In the Service of Fun

I realized something recently about myself and my relationship to dance and my offering of dance to other people. I realized that the most important thing that I want to offer with dance is fun.

Fun, fun, FUN!

Now, fun expresses itself in many different ways depending on who I am teaching. Fun for some can be the excitement and enjoyment of learning something new, picking up a new skill, discovering you can do something you thought you had lost when you were 6 or 7, learning new movement you didn't think you were good at, performing in front of an audience for the first time or for the 50th time, realizing you can exercise your body and your brain at the same time, surprising an unsuspecting crowd with dance, reigniting passion for dance, exploring how to strenthen your technique to make something more crisp and clean and inviting, learning how to really connect and pull an audience in wether it's one person you're dancing for or 200, dancing because it makes you feel empowered, creates a better self image and body image, exploring a new, exciting side of yourself, challenging yourself to do something new because you know it's exactly what you need, and just moving because it feels good!

I love that dance is so big that it can connect with people in so many different ways. I do believe that everybody is built for dancing. Yes, we use our bodies to walk from place to place but I can't think of a better way to appreciate your body than to dance with it. Say thank you to your body and dance with it! New tag line?  

All of you can dance. ALL of you. And all of you can enjoy dancing. ALL of you. That doesn't mean that you have to enjoy dancing to 80's music or like dancing in a night club or like dancing the way other people dance. Your "dance fun" is unique and if you think you don't like dancing I would like to be so bold as to say I feel you have not yet found your very own "dance fun". I'm here to help, in the service of fun! At your service!

A Beautiful Dance Coincidence

I've had such great couples to work with this wedding season and even several groups, and in this one instance the two of them came together without any of the parties realizing we were all connected! It was a really fun, magical coincidence to discover. 

Kim and Scott contacted me first asking if I could choreograph a First Dance for them to Van Morrison's "Crazy Love". They were excited about keeping it a surprise thinking many of their guests would not suspect these two as the dancing type. A few weeks after I started working with them I receive a request from Marcie who had a very good friend getting married. She wanted me to choreograph a flashmob-esque dance for her and her friends and their husbands to surprise the bride with. I thought, what sweet friends they are to learn an entire dance for the bride to be! I taught them their dance and they were on their way, promising they would all practice together, and from the looks of the video, they did. So, everyone knows their dances, weddings happen, dances are danced, I'm liking my job. A month later I get an email from the bride:

"What a huge surprise when my friends started circling us. Their dance truly was THE HIGHLIGHT of the night. I can't begin to tell you how much that meant to us and how fun it was. I couldn't take it all in that night but I've watched the video over and over and feel so loved every time I do. Thank you! Thank you! You did have a great group to work with."

OMG, how cool is that! I had no idea I was creating a dance for people to surprise people I was making a dance for! So many dance surprises! Kim and Scott surprised their friends, their friends surprsied Kim and Scott, and I was surprised by all the surprises surprising me and coming together in such a synchronistic way, and somehow I find the ability to like my job even more! And we even have the video to prove that the dancing everybody was talking about actually happened! Good times. 

Coming soon: Blogging about another First Dance and flashmob I did for a good friend's wedding, 90's, EZ Rock and Rob Base style!

Dance Practice Starts . . . Now!

Wow, it's been a bit since I've written. I guess I've been making some dances! With 2011's wedding season coming to a close it makes me think about. . . well, 2012! I had many couples coming to me four to to two weeks before their wedding. I know some people prefer it this way and don't need an entire super fancy dance. I also know that some of those couples would have prefered to start earlier if they could have. That's why I'm reminding you now! Let's start preparing. Yes, to pinning down your venue right away, yes, to a caterer, yes, to a photographer, and yes, to making your First Dance super special by preparing early and having plenty of time to make your moves solid.

I have other great ideas as well like hire me for the day of your wedding and I'll teach a dance to your bridal party that they can Flash Mob at some point during the reception. I actually did this at my friend's wedding a couple of months ago and it was so much fun. It grew to about 25 of us by the time the song finally came on. I was in the bridal party so it was super easy to teach it to a few people as we were all getting ready and then attend to the bride, then secretively teach it to another few people and then help out again. It can be a great fun surprise for your guests. I love how many opportunities there are to throw a surprise in to the ceremony or reception. I am a little obsessed with Flash Mobs right now. They just create so much joy! Lots of people doing the same synchronized dance, yeah, it's just a joyful thing! The super joy of your wedding combined with the joy of a Flash Mob equals EXPLOSIVE JOY!

I hope to hear from you soon! Yes, you, who's getting married in October 2012. No time like the present. Let's dance!!

Dances I've Been Up To This Month

Oh, the diversity in the dances I've been able to choreograph this month makes me giddy like a school girl!

I've choreographed a dance incorporating the Texas two-step to "Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not". I worked with a brides entire immediate family to come up with an "Evolution of Dance" type of dance using songs from "Thriller" to "Baby Got Back" to "Ice Ice Baby". It was a perfect way to add fun and entertainment to your wedding in a stress free way that doesn't require lots of rehearsal time. Perfect if you want to do something last minute! I just made a dance for a couple to a song I've fallen in love with, Michael Buble's version of Nina Simone's "Feeling Good" .

It was so fun to choreograph to. The sensual dynamics, the flirty drama, the beautiful lyrics, the dance almost made itself, in that the music gave me so much to work with. The couple has about two months to rehearse which if they're dedicated will be plenty of time. I always tell couples the quicker they can learn the dance, get the memory part out of the way, the sooner they will be able to just have fun dancing, relax in to it, without thinking about what comes next. Once you get the movement in your body, and this can take different amounts of time for everyone, it's in there and you don't have to think about it. The sooner you can do that before the wedding the less stress and more fun!

Dances to come: A bride recently contacted me about doing a First Dance where her family joins in at the end. So fun! And one of the reasons they like the idea is because they don't want the attention to be on them the entire time. I know a lot of people have a hard time being the center of attention. This is a great way for them to dance together, to share their connection but then take some of the attention off of them by ending it with fun dancing with their family. I love it!

Also in the works; a bride and her bridesmaid's dance! Of course it's just fun in general to dance with your girlfriends but this is an awesome thing to do if you want some extra special dancing at your wedding but your man or partner is not so much in to dancing. No one said you have to do a First Dance. Replace it with a fun dance with your girls! Or do both (like I would)! Groomsmen can get their own dance on as well. I haven't forgotten about you! Women love seeing men dance, am I right?!

See all the options available! Don't limit yourself! There are so many people to dance with that I guarantee any and all will make lasting memories that people won't stop talking about. So many possibilities! Who do you want to dance with?!

Dance performance at Asheville's Downtown after 5 taught columnist more than fancy footwork

Citizen-Times reporters Casey Blake (left) and Carol Motsinger performed Beyonce's "Single Ladies" dance on Friday at Downtown After 5. Dance teacher Kathleen Hahn will offer "Single Ladies" classes again in June. / Erin Brethauer/ebrethauer@citizen-times.com

Written by Carol Motsinger

Want to dance?

The next Beyonce “Single Ladies” 10-week series will start at 6 p.m. June 6 at the French Broad Food Co-op studio, 90 Biltmore Ave. It’s $10 per class or $80 for the full series if paid at the beginning.

 Even after months of preparation for last Friday's flash mob performance of the dance from Beyonce's “Single Ladies” music video, I was so nervous minutes before we pushed our way through unsuspecting crowds on Lexington Avenue, I went into hiding.

 Well, more like my face went into hiding: I never wear serious makeup (I bought my first tube of mascara for Halloween 2010) and decided to disguise myself under red lipstick, mascara and gold eye shadow. 

 My red lips looked as if they were stained by Snow White's poison apple; and the application of my eye shadow reminded me of painting technique of my framed self-portrait my mom displays in her home. The one I did when I was 4. 

 I didn't look like myself, that's for sure, but the more I thought about it after those terrifying 3 minutes and 19 seconds were complete, that was kind of the whole point of me doing this. I wanted to not just look like myself but not really act like myself, either.

Gyrating in front of hordes of people is not something I have ever wanted to do. I went to my first dance class around the same time I smeared paint around for that framed self-portrait. My mother took a picture of me on my way to the first dance class, and it's in my baby book fulfilling a dual purpose: a picture of me going to my first — and last — dance class.

I remember missing my mom a lot and crying. And having to stand on my head (I'm not sure that my 4-year-old memory is right about that detail). So I hated it and crossed my heart and hoped to die that I would never go to another wretched dance class.

That promise certainly didn't prevent me from rocking out to Ace of Base and Madonna in the privacy of my childhood room or making my dogs flip out today when I flail around to Robyn.

But I've never learned a serious dance. Where there were steps! That I had to memorize! When my dear friend and colleague Casey Blake told me about a series to learn the dance back in the fall, with her support, I felt it was time to face my fears and connect with my inner Sasha Fierce.

Kathleen Hahn, our esteemed dance teacher, didn't make me stand on my head once during the weekly dance sessions. She broke down the dance to make it accessible to a range of people, old and young, experienced and amateur. Her positive attitude — and almost comically big smile — assured me that I would stick that really fast spin toward the end of the song.

I did stick it on Friday. And to be honest, I even had a really good time once the beat dropped and crowd started to roar. No tears, but I did miss my mom (I'll send her the video, which you can find on YouTube, by the way).

Hahn and her constant smile are offering another series of “Single Ladies” classes, starting in June. Visit www.idodances.com. And you never know; there might be another flash mob up Hahn's sleeve.

When I scrubbed off my lipstick and eye shadow almost as soon as we pointed to our ring finger for the last time, I realized that the painted face looking back at me in the mirror still looked familiar.

That self-portrait hanging in the house has a prominent place because of my artistic choices: My straight brown hair is blue ringlets; my eyes are circled by bright golden eyelashes. I painted a big red heart, and what appear to be internal organs, lungs and the like, on my torso.

It didn't look anything like myself now or then. But I was the artist, so I got to determine what I looked like, who I was and even what internal things I want external. I still get to make those choices and to challenge myself, even through things as silly as learning the dance from a 2-year-old viral video, to truly know all the parts of me.

This is the opinion of Citizen-Times staff writer Carol Motsinger, who writes an entertainment column every Friday for Take5. She can be reached at cmotsinger@CITIZEN-TIMES.com.

Beyonce Single Ladies Flash Mob at Asheville's Friday After Five!!

Oh my goodness goodness, I try to have fun as often as I can but THIS was FUN!! I've been teaching over 60 ladies Beyonce's Single Ladies dance for the last six months gearing up for the Fabulous Flash Mob that happend this past Friday, May 20th, at Asheville's extremely popular Friday After Five, the first of the season! Oh my we had a blast!! I had t-shirts made for the 35 women that participated. Awesome t-shirts, actually, made by Joe at Asheville T-shirt company at 110 N. Lexington Ave. On the front was written "Put A Ring On It" in sparkly gold and on the back was our co-sponsor, Blue Goldsmiths, logo along with the ever so popular I Do Dances logo! Of course we needed a little bling to balance out the outfit so one of the ladies in my class made us up some fabulous gold sequened wristbands.

How does a Flash Mob go down? Well, first you spend lots of time practicing and perfecting your moves, the more in synch we all are the more impact it has on the crowd. I have always been so intrigued with unison movement. A great example is The Rockettes. They have perfected the art of unison dance. Next you get everyone so excited about Flash Mobbing that they make a 100% commitment to be a part of it. A large group of committed dancers is important for pulling this off. Then you provide the dancers with gold sequened wristbands!! I think those wristbands had some magical properties. Leading up to Friday we practiced twice on a tennis court. It was helpful to get used to dancing on an asphalt like surface because it is much more challenging to turn on. Then Friday came! There were some nerves but mainly nerves of exuberant excitement. Many of the dancers had not ever performed before. This was a big deal for them! I have performed many a time but I have never Flash Mobbed. I had a few logistic nerves running through me. Would people move out of the way? Would all the dancers get in to their places on time? Would we all get our t-shirts on on time? Again, would people move out of the way?!! Guess what? It all came together beautifully! We all met up at 6:00 at Loretta Cafe's event space to warm up and run through the dance, and, uh, well, one of the dancers brought a bottle of tequila to share. The bottle was gone pretty quickly. We knew we would be going on about 6:45. We knew that the song coming on before would be Michael Jackson's PYT. We all had our t-shirts in hand, wristbands in the other hand. We walked down to the street at 6:30. Yes, there were a few people that knew about it. I didn't tell them. Well, maybe I told a few close friends but I certainly didn't tell WLOS, Channel 13! It's funny how quickly news spreads. I found out afterwards how many people were talking about it before it happened, The Mountain Express for example. Here's a link to the flash mob coverage by WLOS, Flash Mob.We hung out "casually", chatting with one another as if nothing was going on, nothing amazing was about to happen. And then. . . . Beyonce came on over the sound system! Loud, bold, exciting! And we danced our hearts out! Shook it in every direction possible. And then, in true Flash Mob form, ran away afterwards, as if it were all a magical creation of people's minds. It was so exciting, so fun, so exhilirating, and the crowd seemed to love it. Now the video posted on youtube already has over 2,800 hits! Would I do this again? Heck yeah!! I am so proud of everybody that was a part of it. I can't wait to do it again! Napoleon Dynamite here we come! Get in touch with me if you're interested in joining us for the next Flash Mob Extravaganza! Great pictures and video to come!

"I can't even remember what we danced to." Don't Let This Be You!

I can't even tell you how many times I've heard this from married couples! They often follow, "I can't even remember what we danced to." with, "Your service wasn't even available when we were getting married." Aren't you lucky! Now it is! I love being the one to remind couples that they're going to be in front of all their loved ones dancing. But I can't reach out to ALL the couples getting married this year. I know it's not always the first thing couples think about when planning their wedding. Oh, so many details! It's an ongoing challenge to not get swamped by all the details. That's why I'm here to help remind people that YOU WILL BE DANCING, (unless you've opted out of the First Dance) and it's going to be fun and I want to help make it memorable!

You remember to plan for your dance three months ahead of time? Way to go! You remember to plan one month ahead of time? OK, you still have time! You remember a week before your wedding? Hey, you know what, not exactly the most ideal but absolutely doable. I've done it before and have been blown away by how much couples have been able to pick up in two lessons. Just last week I worked with two couples that were getting married within that same week that we met and they rocked it! They dipped, and turned, and foxtrotted and waltzed with ease I didn't realize was possible in just two lessons. So, if you're afraid you're too late, you're not! Unless you're already married; good reason to renew your vows if you ask me.

"I loved our First Dance! We still do it out at da club."  Let this be you!

Something New: Personalized Choreography from Kathleen Hahn

Kathleen Hahn, of I Do Dances, creates personalized choreography for a couple’s first dance at the reception. On the day we photographed her for Asheville Indie Weddings, she was teaching Beyonce'sAll You Single Ladies to a bridal party for them to perform together at a reception, very fun. Instead of doing an interview, we sent Kathleen a series of unfinished sentances and asked her to complete them. A good sport, she was game...

Most interesting period in the history of dance is the 1920's. At least that's what I think now! I've recently been really interested in Lindy Hop swing dancing. It all started in the 1920's in Harlem with African American men performing solo, a technique that's now called Solo Vintage Jazz. Those solo moves eventually turned into partnered dance we now call Lindy Hop. 

I began dancing when I was three years old. My mom has a picture of me when I was that young bending over touching the floor with my legs straight. Flexibility definitely helps.

Josephine Baker is an inspiration and Hot Stuff!

Dancing alone is actually my favorite. I can be as expressive as I want and really pay attention to how my body wants to move.

Dancing with someone can be extremely satisfying especially if there's that mysterious thing that between the two of you that creates a connection. If you're both really listening to each other (body language), no it's not just the follows job to listen to the lead, it's a two way street, then magic happens.

My favorite smell is probably magnolias.

When men dance with women it's best if they communicate and respect each other's part in the dance. Hmm, sounds like something that applies to any relationship. Dance is excellent relationship practice. That's why it's so great for couples to work together on their First Dance for their wedding. It's the best therapy!

The tango, specifically the Argentine Tango is also hot stuff. It's a very challenging dance to learn but I love the sensual nature of it. This dance, more then others, forces you to be extremely present with the person you're dancing with. That's why I like it.

Dancing shoes or bare feet! I majored in Modern dance in college so I'd say I'm most comfortable with nothing on my feets. Second best would probably be light weight sneakers with smooth bottoms for easy turning and moonwalking.

Best breakfast, hmmm, I just decided to start an extremely low carb diet (it makes my body feel better) so my answer now is probably very different from what it would have been! Bacon, apple, cheese, and sunchokes wrapped in marinated collard green leaves. . . or the brunch buffet at the Grove Park Inn :)

Choreographing wedding dances feels like an honor. I feel like I'm helping couples really own their wedding day, because it's not what their parents wanted or their other parents wanted it's what they chose to work on together. They put lots of time and effort in to creating something special and personal, just the two of them. And their friends and family recognize that and fall in love with them even more!

Best place to dance in Asheville is Bobo's on Friday night!!

Asheville dance choreography for weddings

Micheal Jackson rocks my world. I can't wait for them to figure out his death was a hoax like they did with Elvis.

I learned the most about movement from my teachers at UNC School of the Arts and my summers at American Dance Festival. It opened my eyes to how many different things there are to explore in the world of dance. It's so inspiring to see what people are doing with dance.

First part of the body that moves when someone begins to dance is. . . well, my friend told me he read somewhere that women are more attracted to men that move their upper body when they dance. I think that's funny but for the most part rings true! I think a good place to start is the hips, right Beyonce?!

How can someone get in touch with you? Through my website

I do Dances wedding choreography Asheville

Blogging About Blogging Bloggers

Yes, someone blogged about me and I Do Dances and I'm blogging about how they blogged about me! In case you didn't see their blog you can look on my blog for their blog. Blog blog blog. It's a really fun word if you say it enough. A very special thanks to photographer Jennifer Callahan for her interest in my business!

A New Unique Wedding Blog All About Asheville

Oh, the amount of information couples are bombarded with when planning a wedding is OVERWHELMING. Where do you look, who do you talk to, what do you do, where do you start? So many questions, so many options, so much to do, who can help?! Asheville Indie Weddings blog can! Lots of really fun, interesting information. Here's what they have to say about it:

"Asheville Indie Weddings is the first bridal blog to focus on unique local artists in our community, showcasing businesses brides might not come across otherwise. The blog will give you an insider's view of what you'd love about Asheville, if you're new to it's charms, and things you'd be disappointed to miss if you're a local. After all, doesn't everyone want a wedding in Asheville to be as unique and special as Asheville itself?

This blog will help you find offbeat and up and coming professionals and give you ideas about how to plan an artful and modern event in our progressive mountain town."

Go check it out! Yes, go!

What song to choose- Father/Daughter Dance

Searching for a First Dance song can be extremely overwhelming, but then there's more; what will you dance to with your father! So many songs out there about luuuuvv but not the kind of love you want to be dancing to with your pops. I have lots of people asking me for advice on where to find songs and guess what?! I found this really great website that has a list of them. Yay, I love lists, especially ones other people have already made! You should really check this website out; it's called Offbeat Bride. It's a website that started from Ariel Meadow Stallings' book, Offbeat Bride: Creative Alternatives for Independent Brides. It is such a cool website with a blog that is updated daily with lots of alternative ideas for your wedding, to keep things unique and fun and far from generic. Here is the list of Father/Daughter songs:

Loudon Wainwright's "Daughter" (hear it)
10,000 Manaics "How You've Grown" (hear it)
Ben Folds' "Still Fighting It" (hear it)
Paul Simon's "Father and Daughter" (hear it)
Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo'ole's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" (hear it)
The Temptations' "Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch" (hear it)
Ray Charles' "Ain't That Love" (hear it)
The Bellamy Brothers' "Let Your Love Flow" (hear it)
Neil Young's "Here For You" (hear it)
Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely" (hear it)
James Taylor's "You've Got A Friend" (hear it)
Voltaire's "Goodnight Demonslayer" (hear it)
Natalie Merchant's "Kind And Generous" (hear it)
Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al" (hear it)
Any version of "You Are My Sunshine," particularly the Johnny Cash version (hear it)
A few months ago I wrote about another list they created of fun First Dance songs to use (search for song and the entry will come up). So, this site has lots of goody goodies.

Here are a couple of other sites to check out for song ideas: http://www.ourweddingsongs.com/father-daughter-songs and http://www.partypros.com/lists/daddy.shtml.

Remember, you don't have to do something serious with your dad. How fun would it be to learn a funky dance with your dad. I mean that's a sure fire way to get a party started. Yeah, breaking down barriers! People love seeing their friends and family break out of their comfort zone, and enjoy it! So if you have time and any inclination I say do something special with your dad as well as your honey. Don't forget to save time to have fun!

 

I Do Dances in Asheville Citizen Times, March 15, 2011

Hitting the dance floor in Asheville is good exercise, good fun

7:55 PM, Mar. 14, 2011 

  

Kathleen Hahn (right) leads a "Dance and Sweat" class at the Homewood Event Center in Montford. From left Annabell Lisa, Tara Letts, Sam Jones, and Magda Randolph learn some moves for the class, open to all levels of dance experience. 3/8/2011--Bill Sanders / Bill Sanders/wsanders@citizen-times.com

Written by Casey Blake

 WANT TO DANCE?

To find your dance: Dance Asheville offers daily listings of dance opportunities from contra and line dancing events to trance dance and salsa classes. Visitwww.danceasheville.com to see and submit upcoming events.
To contra dance: Visit www.oldfarmersball.com/schedule to find English country dancing, contra dancing and other regional dances in WNC.
To belly dance: Mahsati Janan teaches beginner belly dancing classes year-round. Visit www.mahsati-janan.com to learn more about classes with Janan, or visit www.ncbellydance.org/class for other listings of belly dance opportunities.
To dance like Beyonce and Janet: It's not too late to join Kathleen Hahn for a booty-shaking good time with Beyonce and Janet Jackson. Visit www.idodances.com for Hahn's class schedule or to learn more about personalized wedding dance choreography.

 ASHEVILLE — Asheville is nothing if not a haven for alternatives, and fitness is no exception.

 While the area has its fair share of gyms and traditional exercise regimes, locals are also getting fit more creatively: by dancing. 

Unlike hitting the treadmill or elliptical machines, Asheville fitness professionals say, dance can incorporate fun, unusual elements that some exercisers need to stay moving.

“The best thing you can do to make exercise a lifestyle is to find a way to be engaged with how you're moving,” said personal trainer Peggy Emory of Training Partners in Asheville.

“If that means running or lifting weights, that's wonderful. If that isn't what works for you, then go line dancing — that's great exercise. But you have to think outside of the box.”

Emory recommends zumba, the explosively popular dance-fitness craze found in most gyms, but points out that a gym setting doesn't work with every personality, and can't always fill a full fitness void.

“Use belly dancing as a way to move and work your abs in addition to a workout of crunches,” she said. “Or go contra dancing to get your cardio in, and hit the salsa clubs for some leg strengthening.”

Belly dancing is one of Asheville's signature seductive festival dances, and according to belly dance instructor Mahsati Janan, it's one of the best workouts in town.

“Belly dancing is aerobic, it works a lot on flexibility, and it's amazing for core strength,” said Janan.

“But one of the most attractive things about belly dancing is that it's not the kind of thing you have to have been working on since you were a kid. You can become accomplished in this type of dance even if you come into it as an adult,” she said.

“You definitely don't have to be tiny to get into belly dancing, and there's such a celebratory feel of acceptance here. Anybody can love it.”

Kathleen Hahn, a dance teacher, yoga instructor and certified personal trainer, believes in a fitness strategy of fun first.

“The reality for a lot of people is that if you're walking into a class thinking, ‘I'm going to exercise now,' it's a lot harder to get yourself to do it,” Hahn said.

“If you walk in thinking, ‘Oh, I'm just going to a superfun dance class,' it's a lot easier to do.”

Hahn, who runs a company in Asheville that specializes in personalized choreography for first wedding dances, has also embarked on a new teaching style — the school of Beyonce. Hahn leads two class series that teach the steps to Beyonce's “All the Single Ladies” and Janet Jackson's “All for You” music videos.

Hahn also works with a particular brand of dancer in Asheville that not every instructor will dare to tango with: the nondancer.

“I'm usually amazed at how quickly people with no experience can pick up choreography — I think everybody has a hidden dancer in them,” said Hahn, who welcomes dance novices to all her classes. “It's inspiring to help people let their guard down and let loose.”

In addition to the fun factor of a booty-shaking good time, Hahn said a dance session can be more than just entertaining.

“Dancing is really one of the most beneficial ways to exercise if it's done right,” said Hahn. “Dance is very full-body and works a lot of different muscle groups. It can be very aerobic and strengthening, and you're always doing something different.”

Ann Dunn, owner of the Fletcher School of Dance and artistic director of the Asheville Ballet, agreed that dance is more than just pretty movement.

“It's the best exercise in the world, and it combines that with a spiritual and emotional component,” she said. “Classical ballet combines all machines you can find at the gym, but you're not just doing it to stay fit, you're doing it as a human being.”

Even for the less hard-core dance enthusiast looking to shed a few pounds or tone up, Asheville has a beginner class for everything from Afro-Brazilian dance at Terpsicorps Dance Studio to the Western North Carolinian favorite, contra dancing, held weekly at The Grey Eagle and Warren Wilson College.

“Asheville is a place for creativity and doing things a little differently,” Hahn said. “Dancing is about letting loose and being uninhibited, and you don't have to be a pro to do that.”

Kid's and Their Dancing Birthday Parties

Last month someone called to ask if I could come to their nine year old's Birthday party and teach her and 10 of her friends a hip-hop dance to (one of the nine year olds favorite dance songs) Willow Smith's "Whip My Hair". Well, yeah, of course! I love kids. I love watching them dance. I love to see how they interpret the movement I'm asking them to do (interpret because it doesn't always look exactly the same, which I love!) I had a blast. I think it's such a great idea for a Birthday party. It felt special to the Birthday girl, her friends were really in to it, they got to move, perform it for their parents and then eat more cake. I can't wait to do more! I will hopefully have a video of their cute performance coming soon.

A First Dance in Three Rehearsals

Oh my goodness it's been so long! What have you all been doing for entertainment with my several month hiatus? With the Holidays and couples starting to plan for their 2011 weddings I haven't found the time to write but now that I have the time I wanted to tell you about a couple I worked with in December. Laurie and Greg live in Atlanta and were travelling to Asheville to get married at the Biltmore Estate. I received a call from Laurie on Thursday. . . they were getting married that Sunday. That's right! They needed help and fast! We had three days to pull it together and that's what we did.

They chose Jack Johnson's Better Together for their First Dance song. Neither of them had prior dance experience. They were both a little nervous especially with the added stress of the time crunch. Man, I wish I had taken a picture of them the first day they rehearsed and another one on the last day. I was incredibly impressed with how much they were able to pick up in three lessons. People keep amazing me, that's why I stand strong in my belief that dance is innate, instinctual, we just have to remind our bodies of that. They learned 2 and a half minutes of choreography in 3 lessons! Two minutes may not seem like a lot but believe me, from dancing my whole life, it is, to not only teach your body to do the movement, in connection with your partner, but to also REMEMBER it. It is a feat! That's why their faces, their bodies, their mood were completely different the last day because they had overcome the hurdles of learning a dance and it felt good, really good! They were excited and confident. I was excited and proud and excited. It's really wonderful to see people succeed at something that is completely new and different and challenging to them. Congratulations to Laurie and Greg for taking the risk to try something new. Have you tapped in to your innate dance potential lately?

Curious what a rehearsal DVD of your First Dance would look like?

 know the choerographed First Dance is still somewhat of a new concept to a lot of folks. What might be even more foreign is doing a lot of rehearsing on your own from a super accessible instructional DVD. I want to make this concept more accessible.

What I do is I meet with a couple to get to know them and to see them dance a bit. I then choreograph a dance to the song they've picked out, teach it to my dance partner and then make a DVD for them to practice with on their own. We meet with them for a 2 1/2 hour rehearsal to make sure they feel comfortable and confident executing all the moves in the dance and then the DVD is a helpful reminder they use to memorize their dance and work on details. The couples I've worked with have found it really easy to use. It works, it works! You don't have to spend hours and hours in a studio with a teacher. Instead you get to spend hours and hours with your honey learning something new together. Come on, that's romantic.

Here's a taste of what the video would look like. We do the dance three times; first with music, second with music while I also shout out certain lyrics of the song that match up with specific moves (easy way to memorize), third is an instructional talk through of the entire dance. Take a looksy.

Finding a First Dance song

What, you didn't meet under the stars with moonlight in your eyes and the most amazing song playing in the background that was the catalyst for you falling in love??! That's hard to believe because it happens all the time in the movies! Perhaps it's a generational thing but it seemed like in the 50's (movies I guess since I wasn't alive then) everyone knew what their song was as a couple. It seems to be less common now possibly because music is around us all the time, in shops, grocery stores, dentist offices, at work, so it's not as momentous of an occasion when you're with the one you love and music is playing. So, what does this all mean? It's harder to find a First Dance song! I guess everything's harder in real life then it is in the movies.

My suggestions:

You are not limited! There are millions of songs to choose from. Don't hold back from choosing Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On if that's what you two really love and enjoy for whatever reasons. Don't feel obligated to choose a song from the somewhat short list of "acceptable", "traditional", "wedding song sounding" songs.

Overwhelmed? You love lots and lots of different types of music? Here is a site that has some great ideas that go beyond the generic choices:  Offbeat Bride , or if you're looking for something more traditional or popular look here:  Top 115 Wedding First Dance Songs.

My new favorite at the moment, in the sweet, charming category, is Pretty Flowers sung by Dolly Parton and Vince Gill, written by my husband in a past life, Steve Martin.

I will be adding a new section to my site of songs I have choreographed to for couples. Check back! Have fun listening!

Lindy Hop, The Flaming Azaleas at LAAFF, What is Lindy Hop?

This past Sunday at the LAAF Festival in downtown Asheville The Flaming Azaleas debuted their Solo Vintage Jazz piece to a song called Jungle Nights in Harlem. They also debuted themselves. The Flaming Azaleas, the fabulous dancer, Eva Millwood and myself, have been born out of a love for Solo Jazz movement and the Lindy Hop.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Lindy Hop it is often referred to as the Grandfather of swing dance. Other swing dances would include the common 6 count East Coast Swing, Jitterbug, West Coast Swing, etc. A lot of people recognize it as that social dance where the dancers throw each other up in the air, also known as an aerial, in really creative, surprising and amazing ways.

The Lindy was born in the late 1920's in Harlem, NY by African Americans. As one site on the subject puts it "the blending of African and European dance had been simmering for over 75 years. The natural freeform style of African dance adopted the European notion of partnered or coupled dancing. The Ragtime Jazz and other popular music of the day delivered rhythms and tempos tailor made for the fast footwork and kick outs of the Charleston, and the Jazz/Tap patterns of the Black Bottom." -kclindyhop.org  The famous Savoy Ballroom in Harlem was where most of the moves were inspired and created. Like many things, during World War ll the Lindy Hop fell away but was revived in the 80's. Yet another reason to loooove the 80's! I'm so glad the 80's brought you back Lindy Hop.

I go out swing dancing every Tuesday night. Let me know if you want to come! And stay tuned for more updates on The Flaming Azaleas!

Pictures of Nicole and Jason at Homewood

Here are some pretty pictures of Nicole and Jason dancing on their big day. It sure does make me happy to see such huge smiles on people's faces while they're dancing. Looks like, and sounds like, they had a good time: "The dance was wonderful. We had a lot of fun!" -NicoleHooray for love!