Class Motivation

Every instructor has a class that takes extra motivation to teach. Whether the class is a struggle because of the time of day, day of the week or the participants – you don’t have the choice of not teaching just because you don’t want to if you’re relying on the income for paying bills. How do you motivate yourself to make it through the class when you have no desire?

First off, figure out what the problem is. Is the class late at night? Consider taking a quick 20-minute power nap an hour before the class, to make sure you are alert. Or grab a quick protein snack and hydrate well as you digest. Is the class on a really busy day? Look at your schedule and see if you can move around other obligations so that you’ll be less tired and stressed. Are the participants in the class sluggish? Maybe ask for their input in song selection or give away some freebies that might motivate them.

Another option is to administer a survey to the participants to get their feedback if you think they are the problem. Do they seem disinterested? Bored? Tired? Unresponsive? Not friendly? Ask for their constructive feedback so that you might be able to incorporate their hopes. Maybe they seem disinterested but are really just confused at the steps and need them broken down. Do you take attendance? If so, learn their names – that will help them warm up to you and be friendly. Even if you don’t take attendance, take time to show up early and introduce yourself or even stay after and offer to break down steps and talk. Five minutes here and there can really make a difference in changing the atmosphere of your class. Do they seem unresponsive? It might be that the room is too warm and they actually are overheated and lethargic because of that.

If you are dragging through the same-old same-old routines, don’t hesitate to change around the class to give yourself some variety.  Can you switch music, or change the order of the songs or introduce a new warm-up or cool-down routine? Can you rearrange the room so the participants face in a different direction? Can you move around and check on each student during the class?

Another way to make sure to stay motivated is to take a class by another instructor and incorporate some of their techniques into your class – or even just decide that your own class really rocks in comparison so you’ll be more likely to relax and get back into teaching.

With these tips you can go into every class excited and ready to shake it!

The New Shoe in My Life

Most people find that they have a preference or habit in terms of what they buy. You may be an Apple or a PC computer person. Or you are designer or vintage clothes. Same thing when it comes to shoes for dance fitness classes.

I used to be an Asics girl. Asics was all I wore for running. My new Zumba shoe brand is Reebok. The Reebok Zig-tech line is incredible. When I was at a Zumba workshop this past July my ZES mentioned the brand. She swore by the fact that these shoes support her and get her through multiple classes a week and weekend long intensive workshops. Being a skeptic, I wondered if the shoes were all that they were cracked up to be. My Asics had never given me problems. In fact, I bought them after my knee injury and hadn’t had any problems since then.

However, my well-loved Asics were over 2 years old. I knew I needed to replace them – they had lost some of the shock absorption. So when the opportunity presented itself and I saw Foot Locker had a sale on shoes I knew going to at least try on the Zigs was worth it.  I saw the ZigSonic’s by Reebok with a silver shoe and a pink zig sole. The proceeds went towards Breast Cancer Research and they were my favorite shade of pink. Luck would have it that they had 1 pair left and it was my size – a 7.

I instantly was a believer and converted immediately. The sole was so cushioning that it felt like I was walking on air. The Sonics were special because they were crosstrainers so they would work from running to Zumba to just walking around the city. I’ve had them now for about 3 months and I couldn’t be happier. My feet do not ache after teaching a high impact class. They offer the support my feet were craving, in a style that my love of fashion welcomed.

So don’t be afraid to try out a new shoe and find the technology that works best for you.

Healthy Events

Your heart is your most precious organ. Taking the precautions to care for it correctly can go a long way for preventative medicine or stopping damage from getting worse by bad habits.

This past Saturday I volunteered at the Women’s Heart NY conference on “Love your Heart: Living a Heart-Healthy Life.” This event was put on by the Continuum Health Partners comprised of staff from Beth Israel Medical Center, St. Luke’s Hospital and Roosevelt Hospital. The program was targeted towards women who have a history of heart disease or are at risk for it.

As a dancer, athlete or fitness-inclined individual – your heart is necessary for functioning. This event described effective ways for women in the community to educate themselves on healthy eating to health screenings. It included a Q&A to get common misconceptions fixed and learn pertinent information.

The 50 or so women (and some men) who attended learned about heart disease, the effects of smoking, cholesterol’s role, exercise’s benefit, how to stock a healthy pantry and participate in free screenings before devouring a nutritious and healthy lunch.

I really enjoyed eating the tabouli at the lunch – I’ve amended Roxana Picado of Olla New York’s recipe to my tastes so it includes my favorite foods. You can eat your heart out on healthy foods like this! Also see below for a few quick healthy checks you can do yourself for follow up with your doctor.

Quick Check using the American College of Sports Medicine figures to see if you have a higher risk for developing heart disease:

If you answer ‘yes’ to any of these questions follow up with your doctor.

  • Do you smoke?
  • Do you have high blood pressure [140/90 is high, but be aware even if you are pre-hypertensive]?
  • Do you have high blood cholesterol [LDL >160 is high, <100 is good; HDL <40 raises your risk while an HDL >60 is helpful; your total cholesterol should be <200]?
  • Are you overweight or obese [look at your BMI, over 25 is overweight over 29.9 is obese; look at your waist, >35 for women and >40 for men]?
  • Are you sedentary [if so, start moving!]?
  • Do you have Diabetes?



Serving size=6 ppl


  • 1 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove diced
  • 4 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup mint, loosely packed, rough chop
  • ½ seedless cucumber, peeled, small dice (about 2 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 cup sliced or diced cooked chicken, or cannellini beans
  • ½ cup chopped nut of your choice (pine nut, natural almonds etc)


Place bulgur in medium to large bowl. Boil water, pour over grain and cover bowl with foil. Let sit for 20 minutes (until liquid is absorbed). Then add other ingredients and mix.

[You can do substitutions such as tofu, tomatoes, raisins, peas, finely diced carrots]

Healthy Snacks to Prevent Weight Gain

As fall approaches it is beginning to cool off on the East coast. Rather than retreat behind comforting layers of clothes to hide your excess pounds try these snacks to keep your physique. And remember that snacking is actually good to keep up your energy level, curb your appetite and help you stay strong for weekend nights of dancing!

This semester with school and research my time for cooking is limited and needs to be quick. These are some of the snacks on my grocery list so that I always have them around for when I feel hungry in-between meals or even just need something to get me through a lecture to a late dinner.

  • Orville Redenbacher’s Smart Pop 100 calorie mini popcorn bags: delightfully filling yet low calories!
  • Grapes: also help hydrate you and when they start drying out you could try to even make raisins!
  • Bananas: excellent source of potassium, helps prevent headaches
  • Natural Almonds: a handful will give you the strength to manage a few more hours
  • Non-caffeinated tea: warm, no calories (unless you add milk like I do but if you use skim it’s not bad for you and also provides a bit of protein), fills you up, hydrates you [remember even in fall and winter when it’s not hot out you could still get dehydrated especially if you are an active individual]
  • Chunky peanut butter: only a tablespoonful but it gives you protein and can stop your stomach from talking to your neighbors when it’s empty
  • Hummus: only a tablespoon, filling, light
  • Carrots: my favorite are the new ridges cut – they are great with hummus or on their own
  • Fage 0% Greek Yogurt: ½ cup with fresh berries on top can also substitute as a healthier dessert
  • Artic Zero: my latest obsession – 1 pint is only 150 calories so if you need to indulge you don’t feel as guilty

The majority of these items are available at any grocery store. Artic Zero is at Whole Foods and specialty food stores.

Many nutritionists recommend that we eat smaller meals throughout the day. Snacks are a good choice when you need a pick me up after your dance class. Snacks help you prep yourself throughout the day so that you’ll have the energy to make it to the gym before you hit the books. A light healthy snack before you hit the sack can help you relax and fall asleep faster. Try these healthy options to satisfy your appetite!

Recovering from a Fashion Frenzy

Last week I waited in line for 5 hours to get inside the Missoni + Target pop-up shop for Fashion’s Night Out (FNO). Leading up to Fashion Week in New York City, many designers and retailers opened special limited time stores known as pop-up shops. Promotion of these sales opportunities was everywhere. For some designers participating in FNO, the evening was more about providing drinks and hors d’oeuvres in their salons to celebrate the launch of their latest styles. Next year I’ll plan to attend some less frenzied events.

But I did learn from my experience trying to snag affordable Missoni. It is important to know that feature styles can sell out quickly. If you love something you need to snatch it up while it is available. It’s worth it to go the extra mile to get something you love.

But be prepared to adjust your expectations. I had researched the collection online before FNO and had a list of pieces I wanted to see. Most of these were sold out by the time I got inside. Even when I found the navy maxi dress in my size, I did take time to try it on instead of just grabbing it. It’s a good thing I did because the cut of the dress was not perfect for my shape. After waiting all that time, I was determined to buy something Missoni, so I bought the dress a little large so that the zig zags at the neckline would not be hidden at the bustline.

However, this did mean that the plunging V neckline might be too deep for all occasions. The solution is to wear the dress with a form fitting leotard top that provides a bit more coverage but still looks sleek under the dress – a leotard top with sleeves also provides a nice layer in the winter. Another solution is to wear a halter top under the dress, which would be very comfortable instead of a cami. Here are two examples of a good layering pieces:

It was probably just as well that most of the Missoni items were sold out before I could buy them.

Just because a designer is highly regarded doesn’t mean that all of their pieces for the mass market are made in fabrics or colors that work for me.

It did take a lot less time and was infinitely more affordable to try to buy Missioni at FNO than to fly to Milan for the July or January sales. But rather than buy the Missoni + Target line at inflated prices on eBay, I’m going to keep my eyes open for the next sale at Saks!

FNO = Fashion’s Night Out

I finally had my first total New York fashionista shopping experience. Fashion’s Night Out, fondly called FNO, is being held this month throughout the country – and serious events were in NYC on September 8 before the start of Fashion Week. This was the time to dress up to be seen and shop.

My goal: the pre-launch of the exclusive Missoni for Target line in a pop-up shop by Bryant Park. Missoni is an Italian fashion powerhouse. I couldn’t wait to check out their collaboration and see the collection in person. The new line had been hyped for months with articles in Vogue and across the webosphere.

The power of hype is contagious. When I arrived at 4:30p.m. — before the shop was due to open at 6:00 p.m. — the line already stretched in an ‘S’ so that the entry doors by 7th avenue were far away when I was standing back about 100m from the 6th avenue block. It was amazing to see the block taken over by a line of die-hard shoppers who knew that Missoni + Target = affordable luxe. Even more amazing were the number of people walking up to ask what the line was for, having never heard of Missoni. Some shoppers seemed excited to join in on the camaraderie of waiting even though they didn’t understand the significance.

It was also an evening of ethics. As we stood in the line we saw the people who had arrived really early to wait leaving with their splurges – and splurge they did! They would leave with at least 5 packed bags on average. We even saw 2 girls hail a cab and pack in (barely fitting themselves) along with 50 or so bags of merchandise. Then there were the girls who tried to scalp the items they had just bought for way more than the retail cost, claiming it was our only chance to get the items since they were sold out inside. Even those waiting in line challenged values of fairness by having friends come join them, therefore exponentially adding to the number of people ahead of me because of all the cutting. I even saw what appeared to be paid place-holders, holding a spot in line for those who were arriving after dinner!

This type of event could be controlled and handled much better. Crowd management could be improved by giving everyone a number tied to their ID to prevent people trading spots in line. Merchandise could be restocked for a published time frame to avoid items becoming out of stock, as the case was at FNO by the time we made it inside. Limiting the amount of merchandise one person could get at a special event like this would give everyone who waits the opportunity to have similar purchase options.

Even the official collection launch the next week was overwhelmed by the hype. The Target website was down for most of the day when the collection became available online and the stores sold out of most items within minutes of opening.

Beyond the experience of taking part in a fashion frenzy, my FNO Missoni experience was worth it. After waiting in  line for 5 hours, I did find the navy maxi dress at the pop-up shop!

Dancing after Death

Did you know that a squid can dance even after it is dead? I for one, had never seen this until a friend of mine posted this video:

Apparently, the sodium in the soy sauce can cause the motor neurons in the body to fire causing the legs to move as if dancing. This makes sense neurologically since sodium is used to open the gated channels, which allow for action potentials to fire from the dendrite down the axon and across synapses to send messages throughout the body.

Usually we move our muscles deliberately. The brain sends an intentional message to the muscle. People can also have involuntary muscle movements, such as the knee jerk response, tremors and muscle spasms. Muscle spasms can occur if you overuse your muscles. These don’t require soy sauce to get you to move.

Often when we exercise our muscles can twitch or after we’ve danced for hours we may get a muscle cramp.  Fatigue, stress and even what we eat can cause involuntary movements like these.  Remember how the sodium in the soy sauce activated the limp squid in the video? Sodium and other electrolytes are important for muscle contraction, and when we’re not properly hydrated our muscles let us know.

There’s a good reason why experts recommend drinking water while we exercise, and making sure active people consume a good balance of nutrients. Potassium is often recommended for better muscle health. Foods like bananas, avocados, nuts and beans are good sources of potassium.  Even chocolate and paprika enhance our potassium intake.

Another way to tame involuntary muscle movements is to work the renegade muscle or the nerves nearby. Try stretching or contracting the muscle, or try exercises for strengthening the area around the muscle that is affected.  Yoga is a good way to reclaim control of the body.  Relaxation helps to calm involuntary muscle movement.

A Grain of Salt

Salt is the first seasoning we usually reach for and appears on tables everywhere from truck stops to gourmet restaurants. I love to sprinkle the salt blend Adobo made by Goya on rice or potatoes or veggies. Yet we hear a lot about how salt leads to high blood pressure and should be avoided.

For active dancers and athletes, though, salt is essential. Not only does it taste really good after a workout, but did you know that salt is also important for the physiological functions of our body? Salt, or sodium chloride, functions as a catalyst for the reactions in your body that allow for our movements and interactions. Sodium plays a role in our metabolism and digestive system. It helps control our body fluids as well as the muscular and nerve functions. Chlorine is a key component of bodily fluids. Salt plays a role in balancing our acids and bases in the body.

While too much salt raises blood pressure, highly concentrated flavorful salts don’t need to be used in quantity. In the picture below, see a few blends of concentrated salts my mom bought from Salt, a boutique at the Ritz-Carlton on Amelia Island, Florida. From left: citrus, black olive, Bolivian rose, Yakima smoked applewood, Hiwa Kai with detoxifying charcoal, Alaea Hawaiian clay with minerals and iron oxide. These salts require just a pinch to infuse a strong, curated flavor.

We’ve all heard the saying ‘take this with a grain of salt’ – this phrase means to accept what is being said but to maintain a healthy skepticism that it is totally true. That’s because salt makes anything more palatable, and so the saying implies that we are more likely to believe what is being said.

I apply this outlook when I seek balance in my activities and my diet. Savoring the salt on the rim of a margarita glass helps this tart yet sweet drink delightfully sipped slowly. So not only am I drinking in moderation, but I’m also being mindful of my student budget, as even happy hour cocktails add up.  Another trick to fulfill cravings is to add a pinch of salt to a sweet dessert like chocolate fondue or ice cream. The sweet and salty combination is more satisfying than either taste alone.

Technological Dance

The latest collaboration between dance and technology is evolving through the work of innovative dance troupe Pilobolus. Collaborating with OK Go and Trish Sie in a piece entitled “All is Not Lost” (2011), Pilobolus has merged choreography and videography. This piece is now viewable through the Google Chrome web browser. It takes the viewer into the dance as if watching through a kaleidoscope, ending with a personalized message that the viewer can dictate.

Pilobolus, a dance troupe I have had seen perform since my childhood at the American Dance Festival (ADF) in Durham, NC, has always been eccentric at the forefront of cutting edge and experimental dances. This is their first piece that I thoroughly enjoyed because it combines the athleticism of the dancers with the inventive imagination of the choreographers, and remains aesthetic. This year is their 40th anniversary and they say that, “In keeping with the energy and spirit of our biological namesake, a fungus, the company has continued to grow toward the light, expanding and refining its unique methods of collective creative production.” If you missed the July performances at ADF, you are able through the internet to join in on the process of producing art with Pilobolus.

I created a personalized message for e.K. Clothing. What will you write to share with your friends and family? Here is the link: At the end of the dance, your message is spelled out by the dancers through an algorithm. Then you have the ability to save your message and share it with others.

This is such a cool experience to virtually experience dance. It is reminiscent of playing with kaleidoscopes when I was a child, fascinated by the different shapes, sizes and colors. The choreography is extremely realistic and entertaining. The dance grasps your attention and leaves you captivated as you watch the dance play out in a mesmerizing way.

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