Whilst the stereotypical uniform for dance is much the same, different uniform is required for different dance schools, different exam boards and even different dance grades. For a non-dancer, the assumption of pink ballet tights and a leotard for ballet is not so far from the truth, the stereotypes also formed for tap and modern jazz. Contemporary and lyrical classes tend to be a little more free and liberal in terms of what the dancer dons, and can range from anything to short shorts and tights tops to tracksuit bottoms and baggy pyjama-style tops, known on the whole as ‘baggies’, often used in any dance class for warming up.
Despite the stereotypes, dance teachers all employ certain uniform and dance wear standards for their students. Some prefer their dancers to be comfortable with what they are wearing, whereas others maintain that a dancewear uniform enforces discipline and technique as the teachers are able to see the dancers’ bodies easily. For those who like to see their dance school uniform worn, or neat dance wear purchased, their dancers are more likely to adhere to the standards required during dance exams too. Some dance examination boards define each grade through different coloured leotards, waist elastics or style of ballet shoe.
Aside from ballet, jazz dance and modern jazz is also sometimes subject to requirements such as these. Some exam classes, or even individual teaches, will ask that no split sole jazz shoes be worn, for example, or alternatively that split sole jazz shoes are preferable. Some argue that split sole shoes – be it jazz, ballet, jazz trainers or even tap shoes – offer no support and a full sole provides more for the technique. However, dance shoes, like the rest of the catalogues and wardrobes full of dance wear, are usually dictated by teachers and dancers grow up with these views instilled.
DOMS: a common ailment for dancers, athletes and sports players. As much as it is common, the meaning of the each letter and its cause is not often known, especially by those who are younger and just beginning to train harder in their chosen area.
For dancers, the beginning of the attempt to pursue a performance career can start very young, throughout teens or perhaps post-20 years old. However, in deciding in this goal, dancers are inspired to push their bodies harder, take more class and learn new things. DOMS then come into play. Also known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, DOMS occur when muscles have been used to a greater extent than they are day to day. For example, DOMS are most likely to occur in the new academic year when the body has not been used as much throughout the summer.
Dancers are likely to feel varying degrees of stiffness in their muscles during DOMS, usually in their quads and hamstrings which are worked hard in all dance techniques. The following morning it may be a struggle to get out of bed and even walk down stairs, depending on the extent of the DOMS. Some dancers may not even feel their DOMS the next day – being delayed the soreness may come into play 24-72 hours later and may be a complete surprise with the stiffness of the muscles seemingly coming from nowhere.
For many dance students in higher or vocational education, DOMS are a regular part of life. Long days mean that the students must get up and train again the next day, working through the stiffness and discomfort knowing they will usually wake up with DOMS again the next day. However a high protein diet rich with nutrients can help to work against DOMS, repairing the muscles tears and making them stronger.
November 1989 saw the declaration of May 25th as National Tap Dance Day: as Representative John Conyers of Michigan said, “there ought to be a law to make everyone love tap dancing”. National Tap Dance Day for the US has since become more widely known, and is celebrated as far away as Japan, Australia, India and Iceland, with tap shoes tapping far and wide.
Celebrated on the agreed-upon birthday of legendary tap pioneer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, National Tap Dance Day became a symbol for African American tap, as historically many were unaware of its specific contribution to tap recognised today. National Tap Dance Day was a result of Carol Vaughn, Nicola Daval, and Linda Christensen’s passion for all things tap. After much discussion, the three picked Bill Robinson’s birthday because he was a tap dancer known and loved worldwide for his work onstage and in films. To tap insiders, Robinson was renowned for dancing on the ball of the foot, in split wooden soles, and in perfect time. Tap has evolved considerably since then, and tap shoe brands such as Capezio and Bloch have built up their images as a result.
Carol Vaughn was one of tap’s great impresarios from the 1970s tap revival and once tapped up and down the steps of the Washington Monument in “I Ain’t A’Fred A’staires”. In a 1994 article for the International Tap Dance Association’s newsletter, Vaughn and Daval emphasised that although “tap dance was experiencing renewed popularity, there was still little public awareness of tap beyond a few Broadway shows, old Fred Astaire movies, and the occasional concert or TV special featuring several of the great master tappers”. They felt there had to be a way to increase recognition of tap’s contribution to cultural and artistic heritage, to bring its special appeal to everyone.
Today, tap receives great recognition, and one can only imagine where the world’s tap shoes will be travelling next.
Whilst straightforward lessons are in no shape of form headed for the archives, dance and drama workshops for children and young people are gaining more and more popularity. At a glance, prestigious companies and organisations such as Rambert Dance Company, Tap Attack and West End Kids are offering their expertise to young, aspiring individuals who are willing to give up their free time in order to receive a worthwhile result. In the mix of leotards and “New Yorkers“, those engaging with the workshop may not ever dust off their pointe shoes and become The Dying Swan, but some may indeed embrace the new leg warmers of their dance life and take on an entirely new path.
Whilst taking part in workshops focus on the fun and enthusiasm the work creates, overall they provide much more. As a workshop leader, being able to noticeably nurture a young person’s desire to perform on stage, or focus their energy into raw talent is immensely worthwhile. Earlier this month in the Guardian online, the Associate Director of Creative Learning at the London Bubble Theatre Company wrote about The Speech Bubbles programme which encourages young children with speaking, listening or communication needs to overcome these barriers with phenomenal results. This may not be the case for all the children who take part on the programme, but to see a small improvement in areas such as emotion, conduct and behaviour is very encouraging to the workshop leaders.
To observe numerous workshops taking place that provide a multitude of resources for young people is extremely heartening; arts organisations, through various sources of funding, are able to support the next generation of artists and continue their line of work through what the leaders offer. Workshops in the art sector are not difficult to come by, with a whole host of successful organisations managing their time in order to provide.
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.
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!
Formed in 2006, Tap Attack has since established itself as a prestigious workshop provider. The teaching faculty of 15 have taught tap classes to over 3000 tap dancers in the UK, each teacher with notable achievements in their individual dance fields aside from their tap careers. Many have worked in the West End and on tap-specific shows, such as Tap Dogs, Hot Shoe Shuffle, Singin’ in the Rain and 42nd Street.
Tap Attack has achieved remarkable success since its inception. The performance company of Tap Attack – Xtreme Tap – offers a wide variety of exciting performance opportunities. Tap Attack claims its dancers are unrivalled in their ability to entertain; be it a classic tap performance or a more bespoke requirement, Xtreme Tap hosts a team of talented tappers, donning tap shoes and ankle warmers! Apart from traditional tap work, Xtreme Tap have performed at a whole host of corporate and commercial events with additional success performing at fashion shows, product launches and corporate entertaining events. With such a variety to choose from, suddenly the decision of Bloch tap shoes, Capezio tap shoes or So Danca tap shoes seems easy!
The first of Tap Attack’s 2012 “Total Tap Workshops” is in Birmingham on Sunday 29th April at The Dance Workshop, supported by Capezio. The sheer variety of opportunities offered by Tap Attack is emphasised by its Total Tap Workshops, available for 3 standards of tappers. The event is marketed as a fun and informative day for attendees, adding considerable amounts to their tap repertoire. Additionally, the “Rhythm Routes” of 2012 is due to follow up its sell-out success of 2011, as an exciting collaboration between Tap Attack and the ISTD. Rhythm Routes gives participants a chance to experience the best of UK tap as a journey through tap history, designed to inspire teachers and students alike with a range of classes. Rhythm Routes 2012 is taking place on Sunday 20th May, at Preston College; tap shoes at the ready!