Blog

How to Ace the Dance Call!

 

I’ve noticed that this topic has come up more often the past few months.  And as a dancer I felt it was important for me to address it.

Before I say anything more, I want to preface that I did not start dancing until I was 13 years old. And I always wish and kick myself for not starting sooner.  But there are so many incredible dancers who started dancing when they were eighteen, twenty two, or even twenty three years old.  So it is never too late to start.  Remember that.

Now, how to ace the dance call: 1. TAKE CLASS.  It’s the only way.  The only way to get better at dance calls is by honing your technique and strengthening your body and mind; and the only way to do that is by taking class.  Take class.  Take class. Take class.  In dance class (whether it be ballet, jazz, modern, tap, etc.), not only do you work on your technique, but you also exercise the muscle of learning to pick up choreography quickly.  This is a muscle/a part of your brain that you HAVE to train.  Understanding sequencing and putting choreography into muscle memory very quickly is incredibly hard.  And the only way to get better at it is by practicing it.  And the only way to practice it is by taking class. The dance calls that I have felt awful about were not the ones where I felt like I didn’t know the steps, but the auditions where I could not quickly understand the sequencing.  If you can’t remember the sequencing and how to make the steps live in your body, you are not going to succeed.  But you can succeed with practice.  Practice DOES make perfect.

Image result for dance audition

 

4 Quick tips for Remembering Choreography and Sequencing

  1. Always know and understand where your weight is and where it needs to go (esp. for tap calls).
  2. As a dancer, you are also an actor. So… immediately create a story for yourself.  I find that acting a dance helps me remember the sequencing… I start approaching the dance like a monologue.  If I know emotionally where the story is going… that emotion will correspond to the movement.  So ACT ACT ACT!  Tell your story.  Even if your story has nothing to do with the show… pick an objective and a person you’re talking to… see that person and use the movement to communicate with them.
  3. ASK QUESTIONS! Know one is going to ask the question(s) for you.  So if you are having a hard time remembering a step or a particular sequence, raise your hand, and ask the choreographer or assistant to go over a certain step or sequencing.  Choreographers LOVE when dancers ask questions.  It means you are smart AND you get to show them more of your personality and that your easy to work with.  So that’s a plus.
  4. If you are having trouble sequencing a certain part of choreography to the next: focus on where your weight needs to be and see how you can emotionally connect those two pieces of choreography together. If you emotionally know what’s happening in the dance your body will follow.
  5. Have Fun!Taking the stress off yourself will alleviate your brain.  If you are just focused on having fun and telling your story you will remember the choreography.  For whatever reason, stressing out about learning the dance actually hinders your body’s ability to retain it.  So don’t stress and HAVE FUN!

So, if you are a beginning dancer with little to no training… my advice to you is to get a friend to go to dance class with you and take a basic or beginning level class.  I always enjoy class so much more if I have friends taking it with me (esp. if it’s my first time taking a brand new class). This friend can also be your accountability partner.  You can keep each other accountable for going to at least one dance class a week.  And do not feel bad about going to a basic or beginner level class.  I take basic/beginner classes (on top of advanced classes) all the time.  I love going back to the basics.  In basic level classes I can really focus on my technique (the minute movements and what muscles need to activate).  I truly believe going back to beginner classes helps your technique tremendously.

(Disclaimer: For my beginning dancers… be careful about taking a professional beginner dance class.  Even though the class says beginner level… the fact that it is a professional level class means there is a knowledge and technique already involved in taking that class.  So if you are beginner-beginner dancer (just starting out/have never danced in your life), take a basic level dance class).

To my musical theatre performers: musical theatre is going in so many directions these days: from pop to rap to folk to rock & roll to everything in between; and so is the choreography.  Recently new Broadway musicals have been featuring choreography that ranges from hip-hop to tap dance to contemporary and modern.  Many of the newest Broadway shows are exhibiting choreography that is in the hip-hop, tap, and contemporary realm.

So the second way to ace the dance call is: 2.TAKE DIFFERENT CLASSES THAT EXPLORE DIFFERENT STYLES OF DANCE.  Take hip-hop, take tap, take ballet, take jazz, and take contemporary.  Take it all!  An excellent dancer is a well versed dancer.

Well what would you recommend taking Collin?  (Especially on a budget).  I’m so glad you asked.  Well, I recommend taking one ballet class, one tap class and one jazz class a week. If financially that is difficult. Just take ballet.  Ballet is the foundation for all forms of dance and it will build up your body’s strength and technique like no other form of dance will. For me personally I will find one jazz dance class and one tap class that I love and will make it a priority for myself to go to that one class every week.  Then if I can financially afford it… I will expand from there.

Image result for ballet class Image result for miller and ben tap shoes Image result for musical theatre dance

 

Which leads me to my third peace of advice. 3. FIND TEACHERS YOU LOVE!  Over the past three years, I have discovered that the dance classes that I make a priority to go to every week are the classes where I LOVE the teacher.  Seeing those teachers and building a relationship with them is one of the greatest parts of my day or week.  I simply love being in their class!  I have a blast!

How do you find teachers that you love and connect with?  First, by trying out different classes and seeing which teachers you connect with. Connection is key.  Second is by asking yourself questions:

  • Do I connect with this teacher’s personality?
  • Does this teacher create a safe place to learn in the dance studio? Do I feel comfortable falling and getting right back up again?
  • Do you understand how this teacher explains the vocabulary of the dance style they are teaching? (i.e. Do I understand how this teacher is explaining how to execute a specific move? Do I feel a positive difference physically when they give me an adjustment?)

And second, talk to friends and ask them what their favorite classes are.  That way you know you are taking a good class.  Getting referrals from friends will ease the narrowing down process of which classes you love and don’t.  The other benefit of getting a referral from a friend is they can join you for class.  Why is this a benefit?  Because said friend can initiate the introduction to the teacher. Networking!!!!  It’s so important to say hi to the teacher before or after the class (especially in New York).  A simple thank you for class is enough.  MAKE the connection.

My last piece of advice to those seeking to ace the dance call is: 4. TAKE CLASS CONSISTENTLY.  I have a lot of colleagues and friends who will only take class (and a lot of it) right before audition season, or a few days before an audition for a dance heavy show. Taking a ton of class right before an audition is not going to help you in a dance call.  But taking class consistently over a long period of time, will. Technique takes time to build and engrain itself in your body.  It’s just like working out.  You are not going to see immediate results within the first week of a rigorous workout plan. But you will see results after three months, six months, a year, and two years of the plan.  The same goes with dance.  You won’t refine your technique in a week.  But a year of consistent dance training and you will be in awe of the progress you’ve made.  I promise you.

Finally, I’ll close with this: since I first started my dance journey at the age of thirteen, I knew I wanted to be a true triple threat.  So I took class all the time in high school and college.  And even two years ago, I never thought I would have the technique and the capability to be in the ensemble of NEWSIES.  But I had a longing to be a better dancer each and every day. So over the next two years I took class consistently (esp. ballet) and my technique grew and improved.  Two years later, I was cast in NEWSIES at The Fireside Theatre performing the original Broadway Choreography.

Never say that you CAN’T dance. Because you CAN!  With the right mindset and attitude you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.  BELIEVE in yourself.  Do not let one botched danced call determine your worth as a dancer.  Trust me, I’ve botched many dance calls over the past three years.  And that’s okay.  Believe in yourself and your talent.  And you too will be able to be in the ensemble of NEWSIES two years from now.

Newsies


Healthy Snacks for a Full Day in NYC #AuditionSeason

It’s Audition Season!!!!  And we all know what that means… sometimes 3 -4 auditions in a day.  When do you have time to eat?  Well, if you are vegan and gluten-free like me, it can be hard to keep your calorie intake up during a long day of auditioning  and taking class (while not being able to go home to make food).  I always have food on me (whether I have a backpack or a satchel with me).  Quick snacks that are high calorie are my go-to.  And higher calorie foods help me meet my caloric needs.  And let’s face it… eating out all the time is expensive!!!!  So having food with you is not only healthy for you, but it also helps your wallet.  So here are my Top 12 Healthy Snacks for a Full Day of Auditions in NYC.  

  1. Go Macro Bars.  My favorite flavors are Protein Pleasure, Sunny Uplift, Everlasting Joy, Protein Purity, Blissful Daybreak, and Prolonged Power.Image result for Go macro bars
  2. Trader Joe’s Trail Mix (My favorites are: Go Raw Trek Mix,  Oh My! Omega Trek Mix, Simply Almonds, Cashews and Cranberries Trek Mix)
  3. Image result for lara barsRelated image
  4. Trader Joe’s Trail Nugget Pro Bars (Peanut Butter and Berry Flavors)
  5. Pack Protein Shakes and a shaker bottle in your bag.  (Brands: Vega, MRM Veggie Protein, and Garden of Life).Image result for vega
  6. ApplesImage result for apple
  7. Trader Joe’s Dried Persimmons
  8. Trader Joe’s Dried Baby Pineapple
  9. Trader Joe’s Organic Dried Mango
  10. Trader Joe’s Beet ChipsImage result for trader joe's beet chips
  11. Trader Joe’s Plantain Chips
  12. Peanut Butter and Fruit and/or Coconut Milk Yogurt (Trader Joe’s Peanut butter with banana or Peanut Butter with Trader Joe’s coconut milk yogurt.  You may need to pack a small cooler to help with carrying around yogurt so it doesn’t go bad).  Image result for trader joe's peanut butterImage result for trader joe's coconut milk yogurt


Vocal Health for Singers

Many people ask for vocal health tips.  Here are some things that have helped me over the past few years.

Overall Wellness: 

  • Take voice lessons.  Always keep improving your technique and vocal strength.  Your vocal chords are a muscle.  You need to engage them and use them to strengthen your voice.
  • Do Not Whisper – Whispering is the worst thing you can do for your voice.  When you whisper, your vocal chords do not touch.  This can be very detrimental if done over a prolonged period of time.
  • Drink plenty of water – water is the best thing for your voice.  But make sure you drink plenty of it… especially if you are in a show.  Water takes the longest to reach your vocal chords to hydrate them.  So before a show, I suggest drinking a bottle of water at least 2 hours prior to a show.

 

Vocal Wellness When You are Sick:

  • If you are sick and have a sore throat or are losing your voice – do not sing.  Vocal Rest will be your friend.
  • Again, drink plenty of water.
  • Tea – I love throat coat personally.  I find it brings immediate relief to a sore throat.
  • Ricola Throat Lozenges – will help your body produce more saliva to hydrate your mouth/vocal chords.
  • Steaming – helps hydrate your vocal chords.
  • Steaming with a little drop of oregano – If you are dealing with congestion and post-nasal drip, steaming with a drop of oregano will help get the congestion moving and off your chords.  (There’s nothing worse than having to sing over phlegm.  Not fun).
  • Sinus Rinse – if you are like me, you cannot live without your sinus irrigation system.  But if you don’t have one… no worries… a simple netty pot will do.  Make sure you boil the water first to sterilize it and let cool before using.  Sinus rinsing will help alleviate congestion and post-nasal drip.
  • Sudafed – Use the one where the main ingredient is pseudoephedrine (will need to buy it over the counter at the pharmacy).  The Sudafed that is made with phenylephedrine is garbage.  Don’t use it… it will dry out your chords and it does not help alleviate congestion.
  • Mucinex – Just the 12 hour one where the main ingredient is guaifenesin.   I prefer the 1200 mg guaifenesin Mucinex personally.  Do not use the mucinex that is a cough suppressant and expectorant.  You want the expectorant to get the gunk out of your body… so you’ll need to cough.  The suppressant will prohibit the congestion to get out of your body.

 

Vocal Wellness During a Show:

  • Steaming for 15 minutes before a show is wonderful!
  • Again, plenty of water – drink a bottle of water 2 hours before the show.  And make sure you are constantly hydrating during the show.
  • WARM UP!!!  Your voice is a muscle…. warm up before you do a show.  Warming up is the best thing for you.
  • COOL DOWN!!!!  Do a vocal cool down after a show.  You probably just spent 2 hours singing… your chords will have been worked to the bone and will have built up some lactic acid.  Do some easy lip trills to bring your voice back to neutral.  This will also massage your chords after they have been stretched and worked for 2 hours.  Give your voice some love.
  • As a dancer, I always warm up my body before a show.  And I tailor that warm-up depending on how physically demanding the show is.  I recently discovered that when I do a really good warm-up physically where I get my body into a good sweat and activate all the muscles I need to to perform the show well…. when I go to warm-up, my voice already feels really warm. That’s because warming up physically gets your blood flowing.  So a lot of blood flow is already passing through your vocal chords by the time you start warming up your voice.  That being said, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t warm up your voice.  Spend 15 minutes at least warming up vocally.

And there you go!  Vocal health tips 101.  These tools help me.  There are plenty of other elixirs and methods that my friends and other professionals use.  But this is what works for me.  If you have any questions, please feel free to send me a message on my contact page or DM me on Instagram.

Take care of your voice.  You’ll be thankful you did.


Another Quick Treat

If you love banana bread like I do… you’ll love these banana bread energy balls.

Core Energy

Banana Nut Bread

 

 

It tastes just like real thing!!!

Ingredients:

Dates

Bananas

Hemp Protein

Ground Flaxseeds

Quinoa

Buckwheat Flour

Walnuts

Cocoa Nibs

Vanilla

Cinnamon

 

Procedure:

Place all ingredients into a food processor.  Leave some of the walnuts for later.  Form into balls.  Chop the walnuts you set aside and place in a bowl.  Roll the balls in the walnuts.  Serve immediately, or wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for later.  Energy balls will last 3 months in the freezer.


Satisfy Your Peanut Butter Craving!

Core Energy

Satisfy your Peanut Butter cravings with this Peanut Butter Energy Bar.

Ingredients:

Dates

Hemp Protein

Ground Flaxseeds

Quinoa

Peanut Butter

Buckwheat Flour

Vanilla

 

Procedure: 

Process everything in a blender.  Then form into balls.  And Enjoy!

 

 

 

 


New York City Trip 2018

I just got back from a 2 week “business trip” in New York City.  I went to audition, take class, explore the city, and visit friends.  And boy, did I learn a lot:

  1. A lot of actors live in Washington Heights, Astoria/Long Island City, and Brooklyn.
  2. Most actors don’t like Time Square, which is a little ironic given that that’s where the theatre district is and where auditions are held at Pearl Studios, Ripley Grier, or at the New York Actor’s Equity Building.
  3. Pack light…
  4. The classes offered in New York City (at Steps and Broadway Dance Center in particular) are all so amazing.  And so many of these teachers are industry professionals who are still working and involved in projects regionally and on Broadway.  Taking class is such a great way to network.
  5. Networking is key.
  6. Building a relationship with casting directors is so important.
  7. Having a peaceful, calm, and nice place to come back to after a long day of auditioning is so important for your personal well-being.
  8. I loved Jersey City!  The view of Manhattan from the Hudson River is such a spectacle.
  9. It was my first time going to 54 Below… had no idea 54 below was a small cabaret underground.  It looks like such a bigger venue from pictures and videos online.
  10. Not all of the trains in New York City are reliable.  I ended up using the 1, 2, 3, A, N, Q, R trains most frequently.
  11. I didn’t realize I had an incredibly large NYC family until I went on this trip.  It made NYC feel like home… and I’m so grateful for that.
  12. Auditions in NYC are like any other audition.
  13. The accompanists for auditions in New York are all so brilliant!
  14. The food in New York is AMAZING!  So many incredible vegan places.
  15. You spend a lot of money on food/eating out.
  16. The most popular side jobs for actors are: waitering, catering, teaching, and personal training.

If you are an actor and you have never been to New York.  Go!  Coming from someone who was scared of New York for the longest time and felt safe and comfortable in Chicago.  I’m telling you to go!  Taking this two week trip, truly opened my eyes to the opportunity there.  For someone who loves Chicago and loves my Chicago theatre family, it’s weird for me to say… but I’m so excited, nervous, and eager to move to New York in the spring.

 


Quick and Easy (esp. Regionally)

Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of regional work and living out of hotels on contracts.  As some of you may know, there’s only so much you can do with a refrigerator and a microwave to create a delicious vegan meal.  I recently completed a contract up at The Fireside Theater doing “The Little Mermaid.”  While I don’t like to eat a large meal before a show, I would usually have a macro bar before an hour before our half hour call, I would have a larger meal after my show.  My go-to/post show meal was simple veggie burger tacos.

Ingredients: 

  1. Gluten-free Tortillas (corn, chickpea, brown rice, etc)
  2. Veggie Burger (I love Trader Joe’s Hi-Protein Veggie Burgers or Dr. Pregger’s Veggie Burgers)
  3. Hummus (I used Trader Joe’s Mediterranean Hummus)
  4. Optional: you can add vegan cheese on top (I love daiya cheese)

Procedure:

  1. Warm tortillas in microwave for 30 seconds.
  2. Cook veggie burger in microwave until soft and warm (1-2 minutes)
  3. Assemble taco with half a burger in 2 tortillas.  Add hummus
  4. Add a side of carrots or any type of veggies.

This is a very simple recipe… but it’s great on a budget and living in a hotel room.  Quick & Easy.


BBQ Jackfruit Veggie Bowls

Ingredients:

1 cup cooked brown rice

1 cup steamed broccoli

1 cup steamed eggplant

1 cup steamed asparagus

1 cup caramelized onion

1/2 package of BBQ Jackfruit (I get the one from Whole Foods)

Procedure:

  1. Cook brown rice
  2. Steam Broccoli, eggplant, and asparagus
  3. In a pan, cook onion until translucent/caramelized
  4. In another pan, cook BBQ Jackfruit until warm.
  5. In a bowl, combine 1 cup brown rice, 1 cup broccoli, 1 cup eggplant, 1 cup asparagus, 1 cup onion, and 1/2 package of BBQ Jackfruit.
  6. Enjoy!

Jackfruit Bowl


BYU Vocal Point feat. The All American Boys Chorus

If you haven’t had the joy of attending a BYU Vocal Point, you need to go. Their concerts are amazing. I had a chance to catch them in concert back home in California a few months back. There were doing a concert and featuring The All American Boys Chorus. I am an alumni of the chorus. I graduated in 2006. Since I graduated and over the past couple of years, The All American Boys Chorus has been able collaborate with some incredible people such as, Josh Groan, BYU Vocal Point and David Benoit. Check out some of the music videos the chorus has done with BYU Vocal Point.


Zucchini Meatballs

Ingredients:

3 large zucchini (grated)

1 cup gluten free oats

1/2 cup quinoa flour

1 flax egg (2 tbsp ground flaxseed & 2 tbsp water)

1 cup daiya cheese (mozzarella)

1 tbsp dried oregano

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Heat a sauté skillet over medium heat.  Add grated zucchini and cook until most of the water and moisture from the zucchini has evaporated (about 10 minutes).
  3. Strain zucchini in a strainer.  Try to get all of the excess water out.
  4. Add zucchini to a mixing bowl.
  5. Add gluten free oats, quinoa flour, flax egg, diaya cheese, and oregano to the bowl.
  6. Mix until well combined and the mixture become doughy.  The dough can be as finely mixed or as you’d like.  If you want it finely mixed, try adding the mixture to a food processor and processing it for a minute.
  7. Coat a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with non-stick spray.
  8. Scoop a large tablespoon of zucchini mixture and form into a ball and place on the baking sheet.  Repeat this step several times until you have used all of the zucchini mixture.
  9. Place the zucchini balls into the oven for 20 minutes or until they become golden brown.
  10. Once golden brown, remove from the oven and let cool.
  11. Enjoy with tomato sauce, zucchini pasta, regular pasta, etc.

    Zucchini Meatballs