“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…

“The Perfect Date”

The concept of the perfect date can come in a variety of packages in a city like New York. I think it comes down to personal preference which is your top choice however I will outline three standouts that I have encountered during the course of my NYC life . One of my dates of choice is that of the solo kind where I embark on an adventure alone doing all of my favorite things in the city.  There is a saying “I don’t have a boyfriend I am dating my true love New York” and I must say it is extremely hard not to be lured in by the charms it has to offer. One of the best parts of this style of date is that it can be embarked upon any time you feel the need and you can almost always be guaranteed to get exactly what you are looking for. There are a number of activities usually on the agenda for a date with my dream city (of course many of these are dependent on the season) and the first typically involves stepping outside and pounding the pavement – there is a certain liberation and magic to this in Manhattan that I have yet to find anywhere else in the world. The energy of the people walking with great purpose, the noises of the public transport, the grandeur of the many buildings and the smells of the pretzels from the street vendors just to name a few all help to create a wonderful buzz that can very quickly turn a day of doom and gloom around. A meal at Tavern on the Green would be a “must do” for my solo dream date. This is such a classic spot and is the pinnacle of class and style – the fairy lights, the extravagant decor, the swing style music and scenic view of the park allow you to relax and succumb to the charm of an elegant fine dining experience. A date with myself would not be complete without seeing a Broadway show. I love nothing more than being transported to a world of song and dance for a few hours , not to mention the excitement of the timeless theaters and bright lights of Times Square. All of this would be capped off with a rooftop drink at the Boom Boom room where cocktails you can only dream of are sipped while overlooking all of the highlights of New York. Days like this can make you realize that New York really does have your heart and it is very hard for “anything”or “anyone” else to live up to the high standards that it sets.

Recently I went on a date with a very handsome gentlemen – which is also another fabulous style of dating in Manhattan if you can find someone to get it right and boy did this guy get EVERYTHING right! I was left questioning whether I had just stepped off a movie set when I arrived home. The night began in a cosy wine bar in midtown and quickly progressed to a hidden jazz bar called “The Backroom NYC” that has a live band on Monday nights. Once you enter through the secret passage way to this speakeasy you are transported to another era where cocktails are served in tea cups and Fred Astaire is on the playlist.  We  managed to secure a prime spot by the band and after one cocktail he smoothly lifted me off my chair to slow dance to “Cheek to cheek” – highly romantic and it didn’t hurt that he looked like he belonged on a Calvin Klein advertisement. We then progressed to sitting on a park bench in the west village while the leaves fell on a perfect fall evening – it felt like nobody else was around and that I was floating on a cloud.  Enough to make you sick! However the reality is that New York has has the powers of seduction to transport you on a fantasy date that will starry- eyed and loved up.

However in my eyes the “perfect date” especially for a Christmas Enthusiast like myself is at a place called Rolf’s on the lower east side with the company of a close friend. I was lucky enough to live out the reality of this date yesterday. The only other time I have ventured to this gorgeous restaurant there was an hour long wait in a line in the freezing cold, however as fate would have it we were able to get a table immediately. The word that comes to mind is Christmas “vomit” – there are sleighs, lights, tree branches, christmas balls and candles hanging from every roof, wall and fixture. It is gorgeous and magical and I think you could visit this quaint place multiple times and see something new each time. I have been battling a cold this past week so the comfort food and spiked apple cider was just what the doctor ordered. This combined with a girly catch up is in my eyes the ACTUAL perfect date.

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‘Tis the Season

As a true Christmas enthusiast one of the highlights of my year is the holiday season and so naturally I like to kick the festivities off as early as possible. New York City is the ultimate city for a Christmas obsessed person like myself to live in and there are a few little occurrences throughout the city that signify to me the commencement of the most wonderful time of the year; the holiday cups/drinks at Starbucks (my favorite is the Peppermint Mocha), the significant drop in temperature, holiday store at Macys, the construction of the ice skating rink at Bryant Park and the large lit up snowflakes that are displayed along Columbus avenue. However the standout event that has become a tradition and eagerly anticipated event is holiday card making with one of my closest friends Caroline. The date for this evening has been highlighted on my calendar for at least four months and if you ever question who actually watches the Hallmark Christmas movie channel you need look no further.

We go ALL OUT and each year I question why we work in the field of dance and not as card designers for Papyrus or Urban Outfitters. The night commences with wine and cheese and some girly gossip while sitting by our version of a fireplace (the crackling fire image on the tv). This then quickly progresses to a pizza order and the careful selection of a Christmas movie – the corniest, most unrealistic, complete with fake snow galore are usually top of the list. Sequins, gold and silver cards, mistletoe, craft snow, jewels, crystals, robins, holiday tape, glue guns, are all things sprawled across the floor as we set to work on our masterpieces. It is the ultimate in cosy nights in and it is certainly not complete without a cup of extra “chocolately” hot chocolate. If you are lucky enough to receive one of these creations you should feel extremely special and know you have truly received a holiday wish from the heart. It is such a fun tradition and I always leave so energized and excited for the weeks ahead. Living in New York has forced me to change the signs I look out for when the festive season is approaching. No longer is it summer weather, relaxing beach days, bbqs or island style cocktails. I’ve officially traded in the purchase of a new seafolly bikini for a kate spade scarf. It has all been part of the adventure to create these new traditions and in my eyes the holiday card making evening is the official kick off for Christmas!

“If I can make it there I’ll make it anywhere”

Finding ANY job let alone your dream job in a city like NYC can be quite the challenge. It is a known fact that the cream of the crop arrive in New York hoping and praying that they have a shot of making it. As the famous Sinatra song clearly reminds us every year after the ball drops in Times Square “I  can make it there I’ll make it anywhere.” This rings very true for people working in the performing arts industry.

During the first few weeks of my life in the big Apple I would sit behind a laptop in my Harlem apartment and send out email after email, CV after CV…crossing my fingers and toes (when I could feel them given it was January). I certainly felt like the little fish in the big pond and was well aware that dance instructors and choreographers are a dime a dozen in the tristate area with Broadway just a hop, skip and a jump down the road. Very daunting. Not to mention the fact that I had never even attended a “proper” job interview in my life and had no connections to my field in the USA. I had been lucky enough in my little bubble down under to receive most of my jobs through word of mouth or relationships I had built in the dance community. Finding a job was also new territory given I was a business owner in Australia and subsequently it was me doing the hiring. I began to picture a bleak future where just like Carrie in SATC I would be choosing between food and the latest cosmo magazine.

Even though it would be an understatement to say I started at the very bottom, about 400 emails later my luck began to change. I was hired by a company titled “Fit for Life NYC” which was a major victory at the time, but little did I know what I was getting myself into. Informed that I would be teaching dance in schools you could imagine my shock to discover this was not the case. My new job involved trekking down into the depths of Brooklyn to teach “animal dancing” and physical education (really not my forte) to very disruptive, undisciplined children. Luckily a studio in Westchester “New York Performing Arts Center” needed a tap and jazz teacher urgently. They saved me! This was a very uncommon occurrence and stroke of luck given that the schools over here were half way through their year. We both joke that it was fate and meant to be – I have definitely found a family in NYPAC. From this point on things fell into place as the saying goes, proving that my move to New York was meant to be.

I have landed many positions as a Dance Judge and convention teacher, not only due to my experience and talent but also by being in the right place at the right time which is half the battle I have come to find. These positions have taken me all over the United States (I can tick off 30 states now) , Mexico and Canada and next month I’ll be off to Poland with Team USA. All of these opportunities are experiences of a lifetime that I am eternally grateful to have had as part of my journey. I have also been lucky enough to create a “family”through dance and have met people that have greatly impacted me and  I know will be in my life forever. Most recently this year I have commenced teaching at Broadway Dance Center – in my eyes the ULTIMATE dance training facility. I used to make an annual trip to this amazing place to draw inspiration for my Australian students- never in my craziest vision board dreams did I think I would be on faculty here but it has happened. So even though I haven’t choreographed a Broadway Show yet and my first official job over here was less than glamorous; from humble beginnings I certainly feel that this Aussie has made a mark in the city of dreams. This really is the land of opportunity if you dare to put yourself out there.

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It’s not “Sex and the City” but “Strayan in the City”

Almost three years ago I packed up my pretty “perfect” life living on the glorious Gold Coast, Australia in search of an adventure in the concrete jungle of dreams, NYC. I had always dreamed of living in this fast paced city they call the big apple but never in my wildest dreams had I considered it a serious possibility.  Well… not until series of events began to unfold which I read as “signs from the universe” leading me to believe that I could have a chance at making my ultimate fantasy life a reality. In the words of fellow Aussie and inspiration, Christine Denny “I didn’t want to wake up one morning ten years from now crying over my bowl of cereal wishing I had done things differently” so I set the wheels in motion for the big move. Back in the land of Oz I had a gorgeous pad right on the beach, a successful business which allowed me to pursue my love of dance, multiple yearly exotic vacations (this hasn’t changed much), not to mention the best friends and family a person could hope for.  Yet still the draw of city life was luring me. So I took a leap of faith and jumped off the ledge trading it all in for central park views and a fire escape on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It certainly has been a whirlwind of adventure on all fronts – work, friends, travel, dating but I wouldn’t change any of it. Magic DOES happen in this crazy city and sometimes I have to pinch myself to remember that this is real and my home is Manhattan! I intended to create this blog documenting my tales shortly after my big move but as they say in the movies this is the city that never sleeps and it is only now that I have been able to catch my breath and write… Stay tuned for some insightful, inspirational and hilarious stories from but the adventures of this “Strayan in the City”

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