“And that’s a wrap”

The last work day of 2017 has finally arrived and I can hardly move an inch in Grand Central station to make that final commute as people hustle with suitcases and packages to make it home for the holidays – the energy is electric. In the New York Dance school scene, this final week has involved a lot of classes to holiday music and Christmas cheer has been in abundance. I’m ever so thankful that Mariah Carey created her “All I want for Christmas” album back in the 90s for this particular week.

Reflecting on the last few months of the year there has been a lot of exciting events happening in the world of Shannon and Dance . Over the summer months and into the early fall I was fortunate to choreograph 54 pieces for the upcoming competition scene. These routines were a mix of solo, duo, trio and group items spanning across genres of Ballet, tap, musical theatre, jazz, lyrical and contemporary – I’m already stressed thinking about ideas for the next season.

Throughout November I taught at 3 different conventions – DC, Dallas and Michigan. I was in charge of teaching the tap, musical theatre, jazz and contemporary at these events and I had a fantastic time in each city. I love conventions because they bring dancers together from different studios in front of teachers that they don’t normally work with for a jam packed day of doing what they love the most – DANCE. I wish Australia had more of these events on offer as I believe they provide such an opportunity for dancers to grow in an environment that is not always available at a regular competition. As a newbie to the states I have enjoyed getting a taste of each new city I travel to and have set up life long friendships with the other instructors on the panel. The Platinum National Dance Experience hired me in my first 6 months of living in the USA and I continue to look forward to the experience every year as a highlight of my work calendar.

In December I travelled with the USA Dance Company to Poland for the World Dance Championships in Jazz and modern. This was the experience of a lifetime and it was certainly an honor to wear a USA jacket and represent the country I have called home now for almost 3 Years (on Sunday to be precise). The group of dancers traveling were among the greatest group of humans I have had the privilege to know, and watching them win the silver medal in the adult jazz category is a moment I will cherish forever.

This competition is a far cry from the regular ones we see here in the states – the pressure is on and it is definitely set up to create an Olympic style vibe for the dancers participating. In some countries dancers who receive medals are treated like elite athletes and granted health insurance and sponsorship – so a lot is at

stake depending on where you hail from. The first major difference is that dancers may compete more than once if they progress to a higher round- in fact several of our pieces competed four times if they made the finals. This involved a full day of competing given that categories often had over 60 entries. It was truly astounding to watch a group of young students who had never been in an environment of this nature push themselves further with each performance to better the last – they took risks and dug deep to fight for their place on the international stage.

Furthermore at the end of each round infractions could be given by the judges if a rule was broken eg.costume was showing too much Skin or in our case of a prop marked the floor “floor damage”. Another moment we won’t forget quickly was the whole US team cleaning the stage in “Its a hard knock life” fashion. Gaining an appreciation for the fact that people from different walks of life view Dance differently has inspired me to become a better educator and it is safe to say I had the time of my life!

So as you can see it’s been quite the busy few months, especially when you squeeze an extra trip back to Australia into the equation. Thus I feel rather victorious making it to my final day of 2017 and very ready to curl up in front of the fireplace with a hot cup of cocoa (or perhaps a sneaky mulled wine).

“New York at Christmas”

There is nothing quite like New York at Christmas. It surely has to be labeled the holiday capital of the world. As a major Christmas lover, living here is heaven on earth at this time of year. There are a few personal highlights that I like to indulge in around the city in order for me to feel like I have had the full “holiday” experience.

The first is buying my own real tree and decorating it with the ornaments I have collected from my travels around the world. My latest addition is of a course a handmade creation from Warsaw. It certainly is a far cry from the palm trees we decorate in Australia and the smell of the fresh pine really helps create a cosy atmosphere inside my apartment.

Another favorite activity is making a trip to visit the Rockefeller Center tree. After first viewing this tree in Home Alone 2 as a child I’ve been obsessed. This years visit was like a scene from a movie. I had organised to meet one of my close friends Sandra at 11pm at the tree, however a series of events unfolded that made our meeting seem impossible – my train from work was 15 mins late, her phone died and we hadn’t even made a precise meeting point for our date with the tree. Fate stepped in and a Christmas miracle occurred – we randomly bumped into each other, made it in time to watch the fabulous saks lights display and got a perfect Christmas card worthy shot in front of the tree just seconds before the lights were switched off. We both agreed we would remember this night forever and it would go down in history as one of our favorites in NYC.

I also like to wander the streets down near Chelsea and soak in the atmosphere from the immaculately decorated brownstones. One can only dare to dream they might live here one day. Carefully hung wreaths and stunning trees with warm fireplaces are just a few examples of the sights you will see strolling along these streets and peeking in the windows – lifestyles of the rich and famous!

My final highlight is of course seeing the Radio City Christmas spectacular which I will be doing on Christmas Day. My favorite number is the bus scene that takes you on a tour of New York at Christmas. The other best part of this show is that several of my favorite people perform in this show making it an extra special annual event. The only other thing to make this Christmas perfect would be for it to snow- I’ll be dreaming of a White Christmas!

“Dance Olympics”

Today I can barely contain my excitement as the day has finally come for me to head to Poland with The USA Dance Company (USADC). This amazing group of dancers will compete over the next week in the 2017 world championships in Rawa Mazowiecka, Poland. This competition is hosted by the International Dance Organisation (IDO) and includes Jazz, Modern and Contemporary dance categories. More than 8,000 performances from over 4,000 dancers spanning over 30 countries across 6 continents will compete to earn a gold, silver or bronze medal. Given that dance is not represented in the Olympics this is the closest thing to a “Dance Olympics”. To add further to the excitement, this is the first time the USA has had representation in the jazz/ modern component of this event- the World Tap Championships is currently taking place in Germany with plenty of excellent “red, white and blue” representation.

One of my best friends Kristen Pittman has been named the national director and head coach for this team and I was invited to work closely with her to assist with coaching duties and choreography back in September. This has been one of the highlights of my dance teaching career and the opportunity of a lifetime. Blood, sweat and tears were at the large the weekend I spent with these dancers, however the work ethic and determination that was displayed prove that this team will be a force to be reckoned with.  I have worked with several of the dancers previously and I have great confidence in saying they are an extremely special group of humans whom I believe have the talent, dedication and passion to bring home the gold. I have my Canada goose and USA beanie packed and ready to go. Stay tuned for further updates and highlights from this fantastic event…