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Loving Your Body: The Key to Enjoying Dance

Times are changing, and we as a dance society are slowly but surely moving away from the idea that the body is simply just a frame, and instead we are beginning to see the body as a whole. From the inside of our body which fuels, moves and supports us, to the outside of our body which allows us to express ourselves, while discovering and exploring all that life has to offer!

Loving the body, and treating it with kindness is the key to fully experiencing the joys of dance, as well as discovering the full capacity of your dance abilities. Knowing how to take care of your body is all about truly listening to yourself and your needs, from physical training to rest and nutrition!


Physical Training

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Remember that we all have uniquely different bodies, even if we can be somewhat “categorised”, our bodies are still entirely different from one another. Which is why it is important to give yourself the time to try out different dance styles and supplemental forms of physical training that allow you to reap the most benefits. Common forms of supplemental training that dancers turn to include Pilates, Yoga, Cross-Fit, Running, and Swimming. But have you ever thought about taking up Muay Thai Boxing, Stand-Up Paddle Boarding, Ice Skating, Rock Climbing, or maybe even joining a Trampoline Dodgeball team? By training the body through different types of physical activity, we are setting up the body to be more versatile in dance. We expose the body to unfamiliar movement patterns, rewire our muscle memory, and even target muscle groups that have never been touched! So instead of hitting the gym next time, think about trying a new form of physical training, and who knows you might surprise yourself!

Rest

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With all that talk on the importance of physical training, we sometimes forget that we need to let our bodies rest. Once again, the definition of rest can vary from person to person. Some of us need to let our bodies completely rest by avoiding all forms of physical activity. While others, may define ‘rest’ as being gently mobile throughout the day, doing light stretching or mobility sequences. It is important to know when to rest the body, to avoid overuse injuries. Dancers tend to need that extra rest reminder, as their determination to train and ‘push through’ is one that sometimes causes serious injuries overtime. Resting the body is the first step, but resting the mind also allows dancers to refresh and rejuvenate their ability to pick up choreography or combat those performance nerves.

Nutrition

It goes without saying that our daily diets are never one in the same. We all have different food preferences, tastes, and dietary restrictions. Of course, there are plenty of books, experts, television shows and articles that provide recommendations for a healthy diet. But as dancers, it is important to listen to your body. How does your body respond or react to different types of foods? How often do you need to fuel your body so that you can grand jeté all day? Ideally as dancers, we want to aim for foods that energize us, provide our body with nutrients so that we can use both our brains and our bodies, and of course food that tastes good! Don’t forget to bring your water bottle to class, because staying hydrated allows you to spin, leap and glide for hours on end. One reason why we dance is because it is part of the many joys of life, which is the same reason we love food too! For all the dance foodies out there, be sure to check our Dancers’ Cookbook page!

Give yourself the biggest hug and learn how to find the right balance of training, resting and fuelling your body. Everybody deserves a little TLC! So be patient and take the time to respect the beauty of your uniqueness and individuality. I don’t know about you, but I am ready to treat myself to some dark chocolate, a couple of minutes of shavasana, and maybe even try out tree trekking!

Photo Credits: Dancewear Centre, and Bruce Mars from Pexels

 

Dancers' Cookbook - Moonwalk with Macarons

Dancers’ Cookbook - Moonwalk with Macarons: Celebrating Mid-Autumn Festival with MacaMOONS!


About the Dancers’ Cookbook

From heaps of leaps to bunches of munches, Hong Kong Dance Moms knows that there are plenty of dance foodies out there! That is why we are super excited to add this delectable page to our online dance magazine. The Dancers’ Cookbook is all about enlivening your taste buds and inspiring you to challenge your creativity. Covering mouth watering topics such as recipes, health & wellness, and food & beverage, we’re serving up some fantastic stories right to your screen!

Grab your aprons, because we’ve baked up a delicious story about macarons to kick off the Dancers’ Cookbook series!

Creativity is a bridge between the performing arts and the culinary arts. As dancers we may know how to tap our toes in the studio, but do we also know how to dabble our toes in the kitchen?

Seeking some new creative inspiration for all our dance fanatics out there, we went for a classic MJ moonwalk with macarons! And with the Mid-Autumn Festival just around the corner, we were introduced to a new spin on traditional Chinese Mooncakes. Something lighter and not too sweet, we found just the right treat to curb our holiday cravings. For all the sweet-tooths out there, Hong Kong Dance Moms sat down with Anita Caswell Ng, the founder of Little Miss Macarons for an an exclusive interview! Sharing her creative process on her mooncake alternative, the MacaMOONS, and giving us some tips on baking and exploring our creativity from the kitchen to the stage! 

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Escaping the humidity and rain of Hong Kong’s city streets, Hong Kong Dance Moms visited Little Miss Macarons and their beautifully vibrant kitchen. Anita welcomed us with a warm smile and exuberant energy! Before our interview, Anita surprised us with a macaron baking lesson! Though this may have not been a starring role as the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, it came pretty close.

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The basic ingredients to make macarons are almond flour, sugar and egg whites. Don’t be deceived by the minimal amount of ingredients, because macarons take extreme care, practice, trial & error, patience, and steady hands to master. Just as a prima ballerina can make 32 fouettés look easy, Anita made it look easy to bake 32 macarons. As Hong Kong Dance Moms left our jazz hands at the door and put on our baking gloves, we learned just how challenging (but absolutely fun) it was to make macarons! Though our macarons weren’t perfect, they tasted delicious!

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After dabbling into the baking arts, we sat down with Anita to learn more about her love of macarons and her Mid-Autumn Festival MacaMOONS.

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How did you come up with the idea of making MacaMOONS?

A.C.: I was in the UK with my husband’s family, and for one moment I really missed my family in Hong Kong. And I spoke with my friends in the UK who like the idea of mooncakes, but don’t quite like eating it. I thought…well, I make macarons, can I somehow make them look like moons? So I had this idea two years ago, and last year I thought I should really have a go! Actually my son came up with the name. He said to me “macaroon, mooncake, MacaMOONS”!

 

How do MacaMOONS differ from traditional Chinese Mooncakes?

A.C.: It’s the same idea of bringing the family together, because the MacaMOONS are very big so you have to cut and share them. But the difference is that it’s more dynamic! We got a traditional Chinese flavour, we call it “芝麻姜湯圓” or “Ginger & Sesame Tong Yuen (Sweet Dumpling Soup)”.  Which brings the idea of Chinese tradition, as we do have it during Mid-Autumn Festival. We also have some flavours more familiar to the Western world, such as Sea Salt Caramel, Raspberry Dark Chocolate, and Tangy Passionfruit. So it gives people different options during the Mid-Autumn Festival, but it still embraces the idea of creating happy memories with the family together.

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Which MacaMOON flavours would you recommend for those with a lighter taste palette?

A.C.: Definitely Tangy Passionfruit to start with. It’s much lighter and refreshing. The other one is Raspberry Dark Chocolate. And we use real fruit, so you do taste it! We also use less sugar in our fillings compared to most traditional macaron recipes.

 

What was your process in making this dance inspired macaron tower?

A.C.: First of all we had to make the macarons the day before assembling the macaron tower. On the next day we made the cake, and decorated the cake with individually shaped fondant petals to create a tutu-like texture. And then we placed the macarons on the tower. For this particular tower, it took us 6 hours to finish! There is a lot o f love! I love tutus because there are so many details to it. And I wanted to keep it quite simple, as I believe simplicity is beautiful.

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How do you explore your creativity with baking?

A.C.: Just being alert of what is around you! For example, when you go on a holiday, try different types of food to get inspiration. Obviously I was self-taught, so I watched a lot of Youtube videos to see what other people do. Reading a lot of books, and lots of study. Be open minded, sometimes you don’t know until you try it. That’s something I learned over these last few years.

 

How does baking feed into your life as a mother? 

A.C.: The major reason I bake is just because I can do it with my son, as a mom. I would tell all the moms, it doesn’t matter how old their kids are, even if they are 1 or 2 years old you can bake with them. It’s all about the memories. Hopefully I can inspire him, and not necessarily to do baking. As he understands that everything requires hard work.

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How do you balance your passion and your career?

A.C.: Time management. You can always make it work! If you want to do something, you will make it happen.

 

What is your favourite Mid-Autumn Festival memory?

A.C.: When I was a kid, I was the eldest of three, and my parents who are local Hong Kong Chinese were great parents but also quite strict. So I was never really allowed to go out on my own. The only day I could take my younger brother and sister to the park and burn some candles and walk around at night, was Mid-Autumn Festival. That was my favourite Mid-Autumn Festival memory.

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What advice do you have for our dancing bakers?

A.C.: If you’ve never baked before and you want to do it, the first thing to try baking is scones! This is how I started my journey in baking. Because it is very easy to bake and easy to make very nicely! I think it is a great thing to start with!

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Baking macarons may very well be the pointe shoes of dance, glamorous on the outside, yet filled with passion, time, patience and practice on the inside. Plus, they are both extremely difficult to master. Whether exploring your creativity in dance or in baking, take some time to try something new! And most importantly, don’t forget to reward yourself with a little treat and something sweet!

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The Mid-Autumn Festival is almost here, and to celebrate HKDM has teamed up with Little Miss Macarons to give our readers a chance to WIN a box of the scrumptious locally made macaron set, Macamoons! What’s your most memorable Mid-Autumn Festival memory? Let us know in the comments section of our social media posts on Instagram or Facebook for a chance to win these delicious holiday treats! Click here for more information!



Back to School & Back to the Barre

A List of Dance Schools in Hong Kong

It’s time to go back to school and back to the barre! Most dance studios begin their new school year in September, so now’s the time to get moving and grooving. Wondering where to learn dance in Hong Kong? Not to worry, as Hong Kong Dance Moms has got you covered. To help you find the right fit, we’ve listed nearly 200 dance schools in Hong Kong!

With so many dance schools in Hong Kong, it can be difficult to narrow down your options. Hong Kong Dance Moms has created a directory of all the dance schools in this great big city, which you can visit by clicking here. We’ve categorised the studios under twelve different dance styles, so that you can easily navigate and discover the diversity of Hong Kong’s dance community! 

Want to know a little bit more about each dance style? Read on and find the groove that suits you!

All-Round

The majority of dance studios in Hong Kong offer multiple dance styles and classes to provide students with a one-stop service that allows for more options and versatility in their body training. Primarily offering foundational dance styles such as ballet, jazz and contemporary, these studios may also branch out into hip-hop, urban dance, yoga, pilates, and supplemental strength and flexibility training. Studios like this are important in creating well-rounded dance artists. Plus, it is more convenient for students as they get to learn multiple dance styles under one roof. 


Ballet

Known as one of the foundational forms of dance technique, ballet is great for developing flexibility, strength, agility, and artistry. Ballet is often epitomized as graceful and elegant, but if you ever speak with someone who has learned this highly intense dance form, they will tell you that it is so much more. It trains your body to be dynamic and versatile, adapting your movements from soft and controlled, to sharp, powerful and expansive. On top of all that, ballet requires dancers to be expressive, tapping into their deepest emotions to create presence and communication through their face and body. Ballet can be taught under 3 different training systems; Vaganova (Russian ballet method), Royal Academy of Dance (UK-based), and Cecchetti (Italian-based). There is a lot of cross-over between these three methods, but there are also some variations amongst the movement vocabulary and the execution of dance steps. Ballet does include pointe work, but this is not for the faint of heart, as it is only taught to intermediate dancers who have developed the appropriate strength, stability and agility. Though ballet is known for being a tough, strict and serious dance form, it also has a fun side to it! The challenge is part of the fun, executing new movements and testing the limits of your body and artistry. Plus, you get to play different characters and roles when learning repertoire. Aside from the technical aspect of ballet, the determination, passion and perseverance required to master this art form is also what provides a great starting point in your dance training. 


Jazz

Showcasing sharp, slick and stylish movements, Jazz is all about technique, flair, finesse and sass. Though it shares some similar foundational dance vocabulary with ballet, Jazz dance is a more showy and commercial style of dance that is performed to upbeat music such as pop, rock, or jazz. Great for boosting your confidence and elevating your dance tricks, jazz dance brings you out of your box. Don’t get me wrong, Jazz dance still requires a lot of hard work, skill and discipline, but it also allows you to dance to your favourite tunes while feeling the glitz and glam of the spotlight.


Hip Hop & Urban Dance

With its roots in America, Hip Hop and Urban Dance branches out to so many different dance forms such as breaking, popping & locking, waacking, jazz funk, boogaloo, and the list goes on. Sure it may look “cool”, but it goes beyond superficial aesthetics, and into a deeper understanding of dance, culture and identity. Hip Hop is about finding your groove, your style, your voice and putting a mark on it. While you still learn foundational movements, Hip Hop embraces the distinctiveness of your mannerisms and natural movement qualities. Rather than trying to look like everyone else, hip hop challenges you to create your own style and image. Not to mention, it is great for training your strength, memory, agility, attitude and body isolations. 


Chinese Dance

In the heart of Hong Kong, lies a rich bounty of heritage, art and culture. While preserving important art forms and traditions, Chinese Dance also keeps up with the times and incorporates modern day elements and aesthetics. With a wide range of Chinese Dance styles that originate from different regions in China, there are so many different styles within this form that test a dancer’s versatility and adaptability. Known for its strict training regimen and disciplinary studio environment, Chinese Dance is also a very vibrant and dynamic dance form, as it has many dances with props such as hand fans, handkerchiefs, swords, lanterns, and much more!


Tap

Tap dance is the meeting point of rhythm, musicality, and movement. Learn complex rhythms and footwork that test the coordination of your mind and body. Heavily used in Musical Theatre, Tap dance is all about feeling the beat and being one with the rhythm. 


Rhythmic Gymnastics & Acrobatics

The first word that comes to mind is flexibility. However, strength, dynamics and agility are just as important in rhythmic gymnastics and acrobatics. Dance training itself cannot always develop the strength and flexibility that is required of an elite dancer. Therefore, many dancers also learn gymnastics and acrobatics in their early training to create a stronger foundation for their dance technique.


Latin & Ballroom Dance

Unlike most dance styles, Latin & Ballroom Dance introduces students to partnering work from day one. Dancing with a partner requires deep listening and an understanding of trust and support. Both parties in a couple must carry the weight and work impeccably as a team. Latin and Ballroom Dance feature both classical and upbeat dance styles. The fierceness of a Latin dancer is incomparable, and the poise of a ballroom dancer is utterly breathtaking. 


Learning Centres & Creative Dance

Catered towards preschool children and early childhood learning & development, learning centres offer students the basic foundations of academics, creativity and the arts. Various learning centres will offer creative dance classes for preschool children to introduce them to movement, music and imagination. The dance styles taught at learning centres emphasize learning development and growth rather than focusing on strong dance technique.


Flamenco

Fierce and fiery is this highly musical and intense dance form originating from Spain. Build strength in your rhythm, and power in your body with flamenco dance as you stomp and clap to create your own intricate and complex rhythms. 


Bollywood & Belly Dance

Ain’t no party like a bollywood party! Take a trip to India with the energetic and lively movements and music of Bollywood. You can’t help but smile when dancing Bollywood, it provides fun movement for the soul. Move towards the Middle East and discover the suppleness and fluidity of Belly dancing. A true test of isolation and controlling the body, Belly dance will have you moving seamlessly.


Irish Dance

Riverdance your way to stardom with Irish Dance! Work on your body alignment and posture, and discover some fancy footwork as your dabble into the world of jigs, reels and hornpipes.

Ready to discover the rhythm of the night (...or day if you’re a morning person)? Check out our Hong Kong Dance Schools Listing!

Photo Credit: Ivandrei Pretorius from Pexels

Project HK: Shining the Limelight on Hong Kong’s Young Dancers

Having grown up with disposable film cameras, it is amazing to see how far we’ve come with photography. From drones to GoPros, the field for developing artistry is vast. The pairing of dance and photography has opened up new pathways for both dancers and artists. As the industry is changing, it is important to create opportunities for our youth to explore the possibilities in art and dance.

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Capturing the incomparable character of the city and the brilliance of young dancers, PROJECT HK is a creative photography and dance based art project that features stunning photographs of Hong Kong’s talented youth!

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With the emergence of other photography projects which feature professional dancers amongst scenic cityscapes, PROJECT HK was developed to create an opportunity for children to engage in these creative photography projects. The first of its kind in Hong Kong, PROJECT HK captures photographs of young dancers amongst some of the city’s most iconic landmarks!

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These ravishing photos share the gems and best-kept-secrets of Hong Kong, highlighting the contrast between the busy, modern and cosmopolitan cityscape versus the tranquil, historic and breath-taking views of Hong Kong’s natural landscapes.

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Dance photography is not an easy thing to do, as it requires capturing art in motion. A particularly remarkable aspect of PROJECT HK, is the process that was required to snap these stunning photos. Notoriously known for its dense population, the hubs of Hong Kong are crowded, busy and booming. The dancers, photographer and crew needed to be quick and on their A-game to capture these photos. Though very talented, these dancers are still children, so it is truly commendable the energy, commitment and patience that these young folks had to sustain. Nevertheless, PROJECT HK provides an innovatively fun and challenging outlet for these young dancers to share their passion for dance and their home to the world!

 

Be sure to check out the full collection of photos from PROJECT HK! And maybe you’ll discover a few new spots in the city to snap your next jump shot or selfie!



Photo Credits: Twinkle Dance Company



Dance Away the Summer Slump

Keeping Up Your Dance Training Over the Summer Holidays

  

The school year can build up a lot of stress, so it’s only natural that we use our summer holiday to relax and recharge. But beware of the summer slump! As dancers, the skills we trained so hard for during the year can deteriorate if we don’t do any supplementary body training over the summer.

It is possible to take a break from dancing while still exercising the mind and body to maintain your skills. Here, we’ve worked up a list of ideas to help incorporate some basic training to target your body coordination, endurance, balance, flexibility and last but not least, your creativity and artistry.

 

Body Coordination

Firstly, raise your right hand, and now your left. You still got it! Jokes aside, here are a couple of ways to incorporate some body coordination exercises into your summer holiday.

  • The Classic Catch: Whether you have a dog, or happen to be outdoors with your family, there’s always time for a classic throw and catch with a ball. If this is too easy, challenge yourself by training your non-dominant hand. The classic catch doesn’t always have to be with a ball, you can always spice up your beach outings with a frisbee!

  • Hula-Hoop: Bring a little island breeze of Hawaii into your summer by picking up the hula-hoop! This childhood pastime is truly beneficial for all ages. What may have seemed “easy” as a child, is actually harder than you think! The hula-hoop involves the entire body, and there is a lot of micromanaging that goes on to keep that hula-hoop circling around. Plus, you can experiment with all the ways of playing with a hula-hoop; around your ankle, your wrist, the possibilities are endless!

 

Endurance

The portion of training that most of us dread is endurance, because it implies time, sweat and effort. Endurance is important for dancers, as it allows us to perform our best over long periods of time. Check out these ways of keeping the blood flowing, and the lungs happy!

  • Splash!: Who doesn’t love to jump into the pool, ocean or lake during the summer? Have a pool party, and swim with your friends. Of course, it may require a couple of races or playing games like water frisbee or badminton to really get your heart rate up.

  • Skipping Rope: Work on your double dutch skills by skipping rope. Not only is this good for your coordination and balance, it is also great for your endurance.

  • Trampoline: Feeling weightless for a millisecond is indescribably fun. Plus nowadays, you can go to an indoor trampoline gym that offers dodgeball amongst many other activities.

 

Balance

We all love to prove that we have good balance. I’m not talking about work-life balance, though that’s important too. We’re talking about working on ankle stability, the core and proprioception.

  • What’s SUP?: Stand-up paddle boarding is a summertime favourite. And the ultimate reward for your good balance is not getting your hair wet! Paddle your way to new views, whilst working on your core, legs, arms, and of course your balance.

  • Standing in Sand: Find your way to the beach, and try out some balancing Yoga poses on the sand. The uneven and soft surface is a great way to work on your ankle stability. And if that’s too easy, try closing your eyes while you balance and enjoy the sounds of the waves!

 

Flexibility

There are some obvious contenders for working on your flexibility over the summer, like yoga, or well…yoga. But here are some other ways to incorporate a little stretch into your routine!

  • Massage: Summer is for relaxing, so rejuvenate those muscle fibres by treating yourself to a massage. Whether visiting a registered massage therapist, or investing in some at-home massage equipment (foam rollers, foot massagers, etc.), a massage allows the body to open up, creating space so that we can start stretching and moving more effectively.

  • Aqua Stretch: Stretching in the pool can be a lot of fun, as we take away the strain of gravity on our joints. The ledge makes for a wonderful ballet barre or wall to help you create resistance in your stretches.

Creativity and Artistry

There’s plenty of summertime activities that can boost your creative eye. Here’s just a few suggestions.

  • Snap that!: We live in a society obsessed with photography, so why not snap some fun summer shots? Underwater cameras like the GoPro are great for capturing some captivating photos of sea creatures, or even your friends doing fun and fancy poses under the sea! Work towards creating a summer album, of all your most memorable adventures.

  • Outdoor Doodles: Whether you are going to the beach, forest, or park bring along a sketchbook and some pencils, or watercolour paints. Let nature inspire you, and start creating your masterpiece! If this sounds like too much work, then find a nice tarmac or sidewalk and start creating some chalk art.

 

There’s no excuse now to fall into a summer slump, because we are always surrounded by plenty of options and things to do! By experiencing new forms of physical activity and summer adventures, we are enhancing both our versatility in dance as well as our artistic thinking. Enjoy the rest of your summer, and don’t forget to add a little spark!

Photo Credit: Dancewear Centre Canada