Charlene Achki-Repko

As we continue our mission of providing ‘transformative dance’ to thousands of underserved youth across Los Angeles through our programming, we also strive to utilize the passion and versatile experience our robust board members.

In this post, we highlight one of our latest additions to the board, Charlene Achki-Repko. Charlene holds a BA in Business, Management and Finance from USC’s Marshall School, leading to a long and accomplished career in publishing, advertising sales, and marketing. Charlene has held management roles with Dow Jones, The Wall Street Journal, Hearst Magazines (Food Network Magazine, O, The Oprah Magazine, HGTV Magazine).

We were able to ask Charlene a few questions about her background and what she hopes to bring to The Gabriella Foundation!

 

What do you hope to bring to The Gabriella Foundation? What drew you to becoming a member of the board for our dance nonprofit?

 As a lover of all kinds of dance, the mission of TGF, immediately drew me to the organization.  More than that it is an opportunity to give back to underserved youth who are passionate about dance. I believe that dance can be a strong foundation for growth in so many aspects of kids’ lives.  I am also excited about potentially getting more involved in a hands-on-way – be it mentoring youth, providing guidance to children and families directly, etc. 

We have heard that you have your own passion and experience dancing – especially in tap dance. Can you let us know a little bit about that?

I took tap, jazz and ballet for many years starting as a young kid and it was such a pivotal experience for me. My interest and passion for dance began as a result,  As an enthusiast and champion of dance I love all genres of dance but I still have a soft spot for tap.  It just makes me “happy”….it’s transformative…connects the mind, body and soul.  I always wanted to return to tap lessons as an adult and have finally found the time to do that along with two friends (also board members of Gabriella) who love tap!

 

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a Senior Vice President of Original Programming at HBO, where I’ve worked for the past 12 years shepherding a number of series including PERRY MASON, LOVECRAFT COUNTRY, EUPHORIA, THE DEUCE, I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE, GIRLS, and upcoming series THE UNDOING, THE NEVERS and INDUSTRY. During my tenure at HBO, I’ve played a significant role in several of the company’s leadership and mentoring programs, including spearheading the creation of Project HBO, our immersive internship program, and acting as an advisor to talented, up-and-coming storytellers in the HBO Access Program. I was also at the forefront of forming HBO’s Women’s Employee Resource Group and am the Executive Advisor for GenHBO, an Employee Resource Group that focuses on fostering and supporting a younger generation of HBO Employees. Outside of the (now virtual) halls of HBO, I serve on the ATX Television Festival Advisory Board as well as the New York Television Festival Board.

Originally from New Jersey, I spent a majority of my childhood inside a dance studio, where I trained rigorously for both the competition circuit and occasional Broadway audition – which is what brought me to New York, where I attended NYU (and ultimately “retired” from dancing/theater!). After college, I moved to Los Angeles and started my career as an agent trainee in the mailroom at United Talent Agency, where I worked for just under five years before coming to HBO.

 

What motivated you to join the TGF Board? What makes the organization stand apart from other nonprofits?

I was introduced to The Gabriella Foundation years ago by my friend and fellow Board member Allan Haldeman, and the foundation’s mission immediately resonated with me given my background in and passion for dance. I was drawn to TGF because I wholeheartedly believe in everything they stand for in terms of their goals, vision, and ability to deeply impact the lives of its young dancers and their families. I think it’s imperative that those of us who are lucky enough to work in the arts give back to the communities that championed our journeys here – not only does TGF afford me the opportunity to give back to the dance community, it also provides a resource for underserved children all over Los Angeles to be able to transform their lives through high-quality dance education. TGF has been incredibly successful in its ability to provide dance instruction to ethnically diverse, economically disadvantaged children.

 

What does your background in entertainment bring to Board service?

I grew up less than an hour’s distance from New York City, and was lucky to have access to musical theater and dance; I started dancing at a very young age and studied seriously through college, even spending years teaching dance as my after-school and summer jobs. My whole family was involved (my sister was also a dancer, and my mom ran the front desk of our studio) and dance was, put simply, the center of my world. It’s what drove me towards the entertainment business, and I can’t deny that the skills I honed from my years dancing have aided my success as an executive in a perhaps too-rigorous, very-academic environment. These combined experiences give me a unique passion for and understanding about the benefits of dance (which I consider both an art and a sport), which sets me up well to serve on the TGF Board. What’s more, my connections within the entertainment business have provided me with incredible, generous friends and colleagues whose shared enthusiasm for and dedication to the performing arts are also a helpful resource for TGF’s various programs and events.

 

What are some of the benefits and/or strategies you have gained by serving on an arts nonprofit Board?

Though I still feel like a Board-newbie, in the short time that I have been part of the organization I have found it to be an incredibly fulfilling – and actually quite an emotional – experience. I will admit to hating – just hating – asking people for money as a general rule, so when it came time to galvanize donors to give in light of our annual gala being Covid-canceled, I was fairly uncomfortable…

To my great surprise, not only were people more than willing to jump in and lend their support (financially and otherwise) with incredible generosity, but countless people I contacted for support also engaged in unexpectedly deep and meaningful conversations not only about TGF, but also about how dance has touched their lives – I had no idea that reaching out for a donation would be so rewarding, and on so many levels

Click this photo to view the video!

We have been continuing our “Teen Dancers Ask Pro Dancers” series on our Youtube channel. This episode is lead by Everybody Dance! student of six years, Oscar Morales who was able to interview his Hip Hop 4 Teaching Artist, Mr. Ernesto.

Mr. Ernesto of Versa Style Dance Company is also a professional choreographer and Hip Hop dancer. They talk about the importance of knowing the history and foundation of dance moves, how to become a professional choreographer, and his favorite performances.

To stay up to date on our stories from our students, Teaching Artists, and Everybody Dance! community make sure to follow us on our platforms.

InstagramFacebook – Youtube

You’ve been matched!

Take a deep dive into The Gabriella Foundation’s Mentor Match program with student Joanne Chae

Have you ever wished to have a person whom you can really trust? Someone who you can express all your concerns to and get guidance from?

A mentor is someone who is wise and plays the role of both a trusted teacher and friend. The act of mentoring consists of a series of small successes, which gradually develop to create a major impact. It helps in advancing healthier youth development.

Organizations whose missions focus on healthy youth development, value the importance of mentoring. Mentoring comprises of several components from tutoring, to counseling, to being a life skills coach. Mentors can even take the role of a temporary guardian or therapist. Successful relationship results arise after being consistent with contacting for more than three months, have a strong connection between personalities, interests, and expectations of the mentors and mentees.

The Gabriella Foundation offers an annual eight-month mentorship program for its students. It “matches” a mentor with a mentee and works as a basic framework. The program lets them choose their meeting location and decide what they want to accomplish at the end of the program.

At the end of the Mentor Match celebratory event, a mentor, Reshma Gajjar explains her reason for becoming a role model for other students.

“When I was growing up, I didn’t have a mentor, and I felt very alone on my path. I know how important having a mentor is in…one, not feeling alone…and two, just getting any kind of guidance and wisdom from somebody who has either been through it or somebody who is a little bit older and wiser and maybe has a different perspective on life.” Reshma continues, “When I found out about this mentor match program, I’m always excited…this is my way of maybe giving back to the community because I didn’t have one, and I know how nice it would’ve been for me if I had one. Therefore, I’m go[ing to] be one…that was kind of what inspired [me] to do mentor match.”

Mentoring benefits both the mentor and mentee in numerous ways. The opportunity to act as a role model for a child enhances the mentor’s personal and professional knowledge, and leadership skills. On top of that, the mentor might also learn something new from the mentee.

Reshma says, “The mentor and mentee…we get something positive out of it. Even though one of us might have more life experience, we’re both learning from each other. It is just as much of a gift to me to be able to mentor than it is a gift to be menteed because I have somewhere to give wisdom, I get to give. Giving is a gift that is also an opportunity…as well it is to receive.”

By providing emotional support, motivation, advice, and strategic feedback, they become an important resource for success.

According to a recent report by The National Mentoring Partnership, children who had supportive mentors that were both well-prepared and had the ability to relate to the youth were, “55% more likely to enroll in college, 78% more likely to volunteer regularly, 130% more likely to hold leadership positions.” The findings in that report also showed that students are, “46% less likely to use drugs and 81% more likely to participate in extracurricular activities.”

Whether it may be a regular meeting between the mentor and student once a week, or once a month, each meeting has a significant impact on the lives of mentees. The meetings between mentors and mentees help model positive, safe, and effective environments for students.

Additionally, human nature values emotions and it is important to understand that everyone endures real-life experiences. It is critical to respect one another’s individuality, to listen, and to learn from each other’s stories because it might prove to be very useful in the future.

Even if the role of a mentor is a heavy responsibility, encouraging the young, and sharing valuable knowledge, can lead to an increase in self-esteem, self-awareness, and a positive-mindset towards school. It can also decrease the key symptoms that lead to depression and illicit behavior.

A study by the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) Program shows that students, “…earned higher grades…youth in school-based mentoring programs turned in higher quality class work, did better academically…completed more of their assignments…Better school attendance. Youth with mentors had fewer unexcused absences from class than students without mentors… Teachers of students in the BELONG mentoring program reported that students participating in mentoring were more engaged in the classroom and also seemed to place a higher value on school than students who did not have mentors.”

The younger generations look up to mentors and put a lot of faith and trust in their ability to lead by example and point them in the right direction. Being around an individual who always acknowledges other’s thoughts, opinions, and concerns will become a learning experience for teens to grow intellectually, socially, and emotionally. It teaches the students independence by building confidence within themselves.

Being provided a mentor should not be a privilege, but a necessity. In life, there will be many times that each of us will feel lost or hopeless, and that’s why everyone needs a person who is there for them – through thick and thin – and can show them the light at the end of the tunnel.

Joanne Chae, Grade 9
TREE Academy

I think it is safe to say this year is one for the history books. A global pandemic, along with the momentum of social movements amongst other things, have forced us all to make changes, whether we were ready for them or not. We at the Gabriella Foundation are no exception to the impact of 2020. To wrap up this year, we’ll be taking a look at how The Gabriella Foundation has been able to continue our mission of providing transformative dance to students by focusing on these four values.

Adaptability 

Almost a year of online dance classes, who would’ve thought? Dance schools and organizations around the world have had to figure how to continue holding their classes, rehearsals, auditions, etc. in a safe manner. The shutdowns and social distancing measures prompted by Covid-19 led TGF to immediately adapt. What began as Instagram live classes evolved to weekly Zoom classes. Thanks to our wonderful staff and families, we were able to still hold summer classes and successfully made it through our fall semester of 50+ weekly classes online. In addition to classes, even auditions for Everybody Dance! Company and Conservatory were held through Zoom. Revised and a little different than usual, students still got a sense of a true dance audition as highlighted in our How to Audition YouTube video.  In classes, teachers have rehearsed, choreographed, and recorded dances on ZOOM to create a virtual end of semester showing in place of the in person opportunities, which have allowed families to witness what their dancers have learned.  In addition to recorded performances, our annual Winter Raffle Pull Performance included live and pre-recorded performances on Zoom. While our fingers are crossed in hopes of returning to in person operations in the near future, some procedures have changed for the better. Registration, usually held in person was completed online and will continue to be in the future. 

 

Perseverance

Adapting is not always an easy process. Remote learning, teaching, and organizing can be extremely difficult. Space to dance is limited, there are constant internet connection and Wi-Fi issues, miscommunications due to the barrier of the screen, and mental health strains as a result of not being able to leave our homes and interact in the world the same way we could before. Despite the obstacles, all who are a part of the Everybody Dance! Family has persevered. Staff members have worked hard to organize and communicate the new procedures to ensure that this change was as smooth as possible for families. Our teachers still lead high-quality and transformative classes while finding ways to accommodate everyone’s different dance space and circumstances. Their creativity was pushed to the limits as they found ways to keep classes engaging, fun, and effective for student growth. Household items became props for class and choreography. The camera Webcams and computers were used in innovative ways to create dances for our annual Winter Raffle Fundraiser and Performance and end of semester showing.  We learned what it means to truly show up for one another. Dancers attended class with a positive attitude, putting their best foot forward despite the less-than-ideal circumstances and hardships that came with this year. 

Importance of Human Connection 

In the midst of a time that brought isolation to many, dance was a way for everyone to still interact with one another, even though it was through a screen. Dance class is a way to fill the gaps in the student’s lives, giving them the space to see and interact with each other in the way that they could. For the in-school program students, dance also provided a time of physical exercise that could be lacking during quarantine. Teachers created a space to check-in with students and allow them to speak to one another.  Many meaningful discussions surrounding both dance and personal life were held in class. Through movement and conversation, dance classes made quarantine feel a little less lonely. The Gabriella Foundation prioritizes providing support to students and families through dance class. Classes were not limited only to those enrolled for the season. Free Community Wellness dance classes were offered monthly, allowing the public to experience the physical, emotional, and mental benefits of dance. Aside from classes, our students were still able to make connections with professional dancers and other areas of the dance industry. A few students held interviews with professionals from the LA Dance Project, receiving helpful tips about auditions and learning their experiences as professional dancers. In addition, a few of our Conservatory 3 students had the opportunity to remotely compete at the California Dance Classics Competition, receiving exposure and feedback from more professionals in the industry. 

Joy 

The ability to capitalize on moments that don’t always seem desirable became a great learning experience. Through dance, we have been able to find happiness in moments where we are feeling down or helpless. Outside of class, students have brought laughter and smiles to our faces through weekly TikTok videos created by themselves. They have remained gracious, respecting one another and showing gratitude to teachers. As our students go on with their lives, not only will they always have dance as a powerful tool for bringing fulfillment and therapy, but they will be able to carry the treasure of knowing how to connect to joy when joy is not the first instinct. 

 

 Written by: Jordan Powell, Arts Education Intern at The Gabriella Foundation. 

Quarantine has been monotonous and because of the lack of studio time I have found myself just wondering what to do. One of the many things I have been doing during this never-ending isolation is watching movies. I love dance and watching movies. I thought why not kill two birds with one stone? Here are my top 10 dance movies to watch when you are very bored and want something to make you smile, laugh and cry. (from the perspective of Jules, a 15-year-old teenage dancer).

*In chronological order of age of viewers from youngest-oldest

Happy Feet (G)

While this movie does not seem like a dance movie it has some showstopping tap dancing while being such a fun kids’ movie. It also covers the danger of climate change and global warming which is very relevant to the world right now. This childhood classic revolves around little penguin Mumble who can’t carry a tune. In his world one must be able to sing to attract a mate however since Mumble can’t he feels like he doesn’t belong. He may be an awful singer but he sure can tap! This movie will bring back all the memories you had when you were a kid and more.

Billy Elliot (G)

Set in 1984 England the movie follows 11-year-old Billy, as he quits boxing and begins ballet class which then leads him to find his real passion. Billy has a natural talent and could quite literally dance circles around all of us. This film spreads the message that we should always be true to ourselves and never change for anyone. This movie was one of the first dance movies I have ever watched and I have never looked back.

First Position (G)

The documentary First Position follows the journey of six young dancers while they are preparing for the Youth America Grand Prix Finals in New York City. YAGP which is an annual dance competition with competitors that ranges from ages 9-19 could give them the opportunity to secure a spot at a top ballet school/company. It features dancers such as Michaela DePrince, Aran Bell, Miko Fogarty and more as they train and prepare intensely for a major turning point of their career. As a person who has competed at YAGP, this does an excellent job showing the inner workings of competition and the work one has to put in to be able to be able to perform!

Footloose (PG)

One of the most amazing dancing movies of all time is about a town in which dancing is not allowed. It will inspire you to get up and start dancing and have you singing soundtrack songs forever. It may even inspire you to take a dance lesson or two. This movie is so fun and a classic that I would recommend to everyone!

Red Shoes (PG-13)

Before the Red Shoes was a ballet, it was a movie. In this movie Vicky Page is destined for greatness as a professional ballerina. She then becomes distracted by a charming and handsome composer. She must choose between her desire to love and desire to keep dancing. This movie shows the struggles of a dancer having to choose between two different paths which is something many people can relate to. This movie has beautiful cinematography and music to match the dancing.

Save the Last Dance (PG-13)

Original Cinema Quad Poster – Movie Film Posters

Save the Last Dance which came out right after 10 Things I Hate About You, centers around a teenager, played by Sean Patrick Thomas, who helps a character played by Julia Stiles train for a dance audition. This film has bits of hip hop and ballet which give you a perfect mix of both genres. If you love Julia Stiles, this is for you. This movie basically solidified Julia Stiles as the ‘00 teen movies darling. This movie is a classic and so worth it.

Step up (PG-13)

Step up, Similar to Save the Last Dance, does a great job of fusing two opposite dance styles (ballet and hip hop). It does this by the interests of the main characters. This movie is also a classic and a great romantic drama. It features Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan. Step up also is a series and a great movie to watch if you are in the mood for something fun and exciting.

Center Stage (PG-13)

You have to admit the choreography and dancing during Center Stage is top notch. Center stage which follows the Journey of Jody (a young dancer) through her time at the American Ballet Academy is also one of the greatest romantic dramas of all time. Not to mention the killer costumes and ending dance number. This one’s a classic and one of my favorites of all time.

Chicago (PG-13)

Based on the musical “Chicago”, this film shows dancers Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart on the journey to fame and stardom. This movie shows the seamless transition of the classic Bob Fosse choreography from the Broadway stage to the big screen. “Chicago” pays homage to some of the amazing moves and style of Bob Fosse’s original choreography. This movie also has an amazing plot and stellar musical numbers to match. If you are into Fosse jazz, I would recommend this to you 100%.

Black Swan (R)

Black Swan includes gorgeous dancing along with a scary plot. Natalie Portman who plays Nina is a ballerina who, in an attempt to portray her character, becomes consumed by this dark leading role. This movie is extremely interesting because every character and situation is portrayed through Nina’s eyes so the audience may never know what actually happened. The ballet is stunning but there are also parts that may be disturbing. This movie is for more mature audiences but it does have some amazing and interesting choreography.

*for more mature audiences

My name is Jules Kramer and I am a 15 year old teen dancer in quarantine. I have been dancing since I was around 4 years old but didn’t take it seriously until around 4 years ago. I am trained in ballet, jazz, contemporary among other styles. I thrive off of other people’s energy and my dance studio has been a constant for me when everything else felt uncertain. When the stay-at-home order was placed I was devastated that I would not be able to go to my studio every day,  take classes, and see my teachers and friends. Without dance I feel incomplete. I am so passionate that not being able to fully practice my art form has been a huge challenge for me. But seventeen weeks and 125 days later, I now know there are positives that have come out of it. Dancing in quarantine has taught me so many things about myself. I have learned to be patient with myself, not get as frustrated, and have learned how to keep motivated while there is so much uncertainty in the air.

Here are my top seven tips on how to stay motivated:

You are not alone

Remember, we are all in this together and every dancer worldwide is feeling the same as you. You may feel like you are losing your technique but remember that every dancer in the world is going through this. When you get back into the studio everyone will be working at the same pace to get back into your normal routine.

                        ( Screenshot of Tyler Peck’s Instagram page)

 Get inspired

Although there are negative aspects of social media, it can be used as a way to become inspired by watching professional dancers. Many dancers (especially in quarantine) have been using social media to display and create new innovative ways of performing. You also can take incredible classes from teachers worldwide and professional dancers that otherwise, you would not be able to take. Some of these classes on Instagram are by; Maria Khoreva, Mariinsky theater ballerina, Tiler Peck, New York City Ballet soloist, and Isabella Boylston along with James Whiteside, American Ballet Theater Principals.

Create a schedule

It may seem like a lot of effort but in the end, creating a schedule will help you make sure you get all of your tasks done. By sticking with it you will be able to find time to be creative and push yourself, creating a consistent routine.

Do it with friends

Get together with friends either virtually or in-person (while wearing masks) to take a dance class or a conditioning class. It is so important to stay socially connected and by dancing with your friends, even if virtually, you will be more inspired.  It also creates a friendly competition which in this case may help you improve.

Set a goal

Choose at least one thing you want to achieve. Whether it be holding turnout in fifth or keeping your elbows up in your second position, having a personal goal will motivate you and help you to improve. For me, my main goal has been improving my attitude shape in the center and the barre. By working towards this goal I have been able to improve other areas by just thinking about this correction. I still have so much to improve but just accomplishing little things has made me more determined to keep pushing and to give my all.

Remind yourself why you love it

Take a step back and remember how much you love dancing. By just acknowledging your love for dance it can encourage you to keep working and be motivated. Remember, having motivation is an internal battle with yourself and you are your biggest competition. In order to remind me of my love for dance I usually write down my top reasons I love to dance in a journal. Writing these ideas down reinforces my passion and love for the art-form.

Remember what it feels like to perform

Remember that sensation of working for weeks on end, and making it to that final 2 minutes on stage –  yes that feeling!  The feeling of joy and excitement mixed with nervous energy. Remember how excited you were and let that be your motivation to keep stretching and keep working. Stay positive!

This year marked The Gabriella Foundation’s 20th anniversary of providing transformative dance programs to thousands of Los Angeles youth. Like many others, our 2020 started off with a check-list of events and exciting plans for the new year – A Block Party in March, a Gala performance in May, and Student Showcases in the summer! While the unexpected changes of COVID-19 brought us challenges and caused us to shift our plans, we are so grateful and happy to share how we have pivoted through these past few months to continue offering 130 weekly classes, virtually!

When the quarantine first went into place, we offered Instagram Live classes twice daily to continue supporting our community. We knew that through uncertain times, consistency was important to create a sense of normalcy and routine, especially for our students. This was the easiest and quickest transition to keep our students, families, and Teaching Artists moving. With a different style of dance offered every day, our Teaching Artist team was excited to continue connecting with students to move their bodies. Although teaching online isn’t the ideal way to teach dance, it certainly was a better alternative to not dancing at all. We received several messages from students and parents thanking us for finding a way to bring some of our programs into their homes. We recorded our classes so those who couldn’t join in during class times could refer back to the 45-minute dance classes at their own convenience. While it was wonderful to read encouraging comments and see smiling emoticons pop-up during our daily Instagram classes, something was still missing.

Students and Teaching Artists alike craved an even more interactive learning experience. Since we still aren’t able to hold classes face-to-face yet, our ingenious community sought creative ways to cultivate more of a feeling of togetherness for our virtual classes. After doing research and testing, in mid-May, we shifted our class offerings from Instagram to ZOOM. The opportunity to utilize the more interactive ZOOM platform appealed perfectly to us as our students would be able to see and dance with their classmates in real-time. New formats and ways of teaching emerged for several of our Teaching Artists in terms of focusing on providing student leadership opportunities.

Artistic Director and Jazz Teaching Artist, Tina Banchero provided insight into how utilizing the spotlight feature on ZOOM:

“After I demonstrate a phrase of dance I am able to spotlight one of the students to lead while they all try the movement together. This gives the students a chance to follow along while allowing me to watch. I rotate student leadership throughout the class so everyone gets a turn. This gives the students a chance to challenge themselves and me the opportunity to provide feedback, praise, and corrections”.

Another one of our Teaching Artists, Alice Kim, who is also an alumna of our program, talks about how our ZOOM classes have been a valuable support system for our students during this pandemic, “I do believe having dance classes on Zoom has brought some semblance of normalcy in our community. Our EBD kids are showing up, working hard, and bringing out passion in their dancing. I’m so proud of them”.

Our talented team of diverse Teaching Artists from various dance backgrounds has such a plethora of knowledge, technique, and artistry, that moments to provide student leadership opportunities in class can sometimes get over-looked. The silver lining to our virtual classes is that, as Banchero states “spotlighting students provides a positive takeaway in a less than ideal situation”.

For more information on our online resources and our upcoming ZOOM Summer Session which will begin on June 22, 2020, please visit our website: https://www.everybodydance.org/

 

Every year on April 15th, the birthday of legendary Renaissance painter Leonardo da Vinci, World Art Day is celebrated around the globe. It’s a fantastic time to elevate the fine arts in their many forms, from dance and theatre to paintings, sculptures, and more.

As we know, arts education plays a critical developmental role in our kids’ lives. It’s something that helps them with academics, offering the potential for improved word use, math skills, and concentration. Time spent learning about and creating art also offers many cognitive boosts, including improved decision making abilities and use of reasoning as well as increased creativity. It additionally serves as a source of self-expression and release of tension, which helps our kids to feel happier, more relaxed, and more positive overall. (Source)

Getting Kids Engaged in Art

Kids and the arts are a natural fit, but a little bit of prompting is sometimes required to make screens seem less interesting than creative time. Investing in some fun and functional gear that’s just theirs, like organizational easels, drawing tables, and supplies and mediums they’re interested in, can drive their desire to create and keep them engaged in their projects.

Giving kids their own space to create and allowing for plenty of open-ended creative time help them to feel comfortable engaging in self expression this way. Encouraging them to focus on the kinds of projects and subjects they feel passionate about and allowing them to think and work outside the box can foster a lifelong passion for art and creativity.

What About Dance?

Dance is its very own artistic medium, offering unique physical benefits that go beyond that of art made on paper. When they engage in dance, kids reap a wide range of both physical and mental benefits. Some of these include an improved fitness level, better balance, increased flexibility, and an overall increase in motor skills. Additionally, dance serves as a way to release tension and negative feelings and promote neurological development through movement and music. (Source)

Wondering how to make dance a regular part of your child’s life?

  • Dance party: Whether it’s scheduled or unscheduled, taking regular time to have a dance “party” is a great way to release some tension, get the wiggles out, burn off energy, and access the many benefits of dance. Just throw on you and your kids’ favorite tunes to get started — it’s not a hard sell, especially for the little ones.
  • Make music available: A way to listen to their favorite songs is a big first step here. Whether it’s a radio, iPod, or playlist on a shared family device, giving your kids a way to listen to their music can get them up on their feet to sing and dance.
  • Get up and shake it: They’re a lot more likely to join in when you start and participate in the dancing, so get involved — parents reap benefits from dance, too!
  • Positive reinforcement: This one is simple; just let them know they’re doing great, and they’ll register positive feelings toward dancing.
  • Watch fun dance videos online or on TV: There are tons of incredible performances both online and on dance shows on television which can serve to inspire kids; sit and watch some together for motivation.

Performing and visual arts have more amazing benefits to offer children, and the experts at We The Parents have crafted an infographic which details 51 ways engagement with the arts is beneficial; check it out to learn more.

 

 

Want to improve your posture and balance as a ballet dancer? Do you have foot pain that doesn’t go away? Since you can’t opt for supportive footwear all the time, foot arch exercises can help all those things for the times you’re in ballet slippers or barefoot. There are simple steps you can take as a dancer to get fabulous foot arches.

 

First, it’s best to find out what type of foot arch you have. Do you have a normal, flat, or high arch? Once you figure that out, it’s time to work those feet. 

 

Exercise 1

Place a lightweight towel on the and while barefoot try to grab it with your toes. Then, pull it toward you. Repeat with the other foot.

 

Exercise 2

Sit down and cross your legs. Grab the toes of the top leg with one hand and hold your ankle with the other hand. Pull your toes toward you. Repeat with the other foot.

 

Exercise 3

Stand with your shoulders and feet the same width apart. With your toes relaxed, slide your heels toward the balls of your feet while keeping them on the floor. Then, slide your feet back to the flat position. Do this 10 times. 

 

Exercise 4

Sit in a chair and place a small ball (tennis ball or massage ball)  under the arch of your foot. Apply pressure to the ball. Then, roll the ball back and forth under your foot and apply pressure when you hit an area that feels tight. Do this a few times or until your muscles relax. Repeat on the other foot.

 

Exercise 5

Sit on the floor and extend your legs in front of you. Point your toes and hold for 5 seconds. Then, flex your toes in the same position and hold for 5 seconds. Move your toes back to the pointed position and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 5-10 times. 

 

Exercise 6

Stand with your shoulders and feet the same width apart and squeeze in your butt. Keeping your quads tight, raise your heels off of the floor. Try to go as high as you can. Hold that position for 5 seconds. Lower your heels back to the floor. Repeat 10 times.

 

Exercise 7

Sit in a chair and place a small ball under the ball of your foot. Keep your heel on the floor. Curl your toes on the small ball and make a motion as if you were trying to pick it up. Squeeze and release. Do this 10 times. Repeat on the other foot. 

 

Exercise 8

Lay on your back and raise your feet in the air. Keeping your legs still, move your feet to spell out the letters of the alphabet or numbers 1-25. Do one round of small letters or numbers and another round making them a bigger size. 

 

Not only will these exercises improve your posture and balance, but they will help your overall health – and protect you from getting plantar fasciitis. Get stretching!

 

~ Rae Steinbach for Taos Footwear: Rae is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing (of course).