“Escaping the City”

I feel that it is so important to escape your everyday life and environment from time to time to reset, rejuvenate and take time out for yourself. Not only does this allow to re enter your normal life with a fresh, relaxed perspective, but it also gives you something to look forward to in the lead up to a trip. Whether it is an extended weekend or a couple of weeks vacation, I feel that these “getaways” are crucial to a balanced life, at least for me anyway!

For those that know me well I LOVE to travel and it would be weird to think I did not have something brewing on the horizon. In NYC there is a winter break that the schools take towards the end of February and this year I decided to jump on board. Courtesy of some interesting travel experiences late last year I had flight vouchers to use, so in need of a winter blues escape I booked! I left behind the cold, icy, dreary weather of the city and took myself to greener pastures – California the land of 80 degrees and palm trees. If the happier weather wasn’t enough of a motivator I also have several of my closest friends living out on the west coast and what resulted was a week of complete bliss.

A few highlights included brunch at the Soho house in west Hollywood. We were treated to the feast buffet while brushing shoulders with some high end celebs including the ever gorgeous Chris Pratt who was behind me in the omelette line. A smoothie whilst wondering along Venice Beach and a sunset view while cruising the PCH was also quite spectacular. I can safely say that I do not take ocean views for granted now that I live in NYC – you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone I guess?

I then spent a glorious few days at Hotel Milo in Santa Barbara – what a devine little spot. I explored mountains filled with glorious wineries, stuffed my face full of cheese, sat ocean front for my morning coffee and sat by the fire pits in the late afternoon enjoying a good book. A ritual for me was my morning bike ride which took me way back to my childhood. With the wind beating against my face and the stunning scenery of SB at my fingertips I was on a complete high. I took myself over to Butterfly beach and into the lush town of Montecito past the mansions in the mountains and along various coastal routes – what a way to start each day!

I capped off my mini break with a day in LA connecting with two of my very first friends in the states – Lindsey and Jona. We had a fabulous brunch at a place called Republique which has the fluffiest french toast you will ever taste. I returned to the city with a glow to my skin and very full heart. If you are ever sitting on the fence about whether or not to book a trip – DO IT!!

“Competition Season is coming”

When I say that it is coming, it has kinda, sorta already has arrived. Everything in my life is pointing to fact that dance competition season is a massive GO! However tomorrow is the day that many of the studios I work for will compete for the first time and competitions I judge for will hold their first regional shows for the year. From my social media feed to how the next few months of my daily life will be structured, dance is certainly taking the spotlight. Although there are several conventions in the fall, it is the next few months when momentum picks up and studios across the country showcase their new routines (solos, duos, groups) on the competition stage – all the blood, sweat and tears will finally pay off.

This “Strayan” is extremely fortunate to be involved in many facets of this wonderful season. I work in several dance studios throughout the New York area and I can feel the excitement growing amongst the dancers as their first performances draw closer and closer. I was lucky enough to set choreography on many of the elite company dancers at these studios and it is extremely rewarding to watch how the pieces have come to life and the students have worked hard on perfecting the challenging elements of these creations.

Many studios in the US hire theaters for their dancers to perform all of their routines on a stage in full costume – this is a wonderful idea as it enables the dancers to iron out all their nerves and for the choreographers to see their vision come to life in a setting outside the studio. I am fortunate enough to attend a critique weekend at a wonderful studio in Little Rock, Arkansas – it is a highlight of my yearly calendar and I leave with my heart full and my mind inspired. Collaboration is KEY on these weekends and it is the minds of many working together that can bring the company pieces to new levels and see them peak before the season commences.

This weekend I am heading to Washington DC to teach the tap classes at The Process which is a wonderful dance experience created by working artists in New York City. This company prides itself on guiding students towards becoming industry professionals and I am honored to be a part of this talented team. Towards the end of the month I will also begin traveling all over the country and internationally to judge competitions. The talent I know I will witness on stage is so incredible and I sometimes have to pinch myself as a reminder that firstly these are only children, and secondly that this is my job! I also get to experience so many new places and connect with dance friends I have made all over the world – can you tell I am excited? It is definitely worth the long weekends of travel.

One final thought is something I was discussing with a past student of mine who also now resides in NYC. We were reflecting on how much dance and competing has changed over the years, not only in terms of trends and styles but in how the preparation process is approached. “Back in the day” it used to be enough to simply move together as a group and perform a routine reasonably well. In this day and age the stakes are higher – every finger tip, every eyelash is detailed and cleaned. Sometimes I’m left thinking how sad it is that such well rehearsed, professional level items will only ever be seen on a competition stage and not in front of massive crowds. It really is the “best show in town” if you are lucky enough to witness a dance competition on group day and it is safe to say the future of the performing arts industry is well taken care of.

I’ll be in my little dance bubble for the next few months or as the Aussies day off in “eisteddfod land” – CHEERS TO DANCE COMPETITION SEASON!!