Welcome to the LDT Blog! The professional dancers, students, faculty and staff will occassionaly share stories from rehearsal, backstage musings, experiences as dance educators or students, tips, and more. Check the Blog frequently for new entries. Would you like to contribute to the blog? Send entries or ideas to .
Fight holiday stress and stay healthy this winter
Feeling the “winter blues”, preparing dozens of meals for the constant stream of holiday parties and a never-ending list of holiday gifts to buy might turn you into Scrooge before you know it. If holiday stress is bogging you down, take a deep breath and worry no more! Health magazine recently released a list of health tips that can kill holiday headaches and also help you enjoy the merry magic of winter festivities.
Unless you are an eskimo thriving in an igloo, most people miss the warmth of summer sunlight and try hide from the chill of winter weather that is felt both physically and mentally. Health magazine advises that spending time outdoors or even just near a window to soak in the sun for a few minutes every day heightens moods by stimulating feel-good serotonin levels. We at LDT can attest to the magazine’s findings. Just a few minutes in LDT’s spacious studios, filled with natural light, lift company dancers’ and students’ moods! So, if you find yourself huddling indoors or shopping into insanity at packed shopping malls, take a step outside into sunlight or dance away anxiety at the studio to fight holiday stress.
Among the list of other mood boosters, Health Magazine mentions the positive influence of exercise. The article mentions research that finds workouts can boost moods for up to 12 hours! In between the gift wrapping and decorating try to fit in a solid workout to fight stress and spend the rest of your day spreading cheer instead of melting under the myriad holiday woes that keep you from enjoying festivities.
More stress busting tips from Health Magazine can be found at http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20306655_23,00.html
Dance through a Zumba class, stretch away tension at Pilates or explore movement through Ballet at one of LDT’s adult wellness classes. Take a break from holiday anxiety and start feeling better about “decking the halls” and enjoying a “white Christmas”!
by Steph Salts, LDT dancer
Lustig Dance Theatre is a group of ten expressive, opinionated, and passionate movers. Each one of us has had a unique journey to earn our place as a professional company member. Though we are unalike in many ways, there is one thing we each have in common- a hunger for beauty through expression. LDT is more than a job for us, it’s a home; a place where we can grow and learn about who we are as artists, and in turn, share our creativity.
“PIECESOF10” is a benefit performance organized and marketed strictly by the dancers of LDT to raise support for our company. It’s also a chance for returning (and new) audience members to know us in a more personal way. The audience will see a total of seven pieces, including dance films, which are the culmination of our collaborative efforts.
Stepping into new roles as choreographers has been a rare opportunity for us to learn something new about our fellow artists. Not only have we had the responsibility of creating new work, but have been challenged to handle the production elements of the performance. A lot of time and creative energy have been spent and cultivated over the past few weeks, resulting in an expansive experience which we are excited to share with the public.
The performance will be held at LDT’s New Brunswick studios at 80 Albany St. on the 2nd Floor (above Due Mari restaurant) on Saturday, May 4th, at 6:00pm. Tickets are $5 with donations welcomed. Tickets can be purchased at the door.
by Monica Gonzalez, LDT dancer
All we wanted was to still be in bed, but instead we were riding in a white van full of rolled up marley, costumes, audio equipment, and sleepy passengers. Why were we on the road in the dark, early hours, arriving at our destination at 6:30am? To perform for the students of Aldrich Elementary School in Howell, NJ.
We had two performances scheduled that morning: the first was Jump, Frog, Jump for the 1st and 2nd graders, and the second was the DancExploration program for the 3rd-5th graders. When we arrived at the school we set up the floor and got ourselves warm. It wasn’t long before the chattering of children could be heard as they filed into the gymnasium to watch us.
This is where everything became worth it. The kids were an incredibly enthusiastic audience, which made us feel like we were really making a difference to them. The first performance was met with delighted laughter, cheers, and a hearty chorus of “jump, frog, jump!” whenever the frog tried to get away from his enemies. DancExploration was also well-received; along with excerpts of the company’s repertory and three classical variations, the kids were particularly thrilled with the interactive portions of the program. One boy and one girl were asked to come up and try out some partnering – the boy learned how to partner a promenade en pointe and the girl was lifted way up for a shoulder sit. Later on, six volunteers were called on stage, each child coming up with one movement. We strung these movements together to create a phrase as a demonstration of choreography, and performed it first to classical music and then to “Gangnam Style” (which of course had the kids going wild!). Our volunteers were all wonderful, and the audience seemed ecstatic to see their friends contribute to the overall experience.
By the end of the programs, we are all saying that we no longer minded that we had gotten up so early. We got to not only do what we love, which is perform, but also to share more of our lives and show more of the work that goes into being a dancer. It was so rewarding to teach them and to have our teachings be truly appreciated. As much as we hopefully inspired them, it was really they who inspired us, reminding us that what we do is meaningful and important.
by Leann Smith, adult LDT student
It can be intimidating, having reached a “certain age”, without a day of dance experience, to walk into a dance studio for a class of any kind. For me, and others of that “certain age”, the beauty of Lustig Dance and Wellness Studio lies in that second to last word: Wellness. A concept that spans age, experience and ability, wellness is an essential component in a balanced life.
When Graham opened the studio with an emphasis on wellness I was thrilled. My boys had danced for years but the thought of taking classes was not one I had entertained. But now, NOW I saw it as a possibility. The mission statement of the studio includes women and men like me. I was ready to try!
I’ve taken several different classes at the studio, but I want to dwell a moment on the class I am currently taking, Jen Cavanaugh’s Friday night Pilates class. The 90 minute class is a component of the ongoing wellness series. The class is challenging but never for a moment does Jen make any student feel less than 100% capable of performing any of the exercises during the session. We use small and large balls, bands and straps and supplement the whole thing with laughter, encouragement and unconditional support between the teacher and students and between students.
Hard to believe but we all look forward to our 90 minutes of core work, stretching ( our limbs and our minds), strength work and overall conditioning. Jen makes our paths towards wellness enjoyable, accessible and achievable. Bravi to all at Lustig Dance and Wellness Studio for a job well done!
Lustig Dance Theatre Premieres New Family Production
Monkeys jumping on trampolines, a cunning tigress, and a herd of buffalos in hard hats. Not what you would expect to see during a ballet performance. But, Lustig Dance Theatre (LDT) isn’t interested in doing the expected. Artistic Director Graham Lustig has found his niche in the dance world: weaving storytelling and ballet into dynamic dance theatre pieces. In his new work, “Jangala”, classical Indian dance meets ballet in an urban jungle to re-tell the familiar stories found in Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book”.
This is not, however, an idealized version of Kipling’s often dark and realistic world of the hunted and the hunter. Created with a family audience in mind and imbued with plenty of fun, enchanting moments, “Jangala” doesn’t adhere to the typical imagery of a lush jungle and talking animals. Costumed in business suits trimmed with fur and imaginative accessories, the dancers rely on articulated movements to portray their characters. Backdrops and props designed by Howard Siskowitz bring explosive color reminiscent of an Indian sari to the production.
Hosted as a performer by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations in his 30’s, Lustig traveled to Bombay, Delhi and Jaipur. “Jangala” pays homage to his long-held respect for the arts and culture of India. “No production has yet truly represented the culture in which the stories take place, India,” states Lustig. “In classical Indian dance, the artists often portray themselves as gods or animals, their movement vocabulary richly bringing to life creature spirits such as a wolf, an elephant, a tiger or a snake.” Fusing classical Indian dance with ballet, “Jangala” is a symbiotic pairing of expressive hand gestures and grace.
Working with master teacher and dancer Renuka Srinivasan, owner of Tala Shruti Dance Studio in Fords, NJ, the company dancers have immersed themselves in Bharatanatyam. In fact, the March 2 premiere performance will begin with a brief demonstration of this classical Indian dance style, helping the audience appreciate the true meshing of these dance worlds. Lustig has an instinct for finding artistic collaborators willing to help him bring his vision to the stage, and has found a true partner in Ms. Srinivasan. Her exceptional skill and willingness to embrace the vision of “Jangala” have added an authenticity to the work that would not have been achieved otherwise.
LDT’s ten company dancers will be joined on stage by select students from LDT’s Dance and Wellness Studio in New Brunswick, as well as Dr. Shobana Natarajan, a student of Ms. Srinivasan’s. “Jangala” premieres on March 2 at 7:00 pm at the Performing Arts Center at Middlesex County College in Edison. Tickets can be purchased at brownpapertickets.com or visit lustigdancetheatre.org for more information. The program has been funded in part by the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholds/Middlesex County Cultural & Heritage Commission with assistance thru a grant provided by New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Dept. of State.
A reflection from company dancer Steph Salts on the beginning of the performance season…
I believe one of the most powerful sources of orientation is time. Yet somehow I find myself lost and suspended in it, more than I find it helpful to knowing where I am or should be.
I can describe these past few weeks as a month of moments. Moments of surprise, moments of brilliance, frustration, trust, forgiveness, hilarity (especially at the lunch table), intimacy, personal challenges (and growth which is exciting!), bravery, humility, pain, sleepiness, patience, progress, and most importantly- connection.
It has been a pleasant surprise to find the work environment with such good energy and focus at this early stage in our season. As a group I believe it is important that we continue to learn about, and from, each other.
I’ve learned from some very experienced professionals that it is important to keep a broad perspective in the work place. Remembering that as a member of a company, each person has an obligation to the others to maintain concentration and progress. Also recognizing that one person’s focus has the potential to change 9 other’s. Disregarding anything that could waste productivity.
This is a unique and special group of dancers and I am excited to grow with them. If we continue to practice these things- time will not tell us what we can achieve in one month or the many months to come.
A quick “how to” for new pointe students! LDT dancer and faculty member Peggy Petteway shows you “how to tie your pointe shoes”.
September Wellness Topic: Healthy Feet!
LDT’s Top Ten Foot Care Tips:
- Stretch your feet every morning by rotating ankles in a circular motion, pointing and flexing, and standing on your tiptoes to strengthen bones, tendons, and muscles.
- Inspect your feet regularly for sores, infections, rashes, swelling, corns, etc. and treat them properly. Seek advice from a medical professional when necessary, particularly for corns or ingrown nails.
- Keep your feet clean! Wash and dry feet thoroughly– don’t forget between your toes.
- Cut nails straight across and smooth the edges with an emery board.
- Moisturize daily with a good quality lotion.
- Give your feet a daily rubdown. Multi-task and rub them while reading or watching TV.
- Let your feet breath by wearing cotton socks and avoid nylon whenever possible.
- Immerse your feet in a warm footbath (add Epson salt if you like) with marbles at the bottom. Move your feet gently over the marbles to stimulate nerve endings.
- Allow your dance shoes to dry out completely after class.
- Make sure you are wearing the proper size dance shoe. Fit varies by brand, so trying them on and finding a shoe that works for you is essential.
by Lees Hummel
After successfully completing our 2nd grade Creative Dance residency in the Piscataway Elementary Schools this past Spring, LDT was invited to return to Pisactaway’s Eisenhower Elementary school for Career Day organized by Laura Heimlich. I gave 14 Creative Dance workshops to students in K-3rd grade, including a special needs class with autistic students. I had the students play a rhythmic version of the Name Game where they had to vocalize a beat and express their name with a movement. What a joy to watch them move with such creativity, exuberance, and imagination. Other exercises included a Sports Dance, Freeze Dance, Mirror Dance, and basic movement isolations, traveling and energy exercises and rhythms. Each student also received an LDT Activity Sheet with dance related activities to remind them of their experience. Looking forward to more great collaborations in Piscataway next year!
by Justin Melvin
In the Spring of 2012, LDT offered a seven week residency at three Piscatway, NJ elementary schools.
It is so rewarding watching young dancers jump into a creative process. During the first class, the students were not so willing to be creative and express themselves, but I encourage a working environment where each dancer’s input is essential to our end product. I always make time to mention how appreciative I am of their creativity. So, by week two, I saw a confidence spark in many of the students and they were so anxious to repeat previous lessons and jump into new exercises. The energy in the room was inspiring! I really enjoyed my short time with all 100 students (and I almost knew all of their names). My favorite moment: one of the 2nd graders, Charlotte, runs up to me each class and gives me the largest hug saying “Thank you Mr. Justin!” The perfect way to end my day.