Dance Tips & advice from the Pros

Updated: Sep 1

Hello, I am Mariana Parma, I can say with a 100% certainty that 95% of my dance, acting, and teaching training, has come from recommendations, tips, and advice from fellow artists whom I've met and admired along my artistic journey. When I began my training, youtube and the internet were not so accessible, I relied a lot on word of mouth. Whenever, I met a dancer or actor that I loved their technique or their performance, I would ask them directly, if they have any recommendations, tips, and advice on how to improve my abilities.

So, I have decided once again to ask NYC's finest dance professionals, to share with us their tips & advice on ways to maintain a healthy dance practice while in quarantine.


MEET THE PROS

Let's welcome, Rodney Lopez, Tatiana Keegan, Talia Castro- Pozo, Karen Gayle, Walter Perez, & Leonardo Sardella. They are some of the most experienced sought out Dance professionals in NYC, specializing in teaching, choreographing, producing, and performing that I have had the honor of working with.

Let's find out what generous tips they have to share with all of us on how to keep ourselves motivated during these times.

Meet Rodney Lopez

Born and raised in the Bronx, NY, Rodney Eric López holds a B.S. in Communications Studies from New York University where he was a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholar. He is a master instructor of Latin and social dance and has taught children and adults the art of dance both for personal enjoyment and as a powerful tool for team and community building in Latin Partner Dancing. Rodney most recently served as Executive Director of Dancing Classrooms in NYC. His teaching work with Dancing Classrooms is featured in the Paramount Classics hit documentary Mad Hot Ballroom. He is a seasoned and sought-after educator, artist, and non-profit leader. He also consults with faith institutions in the area of fundraising and stewardship and is the creator of the Generosity and Abundance Process online course and the author of best selling, *The Generosity Solution*. He is a board member of New Urban Arts and serves as its Development Committee Chair.


TIPS & ADVICE:

1. Look at this time as an opportunity to go deeper into an aspect of your dancing that you probably wouldn't otherwise.

  • Use the plethora of online dance offerings as a chance to focus on a specific area that you haven't had the time or inclination to work on. It could be turn technique, balance, a styling option, musicality, or something else. Dance instructors are being very generous with their knowledge right now and this is a good time to take advantage of free and low-cost online dance classes and work on your dance from the privacy of your home.

  • Explore a new dance style. Although you won't have the energy of an in-person class, you also won't have the self-consciousness that comes with being a beginner in a new space.

  • Look at this time as an opportunity to explore that new dance style that you simply didn't have time to when you were running around all day. Even one or two classes can spark a new interest or give your body a fun, new experience.

2. My favorite stretch is the Pigeon Pose as referred in yoga. This is a great stretch for the small muscle behind the glutes, called the piriformis. This little muscle runs from the lower spine to the upper femur and is responsible for a lot of movement that's particularly important to a dancer. Getting on all fours, bringing one knee/leg forward while the other is straight and then slowly bending my forehead to the floor gives a deep stretch to my hips, glutes and piriformis. 

3. At the risk of sounding corny, one of my favorite inspirational songs is Don't Stop Believin' by Journey. I love to rock out to Steve Perry's soaring vocals and Neal Schon's amazing guitar and the message of the chorus is just great.


Don't Stop Believin' by Journey


When I'm in a Salsa mood, the songs that gets me moving.

La Marea by Ruben Blades


4. I love reading, *Peter Block, inspirational quote:

“Maybe the unvarnished meaning of growing up is the acceptance that living out our values, and also winning the approval of those who have power over us, is an unfulfillable longing.”

Meet Tatiana Keegan

Tatiana Keegan and her partner Anatoliy Shvarts are the reigning U.S. amateur national champions in International Latin (age 35+) and placed third in the world in the 2019 WDC amateur world championship (40+) in Ireland. Previously, she was the Russian Amateur National Champion in Ten Dances before coming to the United States and winning many of the top professional Open & Rising Star International Latin championships. After a seven-year break to get married and start a family, she came back to reach the World Professional Latin Championships in Germany with partner Werner Figar. Today, she and Anatoliy are sponsored by Freed of London.


TIPS & ADVICE:

1. Continue practicing your skills. You don’t need a lot of space to work on your footwork, Cuban Motion, turns, etc. Drills are very important. They are like the alphabet of the dance language. Without knowing these letters, you won’t be able to form words or sentences. Also, by practicing, we are taking our minds off our current situation and these scary times.

  • Don’t wait until the right mood strikes you to practice. Start practicing and you’ll soon find yourself in the mood. We are performers, so the show must go on!

  • Find a good online class, either live or recorded. We all need direction, structure, & specific goals to work on afterwards.

  • I offer a live-stream class on * Facebook* on Mondays, Wednesdays, & Fridays from 5 pm- 6 pm and a *YouTube archive* of recordings of previous classes if that time doesn’t work for you.

2. One of your favorite body stretches, Cat and Cow: This is a flow between two poses that warms the body and makes our breathing slow and deep. On your hands and knees on a *YOGA MAT – or standing with hands on your thighs and knees slightly bent – arch your back and look up at the ceiling (That’s the Cow). Then reverse it by tucking your chin to your chest and rolling your shoulders and back forward. You can start with ether one. Inhaling on the first pose, and exhaling on the second one.


3.One of your favorite inspirational songs.

I love classical music. One of my favorites is:


Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.”

4. One of your favorite mantra & quote that inspires me. 

MANTRA:

Dwell, oh mind, within yourself, enter no other’s house. If you but seek there you will find all that you are searching for.”

QUOTE:

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”

Meet Talia Castro- Pozo

Talia Castro- Pozo was born in Lima, Peru to a family of artists, writers, journalists and political figures. Talía started dancing at the age of three, becoming the youngest Soloist to join the National Ballet of Peru at age 14. Talía decided to continue her studies at the school of her dreams, School of the American Ballet. After relocating to NYC, she was able to expand her dance abilities by training in other forms of dance including, Contemporary, Modern, Ballroom & Latin, Jazz, among others. Talía also trained in acting during and graduated from the #WilliamEsperStudio. Talia continues to dazzle us as a performer, producer, and a highly in demand Instructor . She has appeared in The Today Show, Time Out New York, Telemundo, Univision, #TheNewYorkTimes, #NBC, Latina Magazine, #YahooMujer, to name a few. For more about Talia, www.taliacastro-pozo.com.

TIPS & ADVICE:

1. Take virtual classes online.

  • Try different teachers in different dance genres that you would enjoy learning from.

  • You can try my online virtual classes https://www.youtube.com/TaliaCastroPozo

  • Yoga on the go, I try to sneak in a pose or stretch during my day as much as I can.

  •  Hudson River Park's Sunset Salsa is back again with ONLINE ONLY salsa led by me, Talia Castro-Pozo & special guest dance instructors, each Tuesday @7 PM this summer.

2. One of my favorite body stretches is the side body stretch. Opening the ribs and breathing through the stretch. Makes me connect through my breathing while feeling more open.

3. My music taste is very eclectic I love any Latin tune that can pick me up.

And two of my favorite songs that inspire me:


Ravel’s Bolero:

Cranberries’ Dreams:


4. One of my favorite meditation that inspires me.

"I try to end my day Every day feeling grateful to be alive and for all that I have."


Meet Karen Gayle

Originally from Toronto, Karen received her undergraduate degree from Ryerson University. She moved to NYC to study at The Ailey

School where she fell in love with the Horton technique. Karen has taught at Montclair State University, Ballet Hispanico, The Ailey Extension, The School at Columbia University, Horace Mann, New Dance Group and is currently a faculty member for the Steps Youth Program / Steps on Broadway, Marymount Manhattan College & The Joffrey Ballet School. She has had the opportunity to guest teach and choreograph across the U.S. & abroad, including Canada, Mexico, Bolivia, Italy, Cyprus, & Israel and is a returning guest artist with Techniche de Danza (Rome) OH Ballet Arts Academy (MD), Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, (PA) and Earl Haig Performing Arts School (Toronto). Choreography commissions include: General Mischief Dance Theatre, The Harvard Ballet Company,Steps Repertory Ensemble, The Boston Tea Party Opera, Steffi Nossen,

Marymount Manhattan College, Montclair State University. As artistic director of the xodus dance collective, her choreography has been showcased at such iconic concert dance venues as: American Dance Guild Festival, DUMBO Dance Festival, Movement Research at Judson Church, the Downtown Dance Festival, JPAC, Here Arts Center, The Ailey Theatre,The Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto and the Inside/Out Festival at Jacob's Pillow.


TIPS & ADVICE:

1. Get outside before you begin your regimen.

  • Whether it's a walk around the block, getting a breath of fresh air, or a quick jog. Even 5 minutes outdoors helps to open up our minds and bodies. Normally, we would need to leave our homes before going to class, but now that our training takes place inside our living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens, we are missing that opportunity to disconnect our personal lives with our work lives. This moment of going outside before returning indoors will help reset your focus.

  • Choose one thing that you will do on a regular basis and one thing new. It's important to have consistency to maintain our routine, but also variety to keep us engaged.

2. I am addicted to foam rolling, all sizes, all densities, all lengths this is a great product to have at home. I foam roll every morning and I work all the way from the top to the bottom. (neck, shoulders, back, hamstrings, quads, calfs, shins, ankle. It is a fantastic way to release tension before focusing on more specific movement. (click on Foam Roller to find out more.)

3. I'm a music junkie, and I have a song for every mood.


Stevie Wonder's "As" inspires me:

"Follow Me" by Aly-Us is a house classic that gets you moving:


Bob Marley's "Jammin" calms the soul:

4. One of my favourite quotes:

'There will come a time when you think everything is finished, that will be the beginning.'

Louis L'amour.

Meet Walter Perez

Walter Perez a New York-based artist born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He has built up his career as a Tango dancer, teacher and choreographer of Argentine Tango over 25 years. He is the founder and Executive director of Friends of Argentine Tango a non for profit organization established in 2013. He has performed and taught worldwide at many festivals, performed in dance companies, and in Theater & Film productions. In 2018, Walter created, directed, & performed in the show “Male Tango”, and received the prestiges HOLA Award for, Outstanding Musical and Outstanding Performance in a Musical, along with tango dancer and life partner Leonardo Sardella. In 2019 he was feature as a tango dancer in the film Isn’t it romantic, starring Rebel Wilson.

TIPS & ADVICE:

1. Do things you like.

  • Listen to music in the Park

  • Add some stretches while you are relaxing to release tension.

  • Move your joints to stimulate circulation and decrease stress.

2. My favorite stretches are moving all the joints in my body.

  • I love circling my wrists helpful to relieve joint pain and increase range of motion, great for partner dancing.

  • I love circling my ankles to loosen the muscles and tendons in the leg and the joint around the feet.

  • I love shoulder rolls which reduces tension in the neck and upper back


3. I love listening to Annie Lennox, one of my favorites:

"I Put a Spell on You"

4. One of my go to phrases or Mantras:

"The name of the father, the son and the Holy Spirit."

Meet Leonardo Sardella

Leonardo Sardella, a New York-based artist born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He began studying Tango and other dance at the Conservatorio Nacional de Danza at the age of eight. Leo went on to study with many Tango maestros. Leo has been a leading and featured dancer in Tango shows presented in prestigious theaters in Buenos Aires and around the world. In recent years, he has toured, taught and performed in the United States and Europe.​

Leonardo and Walter Perez, co-founded Malevaje Dance Company, Atlantic Tango, The New York Queer Tango Weekend, and Friends of Argentine Tango.​ Leonardo Sardella and Walter Perez are highly regarded teachers and performers, known for their seamless exchanges of lead and follow, creativity and musicality. For all things Leonardo Sardella & Walter Perez visit:

http://www.nymaletango.com/





TIPS & ADVICE:

1. Continue working on your individual dance technique.

  • Thoroughly investigate the movements on your own.

  • Get to know yourself more, about how you move.

  • The better you know how you move, the better you will relate to your dance partner.  

2. Standing Hamstring Stretch, stretches neck, back, glutes, hamstrings, & calves.

  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, arms by your sides.

  • Exhale as you bend forward at the hips, lowering your head toward floor, while keeping your head, neck and shoulders relaxed.

  • For a deeper stretch wrap your arms around the back of your legs and hold anywhere from 45 seconds to two minutes.

  • Bend your knees and roll up when you're done.

3. My go to song, that I love:

"You haven’t Seen the Last of Me" by Cher

4. My mantra:

"Love your neighbor as Yourself."

Wow, these are some amazing and helpful tips from these talented and generous dance professionals. I myself, in writing this post, have discovered some more motivating tips, and inspiring music that I am going to add to my motivational playlist. I hope this has gifted you with lots of motivation and inspiration, that you can apply to your everyday activities or come back to whenever you need.


A few takeaways for me from each artist:

  • "Look at this time as an opportunity to go deeper into an aspect of your dancing that you probably wouldn't otherwise." Rodney Lopez


  • "Don’t wait until the right mood strikes you to practice. Start practicing and you’ll soon find yourself in the mood." Tatiana Keegan


  • "I try to end my day Every day feeling grateful to be alive and for all that I have." Talia Castro- Pozo


  • "Get outside before you begin your regimen. Even 5 minutes outdoors helps to open up our minds and bodies." Karen Gayle


  • "Do things you like." Walter Perez


  • "The better you know how you move, the better you will relate to your dance partner." Leonardo Sardella

Thank You!

*Rodney Lopez, *Tatiana Keegan, *Talia Castro- Pozo, *Karen Gayle, *Walter Perez, & *Leonardo Sardella, for your insight, on how to stay motivated and inspired during these times. All there advice and tips are priceless. Be Safe, don't forget to sign up, and in the meantime..Inspire on!!