Sticks and stones…

I know that look.  Pain passed through her eyes.  She turned back to her computer, clearly stung by the comment that was made.  She tried not to let it bother her.  Sticks and stones after all…. right?

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me…” That’s the saying.  I don’t think I believe it.  Actually, I know I don’t.  Words do hurt; written, spoken or implied.

It takes a lot to say what you believe.  It takes even more to write it down, cast it in stone, make it permanent, but everyday, that’s exactly what brave writers do.  We know the consequences, we’ve taken the criticisms.  Still, we continue to do what we love.

Some people get it, some people think they do.  There’s a big difference.

Being a writer means being honest, checking your facts and being passionate about the topics at hand.  It can also mean pouring out your whole heart to complete strangers, or even worse, people who know exactly who you are — and judge you from it.  They say that you are your own worst critic and while that may be true most of the time, the critiques of others (especially harsh ones) can be the hardest to hear.

No matter what someone chooses to write about, whether it be dance, journalism (maybe a mix of both?) or something completely personal like their own life experiences, it is something to be respected, not mocked.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ve made my fair share of tough critiques and probably hurt people with my words along the way.  Still, it is without purpose.  Those who use mean words for their own pleasure…to see other suffer?  That’s just wrong.

Sometimes, sticks and stones don’t hurt nearly as much as words.

Sometimes I think I’d rather break a bone.

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Published in: on March 29, 2010 at 5:32 am  Leave a Comment  

Article Review — Towson University Dance Team

If you pick up a copy or own a subscription of the popular Dance Spirit Magazine and turn to page 40 in the April 2010 issue, you will see a bright yellow and purple themed spread complete with colorful pictures of a group of college girls (and one very large trophy) splashed across the pages.  This isn’t an ad for a new dance clothing line or a plea to sign up for a competition; it’s an article entitled, “A Winning Streak” by Alison Feller and details the success of the Towson University Dance Team.

Towson University, located in Towson, MD, is known for it’s high academic standing in the world of higher education.  A Division I school, Towson ranks high in both sports and prestigious extra-curricular activities.  The dance team is no exception.

So why, you may ask, did this particular article catch my eye out of the dozens featured in Dance Spirit?  Besides the obvious that I, too, am a dance team dancer and know the pressure and dedication of being on a nationally competitive team, I have personally seen Towson’s Dance Team compete in person.  The NDA nationals competition they attend in April is the same one that I journey to Florida with my own team to compete in.  (The goal? (To bring home an exceedingly large trophy that costs an extra $15 baggage fee on the airplane ride back home. )

However, since the ACDT is a Division II school, we do not compete against Towson (…thank goodness).  Nevertheless, the Towson University Dance Team is one that other teams aspire to be.  Although I am not sure that I would be able to handle their rigorous (and by that I mean absolutely insane) training schedule and conditioning regimen, I respect and admire the girls who do.  Their talent and passion is obvious to anyone in the audience of their performance.

The article details practically every aspect of what being a member of the Towson Dance Team is all about from making the team to the pressure of nationals.  Auditions alone are a nerve-wrecking process.  Each potential member is given a 15-minute private audition where they showcase their dance abilities and technique.  This is done through a series of kick, turn and leap combinations and the girls may also be asked to perform a short, self-choreographed routine.  The judges then make a cut and callbacks are arranged.

If the dancer is lucky enough to make the team, they must then be “towsonized.”  As dance team members quickly realize, dancing on a dance team is very different than dancing at a studio.  The training the Towson team members on the first day of practice alone is enough to make any timid freshman rethink their spot on the team.  Under the hot Maryland summer sun, the team work “as hard as a football team,” running three miles outside followed by sprints up and down the campus’ steep inline multiple times.  Finally, they make their way to one of the parking garages and proceed to run up and down different staircases.  It is survival of the fittest – and only the strongest remain.

Countless hours of training follow in the months ahead.  Nationals may be in April, but as any dancer knows, the time flies by while preparing for the performance of a lifetime.  NDA nationals require a college routine to include 30 seconds of jazz, 30 seconds of traditional pom (similar to cheerleading motions), 30 seconds of hip-hop and 30-45 seconds of whatever the team decides to do.  Advanced turn combinations and leap sequences add to the mezmorizing qualities of each routine and can significantly impact the team’s overall score.  However, technicality and uniformity are also incredibly important towards the overall appearance and success of a team’s routine.

This year, the Towson University Dance Team will attempt to achieve their 12th straight championship title – a dream and a goal not easily achieved by other teams.  After last year’s impressive win in the Open Division with an “executioner, good v. evil” routine, Towson must once again step up their game to remain the elite of the dance world.

From this article and seeing the team perform live, I am certain that this author did a fine job in capturing the essence of the Towson Dance Team and showed them in their best light — not only as a winning team but as dedicated individuals.

Article Rank : A

Published in: on March 22, 2010 at 4:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

Taking the Lead – How dance movies depict respect and dedication

Footloose.  Center Stage. Havana Nights.  Step Up.

Movies dedicated to the art, passion and love for the dance; each unique in its own way while providing the audience with heart-pounding thrills that make you want to get up and… well, dance!

Recently I watched one of my favorite of all dance movies that I had not seen in a long time — Take the Lead, starring none other than the savvy Antonio Banderas.

For those of you who are not familiar with the movie, I beg you to rent it, make some popcorn and prepare to be amazed.  I’ll give you a brief synopsis but I would hate to ruin it for you.

Reader’s Digest Version (Torto-style):

Take the Lead is based on the true story of Pierre Dulaine, a ballroom dance instructor in New York City.  After witnessing a vandalism on his way home from a dance competition one night, Dulaine goes to the principal of the local NYC high school hoping to help the “delinquent” kids that attend.  The principal is not open to the idea of teaching her students ballroom (and stressed to Mr. Dulaine that none of them would want to learn the style anyway since they already “know how to dance”.)  Mr. Dulaine, however, insists that she give him a chance and she, reluctantly, agrees, sending him to work with the worst kids in the school – those in detention for the rest of the year.

At first, the students are less-than-willing to learn ballroom; in fact, they flat-out refuse, their street-style dancing being the only thing they know.  However, Mr. Dulaine does not give up.  Soon, his newest (and poorest) students accept the new style, encorporating their unique backgrounds and ultimately, transforming their lives.

Obviously this is a VERY brief summary but the film’s meaning is touching and tear-jerking, as with many great movies.  Nevertheless,  the tension between the two styles – classical ballroom (including the waltz, tango, fox trot, etc.) versus free-style street hip-hop, creates a foundation not only for the difference in dance styles but the difference in living styles as well.  The ballroom dance represents the elite class of NYC while untrained street dancing is the only “art” the inner city students were ever able to take part in due to the fact that they didn’t have to pay for lessons.

One particular scene that stands out in the movie is when Mr. Dulaine is at the peak of his desperation to make the students want to learn ballroom.  He has one of his most talented (and synonymously wealthiest) female students come to detention one afternoon.  She struts in, unannounced, and proceeds to dance a fiery and passionate tango with Mr. Dulaine.  The inner city detentionees are amazed at the how “hott” the tango looks and immediately bombard him with inquiries after about how to dance like that.  It is the turning point in the movie.

However, the tango itself is what makes the scene exciting.  Although I do not have much training in ballroom, the tango is one of the most energetic and (dare I say it…?) sexiest genres of dance; it is not an easy style despite its smooth moves.  While the male partner handles his female partner with intensity and desire, the woman is actually in control and must be willing to submit to her partner’s lead.  It is an example of the bond between men and women and how a relationship must be balanced, yet full of passion, in order to be successful – just like the dance itself.

Overall, Take the Lead, as well as many other movies about dance, depict the performing arts in their greatest light and should be admired for the respect they show the arts.  Personally, I think it is a sad thing that most people do not enjoy or even appreciate the hard work and dedication, not to mention love, that goes into each step, every lesson that is mastered.  Movies like this one allow most publicity to be brought to the subject – I hope to see more like it in the future.

Published in: on March 21, 2010 at 2:30 am  Leave a Comment  

To write or not to write…

“I want to read your blog!”

6 little words that lifted my spirits and the confidence in my own writing out of a somewhat dismal abyss.  I have a blog, sure, but the way I see it, if no one knows about it then there is no one to judge it, no one to think I’m copping out, overly emotional or just a huge suck up.  It stays hidden in within the walls of the vast internet, behind a simple URL and codename.  In a way, it can hide who I am as a writer and even who I am as a person.

But then… what is the point?  What good is good writing, or even terrible writing, if there is no one to read it, critique it and if you’re lucky, compliment it and urge you to write more because they want to read what you have to say?

A good friend of mine, and a fellow (very talented) writer, told me months ago that I should start my own blog.  “Yeah, you’re right…” was what I said to her every time it came up.  What I didn’t want to tell her was how scared I was to have everyone: my peers, my professors, friends, parents…everyone read something that was all about my life.  I didn’t want to tell her that I didn’t have much confidence in myself to publish something worth reading.  Her response, “Marie, if it’s important to you, that’s all that matters…”

Which got me thinking… maybe she’s right.  Okay, who am I kidding?  I know she is.

So here it is, world.  I’m letting it all go and putting my writing out there for all to read.  For those of you who read what I have to say and like it, thank you.  And if you don’t, that’s okay too.  At least I’m giving this whole writing thing a shot.  That’s what’s important… and that’s all that matters to me.

Published in: on March 5, 2010 at 10:10 pm  Comments (2)