Why Every Parent Should Groove With Their Baby

In every parenting book you find, the best pediatric doctors in the world suggest having your baby listen to music in the womb – why should it ever stop? Once your baby is exposed to the outside world, music and movement become essential for proper growth and development. In March of 2010 researchers at University of York found that dancing comes naturally to babies. Their study utilized a combination of babies, mothers, music and professional dancers to explore the connection between early development and music/movement;

“The findings, based on a study of 120 infants between 5 months and 2 years old, suggest that humans may be born with a predisposition to move rhythmically in response to music.”

-Live Science Staff

We have all seen toddlers bend at the knees and bounce endlessly while they have an enormous toothless grin stretched across their face. Can you define ‘pure joy’ in any other way? It’s no secret that babies love to dance, and music stimulation will only increase their admiration for it. Researchers found that babies and infants are seen to be more engaged with music than the human voice.

In York’s experiments to test the theory of a baby’s disposition to dance, mothers were given head phones and were asked to hold their babies on their laps without influencing the movement of their child. Just as researchers expected, as music started to play the babies started to boogie. Professional dancers were even brought in to evaluate how accurate the babies were moving to the rhythm of the music. You can see for yourself that the arms, legs, and torsos of the infants were extremely active in motion and matched the beat of the music surprisingly well!

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Photo from Urbanity Dance’s Mom and Baby Class, December 2016

The study shows that babies are in fact born with a predisposition to ‘dance’ to music. Between the ages of five months to two years, babies and toddlers can be seen moving and grooving in time with the rhythm of music. This is an incredible way for your baby to develop basic motor skills and spatial awareness. Urging your baby to dance to their own beat also introduces them to the concept of mind-body connection at an extremely young age. For most professional dancers, this concept is not fully understood until their early to mid-twenties.

Urbanity Dance embraces the importance of assisted baby dancing and offers classes ranging in ages starting from three months to three years old. In our safe and welcoming facility, babies and toddlers dance their diapers off while a parent or caregiver stays involved and participates in the class. These well-established classes give babies the opportunity to understand physical coordination, teamwork, basic motor skills, and socialization. For more information on Urbanity Dance’s youth and baby classes click here.


University of York. “Babies are born to dance, new research shows.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 March 2010. <https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100315161925.htm&gt;.

Live Science Staff. “Babies Are Born to Dance.” LiveScience. Purch, 15 Mar. 2010. Web. 18 July 2017. <https://www.livescience.com/6228-babies-born-dance.html&gt;

Why Multi-Genre Training is Beneficial For Your Dancer

Growing up as a dancer, whether you plan on pursuing a career in performance art or just want to have a recreational activity, there will always be an unspoken assertion that you need to be the “jack-of-all-trades” when it comes to cross training in different genres of dance. However dominating each style of movement can lead you to some incredible job offers, simply training in more than one genre is crucial for a dancers appreciation, artistic development, and injury prevention.

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When I was two years old, my mom enrolled me in my first dance class. At such a young age, one can really only learn how to run around the studio and eat gold fish at snack time but once I graduated from ‘dance and play’ I moved into my first “combo class” which was a hour of Jazz, Tap and Ballet. This was my first experience with different genres of dance. At first, I couldn’t understand why my teacher didn’t let me tap in ballet slippers or why a pirouette could be parallel in jazz class but not in ballet. As these discoveries and neuron pathways developed, I soon realized the differences between genres. Combo classes are a great introduction to dance, allowing young students to benefit by experiencing multiple styles of movement before choosing where to focus their attention. As owner and founder of DanceAdvantage.net Nichelle Suzzane states in a previous article of hers;

“Training, whether focusing on ballet, contemporary, jazz, or tap techniques can always be built upon with the addition of other styles.”

As you grow older and start spending more and more time in the studio, we go into a stage of “tunnel vision training.” This is where the dancer is so focussed on following their teachers orders without question that they tend to loose artistry and forget why they fell in love with dance in the first place. Training in multiple genres of dance can prevent a dancers tunnel vision by allowing them to be inspired by the connections between different styles of movement. Cross-training can lead a student to make their own discoveries about their ‘isms’ and preferred way of moving. This is how dance fusions have been created over the years; by combining the best aspects of different genres together to create a new form of movement.

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As a dancer, you may be wondering why it is easier for your body to train in one genre more than any other. This is because each genre of dance requires an emphasis on specific muscle groups. You may be stronger in areas of the body that are used the most in a tap class and that is why you excel in that genre. To prevent injury, it is extremely important to take the time to train in other dance genres to activate different muscle groups and connection so you do not create a muscular imbalance in your body. As Susannah Marchese, HCD Ballet Master at The Hartt School believes;

“It is also important to consider the importance of cross-training the body and mind on a physiological level. Cross-training is widely recognized as a means of injury prevention, and experts say that it is an important way for dancers to stay healthy. This is accomplished by combining multiple genres of dance into their training.”

Even acrobatics and hip-hop serve to benefit the most poised ballerina by allowing certain muscle groups relax while you’re still able to get up and dance. A study was done in March of 2008 that screened 204 ballerinas over the course of five years. Fifty-three percent of injuries appeared in the foot/ankle, 21.6% in the hip, 16.1% in the knee and 9.4% in the back. The studies showed there was approximately one injury per 1,000 hours of ballet training, proving cross-training in other genres of dance could have influenced the amount of injuries and promoted longevity in dance careers.

Compare ballet and acrobatics dance for example:

Ballet offers a student foundation, technical discipline, expression, posture, poise and teaches us how to dance upright.

Acrobatics offers a student athleticism, flexibility/strength equilibrium, connection to the floor, fearlessness and attack while moving.

Both of the qualities these two genres contribute to one student offer an incredibly well-rounded dance education.

Muti-genre training has been used to develop the skills of some of the most well-known and acclaimed dancer/choreographers we have seen. For example, Twyla Tharp.

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Twyla Tharp is a new wave choreographer who explored different avenues in dance. She developed a style of dance that is a hybrid of high art and street dance. She uses modern influences, including contemporary music and street fashion instead of costuming.

 

 

Marchese, Susannah. “THE IMPORTANCE OF MULTI-GENRE DANCE STUDY.” The Hartt School Community Division. N.p., 24 Mar. 2017. Web. 05 July 2017.

Nichelle, Suzanne. Anne Miles Says, Nichelle (admin) Says, Karina Says, Melin Says, J. Dolan Says, Michael Says, D. Searle Says, Bonnie Yu Says, and A. Venk Says. “The Truth About Well-Rounded Dancers.” Dance Advantage. N.p., 13 May 2010. Web. 05 July 2017

“Twyla Tharp.” The Choreographer Closet. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 July 2017.

Gamboa, Jennifer M., Leigh A. Roberts, Joyce Maring, and Andrea Fergus. “Injury Patterns in Elite Preprofessional Ballet Dancers and the Utility of Screening Programs to Identify Risk Characteristics.” JOSPT Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 2008 Volume:38 Issue:3 Pages:126–136 DOI: 10.2519/jospt.2008.2390, Mar. 2008. Web. 6 July 2017.

Why Every Boston Dancer Should Get to Know Prizmatic Hip-Hop Crew

Prizmatic is Urbanity’s first student led and organized beginner hip-hop crew, and is open to everyone. What started as a ragtag group of beginners trying to get better–through practice, exposure to new styles of dance, and by building connections to the Boston dance community–has quickly evolved into something bigger. Here’s an interview with Urbanity’s Allison Merrill with further insight on the new hip-hop crew:
How Did Prismatic Come Together? 
Prismatic was created out of an idea from a couple of our adult students who came to me after class one day. These students have been enrolled in our 10 week program for a couple sessions, some, a couple years! They came together and said that they wanted to up their dancing game. More opportunity to train, freestyle, and gain audition experience. Basically wanted more than what our once a week class offerings provided at the time. After chatting with Jessie Alegria (current Urbanity hip hop teacher and LEGEND) and with the help of Nick Botchan and Chaitanya Reddy Viddula, the idea of hip hop crew became a reality!
What Is Your Goal For The Crew As An Instructor? 
While I haven’t directed crew, I’m so grateful to be heavily involved in the organization of our adult dance program! As a teacher in the program as well (shoutout to my Monday night hip hop dancers!!), it’s amazing to see firsthand how dance has the ability to bring joy, foster a sense of community and provide new opportunities for our adult students.
My goal for crew is to continue to foster and develop our artist’s deep love and passion for dance by exposing them to different styles and teachers. Crew has provided our dancers the opportunity to work with two amazing choreographers, Jessie Alegria (former crew director and founding instructor) and Shaun Flint. This next session, we are thrilled for crew to be led by two new amazing leaders in the Boston Dance Community, Kensuke Fujisawa and Sean Bjerke. Overall, I hope this experience will bring our team closer together and realize that the possibilities for them are endless!!
Who Is The Crew For/How Do You Join? 
Prismatic is for anyone who is hungry to learn, dance and be a part of team! We have dancers ranging from total beginners to intermediate level. That’s the beauty of it! We all work, learn and grow together. Urbanity Dance does ask that any artist enrolled in Crew takes an additional technique class. This is to ensure that are dancers are continuing to train in fundamentals that will help them become stronger. You can sign up here.

 

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Hip Hop Crew performing at the Spring Adult Showcase

What Are You Looking For In Students Who Are Interested In The Crew/What Do You Expect From Students? 
We are looking for ANYONE who is eager to create, dance, meet new people, and… HAVE FUNNN!!
Current Urbanity Students Have This To Say About The Crew’s Instructors:
Jessie Alegria, our crew instructor. She is one of the best instructors we ever have. In crew, we learn different techniques, body composure based on songs and importantly enjoying the dance. We also experience how the auditions in dance competition works. I see this as a big opportunity for people with passion to dance and learn more about choreography.
-Chaitanya Reddy Vaddula
Prismatic started last winter as a result several beginner hip-hop dancers, myself included, wanting to do more to improve as dancers. We wanted to practice more, learn different styles, and get to know other beginner dancers who could help push us further. And that’s exactly how it’s gone down!
Now we’re about to start our third 10-week session of Crew, and there’s a real sense of progress. We’ve got two new awesome instructors coming in to set pieces on us, several dancers are working on their own choreography, and most importantly we’re having a lot of fun and getting to know each other better.
I’d love to see the group keep growing, because for all of us the community is what’s important. We’ve got dancers like sleeper cells in every hip-hop class at Urbanity, working behind the scenes to bring more people in. I’m also hoping that we can get studio space once a week for more of an open format practice session where people can check it out before committing, and beginners can work more to discover their own styles.
It’s been a great and challenging experience, and I encourage everyone that’s even remotely curious to try it, regardless of where they are in their life.
-Nick Botchan
Interested in learning more? Feel free to contact Alison at alison@urbanitydance.org

 

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Hip Hop Crew at Adult Spring Showcase. All Photos Jason Milan.

NY Mambo (Salsa on2)

“1 or 2?” a lead asks me as we start dancing at Salsa in the Park with MetaMovements, a beautiful gathering every Monday night throughout the summer. People from 13-70 years old dancing in the warm summer heat as dusk begins to creep up, unnoticed by the rhythm of feet moving over a gridlock of linoleum outside the Blackstone Community Center. They are asking me succinctly if I would prefer to dance salsa on1 or on2. Though I usually respond “either,” on1 is generally the more popular style here in Boston.

Just down the street, Urbanity Dance is gearing up to launch its first ever NY Mambo (Salsa on2) class.

The difference between the two can seem very subtle or technical. In on1 salsa, the pattern of steps “quick-quick-slow” starts on quick on 1 and 2, and a slower step that encompasses beats 3 and 4, this repeats quick quick on 5 and 6, and slow on 7, 8. With on2, the quick quick steps are on 2 and 3, and 6 and 7, while the slow are across 4-5 and 8-1.

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Instructors Victoria and Juan

According to Victoria Cruz, one of our NY mambo instructors, on2 allows you to, “take charge of a song.” She and Juan Lopez, our second instructor, emphasised that dancing on2 gives you the opportunity to dance more rhythmically rather than with the melody. Dancers must listen carefully and feel the music. The dance utilizes the percussion section greatly, and they focus on hearing the different rhythms within a song. “The overall feel is much smoother, and fully immersed in the musicality.”

To them, practicing on2 gives a greater appreciation for the music. Dancers in their class learn to hear these different rhythm changes in a song, “a song may change rhythms three or four times and you should be able to adapt with and play with it,” Juan explained.

Victoria continued, “He might be dancing to the trumpets, when we are doing a shine, while I might be listening to the piano… however we both remain very rhythmic.” This added variation creates more texture to a dance, a complex conversation between your partner, yourself, and the musicians.


 

When asked what is most important to them that new dancers walked away knowing, the immediate and resounding answer was “the history”. Juan went on to explain how mambo came about in NYC, and the importance of the Palladium Ballroom bringing in Latin music in 1948. The history of mambo will be weaved into the class, having as integral a part of learning as counting beats.

But why Urbanity Dance?

“People want to learn on2… there is a tremendous need, but not enough studios providing it in Boston”. They went on to add that most of places to dance and learn salsa are across the river in Cambridge.

The other unique part of Urbanity Dance is the proximity of very different styles of dance being taught and performed together. Our dance students may dance hip hop or contemporary, and have the opportunity to continue the conversation and share choreography with our community on our Urbanity Dance adult programs Facebook group. Learning these different dances allows a dancer to pull from very different vocabulary and develop their own personal movement. We are thrilled to be able to add NY Mambo to the mix.

You can learn more about Juan and Victoria here, and check out their class and register here.

“Whoa, Man” Arts as Activism

“It was always present in me that I was in the wrong body..” begins the first piece of dialogue in my new piece for Urbanity Dance, “Whoa, mandebuting at Urbanity NeXt. The dialogue is taken from an interview with Cidny Bullens, a singer/songwriter who recently transitioned from female to male. Formerly known as Cindy Bullens, Cidny came to my attention as the voice behind the well known recording ‘Its Rainging on Prom Night’ from the original cast recording of Grease. The song itself offers a dramatized portrait of an anxiety ridden teenage girl’s experience of prom night in which nothing seems to go as planned, leaving her soaking wet in her prom dress with a date that never shows up.

 

The song alone provided my initial inspiration to create an illustration through dance, given that there is ample opportunity for drama and humor, two things that interest me as a choreographer. But it wasn’t until a few days before my residency with Urbanity began that I sat down and did a little research about the voice behind the song. Then BOOM. There it was. Cindy is now Cidny; a goldmine piece of information that not only tied into the vague vision I had began to create, but informed that vision immensely and gave me purpose as a creator.

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Nicholas Ranauro

Now, of all times, artists have not only a purpose but a responsibility to speak up. A five minute piece of dance illustrating someones gender transition may just flip the switch in an audience member who hasn’t yet accepted or understood what transgender really means. This is true in the case of transgender rights, as well as the rights of any human that identifies as something other than ’normal’, which at this point in history you can’t help but acknowledge exist in masses.

With the recent piece of news revoking transgender people the right to use the bathroom of their choice – the dance I created on Urbanity seems even more relevant than I felt it was during the residency period three weeks ago. Its artists like the dancers of Urbanity and other creative minds that must help the momentum of trans-rights and the rights of all LGBTTQIA+ people to continue moving forward, not backwards. Don’t know what LGBTTQIA+ means? Do your research. Its that simple. Although I’m sure many of us have been hearing this quote left and right in the last couple of months thanks to Meryl Streep via Carrie Fischer, “Take your broken heart, and make it into art.” If you haven’t, take a moment and really think about that. Keep in mind that art is a vast term, and we are all capable of creating a safe and welcoming community for one another. Together, we got this.

Written by Nicholas Ranauro

SAM Eye Am

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Jennifer Passios (pictured left) is an Boston based dancer and choreograher as well as a dancer in the Urbanity Underground program.  Her piece was selected from the Creative Class showcase to be further developed under the mentorship of established choreographers and presented in Urbanity NeXt.

 

Tell me a little bit about the piece you are creating. What is your inspiration?

“The piece is entitled “SAM Eye Am”

Initially, I entertained visions of a giant laundry pile, plastic bowls with odd faces drawn on them, a sarcastic title, and a score saturated with jazz standards, none of which stuck. Over the last few months, I’ve eliminated the theatrics and instead, turned my attention towards the concept of chiseling someone else’s experience out of infinity. In any instant, there exist innumerable lenses through which to view that instant. The particular lens we choose, or, if you prefer, the lens that chooses us, determines which bits of that moment we observe and reflect upon, and which aspects we miss or discard. I’m chasing the extent to which an outside source (choreographer) can manipulate physicality (the dance) and how the viewing of that circumstantial control (sitting in the audience) results in a particular dissemination of ideas regarding the physicality. Ironically, this led me to Dr. Seuss.

The book Green Eggs and Ham, featuring the narrator Sam-I-Am (from whom I derived the title of my work) consists of just 50 words. Even in the case of this children’s book, we can categorize levels of awareness of the story’s lineage. At the most basic, readers see a story with a charming rhyme scheme ending in a moral about the value of trying new things. Looking a little deeper, you may choose to see the vocabulary lessons, perhaps smiling to yourself when listening to a novice reader deciphering the text because you understand that she is engaging in a learning activity disguised as a silly story. When I look at Green Eggs and Ham, I choose to see beyond the story to the challenge. Instead of beloved cartoon characters, I picture the excitement of solving a narrative with a word limit. SAM Eye AM is based on the same sort of game. The dance only consists of 30 movements. You will see each step or gesture in its original form many times, but we have also altered, deconstructed, and rebuilt them to create phrase work that I hope inspires fresh interest in each item. I’m looking forward to expanding the work and continue playing with how to keep my process accessible in the product.”

Tell me a bit about your process. How do you create?

“Have you ever owned a coloring book? I start with an outline and visualize how to fill it. I have a roughly imagined idea of what I want the saturated picture to feel like rather than look like. From there, I put the colors where they want to go. Odd, perhaps, personifying the elements of creation, but for this work, I have found my choreography emerging in a similar manner. The beginning of my rehearsal process involves a lot of listening. We play improvisation games and I try to absorb ideas about energy and relationships from those. I try out sounds and write a bit and then add those elements into improvisation exercises with a bit more structure. Phrase work and gestures appear and then, as with the coloring, I try to organize the movement into the configuration that it wants to be in. Movement can be kinder than coloring, though. It’s much easier to move elements around when they’re in the wrong spots if your eraser doesn’t smudge.”

 

What do you hope to leave your audience with?

“It’s a “choose your own adventure kind of dance” Since my interest lies in the perception of the physical mechanics, there is a lot of room for audience interpretation. I didn’t make a story line, not intentionally anyways, but a lot of people came up to me after presenting the work in the Urbanity Underground Show postulating that my dance was ABOUT dinosaurs or ABOUT sharks or ABOUT something. I didn’t intend for it to be ABOUT anything but having those talks gave me an indication of the gestures that made an impression. With this work, I’m striving to simply leave audiences with a hunger for curiosity and the opportunity to validate their own narratives. I hope their sense of wit is tickled.”

What do you hope to leave your dancers with?

“PLAY, a willingness to solve puzzles, perhaps a little audacity.”

What excites you about working with Urbanity Dance in Particular?

“In rehearsals, I continuously toss every interesting, potentially contusion inducing, an idea that fits in the context of my work at my dancers. They nod at me, sometimes like I’m crazy, and then go right on and try out what I have proposed or else find an even more satisfying circumlocution of my original proposal. Urbanity is a “yes” factory. I’m grateful to work amongst dancers who are willing to embrace a new “yes” of physicality as I say “yes” to the foreign land of choreography for the first time.”

Where can we learn more about your work?

“Pick a coffee shop- Any coffee shop with espresso. I’m still holding fast to a life where I learn about people in person rather than on a screen. So seriously, e-mail me and let’s find a time to talk (japassios@yahoo.com). I also have a blog where I post my musings from time to time.

-Jen Passios

You can see her piece in our upcoming show, Urbanity NeXt.