As children, parents and carers spend lots of time and money committing to dance lessons, even when they take joy from watching rather than doing. Taking children to dancing lessons requires energy and time, not to mention additional funds for competitions, costumes and extra performances. For a child, it is not until later that they see dance lessons in the same way, as an investment. Only then do they see that time, money and energy go to waste when they do not make the most of their dance lessons.
It is understandable that every dancer experiences a rut in their training, where they may not want to attend classes or feel they are not improving at the rate they should be. Despite this, it is not the dancers that stretch the most, sweat more or practice at home at all hours that necessarily get the most out of their dance classes either. The correct mental attitude is hugely important in dance training, to understand the purpose of dance for yourself and how to experience it in the best possible way.
When dancers become older, their adult freedom equates to a similar responsibility for themselves, be it getting themselves to classes, paying for their own training or beginning to assist with the teaching at the local dance studio. With these aspects comes heightened responsibility, for learning, fuelling and directing your dancing. It goes without saying that dancers must therefore arrive early and prepared for class, being focused and dedicated to the class, taking and applying corrections that are given to the class and spending time on the parts that need the most improvement, even if that means going back to basics.
Making mistakes is a large part of dance training; it will mean you will discover something new about the dancing body, through listening, watching, or error, even if this feels uncomfortable. Don’t forget to enjoy the process and thank your teachers for giving you the tools to better yourself and work hard in each class you take.
Despite it being the worst possible scenario for most dancers, sometimes dancing cannot come first in life. Whether this is because of personal, time-restrictive or financial circumstances or even public holidays, sometimes dance must be factored into a busy life, rather than the other way round.
Make sure you use your time efficiently; don’t look back and see an opportunity for stretching time or a run round the garden. Use a calendar or diary which includes all your plans and objectives, and realistically work out when you have chance to take class or even just a ballet barre in your bedroom. Even better is a monthly planner which includes everything, even the plans of other members of your family. This will make it easier to see everyone’s schedules: everyone will be calmer if you know where to be when, and where you can expect to have free time to plan other activities.
Don’t forget to take a break too. Having a distraction from life – other than dance – can be hugely beneficial. Make sure you include some down time for yourself, such as reading, swimming, singing or even walking the dog! Knowing you have a certain time set aside for yourself can make dealing with everything that is going on a lot easier. Moreover, make sure you are realistic about what you can fit in to your schedule.
Remember that you won’t be overwhelmed forever, and that dance is something you love, so it will all be worth it! Don’t let stresses or worries get to you – enjoy the moment (if you can!) and it will make your return to dance even more rewarding.
As a dance student, you may wonder how you will ever remember every note, correction and suggestion you are given in class. You may even have more than one teacher; even two teachers means double the amount of notes you are given! You may have teachers who work by the same method, however they may teach in very different styles. Whilst this is beneficial to ’round’ you as a dancer, it may be tricky to keep track of everything you have to remember.
You may find it useful to keep note of everything that is said to you in class to make sure your technique and performance is as well rounded as possible. It can be hard to take everything on board, especially if you are given small corrections and subtle changes to your form. You may find you are constantly trying to please your teacher/s, but by writing things down it will help consolidate the information and process it for your body.
You don’t have to write your notes, thoughts and information down in any particular way, it is completely up to you as to how you’d like to format your notes, as long as they are useful in helping you progress as a training dance student. Looking back on your notes will also show you just how far you’ve come! Reflecting on what you have achieved will also serve as motivation for persevering in the future.
Corrections and imagery suggestions to aid your performance may form the bulk of your dance notes, so make sure you take a few minutes at the end of your dance classes to make any essential notes you may need – you may not remember them all until the next day! And if you’re learning something new, write that down too to prompt you when you’re practising outside of class.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
For many dance students, the summer spells summer schools and dance intensives. These summer training programmes are designed to push dance students further and give them another dance experience. They can vary in length, style and structure, but it is important to make the most of the programme while looking after your body.
It is important to warm up properly, despite the fact the warm weather will make you feel like you are already warm and flexible. While your body is warm however, your muscles and joints are not. Don’t be tempted into skipping your usual warm up, in order to give your body the preparation it needs to dance and protect itself from injury.
Remember to drink enough water during summer programmes: staying hydrated is one of the most important parts of taking care of yourself during long days of dance. Make sure you drink water before, during and especially after classes, and also ensure you eat well-balanced meals. You will be dancing for many hours every day, which may be more than you’re used to, so make sure you eat enough of the right food to get you through the day.
With many different dancers around it is tempting to become competitive and push yourself beyond your dancing limits. Get enough rest to balance out the energetic days, which also means you will decrease the risk of injuring yourself. Injuries are common during summer programmes, simply because you are dancing more than your body is used to. Pay attention and listen to what your body is telling you and at the end of the day cool down and stretch.
Above all, remember to have fun! Summer intensives are designed to push you towards being a professional, but remember to enjoy the hard work.
Teaching vocational theatre and dance is the subject of much discussion with many training options available, and students with different learning styles, such as through visual cues, hearing cues and doing things actively.
What makes a good teacher?
Theatre and music teachers in vocational schools play a specialised role in student development, taking time to develop their skills by giving information and guidance to progress quickly. Some teachers do this by sharing industry contacts, careers advice and specialist teachers.
At vocational school specialist teachers apply both experience and theory to teaching lessons. Students have access to the ‘experiential’ model of education where physical skills are used to experience and train in the subject. Vocational teachers speed up this experiential process by helping to rectify bad physical habits and engage students intellectually.
Vocational school is available both as full-time and part-time schools. A full-time vocational school teaches core curriculum subjects and specialist subjects, such as acting, dance and drama full-time, whereas Part-time vocational schools work alongside a child’s traditional schooling, teaching specialist subjects after school or at weekends. There can be academic and vocational grades awarded at the end, depending on what each school offers. The part-time type of school replaces the role of a traditional middle school such as Sylvia Young Theatre School and Tring Park School.
It’s important that vocational schools keep high standards and help children to progress onto specialist further education schools: vocational schools are important places for young people to learn the skills needed for entry into theatre, dance and music crafts, even if they have not had prior experience. Vocations like theatre, dance and music require students to carry out a lot of physical repetition: the region of around 10,000 hours of practice is needed to become an expert before their bodies and minds understand fully.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
DanceXchange, Birmingham, has got a dance-packed summer ahead, running a varied programme of dance activity for young people and students which begins in August. The dance hub will be carrying out a hive of activity for young dancers and aspiring professionals, beginning with two summer courses: Youth Dance Intensives for ages 11-14 and 15-21 years (10 August and 27-30 August), and Choreolab for ages 15-21 (19-24 August and 18-20 October).
The courses focus on contemporary technique, performance and choreographic development. For Youth Dance Intensives, the participants will work with tutors on developing and strengthening their contemporary technique practice, and the sessions will also include the creation of a short performance piece. Choreolab is designed to give young dancers the chance to work with practising dance artists in a professional studio setting, covering improvisation, choreographic skills, development of ideas and individual style as well as working towards devising their own dance piece. Choreolab also includes a lighting choreography workshop with a senior Birmingham Hippodrome technician.
The courses are fantastic ways to build on existing skills and hone particular areas of study, especially if dancers are thinking about the next steps in their dance lives, such as building up to undertake GCSE, A-Level or vocational degree qualifications, or aiming to pursue dance careers further through auditions.
In addition to the courses for young people, also available is the application for the Jerwood Choreographic Research Project, in which over £120,000 is available to fund research proposals from artists and creatives from any artform, who consider their work to be choreographic. This would be a fantastic initiative to get a first work off the ground, or build on an existing creative state. As a National Dance Network initiative, the Project is an innovative new investment model for open-ended research in choreographic practice across all artforms.
Urban Strides, the renowned street dance specialists, pride themselves providing the ultimate street dance experience for every dance ability level from the age of 7 to adult. Urban Strides aims to fulfil this through creating the most exciting, inspirational and authentic street dance experience possible, delivered with passion, positivity and fun, and possibly some knee pads!
Founder Andy Instone’s sheer passion and commitment, emotionally, physically and mentally, launched Urban Strides on the road to success. Originally self taught, Instone has since studied mainstream forms of dance – Ballet, Jazz, Contemporary and Tap – and has travelled around the globe to learn from the pioneers of original street dance and hip hop styles, taking authentic dance, movement and expression to as many people as possible. Instone fuses funk movement with classical training techniques and choreographic conventions in order to add quality and dynamics to Urban Strides’ ethos and work.
Urban Strides offers classes, workshops, community work and performances, having also branched out into creating “streetwear” dance clothes and DVDs of their work. A variety of street dance styles are practised by Urban Strides, in order to provide a whole and comprehensive experience for those involved in the Urban Strides t-shirt clan. Additionally, Urban Strides has extensive experience and understanding of the education sector, regularly providing workshops for A Level and GCSE students, as well as inspirational workshops for beginners. Performances conducted by Urban Strides are additionally produced to be as accessible as possible for audiences, opening up the dance sector to everyone with their vibrant and exciting choreography.
The philosophy of Urban Strides means it aims to provide the highest quality possible at an affordable price, be it classes, workshops or performances. The accessibility of Urban Strides too means that if it’s your first day stepping into your urban dance sneakers, or you fifth year of pulling on your favourite street dance hoodie, Urban Strides is for you.