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James School of Dance Arts Blog

JSDA IS MOVING

Parents and students of JSDA, it is with great pleasure and excitement that we inform you that we will soon be moving to a significantly more spacious and accommodating new studio! We have seen our JSDA family grow and have been aware of our need for an updated space; one with larger studios, higher ceilings and updated flooring. We are pleased to say that this fall we will be moving in to the entire third floor of 1365 Beverly Rd, McLean, VA 22101.

The convenience of our studio families is of the utmost importance to us, which is why we’re thrilled that the new studio is only MINUTES from our current location. 

The James School of Dance is celebrating 60 years as a fixture of McLean, and your support and loyalty has helped us grow. It has been our desire to thank you by creating a better space to serve our students, with a studio that can grow along with them.

The new studio is currently being renovated to make it into the space we’ve been dreaming of, but major renovations like this take time. We have procured adequate space for our students to continue their training without any delay to our new year beginning Monday September 11. Classes will be held at an intermediate location 1313 Dolley Madison Blvd, Suite 300 as we transition from our current location to our new home, but our schedules will not be changing. 

This is an exciting step forward for JSDA and its students, and we are looking forward to all of the wonderful new opportunities we will be able to offer our them in the future. We cannot wait to see you at the new JSDA location!


NOTE: After August 31, we will no longer be at the studio on Whittier Avenue, we will officially begin the season at the interim location on Dolly Madison Blvd on September 11, 2017.

August 1st 2017

3 Secrets to Slay Your Next Dance Performance

As dancers, we are almost always rehearsing for an upcoming performance, whether it’s a competition, a recital or even just Parent’s Week at the studio. Since entertaining an audience is such a huge part of a dancer’s life, it’s important to become the best artist you can be. Here are a few secrets that can boost your confidence and help you slay your performance the next time you hit the stage!

1. “Light up the Stage” and Use Your Face

This might be one of the biggest ways to enhance your performance. Most often, the eyes of viewers will be drawn to the dancer with the most expression on their face. A dancer with an expressionless face quickly fades into the background, but when your face lights, it connects you to the audience on a whole new level. Even if the choreography doesn’t require a big cheesy grin, or mournful tears, a dancer should always keep up some form of expression, even a light pleasant look. This will make your performance more enjoyable for you and your audience.

Warning: Avoid dropping your face when you’re in the middle of executing a difficult move. Fouetté turns? Keep up the smile! Being inconsistent with your face draws your audience’s eye in the wrong way.

2. Know Your Choreography

There is just nothing like watching dancers who know their stuff. This will help your confidence too. When you’re prepared and you’ve worked hard to make your movements second nature, your muscle memory will take over during those performance nerves, preventing you from freezing on stage or blanking out in the wings.  Your focus and determination in class translates in your movements on the stage and into the crowd.

3. Find Your Story

Your performance should tell a story. Sometimes doing that is simple because the choreography incorporates a story—if that’s the case, go with it and use that story to boost your performance. But there will be times your ballet teacher plays the recital piece for the upcoming performance and you realize it’s just a classical song with no real story line. Don’t be discouraged, dream one up for yourself. Finding a story in the music will help you connect to the piece. Listen to the song in your down time and come up with your own narrative. This will create passion in your movements.

These tips are simple, but they’ll make a huge difference when you incorporate them into performance life. So next time you’re ready to hit the stage, remember to use your face, know your moves and dance your story—because that’s what performers do!

February 7th 2017

Your Morning Stretch Is A Must

You stretch before your dance class, to prepare your body, but do you stretch when you wake up to prepare for your day? Mornings can be difficult, but getting moving with the right stretches is a great way to jump start your day and your body. Here’s what stretching does for you:

Increases Blood Flow

Ever wonder why stretching after a period of being still feels so good? It’s because when your muscles aren’t moving, waste products begin to build up in the blood, which decreases the circulation. Stretching gets the blood pumping, making it richer and distributing the waste buildup. It’s good for your body, and your mind since blood flow increases concentration and sharpens your senses.

Gives An Energy Boost

Sometime the sleepiness you feel in the morning seems to drag on throughout the day, making you feel lethargic, but according to the American Council on Exercise, starting your morning out with a good series of stretches can boost your energy throughout the day, preventing that tired feeling from creeping in.

Reduces Aches and Pains

As dancers, aches and pains come with the territory, but studies suggest that stretching can help to reduce joint and muscle pain. Although aches can occur throughout the day, they tend to be stronger in the morning because fluids build up in the joints and spine while your body has been lying still. A gentle stretch to warm up the body will help to ease that morning stiffness and improve all-day mobility.

Improves Posture

Dancers, we’re looking at you. Posture is everything as a dancer, but outside the classroom, you might find that your posture suffers, mainly due to body fatigue, overstretched back muscles or tight chest muscles. Stretching these muscles in the morning will help loosen them, providing more flexibility and improving your posture inside and outside the class room. 

Improves Mood

Starting out your day by doing something good for your body builds confidence and releases endorphins. It also allows you a time to reflect and set yourself up for a successful day. During your stretch time, try to avoid worrying about all of the tasks of the day and focus on the little blessings in life. Be good to your body and it will work hard for you.

There’s no downside to stretching, just be sure that you avoid assisted stretching unless it’s with a licensed professional. So go ahead, get your morning stretch on this week and set your body up for success! 

References:
-American Council on Exercise; ACE’s Personal Trainer Manual

August 29th 2016

Why Does My Teacher Hate Me?

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Between the ages of 12 and 14, my dance life felt like a living nightmare. I returned home from almost every class frustrated and in tears, asking myself one question; “Why does my teacher hate me?” Here’s why I felt this way. 

Over time I’d began to notice that my teacher would single me out, pick on me, sometimes embarrass me with correction after correction in class. I truly felt that she was out to get me, and her corrections were often harsh. I felt bitter, untalented, and downright angry over her unjust treatment. I even considered quitting. Some of my peers claimed they understood what I was feeling, but to me, it felt like I was alone in my misery.

Then one day, my emotions gave me away and I felt the tears sting my eyes as I was corrected in front of my friends. After class, my teacher pulled me aside and I dreaded what was coming. She looked me in the eye and said the words that changed my perspective on being singled out.

     “I want you to know that when I correct you, it’s because I see the potential you have, and I’m taking extra time to mold and refine you into the exceptional dancer I believe you can be. That’s my job as your teacher.” She went on to describe her time as a student, when she and her classmates actually based how well they did in class by how many corrections they got, the more “attention” their teacher gave them, the better the class. For them, being picked on was a GOOD thing! She went on to say that she saw me as a diamond who needed polishing, and told me not to get discouraged during the process. I thought on that picture for a long time.

Sometimes teachers give corrections without follow-up encouragement, and that can feel overwhelming, but don’t think that their picking is a sign that they hate you or think you’re a terrible dancer, it’s actually the opposite.

There were times after my discussion with my teacher when I still felt frustrated or jilted, but then I would remember that most days I walked into the studio as a rock, but I would leave a polished diamond.

August 24th 2016

Ballet: Overcoming A Late Start

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Beginning something new can be challenging, and stepping into the world of dance is no exception—there’s so much to learn, and it can feel competitive. So what happens when your “competition” is two feet shorter than you and three years ahead? If you started ballet classes late in life, you’re all too familiar with this predicament.

Most dancers begin their careers at tots, twirling streamers in pre-ballet and learning to touch their toes. From there, they graduate into their first beginner ballet class, where they’ll learn the basics, their minds soaking in French terms that will soon be second nature. They’ll mature into dancers whose young muscles and tendons are naturally flexible, allowing them to bend further, extend their leg higher and perform movements with ease.This is the world in which an older dancer will find herself, as she steps into ballet class for the first time.

It takes drive and determination to start dancing as an older child or teen, but more than that…it takes guts! 

So how do you survive this awkward beginning stage without allowing the emotional and physical obstacles of being a “late bloomer” in the dance world affect you? Here are some things older dancers need to keep in mind:

Stop Comparing Yourself 

This can be difficult, especially when you’re standing in a sea of petite nine year old’s, feeling self-conscious about the fact that you’re in a leotard and tights with every flaw and insecurity on display. But keep in mind, these are young girls who have been doing this since they could walk. It’s not fair to beat yourself up over the fact that someone younger than you might know more. Lack of knowledge does not equal lack of talent. You might not have all the steps down yet, but feeling behind is temporary, and the only person you need to compete with is yourself!

Set Realistic Goals…Don’t Sacrifice Technique

You’re starting out, so allow yourself the time to learn—it’s okay to push, but don’t push too far. Avoid forcing your body into moving in a way that it’s just not trained to move yet. Over time, it will adjust to the things you’re asking it to do. For example, if your arabesque is at 45 degrees, and you physically can’t get it higher, don’t worry, work on your placement so that when you are strong enough, you’ll be able to do the movement correctly. Sacrificing your technique to kick your leg higher is one of the worst things you can do.

Practice Makes Perfect

If you want to get better, you have to be dedicated. It’s ok to take class for fun, but if your intention is to improve and raise your level of expertise, you need to dedicate the time to doing that. Several classes per week are a must.

Identify Your Strengths and Weaknesses

This might be something that your teacher can help you with. If you’re struggling with flexibility or balance, ask your teacher to show you some stretches or exercise that you can do at home and before class in order to improve on those weaknesses…they’ll become strengths in no time! And while we’re on the subject of strengths, you need to identify those too. Recognize when you’ve improved on something, even if it’s small, and celebrate the achievement!

Ballet is tough, and being the oldest dancer in the classroom is even tougher, but stick it out, remember why you started in the first place. So much of ballet is stage presence and upper body, cultivate your artistry, stay focused, and know that you will improve! 

April 9th 2016

3 Types Of Questions Dance Teachers Hate

You might have had a dance teacher tell you before that, “There’s no such thing as a bad question,“ and for the most part, this is true. Yet, there are three types of questions that are just downright frustrating to teachers. These questions often show the instructor that the student isn’t focusing on the correct things.

Every student wants to get the most out of class, so we asked multiple teachers from several different dance styles, studios and levels of teaching, to discover the top 3 questions students should steer clear of! Learning how to ask the right questions is a part of growing as a dancer, so avoid wasting time asking the following:

1. A question that another student just asked

This might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many teachers find that this is a common issue in class. It’s easy to let your mind wander, but asking a question that’s just been posed by another student tells your teacher that you’re not paying attention…this is discouraging for them, and damaging to your learning. Make conscious efforts to listen to the questions that others ask, and learn from the answers…even if you think you already know them.

2. Questions that aren’t relevant to the combination/topic

Dancers, if you’re in the middle of adagio and ask your teacher if she’ll be teaching a variation later on, it means you’re not focusing on the situation at hand. Maybe a movement in the combination reminded you to ask about the demonstration piece—save it for later. Your teacher wants you to focus on what you’re doing in the moment, and teachers also know that there’s only so much time in a class, they want to fill that time with helpful instructions for you to grow. 

Helpful tip: asking a teacher what time it is never ends well, so be warned!

3. Questions that can be figured out on your own

Many questions can be answered simply by doing the movement. Questions are great…but only if it’s something you really don’t know. Although teachers do love questions that allows them to help their students execute each move with perfection, many students feel that asking MORE than necessary will make their teacher feel like they’re more invested, or paying more attention. If you have a question that you feel could potentially be answered by completing the exercise,  attempt it. If you still feel that it’s a relevant question after that, go ahead and ask it before the other side is repeated.

This post isn’t meant to discourage students from asking questions, on the contrary, it’s meant to be used as a tool for asking the RIGHT questions of your teachers. They are there to help you learn, that’s their primary focus. The right questions are fuel for a teacher, so be present in class, soak everything in. That classroom is where you’ll learn to appreciate the technicality, grace, and art of dance! So bring on those questions—learn and grow!

January 30th 2016

Dance Tips: Preparing For A Holiday Break

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For a dancer, taking a break from routine classes can feel like the best/worst thing they can do. 

On one hand, a break is a time when a dancer’s body breathes a sigh of relief—a respite from straining and exerting itself. Time off allows the body the chance to catch up on rest and healing that it desperately needs.

On the other hand, the body of a dancer is a finely tuned instrument. Put a violin in a corner for a few weeks and when you pick it back up, it’s out of tune—same with the dancer. Although holiday breaks are great for rest, they often make a dancer’s life more difficult when they return to the classroom. 

It’s a commonly known thought that it takes twice the length of time you’ve been on break, to get your body back into its’ previous dance shape.

So how can you prepare your body and mind for this year’s holiday breaks? Take a deep breath and follow these simple guidelines:

1. Accept/Embrace The Break 

If you’re one of the many dancers who just don’t want to accept the fact that they need a break, let it go. Your body will thank you for it, and you might actually end up enjoying a little time off.

2. Set Realistic Workout Expectations For Yourself 

Although giving yourself class every single day for an hour might be tempting, understand that you have obligations that include being with family, friends, and celebrating the holidays. What you CAN do is stay limber. Stretch every morning and evening, and instead of your typical, time consuming ballet class workout, start with the plank pose in the morning to engage and awaken your body. At night, focus on abdominal/core exercises for ten minutes, or do jumping jacks for a quick cardio boost.

3. Enjoy The Holidays! Everything In Moderation 

Yes…it’s a reality that dancers are forced to look at themselves in the mirror day in and day out in a critical way, so the idea of holiday carbs weighing you down could be a scary thought. Let me remind you, it’s the holiday season, enjoy it! You can bake your Christmas cookies and eat them too! Life is short, and without going overboard, it’s ok to spurge every once in a while.

4. Mentally Prepare For The First Class Back 

Prepare your mind for what’s coming. Once you get back into class, your muscles might feel a little tight, your extension a bit strained, but relax, because it’s only going to feel that way for about a week. Know that it’s coming, accept the challenge head on, and be okay with it!

The bottom line is: breaks are awesome, returning from them is frustrating, but it’s all a part of dance life! No matter how sore or tight you feel returning from your holiday off, know that the rest was good for your body in the long run. So do yourself a favor and have a blast on your holiday break!

December 22nd 2015

5 Ways To Spot A Dancer

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“You’re a dancer, aren’t you?”

Dancers will have this statement/question posed to them by strangers many times during their dance career. They’ll smile, nod and give the person a moment to revel in the glory of correctly guessing their occupation.

As a dancer, have you ever wondered what gave you away? How do people determine what you do just by looking at you? Well we’ve got a list to help satisfy that nagging question! Here are the top 5 reasons people see you and know without a doubt that YOU are dancer! 


1. The way a dancer stands
There’s no denying it, dancers just stand differently. They might not realize it, but while they’re standing in line at the Panera bread, people notice the natural turn-out of the feet and legs, the random fourth position pose, or even the occasional B Plus! As dancers, you work daily to perfect your positions, and they display themselves in your everyday life…your teachers would be proud! 


2. The snap, crackle, and pop of a dancer
The constant strain on a dancer’s muscles and joints causes any movement to become noisy. People recognize a dancer by the way they stretch their back, the constant rotation and clicking of a sore ankle or the way they say/exclaim, "Finally!” after their hip pops. We can’t say that the continuous cracking of joints and muscles is a good thing, but it’s definitely a dancer thing! 


3. It’s all about the clothes
When people see a dancer out and about they’ve likely come from a class or rehearsal. This means they’re decked out in tights rolled up to their calves or right under the knee, flip flops displaying taped toes, warm up gear and loose fitting tops. Dancers stick out like a sore thumb, and since they’re usually in a posse of fellow ballerinas sporting the same dance-wear, this one is an obvious giveaway to strangers.


4. Constant movement
Whether or not they realize it, dancers are constantly moving. A dancer who loves what they do will let it play out during every moment of their life. That choreography they learned in class is what they’re subconsciously doing as they walk down the aisles of a grocery store. Whether they’re marking a movement, or full-out dancing in the street, dancers dance, it’s just what they do…and people notice!


5. Dancer hair
Most dancers have their hair pulled back. If you get the question again, ask the person what tipped them off. Their go-to answer is that they saw your hair in a bun. Dancers spend much of their time with their hair in a bun or french twist, and because of this, it’s literally second nature to create the perfect hairstyle. Everyone knows that a bun = ballerina.
So there you have it. The top 5 ways that people spot dancers. When someone notices, be gracious and thank them respectfully, because deep down, it’s very likely that they always wanted to be a dancer too!

November 20th 2015
 

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