So today marks the end of my first week at conservatoire.
I have been working towards full time training for the last three years (equivalent to the amount of time I'm actually going to train here) but at the moment, all it really feels is surreal. I have been kept pretty busy so far with introducing myself to a million people - or really the 150 in my year - and trying to convince my body that it remembers how to dance! However, now that the first weekend has arrived I have had time to breathe and really appreciate that I'm here.
There is something quite pressurising about getting to do something you have dreamt about for years, as if you don't want to 'mess up' now that what was a goal has morphed into a reality. On the other side though, I feel intensely grateful that my experiences on CAT scheme and in the National Youth Dance Company, which you can read about here and here, have given me a taste of life in full time training before I start. Of course I won't really know if I'm prepared or not until the full timetable starts after another week of induction, but at the moment I am very very grateful that I at least know a handful of people and my way around the building.
One thing I hadn't expected is how excited I am for the parts of the course that don't happen in the studio. I guess this is understandable as I am typing this in the biggest dance library in Europe (in my school!) but throughout all of the talks about the curriculum this last week one of the things that has stuck out to me is the sheer range of subjects you can study on a dance course. Having never studied dance as an academic subject, as I have always trained outside of school, I am excited to bring together the two worlds that have existed in parallel for me over the past few years. I think what really excites me about studying dance is that you are also studying life and history and literature and a whole host of other things that I love. Our first piece of research work even includes sketching your surroundings, something that I hadn't really considered as informative to dance but has been really rewarding so far.
While all of my friends are settling in to freshers at their 'normal' universities, I couldn't be happier to be studying something weird and wonderful. I doubt myself a lot, but this time I'm ready to take a leap of faith.
This year I have been honoured to be a part of the National Youth Dance Company, working with Guest Artistic Director Sharon Eyal. Throughout this incredible process (you can read more about it in the links above) I have really learnt a lot about myself as a person and a dancer and what it means to find 'your thing' in dance.
I started with a lot of preconceptions about what it means to be a contemporary dancer and specifically what that meant in comparison to all the other dance styles I encountered in the company. Being surrounded by incredibly talented dancers in styles such as bharatanatyam, breaking and ballet, was inspiring but also very intimidating - it's really easy to feel that what you do somehow isn't enough. But throughout the rehearsals and classes I realised that style isn't everything - just because you are a contemporary dancer doesn't mean you can't steal anything that takes your fancy from the people around you. It also doesn't mean that you are like other contemporary dancers, the beautiful thing about Gaga, the movement style created by Ohad Naharin that we took classes in every day, is that you are each moving individually and completely in your own world.
This space to discover what you like and what you don't like is invaluable in shaping what your perception of how you dance. I would also say that one of the amazing things about dance is that you don't need anything to transport yourself to a different place. As amazing as taking Gaga classes was, one of the most valuable things I took away from is it is that you can dance around your kitchen every day and that is just as valid as dancing in a studio. I love dance because I love moving, and you can do this anywhere and any time. As I go into professional training in September, I am so grateful for this experience and I am really excited to keep on discovering 'my thing' as a dancer.
'I dance every day, and I want everyone to do it'
The Happiness Project is Didy Veldman's first project with her new company Umanoove. It returns to touring in 2017.
The dancers are Estela Merlos, Dane Hurst, Hannah Kidd and Mathieu Geffré.
Everyone who can get a ticket should go and see The Happiness Project by Didy Veldman when it tours in 2017.
I realise that this is a bold claim, but I truly believe that The Happiness Project is a life-enhancing experience for those that love dance, music theatre or any type of art. With four superb dancers, who were very inspiring for me as a student, and engaging live music from the composer and violinist Alexander Balanescu, the production offered an evening of beautiful dance combined with subtle and insightful offerings around the theme of happiness and why we chase it.
I feel like I have truly grown as a dancer, although from this picture I evidently still can't point me toes! However, there is always room for improvement. My long summer without enough dance is nearly over, so I thought I would set some resolutions for the next school year.
1) To pace myself
I got my first injury back in May (yippee) and since then I've had to be very
careful. Jumping was off the table for months, and I'm still very aware of how I
look after myself in class. Despite the obvious frustration, it has actually been
useful to take a step back and really look at my posture in class. Now that I'm
recovered I really want to stay that way this year, and keep going with
strengthening and looking after my body.
2) To challenge myself as much as possible in class
It's easy to get too comfortable in a class that you are familiar with and this
year I'm not starting any major new training programs like I was last year.
For this reason I think it's really important for me to continue pushing myself
to improve every day. In order to motivate me throughout the year I'm going to
continue to refer to my inspirations. You can check out why I love Joy Womack
Misty Copland by clicking the links.
3) To continue trying to find my choreographic voice and 'unique style'
This is another thing that I think improved in leaps and bounds last year, but
I'm by no means finished! A huge part of this progress was taking part in the
Choreomission competition on CAT scheme, where I created my own piece,
which you can read about here - My First Choreography Experience . This year
I want to focus on moving like me, whatever that means. It is brilliant to be
able to learn a wide variety of styles and I want to use this experience to create
my own movement vocabulary. I have a feeling this one might be more of a
4) To balance life, dance and school
Unlike some of my dance friends, I am not starting vocational training in
September. I am continuing academic studies at sixth form college, so this is a
whole new challenge for me. While I was very very busy, I managed to balance
everything and do my GCSEs, and results day came without any trauma!
Continuing to balance things out at college will be a new challenge, but one I
am excited to start.
So there are my four resolutions for the new school year, I hoped they gave you some food for thought. I'm going to enjoy my last few days of holiday before the craziness of dance and school kicks in. We'll see how many of my resolutions I achieve before next year!
I recently went to see a performance of Nederlands Dans Theater 2 at The Mayflower Theatre in Southampton. I had no idea what to expect, but I was absolutely blown away by the quality of dance that I saw there.
As many of you will know, I am currently part of the Centre for Advanced Training scheme at Trinity Laban (you can read about my experience as part of CAT here.) This term at CAT we had the opportunity to choreograph a piece as part of a competition called Choreomission. Although I had always enjoyed the creative side of contemporary dance, like improvising and creative tasks in class, I had never created a whole piece before.
I was excited but also quite nervous before the first rehearsal. We had chosen our group members by doing workshops with small groups of students on the first day of term. This meant that although I had chosen my dancers, I had no idea what they would be like to work with as we were almost complete strangers!
At first I found it difficult to express exactly what I wanted when setting my dancers tasks to generate material. I could see it in my head, but when it came to putting it into words it was a different story... However, a few rehearsals later we had various sections of movement that started to almost become a piece! This happened as I 'found my feet' as a choreographer and we bonded together as a group.
There were definitely some things I would do differently were I to do it again though. Some tasks were pretty hilarious, like trying to make one of them dance blindfolded with the other dancers surrounding them. Maybe not my best plan.
We also had a very interesting time with the tape that I was using onstage, which was absolutely always on one of two settings:
1) Not sticky enough and so coming off the floor
2) Too sticky and so stuck to my dancers' feet :)
But all of these mishaps aside, I had an amazing time growing as a person and a dancer by making my ideas come to life. I met a load of new people on CAT scheme (sometimes I still feel like a newbie) and it definitely helped me grow in confidence.
My piece got through to the final 6, but wasn't selected for the show, which means that this journey has come to an end. I now have more experience and lots of memories to take away with me and I'm definitely going to do Choreomission again.
Think creative thoughts!
While most dancers would swear that they always love performing, not all of us would say we always love class! At times it can be frustrating and you can feel like your not making progress. Here are my top tips for staying motivated:
Another one of my inspirations from the dance world here today. I discovered Joy through youtube, where she vlogs daily about her experiences.
Find her youtube channel here
Unlike most other dance in the media, she doesn't present ballet a certain way, you just get to see her life as it is. I think that the awful side of ballet being portrayed through movies such as Black Swan, or the TV series Flesh and Bone, makes people feel detached from dance, and less likely to see performances. While I believe that dance should be in the media, and people should be talking about it, I don't think that it should always be in such a negative light. This isn't representative of dance as a whole, what would be so much better is an un-edited version for the public to enjoy and realise what the dance world is like.
Enter Joy Womack, who vlogs daily about her experiences as a dancer with the Kremlin Ballet. A combination of a great sense of humour, beautiful rehearsal footage and sometimes performance footage as well makes for very easy watching. You can binge watch her videos for hours, but at the moment I am up to date and just waiting for the next one!
Her attitude towards dance (and life in general) is also extremely inspiring. She is so hard working, pretty much every video includes some footage of her working out. It's hard not to feel lazy in front of a laptop when she works so incredibly hard for her art form. She manages to fit in rehearsals for performances, an impressive workout routine, running her own business called the Prima Bar, and vlogging every day! I feel busy most of the time, but Joy's routine is a new level of lively.
As well as this great attitude to life, her dancing is beautiful to watch. The viewers get to watch lots of rehearsals, at the heart of the Kremlin Ballet - almost as if we were there ourselves. The performances are also great, the variety of roles introduced is amazing.
Check out her youtube channel, and follow her on social media here:
Who inspires you? Let me know below or on social media.
I write this after my first intensive, two days of cultural dance from around the world. I had a crash course in Bharatanatyam, Scottish Highland dancing and Ceilidh, Middle Eastern Dabke and Waacking. I know, a lot to get my head around in two days...
It was the end of my first half term on the CAT scheme, which stands for Centre for Advanced Training. The CAT scheme takes place at nine centres around the country. You can find out more here:
It has been an amazing experience so far. Meeting new people was been great, especially during the intensive when we were mixed with people of all ages and abilities.
I also discovered a lot about how I dance, and I wasn't as terrible at waacking as I thought I would be! My waacking teacher created an amazing atmosphere in the studio, she was called Icy Ice, which in itself is quite a change to a conventional ballet lesson :) Once everyone began to let go and have fun, it was a great environment to try something very out of my comfort zone.
We also learnt that Dabke originated from farmers stamping out the clay for bricks, which was made more enjoyable by musicians creating rhythms for them to stamp to. This evolved into the dance Dabke, traditional in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Palestine
It's good to go outside of your comfort zone once in a while, to push yourself to try something new. Whatever it is that scares you, sometimes facing a fear has an amazing outcome that you could never have predicted. Wise words from Eleanor Roosevelt:
What will you do that scares you today?
Since being promoted to principle of ABT Misty Copeland has become something of a household name. Her Under Armour ad boosted her fame and there is even a film coming out about her, A Ballerina's Tale.
She has been one of my inspirations for a while now for many reasons, but the main one doesn't have anything to do with ballet. It's because she doesn't fit the mould.
We have all stood out for the wrong and the right reasons, and Misty is so inspiring as she stands out in so many ways, but never stops proving that she deserves everything she has. As someone training for a career in dance, she is an amazing person to look up to as I know that you don't have to fit in to be brilliant and to get to where you want to go.
She also has a philosophy of bringing dance to unlikely audiences. I feel strongly that the arts are not shown under enough of a spotlight and don't engage enough people. Maybe Misty Copeland will be remembered as someone who helped to change that. Her unique experiences and background are very different to the stereotypical ballerina, which is one of the reasons she is such a brilliant dancer.
As a latecomer to ballet and someone whose body also doesn't fit the traditional mould, I hope to follow in her footsteps!
Contemporary dance student and food-lover, sharing tips and tricks, recipes and my journey through the amazing worlds of dance and food.