Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Where to Dance around the world

I like to dance whenever I'm on the road traveling. Whether in an open public space or in a dance studio. Dance is the one constant thing in my life that I've had since I was about 4 years old as a young ballet student. Having grown up and lived around the world, there is nothing that grounds me more than the freedom of movement. As a dancer, I've danced/performed or taught in Jakarta, Singapore, Bangkok, Manilla, Kuala Lumpur, Claremont, Los Angeles, Durham, Oakland, New York City, Houston, Washington D.C., Toronto, Guangzhou, Edinburgh. I love the dancing traveling life! (Book me for teaching workshops!)

I'm currently creating a Dance Film project with Laura Lamp, longtime dancer and collaborator with my dance company (A.H. Dance Company); we exchange physical postcards and film short dance scenes from different parts of the world. The postcards and the text greetings serve as a backdrop or soundscape for the short dance scenes. This is an ongoing project and if you would like to send us a postcard please send us an email.
Check out our Letters Project  to see a few of our videos!

Barcelona, Spain

Lisbon, Portugal

Sydney, Australia

Washington D.C.
Washington D.C.
My Favorite spots to Dance outside and take Dance pictures:

1) Washington Monument in Washington D.C., USA
2) Brooklyn Botanical Gardens in Brooklyn, NY, USA
3) Plaza de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain
4) City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, Spain
5) Plaza de Espana in Seville, Spain
6) Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria
9) Tate Museum and Southbank in London, UK
10) Battery Park in Manhattan, NY, USA

The best places have always had an open space plan. I adore wide open spaces because all I want to do is run, skip, turn, jump, leap, and dance around. I also love stunning architecture and the old palaces of Europe always have these large grand halls where the ceilings are beautifully adorned.  You can just imagine all those amazing ball gowns that the ladies of the court used to wear.

Plaza de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain

Valencia, Spain
Botanical Gardens, Brooklyn, NY
Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria

Belvedere Palace, Vienna, Austria
Schönbrunn Palace gardens, Vienna, Austria

Where to Dance in...
I like to take dance classes while I'm on the road and checking out new teachers, classes, and studios is quite fun! Especially when on the road for many weeks, a dance class or yoga class really grounds me and makes me feel at home.
If you want to take dance classes when you travel these are MY favorite places 

1) Dance On Us Studios - These studios has a a variety of freelance teaching all kinds of classes from Zumba to Classical Ballet to Street Dance. The location of these studios are right by Orchard Rd so its extremely central and easy to get to. 
I teach contemporary dance classes at these studios and private lessons as well. If you want to know more about my classes. Join my Facebook Group: Alaine's Contemporary Dance Classes

2) Goodman Arts Center - This arts centre houses Frontier Danceland, Dance Nucleus, and T.H.E. Dance Company all of which has workshops, classes, open company classes regularly. 

3) Dans Festival at Esplanade - Every year, the dans festival at the Esplanade hosts different visiting and local dance companies for performances in their theaters. In addition to the performances, there are a variety of workshops offered in the dance studio (stunning views of the marina bay), outdoor stage, and in the hall between the two large performance venues. 

The beautiful studio at Esplanade overlooking the Marina Bay

1) Henny Juriens Foundation at Chasse Studios - The classes are hosted at a refurbished church that is run by Chasse studios and offers daily high level dance classes for intermediate to advanced dancers. 

2) Chasse Dance Studios - For multi-level dance classes for children, youth, adults, I recommend checking out the class offerings of Chasse studios.

Chasse studios/ Henny Jurriens Foundation

1) Yantra Academy - The classes are taught in French but I really loved the lofted studio and they have a variety of classes available throughout the whole day. 

2) Ultima Vez and PARTS - I haven't actually been here but these two facilities are world-renowned in the contemporary dance world.

Yantra Academy

1) Sceneindgangen - It was quite the adventure to get to this studio. Located in Nørrebro district on a residential stretch and down a little alley. I was pleasantly surprised with the space. There are two large studios in this space and a beautiful lofted reception area. I really enjoyed taking the contemporary dance class here. Jenny Major is the owner of the studio and teaches contemporary classes here. It was one of the best classes I have taken in a long time. I hope to return and take classes with her again when I'm in Copenhagen.

A bit tricky to locate but so worth the adventure! Sceneindgangen

1) Rambert Dance Company - I was staying in Southbank on one of my trips to London and passed by a flyer for open dance classes at Rambert Dance Company. I ended up taking a class that evening and loved it! The classes are more casual and geared towards young professionals and former dancers so it isn't the usual pressure of being in a class with other advanced / professional dancers. I always make it a point to stop by and take a intermediate ballet and modern class when I'm in town because the studios are wonderful to dance in and the teachers are so lovely here. The modern dance style is a cross between classical modern and release technique with very punctuated and specific movements.

2) Greenwich Dance - The best thing to do to get over jetlag, especially if I wake up really early is to have light breakfast and coffee then head to dance class at Greenwich dance. The advanced / professional dance classes in the mornings here are taught by guest teachers. I usually end up feeling inspired to dance and to dance with other dancers is such a treat. Even though, I will sometimes leave feeling really sore. The classes remind me of my dancing days as a dancer in New York. There are also classes geared for non-dancers in the evenings and the dance space is in a large hall. I don't know if you noticed but the space in which I choose to dance in really matters.

The very large studio at Rambert Dance 

1) Chunky Move - I was a little excited to take classes at this company's space because I've seen some of their performances in the past and really enjoyed the movement. There are classes for the general public and for professional dancers throughout the week offered at their studio in the arts district of Melbourne. I was only in Melbourne for a few days so found a dance class to take that fit into my schedule. They seem to have a rotation in the teachers so check the website.

Chunky Move is in a really cool district with lots of galleries and performance venues

1) Sydney Dance Company - One of the most beautiful spaces I have ever danced in. The classes here are quite popular with the after work crowd so get there a bit early to secure a spot in class. I arrived really early for the class and had plenty of time to explore the grounds around the space. It is overlooking the harbor and if you walk along the pier around the building, you can see the Harbor Bridge. I ended up filming a short scene for Letters Project  here while I warmed up and waited for class to start.

Warming up early before class at Sydney Dance

This view! Just around the building at Sydney Dance

Dance is like breathing for me. Wherever I am in the world, if I have an outlet to dance and move, I am home. Home is not a place for me. It is the memories and moments of the past, present, and future. 
- Alaine Handa

Where am I dancing next? 
Koh Samui, Thailand! Come join me: August 9-13, 2017!
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Friday, May 19, 2017

A perfect weekend getaway to Malmö

A beautiful summers day to be out and about in Malmö Stad!

Malmö is the 3rd largest city in Sweden and is located in Southern Sweden a.k.a. Skåne (pronounced sko-neh). A fairly easy walkable city with a bad reputation recently due to the rise in car fires in certain neighborhoods. HOWEVER, you shouldn't be afraid because Malmö is a fun little city for a weekend getaway and much cheaper than Copenhagen just across the Öresund strait. Apart from the rising violence is certain neighborhoods, the central part of Malmö is charming and quite safe to walk around in. I've been here mostly on day trips from Copenhagen because it is so easy to travel here by train. I spent a weekend in the winter here and had a great little trip wandering around the city on foot. I like the smaller cities of Europe as they are not inundated with so many tourists and easy to navigate around by foot. 

Just outside the Central Station there are these beautiful bridges to cross into Gamla stan
A bit gloomy in the winter but still lovely to explore!
A sunny summers' day for a day trip in Malmö! Outside the Central Station

How to get to Malmö

Flight to Copenhagen Airport (København Lufthavn) and then taking the train from the airport across the Öresund bridge. This bridge is famous as the location for the hit Danish-Swedish TV drama series, Den Brøn/Den Brön or The Bridge. The views from the Bridge are quite stunning so remember to get your cameras out!

Travel tip: Bring your passport with you when crossing the border from Denmark to Sweden as the border control is in effect due to the rising refugee crisis and security efforts.

The Öresund Bridge

What to see

Turning Torso

1) Turning Torso
This architecture marvel is the tallest building in Scandinavia and the residents are so lucky to live in such cool building. I walked here from the central station on my birthday last year and it was quite the eventful walk. It is quite a distance from the central station so I recommend that you take one of the public buses to get here. Otherwise, you'll be walking for about 30 minutes and it is fine if the weather is nice and not too windy!

2) Ribersborgsstranden
Just next to the residential neighborhood that houses the Turning Torso building is Ribersborgsstranden (see if you can pronounce that like a native Skåne resident!). It has beautiful views of the Öresund strait and Öresund bridge. The picture above was taken that this very particular beach park. I watched the sunset from this place and it was so stunning. I'd imagine summers here are wonderful with picnics, sunbathing, and jumping into the cool waters.

3) Malmöhus Slott

For a glimpse at Swedish history with Denmark and Skåne county, this former castle fortress is an interesting stop. Skåne used to belong to Denmark and one can argue that Skånska (southern Swedish vernacular) sounds a bit like Danish. Many Swedes from the north, particularly from the capital city of Stockholm lovingly mock the accent. As a Swedish language student, I find it a bit difficult to understand but there are many Swedish residents in Malmö that come from the north and reside there or deal with northerners frequently so will speak a bit more clearly. 
This castle is the oldest standing fort from the Renaissance era and was once an important place where Denmark's coins were minted there. Erik of Pomerania, King of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden built the castle on the grounds now occupied by Malmöhus in 1434. The strategic position of the castle facing westwards could monitor and protect all the shipping traffic coming in from the Öresund strait. During World War II, Malmöhus was used as a refugee camp to house all those fleeing from the war. When I went to visit the museum there was an exhibit telling the stories of those who fled the war and stayed in Malmöhus with the stories of the new immigrants coming into Sweden. This museum also holds temporary exhibitions that shed light on Swedish history and Swedish way of life. 

4) Slottsparken
Just next to Malmöhus Slott is a beautiful park with gardens. Malmö has these gardens littered throughout the city that offers a nice respite from the brick buildings and concrete. I recommend that you take a stroll through the park either before or after your visit to Malmöhus Slott if you have time and it isn't too dark. 

Just outside the Moderna Museet Malmö 
5) Moderna Museet Malmö
Unlike all the modern museums I've visited in bigger cities. This was a small museum and perfect for an indoor activity when the weather is rather cold, windy, and raining! I love modern art and all its weirdness because it is an edgy art form that pushes the envelope on what our views of the world and what we consider as art in itself. This museum isn't very big and houses temporary exhibits. The museum is free entry.
I wish I had seen my former movement improvisation teacher, Simone Forti's work reconstructed and performed at the museum in 2015. 

Lilla Torg
Lilla Torg

Sankt Petri Kyrka - Saint Peters' Church

6) Gamla Stan: Stortorget, Lillatorg, Gustav Adolfs Torg
I highly recommend wandering around the old town and the Stortorget, Lillatorg, and Gustav Adolfs Torg are perfect squares that have little stores, cafes, hotels, restaurants, and bars to leisurely wander through. This is probably my favorite activity in Malmö. I like wandering around all the little streets around these areas. The buildings are well preserved and you'll find so many cute little nooks and crannies to take your social media worthy pictures for #latergramfordays #tbt and #throwbackthursdays ! 

Where I stayed: Radisson Blu Malmö

My room is huge at Radisson Blu Malmö

Centrally located, walking distance to the Central Station, and close to shops, restaurants, bars, attractions. I was surprised by the large room though and would recommend staying here in a heartbeat as Radisson Blu has one of the best hotel breakfasts ever! It is located next to the Caroli shopping centre which has an ICA supermarket housed in it as well as some nice shops and restaurants.

Where to Eat:

Köttbaren is literally translated as The Meat Bar! 
Yummy burger!
Köttbaren recently changed their name to Burger and Friends. This restaurant is located in the shopping centre, Caroli right next to the hotel which is very convenient as I was starving at the time I arrived and checked in. That burger tasted so good! They belong to the same restaurant group that owns Kött & Fisk in Stockholm and the food there is also fantastic.

Peas & Honey gastropub house was recommended to me by a friend in Stockholm. I went there for dinner and ordered a beer to go along with my moules frites. The portion was generous, the fries were salty, the mussels were garlicky and succulent. Friendly people working here with a mysigt (cozy) atmosphere. I returned for a beer on another trip to Malmö with a couple friends because it was a super chill place.

And of course FIKA! You're in Sweden! Fika är bästa tid!

Softest Kanellebulle I've ever eaten!

Or have a sandwich near Gustav Adolfs Torg and sit outside in the summer

Briska cider is probably my favorite Swedish cider!

The best time to visit Malmö is certainly the summer months when everyone is out enjoying the long summer days in the sun. However, it is also nice to visit in the winter when the Christmas market and lights are all set up. There's something magical about walking through the streets on a winter night sipping glögg (Christmas mulled wine) and nibbling on some pepparkaka (cinnamon cookies) then taking refuge in a cozy restaurant with candles all around. 
Despite what anyone says, Malmö is a cute little city and I will always stop by for a visit whenever I'm in the area.