moisturize after washing, and stay hydrated by drinking lots of water.

Avoid picking at acne—scratching or popping zits can lead to scarring. Also, avoid covering acne in heavy makeup that will only clog pores further. If you must cover up pimples for a performance or special occasion, use a concealer that has salicylic acid in it.

Cold Sores

Cold sores around the mouth are caused by the herpes simplex type 1 virus, and can be triggered by stress, illness and overexposure to the sun or cold weather. Herpes type 1 is transmitted via saliva and other bodily fluids, often through breaks in the skin near or in the mouth. Don’t confuse this virus with herpes type 2, which causes genital lesions and is transmitted through sexual intercourse; the viruses are related, but they aren’t the same.

The good news is that most cold sores will heal on their own in a week to 10 days. You can speed up the healing time slightly with over-the-counter or prescription creams and ointments, such as Abreva. To avoid recurrences, learn and manage your triggers. For instance, if you get cold sores following sun exposure, always apply sunscreen and lip balm before going out.

The bad news: “Once you have the virus, you can never get rid of it. It just goes dormant,” says Dr. Brad Moser, founder and director of the Minnesota Dance Medicine Foundation in Minneapolis. Because the virus can stay dormant for long stretches, you may not know who in your class or studio has it. As a general rule, avoid sharing water bottles, straws, utensils, face towels and makeup with other dancers.

Stretch Marks

Stretch marks are striped lines on your skin that are lighter or darker than your skin tone. They’re a form of scarring that sometimes occurs when rapid growth leads to sudden stretching of the skin. Having them doesn’t mean you’re overweight. You may see them crop up after a growth spurt, if your skin couldn’t quite keep up with your increase in height. Moser points out that you might also see stretch marks following weight loss, as the skin that was stretched has less mass to cover.

If the marks show in a costume, apply concealer. While there are creams on

the market that say they’ll diminish or eliminate stretch marks, Baxter, Moser and Carignan all stress that these methods aren’t proven to work.

Cellulite

Cellulite consists of bumps and lumps in the layer of fat right beneath the skin. Like stretch marks, cellulite occurs even in thin, athletic people; having cellulite does not mean you need to lose weight. Whether you develop this dimpled-looking skin on your thighs and stomach will primarily be dictated by genetics. However, Moser notes that other factors, such as poor diet and dehydration, can contribute to the appearance and severity of cellulite. Hormonal changes, such as those that occur during puberty or when you have your period, can also increase the appearance of cellulite.

As of now, there is no proven “cure” for cellulite. “Even liposuction goes for the deep fat, rather than this surface fat,” Moser says. “Liposuction can actually make cellulite worse!”

In each of these situations, the biggest key is to remember that you aren’t alone. Your classmates are probably experiencing some of the same insecurities—and your teachers and choreographers have been through it, too. “Dancers are insecure in general,” says Carignan, “given that we grow up in front of mirrors. But you have to work toward accepting your body the way it is. Learn to minimize the things that embarrass you, and know that most of those things are normal.” And they have nothing to do with your dancing.

(The secret to combating many of these issues? Hydration. If you drink plenty of fluids, your body will flush out toxins, your skin will be more elastic (fewer stretch marks!) and you may be able to minimize the appearance of cellulite. Drink up!)

 

Your Body

Picture this: Three couples—one heterosexual, one lesbian and one gay—perform a whirlwind of passionate movement, with the dancers embracing, lifting and rolling over each other. Choreographed by Jeff Amsden for Broadway Dance Center’s 25th Anniversary Gala last May, their dance portrays that nerve-racking, exciting moment in a relationship just before the first “I love you.”

You’d never know from watching her that 23-year-old Heather Romot, one-half of that female couple, is straight. “When Jeff asked me to do the piece, he said, ‘You’re going to be a lesbian—is that okay?’ I knew it would take some acting, but that’s my job as a dancer,” explains Romot, a BDC intern at the time.

Despite some initial awkwardness in the rehearsal studio, Romot and her partner were able to develop amazing chemistry. “I tried to think of myself as really in this relationship, completely in love and wanting nothing more than to express it—even though it was toward a girl,” Romot explains. “You can’t just do choreography. You have to live inside the story.”

Sounds easy enough, right? Not necessarily. What if you have yet to experience a serious romantic relationship? Not only might you have to portray emotions you’ve never actually felt, but you might also have to touch your partner as if you were in love. (In some cases, this could mean an onstage kiss!) Even in an abstract piece, you could be given close partnering work that involves your bodies touching in unfamiliar or uncomfortable ways.

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed by these new levels of closeness—but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to pull off an intimate piece, as Romot did, with confidence and professionalism.

Why Get Intimate?

Showing affection onstage can take your performance to a new level. Done right—picture Jason Glover and Jeanine Mason’s kiss on “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 5—it will enhance the audience’s experience. “When you have chemistry with your partner, the storytelling is better,” explains musical theater choreographer Joshua Bergasse, who also teaches at BDC. “The audience will believe the relationship.”

You’ll also grow as an artist through the process of working closely with other dancers. You may become more comfortable in your own skin—which will in turn make you even more open with your partner. And you’ll become a better actor: “Jeff’s piece gave me a chance to play someone so different from myself,” Romot says. “Taking the chances I did in this piece helped me mature as a dancer and an actress.”

From Studio to Stage

Even the most beautifully intimate onstage moments may have had a rough start in the studio. Here DS helps you deal with four common intimacy hurdles.

1) Your partnership’s not the perfect match.

It’s fitting that 16-year-old Yvonne Lacombe’s first duet with her dance partner, Jonathan Doherty, was titled “At First Sight”—the two fell for each other shortly before the rehearsal process began! But after dating for two years, they broke up midway through rehearsals for a new love duet. How did the change affect their partnership? “It was awkward in the studio,” says Lacombe, who trains at Artistic Dance Conservatory in East Longmeadow, MA. “But we eventually let go and drew on the emotions we used to feel. After all, we still felt comfortable onstage together.”

Lacombe’s story shows that you don’t have to be in love with—or even attracted to—someone to have onstage chemistry. Finding common ground can help you come together. If you’re still not clicking with your partner after some time, try taking yourself out of the equation. “Think, ‘I’m not me—I’m this character who is close to this other character,’” advises Pilobolus Dance Theater member Christopher Whitney. “Then you can touch one another in whatever way is required. Even if you’re not friends, your bodies can be friends.”

2) You can’t relate to the emotions in the choreography.

Believe it or not, even if you’ve never actually gone through the specific experience you’re being asked to portray, you’ve probably have had relationships and life experiences that will help you understand how to show love and other intimate emotions onstage. “There are many different kinds of love and intimacy,” explains dance psychologist Harlene Goldschmidt, PhD. “You experience love, tenderness and closeness with siblings, friends, parents—even pets!” Envision someone you’re close to and put the feelings you have for that person into the choreography. Remember that the rehearsal process is a safe time to explore your emotional performance, because as with the actual steps, the more you practice portraying intimacy, the more comfortable you’ll be onstage.

3) Your partner’s body makes you uncomfortable.

What if your partner is really sweaty, or has body odor or bad breath? The best thing to do in this scenario is to speak up—gently. Consider how you would want to be told about a problem if the situation were reversed. Try to make light of the problem, and relate it to dancing so that it’s not perceived as a personal attack. For instance: “If your partner’s sweaty, say, ‘Hey, can I get you a long-sleeved shirt? I’m sliding off you!’” says Jen Abrams, a contemporary choreographer and contact improvisation teacher in NYC.

4) You’re being touched in all the wrong places.

If your partner’s hands are straying dangerously close to your private parts, assess his or her motives. “Is your partner’s intention to do anything other than execute the movement?” asks Abrams. “In that case, you might have cause to be uncomfortable. But it’s more likely that they don’t intend to touch you in that way. You’d be doing them a favor to let them know.” (If you do feel that your partner is touching you inappropriately on purpose, or if he or she doesn’t stop when you point it out, share your concerns with an adult. This type of touch is sexual harassment, and an adult can help you handle the situation.)

But what if the choreography requires you to touch in a way that you worry is “inappropriate”? Bergasse recommends approaching the movement from a choreographic—rather than emotional—perspective. “It’s like a math equation,” he says. “Break it down and analyze it: ‘My hand needs to go here, and your leg wraps around here. From there we do this.’ Once you know the movement, you can add emotion later.”

A major measure of success for any piece that portrays intense affection onstage is how immersed in it the dancers become. If you feel the emotions—live them—the audience will, too.

Just ask Romot, who won’t forget the experience of performing Amsden’s piece anytime soon. “When I think back to this dance, I can’t remember the exact choreography, but I remember the intense emotions I was feeling,” she says. “Onstage, I felt as though we were the only two people in the room.” Now that’s intimate.  

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