Archive for December, 2010

Happy New Year — the secrets of weight loss and good health, revealed

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Eat fat to lose fat? For more, see

Good Reads

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

My most recent submission as book review editor of the Journal of Dance Medicine and Science (the publication of the International Association for Dance Medicine & Science) includes a review of these recommended books.

Aerial Dance by Jayne C. Bernasconi and Nancy E. Smith (Human Kinetics 2008)

and Overtraining Athletes by Sean O. Richardson, Mark B. Andersen, Tony Morris

(Human Kinetics 2008).

Jayne C. Bernasconi and Nancy E. Smith’s Aerial Dance is a handsome book and a fascinating read on the technical and aesthetic dimensions of aerial dance. It includes video clips of aerial dance artists and companies on the accompanying DVD. The book is part dance history, part kinesiology, and part dance appreciation – especially with its personal vignettes and accounts from dance artists and directors such as Stephanie Evanitsky, Jo Kreiter, Frederique Debitte, Robert Davidson, Susan Murphy, Amelia Rudolph, and Brenda Angiel. Chapters on “Flying Safely,” injury prevention, and rigging for aerial dance are included.

Overtraining Athletes, by Sean O. Richardson, Mark B. Andersen, and Tony Morris, is a good addition to the Finding Balance literature.  Issues around overtraining are presented from a variety of perspectives and levels of expertise. Also included is a good discussion (and comprehensive model) of risk factors that increase the probability of overtraining, as well as actual case studies of those seeking in unhealthy ways the illusive goal of perfection.

One Sugar Plum too many — or — one Nutcracker too many? Critics, Dancers, and Nutcracker Doldrums

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

New York Times critic Alastair Macaulay (referred to as “the nation’s most prominent dance critic” in an Associated Press story by Jocelyn Noveck) must have been in some Nutcracker Act II doldrums for him to focus on a ballerina’s weight in what is now known as the quip heard ‘round the world’ [charging the ballerina with having “eaten one sugar plum too many”]. I would think he’d have chosen a different target (much less, topic) than one of New York City Ballet’s top ballerinas — Jenifer Ringer. She’s certainly on my top ten list – my profile of her in the 2005 edition of Finding Balance discussed her artistry, her willpower, and just plain spunk. She’s appeared more than once on the cover of Dance Magazine.

So, what’s in a sugar plum anyway? From what I can tell, they’re moistly spherical sugary confections. Good call on the excess sugar (as opposed to fat) and weight gain link. But, excess weight on a ballerina like Ringer? Not even close. Looks like Mr. Macaulay may have had one too many Nutcrackers.

Finding Balance — A Student Perspective

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Recently, I received an email from University of Wyoming’s Margaret Wilson about a student’s critical essay on my book, Finding Balance (Wilson has used the text for awhile in the Department of Theatre and Dance, and has students review it with critical essays). Professor Wilson sent one such essay to me, written by Lindsey Carter. With Carter’s permission, I note her generous prose, “No matter the metaphor, the title [Finding Balance] notifies the readers that the book in their hands will cover many subjects, finding equilibrium between them all … With such challenging demands, the importance of understanding the needs of the human mind, body, and soul become absolutely necessary…”

Later, Carter notes, “Technique and endurance may make a dancer powerful to watch, but on the inside, self-esteem provides the inspiration. [highlighting is mine].” To Carter’s wise words, I would just emphasize that such overall balance is critical for longevity of career in, enthusiasm for, and/or appreciation of this demanding art form. It certainly doesn’t help that dance critics may be using lenses (of thinness — see my more recent posting on “One sugar plum too many?”—or, of technical tricks) that are narrow and limiting. Sadly, it’s often the off-balance dancers that get noticed.

Finding balance is easier said than done, but reading such thoughtful prose from dancers-in-training (i.e., Lindsey Carter’s), makes me hopeful that, one day, the lenses of common sense, self-esteem, and self-confidence will reign. As Carter says, “…the importance of taking care of one’s body and mind, rather than trying to conform to what the term ‘ballerina’ means to most…” seems to be the hallmark of a healthy dancer – and, perhaps, a breathtakingly beautiful one as well (see for example my discussion of Catherine Cabeen in Finding Balance, or go to, or my Seattle Dance feature in the January 2011 issue of Dance Magazine). In the meantime, let’s watch dancer Lindsey Carter to see what purpose of and meaning in movement she will bring to our wide world of dance.

Grand Finale for U & Me Dance

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Another positive experience in dance – the Bellingham Stars teens were part of the grand finale in U & Me Dance’s emotion-filled gala at the Majestic Theater in Bellingham (see images) last weekend. A generous and forgiving tuition-payment policy and thus lack-of-ready-cash may have been part of the reason for an eviction notice earlier.  Certainly, dancers and dance companies losing instructional, rehearsal, and performing space is not new. Still, this Studio was noteworthy for the joy of dancing and pleasure in performance that it always delivered. The enthusiasm and positive attitude was infectious, and will continue as Nathan Simler Ballroom ( and The Bellingham Dance Company ( in various spaces in the area.


Nutcracker Season

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the Nutcracker season, and the time we writers reach far and deep to comment, critique, profile, feature, and elevate the famed Nutcracker. In truth, there’s plenty to write about. It’s one of classical ballet’s anthems of movement, and after 100+ years, still evokes seasonal feelings of nostalgia and appreciation for the art form.

This season, a handful of different productions of the seasonal favorite will be aired December 6-December 20 (see, including Casse Noisette Circus of the Ballet of Monte Carlo, Maurice Bejart’s Nutcracker, and offerings from the Berlin State Opera and Bolshoi Ballet. I’ve just viewed the 2009 Royal Ballet production airing December 6, with Peter Wright’s choreography and featuring the lovely Mikayo Yoshida as Sugar Plum Fairy and the reliable Steven McRae as the prince. The production is smart and traditional enough to please any balletomane. What a contrast to the Chinese State Circus performing another Tchaikovsky favorite, Swan Lake — with its astounding grand pas de deux (see, about 30 seconds into the clip). This is a production that takes one’s breath away, mostly for its shock value – featured dancers are an astounding mix of aerial artist-gymnast-ballerina.

In this production, rather than being lifted by her partner, the acrobatic Odette dances on top of her partner, on his shoulders, on his head, on his arms – all on pointe. One has to change (classical sensibility) lens to really see the performance – marked by its sustained character and its lyrical ensemble dancing. By contrast, the Chinese State Circus production is a staccato affair, and so full of tricks as to completely overshadow any corps presence. Really, though, that’s my only criticism, for it offers a lightness achievable only, perhaps, by elevating hyperextension to an art. It’s worth a look.