Masquerade Regionals – 2018

Grace and her fan club – Kennedy and Maddy

Our studio recently attended Masquerade Dance Competition, traditionally, our favorite competition of the year. It was held at the Ames Center in Burnsville. It ended up being a 3-day long weekend for us (some were there even more than that).

Grace started the competition weekend by going to school for half a day, then we went down to Burnsville for her solo. She was really nervous, as Masquerade tends to bring some of the Best of the Best dancers in the Twin Cities. She REALLY wanted to wow the judges so she would be selected for Parade of Stars (being invited back to participate in the Opening Number at Nationals). She was hungry, but wouldn’t eat beforehand. She was too nervous. Just as she started her solo, her leg started spasming. She danced well in spite of this. I only knew something was wrong because I saw a quick flash of pain go across her face for a split second. I was worried she had re-sprained her ankle. Unfortunately, this was not her year for Parade of Stars. She scored a High Gold on her solo.

Miss Maria did Grace’s hair for her solo. So cute!

Saturday, we were back for Production. It looked so good! I wrote a note that said that I thought it was much better than the last competition! They got a platinum score, and 3rd overall. This was the day all the minis-juniors did all their large and small groups. By the time it got to production in the afternoon, you could tell they were all tired! This was true across pretty much all the studios. It was a long day for those little kids, without much time to rest.  The judges must have been pretty tired too, because the music was so loud! I think they were trying to make sure everyone stayed awake. The down side, was that they kept it fairly loud during awards too, so it was a bit hard to hear how some dances did. Usually, we do not have this issue at this particular competition. Luckily, we could still hear the tap sounds, though, I did not see microphones on the stage.

Studio 54 – a disco themed Line featuring our Preteens-Seniors. (photo creds to Miss Maria)

Sunday, Grace had the rest of her dances. It was a 12-or-so hour day for our preeteens-seniors. In true Masquerade style, the day started out with tap for our large and small groups. I’m glad they got to do their tap dances while they still had full energy. By the end of the day, they were all pretty worn out! Despite their exhaustion, all of the Seniors’ dances scored a platinum. Blue Moon, their musical theater dance got Audience Choice, and a “Class Act” Judges Award. YaYa, the Teen/Senior Hip Hop group, got a “Passive Aggressive” award. The judge commented on how their look (hair down, hats on), their hard hitting dance, etc was so different that what Lake Area Dance usually does. Their Line dance, Studio 54, got called back to do an encore. It was so much fun! Encore is one of the things we love about Masquerade! Another, is the ability of the audience to vote for their favorite dance in each category. When you download the Masquerade app, you can vote with the free version. If you want to pay for it, you can get live updates of what dance is on stage, how long until the next awards session, etc.

I heard a lot of parents at this competition asking about the color levels. At Masquerade, dances either compete at the green, gold, or purple level. Green is the equivalent of a novice or recreational level. Gold would be intermediate, while purple is the advanced level. If you’ve never been to Masquerade before, this can be confusing. The dances are scored similarly as most competitions. Judges score each routine, and then dances are given an adjudication based on their score. The highest “score” a dance can receive is Platinum. Next is High Gold, then Gold, then Silver, and finally, bronze. Most dances we have seen score somewhere in the gold – platinum range.

Hanging out with dance moms and friends who came to support our dancers.

Overall, this competition was fun as always. It has become very comfortable for us, as we almost feel it is an extension of our dance family. We look forward to our next competition, which will be a new one for us.

 

 

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Legacy Dance Championships – 2018

A couple weeks ago, our studio had its first studio-wide dance competition of the season, Legacy Dance Championships. It was a great weekend. We were lucky in that we only had to be there 2 days.

This competition was held at the Ames Center in Burnsville. This is always our favorite venue. It’s nice to be in a place that feels so familiar!

My daughter’s day started with her tap small group. She loves this dance, as it was choreographed by one of her tap idols, Kaleena Miller. The dance is in a style of tap that is different than what Grace is used to, but is also a great challenge. I really enjoy this dance too, so it was a fun way to start the day! She then had her large group dances – tap, contemporary, Line (a disco themed jazz dance including all competitive dancers preteen-seniors),  and musical theater. That evening, she competed her solo. I love her dances this year!! Her tap dance is so much fun (and funny). It was choreographed by Lake Area Dance Center‘s owner, Maria Pomerleau (as were the musical theater, and Line). Her solo is a tap solo to “Cheek to Cheek”. I LOVE it soooo much! Instructor Madelyn Lee choreographed the perfect dance for her! It makes me smile when I watch her. Due to her platinum score, she also got invited to be part of their Nationals Opening Number. Unfortunately, I think all of their Nationals are at times that we can’t go, but it was a huge honor for her to be invited.

Grace and Madelyn. I wish these two could do a tap duet!

Sunday, she had her hip hop dance, which was choreographed by Anthony Gabriel and Cory Booker. It’s a hard-hitting routine that provides a good challenge for our girls. Grace also had to fill in for a dancer in the Teen Hip Hop group she assists with. One of the girls sprained her ankle really bad a couple days before the competition, so Grace was asked to fill in. Finally, our studio had their Production dance, which is Lady Gaga themed. It took first overall of the production dances. Very exciting!

Some notes about Legacy this year:

  • For the first year that I can remember, the volume was not too loud. In fact, they turned the music down during tap dances in order to help the judges hear the tap sounds. Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect. When Grace’s small group went, the very beginning was a little off. When I was talking to her later, she said they had turned it down so far, it was very hard to hear the music. Luckily, they recovered very quickly.
  • YaYa – Senior Hip Hop

    The judges each gave out 3 Special Awards. The interesting thing, was they didn’t present their own awards. Grace’s tap dance, “Stronger”, got a Judge’s Award for being clean, and accurate.

  • I don’t remember them offering scholarships in past years, but this year, they did. One of our Petite Small Groups, “Take Off With Us”, got a Choreography Award and a scholarship to Dance Dreams (what sounds like a convention, from what I could tell).
  • DanceXcel had impressive sportsmanship. Whenever the first place overall dance was called, the entire studio stood up to clap for them (whether it was from their studio or not). What a great ethic to instill in those dancers!
  • This had nothing to do with the competition, but the venue ran out of food by mid-day on Sunday. When people are there all day, and can’t leave, it really stinks for them! I left to go get food for us and our studio owner. This was the one and only time they actually let people bring food in.

Despite the busy scheduled, we still had a lot of fun. Her dances were great, and they scored well. We couldn’t ask for anything else. 🙂

 

Ghoulbusters – WBL Lions Club Show 2018

Last month, Grace and I were part of the 72nd annual Lions Club Show.  It is one of the largest fundraisers each year for the White Bear Lake Lions Club, typically raising about $12-$14,000. Money raised goes back into the community. One of the current projects the WBL Lions Club is working on, is the refurbishing of the Veteran’s Memorial Flag Pole in downtown White Bear Lake. According to their website:

“The White Bear Lake Lions Club Foundation is committed to serving our community through many different ventures such as:

  • Annual Holiday Toy and Food Drive
  • Lions’ Eye Bank and the collection of used eyeglasses for recycling
  • Lions’ Hearing Programs
  • Lions’ Diabetes Programs
  • The White Bear Lake Area Emergency Food Shelf
  • Local Scout Troops
  • Local Seniors’ Services
  • Area Schools
  • Scholarship Programs
  • Community Park Improvements”

The title this year was “Ghoulbusters”. It was a musical loosely based on “Ghostbusters” written by Lion Lisa Rockwood. The show was directed by Lion Janine Delage. Choreography was done by Carol Anderson from 4th Street Dance Centre, and Jen Finger, a fellow cast-mate with great skills!

This was my 4th year being involved in the show, and my 2nd favorite (the first being the year I played Lena in “Lena and Ole’s Wedding”).  This year, I played a waitress who got “slimed” with silly string. It was a fun role, with lots of singing and dancing – my favorite part of doing the show! This year’s writer  Lisa, was the other waitress. Our boss was played by Dave Hunt, who I have known for many years. We had a great time being the “staff” of the Beartown Cafe! Thank you Beartown Grill for supporting the show.

 

Just a small portion of the set that looks like real stores from White Bear Lake.

The sets were amazing. I was so impressed with the work done by our set crew! Their goal was to recreate our town of White Bear Lake, MN; they did a fantastic job! We had some incredible painters this year! Our backstage crew cannot go without mention either. They worked so hard to get set pieces on and off stage quickly in order to keep the show flowing. They run like clockwork! Sound and lighting have been done by Jeff Willey, who works for the school district. We are fortunate to have him, as he is really good at what he does!

I mentioned that Grace was part of the show. This was her 2nd year being on the hair and makeup crew for the show. Due to her dance and work schedules, she doesn’t have time to take on a role. She enjoys doing makeup, so this is a great way to be a part of the show, and do what she enjoys.

The Lions Club Show typically runs the first weekend in March. It traditionally features a local dance studio. Cast members are members of the local Lion’s Club, and community members (like myself) who are not part of the club. We are always looking for new members of the cast and crew. You can reach out to the club if you are interested in being a part of it. Auditions are usually in December. Rehearsals are usually on Saturday mornings and Wednesday evenings in January and February. Set construction is done at all different times.

The Ghoulbusters with their loyal Office Manager, Donna. Pictured are (left to right): Katie Vadnais, Paul Williams, Kate Hunt, Chuck Hunt, and Scott Engman.

Maybe you aren’t interested in being a part of the cast or crew… come be an audience member instead! The more people in the audience, the more fun it is for those of us on stage! We can pretty much guarantee that you will laugh at least once (though, we hope to keep you laughing the whole time). We appreciate every person that comes to see us perform. It is a fundraiser, after all…  without an audience, there would be no show. Thank you for supporting the White Bear Lake Lions Club Show!

 

 

Twin Cities Rumble 2018

Recently, Michael represented Forte’s American Karate, White Bear Lake, in the 2018 Twin Cities Rumble. He hasn’t competed much since he got his black belt, but he decided to do a couple of tournaments this year. I think he was nervous, because once you are at the black belt level, it doesn’t matter what degree you are at – all black belts compete against each other within their age division. Now that he’s a few months from getting his 2nd degree black belt, I guess he decided he was ready.

Black belts from both White Bear Lake and Wyoming, waiting for their turns to compete.

Michael is 12. This is an awkward age for boys. Some have had growth spurts, some have not. Michael has grown over 4 inches since September, but is still in the middle of the other boys in his age division. Typically, he has been in a fairly large division, so they divide them by height. In one tournament, Michael was the tallest of the shorter kids’ group (though, they were all within an inch of each other). In the Rumble, he was the shortest of the taller boys’ group. The rest of the boys were about an inch (if not two) taller than him. Luckily, he’s used to sparring his teacher that is about 6 ft. tall.

Some Forte Karate black belts stretching. Michael, Natalia, and Sarah.

When I got to the tournament, Michael told me his back was hurting. It sounded like some sort of pinched nerve. I gave him ibuprofen,  and hoped the adrenaline would kick in, and he wouldn’t feel it. While he was waiting for his turn to spar, he and some friends were warming up, stretching, etc. It seemed like his back was ok, so I didn’t think any more about it – until his first match.

Michael is really good at kicking. He’s quite flexible, and fast, so he usually has no problem getting in the zone for points. Kicks are worth two points, punches are worth one. His whole first match, I don’t think he kicked at all! I guess his back was bugging him more than I thought. 😦  Michael did not win his first match.

These two boys were pretty evenly matched. There were many clashes like this one that resulted in no points.

The second match, Michael fought very well. He remembered to use his legs, and didn’t seem to be in any pain. The match was tied, the other kid got a punch in, and then “TIME!” was called. Michael lost by one point. That match could have gone to either one of them. I enjoy watching sparring matches that go back and forth, or continue to get tied up…

All in all, the competitors from both of Forte’s schools did very well. Many of the black belt competitors from our schools placed in the Top 3 in their divisions. It was a long day. Many of them them helped with judging, score keeping, or time keeping in the mornings, and then waited for hours to compete, as their divisions were quite large. They didn’t let it get to them, and worked hard.

Here was a nick block by Michael. He blocked the kick, and scored a point with his punch.

 

Another great block by Michael. You can see by the look on his face that he was ready to get kicked in the head. 

 

 

Michael saw this pic and thought his kick looked good, but said he needs to work on his hands.

Real Life Dance Moms

Many people who are not in the dance world, have a misguided idea that Dance Moms sit around fighting with each other about who has the better dancer. People think there is non-stop drama, and yelling. They think our world revolves around glitter and rhinestones, sewing costumes, having our kids wear skimpy outfits, drinking wine, and dressing to the nines.

Once, I was talking to a friend about a role I was playing in a local musical. He told me I wasn’t playing my character “bitchy”enough. He said to me, “I know you’re a dance mom, and you wear jeans with bling on the pocket, that means you have more bitch potential.” I know he was joking around, but that has stuck with me for a couple years. He’s not the only one that has made comments to me about what it’s like to be a dance mom. People ask me all the time, “Is it really like it is on the show?”

I’m here to tell you once and for all, that the answer is “Not usually, but sometimes it is.” We are fortunate enough to be a part of a studio that’s not like that. Any time you have a bunch of women together, there will occasionally be drama. Sometimes, feelings are hurt when some dancers move up a group and others don’t. Occasionally, there may be parents who feel their children should be featured in dances, but aren’t. Sometimes, parents are struggling with personal issues, and end up taking it out on others, because their dance family is who they are most comfortable with.  What I usually find, though, is the parents who have the most talented dancers, are very sweet, social, and very supportive of all the dancers in their studio. Many are quite humble. They are not bragging about how their child is the best, like what people see on TV.

Side note: I’m not saying that there aren’t dads involved in their daughters’ dance lives – we have an amazing group of dads that are very involved in their daughters’ dance activities. They volunteer countless hours to help build props, set up and take down props during competitions, etc. The moms though, are the ones that are usually sitting at the studio, making sure schedules are figured out, making sure all the costumes pieces are there, and going backstage to help with quick costume or hair changes, etc. The moms are the ones that have the stigma, and that’s what I want to dispel…

My daughter’s first year in competition, I really had no idea what I was doing. Other moms in the studio had some good advice for me, and helped me get my dancer through the year. The next year, we moved to the Twin Cities. Expectations were higher, and we felt as though we were muddling our way through at first. As I started talking to other dance moms, they gave me great advice, such as getting a Dream Duffel to transport all of our costumes and other necessities. We also had a great studio owner who gave us detailed instructions for applying makeup, how to do the expected hairstyles, and what to expect competition days to be like. You can never be truly ready for that first year, but when everyone works together, great things happen.

As the years went on, I saw more and more collaborations between dance moms. I have seen (and have been involved in) carpooling to and from competitions and Nationals, parents helping each other’s dancers with makeup, hairstyles, quick costume changes, etc. We willingly share bobby pins, butt glue or dress tape, hairspray, band-aids, etc. On more than one occasion, I have seen dancers that forgot earrings or shoes, and borrowed from each other. Parents have hosted group sleepovers, other gatherings, team craft projects, etc. Those of us who have been around for a while are there to answer questions for families new to the competition world. We help each other out, and we support each other’s dancers.

On facebook, there are pages for competition moms from all over the country. Sometimes, moms are bragging about the fantastic things their dancers have done (because they are proud); sometimes, they are asking for advice from other dance moms. I have never seen a “my dancer is better than your dancer” post, or anything even close.

At competitions, you will occasionally find parents talking down about another studio. Luckily, that is less often than you would think if you only went with what you know from the show. I often hear dance moms encouraging each other, or even complimenting each others’ studios or dances. They typically tend to be focused on their own studio or dancers, and don’t have time to worry about putting each other down. As I previously mentioned, there is, occasionally, a bit of drama. The biggest issue often has to do with the amount of space one dancer or group is taking up in a dressing room. That said, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone yelling at each other, so there’s that. Or, parents are super stressed, because their dancer forgot something, they are running late, they are dealing with an emotional or moody dancer, etc, and they snap at someone unintentionally.

At the beginning of this post, I said that some people seem to think our world of dance competitions revolves around glitter and rhinestones, sewing costumes, having our kids wear skimpy outfits, drinking wine, and dressing to the nines. They are only partly right. Yes, we are usually surrounded by glitter and rhinestones galore. Many of us really enjoy rhinestoning costumes, team jackets, or recital shirts…Our studio usually has minimal sewing for the parents to do. Kids’ costumes are chosen (at least at our studio) by the instructors. They are usually very tasteful. That said, you do have to be comfortable with bare midriffs, and sometimes, nothing but leotards, when at a competition. Sometimes, moves that are done in certain types of  costumes, are less than flattering. Oh well.  Typically, dance moms don’t dress up as if we are going to some awards show, and we don’t typically sit around drinking all the time. I think those aspects are exaggerated for the sake of the TV show. Overall, the atmosphere of dance moms is more helpful than what many people think of based on what they think they know.

I didn’t write this to bash the show I referred to earlier. In it’s early seasons, I enjoyed watching it, because I enjoyed the dancing. As  the focus seemed to shift to the drama between the dance moms and the instructor, I stopped watching. I fully acknowledge the entertainment value of the show, and realize that many people enjoy watching “reality” shows such as that. It certainly had its place in launching Maddie Ziegler’s career! I hope I made the case to show that real life dance moms are not like that.

I love being a dance mom, even if it means hours volunteering at the studio and rhinestoning at home, financial stress, and crazy schedules. I’m a little sad knowing that we only have two competition seasons left, and my daughter will graduate. I know I will still dance at our studio with many of the other moms and friends I have made, but I will miss the chaos of being a Dance Mom!

Kevin Smith – Surprisingly Inspirational

Jason and I went to see Kevin Smith (Twitter: @ThatKevinSmith) tonight at the Acme Comedy Company. This is the second time we’ve been to see “An Evening With Kevin Smith”. It’s a Q & A style show where a few people in the audience get to ask any random question they want. Kevin responds by telling one story which leads to another, which leads to another, and somehow circles back to answer the original question that was asked. It’s impressive how he pulls it all together!

This is the second time we have gone to this show. Tonight’s topics went from his wife, to his dogs, to various people that inspired him in different ways. He spent quite a bit of time talking about George Carlin after someone asked him who his favorite story teller is. I might have to pick up Carlin’s semi-autobiography, Last Words – he sounds like an interesting guy. He picked on Ben Affleck a bit, as he always does… he tends to talk about his friends quite a bit. He also talked about being drawn to people that are grounded in who they are, and how they inspire him.

One very enthusiastic audience member asked Kevin Smith about a movie he had been part of a long time back. That got him talking about the director and how he just went with his vision no matter what people thought about it. Then he brought it back to himself to talk about how he made Clerks because he had been “waiting his whole life for this movie, and no one ever made it.” He wanted it, so he made it. Mostly for himself and his friends. He advised the audience that people shouldn’t be afraid to fail. He said [not quite a direct quote, but close enough], “Get out there and go for what you want… tell your story, whatever. The story you are telling yourself about how it will fail is just a story… you never know what will happen. If you fail, so what? At least you went for it…  You can only fail up… failure is just success training (I know, it sounds like a cat poster)…” If you know Kevin Smith at all, you know there were a few F-bombs in there, such as, “You can do whatever the f*c< you want, the important thing is that you try.” He encouraged people to write down all our ideas… do that podcast, write that book, make that movie…

I went to this show expecting to be entertained. I expected to laugh. I did not expect to be inspired; yet I was. He reminded me how much I enjoy telling stories. I want to write the blog posts that have been floating around in my head. I’m going to try to make a point to carve out more time for that.

The more I see Kevin Smith’s show, the more I like him! I look forward to seeing him again next time he’s in town.

 

Conversation starter: Comment on what it is you have been wanting to do that you are putting off. Maybe you are putting it off because you haven’t made the time for it, maybe you have been afraid to fail.

Central States Karate Championships – 2017

Earlier this month, Michael and his teammates from Forte’s American Karate, competed in the Central States Karate Championships at Fridley High School. I like this location for tournaments due to its dropped floor in the gym. There are great vantage points all around the gym to watch the tournament from. What I didn’t know, was that there was also a second gym. This is where the black belts and many of the adults competed…

Michael has been nervous to compete ever since he got his black belt a year and a half ago.  He has competed once since then, but didn’t do as well as he had hoped, so he took a break from competing.  He finally decided to give it another go a year later. He decided that he would just spar this time.

This tournament is typically way behind on time. I showed up about a half hour before he was supposed to fight, expecting that he wouldn’t be going for a couple more hours.  They were running pretty much on time, which was a pleasant surprise. We waited for just a short time before the black belts started sparring.

There were 7 boys in the 12-13 year old division. They had them line up by height. Michael was exactly in the middle. The 4 “shorter” boys were all within an inch of each other. The next tallest boy was probably a full inch taller than Michael. I was glad that the ring judges decided that the four boys who were all about the same height would be sparring against each other.

Michael had quite a crew cheering him on. His dad and I were there, his Grandma and Grandpa, and several of his team mates who were done competing for the day. Michael’s fights both went well. He won both of them, taking first place. It was very exciting for him (and those of us who were watching him).

After his fight, we stayed to watch his teacher, Mr. Hallberg, spar in the Men’s 18-29 year old division. He also won his matches, taking first place. He made it look so easy, but it was fun to watch! Michael’s friend, Natalia, won in the girls’ black belt 12-13 year old division. Michael was glad girls and boys did not spar each other, because he and Natalia are pretty evenly matched. They were both sparring at the same time, so they didn’t get to cheer each other on. It was pretty exciting that all 3 black belts from the White Bear Lake school took first place in their divisions!

I’m looking forward to watching Michael in future tournaments! Now that he has found his confidence, I’m sure there will be more!

 

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