Solo Routine, In-Depth Post #7

To end off In-Depth 2016 with a bang, here is an extra bonus post featuring my filmed solo routine to ‘Dirty Mind’ by Flo Rida. This has been a long time in the making, and I am so thankful for this whole experience. I am very excited to continue to pursue hip-hop in the future and see where this journey takes me. I hope you enjoy!

Please note that the quality of the video is a bit poor due to my camera quality, but unfortunately there was nothing I could do about it. Hopefully it isn’t to much of a distraction.

The End, In-Depth Post #6

With just eight weeks left of school many projects are coming to an end, including In-Depth. This year has flown by so fast, I am struggling to process the fact that it will be May in less then 48 hours. That means we are just weeks away from Adventure Trip and, you guessed it, my final In-Depth night as a TALONS student.

In the past sixteen weeks I have learnt so much from both my mentor, Mika Backus, and dance instructor, Bev Soh. Together they have provided me with the skills and dance moves to choreograph my own routine, as well as follow along with a choreographed one. As mentioned in previous blogposts, I have used those skills to choreograph my own solo routine which I will be posting on my YouTube channel in the following weeks. Without spoiling to much, Mika and I have been working together to produce a faster, upbeat dance to the song ‘Dirty Mind ft. Sam Martin’ by Flo Rida.
Initially, I was a bit hesitant about the song choice, but Mika knew it was one of my favourites and motivated me to challenge myself with a trickier piece. At this point, to keep the suspense, I do not wish to spill to much more about the piece. But, to give you a sense of where this dance is going, I will add that I tried to incorporate many of the moves I have documented over the past couple months; including, the following five moves.

     New Moves:
1) Kick-hop Sequence
2) Swipe
3) Lean and Flex
4) Wave
5) Pop

On top of the solo routine, I will performing a trio with Anne Yolland and Alyssa Turcott on In-Depth night. This was also mentioned in some of my previous blog posts, but now that the clock is ticking, this routine has become my main focus for this project. The three of us will be meeting at 5:30pm this coming Sunday night to figure out all the details and make a rough outline of our dance. As of now, we have decided to each choreograph a certain time interval of the piece (tentatively set at 1 min. 30 secs. each), as well as change formations so each one of us has a chance to showcase what we learnt. After we finalize the rest of the details we will each to go our separate ways and practice independently before our next rehearsal to maximize our remaining time.

One topic I have not touched on as much over the course of this project is my workout routine. In my introduction post I stated that one of my goals was to set a workout/practice schedule after the lessons end (month 3 onward) to work on my time management skills. I have been struggling to find time to keep up with this; however, I have now perfected a workout routine that is both, flexible (fits within my hectic schedule) and an appropriate level of difficulty. As indicated by the word flexible, I do not do this routine at the same time everyday. This is due to theatre, TALONS events/meetings, weight training sessions, nap time, etc. Instead, I have been doing it on weekends and the two least-hectic weekdays of the week, whichever those may be. I have noticed that this has impacted my dancing significantly, and built up my stamina for longer rehearsals. To read through the workout routine more thoroughly, please click on the link above.

To conclude my final In-Depth blog post, I am very grateful to have had this experience and the opportunity to learn a new skill that I have only dreamt about learning until now. I would not go as far as to say I am a professional, but you could call me a master of the basics. Fingers crossed that I will remember these moves down the road, because who knows when they will come in handy. For now, I am excited to share the final product in a couple weeks and showcase my learning. Hopefully the suspense isn’t to much to bare.

Workout Routine, Bonus In-Depth Post

One of the key components to improving your dance ability is building up flexibility, strength, and stamina through a frequent workout routine. As much as I would love to wake up one day and become an amazing dancer, it doesn’t work that way. It works with hard work and perseverance. That means, setting aside a time multiple times a week to workout. Personally, I prefer working out weekends, as well as the two least-hectic weekdays of the week, whichever those may be. With that in mind, below is my six step workout routine:

Step 1) Warm-up: Light jog around my neighbourhood (5-10mins.)

Step 2) Abs: This step tends to vary the most, but typically I settle on 45 crunches followed by a 60 sec. plank. Together, these exercises strengthen both the core and lower back muscles.

Step 3) Biceps: In terms of biceps, my options were very limited because most exercises require equipment I do not own. In the end, I settled on 30 low-pulley curls. It is very similar to lifting weights, but instead you used a long elastic, or pulley, placed under the arch of your foot while you pull upward. This exercise focuses on your biceps, brachialis and your brachioradialis.

Step 4) Butt: For this, I use the very simple, yet very effective exercise known as squats. Typically I will do a total of 30 squats. unless the music is very motivational and pushes me to continue further. This exercise focuses on your lower body, more specifically you quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.

Step 5) Cardio: For cardio, I take a 2.5km bike ride on my basement exercise bike (5-10mins.) This exercise increases the strength of your heart and lungs.

Step 6) Flexibility Stretches: To finish off, I like to use a variety of stretches to cool down and work on flexibility. These include, back-bend, cobra pose, butterfly, and splits (or an attempt at the splits).

In conclusion, I prefer to keep my routine short and simple for scheduling purposes and because its an effective and affordable alternative to going to the gym that can be done from the comfort of my own home. Hopefully, this was informative and gave a good insight to my personal routine. Feel free to leave any questions in the comments below.

Confident, In-Depth Post #5

After many weeks of anticipation it is finally time to reveal the completed dance to Demi Lovato’s ‘Confident’ choreographed by Bev Soh. Together, Anne, Alyssa, Mira, and myself have been attending dance lessons every Tuesday from 5:30pm-6:30pm for five weeks, as well as an extra filming session to produce this music video. Each week we learnt a 20 second interval incorporating many of the moves I have documented in the past four posts. As far as my first ever dance goes, I would say mission accomplished.

I would like to thank Mika Backus for providing me with this learning opportunity. This class exposed me to the basics of hip-hop in a safe and welcoming environment. In terms of other learning opportunities, she has let me take the lead in most of our lessons together to help me learn the moves I am more interested in and take this project in the direction I wish to meet my ultimate goal. This is a very huge learning opportunity because I have had the chance to learn anything I pleased and she is ready and there to teach me as my mentor. With that in mind, this also allows for accelerated learning, as I can direct the pace we go at in each lesson and slow down/speed up depending on the situation that day. She has also sent me many YouTube videos to view before our lesson to use our time more effectively and speed up the learning process. When it comes to reinforcing new learning, Mika has consistently started our lessons by reviewing what we learnt at Room to Move (Confident choreography) and reviewing the moves that we learnt at our previous lesson for my solo routine. She has also taken on Alyssa and Anne periodically to give us the opportunity to learn and grow as a group.

Mika and I knew each other before the project, so when we meet we talk about almost anything under the sun. Our main topic being hip-hop of course. We discuss dance moves, pre-choreographed routines, my routine, Bev’s choreography etc. She explains the steps of each move in slow motion, as well as demonstrats to the beat of the music, so I can immerse myself in the move when trying it. Dance aside, Mika and I love bonding over Starbucks, or coffee in general for that matter. We have discussed the new spring drinks, old spring drinks we have missed, and upcoming sales/deals. This provided us a common ground to bond with each other and build our relationship. Having known her before, we also frequently discuss other school events/drama/projects, so we can plan our lessons accordingly. Mika does a very good job taking into account my stress level and schedule and has consistently remained available for me whenever I have time.

In the mentoring relationship there are many more pros than cons at this point. During the first few lessons, Mika and I struggled to balance pacing, but we have now reached a consensus and developed a regular routine when we meet. Working through our conflicting work styles has definitely benefitted our relationship and made us closer as a mentor and mentee. We have a very open relationship, and I feel comfortable asking Mika anything. There is never any awkward silences or break in conversation. I believe this is due to our trust and faith in each other. I am very thankful to have found a mentor that I share such a god bond with.

I have learnt a lot about Mika over the past couple months. For instance, her favourite Starbucks drink is a Vanilla Latte. Aside from that, I have learnt that she is very passionate about salsa. Of all the dance styles that one is by far her favourite. She also loves giving back to her community and volunteering for various different events as she is very social and loves meeting new people. In return, she has learnt about my hobbies (eg. curling) and favourite Starbucks drinks. I am confident we will keep this bond after this project and I now feel very welcome when I am around her. Can’t wait to see whats next!

Filming Day, In-Depth post #4

I can’t wrap my head around the fact that it is already the end of week nine. Where has time gone?! Two weeks ago was my fifth and final session at Room Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 11.10.26 PMto Move Dance and Fitness Studio we filmed the final dance that will be edited and up on YouTube in the upcoming weeks. Unfortunately some of the sections needed retakes, so we re-filmed them this past Saturday morning (the final video will hopefully be included in my next blog post). Heading into week ten I am very excited to start more one-on-one lessons with my mentor, as well as bi-weekly meetings with Anne and Alyssa (dates to be determined).

Mika and I have met once in the past couple weeks on Sunday, February 28, 2016. We were on a very tight timeline due to prior scheduling issues, so we were only able to squeeze in a 2 hour morning session. This forced us to use our time wisely and effectively to maximize the progress and learning. As this was two days before the filming day of our routine to Demi Lovato’s ‘Confident’ we spent the majority of the time fine tuning the dance and focusing on minor details. I struggled with the last 30 seconds of the routine in particular due to it’s upbeat pace, but I now have the timing down pat. The footwork on the other hand still needed a little more work. Apparently the concept of left foot vs. right foot is difficult. During the last half an hour we worked on various dance moves that we will later apply in my solo routine that I will start learning this week.

    New moves:
1) Wave
2) Box
3) Grapevine
4) Shamrock
5) Double-pony

One of our most difficult mentoring challenges so far has been teaching pace, which in turn makes communication difficult at times. I am a very fast learner, but it has been hard to find a good pace for us to move at during our lessons with the differing levels of difficulty of the various moves. If we go to fast I end up learning the move sloppily; however, going to slow can cause boredom and frustration. Mika and I have not have very many sessions at this point, but during the final months of the project we have planned to meet weekly. Hopefully this will be help us match each others teaching and learning paces. In terms of communication, our differences in pace can sometimes result in confusion or pent up frustration. In some situations can lead to an unhealthy relationships. To avoid this, we have been working towards fixing our differences by explaining when we are not seeing eye-to-eye before the situation has the chance to escalate. We also took the opportunity to stop by Starbucks at the end our lesson as a casual bonding experience to get to know and understand each other better.

Together we could use the following strategies to help the above:

  1. Stop. Explain. Restart. By stopping the other person you can explain where you got lost or frustrated and restart from the point where things did make sense (eg. the beginning of the 8-count in the music).
  2. Patience (this was mentioned in my previous blog post): let the other person finish what they are saying before you start talking.
  3. Asking questions. Ask when things get confusing or there is a misunderstanding.
  4. Acknowledging when the pace is to fast or to slow and stating it

On a more positive note, Mika and I are very positive people. We both share the belief that anything is possible and this has motivated us significantly along this journey. Whenever I meet with Mika the environment is very positive, open, and welcoming. I never feel embarrassed. Our ability to encourage one another is something that is working very well. We respect our positions as mentor and mentee and have created a very healthy bond, which loops around to what I stated above, creates a positive and open environment. The environment has also helped us in bettering our communication in times when it wasn’t working as well and allowed us to be open with one another without saying anything offensive.

In conclusion, I am very happy with the progress made in the past few weeks and I am excited to open a new chapter of this project choreographing my own routines. In the weeks to come I intend to upload some of my routines onto my Youtube channel and later post the links in my blog. I don’t know whats in store, but I know it will be an amazing experience.


Healthy Relationships, In-Depth Post #3

It’s only been 3 official dance lessons and we are almost done our first routine. That being said, a lot of my progress was also made outside of lessons during extra sessions with my mentor, Mika Backus. She has been helping me polish the choreography taught after each lesson so I would be fully prepared for the following week.

In the past two weeks I have learnt a total of five new moves that include:

  1. Three step spin
  2. Shoulder roll
  3. Door knobs
  4. Running man
  5. Hair flip

All the moves listed above were included in the choreography for the routine I am learning to the song Confident by Demi Lovato (NOTE: a sneak peek of the dance will be added to this post soon, but due to technical issues the file will not be up till later this weekend.) Between lessons with Bev and extra practice sessions with Mika this dance has come really far in a short amount of time. I feel like the mentor sessions in particular have really helped me better my abilities each week.


This past weekend Mika and I met on Valentines day for a hour long lesson to work on the new choreography from the lesson on Tuesday, February 9th, 2016. We started off by walking through the choreography slowly with counting to make sure I understood how to perform each move and what the correct timing was. Following that, I performed the dance once for her at full speed so that she could point out areas that needed improvement. This was a very effective method of figuring out my weaknesses and picking more specific areas to focus on during our lesson. From there we worked on my technique (position & posture) on the moves I struggled with most. Mika focused on my areas of weakness to help me better my dancing the best she could. This really helped me improve both in terms of my technique and my confidence in myself and my performance.

In the middle of our lesson, Mika and I took a break to join Mira for some fresh baked cinnamon rolls and a large class of water each, courtesy of Buzzfeed recipes. This gave us some time to bond and engage on a more personal level. It was interesting to find someone who shared many similar interests in a very different age group. It’s not something that I have fully experienced before. I’ve noticed that this sometimes has to do with adults being less open with children and vice versa, but I feel like our relationship is shaping up to be anything but that. Mika and I think very similarly, which helps us communicate very effectively. I never feel nervous or afraid to ask or share anything. Bonding experiences such as this one (eating cinnamon rolls together) have definitely had a significant impact on bettering our relationship and ultimately creating an open learning environment.

As a whole, I would consider the relationship between myself and Mika very positive. However, that does not mean that there aren’t any areas of improvement. In every relationship there are still weaker areas that both people need to focus. In ours, these include, not talking over each other, and attentively listening to one another. These both go hand in hand with one another in that by bettering one the other gets bettered with it. Both of us tend to get excited and start to speak over each other with the assumption that we know what the other person was going to say. This has not made to great of an impact on our relationship as a whole, but it is an area that could use some improvement. Some strategies that I would like to implement to solve this would be:

  1. Listen more, talk less. Pay attention to what the other person it saying, who knows they might say exactly what you were about to interrupt them to say.
  2. Stay in the present. Avoiding getting caught up in the excitement of the future even if it is only minutes away and focus on the person who is talking now.
  3. Be patient. Let the person finish their train of thought.

Over the course of the next two weeks, Mika and I have planned two more mentor sessions to practice the choreography before the final filming date of our first completed routine. This will be a good time to implement the strategies above and take time to focus on listening, rather than jumping right in as we’ve done in our past lessons. Hopefully this will lead to an even healthier relationship.

First Dance Lesson, In-Depth Post #2

On February 2, 2016 I attended my first dance lesson since my tiny tots ballet classes at the age of three. Let’s just say, ballet didn’t stick. Hip hop on the other hand was a whole new world. It was nothing like ballet. There is a much greater focus on attitude and much smaller focus on technique and perfect posture.

When I arrived at my lesson on Tuesday night I had no idea what to expect. I approached the door alongside Anne excited about the new opportunities. The moment I walked through the door the dance instructor, Bev Soh, took one look at me and said “I’ve taught you!” After some discussion of where we could have met we realized she had been a substitute teacher for Mr.Beveridge when I was in the MACC class at Kwayhquitlum Middle School. On top of that she also taught the dance unit to my PE 7 class. While you might not think it, this gave me a great sense of welcoming and comfort in the environment that only grew as the night went on. Bev maintained a very open and supportive environment in her class. She 12669291_526694584176588_951299010_otaught the moves while keeping everyone comfortable and included throughout the whole night. Even though Bev is not my “mentor” I do feel I have learnt a great deal from her as a leader. Some of her main strategies included, taking initiative, engaging with each of her students (getting to know each one on a more personal level, and using humour to keep a positive mood.

In terms of new dance moves, I have learnt a total of 5 new moves. These include:

  1. Body roll
  2. Shoulder shrugs
  3. Hip thrusts
  4. Hip ball change
  5. Slide and step

The following day I was able to meet up with my official mentor Mika Backus who also takes hip hop lessons from Bev at Room to Move Dance and Fitness Studio. Below is one of her group routines from the ‘Music video Hip-Hop’ class at Room to Move Dance Studio. Mika is second from the left and Bev is third from the left.

Before that, she took lessons from an array of different studios that specified in different dance styles. These studios include, Caulfield School of Dance, Coastal Edge Dance Centre, Prism Dance Centre, and Tri-City School of Dance, specializing in tap, jazz, ballet, hip hop, can-can, salsa, chacha, and more. She has been dancing for over 20 years on top of her full time job as a paralegal assistant, wife, and a mother of two. Since she was little she always had a passion for dance, but her mom forced her into piano instead so she did not get the opportunity pursue dance as a serious hobby till much later in her life. During our lesson she said, “When I joined dance, I loved it instantly. It felt so natural.”

In a matter of one week, I feel like I have gained a great deal of new skills from Mika as a dancer. One note that we both noticed from my lesson on Tuesday was that I was very stiff, but I feel that in just one hour Mika was able to help me improve drastically. She helped me become more comfortable in my skin and let loose to improve my attitude for our first routine choreographed by Bev Soh to the song Confident by Demi Lovato (the final dance will be posted at the end of our 5 week course). I am very excited to demonstrate my new skills at our next lesson.

On top of that, Mika demonstrated a lot of qualities of a good leader/mentor. I noticed that she planned her lessons around what I wanted to learn and my personal goals for the project. She created a very free environment where I could pitch ideas and ask questions as an equal rather than someone of a lower standing. I very much appreciate when adults talk to/treat me as an equal and create an environment where I feel comfortable to have a real conversation as appose to the awkward back and forth that can happen between adults and kids/teenagers. Mika also helped me evaluate my own progress by filming me at the end of our lesson so we could watch and reflect on what looked good vs. what I needed to improve on.

For future endeavours as a leader I hope to take away many of the skills both Mika and Bev used in their teaching styles; including, taking initiative, using humour and warmth to create a welcome environment, engaging with my mentee (taking into account their opinions), and treating the mentee as an equal. I also hope to take videos after all my sessions to log my improvement in the course and note what needs to be improved for the following weeks to come. Overall, I am very glad I chose this project and very fortunate to have such wonderful mentors guiding me through this process.

New year. New In-Depth.

Here I am writing this post for the second time as grade 10 TALONS student. You would think that I would know by now not to procrastinate on blog posts, but one year later and I’m still at it. That being said, in the craziness of the first week I was able to find the time to plan out my second, and potentially last, In-Depth project. Hip hop. I had multiple impromptu planning sessions with Anne and Alyssa to plan out the overlapping components of our In-Depth projects; including, signing up for hip hop lessons, answering certain contract questions, and planning our final performance (see rough outline in contract), as well as many late nights working on my own personal goals. Looking ahead at what’s to come for 2016, I know it will be hectic and I probably won’t get much sleep, but I am stoked for the experiences to come!

Making the decision to do hip hop was not nearly as easy as choosing my grade 9 In-Depth project. Unlike last year, I had tons of skills I was interested in learning, such as boxing, entrepreneurship, hip hop, sound engineering, and more. The night before school started again, I finally narrowed it down to my top two; boxing and hip hop. I knew I had to decide before Friday, and with the pressure of the due date being so near, I made the split decision to do boxing. After some further investigation, and a marathon of hip hop routines on YouTube, I quickly changed my mind. Maybe it’s because I got inspired by YouTube performances, or maybe it’s because my parents weren’t to keen on me fighting others, or maybe it’s because I went to see So You Think You Can Dance Live Tour w/ Anne Yolland (see footage below), but I am confident that I made the right choice.

As I mentioned above, I will be collaborating with Anne and Alyssa during this project. You will notice the structures of our projects are very similar. All three of us will be taking dance lessons together with choreographer Bev Soh, as well as meeting frequently to share what we have learnt. In terms of solo components, we will each be meeting with our own mentors and moving at our own pace. We also each chose our own goals for the outcome of this project based on our vision for the next five months and the areas we wanted to focus on. Below is my monthly schedule, as well as a list of my personal goals for the project.

  • Month 1:
    Research – History of hip hop/it’s influence (websites)
    – YouTube tutorials on basic hip hop moves for beginners
    Biweekly mentor sessions w/ Mika Backus (every 2 weeks)
    Weekly workouts
  • Month 2:
    Hip Hop Lessons – Room to Move Dance & Fitness Studio w/ Bev Soh
    – Taken w/ Alyssa Turcott & Anne Yolland
    (5 sessions; Tues, February 2nd – Tues, March 1st from 5:30-6:30pm)
    Continue Biweekly Mentor Sessions w/ Mika Backus (every 2 weeks)
    Weekly workouts
  • Month 3:
    Weekly mentor sessions w/ Mika Backus
    Biweekly meetings w/ Alyssa Turcott & Anne Yolland (every 2 weeks)
    Weekly workouts
  • Month 4:
    See month 3.
    Choreograph first dance – preparation for final project
  • Month 5:
    Weekly mentor sessions w/ Mika Backus
    Weekly meetings w/ Alyssa Turcott & Anne Yolland
    Weekly workouts
    Polish performance – preparation for final project


  1. Create an inventory of hip hop moves on my blog (5+ moves per post)
  2. Choreograph my own routine (1-2mins.)
  3. Learn the basics of hip hop (history + technique)
  4. Set a workout/practice schedule after the lessons end (month 3 onward) to work on my time management skills

(NOTE: This schedule is flexible and likely to change. Updates will be given in following blog posts.)

You may have noticed the name Mika Backus came up multiple times in my monthly schedule. No, she is not some random person whose house I intend to show up at for dance lessons every week. Mika, otherwise known as Mira’s mother, has kindly agreed to step up and be my mentor for the next 5 months. My biggest worry when choosing hip hop for my In-Depth had been finding a mentor. I spent hours over the holidays looking at different dance studios and hip hop dancers in the Tri-Cities. Most classes were not for my age range nor level, and those that were, were very expensive. I mentioned this in conversation one day with Mira, and she told me her mom was a dancer. One quick text later, she agreed to be my mentor. I later found out that she has been taking hip hop for the past few years at Room to Move Dance and Fitness Studio with Bev Soh, giving her connections to a few different choreographers. I am so grateful that she has agreed to help me along my journey and relieve me from the stress of finding a mentor. I send my thanks!

In conclusion, I can safely say the next five months will be full of fantastic new experiences. One of them being next week. I will be having my first official meeting with my mentor and I am ready to get started. In-Depth 2016 begins!