KinDance sat down with Holly Logan, artistic director of Intrepidus Dance Company and instructor at Ballard Academy of Music and Dance.
KinDance: Tell us a little about who you are!
Holly Logan: I’m an educator, performer, and choreographer here in Seattle. I grew up as a very busy dancer, musical theater person, horseback rider... I was busy with lots of activities. I moved here to Seattle about five years ago and I have been working and teaching professionally ever since; and am originally from Ohio with a degree in dance.
For Holly’s bio, check out the Intrepidus Dance website.
KD: With school and dance classes starting, do you have any tips for students making the transition from summer to the busy fall schedule?
HL: The biggest thing I always tell people is: give it a couple of weeks. The first couple of weeks are always rough because you’re in a new classroom, a new grade, with a new teacher, and making new friends. Things are really different, for instance you might be going to school earlier. That transition in and of itself is big. The number one priority is that school comes first.
For all of my [dance] students, I always stress that school must come first. If you don’t finish school, you are not going to be able to do anything else. The precedent for discipline has to be set right off the bat. One way I have found to facilitate this is by putting together a schedule. Kids like schedules, schedules, schedules. My mom was great, growing up we had very strict schedules. I didn’t get super active until I was a bit older, about 9 or 10 years old. I was a total sports kid. I played soccer, basketball, softball, figure skating, cheerleading--if there was a sport, I wanted to play it! However, that also meant multiple practices a week. Kids need a clear outline of when homework time is and when dance and/or activity/sports time is. I think it’s very healthy to set concise boundaries for kids. In between dances, practices or even in the car, [encourage your kids to] work on some homework. Working with your kid to setup a schedule and allowing them to help decide when they think a good time to do homework is teaches them to make choices themselves and to establish a sense of personal commitment. This then allows their brains to be ready for practice, for rehearsal or whatever activities they are involved in.
On the subject of beginning dance classes for the year, as a dance educator I’m aware that class is always very fun… at first. The initial few weeks are exciting, you are in a new class and learning new things. For older kids who have been doing it for a while, a lot of times they’ll tend to push themselves really hard. My advice: know your body and know to listen to what your body is saying. If you are advanced, take it back a notch when you start out. You do want to let your body ease back into it. If you are feeling fatigued, take it easy and let your body rebuild the strength. Muscle memory will kick in, strength will slowly increase. You don’t want to injure yourself at the beginning of the year by pushing yourself too hard. Talk with your teacher or coach and tell them how you are feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally. This will really help an educator assist you throughout that time. If I know someone is really tired, I’m not going to harp on them as much to get their leg up. I am going to make sure they are supporting their core. If they are tired, the first thing that is going to go is the core support. On the emotional front, if there is a stressful outside situation going on, or just a lot of homework--you should always communicate such!
For parents, It sounds like a lot but make it a point to sit down with your kid. Make the schedule and communicate with your child on a daily basis to see how they are doing. They may say they are fine and roll their eyes, but if you ask consistently on a daily basis they will know you’re there when things don’t go well. Another thing is if your child has a new coach or instructor, they are the professional--so as a rule of thumb you want to listen to them as they operate in their field of expertise. However, you also want to listen to your child--especially if they feel they feel unsafe with that person. If you and your child wind up with a coach that pushes them really hard and an injury occurs at the very beginning of the year, that is a big warning sign. Don’t be afraid to talk with your coach or teacher!
Just to circle back:
KD: It sounds like, from your background, you are a big advocate of cross-training. What cross-training options do you recommend for dancers, especially if they are interested in going into high school or college dance?
HL: For dancers of any age, I definitely recommend strength training. Most studios offer a strengthening and flexibility class (usually) that is a solid 45 minutes to an 1 hour long class where your kid is getting almost one on one training in a strength core program. When we set our kids up with these basics of conditioning, it really helps prep them to enter safely back into the classroom.
When an instructor only has 1 hour and 15 minutes with a kid in ballet, we generally stick to teaching the technique and may not have time to really break down the core work and make sure they are getting it. If you don’t have a studio that offers one [a conditioning class], that is fine, some studios don’t have the space or the appropriate teachers to teach that. I encourage you to look for somewhere that does, such as the YMCA… ...or maybe a gymnastics academy.
Another cross-training niche that I think dancers don’t get a lot of is cardio. Running is great but can be hard on the joints. You can also get cardio by swimming. It’s great cross training for dancers because it is easy on the joints, teaches us breath control, and offers the cardio portion because it gets your heart rate up. If you are in high school, and you’re on an elite team, and you are going to be in seventeen numbers in the recital--how do you expect to get through that if you don’t have that cardio training? Stamina is key, and you get that through cardio.
KD: If a student does get injured, what steps would you like the student and family to take and communicate with you?
HL: The first thing you should do with a child who is dancing or who wants to be a dancer in the future (even if you think that it won’t go anywhere beyond recreation) is to go to your doctor and possibly get an x-ray. I have often requested [an x-ray] personally because my feet are the way I make money and I just want to be extra sure. Communicate to your doctor all the activities [the child] is currently involved in. Get doctors notes! If they are cleared to dance, I as an instructor need to see that. Not only do I want to see that in writing, but I want to know their (prescribed) activity level and any steps being taken for rehab.
Don’t be afraid to go into physical therapy. I had a student that broke her ankle last year; however, she did come to class and I gave her exercises to do in class that did not involve the use of her feet. They [the parents] communicated and while we knew that she was not going to be able to perform in the recital which was sad, she kept coming to class because she loves dancing.
On that note, don’t miss class! If anything, show up and your teacher will formulate something for you to do. At any age, if you rehabilitate an injury incorrectly or too quickly it can really create problems down the road. In the case that an injury is too severe, observing [class] is so helpful. When you observe a class, people tend to think they are missing out--but there is so much you can learn! A child can gain a lot from sitting out and watching corrections--oftentimes they [corrections] begin to make more sense.
KD: Many kids are coming straight from school or other activities to dance class. Getting a proper snack that is going to give them the energy to get through class till dinner can be tricky. Do you have any tips for what they can do, what snacks they should be eating, what should be the main components of those snacks?
HL: The first thing that comes to mind is that parents should pack items that do not need to be entirely finished once class begins. While granola bars are fine, I always end up with one kid telling me they “aren’t ready to come into class & line up” because they are still eating their granola bar. Things like slicing up apples, bagging up your peanuts, bagging up your grapes really help alleviate this issue. I always recommend fruits because they have great natural sugars. Nuts, are a natural source of protein. With the aforementioned snacks they are A) bite size, B) [the kids] don’t have to finish them completely, C) and they can eat a bit on a water break real quick.
The snacks you never want kids to have prior to class fatty foods like a donut or chips. I see it a lot. It’s easy to go to Starbucks and get them a croissant. However, that is very bready and heavy, we don’t want to put a lot of breads in their system before they dance. It just doesn’t sit well and it takes a lot for their body to process it. It makes it harder for them to execute movement in class if their body is preoccupied with processing this really heavy carbohydrate. After class on the other hand--load up!
Before class, I would say keep it light, keep it fresh. For kids that are older, high school age, I used to drink slim fast in between my rehearsals as a great source of vitamins and it has a good source of calories. Especially if you are taking four hours of class a day, you need the extra calories. So I recommend it for 13 and up. Breakfast shakes are also really good to throw in your bag. I would drink one of these two between school and rehearsal, so I’d have a solid 45 minutes to get it into my body and would keep my fruits and nuts for in-between classes.
KD: Any last things you would like to touch on?
HL: Don’t be afraid to try new things! I think for parents, embracing the realization that your kid can do more than you think they can. Can they really go from a soccer practice into a dance class into another dance class? Is it tiring? Yes. Are they capable of it? More than capable! And it’s great for them, because it’s cross-training them. It’s also giving their brain exercise in a way that not all the other kids are getting. Soccer practice requires something different of their brain. It requires quick firing of muscles, quick decision-making. Whereas dance is a well thought out process. They have to memorize very quickly, then have to manifest the movement in their body. Both things are teaching them discipline. So whether they are a soccer player or a dancer or a scientist... doing these activities teaches them really crucial things! The more you can get kids involved in extracurricular activities, the more they stay out of trouble.
For teachers: the beginning of the school year for dance teachers is always so intimidating. You don’t know who you are getting in class, you don’t how to make your lesson plans, you forget to eat, you live on coffee! We often forget to take care of ourselves, so make as an educator that you are taking the time for yourself. Take a class yourself! That’s the one thing I always forget to do. Make that a priority, because you can’t be a good teacher to your students if you’re not investing in furthering your own education. Go take a class, make sure you are eating good food! Although it is tempting, we can’t just live off of coffee alone (or be the best that we can be for our students.) The other thing to remember is to stay committed. The beginning of the school year is exciting, but keep in mind that the excitement is going to die down. It is imperative that we stay in-tune to these changes and do our best to keep our students (and ourselves) engaged.
[Parents] ready your kids for that moment. It usually happens in November or February, but remind your kids that they have committed to something. You have committed to a class, you’ve committed to a team and someone is expecting you to be there and someone is waiting to invest in you. While it seems all fun and crazy now, eventually it’s going to seem overwhelming and may seem like too much. However, if you’ve made that schedule and communicated with your teachers and you’ve helped your child establish what they are doing--see it through. That’s the best lesson I think anybody can learn, and it’s what teachers appreciate the most. When we have a kid who continually shows up and tries their hardest, there is nothing more rewarding and those are the kids grow the most. Know that going into it, it’s going to get boring and it’s going to get hard and your kid is going to want to opt out. But commit to the logic that is a really essential lesson for kids to learn. Tell them now, “we are seeing this through. It’s fun now but know going into it that this is something we are going to see through to the end.” If they don’t want to again next year that’s fine, but seeing the year-long commitment through teaches them that people rely on them and are ready to invest in them.
Lastly, charge your children to be responsible for their belongings. I had a six year old who forgot her tap shoes 3 weeks in a row and when I asked her, “Hey where are your tap shoes? Where are your dance shoes?” and her mantra was always, “my mom forgot to get them.” I had to chuckle. I said to her, “your mom has a newborn and two other children, you are 6 years old and are responsible for your belongings.” I could see that it dawned on her that, “oh I am, and I can bring my own shoes!” She never forgot her shoes again. I encourage other dance teachers to help the parents out with this. Make your students responsible for their personal items.
CarliAnn & Ella