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Beyond the Big Concert: "Apassionata" and other unique happenings this summer
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What's on your entertainment calendar for the summer? Got tickets to something huge and ultra-exciting? 'Tis the season for big concerts and this year should be no exception, with the Bieb going on tour as well as One Direction and Big Time Rush, plus lots of multi-artist festivals and state-fair headliners. However, look a little harder and you'll see there's more than music coming to your city this summer...happenings that might speak to your special interests, expose you to new things, and be the perfect outing for everyone in your family to share together. Want a For Instance? Here's a great one:

Apassionata_PianoDance1.jpg"Apassionata" is a live equestrian show that's finally arrived in North America after being a hit in Europe for nearly a decade. IML was lucky to have a chance to check this out recently when it came to the NYC area. If "live equestrian show" sounds vague and confusing to you, picture more than 40 horses of 13 different breeds -- everything from enormous Friesians to adorable little Shetland ponies -- and their riders performing tricks,Apassionata_Stunt3.jpg dances, and powerful displays of the bond between humans and these incredible animals. The music, screen projections, non-stop energy, and varying themes of each performance made this a truly theatrical event, but like nothing we'd ever seen before. There's something about these horses that really grabbed our hearts, and as we looked around at other audience members of all ages, it seemed like everyone else felt the same way. For more information about Apassionata, visit www.apassionata.com.

We nosed around and found some other ideas for great, family-friendly events you might not have thought of:

Cirque du Soleil. These stunning shows combine acrobatics, dance, theatrics, and imaginative visuals -- definitely not your old-school circus. Many of the different Cirque du Soleil productions are on tour at the moment, such as "Michael Jackson: The Immortal," "Quidam," and "Totem." Check out the details at www.cirquedusoleil.com.

"How To Train Your Dragon" Live. Based on the hit animated film from DreamWorks, this is bound to be way off the Coolness Scale. Gigantic animatronic dragons. Special effects. Stunts. Yeah, we'll be there! www.howtotrainyourdragon.com.  

Theatre, theatre, and more theatre. Crack open your local paper and you're bound to see lots of great musicals on stage near you, performed by members of your community or a touring production, or even a youth theatre group. Take a chance and break out of your movie rut; chances are, these show tickets are not much more expensive than the multiplex.

Music, music, music. Well yeah, it's much more exciting to see a Gigantic Pop Star perform in the flesh. But there is so much live music being performed in the summer -- in your town park, at street festivals, during local fairs. It may not be anyone you've heard of, but could be equally as awesome (you could always say you "discovered" them before anyone else did) and best of all, most of these events are free.

One of our favorite things about summer is the chance to try new things and create memories...going out of the box for entertainment is a great way to do that! Remember that if tickets to something seem unaffordable, ask a parent to help you search the Internet for special coupons or deals.

We'll leave you with this video trailer from "Apassionata"!

 
Advice on how to design your own clothes
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So it's spring, and that's a GREAT excuse to go out and buy some new clothes. A new season might mean a new attitude, which might call for a new style! But what do you do if you're on a budget and can only choose a few items? What if you're told, "You still have clothes that fit you, wear those!", but you're completely sick of them?

fashion-playtes.jpgThat's where the fantabulous art of embellishment comes in, and we know some of you IML'ers are already experts on that. Embellishment is when you take a piece of clothing that's rather basic and plain, then bling it up with graphic patches, iron-on's, and appliques, fabric ribbons and flowers, rhinestones and other shiny things. It's a really cool way to express yourself, shout your individuality, and explore your personal style. Think of it as "Project Runway" with none of the mean judging and all of the fun.

We were excited to discover a new website called FashionPlaytes that gives girls the opportunity to do this virtually, with the added bonus of actually being able to have their creations made! We asked FashionPlaytes founder Sarah McIlroy to share some tips for IML'ers who want to play around with clothing embellishment, whether it's online or on their own:

  • Start with a theme or color. This will help guide you through the design process and give you a good start and vision for what you'd like to design. If you have an existing piece of clothing you'd like to work with, let the style of it inspire you. For instance, a simple solid-colored t-shirt is a great blank canvas to do something fancy, while a tank top that already has ruffles and a pattern might look best with only one or two simple accents. Don't use too many patterns or colors that might clash with one another and distract from your design.

  • Don't forget that clothing's not the only thing that can be embellished. Purses, backpacks, tote bags, and other accessories like hats, scarves, etc. can also be spiffed up!

  • embellishment.JPGChoose your materials and get stocked up. Go to a craft supply store and check out all the things you can put on fabric: paint, pens, rhinestones, heat transfers, glitter, etc. Decide whether you feel confident enough to sew things on, or use fabric glue (hot glue guns and sewing materials may be things you need to use with an adult around to help).
  • Look for materials in a color palette and get comfortable mixing and matching fabrics and patterns. Don't be afraid to try something new like bright neon colors. It's fun to explore and see what other colors or patterns look good on you!
  • Practice makes better. If you're drawing a design freehand, try it on a blank piece of paper first. Do a test run of something on scrap material first if you want to make sure you get it the way you want it on the final product. Keep in mind, however, that there are no such things as mistakes! Your "goofs" may end up being your favorite part of the design.

  • Choosing and creating styles is a lot about learning to listen to yourself. Listen to how you're feeling that day, what makes you comfortable and confident, and most importantly, pick something that makes you feel good and try not to listen to what others say. That's the beauty of embellishment - learning to express yourself and wear clothing YOU designed, not something someone else told you to wear.
We hope that inspires you to go out and play fashion designer this weekend!


 


Magic, the art of astonishment, and the Amazing Max
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max 0092_prv.jpgWhen was the last time you saw a magician perform live, in front of you? Someone's birthday party maybe, or at a fair? Did it wow you, or did you figure out all the tricks in your head? Did you feel astonished by what you saw, or possibly even make you think, I want to try that?

Recently, we saw an awesome and hilarious live magic show called "The Amazing Max and the Box of Interesting Things," and it struck us how this area of performing may not be on most tweens' radar. Not only does it have the power to really entertain people, but it can also be super-fun and confidence-boosting. We asked The Amazing Max to tell us more about why he loves to do magic, and why it's something you might want to check out.

IML: Hi Max! We totally loved your show. Can you tell us how you first got started doing magic?

The Amazing Max: Most magicians will tell you that they got the magic bug when they were a kid. That's pretty much the same with me, but it was also in my family. When my dad was growing up, he did magic; my grandfather owned a hardware store and actually made him magic tricks out of wood and stuff in the shop! Then when I was growing up, there was a brick and mortar magic shop -- you don't really see any of those anymore, everybody buys stuff online these days -- and my dad would take me in. The owner, Al, would show me magic tricks. Then we'd always bring one home, so eventually I had this collection of magic stuff.

IML: What's your favorite thing about performing magic?

The Amazing Max: Well, it feels great to get applause. Any performer will tell you that! But the truth is, for me it's not so much about the applause as it is about making people laugh, and the opposite of that would be, making people speechless. Getting to truly astonish people and leave them with wonder. I remember when I was a kid, watching a magician perform at a birthday party, and the feeling I had when I saw him take a 15-inch knitting needle and stick it through a clear balloon. I was thinking, "That's not possible, but here I am watching it happen!" And now I do that trick occasionally because it brings me back to that feeling of pure astonishment. Being able to do that is incredibly gratifying. Plus, making people laugh is one of the best feelings in the world!

IML: That's a good point -- it's not often you get to really leave people astonished. What would you say are the biggest myths and stereotypes out there about magicians?

The Amazing Max: I think that there's sometimes a myth that magicians are weird and creepy. On TV, the biggest magicians are David Blaine and Chris Angel -- they're the most visible. They both have very serious stage personas. So maybe there's a misconception that magic has to be serious and about fooling people. But it can also be upbeat and fun and funny!

IML: If someone wants to learn how to do magic, where should they start?

The Amazing Max: I do see afterschool programs in and around Manhattan, where I live, and I hope there are more in other places. There are magic camps, too. But you don't really need that in order to learn magic. When I was in elementary and middle school, I would hide out in the library and find every book they had on magic. I never found a shortage -- I would always find a book with names like "Fool Your Friends With These Tricks" or something. When people tell me they want to learn a trick and ask me to teach them one, I tell them to go looking in the library. That's how I started! There are great DVD's and online videos too. I actually have my own DVD coming out that teaches kids magic tricks they can do at home. It's called "The Amazing Max's Magic In Minutes," and it's all tricks with really simple things they can find around the house.

IML: What do you think kids would be surprised to know about learning magic?

The Amazing Max: That it's easier than they think. If you really look for it, learning magic is so readily available. Especially with online videos and books that are out there. People see a magic show and think, "I could never do that!" But in reality, it's like riding a bike, and if you practice and practice you get better. At the same time, it is a performance art. You have to get up and perform for people and get responses out of them. Fool people, have fun, make them laugh! You need to want to do that.

IML: What's the funniest thing that ever happened to you during a show?

The Amazing Max: I was doing a magic show once where I had a kid sitting in the front row, and he was laughing so hard he started crying. And then he was laughing so hard he vomited into his own lap! And you know what? He just kept on laughing. His mom simply wiped him down, and he never left the show! I've also had kids pee (and do worse) in their pants because they're laughing hysterically.

IML: Does it throw you when that stuff happens?

The Amazing Max: You know, I do so much improvisation that I actually thrive off of that kind of thing. Even when kids heckle me, or when things go differently than I planned. I actually strive for moments like that. It keeps me on my toes and I like that!

IML: Thanks for sharing some of your "magic" with us!

The Amazing Max:
You're so welcome!

If you're in the New York City area, you can check out "The Amazing Max and the Box of Interesting Things" at the Manhattan Movement and Arts Center (MMAC) Theater on Saturdays and Sundays at 4:30pm. For more information, visit www.theamazingmax.com.


Get A Grip, Get Organized!
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messycloset.jpgWe love this time of year because it forces us to make some changes. For instance, our horribly messy IML bookcase. Gotta get it cleaned up so we can actually find the books we want to review for our blog! We'll get so much more work done that way. You may already be feeling like this about your locker, your backpack, your desk, and other areas where you keep important things. But life moves pretty fast, and sometimes it's hard to know how to set things up in a system that fits your needs and style.

We asked mom, blogger, and organizing expert Colleen Padilla for some tips for stowing stuff in your backpack, calendar, locker, desk at home, and closet. Here's her great advice, which will hopefully help you get this school year off to a great start!

Your Backpack
1. Compartments, compartments, compartments.
Go for a backpack with more than one compartment so you can easily have a general area for books, binders, and folders along with another area to easily put in tasks that must be completed. This way, when you come home, you'll know that compartment contains that evening's "To Do's." Homework assignments, permission forms that need to be signed, etc. Once the tasks are completed, you can return everything to this compartment so it's easy to find the next day when it's time to turn it in.
 
2. Create the best Folder or Binder system that works for you
    •    Do you want to organize 2 large binders by Morning Classes and Afternoon Classes?
    •    Or would it be easier for you to create individual binders for each subject area with accompanying folders specific to each class?
 
Your Calendar/Planner
Lists lists lists. I'm a fan of the To Do List. Write it down. Even if you think you will certainly remember it. That saying your grandma told you about, "A short pencil is better than a long memory," couldn't be more true. You can never write too many things down when it comes to helping you remember what to do. Especially if you're hoping to rely on a nosy parent who likes to peek at your assignment book to remind you about potential due dates!
What to look for in an Assignment Book?  Buy a specific planning calendar that allows a page per day to write all your daily To Do details, but also gives you a monthly and weekly view so you can plot out and visualize what you schedule looks like long term too.
 
Your Locker
Clean it out once a week. You won't regret it. Don't let stuff pile up in there like old sweaty gym socks. Not only will your locker stink if you don't clean it out, but you'll be far more likely to be unable to find that important homework assignment someday when it randomly falls out of your backpack into a pile of scary clothes or old leftover lunches. 

Your Desk at Home
Create an inbox system to organize those important assignments, study guides, and more. Find out what works for you -- do you want bins for each subject or would you prefer to organize according to what must be completed on a regular basis throughout the school semester, such as General Homework, Test Review material, Creative Writing Assignments, Daily Math Homework?
 
But the most important thing about the desk is having a set work area that is for you to use regularly and at the same time each day. Make it a daily routine to sit down at your desk at the same time every evening or late afternoon after school. Whether it is for 30 minutes when you have hardly any homework, or for 4 hours on those tough days when you have more homework than you want to think about. This will force you to keep a routine to sit down daily in a quite place and get mentally organized. It will be far harder to forget to do your homework if you always sit down to do it in the same place every day!
 
Invest in a bulletin board too that you can place near your desk. They are great ways to organize and you can tack up important to do lists if you go for the Cork Board style board or if you go for a Dry Erase Style Board you can use that for your Weekly and Daily To Do's to keep your important assignments fresh on your mind while your in your bedroom so you don't forget priority tasks.

Your Closet
Bin it up! I'm a huge fan of the bin system for closets. Pretty up your closet with shoe organizers and baskets lined with funky bright materials where you can easily store your favorite work out clothes, jeans, and tee shirts that your wear weekly. You don't have to spend a fortune on a closet organizing system when you can stock up on affordable and fun baskets, bins, and storage containers at off-price stores like T.J .Maxx or Marshalls. I always find if I keep it looking pretty, I'm more apt to fold my clothes at the end of the day and hang things up. An organized closet and bedroom will help you stay organized and feel organized even when the rest of your mind is running in a million directions thinking about soccer practice, the latest gossip at the lunch table, worrying about a pop quiz in Spanish class and the math test your have tomorrow.



At the New York Comic Con
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New York Comic Con was held last weekend (October 8-10) at the way-enormous Javits Convention Center in fabulous downtown Manhattan...and IML was there! We had an awesome time, but our feet are still throbbing from walking up and down the cavernous main floor, hour after hour, meeting cool people, checking out the stuff for sale, and taking in the eye-dazzling sights. It was a fun way for us to check out some of the things you talk about on the You Said It pages, and get a sneak peek of what you might soon be talking about in the future.

Con2.jpgWhat is Comic Con? NY Comic Con is the second largest comic book convention in the USA (only the all-powerful San Diego Con is bigger), with over 70 THOUSAND fans attending (that actually makes it the second largest event of any kind in NYC). But the convention is about more than just comic books. This year, fans from all over the world showed up to celebrate video games, sci-fi and action movies, fantasy fiction and graphic novels, vampire and gothic culture, steampunk, animation, role-playing games...you name it, they had it! And this year, the Con incorporated the New York Anime Festival, so there were thousands of dedicated anime and manga fans there too.

Describing everything we saw and did at NY Comic Con would take, well, almost forever. So we'll just give you the highlight reel of what we absolutely loved:

The Costumes. If you've been to a comic convention recently, even a small one, you know that one of the coolest parts of the whole scene is "cosplay," which basically means dressing up in costumes for the fun of it. We saw hundreds upon hundreds of amazing costumes at the con, from instantly-recognizable top-tier superheroes to really obscure video game icons and out-of-this-world fantasy warriors and monsters. We were impressed that a lot of them were homemade, rather than bought-off-the-shelf. Some were so elaborate and complicated that they looked like they took weeks, or even months, to construct. The comic and sci-fi heroes and heroines were awesome, but our faves were the Japanese anime and manga characters, with wild wigs every shape and color you can imagine, cool cloaks, capes and coats, and huge replica weapons. We particularly liked the tweens and teens who showed up in large groups, representing entire casts from their favorite shows and books.

Con1.jpgTriumph of the Nerds. Have you ever been called nerdy, geeky, dweeby, or dorky? Well, at Comic Con, nobody is ever going to call you names...unless they do it as a mark of pride, as in: "We're all nerds here, and we LOVE it!" You see, events like Comic Con are opportunities for fanboys and fangirls to be themselves, and celebrate all the things that make them happy. If you're into sports, you have events like the Super Bowl or the World Cup. If you love music, you can have fun at a concert or band camp. But if you love to geek out with animation, manga, video games, and fantasy, cons are your chance to let your nerd flag fly, make friends, goof around, and just have a blast. And the really BIG conventions like this one show you that you are far, far, from alone in your hobby. Thousands of people are into the same stuff you love, and they're here to share it with you.

Con4.jpgFans of All Types. Fandom isn't limited to one age group, and this was easy to see at the con. IML saw infants in strollers, toddlers in costumes, tweens, teens and young adults having fun, and even a lot of parents and seniors enjoying the scene. We met comic artists and writers just out of college, and listened to stories from some of the giants of the golden age of comics who helped create iconic characters more than sixty years ago. All ethnic groups were represented, and judging by the national flags some people proudly carried, there were fans there from quite a few countries around the globe. We were even impressed by how many girls and women were in attendance!  We're pretty sure there were slightly more guys in the crowd, but it probably won't be long before big conventions like this are equal parts male and female. The era of the fangirl is definitely upon us!

The Razzle-Dazzle. Late in the day, the crowds on the main convention floor actually got a bit too heavy, and it was difficult to move. There were times when we felt like tired salmon, pushing against a current of people. But the throngs of fans are part of the overall spectacle of Comic Con. Loud music, bright lights, huge video screens, giant banners reaching up to the lofty ceilings...big conventions are all about glitz and showmanship. The movie studios and publishing houses spared no expense to pump up the crowd and get everyone excited about their characters and products, and its safe to say that almost everyone got dazzled by something. We liked the deejays spinning tunes, the TV and movie celebs signing autographs, and all the fabulous merchandise for sale. The handmade steampunk goggles, toy weapons, and bizarre gadgets were particularly awesome.

Sneak Previews. Part of the fun of attending a big con is getting a glimpse at upcoming movies, TV shows and books before the world at large gets to see them. There were hundreds of previews for creative projects and products at this year's convention, but we were most excited by the new "Avengers" animated series and a soon-to-be-launched line of graphic novels from Disney.

The Indie Artists. Apart from the main convention floor, there is another huge room with booths from smaller publishers and independent creators and artists. Some of them are just individuals who self-publish and do all their own promotion! We chatted with many of these folks, and it was great to see that creating comics and characters isn't limited to the big, multi-million dollar companies. All it really takes to create something cool is an active imagination, a piece of paper, and a pen. We have to believe that a lot of people who came to the con as fans and then met these cool creators will go home determined to create something themselves.

Do you have a favorite character from the world of comics, graphic novels, anime, or manga? Tell us about it!



We Heart Summer Youth Theatre!
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Hey, what have you been doing so far this summer? Hanging around? Camp? A family trip? Or just doing your best to stay (a) cool and (b) sane?

Some of you IML'ers might be lucky enough to spend extra time doing a thing you love, like a sport or hobby. We were thinking about what these might be. That's when we remembered that a lot of you are into music and drama, and are hopefully getting a chance to explore that this summer...so we took a stroll on YouTube searching for youth theatre videos. Bingo!

If you want to see what some other tweens and teens have been up to, or just need a fix of "Glee"-like fun, here are a couple of our favorite clips.

The WOW Youth Musical Theatre in Weymouth, Dorset in the UK really did wow us with "We Will Rock You" by Queen:
 



Members of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's Youth Repertory Theatre rehearsing "My Junk" from "Spring Awakening":



It's early in the summer still, so we hope there will be more videos giving us a peek at the amazing productions young people are putting together...all over the world, really. Are you part of an upcoming performance that you'd love other IML'ers to see? Whether it's theatre, music, dance, or anything else you're excited about, write to us and tell us more (we'll post info on the shows so people who live nearby can check them out) and if possible, send us a link to the video online. If you want to write anonymously, you can always use our Write To Us page and leave out your email address.

 
Ballroom Kids: Jaryd and Cara
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To round out our series on tweens who are also competitive ballroom dancers, meet Jaryd and Cara!

At this point you may be asking, "IML, why are you doing THREE different interviews on this topic?" Well, when we met all these kids, we couldn't decide who would best represent their sport on our website, so we figured, why not introduce all of them? They're all awesome! We enjoyed getting familiar with this whole world we knew very little about, and helping IML'ers discover it too...especially if someone out there tries ballroom dancing as a result and finds it to be their "thing"!

jaryd&cara.jpgJaryd, who is 12 years old, and Cara, who is 10, have been dancing together for 3 years and have won numerous awards, as well as the honor of appearing on TV's "Good Morning America," "The Today Show," and "Dancing with the Stars." 

IML: How did you two first become ballroom dancing partners?

Jaryd: I've been dancing ballet, tap, lyrical, jazz, and gymnastics since I was 3 1/2 years old, and I started dancing ballroom when I was 8 or 9. One day at a party, my family and Cara's family were sitting at the same table. Cara's mom asked me if I was interested in us being partners. We tried it, and it worked.

Cara: Jaryd did a jazz tap dance and I was like, "Wow!" He was really nice and we felt we could be partners.

IML: You've been partners for 3 years and but soon you're each going to move on to other partnerships, right?

Jaryd: Yes. I really want to start doing 10-dance, which means you dance Latin and Standard dances, and Cara wants to focus just on Latin dancing.

IML: What made yours a successful dance partnership?

Jaryd: We really had fun, and Latin ballroom was a good fit for both of us.

Cara: It's been an excellent experience to be with a partner. The first partner I had was my brother, and he was too tall for me. We kept arguing because we couldn't get the steps right! That never happened with Jaryd. And he does so many different dances, which is so amazing. He was a great partner to have.

IML: Did you ever have any disagreements or conflicts when learning a routine?

Jaryd: Sometimes you trip or fall. You just have to keep working it out until it works.

IML: What's a typical day been like for you, balancing school and life and dance?

Cara: First I go to school, then Jaryd and I would practice together three days a week. We'd be rushing to the car and change and go to the dance studio. It was a little stressful.

Jaryd: I have something to do each day; I don't have a lot of free time. Because I have ballroom some days, and on other days I have ballet or hip-hop. I just made the Lil Torches (a junior cheer-dance team) for the New York Liberty basketball team. So I have to be at Madison Square Garden every week, and it's like a job because I get paid.

IML: Do you miss having free time, or do you feel like it's all worth it?

Jaryd: No, because it's always fun. I really enjoy it. At least I have time to do my homework, and that's important!

IML: Cara, how long does it usually take you to learn a new routine?

Cara: My teacher says I'm a sponge! Because I absorb things very fast. I can usually learn something new in an hour.

IML: Jaryd, your parents also compete in ballroom. Do you and they ever compete at the same event?

Jaryd: Yes! My grandparents and our friends come to watch and cheer all of us. Sometimes I'm waiting to dance right after them and cheering them on while I'm on deck.

IML: That must be a cool thing to share as a family. What have you learned from your parents as dancers?

Jaryd: Sometimes they give me some advice, like to not push my partner off her balance. They help, and it's good to have them around!

IML: Do each of you have a favorite dance style?

Cara: I like Cha Cha and Jive in Latin. In Rhythm, I like Mambo, Swing, and Bolero. I love the beats and the dance steps.

Jaryd: I don't really have a favorite. They're all equal for me. They're all fun!

2010Jaryd_n_Cara_Nationals.jpgIML: What are the judges looking for when they're scoring you?

Jaryd: Sometimes it's not all about the nice moves. It's about all the qualities you have. You should look like you're relaxed and having fun, and not dancing too upright.

IML: In general, what has dance added to your life?

Jaryd: It's given me strength and courage, and it makes me want to keep dancing. It's given me great opportunities because I've met so many people and been taught by so many people.

Cara: It gives me confidence. I think I've grown more because of dance.

IML: How do you prepare yourself mentally before you go out on a competition dance floor?

Jaryd: My teacher says he wants "first place" all the time. Which you can't always get, but he wants to put that in our minds. So before I go on, I think about that and try my best. You have to have confidence and not think, "I'm going to lose," because then you probably will.

IML: When you're dancing, are you aware of what other couples are doing and the audience watching you?

Jaryd: I go pretty much into my zone. I concentrate but also have fun. You can't dance without fun!

IML: What's your happiest or proudest moment from dancing so far?

Cara: When me and Jaryd went on "Dancing with the Stars". Everything was so exciting!

Jaryd: Winning is good, but then if you lose, it makes you want to try harder. You learn from losing.

IML: What's the funniest thing that's ever happened since you've been dancing together?

Cara: Me and Jaryd were practicing once and both of us fell because we tripped on each other's feet.

Jaryd: I slipped once and got up. When I spin sometimes, my snot comes out!

IML: That's hilarious! What advice do you have for other kids and teens who might want to get involved in ballroom dancing?

Cara: Never give up on yourself. If you think you can't do something, you really can...Anybody can do anything!

Jaryd: Keep dancing, or at least try it. If you think you're not good, just keep trying. Don't stop. Keep your confidence up.

IML: Thanks, guys! Good luck to both of you!

Watch Jaryd and Cara dancing their way to 3rd place at the recent USA Dance Nationals:



One thing we noticed is that even though all six of these "Ballroom Kids" work really hard and have to be super-committed to their sport, there's no doubt they love it passionately and truly enjoy themselves. We hope you enjoyed this peek into the world of ballroom dancing, and we hope to delve deeper into other lesser-known sports for kids in the future on this blog!

Do you know of a a cool sport or hobby that other tweens might not know about, and think we should investigate? Let us know!


Ballroom Kids: Ivan and Madelyne
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ivan&madelyne.jpgIf you thought it was amazing that Michelle and Dmitriy are such awesome ballroom dancers at such a young age, you'll also be wowed by Michelle's sister Madelyne and her partner, Ivan. Madelyne and Ivan are just 8 years old and have been dancing together for 2 years. They placed 1st the last four times they competed. What's it like to be dancing the Samba and Rumba and Paso Doble -- and winning medals for it -- before you're even out of elementary school? Read on!

IML: It was exciting for us to first meet you in the practice room at the USA Dance Nationals, then watch you compete, and then see you win first place! What did it feel like when you won?

Ivan: When there's two couples left, just you and another one, and they call their names for second place, you know you've won first place. We were happy before we even got our prize!

IML: How did you first get started in ballroom dance, and how did you get paired up together?

Ivan: I started when I was 4. I was pretty much with different partners every single day in my dance studio. Everybody else was lower or higher in level and age than me, and then I met Madelyn and she was the perfect age and height. Our birthdays are only 20 days apart!

Madelyne: I got started in ballroom dancing when I was 3 years old. When I was 4 or 5, I was dancing with a boy named Robert who was taller than me so I only danced with him for a little bit. Then the dance studio put Ivan and me together to try it out and practice together, and finally we decided that we could be partners.

IML: When you first started dancing together, what did you think of each other?

Madelyne: I really didn't know him at first. I wasn't sure if he would be a good dancer or a bad dancer...then I saw him and his partner dance together and he was really good!

IML: It seems like you have a lot of fun dancing together, which is important. Do you ever have arguments?

Ivan: No, never! Not even one time.

IML: Glad to hear it! Do you spend time together outside of dance?

Madelyne: Yes! Last year we went to the same camp so we were there together. Sometimes we have playdates together.

IML: Do your parents dance, too?

Ivan: When my mom was a little kid, she danced. I have three reasons why I like to dance. The first reason is that I was born to dance. My second reason is that I've always had the feeling that I want to dance. The third reason is because my mom danced and her hobby went to me when I was born.

IML: Does it feel special for you to share this hobby with her?

Ivan: Yes, definitely!

IML: Madelyne, does your older sister Michelle give you advice?

Madelyne: It's really cool to share dance with her. When I need help with something or if I want to get better at something, she's there for me. 

IML: Do each of you have a favorite dance style?

Ivan: I have more than just one. My favorites are Waltz and Paso Doble.

Madelyne: I like Rumba, Paso Doble, Waltz and Quickstep. In Quickstep I like to run and it's really fast, so it's like running but you're not running. And I like to dance Waltz because it's a very slow melody and I like the sound of it. With Rumba, you've done these other dance styles that are very hard but Rumba kind of relaxes you. I like Paso because you have to try really hard, and I like putting a lot of effort into my dancing.

IML: How much time do you spend dancing?

Madelyne: We dance Monday through Saturday, every week.

IML: And you never get sick of it?

Ivan: No!

IML: Dancers in the older age groups get to wear fancy dresses, and Madelyne, we watched you collecting lost sequins off the dance floor after they performed. Do you do that at every competition?

Madelyne: Yes! I collect sequins for when we get older and I can make a nice costume! I want to put some things on a dress to make it prettier. And I like to see how they sparkle.

IML: What's the funniest thing that ever happened to you during a competition?

Madelyne: Once I was at a competition regional. We were doing Samba and my partner forgot the whole routine, so I had to basically do all the steps by myself. It was really funny because you could see that we were messing up. We still won first place!

Ivan and Madelyne are proof that when it comes to being really dedicated, hard-working, and talented at something, age doesn't matter.

Check out Ivan and Madelyne dancing their way to first place at the recent USA Dance 2010 National DanceSport Champtionships. One of the things we found interesting about ballroom dancing for kids is that there are strict rules about what they can wear in competition, which puts an emphasis on what's appropriate for certain age groups.



"Ballroom Week" on IML continues this weekend when we meet Jaryd and Cara!

 
Ballroom Kids: Dmitriy and Michelle
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This is a really sweet spot of the year for fans of TV dance shows! "Dancing with the Stars" just ended and "So You Think You Can Dance" is getting underway. We've got all the Cha Cha, Waltz, Tango, Samba, and other ballroom dance styles you could possible ask for.

Ballroom dance has been around for a long time but in recent years, has swelled in popularity thanks in part to these television hits. For more and more people of all ages, it's a fun and exciting hobby, and for many, a sport where kids as young as 7 years old, as well as adults and even senior citizens, compete! 

Recently, IML was invited to attend the USA Dance 2010 National DanceSport Championships to watch the country's most talented young ballroom dancers face off in Latin and Standard divisions. (In Latin competition, dancers must perform the Cha Cha, Rumba, Tango, Paso Doble, and Jive styles; in Standard they perform the Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, and Quickstep. That's ten different routines!)

We were amazed not just by the level of dancing but also the passion and commitment of these kids and tweens. In the next few days, we'll meet three different pairs of "USA Dance Ballroom Kids" whose accomplishments and dedication we find inspiring.

dmitriy&michelle1.jpgFirst, meet Dmitriy and Michelle. Although they're just 12 years old, they've been dancing together for almost 6 years, during which they've won many awards and appeared on "Dancing with the Stars."  

IML: How did each of you get started in ballroom dance?

Michelle: I got started in ballroom dancing when I was about 6 years old. I was at the age when I was exploring many different activities, like swimming and gymnastics. One day my mom's friend introduced me to dancing and I tried it, and fell in love with it. It felt like I was sort of destined to do it. I was just so fun and I kept asking my mom to go to the dance classes. From that day on I've been dancing!

Dmitriy: When it was my 4th birthday, my parents took me to a dance studio and signed me up for a group class. I really liked it so I kept going week after week, and eventually I got my first partner. We went to a first competition and it was amazing to see how everything worked. I liked it a lot and I didn't quit and I kept on practicing, and now I'm here with my partner, going to different competitions, going around the country...meeting different people and seeing different things!

IML: How did the two of you get paired up?

Michelle: We went to this group class, and our teacher noticed that together we would make a very good dancing couple. We tried it out and it went really well, so from that day on we continued to be partners. And here we are 5 1/2 years later, still dancing together!

IML: That's almost half your life! How has your partnership changed in that time?

Dmitriy: We started off not knowing each other and then as the years went by, we got to know each other more, going to each other's houses. It became a very social and very comfortable relationship. Now we know each other really well and we're really good friends.

IML: What do you think makes a successful dance partnership?

Michelle: We both work together. It's not one person's job. If you don't enjoy dancing together, it shows when you're actually dancing on the floor, so having a good relationship really helps things build and helps you dance better.

IML: Do you think you'd be friends if you'd never become dance partners?

Michelle: We probably would never have met because we come from different areas!

IML: It sounds like dance exposes you to a lot of really great people you wouldn't normally meet. Tell us a bit about a typical day for you. You've got school and social life and family life and dance. How do you balance everything?

Michelle: A typical day would be going to school until 3pm, then we come home from school, eat, do a little bit of homework, and then go to dance at the studio. Usually we dance about 45 minutes each day. After that we come home and finish the rest of our work.

IML: Michelle, your younger sister Madelyne also competes in ballroom dance. Do you give her tips and advice?

Michelle: It's really fun because sometimes I teach her, and she gets to learn from me. I like to be the role model and to show her how to be a successful dancer. Because of dancing we've become much closer. She supports me in competition and I support her in competition!

IML: That's a great thing to share! Dmitriy, what kinds of comments or questions do you get from guys your age who aren't involved in dance?

Dmitriy: Most of them are just like, "What is ballroom dancing?" Other people are like, "We've never heard of this sport, it sounds fun." Some are like, "Oh, I don't think that's cool." I get a lot of different things people say. I just let everybody know how much I like it. Everybody sees my videos on YouTube and I'm cool about people having different opinions and different questions.

IML: Do you feel like you can educate other kids about ballroom? A lot of people don't know anything about it.

Dmitriy: We like to tell people about it, and some people even start taking lessons as a result. We kind of start them on their journey of ballroom dancing, and it's really great to see other people learning what it is. Some people take it to the next level.

IML: In a ballroom dance competition, you're scored by judges. What do they look for?

Dmitriy: They're looking at your technique and your performance overall. How you attract the audience. Like, you can be dancing and nobody really knows you're there, but some people can be dancing and you can just see the excitement in the audience about them. You want to be like that.

IML: When you're competing on a dance floor full of other couples, do you know when you're really standing out and people are noticing you? Or are you just focusing on your own routine?

Michelle: When we go on the floor, it's like we're the only people there. We just pretend there's no one there and that we're just dancing like we do in our studio, because that's where I dance the best. So I just enjoy myself and I have fun with it!

IML: When we watched you in the competition, we thought it was funny how everyone avoids bumping into one another or when another couple gets between you. It's part of the competition that you need to deal with that, right? Is it hard?

Dmitriy: It's sometimes hard to deal with in a big competition, but you get used to going around a person or you can modify a move to make it look like it's supposed to be in your routine. Sometimes it's experimenting with different things. Sometimes it actually makes it better...and sometimes it doesn't.

dmitriy@michelle2.jpgIML: Do you have a favorite dance style among the styles you do?

Michelle: We do Latin and Standard, and my favorite of those is Rumba. It's slow and it's sort of like the lady's dance, so I get to express my feelings and show my lines in that dance.

Dmitriy: My favorite dance is the Quickstep. I like it because it's really fast and there are a lot of really small steps. It's really quirky and there are lots of tricks you can do with your feet. It's fun to do and really fun to watch.

IML: What has dance given you in life so far? 

Michelle: Dance has definitely given me more self-confidence. When we go to competitions we dance in front of a lot of groups of people, so when you go into the world, it's more like you're comfortable with being around people. It's not as stressful. When you dance, you sort of just let go, and it helps you learn to do that in life as well.

Dmitriy: I've become more comfortable around groups of people when I'm performing. I feel like I can express myself more and I'm not as shy as I was before I started dancing. It's just given me a whole new opportunity. Now I'm more open to people because of dance.

IML: Why do you think ballroom dance has become so popular with young people?

Michelle: It's sort of like the new thing, and a lot of kids are trying it. They really like it and they tell their friends, and it spreads from there.

IML: What's your proudest or happiest moment so far?

Dmitriy: My proudest moment is when it's a big competition and you make it to the final, and you feel that adrenalin rush going through your body. Then you just perform everything you know, and you give it all your best. Then later when you're standing on the podium you're just thinking, what place am I going to get? You feel confident and proud that you've made it here, because of all the people who've helped you in life.

Michelle: My proudest moment is probably right before I go on the dance floor. Because I just feel like I'm getting really pumped and excited to show what I've been working for, and I can't wait to show my parents and other family members who support me how much it's all paid off!

IML: What's the funniest thing that ever happened during a competition?

Michelle: That was probably when we were dancing and I accidentally tripped! I stumbled and I got back up and continued to do the routine.

Dmitriy: My funniest moment was when I was dancing Quickstep and right in the middle of the routine, my shoe popped right off. So it took some time...we didn't totally stop, we kept on dancing. But I just had to take some time to put on my shoe and it was really funny to experience that.

IML: What's something that people might be surprised to know about ballroom dance?

Michelle: It's much harder than it looks. When we're dancing, we're just pretending it's really easy.  A lot of people start doing it thinking it's going to be easy and then discover how tough it really is.

Dmitriy: If you see people practice and how much effort and time people put in it, and how you have to memorize all the routines, you'll see the truth behind it. People get surprised by how hard everybody works.

IML: What advice do you have for other kids and teens who might want to get involved in ballroom dance?

Michelle: Ballroom dance is hard, so you have to be willing to work really hard. You have to be willing to not be afraid to go into a big crowd of people. But it's a really fun sport and out of it I've made a lot of new friends I would never have made if I hadn't been dancing!

IML: Thanks Michelle and Dmitriy! And good luck!

Take a look at Dmitriy and Michelle during a recent Latin competition:



And here they are doing their Standard routines:



Go Dmitriy! Go Michelle! For more information about ballroom dance, visit www.USADance.org.

Next, we'll meet Michelle's younger sister Madelyne and her partner, Ivan. Stay tuned!

 

Greyson Chance...Was It By Chance?
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Surely you've seen the video by now. Almost 12 MILLION people have!

Oklahoma sixth-grader Greyson Chance sang "Paparazzi" for his school talent show but maybe he should have sung "Fame" instead...because that's what he's getting. Like, instantly. (Just add YouTube, mix, and ta-da!)

First of all, let us just say that Greyson's Lady Gaga cover is acoustic awesomeness indeed. This guy clearly has loads of talent. A sweet, funny, down-to-earth personality too, judging from his interview with Ellen Degeneres. We love his original songs "Stars" and "Broken Hearts" that you can also watch online. (We also love the wall of girls watching him in the video. You just know they're all quietly like, "OMG!!!!!")

But is there anything that sets Greyson apart from any one of the many, many gifted tweens out there who share their passion and performances with the world? Is Greyson just a kid who sang a song, put the video online, and somehow magically grabbed millions of views in a couple of weeks? Or is there something truly special about him, so special that nobody else doing a cool piano version of "Paparazzi" would ever make the same splash? What do you think?

There are a lot of people out there trying to figure out why one thing goes "viral" online and becomes a huge hit, while another thing doesn't. Maybe it just takes the right people discovering and sharing it; maybe you have to come up with the right thing at the right time. For instance, maybe Greyson's success is related to the fact that (1) Lady Gaga is fiery hot right now, (2) Justin Bieber, who he slightly resembles, is fiery hot right now, (3) "Glee" is fiery hot too so that any young person who sings their heart out and does it well will really strike a nerve, and (4) "American Idol" is NOT fiery hot this season and there haven't been any contestants to get people excited.

Greyson put his video online because he loves to perform and wanted to share his passion with the world. We hope that other young people will do the same for the same reasons, and not focus on the possibility of insta-fame. Here at IML we'll be searching the Web to bring you videos from young people that we find inspiring, and might be just as deserving as attention as Greyson's. And in the meantime...you go, Greyson! Thank you for letting us enjoy your talents. You truly do rock!