NYC Dance Week is Here! Come Celebrate with Ailey’s Extension Program: June 14 – 23

Ballet, Zumba, yoga, modern dance and hip-hop – just a few class options in the Ailey Extension arsenal – to get you moving! Ailey Extension kick-offs their 6th season of NYC Dance Week beginning June 14th thru June 23rd. NYC Dance Week is a citywide celebration during which Ailey Extension offers three free dance and fitness classes each day for new students – and two free classes for new and returning students – for a total of 30 classes! I was fortunate to try three distinctive class offerings: Afro-Cuban Folkloric, DanceFit, and Absolute Beginner Horton (the modern dance technique created and made famous by Alvin Ailey).

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Afro-Cuban Folkloric Dance Class, Photo by: Christian Miles

When I first entered Studio C at the Joan Weill Center for Dance in Manhattan, I was a little nervous about what to expect. The mounted ballet bars alongside the white walls, mirrors, a piano, and sprung floors seen in a traditional dance studio didn’t ease my trepidation. Plus, the fact that two percussionists with drums would be an integral part of the class repertoire was both nerve-wracking and exciting. Instructor Noibis Licea guided students through various forms of Afro-Cuban dance tradition while representing the Orishas (dieties from the African Traditions brought to Cuba that explores movement within cultural context. This 90-minute class allowed for very little moments of rest, and challenged my coordination and ability to dance along with my fellow classmates. My body responded to the beats of the drums and transported me to the island I was born in. Noibis Licea, the Afro-Cuban Folkoric dance instructor has been with the Extension program for 5 years, also teaches Afro-Cuban Modern Dance. “My music inspiration comes from all types of music primarily percussion, strings, and wind instruments.” Noibis will be participating during NYC Dance Week and you can catch his class on Friday, June 22nd from 7 – 8:30pm.

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Noibis Licea, Photo by: Joe Epstein

Next up – DanceFit: A high-intensity training with R&B, pop, and hip-hop blasting in the background meant to give you a full-body workout without you realizing it, until the next day. This 60-minute class will test your endurance. I stumbled upon the class’s one-year anniversary, created and taught – by the charismatic Karen Arceneaux. Sure, you may think every instructor is full of energy and ultimately their job is to motivate students, but Karen has a synergy you instantly feel upon meeting her. There was a mix of students – young and old – in the class. A delightful couple in their sixties couldn’t stop praising Karen’s class and so were a number of her current students. Her enthusiasm for each student to have fun is contagious. I chatted with Karen Arceneaux about her career in dance and motivation to teach.

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Karen Arceneaux, Photo by: Rachel Neville

DSMC: How long have you been with The Ailey Extension? 

Karen Arceneaux: Wow! I think I’ve been teaching for The Ailey Extension since 2005.

DSMC: You move effortlessly when you teach DanceFit. What inspired you to take up dance?

Karen Arceneaux: Thanks a bunch. Dance was not something I had access to as a child growing up in Louisiana. However, I remember, as clear as if it happened five minutes ago, the librarian giving away old books. I was in 2nd grade and quite shy. I had my eye on a totally worn out, tattered book (cover threading seriously unraveling). It was a book with a pink pointe shoe on the cover. I watched other kids pick the book they wanted and run to the librarian with their choice. I waited on the side, hoping no one would pick up the book I wanted. After the other kids left the library, happy with their book in hand, I walked over to and picked up the book I wanted and approached the librarian. In 2nd grade, I don’t remember being introduced to any form of dance prior, except for my own happy dancing around the house or at family outings. This (the book) was the first time I saw a pointe shoe. I was immediately drawn to it. This was the first inspiration that led me to dance. We would have to sit over coffee or tea so that I could provide greater detail as to what happened after that has led me to here and now. 🙂

DSMC: What made you create the DanceFit class?

Karen Arceneaux: Movement is my life. I’m a dancer. I teach Horton technique. I train private clients and teach group fitness classes. I also create movement for my dance students in classroom and theater settings. I thoroughly enjoy wearing each hat and want my students to have fun while learning. Through dance and fitness, my mission is to inspire, uplift, and transform lives with outrageous passion and energy. As a dancer, a choreographer, and personal trainer, I wanted to create a super fun class experience that would combine my areas of dance and fitness expertise with the goal of fulfilling my mission. With all of that, I created DanceFit.

DSMC: Who are some of your favorite dancers?

Karen Arceneaux: Debbie Allen was the only dancer I saw on television when I was about 12. She was an inspiration then and has remained for the past 36 years. She is my favorite dancer! I just love her.

DSMC: How did you get your start in dance?

Karen Arceneaux: Well after much back and forth with my mom (she was a no) and dad (he was a yes), my mom listened to my dad and allowed me to audition for my high school dance team. Mind you, I had no training in dance. I just loved moving and picked up movement quickly. I didn’t receive formal training until my sophomore year of college.

DSMC: Will you be participating in NYC Dance Week? If so, which classes? 

Karen Arceneaux: Yes, Yes, Yes! I will be participating! I think my Ailey Extension Absolute Beginner Horton on June 16th from 3:30 – 5pm, and DanceFit on June 22nd, which is open to the general public.

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DanceFit Photo by: Christian Miles

DSMC: What tips can you provide to those that are new to dance?

Karen Arceneaux:

My Tips:

  1. Prior to class, let the teacher know that you’re either new to the particular class or new to dance period
  2. Breathe
  3. Come in with an open mind, ready to learn something new
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or make mistakes (that’s how we learn)
  5. Relax. Don’t stress (It hinders learning)
  6. Have FUN
  7. Continue to do Tip#2 throughout class

The third and final class I experienced at the Ailey Extension was Absolute Beginner Horton with instructor, Fernando Carrillo. Right before I walked into the studio, panic set in, after all this class implements the dance techniques used in Alvin Ailey’s signature Revelations performance, which I had previously reviewed . To me, this class embodies ballet and modern dance at its core. It allows students to challenge their flexibility and coordination in ways they hadn’t before. Fernando’s graceful instruction towards new and existing students is a testament to his teaching skills. I came to class with a misguided perception and left thinking about the limitless dance potential my body has – bad knees and all. I asked Fernando about his dance background and what led him to the Ailey Extension:

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Fernando Carrillo, Photo by: Leon Lee

DSMC: What was your first experience with dance? How did you know it was your calling?

Fernando Carrillo: I knew dance was my calling when I was around 10 years old. I became very interested in dance when I would watch my family dance and I loved the rhythmic steps they did to the music. I never danced back then, so it was this unspoken thought that remained in my mind until I went to college and took my first dance classes.

DSMC: How long have you been with the Ailey Extension group?

Fernando Carrillo: I have been teaching for the Ailey Extension for over 10 years.

DSMC: Who are some your dance inspirations?

Fernando Carrillo: My dance inspiration comes from two mentors I had the pleasure to learn from. Milton Myers is a master teacher who has always been very supportive. He helped me hone my skills as a dance teacher. He gave me many opportunities. I was able to teach at The Juilliard School, The Ailey School, Steps on Broadway and Peridance Capezio Dance Center as his substitute. My other great mentor is Mrs. Carmen De Lavallade. I am so grateful for her generosity. She has shared invaluable information with me. Mrs. De Lavallade helped me uncover a sense of home within me whenever I am teaching the Horton Technique. It is an extraordinary feeling of sharing and cultivating a true human relationship with people without bias or judgment.

DSMC: Have you performed in Alvin Ailey’s dance productions? If not, will you be in the near future?

Fernando Carrillo: I performed with Ailey II where I was fortunate to perform many of Mr. Alvin Ailey’s choreographies.

DSMC: Will you be participating in NYC Dance Week? If so, which classes?

Fernando Carrillo: I will be participating in NYC Dance Week. I will be teaching at Ailey Extension the following class:

Absolute Beginner Horton: June 14th from 7-8:30 pm

DSMC: What tips can you give those new to dance classes?

Fernando Carrillo: I recommend they show up to class with an open mind and ready to experience something new they have never tried before. I like to see people walk into the studio with a feeling of belonging to the arts and taking part in the world of dance. People will clearly see that with our passion and power; we have the ability to change people’s perspectives through our art.

I was truly impressed by the Ailey Extension and am considering becoming a permanent member. I encountered talented instructors with a passion for dance and wanted to know more about this extraordinary program and its formation from the woman who oversees it, Executive Director, Lisa Johnson-Willingham. Check out our conversation below:

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Lisa Johnson-Willingham, Photo by: Andrew Eccles

DSMC: What are some of your earliest recollections of wanting to become a dancer?

 Lisa Johnson-Willingham: I was always very active as a child. We played a lot of music in my house. My entire family loved dancing. For my 6th grade graduation, we created choreography to the one of the Funkadelics’ songs. My counselor saw me and introduced me to a National Youth Sports Program – a summer camp with dance program. Ms. Reed was my first dance instructor. When I saw her – so graceful and beautiful – long and lean, I was 10 and said: I want to be her! That was the moment I wanted to be a dancer. I was there for 10 years. When I started, I was the youngest in the program. Everyone else was older. I loved the challenge. It was so much fun. Ms. Reed had just graduated from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in D.C. and I decided that’s where I wanted to go for high school.

DSMC: You had joined the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater in 1994 as a dancer and remained with the company for 5 years. Was becoming a dance instructor a natural progression for you?

Lisa Johnson-Willingham: Definitely, yes it was. After I left the company I was AileyCamp Director in Chicago for 10 years. After that, I became the Director for the Ailey Extension and that was an easy transition for me. AileyCamp consists of 6 weeks in the summer, but you work all year round with 100 kids, bringing dance to the people. Which is the Ailey Extension’s mission: real classes for real people. It was the same, but with children. Dance changes lives. It has a real effect on people’s health, it uplifts the mind, body, and spirit. When you come into this community you get a whole body experience – a spiritual experience. We have classes, workshops, and performance workshops. Last week Robert Battle (Alvin Ailey Artist Director) taught a repertory workshop at the Extension. It was amazing. That connection goes deeper than taking a dance class.

DSMC: What’s your vetting process for selecting the instructors at Alvin Ailey?

 Lisa Johnson-Willingham: We want prominent instructors. We have instructors from around the world. I participate in one of their classes, look at their resume. Teaching at the Extension is different than teaching at the Ailey School. They are professionals. They need to be skilled instructors that can deal with the general public. They need to be skilled at all levels of dance and have experience in teaching. In this room you’re going to have all levels of people who are beginner or advanced. It’s a beautiful thing to have so many people at all levels – and being able to handle that well – is a skill in itself

DSMC: NYC Dance Week is in its 6th season, how involved were you in creating the classes?

 Lisa Johnson-Willingham: My team and I got together and chose classes we thought the public would be interested in. We didn’t want people coming through the doors feeling intimidated. So of course, a lot of the classes are our beginner-level and fitness classes. Horton is on the list. We want to welcome people and allow them to have the Alvin Ailey dance experience.

DSMC: Are there any disclaimers or waivers the public has to fill out before taking  classes during NYC Dance Week?

 Lisa Johnson-Willingham: Everyone can go through NYC Dance Week’s website, fill out a form and retrieve a voucher, and bring it with them before participating in the class.

DSMC: What’s the adequate mindset people need to have before participating in NYC Dance Week?

Lisa Johnson-Willingham: If you’re new to dance, it takes time to perfect the steps. It’s a welcoming environment. You are there to have a good time. There’s no pressure. You can zone out at the gym or any other fitness facility, but with dance, you use your mind, body and spirit – you’re telling a story, expression through movement. And, life is constant movement.

Since its inception in 2005, the Ailey Extension program has welcomed over 83,000 new students with the help of Lisa Johnson-Willingham, creating annual workshops: The Ailey Exeperience, Voices and Visions, and World Dance Celebration. The Ailey Extension shows no signs of slowing down; instead it plans on bringing new and exciting challenging dance classes – to existing and new students. To check out NYC Dance Week’s schedule, click here.

 

 

 

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The Brooklyn Film Festival’s 21st Season is Upon Us: Get Ready for Love, Loss, Triumph and Controversy

The Brooklyn Film Festival is back with a vengeance – an artistic, thought-provoking reprisal – in the form of documentaries, features, narrative and animated shorts meant to strike a nerve, inform and leave audiences with a welcomed or unwelcomed – shock to the system. The film festival kicked off its 21st season at the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn with a treasure trove of documentaries produced by The New York Times and a mix of animated and experimental films from the Brooklyn Film Festival. The 10-day festival is comprised of approximately 125 features and shorts from 30 countries spread over all continents, except Antarctica. The lineup includes 19 world premieres, 21 from the USA – 37 east coast debuts and 30 first-time screenings in New York City. The festival will present in total 36 short narrative films, 16 short documentary films, 25 animated films and 20 experimental films. There is bound to be a film for all tastes in this roster of diverse presentations from around the globe.

I’m a film buff and constantly seek out new and exciting films – especially independent films that will stake a claim on my brain and will leave me deep in thought for days. Two films that have ambushed my psyche so far: “Lieutenant of the Alt-Right” and “The Story of Esraa.” As the title suggests, “Lieutenant of the Alt-Right” is about one of the members of an extremist, white nationalist group. At first, I scoffed at this documentary, but as I was watched the film’s subject, Eli Mosley, a rising white supremacist leader, whose deep-rooted white male inadequacies was becoming the focus of his drive to spew hate and present himself as an American hero – was quickly challenged in the film. Bravo! To filmmakers, Emma Cott and Andrew Michael Ellis for letting the narrative take shape and expose Eli Mosley and his group’s false, albeit dangerous beliefs, and shed light on to an unfortunate rising movement.

Lieutenant of the Alt-Right, Credit THE NEW YORK TIMES

Photo: Courtesy of Times Documentaries

The second film that left a lasting impression on me is: “The Story of Esraa” – a young 20-something woman who challenges Egypt’s system by attempting to live her life free of her country’s constraints on family, religion, and personal freedoms as she embarks to rent an apartment with her like-minded friends, only to find obstacles and disappointment. This film will resonate with everyone who’s struggled to find their identity and establish themselves on own their own terms. I felt sorrow and hope for this woman, and as I chatted with one of the filmmakers, Mona El-Naggar, Mark Meatto, and Yousur Al-Hlou, I learned about Esraa’s story further. It made me question the freedoms and choices I currently have in the U.S., but for how long? With this administration at the helm chipping away at our Democratic freedoms daily, who’s to say, we can’t find ourselves like Esraa one day?

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Photo: Courtesy of Times Documentaries

The accompanying films on opening night were fantastic as well. The animated short from Italian director Fausto Montanari, “Weird” about girls being different and perceived as odd is a painstaking glimpse of society’s judgmental lens on how we see each other and ourselves. “Deportation Deadline’s” subject matter, by directors Brent McDonald, John Woo, and Jonah M. Kessel is straight from our current news cycle, as many families are continuously torn apart by ICE agents with deportation orders enforced by the Trump administration. The relevancy is strikingly accurate and telling of the injustices currently happening to undocumented immigrants in our country.

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Photo: Courtesy of Brooklyn Film Festival

The Brooklyn Film Festival’s (BFF) theme this year is: “Bad times make great art.” And I for one can’t wait to see what’s in store for the duration of this provocative festival that has been staging international and competitive films and independent production of films and drawing worldwide attention to Brooklyn as a center for cinema. BFF promotes artistic excellence and creative freedom without censure, and has done so since 1998. To see an encore of The New York Times produced documentaries and the Brooklyn Film Festival’s stellar films, click here for ticket info, venues, dates and times. Viva la Cinema!

 

Coffee Deprivation And Fitness & Nutrition Insights At The LACTAID® x Flywheel Event In NYC

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I’m of the sweeter is better mentality when it comes to coffee. I recently attempted to forego coffee for a week to determine why my beverage of choice doesn’t always agree with me. I made it through 4 days – hey, I’m not patting myself on the back, but it’s a start for someone who worships coffee and creamer. After a few days of skipping my regular coffee and sweet additive (in its defense – it’s gluten and preservative-free), I noticed that I felt less tired and my stomach didn’t bloat. What prompted me to make this change? I recently attended the LACTAID® x Flywheel event in New York City. Before I challenged myself to this new indoor cycling experience and went sans coffee, I had a chance to chat with Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, MS, RD., a registered dietician and fertility specialist at TLB Nutrition http://www.tracylockwoodnutrition.com. Tracy was on hand on behalf of LACTAID® to provide facts and dispel myths about lactose sugar and food sensitivities vs. allergies.

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Photo: Courtesy of Tracy Lockwood Beckerman

DSMC: Can exercise help individuals with dairy and other food sensitivities? Is there any existing data?

Tracy Lockwood Beckerman  There is no evidence that exercising can combat dairy and food sensitivities.

 

DSMC: What are some common misconceptions about food sensitivities you encounter?

Tracy Lockwood Beckerman:  People often overlook food sensitivities because they think it’s normal to have symptoms of bloating, indigestion or headaches after eating certain foods. However, it’s abnormal to experience these crippling symptoms. I advise clients to consider removing it for a period of time to assess if the symptoms do resolve themselves. If you observe that lactose is the issue, I recommend that people who have an intolerance to dairy introduce LACTAID® products so they are gaining the benefits of real dairy, without suffering the consequences.

DSMC: What’s are the most common experiences your clients or individuals that have incorporated LACTAID® products into their diets have?

Tracy Lockwood Beckerman: Since LACTAID® is 100% real dairy minus the lactose, people don’t worry about experiencing gas, bloating or diarrhea after eating dairy because they aren’t exposing their bodies to lactose. Therefore, they are able to carry on their day without stomach issues and enjoy the moments that follow.

DSMC: What are some basic facts people should know about food sensitivities and allergies?

Tracy Lockwood Beckerman: There is a big difference between food sensitivity and intolerances versus a food allergy. A food allergy is an often severe physical reaction in the body upon exposure to that food source and may require need immediate medical assistance or medication in order to treat. A food sensitivity and intolerance are a more mild physical reaction that is often resolved within a few hours without any medical intervention. You can feel the symptoms of food sensitivities and intolerances in the forms of headaches, acne, brain fog, bloat, or acid reflux. If you want to learn more about your food sensitivities or intolerances, you can do an IGG test which tests 98 foods and can give you a road map for what’s going on internally. If you are curious about learning more about food sensitivities, talk to a registered dietitian-nutritionist who can educate and teach you how to handle certain foods.

DSMC: Does age or having a sedentary lifestyle contribute to food sensitivities? Particularly becoming lactose intolerant?

Tracy Lockwood Beckerman  Having a sedentary lifestyle doesn’t correlate to becoming lactose intolerant. However, as we age, our ability to digest lactose diminishes due to declining amount and ability of the enzyme, lactase, to properly break down lactose. So it is quite common to become lactose sensitive, as we get older. Older women still need vitamin D and calcium to maintain their bone health – which is why I often recommend LACTAID® to older women to reap the nutritional benefits of real dairy without suffering the consequences.

 

I was happy to undergo this coffee and coffee/creamer purge after chatting with Tracy, but first I was going to Flywheel it! I have friends that rave about indoor cycling and boutique workout classes and felt compelled to try out this trendy cycling class. My first impression: it’s small enough to cater to individual class participants, they provide you with a bike – make the necessary adjustments for your height, and strap in your feet with bikes shoes in your size. I liked that; a little handholding is always welcomed by me.

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Photo: Courtesy of Emily Fayette

Furthermore, the instructor who led the class, Emily Fayette – a seasoned fitness trainer and health coach made the class enjoyable. I didn’t clock-watch once, whereas at other gyms, I become antsy and can’t wait for cycling classes to end – either they’re too fast or the instructors drone on about achieving Lance Armstrong-type euphoria, pre-scandal, of course! It was Throwback Thursday at this particular Flywheel class, and Emily played oldies from the 80s, 90s, and 00s that got the class pumped. She routinely checked in to make sure everyone – either stepped up the pace or took a breather, complementing everyone’s efforts all throughout. Added bonuses; she added arms to the workout and promised a variety of LACTAID® smoothies would be waiting for us after class. I chatted with Emily about her fitness motivation, her Flywheel instructor gig and what led to the collaboration with LACTAID®.

DSMC: What inspired you to get into fitness? What are some of your earliest recollections of becoming fit and immersing yourself in the fitness world?

Emily Fayette: Growing up I played soccer, basketball and lacrosse. I always love being part of a team. I’m a huge community person. In college I played lacrosse for the first year, but I wasn’t sure if the sport was for me, so I started running marathons and half marathons while studying to be a teacher. Education was huge for me. After I finished school, I moved to New York City. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be in the classroom – but I knew I wanted to educate in some way or fashion. I knew I had a passion for fitness and landed a role as a Managing Director for My Gym – kids fitness centers in New York. I loved it, but I ended up getting stuck behind a desk and wasn’t doing fitness. Then I began teaching cycling and boot camps outside of that 9-to-5 job. I realized I live in a city where this is possible. I can do adult fitness – teach these classes and feel amazing myself – before and after. I started doing more adult fitness, became a trainer and a health coach.

DSMC: As a health coach and self-described foodie, what misconceptions do you frequently hear about fitness and nutrition?

Emily Fayette: There are so many fads that come and go. I’m part of a wellness community. As I health coach, I can’t give out nutrition plans and we hired a dietician. What I’ve learned through her is that every single person has an ideal diet for themselves. Testing out foods. Making sure it feels right for them. I don’t ever want to consider myself a vegan, vegetarian or plant-based person. I’m Emily and I found these foods that make me feel amazing all the time. As a health coach, I don’t give out nutrition plans. I rely on learning lifestyle changes. It’s not the fact that you – should or shouldn’t – eat certain things. It’s about seeing the patterns in your life. I had this client that ate French fries all the time and I didn’t suggest removing this thing that she loved, instead I told her to treat it as a special item, create small little habits, have these fries once a week and not everyday – maybe consume it once every other week. I’m all about making these small little habit changes in your lifestyle that ultimately becomes changes in your overall healthy lifestyle. Most diets don’t work for the long term. You have to want a healthy lifestyle. You can have a friend that goes on a diet loses 30 lbs., is killing it, but you don’t know if the weight is going to stay off. They may have different body than you. You have to test out what will work for your body and stick with what’s right for you – whether it’s incorporating new foods into your diet or a new fitness routine.

DSMC: With the popularity of Flywheel and other boutique studios opening up around the city, what advice can you give newbies to indoor cycling, how not to get discouraged if they’re not great at the sport right away?

Emily Fayette: What I love about Flywheel is that it’s a very inclusive environment. That’s part of our mission statement – you are part of a team. Any time I meet someone new and it’s their first time, I make sure they feel comfortable. Before every single class, I go over everything that’s about to happen. I encourage them to try everything three times, have a ton of fun and listen to their body – if you need to take a break, take a break, you shouldn’t be afraid or discouraged – this is a new thing for your body. It all starts with the vibe of the studio – of Flywheel; we try to keep it motivational.

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Photo: Mercedes Vizcaino

DSMC: How did the collaboration with LACTAID® come about?

 Emily Fayette: I haven’t been eating, drinking dairy for years just because of the way it made feel – and it stems from the need to drink and eat things that make me feel good; I know I need a lot of energy throughout the day. I would get terrible stomachaches. I took it out of my diet, knowing I would lose out on a lot of nutrition. When I found out Flywheel and LACTAID® were partnering, they reached out to me, knowing I didn’t eat dairy. Before I put my name to something, I had to make sure the products made feel good. I’m a firm believer of that. They sent me their ice cream and milk products and now I substitute back in dairy – it’s real dairy without the lactose. It doesn’t make me feel sick, makes me feel good. I created the Chocolate PB&J And Oats Smoothie. I love to have it post-workout, gives me my protein. I feel lucky I found LACTAID® through Flywheel because I don’t know if I would’ve found them otherwise.

DSMC: What emerging fitness trends do you foresee in the near future the public will be gravitating to?

Emily Fayette: I think at-home experiences. We see waves of boutique being big, at-home being big. It does go up and down throughout the years. You think Richard Simmons and Jane Fonda – that was a ton of at-home workouts. At Flywheel, we have the at-home bike now and I’m one of the instructors on that platform. Bringing the Flywheel experience you had for instance – bringing that into people’s homes so they can feel they are part of the experience at their own time and leisure – is the goal.

DSMC: What’s on the horizon for Emily Fayette? What do you see yourself doing in the next couple of years?

Emily Fayette: I want to continue what I’m doing in a bigger way. The Flywheel at-home platform allows me to do that. As we continue to sell bikes, there will be more people I can inspire – bring my energy and positivity to. My girlfriend, Sherica Holmon and I created a wellness company called Elevate Together, a community of people, with a Facebook page, that feel safe to share recipes, workouts, and questions. We have a dietician that can lay down the law on what fads – we can and shouldn’t – follow. It’s a matter of being around a ton of people that want to find their healthiest lifestyle. Social media is a blessing and a curse. We get to see what everyone’s up to in the world, but also get down on ourselves if we don’t look like a certain person or celebrity. We see someone that’s doing a diet/fad and think, if I try this, I’m going to look like that. That’s not the case. Granted, I used to be someone that followed that mindset. I’m very happy that I’ve found within myself, ways to make me happy and find my healthiest lifestyle. Within the last year, I’ve readjusted my mantra to: eat to live and not live to eat. I used to live for my next meal. I thought: Can I eat that today or should I? Now, I create my own little diet  that works for me and I fuel my body to live my life. I’m not worried anymore about counting calories or macros. And if using my and other people’s experiences I’ve helped, to assist others in finding their happy place and make significant healthy lifestyle changes, is very rewarding to me.

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Photo: Courtesy of Emily Fayette, From L to R, Sherica Holmon and Emily Fayette

The 277 billion health and wellness industry with an emphasis on mind and body is projected to be the next trillion-dollar industry. With so many products and services to choose from – what do you do? Experiment, experiment and experiment some more. Don’t be afraid to try a new class, whether it requires equipment or not. Trainers and instructors are more than happy to lend a hand and give you background and member testimonials on a particular fitness class or equipment. Most gyms will give you a one-day or one-week pass to see if it’s a good fit for you; gyms and fitness classes, like foods, are so varied, it’s inevitable that they can subscribe to one-size fits all categorizations and false expectations.

After I tried the smoothies at the LACTAID® x Flywheel event, I was content and surprised the ingredients were filling. I didn’t need to have dinner as it was already past 7:30pm EST. And usually I’m ravenous after any workout. I still need coffee and I still need creamer, but instead of going cold turkey with them, I’m going to opt for LACTAID® lactose-free and other products to substitute my dairy intake. Stay tuned!

To learn more about LACTAID® products, click here. To schedule a visit to Flywheel Sports and take a cycling class, click here: 

 

Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi Ad – Who’s at Fault? Everyone!

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Social Media has revolutionized the immediacy of how the public reacts to news and entertainment. Forget the days of snail hate mail of yesteryear sent to networks and celebrities in large bags. Every single person has a voice – and social forum to be heard. Less than 24 hours since the new Pepsi ad was launched featuring Kendall Jenner, one of the hottest it-models of the moment – the ad has been pulled from every marketing vehicle imaginable. What happened exactly? I follow the Kardashians on social as I’m a pop culture junkie and after I viewed the fury-inducing ad on Kris Jenner’s Instagram, I wasn’t moved, I brushed it off, yet I had a sinking feeling it wouldn’t be well received by the public. It was awkward in execution, odd images of Kendall Jenner abandoning her “model” duties and joining a protest. After having attended two protests this year: The Women’s March in following the inauguration and Not My President’s Day March in February. This commercial didn’t necessarily poke fun at protests – it trivialized the protesting experience. It lumped protests into the next “cool” thing young people are doing or engaged with. Similar to the “Cash me outside, How bout’ Dat?” teen or the incessant iterations on the Internet of Salt Bae. Yeah, nope. The Twitterverse was not having any of it. Everyone and their, mom, aunt, dad and grandpa had to something to say about it. Martin Luther King Jr.’s youngest daughter, Bernice King, posted: “If only Daddy would have known the power of #Pepsi” with a picture of cops strong-arming Martin Luther King Jr. in the 60s.

Pepsi is such a well-known global brand and being asked to be a Pepsi ambassador is mecca for any celebrity: A sign that you’ve made it. Recognition is absolute. Your star power is blinding! If you look at Kendall Jenner’s Instagram post just days before the controversy unfolded, there’s a picture of her idol, Cindy Crawford in a 1992 Pepsi ad.

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Kendall and her clan (momager, Kris included) were so clouded by the prestige Pepsi invokes – that they forgot the messaging behind this partnership. It was an afterthought. No one said, “Hey! maybe this is ad’s message is a little insensitive to people’s causes” As an adoring public, fans, spectators on the sidelines, we want our favorite models, actors, and sport stars to reach the pinnacle of success with all the advertising, movie, fashion deals out there – but one misstep and the crucifixion begins. Kendall Jenner has removed all traces of her ad on her social media accounts and Pepsi has apologized and lamented their insensitivity. But we as a the public must not go on the attack and instead educate companies, and clueless celebrities about history and what protests mean and can achieve for the misrepresented and people without a voice. Not once did I see or hear anyone say: “Hey Kendall, come to my town or join my group so you can see what protesting is really like and what the impetus behind this march means.”

More Than a March: A Global Call-to-Action Movement

0ba2cdbf-9fa2-45d4-bd12-b7cf26a5cfd8As I made my way to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza on 47th and 2nd – the meeting point for the New York Women’s March, I was filled with anxiety, dread and just plain fear. I had attended a preliminary Women’s March meeting  earlier in the week  held by a group of professional women’s video and documentary filmmakers. “How to properly record immoral acts of violence?” “How not to get arrested.”What happens when you do.” These phrases kept lingering in my head throughout the week. I’m not a person who typically demonstrates. Yeah, I’ve been to a few Revlon Run/Walk 5Ks and previous March of Dimes walks and felt good about myself. Exercise was the motivator, really, and then yes, supporting the cause too – this was an after thought.

Two nights before the march I abruptly texted my friend Sandra. “Do you want to march on Saturday?” I asked. “I would like that. I’m in.” She said. I was taken aback. I was happy that she wasn’t indecisive. I didn’t think any of my immediate friends would want to march. The day of: I was running behind, The gypsy and NJ Transit buses were nowhere in sight to get me to NYC. I saw a young mom carrying a toddler. She must be off to go to the mall or visiting her parents, I thought. NOPE! Was I wrong. And, I loved that I was. “Look! Baby.” She said to her daughter after glancing at the two signs I was holding. “She’s marching too!” This warm feeling swept over me. I couldn’t believe that this mom and I had the same cause in common.

As I fast-walked through from West-to-East on 42nd Street, I halted. There it was. My first glimpse of all these different people coming together as one to protest our causes: Women’s Reproductive Rights, Human Rights, Equality for All, Embracing Diversity, The Future of America.

We are at a standstill on 42nd and 2nd Avenue. So many people had amassed in that central location that no one could really move. Streets were closed off. “This is a conspiracy!” I thought. “Why aren’t I getting any service?” “Trump’s people are behind this.” We stood there for over 3 hours before the march actually started. “What is going on?” “My feet hurt and I haven’t gone anywhere yet, Uggh!” My thoughts were getting to me. “Stop being a wuss!” “You have to find Sandra.” Sandra’s was coming from Queens and there was lots of construction going with the trains. Sandra and I finally met up and we started marching. I couldn’t express at how elated I felt that I was part of something so much bigger than myself, the marchers around me, New York, Hell! the world.

8c1e6b2a-ea7c-4587-88e4-5df0b9d62b88I had been interacting with teens, men, women in their 60s and 70s of various ethnicities being friendly to one another, courteous, singing and chanting alongside one another. We marched all the way up to 55th and 5th Avenue; 2 blocks shy of Trump Towers. I was disappointed at first that the cops had barricaded the streets, but then remembered what the march was about and how many people from different walks of life and age groups came out to protest for what they believe in. What a beautiful day!

 

Statement Toques: Your Latest Winter Accessory

The winter months in New York can be brutal, but that doesn’t mean you have to endure the cold weather with bland winter accessories as you tackle each day. Enter: Tuck ShopTrading Co., founded in Toronto, Canada by Lyndsay Borschke and inspired by her and her husband’s time spent between cottage and city life. Their new line: City of Neighborhoods pom-pom beanies or toques (as commonly referred to in Canada) are fun, playful and pride-inducing. What started as homage to cities around Canada, now includes neighborhoods all over the United States.

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From the East Village to Morningside Heights, and from Hell’s Kitchen to Bushwick, the City of Neighborhood’s toques include nearly every district in New York City. The Tuck Shop Trading Co. features cozy, ready-to-wear clothing and accessories for men and women. Their products are designed and manufactured solely in North America. These unisex casual luxe headgear pieces are ideal for battling the frigid temperatures and reppin’ your favorite neighborhood – simultaneously! I was lucky to be armed with one of the Bronx toques on a long drive to Canada to visit relatives, and yes, I’m known to always be the coldest person in the room, but this toque kept my noggin warm for the duration of my trip. Spotted on the streets of the famous heads of Method Man and Cara Delavigne, these popular toques are everywhere. Get yours now for $38 on: https://www.tuckshopco.com/collections/city-of-neighbourhoods/

Skyline Dairy Goat’s Milk & Shea Butter Hydrating Body Lotion Soothes My Skin’s Winter Woes

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My skin has a personality of its own. Sometimes its like a sweet well-behaved child that follows your every command, but mostly, it’s a rebellious teen that answers back, contradicts everything you say and gives you grief all day long! I have combination skin and it can be very unruly and sensitive if I don’t tend to it daily. It flakes, gets patchy and can be tender to the touch in the winter and summer. A friend recommended I try  Skyline Dairy Goat’s Milk & Shea Butter Moisturizer because I’m a lover of everything made out of goat’s milk and I’m drawn to products with natural ingredients.

Two weeks in, and I’m impressed with this moisturizer. The first few days, I interpreted my skin’s reaction to a Shakespearean response: “To be or not to be irritated? That is the question my skin ponders, immediately, upon encountering a new product. On the third day of using this cream, my skin welcomed this new product with open arms. “Yes, I will let you quench my thirst for moisture both day and night. You needn’t fuss over me, just yet!”I was thrilled that I didn’t have to alternate between a day and night cream. I can apply Skyline Dairy Goat’s Milk & Shea Butter  moisturizer in the morning and in the evening before going to bed and not wake up with a greasy mess on my face or pillow.

The scent is nice and light. It reminds my boyfriend of lemon-flavored lollipops when he smells it on me. He started using it too – to battle the harsh daily NYC winter weather. The moisturizer I have is fragranced with Lemongrass & Vanilla and consists of 40% raw goat’s milk, 5% shea butter and 80% mountain well water. I recommend it highly! What’s interesting is that I didn’t know that it is advertised as a body lotion, because of the sample I received, had I known that, I would have never tried it on my face. I’m glad I did! I confirmed with the founder, Chase Hudson, that it is indeed a hydrating body lotion; yet many of his customers use it as a face cream with great results. I agree! Don’t waste this gem on your body, let your face reap the benefits. To buy this product that retails for $20, Click here: