Realization

Have you ever had those moments where you figured out what you exactly what you wanted to do with your life? Or least you realized something you liked about yourself? Well I had one early this month. I had received my first Dance Photography job for a showcase event at a local studio back in November. The event was set for December 14th, so I had about a month to get really really nervous prepare.

When the day came, I was completely excited, and super nervous at the same time. I really wanted to make a good impression with the studio and dance professionals I was working with as well as the dancers, and parents of dancers who attended. Who wouldn’t be nervous about that? I made it through the event with only a minor crisis regarding memory cards and me not realizing that I reached capacity until I tried taking more pictures and I got the cute little “CF FULL” where my light meter should have been… Luckily no one noticed, except for those closest to me and my computer.

For four hours I was living my dream. I was taking photos basically non-stop (my only breaks were the 1-2minutes between sets). And it wasn’t just mindless snapping of photos either. Between focusing, zooming, and making sure my camera was receiving enough light, my brain was thinking at a mile a minute (and that’s more than I can say for my current day job). By the end of it my head was spinning, not only because I saw that I had taken about 930 photos during those four short hours, but also because how much I actually did during the day, and how much I had to be on top of my game. It truly was an exhausting experience for those who haven’t experienced anything like that before.

But being exhausted wasn’t a bad thing for me. I was incredibly happy as well. It was in that cold hobble walk back to my car, and relatively quick (but sleepy) drive home did I realize that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. Sure, I knew abstractly that Dancesport Photography is something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but actually living it completely set that into stone. There are no questions, no ifs, ands, or buts.

I am so grateful that I was able to have this experience, and to have been able to share my love of dance and photography with the dancers in my local community. I am also proud to say that I was able to network at the event and am looking forward to the future.

If you want to see the photos from the event, go a head and check out my new website for my business: Anastasia Poulos Photography. I hope to add a blogging section to that website too where I will go into more details about the events I shoot at. Also feel free to stop by my Facebook Page and give it a “Like” and my Indiegogo Campaign!

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Wedding Dance

Hello! As you probably guessed, today I’m going to discuss the first dance of the couple at their wedding. This is one of those things on that long check list you have of things to do, pick the flower, buy the dress, organizing venue, schedule lessons for dance. Wait? LessonS? Meaning multiple? What? I can’t just pick up a routine in one lesson? I need more?

Ok maybe this in an exaggeration of your reaction. But yes you do need more than one lesson to get even the simplest routine down. So if you plan to more than just swaying on that dance floo r(which is totally cool too 😀 ) than here are some suggestions to make that dreaded part of the wedding something to look forward to.

1) Give yourself at least 2 months! Please don’t call up a studio or your dancer friends 2 weeks before you wedding asking them to come up for a full fledge, dance with the stars like routine in that amount of time. It takes a while to develop up the muscle memory for a routine of any caliber. With that amount of time, the studio or your very nice dancer friends can only come up with the most simplest routine that can be repeated over and over until the song you picked is over. The more time you give yourself, the more comfortable you will feel when the time comes to dance, and you can have more complex routine if that’s what you really want.

2) Have an idea of what you want to do! Now you don’t have to know what specific dance in mind, or even a specific song. Those things help tremendously to get started right in a routine, but they are not necessary. What you need is an idea of what genera of music you want to use, or if you want to do a dance within a specific style, like maybe a foxtrot or waltz. This will trim down the options for you and your teacher to pick from and will make the selection process easier. Instead of having a “I don’t know what I want” attitude, bring something to the table. This is your dance after all. You instructor can only do so much for you. It literally can be anything. Your instructor will be able adapt to most any song/genre you can bring to the table.

3) Take more than one lesson! You may be able to sit down with your instructor to come up with the routine in one lessons, but it may take a few more to fully understand all the moves and how they connect together. It also gives you guidence on how to fix the more difficult parts of your routine. Your teacher is there to help you learn it, and is more than willing to help you through it all.

4) Practice, practice, practice! No one wants to be that awkward dancing couple on the floor than forgets their routine half way through the song. Just like public speaking, you get more comfortable with the moves the more you practice them. There are many ways to practice your routine. One way is to physically go to the studio, plug in some head phones, and dance it through all the way. Another is to just listen to the music and just feel it (which shouldn’t be a burden because it should be something you like!). Lastly, you can just run the steps through in your head, and visualize the routine, if you can’t make it to the studio. These are all different ways that you can “practice” your dance. Anything that makes you more familiar with it will help!

5) MOST IMPORTANTLY HAVE FUN! I can’t stress this enough. This you and your significant other’s day. It’s all about you, and it should be fun. No one will care if you didn’t do a perfect natural turn or lock step. People will most likely remember if you look confident and happy or if you looked stiff and nervous the entire time. I know which one I would like to be remembered by. 🙂

I hope these tips help!

Healthy Mind

When it comes to any type of career or hobby that is subjective, it is very easy to slip into a bad state of mind. Take competitive ballroom as an example. You practice, take lessons, buy the proper attire, do you hair and make up, in order to please a 4-6 judges to make it to the final, if not first place. Almost everything a serious competitive dancer does it to please someone else. I can just hear some of them now saying “No, I only do this for myself, it’s fun!” Say that to me with a straight face a long with the phrase “I really don’t care about my placement.” This this sport, as with many other artistic sports, we are looking for that stamp of approval from an outside source to say that we are doing everything right, or that we are improving. The problem with this sort of attitude it can lead down a terrible path inside the mind that could lead to a breakdown. And no one wants that.

There is a real problem with having your only self-worth coming from an outside source. Maybe you only have this attitude for dancing, but it still isn’t healthy. You need to have confidence in your own dancing first, before anyone else can boost it. Now I’m not saying this because I have it all figured out… Please, I’m a college student whose job is to please people to earn good grades. Even when it comes to dance sometimes I even forget this concept, and rely on judges marks to affirm my dancing self-worth. I’m saying this so that we can work together on keeping our minds and body happy. There are so many factors that go into judging you on the floor. First, judges at most only have about 3 seconds to look at you. 3 seconds. They don’t see all the hard work you put into your dancing. They don’t see all the coaching sessions you’ve done. They didn’t see your amazing practice rounds this past week. They only see those three seconds of dancing, and it better be a good three seconds if you want that callback.

But like I have been saying all throughout this post, getting called-back isn’t the end all and be all of dancing. You have to realize that, no matter the call backs, you have done well. You have improved. It is very unlikely that you haven’t improved. As long as you have taken lessons, private or group, and you have practiced what you have learned in those lessons, you are making progressed. You have improved from day one. Just take a look at your old dance videos. Cringe worthy yes, but they will give you perspective and let you know that you have improved. Also talking to your coach can give you some perspective. They can tell you what you did right, and what you did wrong at the competition. More likely then not, they will say that yes you did this and this wrong and you could have done this better, but these other things you still did really well.

Although we do this crazy competitive sport to win, we also do this because we like it. If you don’t like it, you shouldn’t be on the floor. Just remember that knowing that you are improving, and that you enjoy dancing is what really matters in this game. It’s not the ribbons, or the satisfaction of someone else putting their stamp of approval on your dancing. Those things are nice. But in the end it’s your how you view your dancing is what really matters. As long as you feel like you are improving and getting somewhere that’s what counts.

Photography: Post Midterm

Alright, lots of printing has happened over the last few weeks. I have a few things to show you. First and for most is the quality of light photo project. This one stumped me, as it was hard for me to come up with different aways to create different lighting schemes. It wasn’t until the last few shots I really felt that I got into my grove, which really made me sad. It wasn’t until I found reflections in puddles after some rain that I found some really cool compositions. Here are the two she wanted me to print.

ART 016 ART 015

We also had a mini class discussion with her about some of us, including me, having a hard time shooting a roll a week. Within the projects we had, many of us had a hard time finding inspiration. She gave us two solutions to this problem. Her first solution was to let us start shooting subject matter that we want for the rest of the semester. For some people that’s portraiture. For other’s it’s completely forgetting about film and working on digital photography. For me, it’s ballroom dance. My rolls for the remainder of the semester will consist of dancers. Whether they be practicing, competing, or getting ready for competing, I will be taking their photos. Finally something I will enjoy. Though I will not be without my challenges. Studios, ballrooms, and the gym we practice in all have a lighting issue. So having a high enough shutter speed to capture good action shots maybe prove to be difficult.

The second solution was to go out during one class and do a mini shooting workshop around campus. Many people were having a hard time finding inspiration in around campus place that we walk around day in and day out. So she took her camera, and took us around to show us what we were missing. She showed us this really cool area where it was a courtyard which would lend itself to fashion photography. We also went to some warehouse type places to show us that even in the most unlikely places we could find interesting things to shoot, or interesting environments to shoot portraits in. Unfortunately, I did not get to take a lot of photos as I was helping out our teacher with her equipment. I think this was a great experience for all of us. It opened our eyes to what makes a good photography, and the process of getting that good photograph. It was much easier to adjust the angles that day as we were using her digital camera, and had instant feedback of what the picture looked like. You aren’t so fortunate in film. You have no clue how that picture is going to come out until you take the time to develop the roll, create a contact sheet, and print the picture.

Lastly, we had our midterm review on Monday. It went less then stellar. We found out as a class, we kinda suck at created good compositions. We also suck at picking out good photos out of our current portfolios. We also learned that we are putting way too much pressure on ourself with this class. She really does not care how we fulfill the project guidelines in terms of content, but as long as we shoot at least one roll of film per week. I am so glad I can finally focus completely on ballroom and dancesport photography. I also spoke with her and she has agreed to teach me how to use my fancy flash, as studios and ballrooms have very bad lighting. Hopefully I can get better, crisper action shots with the flash.

That’s all I have for now for photography. I have 2 rolls which I plan to develop this week, and 3 contact sheets to print. I’ve got a very busy week ahead of me for photography. See you next week!

Second Best Advice I Can Give

Now my first bit of advice mostly applied to newbies; however, this bit of advice applies to all dancers as we all tend to forget this. It goes a little something like this. “If you don’t have it now, you won’t get it by comp time this weekend.” Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever stop practicing new figures, techniques, and frames. But you just need to refocus your priorities. When a competition is right around the conorn, there is no way you are gong to master that new double reverse spin turn that you learned last week in time for it to be competition ready. For those of you who might not be aware, it takes at least six (6!) months to develope muscle memory. This is why cramming before a ballroom comepition will not work! Instead it will almost always will hinder your proformance, rather than inhance it.

What you should focus on primarily during competition week is your current routines. Practice them over and over and over. To music, without music. In competition order. In solo rounds, in multi rounds. With other people on the floor, without people on the floor. Just keep doing your routines. This will get you ready for that quickly approaching competition weekend. This will help for a number of reasons. 1) you will be ready to dance your routine and given music. There will be no surprises. 2) You will get used to surprises that  might happen at a comp, as in they have to switch events around for schedule reason. 3) You get used to the how many times your should routine will loop during those 90seconds of music (though things like floor craft issues my pop up). 4) You can practice your floorcraft, so you become more comfortable when sticky situations arise (cuz they will). 5) Endurance. The more you dance and the more dances you will be able to do in a row during practice, will better prepare you for doing multiple rounds form, hopefully, mulitple call backs.

In short do rounds, ALL THE ROUNDS! And save the thechinque until after the competition. Also make sure you get videos of your dancing at the comepetion as your coach may see something that you should start working on to make your dancing better for the next comp.

That is all I have for now. Good Luck to all of those competiting this weekend, especially those at DCDI. I, sadly, will not be dancing. I will be there chearing on my team mates (and my newbies!) and any other dancers I enjoy watching. Feel free to stop by and say hi! I will be the nervous person giving a speach Saturday Night during the night show… Please feel free to comment below for anymore advice you have for dancers of all levels!

As for a my art, my next few posts will be all about my different classes and what I have been up to. I need to photograph/scan some of my work in so that I can upload it to wordpress to share.