Dance Tips – ‘Start with your feet’

The Secret behind an Elite Dancer

The classroom is a place to learn and get even more comfortable with your own movement, but progressing beyond your expectations takes working on the details away from the classroom. Details that will help you progress with articulation, conviction, and personalizing your movement as you share your story.  

This blog is about your feet and how they shape your movement from the ground up. I once used the phrase, ‘you should know the bottom of your feet like you know the back of your hand.’ It’s sort of a head scratcher if you are not familiar with how involved your feet are in dance especially in Hip Hop and street generated dance styles. Though this is true, it didn’t give our students anything but a weird association of body parts if I wasn’t providing context. Well here is the context that should clear up that vague phrase. 

When we are in a classroom learning dance, we focus on movement above the waste, because frankly that’s the first thing we see as upright walking beings. Also that’s where we experience expression or the completion of a visual. However, we often forget that it is our feet that generate/create a better quality of movement. Our feet is the source of power, rhythm, and balance depending on how you direct energy with them while they are in contact with the floor under you. 

We have heard the phrase ‘I don’t have rhythm’ too many times, but if you have two feet, you can create and learn rhythm. Your feet are the source of timing. The way you walk has rhythm and dancing is no different. If you can count to 2 rhythmically, you can dance. More specifically, a side step where we step one foot away from the other in an open position then stepping back to a closed position with the heels together is a 2 count of rhythm. It is the same with walking with one step in front of the other. During this motion, we step through our natural body line to progress forward or backwards. If you can rhythmically do that you are dancer… period. After that, it’s applying that concept to your favorite songs. It is often glossed over in the classroom which throws off a dancers timing. Therefore, if you lose focus on the opening and closing of you feet in motion, it determines whether you get there too fast too slow. However, when you intentionally get your feet where they should be, it actually gives you so much time and range to execute your next move.  

With better timing established, the game changer of understanding how to achieve more powerful movement is the next step.  We talk about being grounded in every single class that we teach. You achieve groundedness by bracing your core, but not without enforcing the connection or strong relationship you have with the floor first. 

Your feet are like anchors that ensure the engagement of more muscles which means more control. So when you dance, there is more control and your movement does not look disconnected or detached. Additionally, when you start dancing from the energy/momentum created by your connection to the floor, you don’t have to compensate with your shoulders or arms. Your shoulders/arms react to the natural flow your body rather than the other way around which creates spazzy or unintentional movement. 

Last and most important, we want to talk about balance. How we move in space is extremely important whether we are in a classroom or not. Balance starts with our feet, and if you are not aware of your feet when you dance, you will stumble more often than you should. 

In dance, your feet keep you balanced through faster movement when you dance through the balls of your feet while engaging your core or staying grounded. When you are preparing to make stronger statements or sit in the pocket of a groove, you direct energy(weight) through the middle of your feet(instep) to your heel. Then you can create a controlled flow of movement from the heel to the ball of the foot or vice versa.  

When you take a class next time, fight that urge to start above the waist. You will find that if you change your focus, you will naturally get what the upper body is supposed to do once your feet are set. Now an extremely important side note; we don’t want you to look directly at the instructor’s feet right in front of you, because then you’ll be missing the entire visual that you need to emulate. However, if you use the mirror to start positioning your body with your feet then everything else will fall into place. 

We are extremely honored to be in this position of instructors to bring you these tips to help you become better dancers. Why? Because when we were learning or in the position where you are at, we had nothing to help us progress in what we loved so much. So as you read this and take classes with us or with other instructors, you will get more and more familiar with your feet as the foundation to becoming an elite dancer. 

Story Time with Rishone – My Mental Tricks and Treats

I have been in a rut lately. Like everyone else, the effects of the quarantine, uncertainty of Covid-19, the political meandering and side choosing has either made us disconnect from each other or fearful of what is next. 
I had to mentally make a choice to face that fear and move on with my life as well as my goals. It has not been easy because somehow, as these incredible beings, we have let the creative marketing of the unknown become our kryptonite in owning our awesomeness and resilience to push forward to claim what is truly meant for us. 

Yes I agree, it has been incredibly hard to not lose your mind on a daily basis. Everyday has been a chaotic, domino effect of challenges. When I am not battling with myself, I am battling with my drive, my emotions, my family issues, and most frequently what my future holds. Some days smiling after brushing my teeth in morning naturally prepared me to conquer everything on the schedule and on other days I have to use every mental tool I own to engineer my next move. 

Ye,s I am aware this is some form of depression but in order to be balance we have to learn how to navigate who we are in the messy bashment of our lives. We have to find a way to assess what we are looking at, throw out the unnecessary, unused piles of garbage that we love to hold on to and find a way to organize the mess we created for ourselves to make room for a new version of yourself. 

It is so easy to blame all of this on the restrictions of Covid-19 and be the victim of so many of the programmed victim narratives we feed our comfort driven selves but the reality is that this state of our being was present before the trauma of now exposed it.  To be transparent I was too busy to pay attention to it or I used the too busy excuse to not work through because I knew it would be too much of a challenge. So in some ways I am thankful for this opportunity to be accountable for the parts of my life that need improvement. 

With that said, there is no way to meet a better version of yourself without taking the necessary steps to do so. So for the past 4 months I have been using all the tools to either get started on clearing our my messy basement to make room for my life upstairs. 

I want to share those tools that has been beneficial to my life that is slowly bringing me back to a place where I am inspired to live and evoke change. With the inspiration of Halloween just passing I copied the phrasing as the mental tricks, and treats to a better me as well as a better you. 

First of all it is very important to know your self and the bullshit you tell yourself when things get challenging. Also you need to know what I what inspires you, what keeps you focus, what distracts you, how clear you need to be with my goals, and most importantly knowing what weapons/tools you need to have in your mental tool box to conquer the unknown. Yes, the unknown, something that has kicked everyones’ ass is 2020. 

First in order to be a little more transparent I will share 3 of my personal in three separate areas of my life but they are all significant in my growth to a better version of myself. My first personal and family based goal is to be more be more present in my mother’s journey as she battle some mental illness and also continue to help my sisters navigate the confusion and emotional toll it has taken on the entire family. 

Secondly from a business perspective It is time to take the steps to expand my Plated_Soul Business with the creative ideas I shelved for some time. 

And as self it time to build better habits to learn new things and feel comfortable in that process of uncertainainty and the unknown. This was my goal for 2020 and trust me it has kicked my ass but during the times of getting my ass kicked I spent enough time figuring out the nature of my opponent, how to counter his attacks, and make it through day with just a few scratches.

Mental Trick # 1: Visualization – Be clear about what you want to improve in your life. Write it down, make a song about it, rap about it, put it over you bed so it’s the last thing you see before bed and the first thing you see when yoy wake up. Know what is smells like, taste like, feels like, and sounds like in real life. Sometimes you can start without an end goal in mind but the moment you give yourself a clear picture of what that clean basement looks like after you’ve figured how to clean it, the quicker you will find the resources you need to get it done. 

Mental Trick #2 : Plan for your self destructive patterns or bullshit cards. Most of the time we tell ourselves we cant because of this or that. Sometimes they are valid reasons but even then you know better. Just because its uncomfortable or new doesn’t mean you wont figure it out over time. Keep going and create an inner voice that tells the bullshit card creator to STFU because you CAN indeed do it. 

Mental Trick #3: Create healthy Boundaries. I know you have heard this before, but protect your dreams or your growth journey. You have to have boundaries with family, friends, and even yourself sometimes. In order to keep yourself consistent you have to create boundaries for your emotional sanity and productive functionality. What you allow people to say and do to you can derail your progress way more than you could even imagine. So if you share you goals with someone and they seem negative or discouraging about it, then you know you need to leave them out of your process. I mean sometimes it’s hard because things happen in life that can definitely throw things for a loop. However toy have to have a boundary for how far you let it pull you under before you decide to swim. 

Mental Trick # 4: Be Brutally Honest with yourself. I cannot stress this one enough. It is the most important mental trick that gets you through the rough times and helps to to break those patterns you need to go to the next level of self. No matter how painful it is confront it with honesty and the commitment to m work through it. 

Mental Treat #1: Genuinely celebrate your small victories and be thankful for the people or the effort you put fort. The journey of bettering yourself is a long never ending journey. Celebrate the small things you accomplish. There is enough time to evaluate the mistakes because we do that subconsciously all the time. Conscious take the time to say thank you ro yourself or give your self credit for the work you put in. Of course knowing that there is more to do and it wasn’t the best you had in you but you put fort the effort for genuine change and that my friends is what is all about. 

Mental Treat # 2: Seek Experience. As much as I pride myself on being self sufficient, recently I have learned that people are a great resource. We are all battling some of the same things and can be a resource to each other. Find someone you trust, someone with  experience, someone who can be a mentor to help guide you through or a simply someone that understands to challenges of the journey. Even though it’s hard to find people that genuinely care about your well being and your goals to be the best version of yourself, just finding someone who has worked through or is working through the same things you are helps to unload that burden you carry around. 

Mental Treat #3 : Meditate – Find time during the day where you can just sit away from everything and tune into your life force and the life forces in your path that are open to helping you. Or just use that time to recalibrate and release all things that drain your energy. 

Mental Treat #4: Smile and Laugh at your own jokes. Smile when things get rough so you can be reminded of being happy. Smiling resets your emotions and pensive mindset. When you have an opportunity, find memories that make you genuinely happy and use them to help you pick yourself up in the tough times and make your happy moments that much better. 

These are the mental tricks and treats I have employed more intentionally over the past 4 months. Again, it is an on-going journey with inevitable ups and downs that you have to accept. However, as long as you stay consistent and focus on the cumulative growth rather than the momentary failures you will unlock the best parts of yourself that you never knew existed. Also the unknown will also feel a little more familiar and fear will also start to be less and less of a deterrent in going after the things or improving the or relationships you value most in your life. 

Story Time with Rishone – Just Do It

Let Fear Excite You To Act on The Things You Really Want In Your Life.

We have 2 main choices when it comes to experiencing fear.  You can either choose to compound it until you become incapable of taking action or you can use fear to excite you take action. The fear of the unknown is what causes the most debilitation when it comes to pursuing or taking action towards accomplishing anything worthwhile.

The Dream of Learning From The Best.

I had a dream of being a top 10 finalist on So you Think You Can Dance. It absolutely scared me to my core just to think about dancing live on national television. This is how I knew it was something that I had to do for myself. I wanted to improve as a dancer and the only way to do that was to learn from the best in the business and that was through this show.

It was the end of 2011 and I was 29 years old, only 8 months away from the cut off age of 30. So I was either going to let fear tell me I’m too old and not good enough to audition for this show or I was going to let it fuel me to be a top 10 finalist and become one of the best dancers to ever be on the show. 

At the time they had already completed 8 seasons of the show and I made the decision to be on the 9th season. I originally wanted to audition for season 5 but I tore my ACL playing basketball that summer right before the audition season. Obviously I was extremely devastated and unsure I would ever actually get that opportunity again. However, with determination and discipline I spent the next few years rehabbing my knee myself.

After rehabbing my ACL injury, I felt physically ready to finally do what my heart always wanted. I went back and forth in my mind with so many negative thoughts of inadequacy until I finally said ‘F@#$ it; It’s time to make my mark!” So in that moment I decided that no matter what, I was going to be on season 9 of So You Think You Can Dance.

Action 1: Find the Ideal Open Audition City.

The first order of operation was to find the right city to audition. Open auditions were held in these cities: Brooklyn, Boston, Memphis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Salt  Lake City, and Atlanta but I knew immediately what 2 cities I would audition in. The first city that was a strong possibility was Brooklyn, NY New York but I felt auditioning in that city didn’t give me enough time to prepare. The next option was Salt Lake City, Utah. That city’s open audition gave me enough time to prepare, plan financially, request time off from my job, and prepare my solo Routine.

Action 2: Choreography my routine and Practice!

The audition was February 4th and I took care of all my necessary pre-requisites so it was now time to choreograph and perfect my routine. I chose the song ‘Lets Go’ by Travis Barker ft. Busta Rhymes. I chose this song because It was faster than any other routines I saw on the show and if I could display a level of control that I knew I could achieve It would impress the judges.

 I spent all my time when home creating the choreography and my lunch time working on perfecting it. I would go to the far left corner of the lunch room and put my head phones in. Most of my co-workers would laugh when they saw me practicing but as I got closer to February and I received a promotion to my new position I finally told them why I was doing it. They immediately became incredibly supportive. It felt great to finally feel like I wasn’t on this journey alone.  

Action 3: Landing In Salt Lake City Utah.

After the connecting flight to Salt Lake City Utah and watching the view of the Colorado Mountains from the window seat of my Flight, I landed in the late evening of February 3rd 2012. I took a shuttle to my hotel and checked in. After checking in, I asked the receptionist to point me to a room I could practice. She sent me to the meeting room upstairs. After I was settle in, I went to that meeting room and continued to work on my routine. After an about an hour and 20 minutes I decided it was time to get some sleep to prepare for the early travel and audition.

Action 4: The First Day Of Auditions

This was by far the best part of this entire experience. First of all, the experience of pulling up to the Capitol theatre in Salt Lake City and seeing the long line of dancers willing to give everything to be on the show gave me chills. It was also very cold so that could have also been a reason I couldn’t stop getting goose bumps. However, I got out of my taxi and took my place in the line of dreams. As I stood in line I saw dancers stretching, practicing their routines, others were eating breakfast, and I was just in awe of the moment admiring my spot in the line.

The Sun started to make its appearance and about 30 minutes later I heard a roar of screams and there she was miss Cat Deeley. She was interviewing Winner of the previous season’s 4th runner up Tad Gadduang. This overwhelming energy source came over all the dancers in the line and as the camera zoomed by you realized the level of talent that you were now in the presence of.

At that moment I did what has always made me comfortable, I joined the freestyle cypher and gave some of my best moves for the camera. After Cat and the camera crew was done with interviewing each dancer, I asked Tadd to take a photo with me. No I didn’t get to ask Cat because it all happened so quickly. It was an incredible experience waiting with all those amazingly talented dancers but it got even better when I finally entered theatre.

As the line got closer to the SYTYCD staff I saw the sign in table. We were assigned numbers and groups like: Jazz, Hip Hop, Contemporary, Ballet, cultural etc. Obviously I was placed in the Hip hop category. I did my background video interview, completed my slow motion dance move, and headed to my hip hop section in the theatre.

Action 5: My first time on Stage.

After we were separated into our specific genre of dance, we were then seated in the theatre in groups of 10. I sat in the audience and watched anxiously as each group of 10 got called on to the stage.  Each dancer was given 10 seconds to freestyle and leave a lasting first impression on the judges. If they didn’t make an immediate impression they were cut and that was the end of their journey.

On average, 3 out of every 10 dancers received a yellow ticket to the next round of auditions. That made me even more nervous but I kept reminding myself that I was born to do this. After about 2 and half hours of group auditions, it was now time for our group to go up to the stage. I literally danced up the steps like I belonged there.  As I got to the top of the stairs i gave a fist pump to the audience as they directed me to my designated spot. I was number 6 in my group. The song that was chosen for us to freestyle to was song ‘yeah 3X’ by Chris Brown.  It was a song I was very familiar with so I was excited to show my stuff.

 Dancers 1-through 5 went and then one judge leaned into to his mic and yelled “number 6.” I slid out of my spot like James Brown to the center of the stage smiled at the judges (2 producers 1 female 1 male, and Tadd) and danced like the song was made for me. To my surprise, they gave me an extra 10 seconds to dance. I saw them smiling and grooving with me and then they called #7. I felt like I was on top of the world because the only did that to about 20 dancers out of hundreds that came before me.

After all 10 dancers gave their best improve to the selection, they quickly called 4 number and one of those numbers was number 6. I think I exploded with joy when I heard it. The names that were called were directed to step forward to received a ticket to come back the next day and audition a second time for Mary Murphy, Nigel Lythgoe, and a former top 10 finalist.

Action 6: The 2 Day of Auditions:

I left the theatre shortly after seeing some more of the SYTYCD staff to register my ticket. After completing that critical step for day 2 of auditions, I grabbed my belongings and exited the theatre completely overwhelmed by this accomplishment. However, I knew I had to get some food, get back to the hotel, practice my routine and get some sleep.

The second day of auditions made me realize what the magic of TV was like in person. Like the first day, all remaining dancers were placed in groups of 10 and seated in the theatre according to their time on stage. This time I was 6th group to get on stage. All of a sudden we heard a roar of cheers, movement, and whistling. Nigel and Mary walked into the theatre and took their seat beside a former contestant from previous seasons. At that moment I realized this was it. This was the real day of auditions. Even though  made it through the first day of auditions, this was the day that the world would see. The cameras were live, the audience was live, the dancers energy hand a new level of focus, and the judges were ready to watch us dance.

They went through the groups quickly as they got on stage to dance. Again, like the first day of auditions, every dancer had 10 seconds to impress the judges. As my group was called, the camera swung around to watch us get up on stage. The lights were almost blinding over the judges as we made our way to our designated spots. They played ‘Lets Go’ by Neyo and called the first number. This time I was number 7 in my group.

I watched as each number was called and I got lost in the gravity of the moment. So when my number was called I had some nerves so I started with the Carlton just to loosen up. I danced super hard after being silly. This time I only got the 10 seconds and the next number was called.

After they called all the numbers the music stopped. They asked each of us couple questions. Then they called out the numbers that made it to the solo portion of the audition.  I was disappointed in the moment that my number wasn’t called but Nigel and Mary explained why clearly. I was not chosen to move on to the next day because I was looking down during my freestyle and they could not see my face under my fitted hat. Then surprisingly they asked me to smile so I did. Then Mary said “There is no way we could have said no to that smile if you gave us some of that during your dance.” At that moment the disappointment dissipated and I felt encouraged about what I did.

My audition ended there; we exited the stage and the next group was called up. Though I didn’t make it to the solo auditions, I felt incredible about what I did on that stage, in front of the cameras, the lights, and the judges who I got to know well from watching the show. It was surreal to see them in person and to actually have them ask me questions and give me feedback. It was certainly not the result I was looking for but it made me even more determined to improve as a dancer and a performer.

This experience allowed me share the stage with so many courageously, talented dancers. Upon leaving the theatre I got to know a few of them a little more and we hung out for the rest of the day together. One of the dancers from Salt lake City, Utah, Ms. Ruby Chase, gave us a generous tour of her city and invited about 7 of us back to her house for a celebration dinner with her parents. That made the trip to Salt Lake City an experience that is still fresh in my mind today. I still keep in touch with most of the dancers I met from this experience and it is always great to hear how this experienced has inspired them to do great things.

The wrap up

Accomplishing anything worthwhile takes a choice of using the emotion from fear to direct you towards taking the actions you need to make your dreams reality. I may not have accomplished my goal of becoming a top 10 finalist but I gained so much.

 To put things in perspective, about 99% percent of your first time at doing something that evokes some level of fear will be a learning experience. A learning experience that will help you grow and learn what you need to get to the desired results you dream about. The only thing that takes you closer to that dream is taking actionable steps that excite you on your journey to making it a reality. You will learn that not only do you do yourself a humongous favor but you also meet some incredible individuals in the process.

Taking the steps to audition for Season 8 of SYTYCD provided an unforgettable experience that taught me so much about myself. For those 30 seconds I was on stage I felt more alive than ever before. So if something scares you enough, it probably means you should get excited, make some plans(or take action) and go after it like you were meant to have it. Fear is not a bad thing, it can be an incredible tool when it is used to help you grow. So whether it is something small or something big, think about how much you want it and make up your mind to take the actions necessary to make it a valued accomplishment.      

3 Tips to become a better Hip Hop Dancer

Building your dance confidence, one move at at time.

We’ve all been there – walking into a dance class for the first time with those uneasy feelings. You’re not sure what to expect. “Is it going to be hard? Am I going to be able to keep up? I’ve never danced before and everyone else is going to be better than me….” You may be having this conversation with yourself. 
Well, we are going to help you redirect those thoughts into the right mindset! Those thoughts are all components of fears and doubt, and it’s all a lie you tell yourself to back out of what you really want to accomplish. Of course, we’re going to be real with you. Class will definitely be a challenge, especially if it’s your first time dancing (hip hop). But isn’t that why we are here? To learn something NEW? Learning anything new will come with it’s struggles, but WE ARE HERE TO HELP YOU! 
We have been teaching hip hop dance for over 15 combined years now, and we’ve definitely seen a pattern in some of the key things that students are missing in their approach to executing hip hop movement. We are excited to share our 3 biggest technique tips to have you feeling more confident as you enter your first class!

1. Stay grounded!

You may be thinking, what the heck does that mean? It’s quite simple actually when you recognize these things while the instructor becomes to demonstrate movement. To be grounded in your movement, you must be able to FEEL your feet press into the floor. So if someone were to try to move your foot out from under you, it wouldn’t budge. 
So how do you stay grounded? Bend those knees!! You’d be shocked at how much more control you have over your movement when you make sure you are bending your knees. Also, dance in the balls of your feet, not flat footed, unless instructed to! Again, you will have so much more control as you are going from one move to the next. 

2. Hinge at the waist!

So you know when you’re stretching and you bend over to reach for your toes? That is a hinge. Basically you are hinging to bring your shoulders forward and down. Or maybe you are reaching either right or left to whisper a secret in your friend’s ear. 
Insert swag here! This is where you can start to add personality in your movement with some dimension. Imagine if you were to do a whole dance standing completely straight up? That may work for other dance styles, but for hip hop? Naaaaah son!!!! When you combine hinging at the waist with being grounded, that’s when magic starts to happen. 

3. Understand where your weight is!

No, we are not referring to where your beautiful curves on your body are. We’re talking about, where is your weight in a series of movements? Right, left, front, back, center? Having your weight in your right foot when it’s supposed to be in your left will be an issue as you transition to the next move. So when taking class and something isn’t feeling right, ask your instructor where your weight is supposed to be. That should correlate with where you are hinging 98% of the time. You’d be shocked at what a difference a subtle weight shift can do for your movement transitions. 
There you have it! Our 3 biggest tips for beginners. These are techniques that all experienced and  professional hip hop dancers are aware of and are using in their movement. 
Hip Hop 4 Starters

So now, what about YOU?

 Do you feel a little more prepared to take your first class? As we mentioned earlier, we are not going to lie to you. Just because you have these technique tips in your toolbox doesn’t mean that class will be a breeze. Your first several classes are going to come with different speed bumps. The only true way to navigate those bumps and become better is to DANCE. Yes, dance as often as you can keeping these tips in mind as you get better. That entails taking classes, and working through those kinks as you progress as a dancer. 
If you’re ready to start your hip hop dance journey, we invite you to join us on a Tuesday evening for Hip Hop 4 Starters!