Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Fuel Up in February

Hey, friends!

Today we're talking about fueling up our kids with the best nutrients so they can run, jump, leap, and twirl throughout their day. Dancing takes a lot of energy! When our bodies don't have adequate fuel, it's harder to focus, pick up choreography, and exercise. A thirty minute dance class at the age of three might not be any more physically demanding than the nightly ritual of running in circles around the couch. However, if you have an 8-year-old taking an hour long dance class, some extra energy will be needed. And goldfish are just not gonna cut it. We need real food and water, water, water!

Healthy snacks are needed to grow strong dancers!

Are you stuck in a packaged snack bar rut? Let's think outside of the wrapper. Pictured below is a nutritious and aesthetically pleasing/ adorable snack!

Did you honestly think I was going to suggest ladybug apples? Think again, sister. I may not have kids of my own yet but I know that the only place in which those Pinterest-perfect snacks exist are dreams. Let's be honest.

How about a banana and almond butter? Or some apple slices and peanut butter? Some fruit + a nut butter = perfect combo of carbs, fats, and protein.
photo cred:

Kids (and basically everyone) love to dip finger foods! If peanut butter isn't your ballerina's favorite, try some baby carrots and hummus or ranch. Better yet; try this recipe from Real Mom Nutrition that combines two yummy dips into one. I plan to make this for myself soon. As in tomorrow. Preferably.

If your tiny tapper is an adventurous eater, a rice cake topped with mashed avocado and sea salt is fantastic. Crunchy, salty, fatty - what's not to love? All you need is a rice cake (I like these Lundberg Brown Rice Cakes), half of a ripe avocado mashed on top and sprinkled with sea salt. You can also add red pepper flakes or lime juice if you want to get fancy.

Do you have 10 minutes before you need to be in the pick-up line? Make a mini smoothie for your little one. To make this kid-friendly, pour it into a bottle or to-go cup that is easy to handle. Open containers and straws don't mix too well with car seats. Here's an easy smoothie recipe you can throw together before you're in the van.

1/2 C frozen strawberries
1/2 C frozen blueberries
1/2 sliced banana
1/2 C spinach
1 T flax seeds or chia seeds
1 C almond milk

Optional additions: honey, peanut butter, frozen cherries

If you'd like to read more about kids' nutrition, there are infinite resources in the blogosphere. I've listed a few links below to check out during the next nap time. Merry snacking!

~Miss Aven


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Vocabulary Words: Tap

Tappy Tuesday, my friends! I hope you all enjoyed the long weekend and took time to recharge.  This is the third installment of our vocabulary series. Today we’re talking all things tap. You know those obnoxious shoes with metal on the bottom? Excuse me, I mean, the prized possession of the talented dancer in your home; yes, those.

Here are three common tap steps essential to any young Shirley Temple or Savion-in-the-Making. Consider these building blocks of your child’s dance vocabulary.

Sounds: Two
Steps: Brush Spank
Rhythm: &1 or a1

A shuffle is made up of two sounds created by a brush and a spank. First, the dancer brushes the foot forward striking the ball of the tap. Next, you spank the tap back toward you, striking the ball again, and bringing the foot off the floor.

When tiny tappers are learning to shuffle, it is a common mistake to scuff the floor with the heel and kick as far forward as possible. It’s important to note that a shuffle is only done with the ball tap. It is a small and controlled movement. As young dancers develop coordination and balance, they will be able to scale back the movement and only use the ankle and knee.

Shuffles are often found in combination with other steps such as shuffle-ball-change, shuffle-leap-toe, or shuffle-hop-step.


Sounds: two
Steps: brush step
Rhythm: &1 or a1

When I began tapping, I thought this word was spelled “fuh-lap” because of how I sounded it out in class. Though the word only has one technical syllable, the tap step does, indeed, make two sounds. The first sound is made by brushing the ball tap forward. The second sound is made by stepping onto the ball tap.

You want to avoid the scraping sound common among beginners. To create a clear sound, keep the foot loose and not pointed. I always remind my dancers, even the 4 year-olds, to keep loose ankles. I’ll say “loosey goosey!” or “remember your jello feet!” One of the hardest aspects of tap is the paradox of a strong center but loose feet. Dancers must maintain a tight core and upper body strength but light feet.

This video demonstrates the common step ‘flap ball-change.’ The first two sounds are the flap on its own.

Shirley Temple/ Broadway/ Alexander
(I call this a Shirley Temple)

Sounds: 8
Steps: flap HEEL heel SPANK heel TOE heel

Rhythm: a1 &2 &3 &4

Many steps in tap dance have several nicknames. Case in point: Shirley Temple. Also known as a Broadway. Also known as an Alexander. Also known as that step with a million names.

Students begin to learn this step in Level 1 and master the skill in Level 2. Beginning with the right foot, you flap out to the side, keeping the heel lifted. (a1) Drop the left heel (&) and then lower the right heel (2). Spank the left toe (&) while picking up the right heel. Drop the right heel (3), drop the left toe (&), and lastly, the right heel drops on (4).

Typically, you immediately repeat to the other side. Flap the left foot out to the side (a1). Drop the right heel (&) and then lower the left heel (2). Spank the right toe (&) and drop the left heel (3). Drop the right toe (&) and drop the left heel on (4).

It is always a great idea to practice tap steps while wearing tennis shoes! If little siblings are napping or to insure your dancer doesn’t slip and fall in the kitchen, regular shoes work just fine. I hope this post was informative and helps your budding Broadway star succeed!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Vocabulary Words: Jazz

Happy Friday! That's right, it's time for another weekend. Who's ready for football and all things pumpkin? If you have a little jazz dancer in your house, find some time in between games and baking to practice the following steps.

This is the second part in our series of vocabulary words. The purpose of this series is to teach you and your dancer three common steps taught in class so you can practice at home. Just ten minutes a week makes a significant difference in your child's skill level!

1. Pas de Bourree 

*The Francophile in me wants you to know there is an accent on the second 'e', but my keyboard is finicky.*

This is a three step movement done many different ways. You will often hear it described as stepping "back, side, and front." It is used as a connecting step in many combinations. Pas de bourree can be used to travel across the floor or to link steps together.

2. Jazz Square

This step can be seen in several settings: line dancing, social dancing, musical theater, and more. It has four steps, thus making a square. Step front with the right foot, cross over with the left foot, step back with the right, and, finally, side with the left foot. Repeat starting with the left foot. This step is also known as the "jazz box."

3. Kick-Ball-Change

Just like it sounds, this dance step consists of three distinct actions. The dancer kicks the right foot to the front, steps on the ball of the right foot, and then transfers the weight to the left. The other side begins by kicking the left foot forward, stepping onto the ball of the same foot, and then transferring the weight to the right foot. Kick-ball-change is frequently used as a preparation for turns.

Happy Weekend!

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Friday, September 4, 2015

Vocabulary Words: Ballet

Happy Friday, friends! It's the start to a holiday weekend and tomorrow we can finally say, "It's football time in Tennessee!" To say I am excited would be an understatement. 

This post is the first installment of four about vocabulary words in dance class. You know when your daughter comes home from ballet and shows you her new moves? "That's beautiful honey! What's it called?" She responds with, "Umm…point your toes? Pot o' bubbles? the Cupcake?" We've all been there. 

Our parents here at ABC Dance Academy are so invested in their child's dance education. As a teacher, I couldn't ask for anything better. You want to be involved, you want to help your dancer practice, you want to learn alongside them. I hope this information will help you do just that.

Here are three basic steps taught in ballet class. I have listed the name, a definition, description, and video link for each one. Happy dancing!

1. Tendu

"stretched or pulled"
Sounds like: tahn-dew
A tendu begins by sliding the foot out to the side (or in the front or back), rolling through the ball of the foot, and finding the full point. From here, it reverses that action, articulating through the metatarsals and pulls back into first position. The toes stay in contact with the floor the entire time and there is no bend in the knees at any point.

2. Saute 

"to jump"

Sounds like: soh-tay

A saute is a small jump that begins in plie. The core is stable and the legs push off of the floor to extend straight and roll through the foot as you land, returning to plie. It is important that the heels come down with each landing to protect the knees. 

3. Chasse 

"to chase"

Sounds like: shah-say

Small children learn this as a "gallop." Beginners learn this traveling step facing the mirror with the legs moving to the side. This step can also be done facing the sides and switching feet. It is most often a step that links one movement to another.

I hope you found this informative and useful! Next week we'll be talking about a few jazz steps. 

~Miss Aven

Monday, August 17, 2015

Happy Dance Day!

It's the first day of classes for the 2015-2015 school year at ABC Dance Academy! We are so excited to see all of our students; old faces and new. The first day back to dance is a little bit like Christmas morning with less wrapping paper and more twirling.

Today's post is a quick summary of our dress code this year. With more students comes more classes and with more classes, dress code is key! Having a uniform makes it simple to spot who belongs in what class, creates respect for dance class, and allows the teacher to clearly see the dancer's lines. It also establishes a sense of unity among the students.

Check below to see what your child should wear to his or her class. Remember, please do not wear dance shoes when walking from the car into the studio! Bring your child in street shoes and carry the dance shoes in your bag. This protects your shoes, our floors, and helps your wallet by not having to buy a new pair within a month. :)

Joy of Dance and Creative Movement

-Pink Short Sleeve Leotard
-Pink Tights
-Pink Leather Full-Sole Ballet Shoe
-Hair Secured in a Bun (if long enough)
-No Skirts

Pre-Ballet and Ballet I

-Blue Tank Leotard
-Pink Tights
-Pink Leather Full-Sole (P.B.) or Split-Sole (B. 1.)
-Hair in a Bun
-No Skirts

Ballet II and III

-Lavender Tank Leotard
-Pink Tights
-Canvas Split-Sole Ballet Shoe
-Hair in a Bun
-No Skirts

Ballet IV

-Black Camisole Leotard
-Pink Tights
-Canvas Split-Sole Ballet Shoe
-Hair in a Bun
-Skirts worn for Pointe

Boys: (All Joy of Dance, Creative Movement, and Ballet)
-White t-shirt
-Black Shorts or Pants
-Black Ballet Shoes

Intro to Tap and Tap I

-Black Tap Shoes with Buckles
-Fitted Movement-Friendly Clothing
-Hair Secured Off Face

Tap II+

-Black Tap Shoes with Laces
-Fitted Movement-Friendly Clothing
-Hair Secured Off Face


-Tan Slip-On Jazz Shoes
-Fitted Movement-Friendly Clothing
-Hair Secured Off Face


-No Shoes
-Fitted Movement-Friendly Clothing
-Hair Secured Off Face

Be sure to check our website frequently for updates regarding our schedule and events. We will see you this afternoon!

~Miss Aven

Monday, August 3, 2015

Twinkle Toes

Her toes are about to bust through the seams. You just bought shoes last week! "No Mama, that was last year," she says while trying to squeeze on another pair. At this age, your child's foot seems to grow faster than those weeds in your flowerbeds that multiply overnight.

I have seen this with my own eyes after fitting numerous budding ballerinas for a new pair of ballet shoes. What an exciting day! Getting new ballet shoes still makes me giddy after nearly 20 years. The options are endless. Leather. Canvas. Full-sole. Split-sole. Bloch. Capezio. Grishko. Sansha. What does all of this mean? Take a breath, sister. I got this.

Pictured above is a leather full-sole ballet shoe. This is the type of shoe your dancer will wear when he or she is just beginning. It has the most structure and support for the foot that is developing coordination. When tiny dancer feet are learning to stand on their own, they need help from their shoes! This shoe provides a stable surface through the strong leather and full suede sole. Depending on what age your child started dancing, he or she will wear these for a few years.

After your dancer has graduated from the days of Joy of Dance and Creative Movement, he or she will move up to wearing a leather split-sole ballet shoe. The feet and ankles are prepared for more freedom but not developed enough to have free reign. The split sole allows for more movement in the arch of the foot. You might know what it's like to wear a knee brace. You can still walk and run but within boundaries. When you take the knee brace off, your leg is free to move in any direction. It's the same with the split-sole shoe; think of the full sole as a brace. Unlike the full-sole, many years will be spent in the leather split-sole ballet shoe.

Finally, the dancer is ready for a canvas split-sole ballet shoe. The soft fabric gives way to freedom in the joints. Dancers feel a much stronger connection to the floor which is vital for more advanced steps. It is important to note that in the image above, the dancer is not on her toes. She is actually jumping but the photographer cropped it to sell the shoe. Please do not be fooled and think it is okay to stand on your toes in your soft shoes. Pointe shoes are another matter we will discuss another day!

There you have it! You can now be an educated customer when shopping for dance shoes. At ABC Dance Academy, we are just two weeks away from beginning our 2015-2016 season! Please come by to get your shoes, tights, leotards, dance bags- whatever it is you need. We are happy to help you in any way we can.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Why Ballet?

Happy Monday, friends! I hope you all enjoyed your weekend. Here at ABC Dance Academy we welcomed our Little Princess II Campers. Based on how well this morning went, I think we are in for a fun-filled week!

Little Princess Camp 2014

Today's post is all about ballet; something I could talk about until the cows came home. Don't fret, though, I will restrain myself. Ballet is so much more than frilly girls and tutus. At age 3, it is just that. My friends, it is ALL about that. But somewhere along age 5 or 6 I start hearing comments like this:

"Ballet is boring."

"She's too hyper for ballet class."

"I don't like all of the rules of ballet."

"Why can't we do something faster?"

"I want to take _______ because it's more fun!"

There is a reason that the first dance class a child takes is some form of ballet. It is the foundation of all styles of dancing. Ballet is the earliest recorded style of dance in history. The technique taught in a Pre-Ballet class provides the stepping stones for a child's future. When you take your child to their first piano lesson, it is highly unlikely that the instructor says, "Okay Susie, put your hands on the keys. We're going to learn how to play 'Let it Go' today." No, of course not. It sounds a little more like, "You see those black keys? Those play either sharp or flat notes; let's find middle C."

The same is true in dance. My first ballet class was at the Athens City YMCA when I was 4 years old. Miss Elaine didn't turn us loose on the Lilac Fairy variation. She said, "This is first position. This is how we bend our knees." Because I took ballet exclusively for 3 years before adding jazz, I was well prepared to explore another style.

TN Governor's School for the Arts 2014

Ballet teaches discipline. Students learn that you do not talk when the teacher is talking. They learn that it takes practice and patience to master a skill. They learn what it means to have structure and order inside and outside the dance studio. Personally, doing ballet exercises at the barre is the most centering and grounding thing I can do. Since the age of 4, I have placed my hand on the barre and begun with plies. It is repetition. It is security. It is discipline.

And then there is the element of time. In my opinion, ballet training requires time that cannot be lost. I have watched many dancers fall behind in jazz and modern classes because they lacked a foundation in ballet. By starting with ballet classes, your child will have a head start should they choose to add another style later. You can take ballet for years, add tap later, and still catch up technically. However, the reverse is not true. If you are planning to take tap, jazz, or modern this year, please do your child a favor and include ballet. This includes boys! Look for a post coming up soon on that topic. :)

If your child can only take one dance class a week, make it ballet. There is always time to add other styles when your dancer is older. As we approach the 2015-2016 season at ABC Dance Academy, feel free to contact me with questions about which ballet class fits your child's age, skills, and maturity best. Registration is OPEN and June is halfway over. Don't let the summer get away before signing up for classes. You can do this online at or come by the studio 9-12 A.M.

Enjoy the sunshine!

~Miss Aven