Tag Archives: dancing

Ridgewood seniors dance with SPARC

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo courtesy Hillary Ramos

Seniors at the Ridgewood Older Adult Center (ROAC) are getting a chance to bust a move thanks to the Seniors Partnering with Artists Citywide (SPARC) program.

SPARC is a community arts engagement program that places artists at senior centers across the five boroughs. The program was created as a collaboration of the city Department of Cultural Affairs, the Department for the Aging and five of the city’s local arts councils.

The SPARC aims to positively impact seniors’ quality of life through direct engagement in arts and cultural activities; to reinvigorate neighborhood senior centers, such as ROAC, as vital community spaces through arts and cultural programming; and to increase the opportunities for arts residencies and workspaces for artists.

ROAC’s executive director Jackie Eradiri applied to be a part of the SPARC program through the Queens Council on the Arts, and in February, the professional dancers and choreographers, Hillary Ramos and Henry Holmes, came to the center to bring the art of dance to the Ridgewood seniors.

“It’s something different,” Eradiri said of the program. “It is something that I don’t have at the center.”

Seniors can participate in the program, which runs through June and takes place at ROAC three times a week, or they are free to just sit back and watch.

“We are passionate about working with non-dancers and sharing that joy and empathy you get when you watch people dance and when you, yourself, are dancing,” Ramos said.

“There are plenty of hurdles of ‘I’m too old to dance’ or ‘I can’t do that,’” she added. “We are trying to break down the intimidation of dance for the seniors and show the health, psychological and social benefits of dance.”

Ramos explained how they use different forms of dance to engage all the seniors in the center. The more active seniors can get up and dance, while those who may not be able to move as well can participate in limited mobility and chair-based movements to get them involved.

“There are so many ways to get them to move,” Ramos said. “We are trying to show that dance is the merengue, the cha-cha and the waltz, but it is also sitting in a chair and moving your body with gestures and arm movements. That is also dance. Those things do matter.”

“We are using dance and making it applicable to their realities,” she continued. “We have hybrid classes depending on who we have, who is here and what they can do. We try to show that dance is social and artistic.”

Joe Renz, affectionately referred to as “rubber legs” by his dancing partners, is one of ROAC’s most loyal dancers and really enjoys the chance to get up and move around.

“I think [Ramos] is putting everything out there,” he said. “I’ve gotten something out of it. It has helped me fine-tune some things.”

Another ROAC dance participant, Barbara Kovacich, said she takes pleasure in the social aspect of the program.

“I just like to enjoy the company,” she said. “It brings me closer with the people at the center.”


Richmond Hill resident wins Sunshine Award for dancing

| slicata@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Dheeraj Gayaram

Guyana native and Richmond Hill resident Dheraaj Gayaram has won more than 150 awards in Indian dancing competitions around the world.

But even after he retired from competition, he is still winning awards.

Gayaram, 49, was honored for his talents at the Sunshine Awards, which recognize excellence in performing arts, education, sports and science in various Caribbean Cultures.

The Sunshine Awards were founded in 1989, and Gayaram was honored in the performing arts category during an Oct. 4 Manhattan ceremony.

“I was really happy because I never thought, at this age, I would win another award,” Gayaram said. “It was an unbelievable.”

Gayaram started his dancing career in Guyana at the age of 9, which is when he won his first award.

He knew at that time that he had a talent for dance but was hesitant to pursue it even though his father begged him to.

“I wanted to be a doctor at the time,” Gayaram said. “But my father was persistent; he wanted me to dance.”

He continued to dance but it was only one of his hobbies until the age of 15 when his father passed away. He then made a choice to take his dancing talents more seriously and turn it into a career.

“From that point I made a choice and there was no turning back,” Gayaram said.

He took first place in nearly every competition he entered, so much so that he was later banned from competing because of how good he was.

In 1989, he moved from Guyana to Richmond Hill, where he continued to crush his competition in Indian dancing. Even though he has had such an illustrious career as a dancer, Gayaram struggles daily with continuing his dream due to the way he is treated by many people.

“I’m 49 years old and people are still making fun of me and trying to hurt me,” said Gayaram, who has two daughters. “There are many times when I think about quitting, but if there is one thing dancing taught me it was to be strong.”

Although Gayaram has encountered an abundance of hurtful people in his life, the huge support system that he has, headed by his children, helps him overcome the cruelty.


“I do it for my daughters,” Gayaram said. “I want to be the best father I can be for them and support them through my talents.”

Done with his competition career, Gayaram focuses his time on his dance studio now. He not only helps his students progress as dancers but also teaches them life lessons that have helped him get to where he is.

“I tell them you have to be happy with yourself. If you don’t like what you see in the mirror, no one will,” Gayaram noted. “Stay strong throughout your life and do not let people get to you.”

When he was honored at the Sunshine Awards, he said he was humbled to be surrounded by so many talented people.

“Just to be on the same stage as some of those people was an accomplishment,” Gayaram said. “It was the icing on the cake.”


Landrum School of Dance: Dancing to build confidence

| skarim@queenscourier.com


Frances Landrum, one of the original 36 Radio City Music Hall Rockettes, decided to take her talent in performing and combine it with the art of teaching.

Thus the Landrum School of Dance was born in 1948. It is among the first few original businesses that started in Whitestone, drawing students from all five boroughs.

Annette Vallone joined the school at the age of three as a painfully shy little girl. Today, she is the owner of the Landrum School, helping other young girls to gain confidence.

“Mrs. Landrum assured my mother she would develop my self-confidence through dance and she was absolutely right,” said Vallone. “The two of them became mentors to me and guided my career right into the Rockettes; then I took over the dance school at the age of 18.”

Vallone realized her passion for teaching the art of performance to others outweighed her desire to dance solo after witnessing the gradual progression of her students.

“I love to watch the development of a student — through the stages of adolescence, into teen years, then into womanhood,” said Vallone.

The Landrum School is a place where children come together to express themselves and bond through their love of dance. The friendships made at the dance school are those that last for quite a while.

“A young woman that has made me proud since the age of eight, when her mom brought her to my school, is Miss Gina Teri,” said Vallone. “I named her assistant director in 2010, and she has done a magnificent job with choreography and directing the overall cool edge and sharpness of the school.”

After 33 years of teaching, dance is more than just movement for Vallone. It is the gift that keeps on giving.

“Giving a child a gift of self confidence — the same gift that was given to me — has been the greatest joy of teaching,” Vallone said. “I look forward to many more years.”

The Landrum School of Dance is located at 11-02 Clintonville Street in Whitestone. To learn more, call 718-767-9787.


Look cooler in any hip hop class

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


If you are thinking about taking a plunge into the world of hip hop dance there are some things you should know. Hip hop class is a great outlet to release the everyday stress of life and learn a bit of history.  The class is a great physical activity and excellent exercise no matter where you take it.

Of course, nobody wants to stand out as “the new kid.” So here’s some proven tips to help you rank higher on the cool factor, no matter what your color, age or ability!

Look And Dress The Part

When was the last time you saw a hip hop video and the dancers were in bodysuits and tights? It’s amazing how just looking the part helps you dance and feel better. Here’s what to wear:

  • Find some baggy sweats, army pants or cargos.
  • Get a funky t-shirt or top that you feel comfortable and stylish in.
  • Find a pair of running shoes that absorb shock. No ballet or jazz shoes!
  • Accessorize with bandanas, hats, armbands and belts as long as they don’t distract and prevent you or others from dancing.
  • For the ladies, warm up with your hair up, then when it comes to dance, practice with your hair down. No celebrity ever performs with their hair in a ponytail. And lastly ladies – leave your Lulu Lemon pants at home.

Bend Yo’ Knees and Get Low

Hip hop has roots in African dance, which is very earthy and grounded. A basic rule for hip hop is, stay low to the ground. Here’s how:

  • Bend those knees of yours, and widen your stance like a football linebacker. This allows you to transfer your weight quickly as needed in class.
  • Center yourself squarely over your pelvis, and “sit” into it, almost like you’re going to ride horseback.
  • And no straight backs! It’s not ballet. Bend that spine, curve forward slightly and relax your neck.


Bring a Positive Mindset

Because we’re humans, as we age we tend to fear anything new. Afraid of change. Afraid of anything different. Afraid of what others will think. Afraid of how we’ll look. Afraid of making mistakes.

ALWAYS remember this: You become what you think about most of the time.

It’s true.

So tell yourself that you’re here to learn, you are proud of yourself and you’re not afraid to make mistakes. Be positive! You’re eager to learn. And remember, you didn’t learn to run overnight. First you had to learn to crawl, then you learned to walk.

The same basic process applies to hip hop dance – and any dance style for that matter.  Be confident. Be patient. Encourage yourself and in time you will succeed.

Get Professional Guidance

Lastly, get involved often! You will only improve based on the level of effort you put forth.

So if you dance once a month, you won’t get too far. But if you dance two or three times a week, now we’re moving forward. Set your schedule and PLAN to take yourself seriously. Research a professional hip hop instructor or school you’re interested in, sign up and commit to a class, and prepare to have a blast!

Shawn Byfield (www.ShawnByfield.com) is an award winning choreographer, show director and a leading expert in dance lessons and industry advice. 

Learning to dance makes you a better lover

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


Learning to dance actually improves your love life.

“If you’re looking to spice up your love life, learning to dance is a sure-fire way to attract the opposite sex” says Shawn Byfield, a leading expert in dance instruction for adults.

Besides the obvious ability to show off your new dance moves, learning to dance comes with many other romantic benefits. Here are Bayfield’s top 10 tips explaining why dancers make better lovers:

            1.) Better Rhythm: Hearing the rhythm of the music directly translates into keeping a better rhythm elsewhere.

            2.) Better Confidence: Learning to dance improves your confidence on and off the dance floor. The #1 most attractive trait about a partner is their confidence level. Boldly use your moves to sweep your partner off the dance floor and bring them… somewhere more private.

            3.) Better Moves: This goes without saying. Watching your partner move well on the dance floor is subconsciously a very sexy indicator of how well they’ll partner at other times.

            4.) Better Improvisation skills: Sometimes, things go wrong. Learning to dance teaches you to improvise and think on your feet. Dancers transform awkward lovemaking situations and improvise new scenarios.

            5.) Better Stamina: Out of breath? Not if you dance regularly. The cardio workout from dancing dramatically boosts your stamina.

            6.) Better Skin: If sweat grosses you out, it shouldn’t. That sweaty dance workout actually helps clear your pores and releases toxins that create pimples, blackheads and acne. So dance often, and reap the rewards of beautiful skin.

            7.) Better Flexibility: Can’t touch your toes? Chances are, your love making experience could benefit from a dance class. Regular stretching and warm ups improves your flexibility and circulation throughout your muscles.

            8.) Better Creativity: A common complaint among couples is boredom. Dancers know how to break the monotony because they’re forced to use more right brain functions – which is the artistic, creative side of the brain. Dancers use their noggin to experience how good change can be.

            9.) Better Positive Energy: Dance releases endorphins in your body, which is one of the chemicals your body releases, leaving you feeling more positive, relaxed, and generally happier. A positive person is always a turn-on.

            10.) Better Friends: Being a better lover  is about building a mutual relationship of trust. Learning to dance teaches you how to listen, respect, love and appreciate yourself and others.

So if you’re looking to improve the quality of your love making, and want to develop that sex appeal others won’t be able to resist, make the time to learn to dance. Your bedroom will never be the same again!

  – © 2009 Shawn Byfield (www.ShawnByfield.com) is an award winning choreographer, show director and a leading expert in dance lessons and industry advice.

Core groups of belly dance movements

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com



Belly dancing originated in the Middle East and parts of Africa. Therefore, specific moves are culturally intrinsic to various countries. For example, Egyptian baladi is very earthy and the important base movement is the downward hip drop. Turkish dance uses a lot of hip lifts. There have been many cultural and artistic influences that have shaped belly dance styles around the world. Yet there are some core moves that remain constant to a homogenous style of belly dance that is globally recognizable.

1. Hip movements, rolling or slow

Belly dancing requires supple rolling motions in the hips. These moves are often done to slow improvised music and is called “taqsim.”

a) Hip circles – small rolling hip circles are done with the pelvis pivotting on an axis in a continuous circular movement. Much like Polynesian or Hawaiian dance. Anthropologists believe this ancient move emulates birth and fertility ritual.
b) Larger hip circles
are similar to the way you would move if you were spinning a hula hoop around your waist…but make the move slower and lower.
c) The inward figure of ‘8’ requires the vertical movement of the hips to create a shape like a number ‘8’ by alternating sides; first the raised toe and straighter leg pushes the same hip upward, and inward. Then this is repeated on the opposite side, in a pendulum action. Weight must smoothly shift from left to right. It is quite a contained move.
d) The outward figure of ‘8’ is a wide horizontal move. Imagine drawing an ‘8’ on the floor by pushing alternate hips first diagonally forward, then tracing half the ‘8’ back. Repeat. Feels flatter in the feet than the inward ‘8’.
e) Maya – a vertical outward ‘8’ that is quite contained – and looks like”honey spilling from a cup!” It is a more advanced ‘8’.

2. Hip movements, staccato or fast

To faster music, especially drums, the hips move with more energy! The main fast hip moves are:
f) Hip lift – the hip lifts upward whilst the rest of the body remains quite still. Isolation is important for effective fast hip moves. Turkish, Lebanese, Persian and Ghawazee (Egyptian Gypsy dance) incorporates many hip lifts.
g) Hip drop – very Egyptian, it is a deep seated downward hip move. Again make sure the whole body doesn’t ‘drop’ when the hip does – isolation is important.
h) Shimmy – the most exuberant, fun move of all! A quivering of the flesh on the hips and bottom. You must relax your knees and build up a constant vibration from the knees to the thighs. It also helps get rid of cellulite! In fact, the ‘shimmy’ was done in the Artemis days in ancient Turkey as a wild, unrestrained fertility dance.
i) Travelling shimmy – you can walk with a shimmy too! Either with a hip down move as in Egyptian baladi, or with a twisting movement from the waist like the Turkish dancers move when the rhythm speeds up.
j) Hip accents – you can push your hips outward to the sides – a bit like a small, sudden ‘thrusting’ move. Remember to isolate the hips. These look great with drum accents in the music.

3. Belly and torso movements

            Turkish dance is more of a ‘belly dance’ in the true sense of the word than Egyptian or Moroccan dance – both which use more hip moves. Belly moves are very good for toning the abdominal muscles.
k) Tummy roll – a smooth three part belly ‘rolling motion’ where the abdominal muscles alone are used – without any movement of the spine. First ‘push’ out, then ‘pull in’ the upper abs, then ‘pull in’ the lower abs. Continue this roll.
l) Undulation – a sinewy swaying motion of the spine and belly. First move the weight of the body forward and then ‘pulling back’ with the abs and pelvis, like a wave.
m) The ‘camel walk’ – a combination of this undulation and a travelling step. It feels quite natural, with a slight ‘scooping’ effect. Just step on the front foot, then the back in synch with the undulation. You alternate stepping low with slightly bent knees, then high with straighter legs to create an up-and-down camel walk.

4. Snake arms and shoulder moves

            In belly dancing the arms should be natural and relaxed. Snake-like arm moves or rapid shoulder shimmies enhance belly dancing. Again, isolation is important.
n) Shoulder roll – roll the shoulders back and around in a small, smooth circular motion
o) Snake arms – slow, mesmerizing move done with arms out to the side, alternating levels, i.e.: lift one arm up while the other is down low and then smoothly, swap. Maintain some poise in the arms. You can do this by focusing on the elbows lifting the arms up and down.
p) Shoulder shimmy – a rapid, relaxed vibrating move in the shoulders. You can start slowly by pressing one shoulder back as the other come forward, and then speed up. Try to keep the hands still and level while the shoulders shimmy.

5. Head and neck moves

q) Head slide – The main head movement used in belly dance is the head slide (a gentle continuous move from right to left, the head slides horizontally). It is very much used in Persian dance, Turkish and Egyptian folklore.
r) Head/hair flick – The other head move often seen is the head/hair flicking move like in Khaleegee (Gulf dance) or Zaar (Egyptian ritual dance). It is a wild, exhilarating movement that should be monitored and learnt with a professional teacher as it can be rather harsh on the neck.

6. Turns and stepping moves

            To enrich the dance and provide exciting contrast to the stationary isolations and on-the-spot moves of belly dance, use steps and turns. Steps and turns make use of ‘space’ and also create sweeping movement that accompanies the full orchestra.
s) Step/point – a simple step with a flat foot down then the opposite foot pointing out, thus enabling then hip to come forward and up slightly. Works well with a regular medium paced rhythm.
t) Triple step – a sprightly, gliding, flowing step with the front foot coming down, then briefly shifting the weight back on the back foot and then shifting weight to the front foot again. Then change feet. Count 1-2-3, 1-2-3, etc.
u) Turns – the most simple and effective is the three step turn. You must actually push your body weight in the direction of the turn. Start with the body facing the front. The first step is out to the side. Next step you turn 180 degrees, weight onto the other foot, your back to the audience. Then lastly step onto the initial foot 180 degree turn (continuously in the same direction) to face front again. Pause on 4th beat.

Permission to reprint by Keti Sharif www.ketisharif.com

Audition mistakes and how to avoid them

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


For many performers in the dance industry, the word audition can bring feelings of excitement, clarity and a world of opportunity. For others, it can bring feelings of anxiousness, confusion and unnecessary tension.

Like it or not, dance auditions are a way of life as a performer. But unfortunately, many dancers are NOT prepared for the moment that could potentially change their income, their way of life, and their happiness and passion toward their craft.

If you’re heading to a dance audition soon, use these four tips to ace your next audition, and gain an unfair advantage over the others in the room:

  1. Not Prepared- Dancers who didn’t do their research, arrive with no headshot, no resume or bio, stayed up too late, lines aren’t memorized, forgot their prop, didn’t study or train, brought wrong dance shoes, etc. All above reasons are unacceptable. Be thoroughly prepared!
  2. Not at the Right Ability– Don’t kid yourself if you haven’t danced in years, it’s been even longer since you’ve stretched, but you expect to get hired? Next please. Step your game up and show that you take yourself seriously.
  3. Not Dressed Appropriately – When you arrive to the audition, make sure you look the part and act the part. Make a positive impression! Show up, act and look as if you are already hired. And a smile won’t hurt either.
  4. Talking Too Much– Here’s the most important suggestion: Don’t waste people’s time, don’t make excuses to your auditioning panel, and don’t be defensive. Do take corrections and be open to direction. Be humble, be approachable, be interested in the free feedback, because these tips will get you closer to landing the job next time!

Remember, you are there to get a job. Wouldn’t it make sense to put your best foot forward?

Yes, you always want to encourage others. Show the panel you are one they want to work with, and you’re supportive of your peers. But don’t forget: the more prepared you are, the better the outcome.

Shawn Byfield (www.ShawnByfield.com) is an award winning choreographer, show director and a leading expert in dance lessons and industry advice. 

Cleaner Pickups – the techniques to learn

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


For most of us, a Pickup (also known as pull backs) is a light, hopping step that has two sounds, done on the ball of the foot. For standard pickups, both feet take off with a brush back. Then you land on the balls of your feet at the same time. With practice, a pickup can also be done standing on one foot.

There are variations of the step of course, just like any step in tap dance. Four count (I’ve also heard them called delayed pickups) happen when one foot makes a brush, followed by the other. You then land on the first foot, and the other quickly lands after it.

However, you’ll discover the above technique has two major flaws.

The first problem – That brush back adds a “scrapey” sound. If you’ve been tap dancing for a while, you know the difference between a clear brush and a scrape. Listen to your shuffles; Your taps should resonate with a crisp sound.

The second problem – Psychologically speaking, once you brush back, your body wants to put the foot down behind you, instead of landing on your start position. This makes you travel backward (ever learned pickups traveling across the floor?) and makes it much more difficult to stay on the spot.

So how to avoid traveling, and make cleaner pickups?

Follow these three steps:

  • FIRST: Take lift off. JUMP. Don’t even think about the brush back. Spring off the balls of your feet, and only jump straight up in the air.
  • SECOND: Once you’re in mid air, quickly tap on the way DOWN. You need to time that split second before gravity pulls you back down. Tap in the space before you land.
  • LASTLY: Land on balls of your feet, making sure to bend your knees. NO HEELS! Always keep your weight on your toes.

This most likely involves reprogramming the physics that you’ve learned from previous teachers. Because tapping on the way DOWN requires a bit more stomach, thigh and shin muscle strength, as well as perfect timing. But it can be done.

Try this today, and make it a habit from now on.

The best way to perfect this is to sit in a chair, lift your feet off the floor by pushing off the balls of your feet, then tap, then land. Repeat. Once you get it, you’ll immediately hear and feel the difference in your technique.


©2008 Shawn Byfield (www.ShawnByfield.com) is an award winning choreographer, show director and a leading expert in dance lessons and industry advice.


Hey mister DJ: Queens’ Elijah Strauss keeps people dancing

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Eli DJ 3

Elijah Strauss hovered over piles of equipment stacked behind the DJ booth in the lightless back room of the UC Lounge, a nondescript bar on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Pressing his headphones to one ear, Strauss twisted a shiny, silver knob, bringing Rihanna’s voice slowly into focus. The crowd is minimal — a group of about six close friends take up most of the club’s floor space, bouncing and shimmying. Strauss seems unaffected by his small audience. They came to dance. He came to make it happen.

Born and raised in Forest Hills, Strauss takes his love of music to the next level — DJing at clubs and bars around New York City.

Strauss exhibited an interest in DJing while in high school, but the hobby’s expensive start-up costs and his neighborhood’s lack of outlets for local spinners hindered his dream from taking off.

“Growing up, I’ve always been interested in music,” said Strauss. “In high school, I thought the idea of DJing was cool but I never had the venue or the resources.”

During Strauss’s freshmen year in college, he joined a student organization that helped provide relief for those affected by the 2007 earthquakes in Peru. While with a friend, brainstorming methods to further their efforts and accrue more funds for the victims, they stumbled upon the perfect plan – throw a raging party to raise money for Peru. The only thing missing was a DJ.

Strauss volunteered.

He bought an inexpensive mixer and gathered his favorite tunes – Top 40, Hip Hop and Reggae hits.

Strauss was nervous, calling on friends for their song suggestions and advice, mapping out every second of the evening. To his surprise, he spun for a completely packed venue. Campus security attempted to corral the crowd when the evening was expected to end, around 1:30 a.m., but the partygoers kept dancing. Strauss played Mims’s “This is Why I’m Hot” when suddenly the fire alarm began blaring.

“Apparently someone pulled the alarm because they didn’t want to leave,” laughed Strauss.

Straus claimed that following his notable premier in October of 2007, his DJ skills were at high demand from student groups and party planners across campus.

“I was not impressed with the parties there and thought I could do a better job,” said Strauss. “My DJing took off after the first party I did.”

His stage name, “DJ Fine-Nice,” derives from “finesse,” the moniker he originally sought to go by. “Finesse” proved popular among other mix masters, and the adjectives “fine” and “nice” seemed to complement the beats Strauss was working with.

During the week, Strauss works as a life coach, assisting a private client with his daily tasks and organization. It’s a new gig for the 23-year-old recent college graduate, who majored in psychology at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.

He dedicates most of his time after work to improving his craft – researching and downloading new songs, editing his iTunes library and hooking up potential gigs. He says his time belongs to the music.

Strauss admits there are a few secrets to being a good DJ — being prepared, knowing your music and knowing your audience.

When he spins clubs, Strauss leans on electronic artists like Avicci, David Guetta, Afrojack and Major Lazer to keep people moving. He observes the crowd’s reactions to various songs, reflecting the feelings and themes he picks up throughout the evening as a gauge for what to play next.

And he keeps on spinning.

Interested in booking DJ Fine-Nice for a gig? Contact djfinenice@gmail.com. To listen to mixes by DJ Fine-Nice, visit http://soundcloud.com/djfinenice.