With the ever-increasing emergence of “theatre-training” programmes, children and young people of the twenty-first century are receiving multiple opportunities to engage in the arts of singing, dancing and acting.
One avenue which is receiving more and more popularity each year is that of summer schools, which are offered by a variety of organisations and institutions alike. For those aspiring to further their theatre training at a performing arts college or similar, summer schools are an ideal way of giving the young person in question an idea of what it might be like to train at that particular college, as they grab their favourite leotards, dance tights or tap shoes. Summer schools are particularly useful to determine whether the student would like to audition for a place for the following year.
Usually an intensive one week course, summer schools offer a taster in many theatre disciplines such as acting, jazz dance, classical ballet, singing and pas de deux, culminating in a showcase performance. In addition to the benefits that students may gain, summer schools are also a chance for colleges and institutions to get a glimpse of the potential talent they may have auditioning, and gauge an idea as to a student’s possible suitability for their course.
Aside from the specific focus on training, for children and young adults summer schools provide the chance to meet other like-minded and motivated individuals who are looking to further their theatrical training in this way. Summer school can be a welcome break from the confines of some theatre schools or academies that the students might already belong to, allowing them to connect a little more with their individuality away from their stage school regulation uniform. Usually there are mixed abilities of students taking part, which may mean you might not get to put on your pointe shoes this summer, but will still have lots of fun!
Dancers are generally aware of the importance and benefits of conducting a thorough warm up before taking part in any physical activity, including dance, yet often other factors prevent this from happening. Being late to class or rehearsals, for example, can restrict your warm up time, or even cut it out completely. Most dancers undertake a strict “pre class” ritual of warming up and stretching their muscles out sufficiently, but in some cases, it only occurs before the first class of the year. There are numerous dancewear specialists who offer a variety of dance warm up clothes; it is equally important to warm up properly as it is to warm up at all.
The body must be physically prepared for the strenuous demands of dance, and this can be done by gradually increasing the temperature of the body and increasing blood circulation, such as performing a 5-10 minute jog. Whilst this is happening, it is beneficial to layer up your dancewear with “baggies” or extra clothing like hoodies and tracksuits. Dancewear specialists such as Plume and Pineapple have a huge range of dancewear specifically designed for warming up, indicating how seriously dancers should be taking this fundamental activity.
During a warm up the body prepares to work as a whole in order to dance as best as it can. The heart rate increases gradually, the muscles warm up to prevent injury and the ligaments and tendons become more flexible which reduces the chance of tears and injury. In areas of the body where there are large amounts of muscles used simultaneously, such as the legs, leg warmers are often useful in order to keep the muscles warm and engaged during warm ups and even at the start of class. A common injury for dancers is torn hamstrings, so utilising them properly through a warm up decreases the risk of injury. Warm ups also help the brain prepare for the task ahead, which increases your chance of enduring the exercise and benefitting from the harder parts of the regime of dance.
With the growing trends of dance-related talent shows throughout the media, the trend for wearing socks as a “performance accessory” is also emerging as one that is taking the dance sector by storm. Turn to So You Think You Can Dance, Got To Dance, or Britain’s Got Talent; socks are becoming increasingly popular to aid acts in spins, falls and complex lifts.
Whilst the dancers’ seemingly enhanced talent may be exciting to view and even awe-inspiring, the fact remains that there is a certain level of danger involved in wearing socks to dance, for example, an injury occurring as a result of a slip or fall. The number of YouTube clips presenting many dancers’ falls as “entertainment” are by no means criticising the wearing of socks for dance practice.
Undoubtedly, the use of socks can aid a dancer in class or rehearsals where a floor may not be suitable to dance on; however, the fact remains that during performance, the dancer may not have had sufficient experience of dancing without their socks. A great alternative to socks has been shown through the use of foot thongs, such as by Capezio, with numerous designs emerging as they become more popular.
Additionally, there is without a doubt, the largest range of dance shoes and sneakers on the dancewear market today, with numerous brands spanning a huge range of designs. Whether they are sold for grip, support of the foot, or simply for fashion purposes, brands such as Capezio, Bloch and Sansha have all produced excellent and indeed beneficial shoes for whatever the dancer needs. To observe such fantastic alternatives to the presumable risk of wearing socks to dance provides much hope for the future of dance, in that it will continue to be provided for, regardless of circumstance.