Q & A with Ms. Amanda Wingard

Ms. Amanda Wingard joined our school over the summer and teachers a number of classes, from Creative Movement to Adult.  Recently we asked her some questions about her dance background and teaching methodology.

 Q.  How long have you been dancing & teaching dance?
A.  I have been dancing since I was 3 years old. I started taking my training seriously when I began going to Ballet Academy of Charleston when I was 5 years old.
I started teaching classes in middle and high school at dance studios that I attended and continued teaching in different studios when I went off to college at the University of South Carolina to get my degree in Dance Education. I taught dance at Alston Middle School in Summerville for 3 years after graduating from college. Then I taught at the Charleston County School of the Arts for a year.
Q.  What do you enjoy about teaching?
A.  The things that I enjoy about teaching are watching my students improve before my eyes or seeing them connect the dots and understand concepts for the first time. It makes me think of life and how you need an outside perspective to truly understand all sides of life.  As a dance teacher, I get to have an outside perspective to my students to help them see things that they cannot see or understand on their own.
Q.  What is your methodology for teaching?
A. My methodology for teaching is to give slightly challenging classes. If I raise the bar for my students, they have room to grow and learn.
Q.  How have you enjoyed your experience so far at BAC?
A.  I have enjoyed my time at BAC so far. After teaching at the School of the Arts, I went about a year without teaching dance, which was very tough! I feel encouraged when I see people grow and improve, which is why I love teaching in any aspect. I especially love teaching the adult classes because they are so eager to learn and will always ask questions if they do not understand something. It’s been a pleasure teaching them!

Combating the Holiday Food Craze (Part 1)

It’s that time of year again! Candy, baked goods and sugary drinks are plentiful, and comfort food is a hallmark of the season.


It seems from the months of October to December, we are bombarded with appetizing temptations everywhere we go. For the health conscious dancer, this can be especially frustrating, since we associate these delights with family, friends and memorable activities.

However, life is to be enjoyed! And indulging a bit during the holidays is not only normal but can contribute to a balanced social and mental state.

Nevertheless, since we understand a dancer’s need to remain healthy in order to dance their best, we have compiled a list of suggestions, from alternative foods to mental exercises in order to help combat the foils of the season.


*Disclaimer* This article is intended to offer helpful suggestions for maintaining a healthy lifestyle (not a weight loss diet) based on data compiled from various nutrition-based articles and is intended for those who are old enough to control their own diet. These suggestions should be used in a balanced way and we are in no way advocating a “diet plan” for anyone. Particularly for the active young person, adequate caloric intake is a must!

Below is a chart of the recommended daily caloric intake needed to maintain a healthy weight according to age, gender, and physical activity level:

 https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/estimated-calorie-requirement


  1. Drink plenty of water. Ok, you’ve probably heard this one so many times, it’s become a  cliché. But it’s true!  The body is composed of anywhere between 50-78% water, depending on age and gender, and it is required in order for the body to function properly and efficiently and flushes out unwanted toxins from the body.
  • What if you don’t like water?  Fortunately, there are a number of naturally flavored waters, and of course, there is always fruit and herbs which can add a lovely hint of flavor to your regular water. Here’s a list of suggestions: https://deliciouslyorganic.net/flavored-water-recipes/
  • How much should you drink? For a table of the recommended amount of water to drink per day, follow this link:

https://www.healthline.com/health/how-much-water-should-I-drink#recommendations

  1. Learn to enjoy alternatives. Finding healthy alternatives to certain foods has become easier as increasingly more options are available in stores and abundant information is provided on the internet.  Many find that once they develop a taste for these alternatives, they taste just as good to them if not better than the unhealthy version.

For a list of examples, follow this link:

https://www.swansonvitamins.com/blog/lindsey/food-replacement-hacks

  1. Watch your sugar! It’s become common knowledge that sugar is a major contributor to a slew of health issues both small and large. It’s hidden in a lot of the everyday foods and condiments, (even “healthy” or “organic” versions), often under alternative names (e.g. anything ending in –OSE). Taking the time to read the ingredients on a label can open your eyes to hidden sugars, and help you to make better choices. Natural sugar substitutes (e.g. stevia, monk fruit) are now used in many products or even no sweeteners at all. Just by being aware of your sugar intake and lessening it in your regular food items, you can alleviate the “guilt” you might feel when you do decide to indulge in that dessert! Speaking of that…

For a list of healthy sugar substitutes visit this site:

 https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/natural-sugar-substitutes#section6

  1. Indulge! Yes, sometimes it’s ok to just enjoy the food you’re craving. In fact, mentally this can be healthy as it can help you to stop obsessing over a certain food, nix the craving and move on!  Not only that, you may find that the thing you were reluctant to give up wasn’t all that good to start with, making it easier to reject next time.  Also, try just having a small portion of the thing you’re craving since…

Here is a great article from the Huffington Post on why indulging occasionally is good for you (you’re welcome!):

 https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2016/06/23/this-is-why-treating-yourself-to-bad-foods-is-totally-okay_a_21400471/

  1. A little goes a long way. Portion control is key if you want to have a balanced and healthy diet. If you are typically a big eater, going back for seconds or thirds, try drinking a glass of water, having a salad or an apple before a meal, to help you feel full on less. Eating slowly and really enjoying your food is also important since it takes an estimated 20 minutes after eating for the brain to register that you are full. If you find after waiting this time you are still hungry, help yourself to another portion, filling at least half of the plate with vegetables or salad.

Below is a link to a government-funded website which gives suggestions on portion sizes for all the food groups as well as their respective nutritional facts:

https://www.choosemyplate.gov


These are just a few recommendations to help balance out the indulgences of the season. We hope you have enjoyed them. Stay tuned for a future article completing the list!

10 Tips for Memorizing Choreography

We have all been there:  Struggling to memorize new choreography.  This happens for a number of reasons but let’s review some helpful tips, presented in no particular order, that may aid in the learning process.

1. Take it “one step at a time”.  “Chunking”, a term coined in cognitive science, refers to combining a few items that go together naturally.  In other words, taking the choreography one piece, or “chunk” at a time.  Often, instructors will teach this way; grouping the steps into “bite-size” pieces, reviewing them until the students feel they have it down, then adding on.  But, students can develop their own internal “chunking”, or memorization process, to help them learn the steps.  Additionally, you can use verbal or visual cues, whether it’s a word or phrase the teacher uses or something you come up with which you can relate easily to the movement.

2. Notes & Diagrams.  If you still find you are having difficulty committing the steps to memory you can try this technique:  Write the steps down in order, using words or phrases which make sense to you (or those given by the instructor), or even drawing diagrams using stick figures (you don’t have to be an artist!).  Multiple studies have proven that writing something down, as opposed to just trying to memorize it or even typing it, aids in memory retention and learning.  So, pick up that old-fashioned pen and paper and get to work!

3. Mini-Marking.  Going over the steps repeatedly in your head can be helpful, but involving a certain level of muscle memory can increase the effectiveness of these mental reviews.  If you’re wondering what “mini-marking” is then just recall the last time a teacher gave a combination or a bit of choreography.  Were you just standing by idly watching or were you mimicking the movement with either your hands or feet as you watched closely?  Likely, you were doing the latter.  The beauty of mini-marking is that it can be done anywhere and at any time:  at home, in the car or even while you’re waiting in line at the store!  Additionally, there is a theory called, “the mirror neuron theory”, which states that our brain cells respond equally to performing an action ourselves as they do when we watch another perform it.  So, watching and marking at the same time could theoretically double your intake rate, right?

4. Practice makes perfect. Repeating the steps, again and again, is obviously the most effective method.  Start by doing the steps slowly until you have them down and then gradually pick up the pace, eventually practicing with the music.  Music has become very accessible and can be downloaded in seconds.  You can even ask the instructor for the precise name and version of the music they’re using.  If you practice with the intended score, you will be more likely to be practicing the timing correctly.  And once you’ve begun practicing, don’t stop when you feel you’ve gotten it right, but keep going until you can’t get it wrong.

5. Play games.  Whether you generally have issues with memory, or it’s choreography specific, memory aid games can help your overall memory to improve and teach you to think “on your toes”!

6. Be in the moment.  This is an important one.  We all have a lot on our minds and can often allow our minds to wander during class or even when the teacher is giving instruction or choreography.  Don’t do this!  It’s very important that you be mentally “present” and focus on what is happening at the moment, minimizing all distractions.

7. Ask for help!  It may seem obvious, but many of us are too embarrassed to ask for help or clarification on a step or count we find difficult or confusing.  If you are too shy to do this during a rehearsal or class, (or the timing is inappropriate), you can ask the instructor afterward or even a friend who already has the movement down.  Adding to this, you can always invite a friend to practice with you! The social connection you feel along with the immediate feedback you get from a friend (who may know a step better than you) can go a long way in improving your understanding of the steps.  A famous proverb states:   “As iron sharpens iron; so one person sharpens the face of another.”  The point being that we can help each other to improve using our unique abilities, so why not take advantage of such an opportunity?

8. Focus on the music.  Sometimes I find that I’m getting too caught up in the choreography and am missing the connection between the choreography and the music.  Most choreography is very musical; meaning it complements or harmonizes with the music.  Sometimes just taking a moment to observe the connection between the two can help clear up any confusion you may have about when to do a step-because the music tells you!

9. Don’t linger over a moment.  If you’re getting stuck on one or two particularly difficult parts, don’t allow these to become your focal point.  Imagine a driver who centers their attention on only one thing on the road:   How would their driving fair?  Would they make much progress?  Often the approach of taking the choreography in as a whole can help clear up any trouble spots you’re struggling with.  For the time, just allow that to be a “problem area” and focus on getting the rest of the choreography down.  You can return to the problem area later.  You may find that after class when you have more time to work on it in a relaxed environment, or even after a good night’s sleep (oh so important!) that something just “clicks”.  If this does not happen, however, don’t despair!  Refer to tip number 7.

10. Tackle the feet first.  Your feet being what propel you across the floor, they are generally considered the “more important” part of the dancing process.  Of course, both the upper and lower body in dance is critical, including épaulement and facial expressions.  But when we are learning something new it can be helpful to apply the “chunking” principle to our bodies:  focus on one part at a time.  Once you have one part down, you can add from there.

These are just a few suggestions you can try out.  The process of learning choreography is very individual, so just try some of these and find what works best for you.  And remember to try to relax!  The more anxious you feel, the more difficult it will be.  Merde!

 

What is PBT?

PBT stands for Progressing Ballet Technique.

PBT is an innovative program designed to train dancers in muscle memory to improve technique, flexibility and longevity in dance, while gaining a greater awareness of their muscles and how to use them properly to achieve their goals in ballet.

Its original creator, Marie Walton-Mahon, is formerly of the Les Ballet de Marseilles, and since ending her own career has pursued teaching in her home country of Australia with great success and celebrity.  Seeing the need for an increased understanding of body mechanics and proprioception (awareness of one’s body spatially) in students, and feeling inspired by the immediate feedback of an unstable surface as found in a stability ball, Ms. Walton-Mahon began experimenting with various exercises on her students with demonstrable success.  Finally, in 2004 PBT was born!  She has since grown this technique into a veritable empire, spreading her knowledge through workshops held worldwide and a significant online reach.

Megan Berlint-Nicko is the Owner/Director of PBT U.S.®.  A former professional ballet and jazz dancer, trained in the Ceccechetti method, Ms. Berlint-Nicko began her teaching career at age fifteen.   She has obtained several teaching certificates, shaping her focus on training strong, healthy dancers.  Fascinated by how PBT can improve not only a dancer’s technique but contributes to their safe training and increased longevity, Ms. Berlint-Nicko began studying this method on her own.  Seeing its impact on her own body and accessing muscles she had not fully utilized even during her own dance career, she recognized the need to train young dancers from an early age to prevent injury.  After months of personal study, she traveled to Australia to train directly with Marie Walton-Mahon and was then granted the rights to brand PBT in the U.S.  She currently holds teacher workshops all over the U.S. and Canada.

Ms. Berlint-Nicko visited Charleston last month and trained two of our instructors, as well as our studio owner in this revolutionary method.  The workshop was held in our BAC studio and was one and half days of intense, yet fun, work!  Everyone who participated agrees that they came out with a greater understanding how to train students to achieve their best in ballet.

Ballet Academy of Charleston is the first and only studio in Charleston to receive this certification and licensure.  In addition to offering full PBT classes, we will soon include some of the exercises in our regular ballet classes in order to expose our students to the benefits of this incredible technique.  Furthermore, we hope to share this method with all students in the area who chose to take this class with us!

For more information:

http://www.pbtus.com/about

https://pbt.dance