Wednesday, January 30, 2013

10 Things You Don't Dare Say in Dance/Exercise Class

It's happened to the best of us.

Class is going great.  You're in the zone, getting a great workout, all the right muscles working correctly.  Nothing's been too hard or too easy. This class was tailor-made for you, baby!

Then it happens.

The teacher gets a wild hair up his or her ass and asks you to do a triple revolté/a painintheasana/the hundred while levitating above the reformer. 

Insert primal scream.

You want to gather your belongings and flee from the classroom.  You want to wrap your hands around the teacher’s scrawny neck.  You want to weep.

What happened to the love?  And is everyone else finding this assignment completely ridiculous and gratuitous or are you a one-woman protest march? 

Like an angry old man, you show your displeasure by muttering under your breath.  You so want to let loose the nasty responses that flood your head -- things that would unleash shock and awe over everyone in the room.  Things that might get you permanently banned from that teacher’s class, if not the studio altogether.

Here are some of these little nuggets you should think but NEVER say: 

1.   Oh, Hell No!

2.   Boooooo!

3.   Oh, no she di'int!

4.   Show off!

5.   You want us to do what?

6.   What the? 

7.   Ummmm...why?

8.   You tryin' to kill us?

9.   You seem to want to #$%@ us with that combo, so could you at least buy us a drink first?

10.   I think there’s a sadism class down the hall.

What have you been tempted to tell a dance/exercise/yoga teacher in class but not dared?  

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Use Time Unwisely

I'm a multi-tasker at heart.  Why do one thing when you can do two or three at the same time?  I talk on the phone and do laundry or the dishes.  (I'm still listening, I promise!).  I straighten up, or pseudopervise some kid activity while waiting for the pasta water to boil.  And if we're out doing errands, honey, why don't you do the drugstore while I tackle good ol' Trader Joe's?

I'm a woman - hardwired to multi-task.  

Second, I'm a dancer.  You can't dance without awareness of several things at once and anticipating what's to come.  Plus, you need a friendly, yet helpful, running monologue (dialogue?) in your head.  Things like: 

Alignment:  Come on, lift that pelvic floor!  Get it so high you can practically taste it!

Spacing:  Ever heard of personal space?  The last person who got this close - well, when he's home they call him "Dad."

Form: Oh, thank you, THANK YOU, Mrs. Mirror, for making me FULLY aware of my geriatric arabesque.

Music:  Was that on count 5 or shocka-docka doo?

And as a dance teacher I teach people to have this conversation in their heads.

Even at home my brain is still all over hell and creation, but it rarely leads to the harmonious whole I get when dancing.  Most of the time my crazy brain leads to debacles like these:

Get involved responding to something urgent on The Internet, like how much I'd love to see my foot up Gwyneth's Pilaticized ass.  Ignore daughter calling from somewhere in the house.  Say to self, "Hot damn! That kid has more cries for help than a juvenile detention center."  Finally go back to the bathroom to find poop on the tub, shower curtain, toilet seat potty insert, and daughter's pants. Curse self for the de-crapping now added to an already full nighttime dance card.  

Wake up and decide to take children to museum. Be that super thrifty and healthy mom, who packs lunch instead of shelling out for overpriced greasy kid food! Place juice boxes and sandwiches in an insulated lunch bag and place these in the fridge.  Put water bottles, applesauce, and homemade cookies in diaper bag. Get kids dressed and teeth brushed.  Negotiate a tantrum.  Put on TV so daughter will sit still to have hair done. Leave TV on to brush own teeth and slap on mascara and lipstick.  You are nearly an hour off schedule!  Begin yelling and rushing everyone out the door, as if the place is burning.  Realize, once you sit down for lunch that the sandwiches remain chillin' in the fridge.  

Begin preparing a new recipe with approximately 37 steps.  Read the recipe over several times, but still feel apprehensive.  Get halfway through.  The phone rings. To get it or not to get it?  Rush to check who it is.  It is your college roommate whom you haven't spoken with in over a year!  Wonder if you should take it. Do. Continue working and running your mouth simultaneously.  With all ingredients in the pot, set it to simmer.  Finish talking.  Taste soup.  Spit it out.  Feel gaggy. What the $#%&?  Apparently there is a big difference between 1/4 teaspoon and 1/4 cup of tomato paste.  Gah!  Dump it out.  Order take out.  Argue with husband about overspending.  Resort to drinking a screwdriver like it's 1977 because you have no wine and no mixers.

Get the brilliant idea to make dinner BEFORE you pick up kids from school - a recipe you could make while in a coma.  Put tofu on grill pan just to get those nifty looking marks.  Go work out a few dance steps that you flubbed up in class earlier.  Have a total "A-ha" moment and wonder why you did it flawlessly now but looked like you'd just drunk six Manhattans when it mattered.  Return to pan to find that instead of neat little grill marks you've charred the shit out of the tofu.  You continue making your tofu veggie rice "specialty," thinking the kids won't notice.  They totally do, frowning at their plates as though you'd served them raw sewage.  Add more soy sauce and tell 'em they can just go to bed hungry.

Obviously, multi-tasking is a crucial part of modern life.  Forget stopping to smell the roses -- most of us feel that if we did one thing at a time we'd fall hopelessly behind; we'd be do-nothing losers, drowning in life's obligations and eventually swallowed whole.

But would we?

Who could know? It's too risky to try.  

Instead, we legitimize distraction. For safety, we cling to that primary school rubric, the one that validates us as prudent and industrious:

Uses time wisely.

Are our efforts to use time wisely resulting in anything and everything but?

How's all the multi-tasking working out for you?  

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Guest Post: Resolving to Avoid Type 2 Diabetes in Children

by Carolyn of

Type 2 Diabetes is, sadly, a common disease among adults. However, I was shocked to find out how many of today’s children are facing this horrible disease, too!  Last November was American Diabetes Month and was also the same month that my family found out that one of my little cousins was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. 

We were shocked. 

I knew she had been struggling with her weight for some time, but I never realized that a 13 year old could develop this disease. After doing some serious research on the subject, however, I found that Type 2 in kids is becoming very common. In fact, according to St. Joseph’s Hospital Cardiac Center, 1 in 3 of today’s kids are diagnosed with obesity (the main factor in Type 2), with a majority of them also having a Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis.

The realization that my young cousin now has to take daily insulin shots scared the other children in our family. To make sure nobody else in the family had to face this disease, we decided to make changes in our lifestyle. With the New Year upon us, it was easy to define our resolutions: eating a healthier, more nutritional diet and more regular physical activities throughout the week.

Following that healthy and nutritional diet I mentioned…
Eating well is one of the biggest ways to combat Type 2 Diabetes. It's time to get rid of the junk food and sugary snacks, the soda and sugary juices that actually aren’t healthy. Instead, replace unhealthy snack options with fresh fruits and veggies cut up into fun shapes and paired with hummus and other creative and healthy dips. For drink options, try having kids drink milk (your doctor should be able to advise on what kind of milk is best for your child) and water – since water can be “boring,” try adding in some different fruits or cut-up cucumbers for added flavor.

Low-sugar cereals are good for munching, and can added to yogurt for some extra crunch. When it comes to meal-planning, the plate should be broken up into lean meats (such as turkey, salmon, and chicken), good carbs (such as brown rice and whole wheat products), and half the plate should be fruits and non-starchy veggies.

If good foods are there for the taking, everyone will be forced to make better choices.

Oh yeah, the exercise part!
My family tends to sit around too much. It was time to get up and move
! We decided the best way to start was to go for a walk every day. Someone new would pick the route each day for variety. We also try to plan some weekend adventures, going hiking, heading to an indoor swimming pool, and trying out cross-country skis this winter. With everyone becoming more health conscious, and being active each day, we are helping create healthy habits that can last them – and the rest of us – a lifetime!

Carolyn is a 20-something year old with a passion for life, fitness and overall well-being. She is an avid cycler, golfer and has been known to bust some serious moves on the dance floor. Check out Carolyn’s blog at

Thursday, January 24, 2013

10 Inappropriate, Insensitive Responses to Your Vomiting Toddler

On a daily basis, your child's no-like-it-no-want-it eating habits make you want to slam yourself in the head with a skillet.  

So when your little one spends the day rejecting every food item you bring near her, you don't think much of it.

That is, until she hops up and vomits like a fucking geyser right before your eyes.  

Puke drips off her.  Puke drips off you.  Puddles of sick pool atop her lovely, spendy Pottery Barn rug.  Remember that scene from Stand By Me, you know, the one with the pie-eating contest?  You fear that minus the pie, that could very well be your house. 

Gobsmacked, you stand blinking in disbelief.  "Is this really happening. TO ME?!!!"  you ask.  Maybe if you go catatonic for long enough it will all disappear like a bad dream.  Meanwhile, the precious fruit of your loins looks weak and frightened.  Any other time you would scoop her up, clutch her to your breast and cuddle away the pain. 

But, like money, vomit changes everything.  

Instead, you stare at her like she's covered in boils.  Inappropriate thoughts course through your mind.

Here are 10 examples:

  1. Right now, babe, you're one of those reasons people don't have kids. 

  1. Sweet Mother Mary, there sure is a lot of food in there for someone who never eats a goddamn thing!

  1. @#$&!  Now look at my sofa/rug/bed/outfit/bag!  One more thing RUINED!

  1. Do you think we could sell the house right this second as is?

  1. And you can't even AFFORD a stomach bug, you're in the 5th percentile!  Why not meeeeeeee?!!!!!

  1. How would YOU like it if Mommy threw up on you, or one of your dolls, or something? 

  1. You so would have to do this at bedtime/just before nap/when I need to leave for work.  

  1. You think you can stand there long enough for me to go give myself a Hazmat shower?

  1. A one-way ticket to Guam is looking really good right now.

  1. If I let you sleep in my bed and you throw up, I swear we’re both going out the window.


But soon reality kicks in.  As does the auto-pilot of parental compassion and duty. You wash your floor.  You scrub rugs and take them up.  You soak and wash bedding and clothing.  (Or you leave that to your iron-stomached partner.) 

Most importantly, you clean and comfort your child.  

After the room smells like a shrine to Lysol or Clorox or white vinegar, you realize that not too far down the road, your kid will be able get to the toilet, or at least to a bucket, to vomit.  

You realize that even farther down the line, she may be worshipping the porcelain Gods because of a stint as Miss Ahluvta Partay.  Even though part of you sees that moment and thinks "Vengeance is mine!" you still hope she has someone there to hold her hair -- someone to make it all better.  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Feeling Great Naked

I was about to spend a good chunk of the next day naked. 

And at midnight the night before, I was woefully unprepared.

My body hair situation put me on equal footing with a Neanderthal adolescent.  Street urchins who had never known decent shoe the first had prettier feet than I did.  And while I wasn’t overweight by any stretch, I was feeling a little large and in charge from the one-woman cookie-eating contest I killed it in over the holidays. 

It wasn’t pretty. 

I shaved my legs and slathered my crotch with what smelled like floral scented battery acid.  My feet would have to do.

For all this trouble you would have thought that perhaps I was auditioning for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue (where I’m sure I would have been directed to the Ooompa-Loompa casting down the hall). 

Or maybe I had been invited to spend the day playing 50 Shades of Hamm, as in Jon.


I was going to a Korean spa for a birthday retreat. A spa where the women’s pool/steam area was completely nude, and the co-ed saunas were clothed. The birthday girl, a dear friend, who like me was a retired dancer and mother of two, described the spa as super relaxing.  The nudity was no big deal, she claimed.  Somewhat humiliating was changing in a dressing room with a bunch of in-their-prime twenty-something dancers.  Not being at a spa with real women. 

Still, I couldn’t show my naked self looking like Chewbacca’s little sister.

On the appointed day, I entered the ladies locker room.  Bare lady bits everywhere.  Canya give a sista some dark glasses? Maybe horse blinders?  I stripped down, lathered up in the open shower stalls, and got in the pool with my pals.  It was the ultimate female bonding - everyone relaxed in the water, seeing but not judging, happy to chill. 

I even got a body scrub, one where you lie on a table and a woman scrubs you down like a potato - half massage half scouring.  She scrubbed EVERWHERE, but still I felt like a child being bathed by her grandmother. I'd venture to say a hummus tub worth of dead skin was sloughed off, and I got off the table with skin as soft as my 2.5 year old.  

In addition to losing all that dead skin, I shed my negative views of the female body.  I saw skin old, young, smooth, tight, dimpled, loose, and tattooed in every hue. I saw women whose bodies bore the topography of scars from childbirth and mastectomy and other surgeries.  I saw women who were leggy and coltish, muscular, fleshy, pear-shaped, apple-shaped, statuesque, petite.  There were women who rocked it hirsute and who were cue ball hairless. There were girls whose bodies had yet to change.  It was the feminine continuum, and I was part of the spectrum.   

I like a well toned, well groomed body as much as anyone.  But we've gone way too far over the cliff in the idea that only a narrow band of bodies are acceptable or beautiful.

Or even lovable.  

What makes our bodies beautiful is our ability to enjoy them.  Our ability to be free and happy in our own skin.  With so much bombardment with the idea that if we don’t look a certain way we are less than, a woman who is able to walk around naked, without apology, just being who she is, is a wonderful thing.  

So I'm not advocating joining a nudist colony, unless that's your bag, of course. If you want to be more at ease with your naked body, being naked together with other real women helps. Not the stealth dressing room kind of nakedness, where people are tripping over themselves to conceal, but the I've-got-nothing-to-hide kind of nakedness. The what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of nakedness. 

It redefines normal, and gives depth to beauty.

It is what it is. 

Looking good naked is a great goal.  But if you never truly feel good naked, what's the point?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

10 Things About Me That Suck For My Partner

I had a big thing happen this weekend -- a guest post on Scary Mommy, one of the biggest mommy blogs on the Internet!  

Huge right?

Ka-bam!  I tried to be deferential, saying that I wasn't talking about all men, and that many husbands, even fab dads, fell into some of the described categories.

Many, I'll say most, moms saw both the humor and truth in the post.  A few dads were offended, but one softened after I replied to his comment explaining my position -- that while some dads might be a bit inept, many moms were professional worriers. 

Still, a few folks, people standing on soapboxes with the Washington Monument up their you-know-whats -- got really offended.  Great, now I've got two posts that have made people want to gather up a mob and chase me off the Interwebs!  One chick even said she would stop reading and following Scary Mommy because of little ol' me! Thankfully Lady Scary Mommy comes to her guest bloggers' defense and bade this gal good riddance, followed by, "don't let the door hit you on the way out."  

Can I get an Amen!

Now some readers, when they see a post criticizing dads, sneer, "Oh that mom thinks her s--t don't stank."  

As if.  

Most women blog because they know they are far from perfect.  And anyone who knows me, knows that I could teach a graduate level course in self-deprecation.  

So that's why I'm responding to one commenter's suggestion/dare, to do a post called: 

10 Things About Me that Suck for My Partner.  Here goes:

1.  Hello, Mrs. Double Standards!
I'll give him the eye for eating that ice cream with chocolate sauce.  Hello, Cholesterol issue? Do you want to be here for us in twenty years? Then I, the Root Canal Queen will go polish off a bag of a sleeping -bag's worth of gummi bears.

2.  I change my mind more than a toddler.
Me: What movie should we see? The historical one.  We should see it because it will be up for an award. 
Him: Okay sounds good to me. 
Me: No, lets see the funny one.  I need a good laugh.
Him: I do too.  Okay, let's see the funny one.
Me:  But, we'll be bummed when we've seen nothing at award season.
Him: Okay, I'll get tickets for the historical one.
Me (running in while he's ordering tickets):  No, no, I'm feeling depressed - let's just see the funny one. 
Him:  (#@$%!)  Grrrrrrrr

3.  The incredible blame-shifting woman.  
In the above scenario, if the funny movie sucks out loud, Hubs's should have foreseen its suckiness and prevented me from changing my mind. Now we've thrown $20 bucks and 800 calories in popcorn into the crapper and it's all his fault.  If he is anywhere nearby and I can't find something -- surely he put it somewhere!!  And, when we're running late, and I was dilly-dallying? Still totally his fault.  

4.  The Rollercoaster of Love (Ooo-ooo-ooh!).  
For two weeks a month I am on top of the world. Then for two weeks I careen between angsty teenage girl and Cruella deVil. It's a wild ride.

5.  It's my way or the highway.
There is one way to do things.  Just one. No interpretative dance when you fold shirts or load the dishwasher.  

6.  I fight dirty.
I curse a lot (I’m from NYC, what do you want from me?) and than includes little tiffs.  I can take a talk-it-out and turn it into something that would make Ol' Dirty Bastard and three street hookers want to find a priest and go bathe themselves in religion.  

7.  The Human Cyclone. 
When I enter a room, I throw off shoes and sweaters, spraying them around the room like hot soup in a blender.  I open magazines I have no interest in.  Including financial ones that might as well be written in Sanskrit. 

8.  You work for me now buster...
With two little kids, the house might be a mess most of the time, but when company comes over, I go berserk.  I go buy a bunch of new decorating items, and order Hubbles around demanding that he convert trailer park squalor into an upscale sale-ready townhome on HGTV.

9.  So You Think You Can Dance, Mutha----a?  
         Awkward dancing earns you anything from no reaction at all to a bemused smile to an outright grimace.  But... when I bust out all kinds of ridiculous moves -- the running man, the cabbage patch, bad jazz dance party-- I require enthusiastic belly laughs and fan worship.  I mean, I get paid to move, right?  Be grateful, whydontcha?!!

10.  The most impatient woman in the world.
When I ask for help with something, I mean now!  In a couple of minutes I could have done it myself.  And he will find that I have done just that, if he has waited too long.  

So there you have it Sr. M.  I met your little challenge. I aired my dirty laundry.  I may sound like I need meds, and maybe I do, but I’m also a person who’d do anything for her friends and family.  I'm smart and funny and when I decide to change out of my momiform I clean up real good. 

And, sir, you couldn’t handle me for five minutes.  

Friday, January 11, 2013

How to Nail Audition Season: Find Your Inner Dog

Photo: Jeffrey Worthen via Flickr

by Katie Mc Cann

It’s that season again!  Nuts have been cracked.  The season of cheer and giving is over. Everyone’s rested and well-fed. Quite.

It’s audition season, and it’s time to nail it.

Most dancers approach auditioning with at least a small amount of dread.  Or hatred.  But, given that auditioning is just as much a part of a dancer’s career as taking class, rehearsing, and performing, let’s make 2013 the Year of Successful Auditions.  

Now let me say I mean no disrespect when I compare dancers to dogs – I love both dearly. 

But the collar fits…so we’ll wear it.

There are thousands of breeds of dogs in the world, and they’re all bred to be good at different things.  Border collies are herders. Dobermans are protectors. Hounds are finders. When asked to do the thing they are made for, they are brilliant at it, proud of themselves, and happy.  Ask a border collie to bring in a herd of sheep – wow! Speed, confidence, focus! However, ask a border collie to be a suburban lap dog, and while you’re at work, he’ll freak out and eat your couch. 

Despite all of the emphasis on training in every possible dance style, each dancer gravitates to a specific movement vocabulary that feels most organic to him or her. A musical theater dancer in a granola modern company (no matter how talented the dancer is and how badly s/he wants a job) will produce a frustrated dancer and a disappointed artistic staff. You need to be the best breed of dancer you can be, and find the job/program that will keep you from eating the metaphorical couch.

If you’re auditioning for EVERYTHING because you just want SOMETHING, the odds are you will NOT end up in a place where you’ll be happy and able to grow.

The hardest part of the audition process: figure out what you want and do your research.

Things to consider as you research jobs/programs:

  •     Pick your style.  Yes, you should take classes in every genre you can find.  These days, there’s   so much fusion of techniques that being well rounded is a must.  But, if you’re a ballerina at heart, go be one.  If you come alive in modern class, go find your favorite style and do it.  When you’re doing what you love, you’ll get better at it faster, and get noticed more often.

  •     Pick your people.  If you’re working with a director/artistic staff/teacher whose expectations are totally different from your goals, every day will be miserable. Remember that collie eating the couch. Make sure you fit the culture you’ll be working in. Talk to people who have been there. Visit ahead of time.

  •     Artistic choices need to make dollar sense, too. 

o      If you’re auditioning for summer intensives and college programs, remember that your tuition payments are important to the institution.  Of course, they want the best dancers, and they want those dancers to leave the program successful and happy with their experience, but they do want your money.  If you’re going to pay hundreds to thousands of dollars for an experience, shouldn’t you be getting the most out of it?  Do you really get to take as many classes a day as the brochures say?  Do the class sizes allow for individual attention?  Do you get to work with choreographers and directors who are currently working in the industry? Do you mesh well with the faculty/artistic staff? Find people who have been in the program and ask questions.

o      When auditioning for companies, make sure you actually end up making money. The life of a dancer is always life on a tight budget, but breaking even isn’t worth it. Make sure there’s enough money to justify taking the job. If it’s a short gig or apprenticeship, make sure there are enough hours left in the week to make your nut without exhausting yourself. Hungry, homeless, exhausted people don’t make good artists.

Once you’ve found your prospects, the rest is easy.  Really.  You’ve been dancing every day since time began, right?  It’s just one more day, and you’ve made choices to put yourself in front of the people who are looking for the specific skills you have.

A couple of day-of-audition reminders:

  •     Dogs are pack animals, and so are dancers.  It may feel like that audition is you versus everyone else in that room.  But the artistic staff isn’t always looking for “that one singular sensation.” They’re looking for more puppies who fit in their pack, play well with the other dogs, and are happy doing good work.  Show your team spirit and willingness to get in and play. 

  •     They are rooting for you.  They want to hire fantastic dancers, and they’re hoping you are one of them.  Go ahead and be fantastic.

  •      Mistakes are opportunities to show your ability to think on the fly.  Figure out some brilliant way to cover or recover.  The audition staff were probably performers.  They’ll give you credit if you stay calm and find a graceful way out of it.

Best audition advice I ever got from a teacher: Don’t try to change yourself to fit what you think a company wants unless you are willing to be that dancer every day.  It is very difficult for a hound to be a Doberman every day (again, see couch-eating metaphor). Find the company that wants YOU.

If you’re doing auditions all over the country, it can get exhausting. Sleeping in strange beds and navigating unfamiliar places is a mental energy suck.  But, it’s worth it to find a dance home that makes you happy. When the day arrives, an audition is a class and a rehearsal in front of new eyes.  You do it ALL THE TIME, so just keep doing it (with a silly number pinned to your clothes).

Dogs playing in the square, Piran, Slovenia
Photo: Dianasch via Flickr

Find your pack and go play.


Katie McCann graduated from Butler University's Dance Department with a Bachelor of Science in Arts Administration.  While at Butler, she performed soloist and principal roles with the university performance company including Myrtha in Giselle and Odile in Swan Lake.  She also performed in original contemporary ballet and modern-dance works by choreographers Donald Byrd and former Martha Graham company member Larry White. After graduation, Katie danced with Kentucky Ballet Theatre in Lexington, Kentucky.  She performed soloist roles in Paquita, Dracula, The Nutcracker, and various repertory pieces.  Now in Chicago, she is director of Dance in the Parks, a non-profit dance initiative that brings free, professional, outdoor, dance concerts to neighborhood parks. She teaches student and professional-level ballet classes throughout the Chicago area.

Visit Dance in the Parks on Facebook!

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