Meet the Founder

 

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Author: aliciajell

Brighton Tap Festival | A Family Affair

Brighton Tap Festival | A Family Affair

You’ve probably all heard of some amazing tap festivals held around the world, America, Barcelona, Stockholm to name a few, but where are the UK ones?! Let me tell you all about the new kid on the uk tap block!

Founded in 2015 and born from a family love for the genre, 4 women, (2 mums and 2 daughters) decided to put their best feet forward and bring tap to the masses here in Great Britannia. Brighton Tap Festival is the brain child of Karen Spall, Jamie Spall, Sarah Ivory and Kate Ivory-Jordan. Jamie and Kate have been tappers since the were tots, and have since shuffled their way around the world, dancing and learning from some of the best teachers and fellow hoofers. Whilst on their travels, they noticed the huge interest and popularity of tap dancing in other countries, yet the UK lacked the same enthusiasm. You can read our thoughts about why this might be on our previous article Tap Revival – The Decline And Resurrection . Keen tappers would have to travel out of the country, and as such incur great travelling expenses that some would be unable to justify, despite their tapping passion. And so the girls sought to change that and Brighton Tap Festival was established.

WHAT’S INVOLVED

The festival itself is a 3 day event open to anyone with a love for tap. It caters for every age and ability, from beginners to more advanced, and professional levels, so everyone will feel comfortable but still have the option to challenge themselves. Classes and workshops run throughout the day, then make way for the evening events. Here’s where the festival comes into its own!

The first is the Tap Jam, where willing participants are invited into the stage and improvise to live jazz music played by the Michele Drees Trio, what a treat! If you’ve never danced to live accompaniment before, you need to give it a go at least once. There is something so spine tingly special about it. The music literally vibrates through you, giving your dancing an incomparable quality.

Next up is the Cutting Competition where competitors will stomp it out against each other to win prizes. The key is to maintain rhythm whilst impressing the judges, so any personal flair is sure to be well received! Perhaps some homework watching the great Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire might come in useful!

Lastly is the Gala Night, a perfect way to conclude the festival. The whole faculty give a performance alongside some of the biggest UK hoofing talent, with live music from Michele Drees again. Jamie Spall had this advice, “The Gala is always the best event of the festival, and if I could recommend attending only one, it would be this one!”

Don’t worry though, there’s no obligation to participate in the evening festivities. They hold so much entertainment, good music and phenomenal talent, that you can simply buy a ticket and immerse yourself in the electric atmosphere!

TICKETS

The festival have a tiered system. The lowest is a 2 class pass. This enables you to attend any 2 classes of your choice over the entire weekend, perfect if you can’t commit to a set day or just popping in and out. You can also choose from a 1,2 or 3 day pass, giving you access to all the classes taking place on the day(s) you’ve selected. Workshops and evening events are extra and tickets need to be purchased separately, unless, that is, you go for the all inclusive pass, which does exactly what it says on the tin!

DETAILS

For 2018, the festival will run from 31st Aug -2nd Sept. Boasting some of the most admired and influential tappers of the current generation, including Jason Janas, Derick Grant , Adele Joel and the D’Angelo Bros to name a few. Jamie and Kate will also be taking classes! Visit the website www.brightontapfestival.org.uk for tickets and more information. What’s more is the girls have kindly organised a discount code for you, our readers! Send them a message through the contact page of their website and quote DANCENICHE which entitles you to 20% off ticket prices! What other excuse do you need?!

Dance Niche

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To The Dancers Who Are Afraid Of Taking The Next Step

To The Dancers Who Are Afraid Of Taking The Next Step

This article comes from the heart, and is a very personal one, but one that I want to give others the courage that may be lacking in taking that next step in their dance career.

At the age of 17, after dancing for 5 nights a week since I was around 12 (I was a late starter) I turned my back on dance. I’d taken all the higher grades exams I could and everyone else in my class were going on to do teaching qualifications or (successfully) auditioning for full time dance education. I wanted so desperately to perform – to dance, yet lacked any self confidence in perusing a career. I had all the artistry and enthusiasm yet lacked what I would call a ‘typical‘ dancers body. I stood at a petite 5″1, predisposed to carrying weight on my upper thighs and bum, and forward facing hip sockets rendered my natural range of turnout almost non existent. In my head, I knew exactly what and how my body should be executing elements, yet my body was unable to comply. I would never ‘fit in’, I would never be ‘good enough’, I would never be successful in auditioning, and so I didn’t.

I was angry and biter at the world of dance. How could it be so biased to judge a dancer on such things that are out of their control, as opposed to seeing the sheer joy and the ability to project emotions whilst dancing?! Isn’t that what the true artistry of Dance is all about?! And so I shut the door on it completely. I left dance and never looked back.

Fast forward 17 years, I take adult classes, and have begun my career as a dance teacher. Dance will now always be a part of my life, and for that, I am forever grateful. I also have a family, with 2 young girls, so I would not change a single thing, but I always wonder ‘what if?What if I’d been brave enough to audition? What if I’d gone to full time dance education? Would I have succeeded? Would I have had improved my ability, honed my craft? I will never know.

And there lies the point of this article. If you don’t at least try, you will never know what the answer will be. Ok, it might not be the outcome you’d hope for, but at least you’d have give it your best shot. You could walk away confidently knowing you tried your very best but perhaps it wasn’t meant to be, and so find a different path to walk. Please don’t let opportunities pass you by without at least giving it a chance. What’s the worst that could happen?! You don’t get in?! So what! You pick yourself up, dust yourself off and carry on. Better than living with regret.

Regret is such a tragic emotion. To torment ourselves with the ‘what ifs and buts’ is cruel and self destructive. We can not rewrite the past. What is done, is done. No one knows the future or what lies ahead for us on our path. All we can hope for is that when we arrive at one of many cross roads, that we will take the path that most serves us, and trust in our own judgement.

Believe me when I say you have to chase down your dreams and fight to keep them alive. Have faith in your abilities, which are unique to you. Dr Seuss had the right idea;

Today you are you, that is truer than true, there is no one alive that is youer than you!

What makes you different, sets you apart from the crowd, makes you stand out, makes you shine! Go to as many auditions as you can. Yes that may mean a lot of rejection, but somewhere, someone is looking for that unique quality that you possess. You have to go find them.

If you want to take the next step but are unsure on how to go about it, talk to your dance teacher, they would be both honoured and proud to help you. You can also read our article about audition hacks to help take the guessing work out of it and put any anxieties to bed. Read it here Audition Hacks – Advice For Dance Auditions You Need To Know About

Above all, I want you to have courage. Have courage to follow your passion, charge at it head on and don’t stop until you get there. What happens after that, who can tell, but there’s only one way to find out…………..

What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly? Erin Hanson

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Mental Health In Dancers | Why Is No-one Talking About It?

Mental Health In Dancers | Why Is No-one Talking About It?

We are historically inept at discussing our mental health in every day life, and even more so for dancers in the arts industry. We are here to highlight these uncomfortable conversations in the hope they become that little bit less uncomfortable.

Discussing mental health will always be a taboo. In recent times, we have seen a rise in celebrities talking about their own mental health battles, along with the subject being more present in the media. Specific organisations are campaigning to thrust it to the forefront of people’s awareness, in the hope of breaking down the wall of silence that surrounds the stigma.

Statistics inform us that 1 in 4 people are plagued with mental health issues right now. Just using that statistic alone means that within your group of friends, at least one of them will be suffering behind closed doors. Now look at a dance class, how many dancers take part, and apply the same statistic, alarming isn’t it. But what’s even more alarming is that there are virtually no studies specifically on mental health in dancers. Why? Entertainment Assist are an Australian organisation conducted a study on dancers and found their statistics to be even more dire than the general consensus – 1 in 3 dancers were suffering. An alarming figure considering no one is addressing it.

Exercise – specifically dance, has long been proven to help improve mental health and cognitive functions. This coupled with the display of euphoria projected by dancers during performances , could be the reason we are still inadequately addressing mental health and well-being of those in this chosen field. Do we assume that they aren’t affected? That they can’t possibly be affected because they are doing what they love and look how happy they are! There lies the problem. We assume. Assume that because they ‘look’ happy whilst they perform that they are the same whilst at home. How wrong could we be. There are so many reasons why dancers suffer, body dysmorphia, eating disorders, obsessive tendencies are just a few to mention, let alone the huge come down after the high of performing, it’s a rollercoaster of emotions.

We are honoured to be alliances with Terry Hide MA MBACP, ex professional dancer with London Festival Ballet (now English National Ballet) turned psychotherapist. He uses his first hand knowledge of the industry coupled with his expertise in the psychology field to specifically help dancers that are suffering behind the scenes and highlight their plight so that we can be better at identifying the signs, addressing the issues and ultimately support those that need it the most. He gave us some advice for dancers and their nearest and dearest or recognising symptoms and taking the first steps towards getting help.

Some Symptoms

You may find yourself wanting to be alone when you are normally gregarious. You may also be feeling tearful, tired or lethargic and irritable. Another common symptom is being short tempered with people you are close with. You may feel fearful of something but you don’t know what the something is. You may may have lost your appetite or obsessively control your eating (the start of anorexia/bulimia). You could also become controlling in other aspects of your life. These are only a few of the symptoms that you may experience. As mentioned above, each one of us is unique and therefore the symptoms will manifest themselves in different ways. In addition to the above symptoms, there are other factors to take into consideration. Hormonal issues around menarche, puberty, adolescence and for females, the menstrual cycle.

Most importantly, symptoms are a manifestation of underlying issues and your body’s warning that you need to deal with them. Unfortunately, the worldwide medical profession, on the whole, only treat the symptoms, usually by medication, rather than dealing holistically with a patient to find out what is creating the symptoms.

Being a ‘rock’ in isolation and being ‘strong’ is sometimes detrimental to oneself as it saps energy from our own self-healing system. The British resolve of the ‘stiff upper lip’ doesn’t work at all, it only exacerbates the problem by keeping it inside of us, which is toxic to our mental and physical health. For you to ask for help when you recognise the symptoms, is in itself the first step to healing. For some who are normally resistant to showing signs of ‘weakness’, asking for help is the bravest step.

If you identify any of these symptoms in yourself or someone close to you, as Terry said, the first and bravest step is recognising there is a problem. Problems don’t go away on their own, and if your mind is not working at its optimum best, how do expect dance, your craft, to be? If you can’t or don’t feel comfortable confiding in your nearest and dearest, reach out to one of the many organisations, fully trained, many having had their own first hand experience with mental health issues, who are ready to support you.

MIND are a mental health charity set up to help those in need or just be an unbiased eat to listen. You can visit their website www.mind.org.uk , call their helpline 0300 123 3393 or text 86463 . Terry Hyde also has a website for his services specific to those in dance www.counsellingfordancers.com or through Facebook: @counsellingfordancers

Twitter: @counselingdance

Instagram: @counselingfordancers . Alternatively you can contact us here at Dance Niche, and we would be more than happy to pass on any questions or worries you have to Terry.

Please remember, you are not on your own. Many people before you have had their own mental health issues and made it through the other side, and many people after you will suffer. It is much more common than anyone cares to make out, but it’s only when we talk about it and face it head on, that any progress can be made. Don’t suffer in silence, someone is always ready to listen.

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Dance Nutrition | A Dancer’s Guide On How To Fuel The Body

Dance Nutrition | A Dancer’s Guide On How To Fuel The Body

There is a huge misconception that dancer’s – particularly ballerinas, don’t eat, always on a diet, or have eating disorders. Sadly, whilst the latter maybe true for a lot of dancers (a whole other article in itself) this is simply not true. Read on to find to find out exactly what and when full time dance students should be eating to correctly fuel their bodies.

Firstly, there is no way a professional dancer could perform night after night, after training and rehearsing all day and still keep their bodies strong, at their peak, and with optimum energy stores, not to mention longevity of career, without eating sufficiently. They have to eat, and eat intelligently and mindfully. Of course, they have access to nutritional experts to guide them and help them to stay on top of their game. But what about students?? Young girls and boys who dance all day throughout the week, learning and honing their craft. The way they fuel their body will not be the same as the professionals just yet, but they will still need to be consuming a fair amount, to help their bodies build the muscles needed to be a strong and competent performer. THIS is what I want to educate to these young adults, at a time when their bodies have been through some hugely significant changes and undoubtedly begin to compare themselves to other dancers they may meet. I want to shatter these misconceptions that can manifest into something that ultimately shatters careers – and lives.

A few weeks ago, I sat down with Laura Harrison from Dynamics Chester. She was a dancer, has a degree in Sports science, MSC in nutrition and now runs her own fitness centre. If anyone would truly understand the demands of a dancer AND be able to back that up with sound, nutritional advice, it’s her! We put our heads together and came up with a healthy eating guide for full time dance students and dancers who are consistently training throughout the week and want to maintain their current weight/fitness. Laura was keen to stress “This guide will be a very general idea on the types of food students should be eating and how often, to get them through their current dance programmes, maintain their energy levels and help to build the very muscles they are honing during training. This will also differ slightly depending on the physique and build of the dancer and how many hours training they do, but in the whole it’s a good source of information to educate dancers on nutrition”

BREAKFAST

As the old saying goes, it’s the most important meal of the day, and Laura agrees “Breakfast kick starts your day and wakes your body and metabolism up! It’s a good idea to make sure it’s high in protein to help stabilise blood sugar levels from the start” Ideal foods include eggs (poached, boiled, scrabbled) salmon, avocados, brown bread and porridge.

Breakfast cereals are one to avoid. They generally have lots of hidden sugars on them, which if you consume at the start of the day, will cause your sugar levels to rise to a high peak, which in turn will cause a crash mid morning (hello elevenses). Fresh fruit juice also has a hidden sugar agenda! Laura informs “a typical 25ml glass of fresh fruit juice contains up to 22g of sugar!” So while juice is a good contributor to your daily fruit and veg intake, it’s a good idea to limit your serving, adding water to dilute the amount.

LUNCH

Lunch is the meal half way between your day. You’ve already been dancing for a good few consecutive hours, but still have the rest of the day to go, so you need to keep your energy levels up. “You’ll need protein and carbs to sustain you” Laura continues, “……a ratio to 2-1 protein to carbs is a good rule of thumb to stick too, not forgetting lots of veg and greens.”

Ideal sources of protein would be chicken or turkey. White meats are more easily digested by the body and are much leaner. Eggs and fish like tuna and Mackerel are also great additions.

Carb options would be Brown rice, quinoa, lentils and pulses. Brown pasta, bread and potatoes are also carb rich, but they may leave you feeling to bloated and ‘heavy’ to continue to dance on, so eat those sparingly.

Green veg like broccoli, spinach and kale are perfect, but any veg will boost your vitamin and mineral intake! There’s a saying Laura likes, ‘eat the rainbow’ which basically means your plate needs to be packed full of colourful veg and fruit, not just beige carbs.

DINNER

“The idea of your evening meal is to replenish the carbs you have been burning off all day” says Laura, “although you should try and make your evening meal the smallest, so you’re not going to bed on a full stomach. The body finds it much more difficult to digest food whilst the body is in sleep state. It’s best to try and eat your dinner within the hour you have finished dancing, to adequately replenish your stores of energy.”

Brown rice and pasta are good examples of evening meals, just watch portion control. Fish and meat can be your protein sources, just like your lunch. Salads work well as an evening meal, offering a lighter meal before settling down, and an easy way to include your veg and up your leafy greens intake.

SNACKS

Laura is an advocate for snacking, “Snacks are ideal for in between meals and important to keep your blood sugar levels constant and consistent, avoiding the peak and dips effect. You just need to be mindful and intelligent with your choices.”

Fruit and veg are ideal to snack on. Apples are a great source of fibre to aid digestion, bananas are packed with protein, carrot and cucumber sticks are perfect as well. Protein snack balls are good for a boost, as are nuts and seeds, which are full of the good fats our body needs, particularly the joints, but be mindful that they are also high calorie, so again, use portion control and limit your intake. Yoghurts are also good for protein, and help with calcium levels.

Smoothies are a convenient snack on the go, but be wary of what you’re putting in them, “2 parts veg to 1 part fruit” Laura recommends, to avoid it becoming to rich in natural sugars which will cause your levels to spike. Avocados, beetroots, kale, spinach, cucumber, carrots are blend-able veggies with hardly any taste once mixed together. If you then choose fruit with a distinctive taste – pineapples, mangos, mixed berries, they will then take over the taste buds. You may need to add milk or water to loosen the consistency.

Some pointers to remember;

• SHIFT thought patterns from ‘diet’ to ‘fuelling the body’

• AIM for 7 portions of fruit and veg per day

• STAY hydrated, aim between 2-3 litres per day

• EAT little and often through the day to help stabilise blood sugar levels and avoid ‘dips’

• SWAP bread, pasta and rice for the brown variety to aid digestion

• PREP is key, prepare meals and snacks the night before

To conclude, full time dancers and students require an adequate, balanced diet to not only provide them with the energy and stamina throughout the day, but to aid muscle growth and prevent injury. Without it, a dancers career would be quickly over before it had even begun. I hope this serves as a reminder to young, impressionable girls and boys out there, that dancers do in fact eat properly, if they want longevity.

Again, this information is a loose idea on they types of foods students need to be eating. There are a great many factors that contribute to differences – age, build, gender, hours spent dancing, but on the whole, this is a good guide to maintaining a healthy balance and mindset towards food. Laura and I felt so passionately about this, that we are also preparing guides to eating for performances, to get lean, and also some meal idea suggestions to take the hassle away, so watch this space!

If you don’t want to miss out, why not sign up to our website?! It’s free and you’ll receive new articles straight to your inbox! Subscribe here https://danceniche.us17.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=e45dd59903ec166f4ca174572&id=a07c82fcac

Dance Niche.

With special thanks to Laura Harrison of Dynamics Chester, for providing a wealth of nutritional knowledge www.dynamicsdanceandfitness.com

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Tap Revival – The decline and resurrection

Tap Revival – The decline and resurrection

In years gone by, teachers and studio owners noticed a growing trend of a decline in students in their tap classes. Read on for the possible causes of this and those that are championing an almighty return to greatness!

Many have put this decline down to the sheer difficulty and intricate foot and ankle technique putting students off. We all know the feeling of being almost beaten by a sequence of tap steps, you hit a wall and feel you are never going to ‘get’ it. It’s at this point that you either give up all together or push through that wall, but boy does that take A LOT of mental strength, persistence and dare I say it, stubbornness. If you don’t hold that love for tap, then you’ll most likely knock it on the head and wave your little white flag of defeat. It’s not always forever though. Teachers have commented on younger students nearly having a break from tap. They give up classes when they’re younger, only for some to return a few years down the line. This may be due to varying abilities and cognitive maturity. Children all develop at different rates, so some may be finding tap more difficult earlier on, and then want to try again when their brains are more developed and firing those signals at much quicker rate to enable them to execute the steps properly.

It has also been commented on the ‘style’ of tap being to blame. The Tap style of late was very ‘broadway’. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I love the glamour, pizazz and sequins, but that just wasn’t ‘cool’ enough for the most recent generation of teenagers. Tap became a bit lame for want of a better word. These teens saw their parents watching those (wonderful) old MGM movies, seeing those tap routines and the getting to class and seeing the same style and steps. Teens are fickle creatures! So perhaps not wanting to lose their street cred had something to do with the decline.

However in more recent years, there’s been a steady incline in tap class numbers, but why?! Well, as mentioned before in talking about positive male ballet role models on social media, the same can be said for tap. Sisters Chloe & Maude have been something of a tapping sensation. Their prevalent presence on social media has brought a distinct new style of tap to the masses – rhythm tap. Rhythm tap is almost the polar opposite of the traditional style tap syllabuses taught in dance schools. Less about the lines and more about the sounds. Less upright and on your toes technique and more earthy, down into the ground. It’s a very free moving style, allowing your body to do whatever it needs to do to fire out the sounds from below. And that’s what makes it altogether more appealing, it looks more fun and expressive. The girl’s furious footwork often beggars belief, and you’re wondering why there aren’t any sparks coming from their shoes! They also have an infectious passion for tap that never falters, spreading the joy of creating rhythm with just your own feet where ever they time-step to!

So perhaps if you’re a studio owner, perhaps you could shake up your regular syllabus tap classes by doing a few free work rhythm tap sessions or host a rhythm tap workshop to reignite students love for the genre. Yes, it’s a very different style to traditional tap, but it can only add to your student’s roundedness as a dancer and performer, and may just inspire a new passion.

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Let’s Hear It For The Boys – because ballet isn’t all tutus and tiaras. (Boys Only! Photo by David Tett, courtesy Royal Academy of Dance.)

Let’s Hear It For The Boys – because ballet isn’t all tutus and tiaras. (Boys Only! Photo by David Tett, courtesy Royal Academy of Dance.)

Hear the word ballet, and you probably conjure up an image of a little girl with a pink frufru tutu on, pink ballet shoes, pink wrap cardigan, pink, pink, pink. It’s no wonder that there is a lack of boys in ballet classes! But all that is slowly starting to change.

Since time began, people have always put certain occupations and past times into little tiny stereotypical boxes. Firefighter – man, nurse – woman, football – man, ballerina – woman. You’re either pink, or blue, and woe betide you if you decide otherwise, because the whole world will try and convince you otherwise. But why?! Thank goodness that nowadays, these stereotypes are being blown apart. And the world of ballet is no exception. Don’t get me wrong, we are only just scratching the surface here, but it’s definitely a scratch in the right direction!

Perhaps most of the problem stems from the fact that previously, the majority of professional male ballet dancers were gay or at least, perceived to be. Not that that should have absolutely anything to do with it, but in years gone by, when the world was a less tolerant place than it is now, boys interested in ballet were put in another little box all of their own, that they too must be gay. Like gay was some form of insult (insert eye roll here). This would either make them quit ballet, or not start altogether for fear of being ridiculed.

Thank goodness the RAD (Royal Academy of Dance) has come up with a solution. They have recently launched a new programme, Project B. Their aim is to encourage and support more boys and men to participate in ballet classes by 2020 – the RAD’s centenary year. They want to help enrol more male dance teachers (as the teaching industry is predominantly women) to help encourage more boys to take classes and have role models to look up to.

(Iain Mackay leading a Boys Ballet Masterclass.)

They also plan, as well as many other aspects, on hosting more boys only workshops with specific male repertoire, so boys and young men won’t feel outnumbered and so discouraged from participating.

(Boys Only! Photo by David Tett, courtesy Royal Academy of Dance.)

The program has already been a huge success, and looks set to continue on the same direction. Bravo RAD. For further information on the project, visit their website http://www.royalacademyofdance.org/projectb

We all know the amazing benefits of taking regular ballet classes are – good posture, healthy supple joints, long lean muscles. It’s now become popular for football players to take ballet classes as part of their fitness regime. They might sound like polar opposites, but think about it for a second. Ballet will help with having that explosive power needed to jump into the air for that header, it will stretch everything out so that sliding tackle is less likely to cause any pulled muscles or ligaments, and it will definitely help with agility, making them light on their feet when dribbling around opponents! In fact, it’s been documented that celebrity footballers Ryan Giggs and the Ferdinand brothers take classes, and owe many attributed skills to ballet. So perhaps when young boys, who see their idols talking about going to ballet classes, they will see it in a different light and think “If they can do it, so

Social media has also helped the situation along. With the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and particularly Instagram, which hosts an impressive dance community, we now know more about celebrities and idols than ever before. We follow their daily lives, their habits, their work and home lives. Dancers are no exceptions here. Many of the professional dancers use Instagram as a way of documenting their lives and connecting with the public. Take Steven McRae for example. Steven is a Principal dancer with the Royal Ballet. He is known for his strong, sound technique and athletic performances. He is also known for being a loving family man, married to Elizabeth Harrod, a soloist with the Royal Ballet, and their 2 adorable children (really need to check out their IG accounts, seriously cute as a button, doe eyes bambinos). McRae mostly documents his dancing life, rehearsals, backstage, warm up routines and eye watering stretching, but he also indulges is with how kind and gentile he is with his wife, and how he dotes on the children. Hugely admirable stuff. He, along with countless other male dancers, are proving old stereotypes wrong. They are shouting from the rooftops that there is absolutely no shame in boys/men being dancers. They are physically strong and fit and able to express themselves fully in their roles without sexuality even being questioned. Applaudable role models.

Girls have always outnumbered boys in dance classes, but no genre more so than ballet. I hear many studio owners and teachers crying out for more boys, so we all have to ask “What can We do?” Well, advertising is key here. Most studios I’ve seen advertise their ballet classes, usually stick with the pink theme, tutu’s tiaras and sparkly wands. Not exactly shouting out to the boys! Let’s make signage more colour neutral. Let’s just have bright colours instead of a sea of pink. Let’s have some boy models on the posters. That goes for Dance shops too. Hardly the most inviting place for boys/men to come and buy their ballet gear, if the pink is glaring at you from the shop front before you’ve even got through the door! Let’s search for more male teachers, be it as permanent members of staff or one off workshops hosts, so boys have someone to aspire to. We can all play our part, no matter how small, in helping our young boys realise a dream and being confident and brave enough to follow it through.

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ENB’s ‘My First Ballet – Swan Lake’ Review

ENB’s ‘My First Ballet – Swan Lake’ Review

The English National Ballet have created their ‘My First Ballet’programme, retelling classic ballet stories with more of a U rating, (let’s face it, the world of ballet is often gory and tragic) suitable for little eyes, but still as much artistry and original scores to satisfy any ballet enthusiast. With help from a narrator and a shortened running time, they bring ballet productions to the masses, inspiring the next generation of art lovers.

The Swan Lake production starts with a friendly and theatrical narrator, Louise Calf, on stage, setting the scene and detailing the backstory. She is enthusiastic and expressive, perfect for captivating little minds and getting them to engage, yet quietly sits at the front of the stage and observes the following scenes, as not to become a distraction.

The dancers themselves are all members of ENB’s ballet school. It gives them valuable performance experience, as well as a taster of what it’s like to tour with a production and dance those iconic roles that are the pinnacle of every professional ballet dancer’s career. However, don’t let the fact that the cast are still students put you off. The English National Ballet School is a prestigious education system for only the very best emerging artistes of the future.Although, Swan Lake is regarded as one of the most demanding productions, not least because the characters Odette/Odile are traditionally played by the same dancer, here they are individual roles. However, even the legendary 32 fouettés (series of difficult, consecutive turns en pointe) have been included in this production. On this particular showing, I only counted 29, whether I miscounted whilst being in awe, or the dancer felt something was amiss and didn’t complete the whole series, that in itself is no mean feat, and they were executed perfectly!

The production has been cleverly reworked by Lou Cope, with choreography by Antonio Castilla and musical arrangements by Gavin Sutherland. There is a great emphasis on ballet mime, with is echoed through the narration, further helping to bring the story to life for the younger ones. The music scores have been shortened to keep production time down yet still include the most beloved melodies, and the choreography still contains some of the classic repertoire whilst injecting moments of humour and simplicity. No diving to her death for Odette here. The story now goes that Odile cannot go on with the trickery of the evil Rothbart’s plan, so she reveals her true identity at the ball, scuppering Rothbart’s efforts, and sides with Prince Siegfried and Odette, helping them to overcome the sorcerer and follow the path of true love, whilst Rothbart himself is released from the clutches of the dark side, to live harmoniously, and everyone, in true Disney style, lives happily ever after.

I’d also like to mention the wonderful programme that has been put together, again with little ones in mind. It contains beautiful illustrations by Mark Ruffle, the storyline written down with photos and picture symbols depicting the plot, some classic ballet moves and mimes to spot and even pages to colour in. And of course who can resist production merchandise at the end?!

From start to finish, My First Ballet Swan Lake is a complete sensory experience. It’s a wonderful way to introduce a younger audience to the world of ballet and the arts, perfect for their first to the theatre, and no doubt will encourage them to want to see more productions, as well as perhaps inspiring them into becoming the ballet stars of the future.

The tour is showing at The Opera House Manchester until Sunday 29th, with last minute tickets still available via this link http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/my-first-ballet-swan-lake/opera-house-manchester/or call the box office on 0844 871 3018. They then continue on to;

The Grand Theatre, Blackpool 5th & 6th May

http://www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk/event/my-first-ballet-swan-lake/

New Victoria Theatre, Woking 12th & 13th May

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/my-first-ballet-swan-lake/new-victoria-theatre/

Princess Theatre, Torquay 19th & 20th May

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/my-first-ballet-swan-lake/princess-theatre-torquay/

All information can also be found on ENB’s website www.ballet.org/myfirstballet

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Audition Hacks – Advice For Dance Auditions You Need To Know About

Audition Hacks – Advice For Dance Auditions You Need To Know About

Going for an audition for a a dance school, company, or a working contract can be quite daunting, especially if you’re still relatively new to auditioning. We’ve complied a list of things to remember to help take some of the nerves and anxiety away so you can concentrate on showcasing all that you have to offer!

RESEARCH

Do your homework. Look into the company who you are auditioning for. Look for things like their background or history, what style they focus on, who the lead director is. This will give you focus on what you may need to work on. Perhaps the director is a stickler for technique, so you can really set to work on honing and refining yours. Perhaps the focus is more on performance and emotions, so you can go away and add more raw, real facial expressions and tiny details that will give your dancing that added extra special something. Also, if you do your research into the history of the company, you show that you are an already dedicated student, that you use your initiative and have a genuine interest in the company, earning you extra brownie points.

WORKSHOPS

It’s a good idea to take some open workshops on the lead up to your audition. This environment is very similar to that of an audition, 1 or 2 teachers or directors and a room full of talented, enthusiastic dancers, all wanting to do their best. It will help you get used to that type of competitive atmosphere that can really hold back your dancing. Another thing to add is that you will have to pick up choreography super quick, and be able to retain it and apply your technique to it straight away. This skill only gets better with practice. In class, when we study syllabus work, it’s the same exercises over and over, and we learn choreography at such a slower, less pressurised rate. Your brain needs to adjust to receiving information quickly and getting your body to do what you want it to do straight away.

STAND OUT

Auditions are busy places. So many bodies come through the doors, just numbers and unknown faces to the directors. You need to make them remember you. Where you choose to stand in the room says a lot about you. Don’t hide at the back where you might get lost amongst other dancers. It can come across as lacking in confidence. Come to the front, be confident. Hold your ground. You deserve to be there. Also think about what you wear. Black is a flattering colour yes, but also popular. Wear something that shows a bit of personality, a pop of colour. It’ll make you easily recognisable and memorable when they are making their decisions afterwards. This brings us nicely to our next tip…….

CLEVER CHOICES

When choosing what you will wear, you need to think about what sort of body type you have, and how to make the most of it. There are a few clever things you can do to help you. If you’re on the shorter side, you can choose a leotard with high cut legs, lengthening your leg line. If you want to minimise the size of your derrière, choose a leotard with cap sleeves or a boat neck line, which will give the illusion of your shoulders being broader, and evening out your figure. But be careful, leotards can also draw attention to things you may not want to, so make sure you go and try on lots of different styles before you settle so you can be confident it shows you off the best it can.

ATTITUDE

How you act in an audition will affect a directors decision greatly. Make eye contact whilst they are talking to you. If they are giving corrections as a whole, make sure you nod, or give some visible cue that you have understood what they are saying. If they give you one personally, look positive and thankful. You can read more about how to receive corrections with our helpful tips here http://danceniche.com/2017/06/06/receiving-corrections-how-to-be-a-good-student/ They will be assessing who you react to constructive criticism. They want someone who they know will listen to advice, take it on board and work on it, not necessarily someone who is already perfect. They are looking for mailable, versatile dancers with the potential to learn so they can be moulded into exactly what the company needs. They are also looking for dancers with that ‘spark’, someone who clearly enjoys dancing. Make sure you show a bit of personality, smile, PERFORM! Show them that you’d be a valuable, entertaining asset, not someone who is a wall flower and uninteresting to watch.

REJECTION

Don’t let fear of rejection stop you from auditioning altogether, trust us when we say you will regret it later in life. Seize the opportunities whilst you have them. What’s the worst that can happen?! They say no. End of. Don’t let no’s stand in your way. If you don’t get accepted to your first audition, try another. Never give up hope. Remember that you won’t always be what they are looking for. It’s not that you aren’t a good dancer, only that you weren’t what they particularly needed at that time. Know that there will be a company or job that you fit into like the last piece of a jigsaw, sometimes you just need to look a bit harder. Truly believe that if you receive a no, it’s because something that’s just right for you is around the corner.

Auditioning can be a cut throat world that isn’t for the faint hearted. We hope with our tips, we’ve made it a little less daunting for you. However the most important bit of advice we could give would be to make sure you enjoy yourself and the experience each audition gives you.

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Rambert – A Linha Curva

Rambert – A Linha Curva

Sitting down to watch the famous Rambert Company put on their production at my local theatre – Theatr Clwyd, I was not sure what to expect. I’ve seen productions before, but non quite like this! It consists of individual, very distinct pieces, each with their own feel , costumes and choice in music, not to mention the style of dancing in each piece! It’s almost like separate productions, which most certainly keep you entertained the whole way through, interest never waning.

The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses

The opening scene is that of a house, with a table and chairs, a window, a bed and various doors. This piece is based upon a short animation film ‘Tango’ released in 1981. It begins with a woman sat motionless at the table, staring intently in front. She never moves. Slowly, one by one, we are introduced to new ‘characters’, the boy with the ball, the school girls, the loved up couples, the couple who’ve obviously had an argument, the woman with the baby, the athlete, the toilet repair man, the woman with shopping bags, the bedraggled woman still in her nightdress, and my favourite – the man in a twee Jumper carrying a Christmas tree! They enter through the various doors (with slams echoing the music) or window, with their own set movements lasting a couple of bars, moving individually around the room, then exiting before appearing again to perform the exact same movements. Like layers of paper mache, it begins with just one solitary story, then builds as each new character enters, ending in a bustling room full of people living their daily lives, yet never colliding, the rhythm of life. As you watch, you get a real sense of just how habitual humans are, stuck in a never ending cycle, Groundhog Day.

Symbiosis

An altogether different feel, contrasting greatly from the first piece. Symbiosis begins with a slatted screen, curving in the centre, an almost sun like shape, silhouetted by a stark bright light behind. The sinister music immediately puts you on edge – the type of music in a film where the main character is being hunted down or similar stressful situation. This is also reflected in the dancing, with the dancers interacting with each other and the choreography much more athletic, almost acrobatic. For me, it took on an Eastern feel part way through, with the constant humming of a gong bath, and the lighting behind changing to red, which with the shape of the slatted scenery, was reminiscent of the Japanese flag. This was also echoed in the choreography, becoming Thai Chi like in execution – controlled and purposeful yet fluid and free flowing. Again, the music and choreography are cleverly brought together, with athletic jumps that upon landing, echoed the beat being played by the live orchestra, adding yet another level to the percussion.

A Linha Curva

This makes a huge impact on curtain up, being dazzled by the reflective collars of the dancers, and the bellowing sound of them chanting, enough to startle you! This tribal theme is also represented in the music, which I defy you not to move in your seat to! There is a section that is acapella , with only the sounds of the jumps, claps and grunts of the dancers dictating the rhythm. We then see a group of male dancers and a single solitary female dancer. This section takes on that of a courting ritual of the bird of paradise – each male displaying his skills of athleticism, hoping to woo the female. The woman then decides she can dance better than her suitors, showing them just how it ought to be done, accompanied by the whoops and cheers from the men which are almost cat calling like. So the boys are left to their own devices and naturally, rivalry kicks in. What can only be described as a testosterone filled dance off between the alpha males. Then the climax. With music straight from a carnival in Brazil, and individual squares of brightly coloured lighting creating a grid on the floor of the stage. It’s such an intricate piece, with each dancer staying within a square of light, but still using the whole space of the stage. It’s hard to tell if the dancers are following the light patterns, or the lights are following the dancers. The precision needed by the dancers to perform the choreography yet train within their meter squared space is commendable. You cannot help but be swept away by the party atmosphere with this last piece, an audible and visual delight to conclude the production!

I must mention that there was a woman to the right of the stage, miming the music. She was so intricate in her movements that a first glance, I thought she was actually playing an instrument. This just goes to show how integral the music is to the whole of the production, that it requires someone to mime and explain the sounds of each piece to those with hearing difficulties, thus giving them the complete experience.

Rambert are performing at Theatr Clwyd until Saturday 10th March. Tickets are still available. To book, call the box office on 01352 701521 or visit their website www.theatrclwyd.com

They then head off to continue their tour with A Linha Curva and other productions at the following places;

Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

Thu 15 – Sat 17 Mar 2018

www.atgtickets.com

Theatre Royal Brighton

Wed 21 – Sat 24 Mar 2018

www.atgtickets.com

New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Tue 27 – Thu 29 Mar 2018

www.atgtickets.com

Sadler’s Wells, London

Tue 22 – Sat 26 May 2018

www.sadlerswells.com

Bergen International Festival, Norway

Wed 6 Jun 2018

www.fib.no

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Thu 22 – Sat 24 Nov 2018

www.capitaltheatres.com

All this information can also be found on Rambert’s website www.rambert.org.uk

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Comp Etiquette – A Guide To Good Manners At Competitions

Comp Etiquette – A Guide To Good Manners At Competitions

So we’ve previously written about good manners as a dancer in a studio and even dance Mum Manners, but do you know the things that are required of you at competitions and the things that are deemed acceptable?! Yet again, we are here to enlighten you to help you avoid any embarrassment!

ARRIVALS

When you first arrive at the comps, make sure you sign in so they know you are there and hand all music over that is to be played there and then. Make sure the CDs are clearly marked with your name, dance school and genre of dance. Once all that is done, make your way to the designated changing area. You may want to do your hair and make up well in advance, and just get changed half hour or so before your section is due to go on. This will give you time to warm up and suss out the stage area before your performance. We mentioned these things in our Comp Survival Tips article which you can read here.

BACKSTAGE

It is important to remember there will be lots of other dancers and teachers in the wings, whilst another dancer will be performing. You must act appropriately. Keep any warm up routines or practicing of certain elements away from the backstage area. These can be distracting for the dancer on stage and also pose a health and safety risk if there are a lot of others in the same area. Instead, find a quiet, open spot for any last minute practicing and warming up, then head backstage when you’ve got a few routines before you are due on. It’s also considered rude to talk too much or be too loud, as again, it’s disrespectful to the dancer on stage and could distract them from their routine.

CAMARADERIE

This doesn’t just mean to your own troupe or team of dancers, it extends to all the dancers competing, even if from another dance school. It’s good manners to wish a competitor good luck (or break a leg if you’re old school or superstitious like me) before they perform. Once they’ve finished their routine and head back into the wings, clap along with the audience and congratulate them, a simple “well done” will do. It shows no rivalry or animosity between different schools. It’s also customary to congratulate the winners and all other fellow competitors after adjudication, to show no ill feeling. We should be genuinely happy for them. Being humble is an admirable trait to have.

THANK YOU’S

This is a huge part of competitions and costs nothing at all. It should be second nature, but sadly it isn’t always so. Once you’ve danced, you need to curtesy before exciting the stage. It’s nice to look the adjudicator straight in the eye when doing so, it’s like a non verbal way of saying thank you. If you’re lucky enough to be placed, you should step forward out of the line up and curtesy again, to say thank you for being placed. Don’t forget to say thank you to the person giving out the medals, you don’t want to look self entitled or snatch! Be a gracious winner. The adjudicator may say what they particularly liked, what you did well or even some constructive criticism, so make sure you keep eye contact with them whilst they are talking to you to show you are listening. Just because you’ve been placed, doesn’t mean you still don’t have things to learn.

ADJUDICATION

When a section is finished, all dancers will be handed their numbers and sent back on stage for adjudication. Make a decision on which position you will stand – 5th or preparatory position are the most common. You may be stood there for a while, particularly if it’s a big section. Keep to the position you chose, keep fidgeting to a minimum, but most importantly, keep smiling! Once the adjudicator stands up to give critique and award medals, it’s customary for everyone to clap, this includes dancers too. Make sure you listen intently to their feed back, not only to show respect to the adjudicator but there maybe something that you could genuinely take away and learn from, even if it wasn’t directed at you. We mentioned this and other important things to remember in our post about receiving corrections here https://danceniche.com/2017/06/06/receiving-corrections-how-to-be-a-good-student/ As each place is awarded, you should give a small round of applause with the audience, then return to holding your number clearly with that all important smile. Then as the section is dismissed, all dancers should curtesy, as a thank you to the adjudicator and audience, before swiftly exiting the stage.

ENTERING/EXITING AUDITORIUM

Again, this pointer is common sense to most but not common knowledge. When music is playing in the auditorium, a dancer will be on stage. It is so important not to enter or exit whilst music is being played. Not only will it be a distraction for the dancer on stage, it could also distract the adjudicator from watching and critiquing the performance. Once you hear the music stop, quickly and quietly find a seat or exit the auditorium. The compère will try and wait before announcing the next act, but time schedules will already be tight and they can’t wait forever. In between acts, keep talking to a minimum, with a hushed tone. I’m sure I don’t need to mention that there should be no talking whilst someone is performing!!! On that note, anything that could create noise, mobile phones and devices, noisy snacks like crisp packets, even smaller children, you should try and avoid. Babies and toddlers are hard to keep entertained, I know from you experience. If you have to take them with you, bring lots of things to keep them entertained. If they do become upset or too loud and distracting, it’s thoughtful of you to quickly and quietly head out of the auditorium with the least disruption as possible. We all know how toddlers can go from 1 to 10 in lightening speed!

HUMBLE PIE

No one likes a boaster. It’s fine for you to win and be happy about it, but please don’t have a huge mass celebration for all to hear.It’s distasteful and can be upsetting or can come across as gloating. Keep celebrations to a respectful level until you’re home. On the flip side, be happy for your fellow competitors and their wins. They won fair and square and were better than you on the day. Learn from that. Do not show how cross or disgruntled you are in front of everyone. No scowls. Concentrate that disappointment into making your dancing better for next time.

TROPHIES

Most smaller festivals require for any trophies won to be returned the next year. If you receive a trophy, make sure you get in engraved with your name, school and year you won before handing it back, usually on the first day of the festival the following year. Make sure it’s not damaged and has been cleaned or polished, no one wants to receive a dusty trophy!

Lastly, it’s important to remember when you attend festivals and competitions, you are an ambassador for your dance school. You will most likely see the familiar faces of dancers from neighbouring schools who attend the same comp circuits as you. What you do and how you act reflect directly back on the school and earns it a reputation. With the above tips, that reputation will be one of praise and admiration.

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