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Q&A with Andrew Ashton, New Adventures Company Member

Q&A with Andrew Ashton, New Adventures Company Member

Sir Matthew Bourne first launched his company, New Adventures, in 2002, after many years of previous success with other works. He has won a whole host of awards and accolades, honouring his contribution to the dance and theatre world, including his knighthood in 2016.

Since 2008, New Adventures has been committed to nurturing and developing new talent, by the means of workshops and projects. Aimed at all ages, genders and abilities, these workshops are hosted to help inspire the next generation of performers and making them accessible for everyone. However, with the great success their production of Swan Lake has seen, with their all male corps de ballet of swans, they particularly help to inspire young males to follow dreams and shatter stereotypes! You can read more about the topic of encouraging boys and men in the dance world in a previous article here Let’s Hear It For The Boys!

We were lucky enough to ask one of the more recent New Adventures company members, Andrew Ashton, a few questions on the company, tour life and his background, as well as topics the production highlights.

DN. What is it like touring and being part of Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures company?

AA. I feel much more connected to the cast and crew than I have with any other show as we are with each other for so much time, at work and also living together and sharing a lot of our free time as a company whilst touring to new cities. It is, however, very much like shows I have done through my training in terms of the etiquette of the rehearsal process, classes and general running of the show, so it feels very normal.
Rehearsal, note taking and general cleaning of choreography is extremely important to New Adventures and therefore, after each class, we have notes with either Matt, Pia our Resident Director or Glenn the Rehearsal Director. Following this, we will either rehearse aspects of the show for that day where someone might be doing a new track or we will spend a few hours revisiting sections in fine detail. We always have a laugh and enjoy ourselves while at the same time remaining focussed and professional and therefore we have a really good and respectful working environment that I feel shows on stage. So on a whole it’s very much what I expected it to be.

DN. How does it feel making your professional debut in something as high profile as Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake?

AA. It’s a bit of a cliché to say that it’s a dream. However, whenever I was asked which show would be my dream job, I would always say Swan Lake. It’s not just the choreography of the show that makes it so beautiful to perform, but the camaraderie and deep connection that you feel with the fellow swans on stage. Each and every one of us gives our absolute all to every show because we just love and respect it so much. In every performance, I’m able to find something new about the show or about my movement and choreography that surprises me. So, it really is a dream to perform. I’m also very lucky in that I’ll be able to travel to countries and cities that I might have never gone to without this show. I’m always told how phenomenal the Japanese audiences are that I can’t wait!

DN. The production deals with very relevant topics such as oppression, mental health and sexual preferences, as well as creating gender fluid roles. How important do you think it is to portray these issues on stage theough dance?

AA. The stage, just like tv, radio and other art forms is a representation of our world and to me it is more than just entertainment. It’s a way in which we can communicate to huge to our audiences and by extension society about important matters that surround us outside of the theatre. I feel that this is one of the reasons why Swan Lake is so popular, because it’s main focus is the feeling of wanting to be loved and this is something each and every one of us can relate to on whatever spectrum. All these topics are things that our audiences feel and encounter on a daily basis. So, it’s therefore important to portray them and portray them in an honest and respectful way in order to convey the idea of acceptance that is crucial to the whole story line of Swan Lake.

DN. You knew from an early age you wanted to perform and be in the arts genre. Do you have any advice for young students who want to follow the same career path?

AA. My advice is always to just do the things that you love. Everybody has a different idea of what success is and if you let your idea of success be what everybody else thinks it should be then you will never be happy with your accomplishments. My other advice would be to always trust your teacher or mentor, as they may have been in exactly the same position as you and have years of experience on top of that. Eventually you will realise that what they have been telling you for years was right all along.

DN. Tell us about your background training with Laine Arts and how it prepared you.

AA. My training has meant that nothing really has daunted me or has come as a shock when coming straight into the company. I had a very varied training at Laine as we study Musical Theatre and so we’re constantly pushed and pulled between different disciplines and techniques. I feel that this has been extremely useful for Swan Lake as there are actually a lot of different styles within the show. There’s a lot of ballet technique required in Act 1, it’s quite jazz like in the Soho Bar Scene and of course the Swan Acts are very physical and contemporary. This along with my training in acting and musical theatre performance has meant that I felt very prepared to perform and most importantly tell the story through my movement.

DN. What would you say to anyone who was thinking about coming to see the show?

AA. Don’t just watch it once would be my advice! There is so much to see and because the emotion is so raw it’s different each time you watch it. We are lucky to be able to watch the show when we have a show off. I’m moved by it every time and I can’t count the number of times I’ve now seen it!

Sound advice Andrew! You can read my thoughts on the production in my previous article

New Adventures Swan Lake is currently showing at The Lowry until 1st December, with tickets still available, using this link https://thelowry.com/whats-on/matthew-bournes-swan-lake/https://thelowry.com/whats-on/matthew-bournes-swan-lake/ Further details of tour locations can be found on the website New Adventures Swan Lake

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Matthew Bourne’s New Adventure SWAN LAKE Review

Matthew Bourne’s New Adventure SWAN LAKE Review

Matthew Bourne has an incredible talent for turning an age old and traditional story, such as Swan Lake, and thrusting it beak first into the 21st century. His take on the classic tale, with his company New Adventures is far more menacing and somber than the original. Its one of inner turmoil and depravity, provocation and lust, entrapment and finally freedom.

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The show opens with the young Prince in bed, being awoken by the hum drum of palace life. The mixed corps de ballet of butlers and maids all hurry with military precision. , using angular arm and head movements, swift changes of direction and robotic stature. With it, we sense the beginning of the Prince (played by Dominic North) is unhappy with his regimented and stifling life.

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The Queen, was played by Katrina Lyndon. She bought a regal and sophisticated edge to her character. Her dancing was elegant and had wonderful poise, using her upper body well, and great strength and control with her legs, to effortlessly glide across the floor. Katrina used her facial expressions well, an eye roll here, a displeasing look there, which were discreet yet added to the story perfectly. My favourite scene of hers was at the Black Ball, held at the Palace. Everyone wearing black, yet she appears in a stunning red dress. She dances with The Stranger in a immensely provocative routine. She echoes perfectly the traditional role of the black swan, the seductive temptress, bold and confident in her approach, with burning eye contact. This is possibly why she is wearing red, as, did you know, Odile didn’t wear black until the early 1940’s, the original productions instead choosing bright and bold colours.

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Dominic North’s performance as the Prince is a harrowing one. He starts off frantic in his movements, to shoe his resentment to his life, changing to being light and free when he has the love and affection from The Swan, will well elevated and athletic allegro, finally lashing out in desperation at the end. His pas de deux with his mother is particularly upsetting. You see his need for love from his mother, begging her to hold him, literally clinging onto her. You see her rejecting him to conform to standards. As an audience member, you almost plead with her to relent and just give him a hug. Dominic’s performance is powerful and emotive.

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The girlfriend character (Carrie Willis) is a brash character adding a layer of humour to the production. Everything from her costume to her demeanour and actions provoke laughs from the audience. She perfectly captures the stereotypical air headed bimbo character and certainly puts her gazelle like legs to good use.

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The Swan and The Stranger are played by the same dancer, just as Odette and Odile are also danced by the same ballerina. Will Bozier did an incredible job of acting within his dancing, being so convincing as 2 separate characters, you’d be forgiven in thinking they were not the same people. As the swan, he is coy at first, unwilling to interact with the Prince. His movements are large and strong, imitating a real swan when it is threatened, protecting itself. Then he softens, when he and the prince dance their pas de deux, becoming the protector role, lifting the Prince, nuzzling and nurturing him. As The Stranger, not only does his appearance change, so does his dancing and with it his character. With his leather trousers, he is immediately portrayed as a bad boy role. His lusty looks and bold swagger transform him to represent power and danger. He dances with every woman in the ballroom. The dance is reminiscent of an Argentine tango, full of passion, bodies always close, legs frantically working. He ends as the swan again in the scenes. The Princes protector once again,from the other swans who have turned on them both. Will uses his body language and facial expressions so well, that even if he were not in specific costumes, you’d instantly identify the character he would be portraying.

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The final scenes are danced with an all male ensemble, the traditional corps de ballet being replaced by a male corps. Included are some sequences from the more traditional productions, including ‘entrance of the swans’ and ‘dance of the cygnets’ but of course with an altogether more robust and rugged feel, with far more jumps, syncopation and unique poses, now synomymus with his version. The swans take on the role of an angry mob. Their muscular and athletic physiques perfectly embody than of a swan, beautiful to look at yet strong and powerful, a force to be reckoned with. They act and think as ‘one’ ultimately seizing control of the situation, strength in numbers. The use of the resistance in their arms and hisses audible to the audience create an imposing and sinister feel from the very beginning.

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Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake has been performed for over 20 years now, premiering back in 1995. He uses concepts and ideas from the more traditional versions yet adds a more contemporary and modern feel, adding highlights paying homage to other great choreographers such as Bob Fosse. In 2018, the production underwent some revising to the set, lighting and choreography to keep it just as fresh as its ever been. It deals with relevant topics in todays society of sexual preferences, acceptance, temptation, and the basic human need for love. And boy did the audience love it on opening night at The Lowry Manchester, with a staggering 4 minute standing ovation. That alone is testament to the talent of the cast, and Matthew Bourne’s success in creating a production that’s become a traditional one in its own right.

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Don’t just take our word on how mind blowing it is! Read more about the production, the company members and tour life, in our interview with cast member Andrew Ashton https://danceniche.com/2018/11/29/qa-with-andrew-ashton-new-adventures-company-member/

New Adventure’s Swan Lake is currently showing at The Lowry Manchester until 1st Dec. Ticket prices start at £28.50 and can be purchased via their website here TheLowry.com Further information about the tour’s upcoming dates and locations can be found on the New Adventures website MB’S New Adventures

*Special thanks to The Lowry Manchester and photographer Johan Persson, using photographs from the production at the Royal Theatre Plymouth*

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Matilda The Musical Review

Matilda The Musical Review

The story of Matilda is a childhood classic, written by one of the nation’s favourite children’s authors, Roald Dahl, and is celebrating its 30 year! The musical adaptation will soon be entering it’s 9th year, and is now a classic in its own right, with critical acclaim and no less than 85 awards under its belt! once you’ve seen it, its not hard to see why.

There are so many individual factors that all play their part in making Matilda The Musical such a huge success. The stage adaptation written by Denis Kelly, and the catchy songs and lyrics by Tim Minchin are the corner stones. Imagine the daunting task of taking something as beloved as Roald Dahl’s Matilda, and adapting it for the stage, that would serve the original justice, yet tell a more visual story. The songs and lyrics sit perfectly well within the scenes, blending effortlessly and further enhance the plight of Matilda. You can even buy the Matilda the Musical soundtrack on CD or download it, meaning you can carry on signing them long after you’ve left the theatre!

Next, has to be the innovative and complex stage set. I was lucky enough to go behind the scenes of Matilda at the Palace Theatre Manchester, and the sheer scale of design and function was jaw dropping. Without spoiling the magic of the production for anyone, the stage setting and scenes have their own choreography. Things (and people) fly, slide, and manouver around the stage seemingly effortlessly, yet timings and placements have to be exact and precise, when you factor in the actors on stage at the same time. They harmoniously dance around each other

The already larger than life characters, thanks to the genius imagination of Dahl, are brought to life, larger than ever, by a wonderful adult cast, and enhanced with a ingenious costume wardrobe! Miss Trunchbull, by far one of the most loved characters, or love to hate, is traditionally played by a man. Craig Els is the current actor. His comedic edge, flouncy walk and penetrating stare do the character justice, and evoke hoards of laughter and reactions from the audience. His stature is lofty, but further enhanced by his costume, towers over the children to emphasise the difference.

The biggest mention by far, has to go to the children’s cast, and in particular, of course Matilda. They are Sam Lathwood”s (assistant dance captain and swing) favourite to work with! You can read our interview with him on his role here What does it take to be a musical theatre swing? There are actually 4 whole different children cast that work on a rota basis. The Royal Shakespeare Company do a sterling job of looking after the wellbeing of all the children, even supplying tutors and having their school work posted to them so they do not fall behind academically. The maturity and professionalism shown from ones so young is admirable, their parents must all be so proud! Matilda was played by Emma Moore the night I watched. She blew me away. Her talent is extraordinary. She adds sorrow and cheekiness in equal measures. She builds intensity as Matilda grows in confidence, and particularly in her song ‘Quiet’ is so authentic in her skills, she becomes Matilda.

As for the rest, it is that special touch of magic that you can’t quite put you’re finger on. Just how does Bruce Bogtrotter eat ALL that cake? How does that glass move all on its own? It’s the story of how someone so small and insignificant overpowers rule to fight for whats right, the equality, the justice, the self belief. We all love an underdog story, because it gives us hope and faith of better things to come. That’s what I took away with me from watching Matilda The Musical. That no matter how bad things seem, there is always something that can be done, always light at the end of the tunnel. If you believe in yourself wholeheartedly, then you are an unstoppable force. What a wonderful sentiment to be presenting to our children.

I would recommend for anyone of any age to watch Matilda The Musical. Its family entertainment at its finest, and is sure to capture the hearts of the next generation, continuing the legacy. Matilda is currently on stage at the Palace Manchester until 24th Nov, before moving on to the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff over the Christmas and New Year period, and various other venues until summer 2019! For more information on dates and locations, go to the official website Matilda The Musical

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What does it take to be a musical theatre swing?

What does it take to be a musical theatre swing?

Musical theatre is a tough genre to succeed in. You have to be equally proficient in all 3 styles – dancing, singing and acting – a triple threat. So imagine being hired in a show and having to memorize EVERY SINGLE ROLE! That’s the mammoth task undertaken by a ‘swing’.

Swings are absolutely vital to the smooth running of any theatre production. Not only do they help with prompting of lines, if, heaven forbid, someone forgets, but they are instantly on hand, ready to fill in for roles due to sickness, or any sort of absence. Sam Lathwood is the current swing and assistant dance captain for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s MATILDA THE MUSICAL. Unlike other productions, at least half the cast are children, including the main part. We all know how quickly children can become ill, and you can’t do a show without the lead, so being a swing for Matilda the Musical is most certainly one of the most demanding roles. We spoke with Sam about his job, how he copes, his favourite role, and what it’s like working with the younger members of the cast!

DN. You’re the current assistant dance captain / swing for Matilda the Musical. How do remember all the choreography so well without actually being in the roles permanently?

SL. When we first started to learn the show back in January, it took a lot of staying behind after rehearsals and dancing in my living room to help solidify all of the information in my brain. I work both visually and practically to get the choreography into my muscle memory, and once the choreography has gone in, it’s all about recapping the information, referring back to notes/ maps of the routines and watching the show as much as I can (when I’m not already on stage performing) to help retain the information.

DN. Knowing all the roles so well, who is your favourite character in Matilda and why?

SL. I would say my favourite character in the show has to be Miss Trunchbull, she has some brilliant dialogue, she’s intimidating and dark yet comical and outrageous. She gets to perform a whole solo dance routine with a ribbon in an extremely difficult costume and fly over a vault in her Olympics uniform/skirt. What’s not to like!

DN. It’s a well-known saying that you should never work with animals or children! What’s it been like working so closely with the younger members of the cast of Matilda?

SL. I adore working with the children. They never fail to make you laugh and smile. Their work ethic is always second to none. This is the 5th show I’ve done which has had children in the cast and I find they bring such a unique and exciting energy to the theatre both onstage and offstage that you don’t always get on other shows. I always find that the work our children at Matilda do on stage every evening is very inspiring.

DN. You’ve worked in many musical theatre hits such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Elf the Musical to name a couple. How does Matilda differ to the others?

SL. Matilda actually has the same choreographer as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Peter Darling) so I started Matilda with an understanding of the way the choreography might work. But compared to other shows I’ve done, the storytelling in Matilda is very detailed, specific and plentiful. The show also has a very dark story throughout, unlike Charlie Bucket, Matilda doesn’t get her ‘golden ticket’ until the very end of her story.

DN. Which is the most challenging scene and choreography in Matilda to work on?

SL. I would have to say all of the gate choreography in ‘School Song’. It makes a lot of sense and flows nicely once you’ve got it, but it took many more rehearsals to get there. What I love about the number is that you still get that massive rush of adrenaline each time you dance on the gates.

DN. This year, Matilda celebrated its 30th year since first being published, and has since won many accolades, particularly with the musical adaptation. Where do you see yourself at 30?

SL. I’m in total denial that one day I’ll no longer be in my twenties that I haven’t even thought about being 30 yet! Hopefully I’ll be happy and dancing my 30 year old heart out.

DN. Lastly, a famous quote from Matilda is “somewhere inside all of us is the power to change the world” If you could make 1 change, what would it be?

SL. My one change would be to somehow eliminate the huge amount of plastic that is contaminating our planet. I’m a huge fan of watching Blue Planet and it disappoints me that over 8 million tonnes of plastic and rubbish ends up in the ocean each year, come on humans!

Well said Sam.

 

Matilda the Musical is currently on stage at the Palace & Opera House Manchester until 24th November. Tickets are still available at ATG Tickets Palace Theatre , with an incredible special rate of only £5 for 16-25 year olds (terms and conditions apply) before it continues on it’s spell binding tour of the UK finishing August 2019! You can find more details of tour dates, locations and book tickets on the website here Matilda the Musical . Watch out for my review article of the production, and vlog from when I went backstage at the Palace Theatre Manchester, and got to nosey around the dressing rooms of the cast!

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SIX! The Musical | Review

SIX! The Musical | Review

SIX ex wives, joining forces to hate on their ex, may sound like a title from the Jeremy Kyle show, but it’s actually a brand new musical, with a concept that fresh, that it’s already reaching a whole new audience and enticing virgin theatre goers to experience their first taste of theatre action30179563607_509a23a020_k

Six! The Musical, tells the individual stories of the six wives of Henry VIII (that’s Henry 8th, good job I listened in history lessons). Written by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, the show has already recieved critical acclaim after selling over 10,000 tickets at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Since then, Six has been gaining momentum with a multitude of 5 star reviews, nominations in 4 categories for the Broadway UK Awards and shows no sign of slowing down. This musical juggernaut is pelting full steam ahead and seemingly nothing can stand in it’s way, not even Henry VIII.43303878010_598e720c24_k

But just what is it exactly that makes the production so appealing???? Is it the talent?! The six girls cast as the wives all have individual vocal credibilities, including tours with 42nd St, The Colour Purple and Thoroughly Modern Millie. Is it the music?! Songs like ‘Don’t lose your head’ ‘Ex Wives’ and my particular favourite ‘Haus of Holbein’ will creep into your ears and take over your brain with their catchy melodies and clever lyrics. Is it the hint of feminism?! Hell hath no fury than a woman scorned, so throw 5 more into the mix, you’ve got a vengeful tribe, shouting out to women with a sorry story to tell to stand up and fight back! Or is it the fact that it re writes history, telling a story that is all too familiar to us, but bringing it bang up to date with 21 century sass-itutde! And a happy ending, we all love a happy ending!44397214974_5ef74388c7_k

The fact that this production has moved away from the traditional stage musical format, opting instead for a pop concert vibe is genius!  The chemistry the six wives have on stage is tangible, yet genuine. So much so, that you’d be forgiven for thinking they were an actual girl band – Spice Girls eat your heart out! Watching this musical is more like attending a greatest hits tour! Yet they all have their individuality. Jarneia Richard-Noel  (Catherine of Aragon) the wise wise, loyal one. Millie O’Connell (Anne Boleyn) the cheeky seductressNatalie Paris (Jane Seymour) the soft endearing one. Alexia McIntosh (Anne of Cleves) the smug one. Aimee Atkinson (Katherine Howard) the niave  misunderstood one and finally Maiya Quansah-Breed (Catherine Parr) the last one and the peacemaker. Their dancing and costumes also reflect this.44397204634_5a54b61549_k

I cannot recommend Six! The musical enough! Perfect for hen do’s, birthday surprises or simply someone looking for a feel good factor show. Not only is it 75 minutes of pure pop hits (songs that would undoubtably rival any current chart topper) but it introduces a whole new audience to the world of theatre, encouraging and inspiring a younger generation to keep theatre alive for the future.  Never mind pop princesses, these queens are taking over, the new royals of theatre land have been coronated and long may they reign!31243712258_6cbafec169_k

 

Six! is currently touring and will be appearing at The Lowry Salford 4th-16th Dec, before heading off to Glasgow SEC 20-30th Dec and finally London Arts Theatre 17th Jan – 5th May. All details and ticket information can be found on their website here Six The Musical 

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Safe Stretching With Alixa Flexibity Programme| Effectively gain flexibility without compromising safety

Safe Stretching With Alixa Flexibity Programme| Effectively gain flexibility without compromising safety

Flexibility and contortion seem to have a marmite effect on people. They either love it and want to achieve more or wince away and find it grotesquely unessessary. After attending the first 2 modules in Alixa Sutton’s stretching and mobility programme – Alixa Flexibility – I have certainly changed my attitude and knowledge towards stretching. Read on to find out just what I discovered and what is involved.

There’s no doubt about it, flexibility and acro are 2 elements that are currently highly sought after in the dance world. Love it or hate it, you cannot deny their current presence and you be a fool to deny your children/students of these elements completely, since these skills are so highly revered and placed by judges and adjudicators. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a huge fan of too many displays of flexibility and acro in dance routines, otherwise we loose the essence of the true purpose of dance, (a whole other topic, which will be published soon) however I can appreciate how beautiful some well placed skills can be and how they can most certainly add overall to a routine. With this in mind, parents and children want to excel, some to the exstent that they will attempt to learn and master skills at home, self taught with no proper technique being applied, or concerns for the untold damage being done.

We’ve all seen the videos of poor children seemly being torn in two, legs being forcibly pushed and pulled in attempt to ‘stretch’. Coaches applying their body weight onto supple joints of youngsters, with no care to their grimaces or tears, or the fact that said child will probably need a hip replacement by the time they are 30, because that is the reality they face. When joints and ligaments are are continually asked to go beyond their current range of motion, it puts stress on the entire body, which will only become evident with time and as the body ages. Is this what we really want for children’s future?! For them to win medals and titles now, but to be crippled with arthritis by their 30’s or worse?! That is a reality Alixa Sutton-Slobodyan faced after a career in dance and contortion, through improper and now out dated techniques. You can read more in-depth about Alixa’s story here Flexibility At What Cost? Alixa Sutton Talks That is why Alixa has spent 20 years developing her own stretching and mobility programme – Alixa Flexibility – and she invited me along to the first 2 modules of the instructor certification programme (there are 6 in total) so I could see just was was involved for myself.

People’s lifestyles have changed dramatically, with increased periods of sitting and the introduction of technology, and consequently, Alixa’s programme has been modified to combat these negative impacts. Her main thesis is injury prevention. Did you know that 70% of athletes and performers never recover 100% from their injury?! A startling fact. Key areas such as lower back and knees, are the most common injury area for performers, and where Alixa highlights as being most important during safe stretching. Alignment is key to safety and progression. Without correct alignment, you will not be targeting the muscles in need of stretching, thus halting any progression being made. Mobility and range of motion are also highlighted as important. Its all very well having the flexibility to achieve something, but if you don’t have the strength to move through the movement and hold it, the degree of flexibility almost becomes irrelevent.

We start after a brief introduction into her history and the reasons behind founding her own flexibility programme. She then moves on to the theory side of the module. Alixa’s main focus is that flexibility and contortion can be achieved in a safe manor, are well within reach, but will take hard work and commitment. She has unique take on body structure, one which takes the pressure off the lower back, our weakest area. Over 90% of people suffer with some sort of back complaint in their lives, and is an area we are all guilty of neglecting.
In order to protect the lower back, we have to stay strong in our core
muscles, and this was something that was reiterataed throughout the
modules. The lower back is an area that is increasingly being over
used by dancers to achieve elements such as the needle, bridge,
arabesque or any sort of back bend extension. They will often lack adequate flexibility in the upper back, shoulders and hips, and instead overcompensate and fold in the lower back. Alixa had an extensive portfolio of photographs of students demonstrating various elements side by side, with varying degrees of flexibility. She asked us in each set, which we thought was the better student. Naturally, at this point, most of the teachers choose the photo that displayed the most flexibility. In most cases, it was those photos that were demonstrating improper technique, by folding into their lower back, putting it under undue stress. Alixa taught everyone how to correctly identify any danger signs in elements, and how to assess which areas then needed to be worked on further to improve upon the skill that was trying to be achieved.

After a good cardio session to raise core body temperatures and warm joints, it was time for the teachers to try some of the stretches. Alixa maintains that its important for teachers and instructors to experience the stretches and what they will be asking for the students, so that they are aware of how it feels and how to adjust each stretch for the individual. Some of the stretches target specific areas, others are multi-layered, and stretch multiple areas at the same time. All of them are insightful. They highlight just how easy it is for you to slip into improper technique. Demo students are then brought in so instructors get hands on experience of how to correctly assist students getting into the stretches and how they can be modified for the individual. All of the stretches have levels of adaptation, so that as the students flexibility improves, progress can still be maintained. Alixa spoke about communication between instructor and student. During a stretch, the student can tense muscles and grip them. To progress in a stretch, your body must learn to relax into it, otherwise it will not be able to go beyond it’s current capabilities. Alixa helped to show the instructors how-to support, soothe and even massage the student, to help get their bodies to relax into the required stretch, and so, able to make progress.

Towards the end, instructors were then shown another series of photos, and asked to identify which were the ‘better’ students. This time, almost all of the instructors were able to correctly identify which student was demonstrating the element the safest. A testament itself to the effectiveness of the module. At the end of each module, a short exam is necessary, to confirm teaching points and criteria have been met, and allowing everyone to move forward with confidence, knowing the new knowledge acquired had been cemented. Teachers are then awarded with a certificate for their efforts. Alixa then rounds up the module by giving advice own how to best implement these stretches and routines into classes, either by gradually introducing stretches to current classes on a timetable, to curating a specific stretching and mobility class, which undoubtibly assists in seeing improvements and progression more quickly.

Alixa is wonderfully personal. She has a way of conveying her knowledge and expertise whilst keeping everyone engaged yet focused on the information. Her stretches are innovative, fun and progressional, which enable students to enjoy stretching and feel a sense of achievement, all the while conducting them in a safe and correct manner. The Alixa Flexibility Programme would be a hugely beneficial class to add to any timetable, and with current trends seen in the dance world, would be undoubtably popular with students. Teachers have a responsibility towards the health of their students and to keep them safe. I cannot think of a better way of doing that than introducing these stretches to students, and educating them on the art of safe flexibility. This programme is also beneficial for anyone running the Acrobatic Arts syllabus in their schools, as the elements also require adequate flexibility and range of motion in the joints for the students to be able to successfully master the skill at hand. Both programmes compliment each other perfectly.

You can find out more about Alixa’s programme and worldwide tour dates for 2019 on her website http://www.alixaflexibility.com She has kindly offered a 10% discount off modules for Dance Niche readers! Enter code ‘Danceniche’ into the comments section of application.

Happy safe stretching!

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Review – La Fille Mal Gardeé | Birmingham Royal Ballet

Review – La Fille Mal Gardeé | Birmingham Royal Ballet

On approach to The Lowry Theatre Salford Quays, the exterior neon blue lights make it hard to miss. The bright colours continue inside with a modern, almost industrial feel. So it’s fitting that a non traditional ballet production such as Birmingham Royal ballet’s La Fille Mal Gardeé (or La Fille for short) would be showing there.

If you’re not familiar with the story, here are the cliff notes. La Fille Mal Gardeé roughly translates as ‘the wayward daughter’ and is set amongst the rolling hills of the countryside. A rule breaking daughter and overly controlling mother are at the centre of the story, including a handsome lover and a particulalry awkward suiter.44331935275_7f78d0ead4_k

Lise, the daughter is played by Miki Mizutani, the most dainty, music box perfect ballerina I’ve had the pleasure of watching. Her breezy, carefree demeanour was endearing, but boy can she pout when she doesn’t get her own way! There were a couple of hair raising moments with entangled ribbons and pointe shoes, but Miki had the quick thinking skills to breeze through them too, picking the choreography back up almost seamlessly – sign of a true pro! Her highlight for me, was a balance in attitude en pointe, whilst holding a bunch of ribbons above her head, and being turned on the spot by the dancers at the opposite ends of the ribbons!44331934325_4c646a21f2_k

Lise’s mother, Widow Simone, keeps an eagle eye on her daughter to prevent her getting up to mischief. Played by the larger than life Rory Mackay. With his genius comedic timing and over the top facial expressions, he easily makes the widow one of the most well loved characters in the story. Despite sporting some major padding and numerous layers of peticoats, he managed to execute a perfectly timed clog dance, which even that wasn’t without some comedy highlights!44331936345_e5b8c6da72_k

Alain is the son of a prosperous vineyard owner, played by Kit Holder, and whom the Widow has chosen to marry her daughter off to. At first, the proposed nuptials between him and Lise, makes you resent him a little, however being teased by the villagers and having his hopes of finding a beautiful bride dashed, you certainly warm to him. The way Kit plays Alain is a cross somewhere between Worsel Gummage and Franck Spencer, and his ability to dance without an inch of style or technique despite his high calibre training and skill, is an art in itself, and he easily steals the funniest character crown!44331937085_afdabb5c5c_k

The star of the show however comes as somewhat as a surprise, one which I’m not going to spoil for you. You’ll have to watch the production for yourself to find out, just get ready for the ‘awwwww’ factor!

No story is complete without a hunky love interest, and Lachlan Monahan fits this role like a glove. He plays Calas, a young farmer in love with Lise. His busrts of energy and athletic jumps during the allegro defy gravity, his tour en l’air and pirouettes a la seconde are sturdy and precise! Not to forget the way he partners Miki with a nurturing quality and genuine affection.30303623857_0347facea1_k

La Fille Mal Gardeé is a ballet that has it all – intricate choreography, pas de deux, comedy, folk dance, a maypole and more comedy. Did I mention it has comedy in it?! There are so many tongue in cheek, slap stick moments, it’s reminiscent of a classic pantomime, complete with its own widow! In fact, it should be reclassified from a ballet, to ‘pa-llet’ or ‘ball-to’ maybe even ‘balle-tomime’ – you get the picture.30303624647_e226e69ae9_k

The uplifting music and joyful colours of the cotumes really cement La Fille as a ballet for all, young or old, first time watching a ballet or seasoned pro. Birmingham Royal Ballet have a programme called First Steps, specially tailored to better suit the needs of children, however La Fille is such a gleeful delight, I’d have no issues taking my 2 young daughters to see this version. It would serve as a perfect way to introduce children to a full length production.44331936005_f014b018f6_k

Birmingham Royal Ballet are currently performing La Fille Mal Gardeé at The Lowry Manchester until 27th October 2018, where they move on to Salder’s Wells Theatre 1st-3rd Nov and finally The Grand Opera House Belfast 7-9th Nov. Tickets and more information on dates and locations can be found here https://www.brb.org.uk/whats-on/event/la-fille-mal-gardee

La Fille Mal Gardeé is certainly not one to be missed, my cheeks are still aching from smiling the whole way through, and if laughter is good for the soul, then watching la Fille should be prescribed as therapy!

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English National Ballet’s MANON Review

English National Ballet’s MANON Review

Arriving at the beautiful Opera House in Manchester, you can’t help but notice that the Grade II listed building is perfect for hosting such an opulent and decadent production such as Manon, with it’s hunters green upholstery and gold brocade accents. It truely sets the scene for the ensuing scenes of early 18th century France.

Kenneth MacMillan’s production premiered in 1974 and uses scores by Jules Massenet, although not from his Opera, rather using his other well know works. Manon is based on the novel, Manon Lescaut, by Abbe Prevost. The novel was actually banned in France at the time due to its scandalous, controversial and explicit details! It did however prove to be incredibly popular, with pirate copies being widely distributed. I wonder what they would have thought to 50 Shades?!

English-National-Ballet-Manon-c-Laurent-Liotardo
English National Ballet Manon – Laurent Liotardo

The curtain rises on ACT 1 to unveil a scene at The Courtyard at the Inn. We are immediately drawn to the differences in the classes. The present folk are disheveled and dirty, dressed in rags, with their hearty and robust allegro and vigorous, almost out of control pirouettes. They convey a light hearted, fun filled demeanour. This is in stark contrast to the gentry and aristocrats who also visit the Inn. Their costumes of rich, heavy embroidered velvets, corsets, frills and pleats, adds to their grandeur presence. Such restrictive clothing exaggerates their straight, nose in the air posture. Their choreography was bold and regal, proudly displaying like peacocks but always maintaining absolute control and pose. We are introduced to Lescaut  who is awaiting the arrival of his sister Manon, before her departure to a convent. Lescaut – played by Jefferey Ciriotis with his good friend Des Grieux – Joseph Caley , a penniless student. Manon’s arrival attracts the attention of everyone, including that of weathly Monsieur GM – James Streeter

Jeffrey-Cirio-in-Manon-c-Laurent-Liotardo-1
Jeffrey Cirio in Manon – Laurent Liotardo

Manon – Alina Cjocaru – and Des Grieux  have a chance meeting and it’s love at first sight. At first Manon is coy but relents to her feelings. The pas de deux has a beautiful quality to it. The choreography is light and fluid with seemingly gravity defying lifts, echoing those wonderful feelings of walking on air and butterflies experienced with a new relationship. They hatch a plan to run away to Paris together. Whilst Des Grieux goes to post a letter to his uncle, Lescaut arrives with Monsieur, who has promised Manon to him for a tidy sum. Initially Manon  resists Monsieur’s advances but she is easily swayed by gifts or fur coats and diamonds. The pas de trois between these 3 characters is wonderfully creative. Manon is passed between the 2 men, like a toy. She snakes her way around Monsieur with imaginative lifts. It is clear that Monsieur sees her as a trophy, something to be glorified and lusted over. he displays infatuation more than love and Manon enjoys the power she yeilds over him, using it to her advantage. Lescaut is compliant and convinces his sister to leave with Monsieur. She looks back one last time before being escorted away.

Alina-Cojocaru-and-Joseph-Caley-in-Manon-c-Laurent-Liotardo
Alina Cojocaru and Joseph Caley in Manon (c) Laurent Liotardo

ACT 2 opens on a a party held at a house of ill repute (where prostitutes can be found if you’re unaware of that term). The music is playful and energetic which mirrors the suggestive and coquettish nature of the ‘ladies’ dancing for the highest bidder. We see Manon, draped in more finery, and Monsieur. This scene includes surprising comedic antics, the audience actually laughing out loud at points. The skill and strength displayed by Jeffrey Cirio is astonishing! To be able to dance as if under the influence of alcohol, stumbling and swaying, whilst still maintaining enough control to be able to lift your partner above your head is highly commendable! Love striken Des Grieux arrives, distraught by the betrayal. Manon is dancing for Monsieur. She sees Des Grieux, but refuses to make eye contact with him, denying her true feelings, but love creeps in, and she begins to flirt and dance for Des Grieux when Monsieur isn’t looking. She’s tempted by more gifts of diamonds but ultimately choses love over money and runs to Des Grieux. A fight breaks out. Swords are brandished. The scene is beautifully lit, casting the shadows off the dual on the backdrop. The lovers flee and plan to leave for Paris. They argue over taking the diamond braclet Monsieur gave, but agree to leave it behind. Monsieur tracks them down and has Manon arrested and kills Lescaut in front of her.

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Joseph Caley and James Streeter in Manon (c) Laurent Liotardo

ACT 3 begins in the dockyard of New Orleans, where Manon and all the other prostitutes have been shipped to. Des Grieux has followed under the premise that he is her husband. The music has a naval theme which turns into the progressive like motion of the waves of the sea. The ladies are all clearly distressed and almost unable to stand. The Gaoler turns his attention to Manon. He thinks she can be bought and offers her diamonds, but she has changed her way and refuses. He forces himself upon her in what is a particularly distressing scene to watch. Des Grieux bursts in and kills the Gaoler. The couple flee into the swamps but the effects of the long journey, assault and heat prove too much for Manon. She has bursts of life, repeating similar steps to the previous pas de duex but shaky and unsteady, then suddenly becoming limp. Her life and recent events flash before her and she gives up. Des Grieux is inconsolable.

Alina Cojucaru plays Manon beautifully. The way she was able to portray feelings with a simple glance and gesture of a hand was exquisite. Her playful and light mood when dancing with Des Grieux resonates to the audience. The greed in her eyes when she is bestowed with gifts and her enjoyment at being objectified make you despise her. And in the last dance with Des Grieux, her weak, lifeless and limp body whilst she is moved around like a rag doll, makes it evident that this is her swan song, and you pity her. Alina is able to shine on stage without the presence of heavily embellished attire and diamonds.

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English National Ballet in Manon (c) Laurent Liotardo

Joseph Caley perfectly captures the essence of a young man in love, full of exuberance and vigour. The way he looks at Manon is reminiscent of a puppy dog. Her betrayal leave him completely distraught and his dancing becomes slightly on the border of uncontrollable, lashing out just as one would. When Manon dies in his arms, you can hear his cry without him making a sound, it comes from his soul.

Joseph-Caley-in-Manon-c-Laurent-Liotardo
Joseph Caley in Manon (c) Laurent Liotardo

You can also read insights of performing with the English National Ballet with other lead principals Jurgita Dronina and Isaac Hernandez along with their take on Manon, just following this link ENB Q&A With Isaac Hernández and Jurgita Dronina

Kenneth MacMillan’s production of Manon is an emotional rollercoaster of love, greed and despair. Never have I ever watched a production that has left me so tense and brought tears to my eyes. Unlike the other tragic love stories like Swan Lake or Giselle, Manon is infinitely raw because it could be real. The story is one of life, the dilemmas  presented, the decisions made and the life altering consequences. I defy you to leave the theatre without it having a profound effect on you.

 

Manon is showing at the Opera House Manchester until Saturday 20th October before it moves onto Milton Keynes Theatre 24-27th October and finally at The Mayflower Southampton 31 oct – 3rd Nov. Tickets can be booked through AGT website here. AGT TICKETS

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ENB Q&A With Isaac Hernández and Jurgita Dronina

ENB Q&A With Isaac Hernández and Jurgita Dronina

The English National Ballet are touring with Kenneth Macmillan’s Manon for only the second time in 30 years. It has been selected as one of ‘Autum 2018 unmissable events’ by The Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph and The Mail on Sunday.

Ahead of being invited to the premier for review next week, we thought we’d give you a tantalising teaser with a Q&A with 2 of the lead principals – Isaac Hernández and Jurgita Dronina.

Isaac Hernández, Lead Principal at English National Ballet

Q. How did you get into ballet?

I.H. Both my parents were ballet dancers, so it was in the family. I grew up in Mexico, the seventh of eleven children. We were home schooled, and alongside our academic studies, we also did ballet classes. It was a great childhood and I was hooked on ballet as an art form from an early age. I then headed off at the age of 13, to the Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia.

Q. What’s special about Manon – in particular, this version by Kenneth MacMillan?

I.H. For me, it’s the narrative – the roles are well defined and so you get a real sense of a story unfolding on stage. I think it’s the most dramatic ballet I’ve ever danced – your acting ability as a dancer is really tested, which I enjoy.

Q. Tell us about the role you are dancing in Manon?

I.H. I’m dancing the role of Des Grieux, the penniless student who the central character Manon falls in love with. It’s a great role to dance – he’s naïve, romantic and a bit of a dreamer and so taking on his character allows you to go back to the simplicity of being a young man, experiencing life for the first time, and the emotions that go with that.

Q. What is your favourite thing about touring with English National Ballet?

I.H. For me, it’s being able to perform for audiences all around the UK – it feels like we build a connection with the cities we tour to and returning to these audiences feels special.

Q. Give us 3 words that sum up the ballet Manon for you?

I.H. Passion, jealousy, tragedy.

Jurgita Dronina, Lead Principal at English National Ballet

Q. How did you get into ballet?

J.D. I did lots of different types of dancing as a child – hip hop, street dance, ballroom. I also tried gymnastics, but I didn’t like it, so my teacher suggested I give ballet a go. My mum took me to see a ballet performance and I really liked it. I then auditioned and got into the National Ballet School in Lithuania, and my career started there!

Q. What’s special about Manon – in particular, this version by Kenneth MacMillan?

J.D. This is one of MacMillan’s masterpieces. The storytelling is just fabulous. As with all of MacMillan’s ballets, he finds the human relationships, emotion and realness in the story. In that sense I can find how to relate this ballet to modern life, and the way that one decision can have such an impact. In this story, you see Manon’s decision and how she can’t escape the consequences that spiral out of control in her life from then on. The audience sees her tragic destiny unfold.

Q. Tell us about the role you are dancing in Manon?

J.D. I’ll be making my debut in the role of Manon – it really is one of the dream roles for a ballet dancer, and one which I feel I’ve been waiting to do for a long time. She has a complex character and I enjoy working through the different layers and challenges she must face and working out how to best portray them on stage. The way you walk, stand, gesture – it all adds up to her character. I find there is a very clear idea of how she is seen by others and what she is to herself. There’s also her interactions with others on stage and the way the movement can convey the different relationships she has with each of them. It’s fascinating and very interesting to work it out.

Q. What is your favourite thing about touring with English National Ballet?

J.D. As we tour we bring the best that English National Ballet has to offer all around the UK. We bring an exciting and varied repertoire to different cities and different audiences and for me that’s really special.

Q. Give us 3 words that best sum up the ballet Manon?

J.D. Love, desire, destiny.

English National Ballet performs Manon at Manchester Opera House, 17-20 October 2018, before heading onto the Milton Keynes Theatre, 24 – 27 October, Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre, 31 October – 03 November and finally st London Coliseum 16-20 January. Tickets can be purchased by visiting the website http://www.atgtickets.com

Don’t forget to follow our Facebook http://www.facebook.com/danceniche and Instagram http://www.instagram.com/danceniche pages for up to date news and inside information at the premiere of Manon next week, and check back here o our website for our review article on what we really think of it!

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Skin Care For Dancers | How to look after your skin

Skin Care For Dancers | How to look after your skin

As dancers, we are well used to looking after our bodies, stretching, strengthening, what we put in it. But do we stop and think about what we put on it?!

The skin is our largest organ. It protects us, it alerts us and it regulates our temperature. All this without us even having to think about it. But we need to think about it more and stop taking it for granted.

Do you suffer from regular breakouts and can’t pinpoint a cause?! There are many reasons we can suddenly get an attack of spots and blocked pores – hormone inbalance, diet, stress. But one common cause is inadequate care and attention.

Dancers spend hours upon hours in rehearsals, often spending all day working tirelessly to perfect their craft. Countless hours of putting blood, sweat and tears into an upcoming performance or honing their technique, but let’s just think about that for a second. Think about how much sweat is sitting on the skin before there’s a chance to shower it off.

Sweat is the body’s main response to exercise. It helps to cool the body down and regulate our temperature. It also helps the body to excrete any toxins out through our pores. Those toxins then sit on the skins surface until washed away. It’s these toxins that cause bacteria which in turn cause blemishes and spots.

How often do you touch your face?? It’s often more than you realise. Every time we touch our face, we are transfering dirt and grime from our hands onto our face, which blocks our pores. Our body then sweats to rid itself of toxins, out through our pores. If those pores are blocked, the toxins build up behind, becoming inflamed and infected – spots!

When you’re stuck in a studio from dawn until dusk, there’s little you can do. Having a towel in your bag to mop up sweat, preventing it from sitting on the skin is a good idea. Perhaps even carrying some face or baby wipes in your bag, to cleanse and freshen up during lunch is another.

What about during performances?! Think of the heavy stage make up required for each show, that has to stay out under the glaring lights, and we still sweat with make up on! Not a nice combination. And how do you remove that make up? Quite often, stage make up will need something stronger than usual to strip it away, which by it’s nature, also strips away the natural moisture of the skin, leaving it dry and sensitive.The best way you can look after and protect your skin is to have a good solid skincare routine, with quality products. I’ve recently been introduced to Bao Skincare.

Beth’s Aromatherapy Organic founded by Beth, after being in the beauty indusrty for over 10 years, and suddenly developing skin irritation and blemishes due to medication for Crohns disease. She wanted to create a skincare brand that was completely organic – free from nasty parabens, harsh chemicals and wax. All of the products are handmade from plant extracts and natural ingredients. This means they are cruelty free and in most cases, suitable for vegans.

I’ve been using the Orange & Bergamot Face Wash morning and night. The first thing I noticed was the smell. The citrus really bursts through, and is wonderfully refreshing in the morning. The second thing I noticed was when I rinsed it off. Usually with most other products I’ve used, I feel a slight tightening sensation to my skin. Being in the beauty trade myself, I know this is from dehydration – the lack of moisture. I would instantly need to moisturise to relieve the feeling. With Bao’s Orange & Bergamot Face Wash, I did not get that sensation at all. My skin felt instantly silky smooth.

I followed this by using their Face Recovery Moisturiser. It’s beautifully light to the touch, and blends and absorbs swiftly into the skin, without leaving a residue, so I felt able to apply make up directly after if I needed to. Due to the gentle cleansing of the face wash, I actually needed a very minimal amount of cream to effectively moisturize my face.

Lastly, I’ve been trying out Bao’s Coconut Lip Balm. Made from only 3 ingredients, this one isn’t suitable for vegans, as it contains natural bees was, however Beth has created an alternative lip balm that is 100% suitable for vegans – happy days. During long classes or rehearsals, I tend to get dry lips. Bao’s lip balm is perfect for keeping in my bag, and applying as necessary. The great thing about it, is that it nourishes and dehydrated my lips without being gloopy or overly sticky. It’s also scent free – I dislike tasting my lip balm! I’ve found it ideal to apply before my staple red lipstick – which doesn’t apply well on its own to dry, cracked and flaky lips! The lip balm efficiently moisturises and softens my lips, allowing the lipstick to apply smoothly and blotch free.

All in all, I’ve been hugely impressed with my new additions to my skincare routine. The fact that they are handmade, 100% cruelty free and organic, only adds to their appeal. It’s safe to say, they will be a permanent addition.

You can read more about Beth, Bao’s philosophy and all their products on their website http://baoskincare.co.uk/ with a 15% discount for new customers.

Look after the skin you’re in,

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The Real Reasons I send My Child To Dance Classes

The Real Reasons I send My Child To Dance Classes

So many preconceptions surround a parent, particularly a mother, when she sends her child to dance classes. She’s living her own lost dreams through her child, she’s a pushy mum, she wants her child to follow in her own footsteps. It is so much more than that. Let me tell you the real reasons I send my child to dance.

BODY AWARENESS

Dance requires you to move different parts of your body, sometimes at different tempos, independent of each other. As children, this is something the brain needs to engage in repeatedly to get better at. Coordination isn’t just for dance class. School P.E classes, sports, even driving are all things that need you to multitask. What better way to give my child a physical head start in life than to send them to dance classes. Not just that, dance teaches correct posture. Having the bodily strength to hold your body correctly helps prevent ailments later in life. It also helps greatly with the next point.

CONFIDENCE

“Opportunity favours the bold” We all know in life that you demeanour can have profound effects on your life. First impressions are everything. Social gatherings, job interviews, public speaking are all situations where you have to out yourself out there, presenting the best version of yourself, under the watchful eyes of others. Dance enables my child to build self confidence – firstly through applying herself to master a new step and revelling in her own success, and secondly through performing for a crowd, be it in front of fellow students in class, at competitions or a showcase. Each time she achieves something new, each time she steps on a stage to perform, she’s building the solid foundation blocks that will help carry her through her adult life.

WORK ETHICS

If you want to get anything done in life, you have to apply yourself. It doesn’t just happen by chance. Exams, work deadlines and self set goals are only achievable if you work hard and stay focused. Dance instills this in my child from the off set. She learns very quickly that the amount of time spent on practicing steps at home improves her skills, that practicing routines over and over will win her medals, that fine tuning her technique will ensure higher exam marks. Basically, she learns that results are directly proportional to the amount of time and effort put in.

TEAM WORK

School, clubs, work all require you to work as part of a team. It’s an essential tool in life if you want progress. It’s also an essential tool to be likeable. No one likes a selfish, self centred, egotistical individual. There is no I in team. When my child dances with her fellow team mates in a group, she learns humility – no one is bigger/more talented/more important than the team. She learns she has a responsibility to work hard, for the group as a whole, not letting her fellow team members down. She learns a connection like no other, to people who are not family by blood, but family in a different sense, family made by sharing a common interest and and working towards goals and achieving them together. Friends that dance together, stay together.

RESPECT

For me as a parent, I want my child to learn respect. It’s easy enough at home, as I set the rules. It’s a given at school, because if she doesn’t show respect, there are consequences. Dance shows her that it’s not just at home and at school she needs to show respect, that other adults require it too. Dance re-enforces the inportance of manners and how to conduct herself. You can learn more about how to properly conduct yourself in class by reading our past article Class Etiquette – A Guide To Good Class Manners It teaches her that in life there are certain rules that we must abide by.

I’ll admit, as an adult ballet dancer and teacher, I love dance. I love that I can indulge in my passion for dance with my daughter, to prance and twirl around together, to dress up and even perform together. But the things I love the most are the things that you cannot see, for dance is much more than tutus and tiaras.

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Be A Responsible Dancer | Use Eco Friendly Glitter

Be A Responsible Dancer | Use Eco Friendly Glitter

Show me a dancer’s make up kit without glitter and I’ll eat my jazz shoes! But are we doing our bit to help the most sparkliest thing we have – our planet? Read on to find out how even a small change can contribute to a big difference.

JUST A BIT OF FUN

Glitter has always been around. In my day, we only had glitter hair spray in a can, (which if you had dark hair, just looked like you had dandruff) or glitter gel, and boy was that stuff sticky! They were items of every dancers caboodle (80’s kids won’t have to Google that) Dance festival?Glitter on! School showcase? Do I have enough skin left for more glitter?! You get the picture.

Today is no different. Glitter body art is BIG news. Performers everywhere have at least a small dusting around their eyes, not to mention those that choose to wear it in place of clothes!!!! And if you thought glitter nail varnish was a nightmare to get rid of, try removing glitter that seems like it’s been welded to your skin!!!! The best and quickest way to get rid of it (not to mention most gentle way for your skin) is to wash it off, and marvel at your bath that looks like a unicorn dissolved in it. You get out, dry off and think nothing more of it.

five assorted color glitter foundation
Photo by Anderson Guerra on Pexels.com

WHERE IT GOES

What happens to those hundreds of chunky rainbow coloured flakes after they’ve gone down the plug hole? NOTHING. Glitter is made of plastic, there for does not break down. Washing it off in the shower maybe kinder for you skin but I don’t think Mother Nature feels the same. It enters our seas and oceans and contributes to the massive and very real current problem that is microplastics.

Microplastics – according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – are anything manufactured from plastic measuring less then 5mm in diameter. Microbeads are less then 1mm. Most commonly found in scrubs and exfoliators, there are also a surprising number of products you wouldn’t even realise contained microbeads –
Some brands of foundation for example!!!! (You can find a full list of products that contain microplastics here http://www.beatthemicrobeads.org )

These tiny particles slip through water filtration systems and directly into our seas and oceans. They take hundreds of years to break down, if at all, and transfer toxic chemicals to our marine life.Thankfully bans are slowly being brought into place to stop the manufacturing of such products, but glitter is being overlooked.

chrome circle close up droplets
Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com

WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT IT

You may be thinking what difference would it make? One more person wearing glitter for a performance isn’t that big of a deal is it? It is if everyone has that opinion. Think of how many hundreds of glitter parties end up down the plug hole after 1 show. Multiply that by how many shows you do. Then again by how many identical performers are in the show. Soon adds up doesn’t it. And that’s not on using the maths about how many dance shows are currently on tour going on at any one time. We can all play our part, good or bad, so isn’t it time we sided with Mother Nature and made responsible choices?!

Dust&Dance are an online glitter and cosmetic company doing just that. Since the beginning of 2018, they have released a whole line of bio friendly body and cosmetic glitter. It’s made from plant cellose, so fully bio degrable, even compostable. It means it doesn’t pose a risk to our marine life and it’s also environmentally sourced, making it cruelty free too. Another bonus is that it’s softer than plastic, making it kinder to your skin – no more red inflamed skin from scrubbing!

Not content with stopping there, Dust&Dance ‘s ethos is that everyone deserves to feel sparkly, so from every sale made, they donate 10% to Young Minds – a charity dedicated in ensuring better mental health services to young people. So by purchasing bio glitter from Dust&Dance, not only do you help the oceans, you’re helping fellow human beings in need too. Doesn’t that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?!

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

SPARKLE ON

Being a dancer is being an artist, using your body as visual moving art, but this should not be at the expense of our planet. So next time you need some glitter for your next performance, think ahead. Think about bio glitter. You can find their whole range on their website using this link CLICK HERE

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Yoga For Dancers | 5 Reasons Why Yoga Is Good For Dancers

Yoga For Dancers | 5 Reasons Why Yoga Is Good For Dancers

Yoga can seem deceptivley easy, particularly to well limbered dancers, used to the break neck speed ethics of the studio, dismissing it as being too easy and even perhaps boring. Yoga is so much more than working the body, and the benefits are life changing. Read on to find out why every dancer should include yoga into their work out regimes.

 

  • Breathing Control

Ever been doing an exercise at the barre or centre and found yourself completely out of breath? Do you hear “don’t forget to breath” all the time from your teacher? You are probably unaware that you hold your breath during some movements, particularly the more difficult ones where concentration is needed. Yoga, specifically Ashtanga or Hatha yoga teaches you to focus on your breath and move with it. It’s a particular branch of yoga thats philosophy is to connect breath and movement, flowing through each pose. When you become aware of your breathing and tune into it, you become aware of when you’re holding it. Holding the breath creates tension in the body, and dancers want to look relaxed, making movements appear effortless. The use of the breath also adds a wonderful quality to your dancing, during port de bras for example, the breath should initiate the movement. Another good example would be pirouettes, breathing in whilst turning helps with the feeling of lift. By applying this technique to your dancing, it can really set you apart from other dancers, by literally breathing life into your performance.

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  • Stretching & Mobility

When dancers aren’t dancing, they’re probably stretching. However doing the same old stretching routine day in day out is not only boring, but your body switches off too, it needs new ways to be stimulated in order to progress. Yoga is a great exercise to add to your workout, because there are many different poses to choose from that target stretching out certain areas of the body. So you can tailor your workout depending on where you want to stretch in particular, making it different every time, keeping it fresh and engaging. Not only that, but due to the flowing aspect of continually changing poses, you’ll be training the body to have greater range of motion. It’s no good having great hamstring flexibility if you can’t access its full potential during movement.

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  • Reserve Judgement

Dancers constantly judge themselves. They analyse and criticise not only every minute detail of their performance, but their bodies too, after hour upon hour of observing themselves in the mirror. Dancers are hard on themselves, sometimes too hard. It can lead to a downward spiral of anger, self loathing, and low confidence. They will tear themselves apart and say things to themselves that they wouldn’t dream of saying to another dancer. Yoga harbours no judgement.You learn to be so present in the moment when doing yoga, that your brain has no room to think of anything else. Your taught to silence your ego, to hush that little voice inside your head that tells you you should be better. The more you practice, the more you are able to apply this train of thought to other aspects of your life, including dance.

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Photo by Tim Savage on Pexels.com
  • Listen To Your Body

One thing dancers are particularly bad at is listening to their bodies. They will push themselves to the absolute extreme, no pain no gain right?! They will keep working on something, despite feeling a little niggle here or there, until that niggle becomes a serious injury taking months to heal, instead of a couple of weeks rest it would have taken to soothe the original niggle. Why?! Because it’s so easy to fall behind in your training when  you take even just one week off, and they are scared. Scared of being left behind, scared of not being at peak performace for that audition, scared of their fellow dancers gaining an advantage. You have to look at the bigger picture. 2 weeks of rest, then coming back and working hard to regain what has been lost, compared to months of not dancing, followed by slow and repetitive rehab, then getting back to class and feeling years behind, is a small price to pay. Sadly some injuries are career ending. Yoga helps you to really be in tune with your body, to know what it wants, what it needs and what it doesn’t. Yoga unites mind and body. Some days during practice, an area can feel unusually tight, and you may not be able to deepen a pose as much as you usually can. Because your taught not to judge your body, you learn to accept. To trust in your inner voice that that is not what your body needs right now, to just let it be. To understand that pushing your body beyond its current capabilities is harmful, some even say its a form of abuse. We have to treasure our bodies, its the only one we have.

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Photo by Burst on Pexels.com
  • General Wellbeing

In our current society, there are so many distractions in life, social media, commuting, manic work schedules. Our brains are constantly overloaded with information. Now couple that with the demands of a dancer, trying to remember countless routines and at some point, your poor brain will start to shut down. Ever have those days where the steps just aren’t staying in?! The brain is an amazing organ, but it can only cope with so much before it starts to let us know that its not coping with the work load we force upon it. Yoga helps to cleanse the mind. Due to the focus on breathing and being in the present moment, everything else is pushed aside, giving your brain a well earned rest. Just like restarting your computer or resetting your phone, your brain is refreshed and re-energised, more able to absorb information, commit it to memory and recall it quicker. This enables dancers to concentrate on performance and execution, exactly whats needed at auditions, not worrying about keeping up. Yoga promotes positivity, calmness, wellbeing and mindfulness. Studies found that an hour class, once a week, significantly reduced anxiety, stress, depression and insomnia. We wrote about the importance of mental health in dancers featuring advice from ex professional dancer and psychotherapist Terry Hide, you can read here Mental Health In Dancers | Why Is No-one Talking About It? So by doing yoga, you reap the benefits  in all areas of your life.

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Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

The world we live in today is fast paced, chaotic and, at times harsh, non more so than the world of dance. You’re judged in an instant, before you’ve even been able to showcase what you can do and why you’re different. Its tough on the mind and its tough on the body. Yoga is unique in the fact that it works on both simultaneously. It strengthens and stretches the body, and brings clarity and wellbeing to the mind. There are no negative reasons why you shouldn’t be doing yoga. So before your ego tricks you into believing that yoga isn’t enough of a work out for you, I urge you to try it just once. You will reap the benefits.

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Photo by Claudia Romero-Dneprovski on Pexels.com

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History Of Tap | Origins, Founders & Developers Of Tap Dance

History Of Tap | Origins, Founders & Developers Of Tap Dance

Tap dancing, as we know, has many different, distinct styles, almost sub genres, but where and how did this rythmical toe tapping start and how did it develop into what we know it to be today?

FOUNDING NAMES.

No one really knows the true origins of tap dancing, but perhaps the earliest reference, dating back to the 1800’s, is the Juba Dance, originally performed by Master Juba aka William Henry Lane. His style was described as percussive, well timed, expressive and varied in tempo, ranging from smooth to frenzied. Juba was one of the first black performers to dance for a white audience, and although starting in America, he was most popular in England. It was most certainly a style like no one had seen before! It’s thought to have been derived from African tribal persuasions and plantation dances.

At the time, it was rare for black dancers to perform as a solo due to a 2 coloured rule, so many early black performers did so as a duet, notably Buck & Bubbles. Ford Buck Washington would play the piano, and John Bubbles Sublett would tap. It’s documentented that their style was a ‘class act’ often wearing tuxedos. This was said to be a conscious effort to move away from the earlier Minstrels dancing clown appearance. Tuxedos are now a popular choice for tappers, particularly in the Broadway/musical theatre style. However Bubbles particular style was heavy on percussive heel beats and lower body movements, which is said to be the origins of today’s rhythm tap. We talked about rhythm tap in a previous article, and how it seems to be helping to popularize tap again in modern day culture. You can read it here ……..Tap Dance Revival! The Decline & Resurrection

Bill Bojangles Robinson is another famous tapper, famous in the early 1900’s. Originally one half of a duo with George Cooper, they achieved great success touring with their act, but Bojangles found the height of his career when he paired with Shirley Temple , and went in to have many leading roles in the movies. America celebrate National Tap Dance Day on 25th May, chosen because it is Bill Bojangles Robinson’s birthday.

Hot on the heels came The Nicholas Brothers, Fayard & Harold. They quickly rose to fame by adding somewhat acrobatic and extravagant moves to their dancing, notably leagfroging over one another and falling into the splits and rising again without using their hands! Their style was well out together and classy, always remaining under control.

There have been many other contributors to the world and genre of tap, too many to mention individually, but other names that deserve a mention are The Whitman Sisters, Brenda Buffalino, The Clark Brothers, and Gregory Hines.

DEATIALS.

Initially, the original tap styles were done in regular soft shoes, with a smooth, graceful technique, often called The Sand Dance, and perhaps where the grass the soft shoe shuffle was coined. It then developed to hard boots with strong heels, but it’s worth noting that the metal taps didn’t appear till around 1910.

Tap so has it’s own glossary of steps, which are closely linked to the developers and founders of the steps. Examples are, Buffalo, Bojangles, Suzi Q, wings, shuffles, minstrel, shimsham, riffs, rolls. Each step can be traced back to a particular date in time, influences and style.

Tap dance also continues to evolve. There are a number of new tap dancing influencers, regenerating tap for the new generation, each adding their own individual style and flare to the genre. The Arnold Sisters – Chloe and Maude, Jared ‘Grimey’ Grimes are a couple of examples stateside, where tap, particularly the rhythm style seems to be most popular. Heading up in the UK, friends Jamie Spall and Kate Ivory Jordan are hoping to make rhythm tap more commercialised by bringing their tap events to the masses! We wrote about their efforts and what exactly goes on at a tap festival in our previous article Brighton Tap Festival

To conclude, although the exact origins are fuzzy and uncertain, tap dancing has a rich history of founders and influences, which are still evident in all the various styles of tap we have today, and understanding those origins will surely help dancers and students to grasp the technique and the required style, further enhancing their craft.

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Flexibility At What Cost? Alixa Sutton Talks

Flexibility At What Cost? Alixa Sutton Talks

The world, and certainly our social media feeds are awash with hyper flexibile poses and stunts, each one more jaw dropping than the next. Each person trying to push their bodies to the absolute limit. But at what cost? Yes, they are young now, their bodies are mailable and have been trained to be so for many years, but do we truly know the consequences of such extremism further down the line for these dancers, when ageing and all that that entails comes knocking?

The risks of hyper flexibility and over stretching are certainly a topic in their own right, but one person who knows the perils of over stretching from experience is Alixa Sutton. Alixa created a safe flexibility programme, which is so successful and achieves almost instantaneous results that she travels world wide, taking her skills and passing them on to the future generation of dance. We chatted to Alixa about her background, reasons for creating the programme and general thoughts on flexibility in today’s world of dance.

DN: Alixa, tell us about yourself and the reasons behind setting up your own flexibility programme.

A.S: I come from a Rhythmic Gymnastics background, and then went into Circus Contortion.  All my career I had traditional coaches & teachers who believed in the old style methods of stretching.  As an athlete & artist, I had one injury after another.  All the injuries finally acclimated in me breaking my back, and being barley able to walk for a year, let alone train or perform.  This was such an eye opening experience for me, as it made me realize that there was another way of doing things.  I also never wanted to see my students go through what I had.  I spent the next few years studying & learning from doctors, physical therapists, reading every single study I could find on all the new information we have now about how the body works and what is best for the body.  Then I took this information and incorporated it into the practical knowledge I have about dance, gymnastics, and contortion.  I have created a method that works for every body type, age and level of flexibility- but safely.

DN: How long has the programme been running?

AS: I have been teaching the Alixa Flexibility Method for 20 years now, but we have just expanded into doing Instructor Courses the past 2 years.  I also have to say that the program is constantly changing. One of the issues is that children’s bodies are different now than 20 years ago!  Some teachers may have noticed that the younger students are much tighter than in years past.  This is because the children sit so much now, and at younger ages.  They actually cause their hips to fix in a rounded position, shorten their hamstrings, and cause a huge muscle build up in their spines from all the rounding & sitting they do.  As teachers, the “traditional” stretches we used to use to improve flexibility, just don’t work anymore as we are trying to apply them to a different type of body.  I am constantly creating new stretches to help open the body naturally through mobility &

extension.

DN: Can you tell us some of your success stories?

AS : Oh goodness there are so many!!  Just this week I had a teenage girl who came into my course and told me I shouldn’t even bother with her as she was just horrible and would never be flexible.  I told her to wait and see.  At the end of the two hours, she came over and gave me a big hug crying and said she couldn’t even believe the difference she had seen & felt.  

A dance teacher took one of my Instructor Courses to help improve her teaching.  Several months later she wrote me that she was having so much pain with her own body that she was unable to walk. She started using my stretches daily and in 2 weeks was able to go on a hiking vacation with her family.

A student came to me and stated that she wanted to be a contortionist.  She was so tight in her shoulders, she couldn’t do a bridge and get her head off the floor. Her hips were also extremely tight.  We worked very slowly & steadily to improve her, and 4 years later she got her dream and was working as a contortionist in Cirque du Soleil.

(A before and after of one of Alixa’s clients)

DN: What drives you?

AS: Definitely what drives my is seeing the joy in students.  I love seeing someone who was always in pain feel better, or having that student who felt like a failure light up because they have had a success.  Flexibility is hard work, there is nothing easy about it in the beginning if you do it correctly, but it is so rewarding to see the changes in the students and to see them gradually become naturally flexible and to love doing it.  It is the best feeling when you able to give the tools to a student to help them improve and to hopefully stop them from being injured before it happens.

DN: What do you hate to see the most that’s currently in the industry?

AS: Improper technique.  It is very easy to do things wrong, and the students like to do everything on their good leg, or with their hips unsquared etc. because it is much easier.  But not doing flexibility in the correct alignment or on both sides equally, is so damaging to the body!  I think a perfect example is with back flexibility.  Most students use their middle/lower back to bend at because it is easiest and their cores are weak.  To do back flexibility correctly, they need good core strength and to use their hip flexibility & upper back/shoulders- not their middle/lower backs.  This takes longer to learn and is not as much fun, as students have to focus on good technique.  However, it will be the difference between having back pain & problems later on, or being safe & having a healthy spine their entire lives.

DN: What would you say is your no.1 tip tip for safe stretching?

This is a tricky question because I don’t think you can nail it down to one.  

1st I would say correct alignment & technique is very important during stretching.  

2nd It is important to relax.  I use mobility exercises with all my stretches to help the body relax, and to assist students who are very stuck improve more quickly & gently.

3rd  Making sure you stretch all areas of the body.  For example, ballet students tend to focus on turn out as they need it so desperately.  However, they often make themselves very flexible in one area and neglect others, creating imbalances which then cause overuse injuries.   They can improve much more quickly by stretching the glute & IT band areas which will open up their hip flexibility overall.

The Alixa Flexibility Programme offers student workshops, teacher certification courses and specialist contortion programmes. It’s currently on its extensive tour of the U.S, followed by Australia, the U.K and Canada. For more information on courses, locations and dates, please see the website following this link Alixa Flexibility

Safe stretching!

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Fame The Musical | UK Tour

Fame The Musical | UK Tour

Fame is synonymous with the 80’s, shiny spandex and a myriad of coloured leg warmers.  Following the huge success of the original 1980 film, a subsiquent spin-off series was aired, and the immensely talented cast also went on to have a string of creative successes of their own. So the word ‘FAME’ is heavily ingrained in people’s minds, and hearts, but just how well would this new 30th anniversary musical production stand up to the die hard Fame fanatics (myself included) , I was about to find out.

Sat in the auditorium of The Palace Theatre Manchester, there is a buzz of excitement like I’ve never known before a production. As everyone takes their seats, theres a burst of brightly coloured neon lights, and we open on a drummer and guitarist playing the oh-so-familiar chords of a certain ‘light up the sky like a flame’ song. But its just a tantalisingly  slither, as we realise its the beginning scene of auditions at New York’s Performing Arts School. (You can read our advice about auditions here Top Audition Hacks ) We then cut intermintenly to the other auditionees, until the final line up is revealed.

We soon get to the nitty gritty of the production with the freshman year, “a discovery of self” proclaims Mr Myres, the resident drama teacher, (played by Cameron Johnson). We get to meet the main characters, suitably nervous and unsure in disposition, well, apart from the gregarious, larger than life Joe, played effortlessly by Albey Brookes, who knows where the actor end and the character begins?!

Nick Piazza, played by Keith Jack (who shot to fame in the BBC series ‘Any Dream Will Do’) is a serious classical actor, solely focused on honing his skills, and oblivious to the romantic advances of his classmates, Serena Katz aka Molly McGuire, who’s vocals will blow you away in contrast to her nerdy and unasuming character!

We meet Tyrone jackson, (Jamal Crawford) who plays a typical wayward teen, angry at the injustice in the world, particularly surrounding race, but who’s passion and natural flare for dance carry him through. He is instantly attracted to Iris Kelly (Jorgie Porter of Hollyoaks fame) who’s a prima ballerina in the making with all the airs and graces that seemingly come with it. She confides in him that its all an act and she desperately poor, and once her guards are down, they become romantically involved.

Fiery latina Carmen Diaz is played by Stephanie Rojas, is ravenous for fame and will stop at nothing to reach her goal. She strikes up an unlikely partnership with Schlomo (Simon Anthony) a classical trained violinist, who’s father is also a famous violinist, but who’s rather be tickling the ivories of a piano, and sets up a rock band. Mr Sheinkopf is the German music teacher, and vocal about his dislike for rock and roll.

Lambchops played by Louisa Beadal, is the rock chic tomboy, who is the drummer of the band, never taking school seriously, and is constantly mocked by Goody, the trumpet player in the band, for being ‘a girl’.

Then there is Mabel Washington aka Hayley Johnston. She’s a talented dancer/singer, but struggles to reign in her love for food, and consequently, her weight, to the dismay of resident choreographer, Miss Bell, played by Katie Warsop.

All this is headed up by Principal Miss Sherman, (renowned Mica Paris) who’s comes down hard on the kids for not performing well enough academically, but truly loves and cares for every one of them and has the best interests at heart.

The quality of the dancing throughout the show is tremendous, and the energy never wains! We are treated to technically beautiful ballet scenes. Jorgie Porter positively glows whilst executing them, nailing double pirouettes into arabesques effortlessly! (Jorgie told us about her previous dance training when we interviewed her during a press afternoon. You can read about it here Jorgie Porter Talks Fame The Musical ) In stark contrast, the hip hop and jazz styles certainly pack a punch, as do the enviable leg extensions by the ensemble! The whole cast take on each genre with finesse and sense of style, completely maliable and adaptable, which are sought after characteristics in they arts.

Dance and music go hand in hand, and the live instrumentals played by the multitalented cast are seamlessly woven into each scene. You truly believe you are peering in on a band rehearsal, jamming away. As for the vocals, you will be left with goosebumps, multiple times. Keith Jack has a way of story telling to his singing, perfect for the stage. Molly’s high notes are angelic to the ear. Stephanie has a real raw quality to her voice, in perfect harmony to what her character goes through. And last but certainly not least, Mica’s soulful and earthy rendition of “These are my children” received a standing ovation from the audience, mid scene! She blasts out the lyrics without loosing a drop of sincerity, in what is a completely believable emotion and performance.

The show takes us on a journey from freshman year, to senior year show, in which you see the journey the characters make, as they blossom and fulfil their destinies. Those years are melted away by clever snippets of dialogue and scenes to show progression of time. This means there are huge amounts of swift changes for the cast and scenery, but its done in a way to mimic the fast paced nature of being in the arts. Subtle effects like the hushed sound of traffic in the background, add to the believability of New York life. I also have to mention the wonderful addition of the original cast of Fame headshots are illuminated as the backdrop, which light and fade echoing who’s currently in the scene. The journey ends with the whole auditorium on its feet, dancing and singing your cares away to the title song track, in what is almost an immersive theatre experience! I defy you not to join in!

Fame is as relevant and real now, as it was back in the 80’s. Controversial topics such as discrimination, race, drugs, teen angst and unrequited love hit home to many. Being a performing arts student, putting yourself on show and subject to criticism is a tough job, one made incessantly harder by dealing with the normal difficulties of growing up. To quote Miss Bell ” artists are special” and if you’ve got a special something within you, you need to work hard, fight to let it shine and the rewards will be limitless.

The production is currently running at the Palace and Opera House Manchester until 28th July 18, before embarking on it’s mamouth nationwide tour, ending August 2019. To find your nearest venue, dates, and how to book, visit the official website Fame The Musical UK Tour

FAME LIVES FOREVER

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Jorgie Porter Talks Fame The Musical

Jorgie Porter Talks Fame The Musical

We spoke with Jorgie about her upcoming role as Iris Kelly in the new production of Fame, her dance background, how she prepared for the role and advice for pre-professionals who want to succeed in dance or performing arts.

Marching through the busy streets of Manchester, I finally arrived at Studio 25, purpose built dance Studios with all the mod cons. As I’m guided through, I get a glimpse of Jorgie through the window, finishing off her previous interview – this girl is busy! She was in London appearing on a t.v show only the night previous, getting the first morning train to Manchester and heading straight into photo shoots, PR events and interviews. Oh the life of a pro!

I’m ushered in and greeted with a beaming, infectious smile and energy to rival a 2 year old after a nap! Her aura is open and sincere and I’m immediately at ease. It takes no time at all for us to strike up a conversation.

D.N Fame is such an iconic dance movie (which we included in our all time top dance movie list Top Dance Movies You Need To Watch ) Had you watched it growing up?

J.P – It wasn’t really my era, it was more the music. When you’re in dance school and do a show, music from Grease and other films are always used, as was music from Fame. I remember opening a show with a kick *demonstrates* to a Fame track. Obviously I’ve seen every show and production of it now, I needed to find out ‘who am I?!’

D.N – Your character, Iris, is a trained classical dancer. Can you tell us a little about your training?

J.P – So I danced from when I was 3, with my local ballet teacher. She was like a second mum to us. We adored her, never wanted to put a foot wrong, we respected her. I learnt so much self respect and discipline through ballet. She then encouraged me to audition and I was offered a scholarship at The Hammond in Chester, a prestigious college. It’s been 10 years and I’ve been so lucky to do Hollyoaks in between, but now coming back to it, I’m so much more confident.

D.N – Iris puts on a facade of being wealthy and upper class. Is it easy to be drawn into pretending to be something your not, in the industry your in?

J.P – Obviously with acting, it’s different, you’re pretending to be a different character. My friends literally save my life! It’s a lot harder to pretend or hide when you’ve got friends around. Iris Kelly doesn’t have that, but she finds it in a romantic relationship with Tyrone Jackson, that’s why they become so close, so tight. She opens up to him about being poor. As a kid, you think not having the right clothes and trainers matter, it’s a big deal. The show deals with so much issues, it’s so good!

D.N – You said you had 10 years off dance. How did you prepare for this role?

J.P – Basically, rehearsals for this have been enough! It’s mind boggling! When your mind has moved away from making your body move, it takes a little while to reconnect it. Rehearsals are so intense, every day, with everyone! Some are just out of college and have so much energy, amazing! I’m so lucky to be in it with them! All your training comes back, you have to do it full out every time. You know know, to be better, you just have to try harder.

D.N – Do you go en pointe in the production?

J.P – I can do pointe, but the fact that the tour is so long and a lot of the stages are so raked, I didn’t want to do it it and have to come off it. I didn’t want to jeopardise the whole show for one night of brilliant pointe shoe movement. I’d love to do pointe all the way through, it’s just not ideal. There’s other dances in it like street dance, and there’s just no time, it’s so fast paced this show!

D.N – Lastly, what advice would give anyone who’s wanting to peruse a career in dance or the stage?

J.P – It is the hardest thing ever! If you aren’t fully immersed into the hard work, if you think you’re going to have an easy time, it’s not for you. You have to take criticism and make it into a good thing, because you will get criticised no matter what.

(You can read our advice on how to take criticism and corrections here Receiving Corrections- How to be a good student )

You can watch the rest of the interview over on our Instagram page @danceniche using the new IGTV feature or on our YouTube channel using this link Jorgie Porter Fame Full Interview

Fame is premiering Friday 20th July at The Palace & Opera House Manchester, where it runs until 28th July. You can buy tickets through the website https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/fame-the-musical/palace-theatre-manchester/ or by calling 0844 871 3019. The Production then heads off to Glasgow to continue its nationwide tour lasting until August 2019! More more information on dates and venues, you can visit the official Fame The Musical website http://fameuktour.co.uk/

#famelivesforever

#iwannaliveforever

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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.

Dance Niche

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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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Everyday things you’re probably doing that could hinder your dance and how to fix them

Everyday things you’re probably doing that could hinder your dance and how to fix them

Humans are creatures of habit, but not all habits are good for you, particularly where posture is concerned and we all know how important that is for a dancer. And the thing about habits are that you do them so often without thinking, that you’re probably not even aware you’re doing them. Here are some of the most common things you do every day that could be harming your dance practice.

TECH NECK

The sudden increase in technology and the devices we use daily has had a dramatic effect on our posture. Next time you’re on your phone, tablet, PC, make a note of your posture. Probably shoulders hunched over, with your head dropped forwards. This creates roundness and tightness in your upper back, and puts added strain on your neck. In time, with increased duration, can cause a permanent curvature to the upper spine, not to mention tight muscles which will restrict range of motion in the shoulders.

Combat this by doing lots of upper back stretches and shoulder mobility exercises. If you do yoga, heart opening exercises. If you have a foam roller, lie on your back placing it underneath your shoulder blades. Stretch your arms above your head and gently roll backwards and forwards. You will feel a release sensation in the upper vertebrae. You can also hold the stretch if it feels particularly tight, and let gravity help. A classic shoulder mobility exercise is done with a resistance band or tea towel. Hold either side of the band/towel in front of you, keeping your awns straight. Lift your arms above your head and try and get them to pass all the way back to behind you, then back in reverse. This is a tricky one. You’ll need to start with your arms quite wide apart at first, but with more practice and increases mobility, you’ll be able to accomplish this with your arms closer together.

HIGH HEELS

Wearing high heels may look amazing, but be careful not to wear them too often. Extended periods of time in high shoes puts your feet and ankles under a lot of strain. Corns and hammer head toes are very common afflictions, not to mention other more serious damage. The foot and ankle are at an unnatural angle, which can cause tension and strain through the intrinsic muscles and metatarsals. Wearing heels daily can actually shorten the Achilles’ tendon and tighten the calf muscles, reducing your Demi plie range. Not only that, there’s a real chance of falling off your heels and twisting your ankle or worse!

Combat this by wearing heels for limited times only. If you’re in you feet all day, try and wear flat, comfortable shoes. If your calves are feeling tight, use a yoga block or the first step of your staircase. Put the ball of your foot on the step, and use a chair or wall for balance. Slowly lower your heel down as low as it will go. You will feel a nice stretch of your calf and Achilles’ tendon. Hold for a few seconds and rise back up. Repeat as necessary.

Using a resistance band is also good for reversing damage. Place the ball of your foot in the middle of the band, and pull either end up towards you. Draw circles with your foot in one direction, then the opposite, slowly and controlled. The resistance from the band will help strengthen all the muscles around the ankle.

HEAVY BAGS

Whether heading to college or dance class, you’re probably hiking a huge bag full to the brim with stuff, and all on one shoulder. Stop now! Carrying on one side can really effect you posture. It can cause curvature of the spine, uneven shoulders and weaker muscles on one side of your back depending on which shoulder you favour!

Combat this by only carrying things in your bag that you need for that day/lesson to reduce the weight, and always try and use a rucksack, with both shoulder straps across each shoulder, which distributes the weight more evenly across your back. The tea towel exercise mentioned previously is also good for relieving tension in the shoulders from carrying all day.

You can also try this. Stand side on to a wall. Place your arm closest to the wall at a right angle, coming out from your shoulder parallel and fingers pointing upwards. Turn the palm outwards and place on the wall with your whole forearm. Keeping your arm in that position, take a step slightly forwards, so your arm is now slightly behind you. You should feel a nice stretch across the front of your shoulder girdle.

SITTING INTO YOUR HIPS

Waiting for a bus, stood in a queue or waiting to go into the studio, you’re probably stood with all your weight into your back leg with your hip distended. Doing this for long periods of time or frequently isn’t great for your hips. It can cause also the tendons and ligaments around the hip joint to stretch and lengthen, which in turn weakens them. This will effect the height of your developpes and sometimes even shift your centre of gravity from centre!

Combat this by always standing with weight evenly distributed between the two feet, with knees relaxed and not snapped back into any hyperextension. Exercises for strengthening the hip flexors will also be beneficial. Sit on the floor with your legs extending in parallel in front of you. Without compensating in your lower back, lift one leg off the floor as high as it will go, hold and put it down. You can also pulse the leg once it’s in the air. Repeat on both legs. You can improve on this by placing 2 objects in front of you. If you imagine a clock, at 5 past and 10 past. Again without sloughing, lift the leg over first object, then over the second then back over the first and finish where you started. This builds strength and also mobility for developpes a la seconde.

FEET UP ON THE SOFA

It’s a great to spend an evening relaxing watching the TV, with you feet up. Or is it?! Are you curling your legs up to the side of you? Look at the angle of your feet and ankles. Your top one will be pretty neutral, but I bet you’ll find the foot underneath is bent, flexing in towards you. This stretches and lengthens the muscles on the outer side of your foot, weakening the ones on the inside. This will give your foot a suckling line when extending or pointing and is a dangerous line for pointe work.

Combat this by lifting and extending your legs out in front of you, on a foot stool or similar. It will keep your ankles and feet in neutral alignment without any weight bearing on them. The foot exercise with the resistance band mentioned above is great to help undo this. We also wrote a post on strengthening your feet for pointe, which has more foot exercises you can try. Read about them here https://danceniche.com/2017/05/02/pointe-shoe-chronicles-strengthening-your-feet-for-pointe/

When dance is your chosen craft, your body is your tool. You have a responsibility to look after that tool as best you can. This means avoiding anything that might hinder or damage it, which will ultimately hinder your dance. So just check in with yourself every now and then and be mindful of your posture and what your body is doing. Your dance will thank you for it later!

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Q&A with Flashdance the musical’s Gloria aka Hollie Ann Lowe

Q&A with Flashdance the musical’s Gloria aka Hollie Ann Lowe

Flashdance is ingrained in history as being a monumental and iconic film! That’s why we included it in our top dance movies to watch! You can see what else made the list here https://danceniche.com/2017/12/28/top-dance-movies-you-need-to-watch/ It tells the tale of a young hopeful Alex. A welder by day, dancer in a bar by night, who yearns to make it as a professional dancer. Hers, and most of the characters in the story are one that many of us are all too familiar with. The self doubt, trying to please others, still needing money to pay bills. We spoke to Hollie Ann Lowe who plays ‘Gloria’……….Gloria I think they got your number! (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself) about the show, her character and and the parallels between the show and real life.

Hi Hollie! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions! Let’s begin….

DN: Dance Niche named Flashdance as one of their top must see dance movies. Were you a fan of the film before the Musical?

H: Since performing in a youth version of Flashdance when I was 14, it has been one of my favourite films and musicals. The film is so iconic and will never get old!

DN: Flashdance is an iconic film, that paved the way for perms and leg warmers! How does the Musical stand up to the film? Do you still own leg warmers?

H: I was born in 96, however growing up I loved all things 80’s! I do still own leg warmers and they often make an appearance in warm up! Ha. Our musical is adapted slightly but there are so many iconic outfits, songs, dance movements…it’s a real flash back to the 80’s!

DN: As well as acting, there’s a lot of dance content and choreography involved with being a cast member of Flashdance. What is your dance background and what is your favourite genre of dance?

H: I started dancing at 5, and have danced my whole life. Training in different styles, I moved to London when I was 17 to train in dance and musical theatre professionally and had the time of my life for three years training in all styles of dance, singing and acting before starting with Flashdance!

DN: The world of professional Dance is a tough one to break into, do you identify with the themes of the story and feelings of the main characters?

H: Alex Owens, is the epitome of any young dancer or performer wanting to break into the industry. We are faced with many challenges along the way but it is the passion, love and drive that keeps us going and gives us the best job there is!

DN: Your character Gloria, really encourages Alex to go for the audition at Shipley’s. How did you feel when auditioning for Flashdance and who encouraged you to go for it? Did you watch the film as part of your prep?!

H: Very similar to both Alex and Gloria, it’s a big scary world when auditioning. However this show and film has been so close to my heart for years that I had the most amazing experience and loved every second of the audition process! My family have always encouraged me, especially my Mum who growing up would always encourage me to reach for higher.

DN: Being a professional dancer yourself and having successfully made a career in dance, what would you say your top tip for dancers at auditions is?

H: My top tip would be to enjoy every second….even an audition! Things will come and go but most important thing is to every step of the journey, even the rejection…be grateful for the lesson learnt and enjoy moving forward.

DN: Lastly, what would you say to anyone who might be thinking about coming to see the show?

H: With edgy choreography and exciting musical arrangements, Flashdance is a must see show for everyone!! You will be taken on a journey back to the 80’s and have a fun filled night out!

Thanks Hollie for the insight! Break a leg with the rest of the tour!

Flashdance is finishing its run here at the amazing Manchester Opera House, however the rest of the tour dates can be found here http://www.flashdanceuktour.co.uk/tour-schedule

This is definitely one show that is bound to get you out of your seats dancing and singing along, leg warmers mandatory!

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Surviving dance comps as a parent

Surviving dance comps as a parent

Dance competitions and festivals can seem pretty intense, especially for parents of dancers! There’s your baby, all on their own on a stage that seems to swallow them up, not matter how old they are! What if they go wrong? What if they slip and fall? What if they miss a beat, or speed ahead of the music?! In your eyes, they will always be your baby, and you’d do anything to protect them, but there they are, so exposed and you can’t do anything to help them if something doesn’t go quite to plan! But never fear, Dance Niche is here to guide and help you through comp season.

DON’T PANIC

Try to stay calm as much as possible. Children feed off emotions of parents, so you don’t want them to start stressing out and worrying unnecessarily. If they are worrying or nervous, they will look to you to be their rock, so make sure you’re the picture of calmness, even though your stomach is about to turn inside out!

Remember to breathe! The only difference between excitement and nervousness is the amount of oxygen getting to the brain, it’s the same chemical responsible for both emotions. Take big deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth. This is also advice we give dancers too, you can read our competitors tips here https://danceniche.com/2017/04/11/top-5-dance-comp-survival-tips/

BRING PROVISIONS

Comps and festivals can be a long day, especially if your children have multiple dances. It’s a good idea to bring some food and drink with you for you and your dancer. The festival organisers afternoon have refreshments available, but if you’re there all day, it can get expensive! Try not to bring anything that’s too messy, so your child can eat in her costume whilst waiting if needs be, but make sure they don’t eat for at least half hour before they are due to dance, to make sure food has settled and they will be at their best.

It can also get very tedious waiting around, so bring a book or iPad to help pass the time. Taking your mind off the waiting will help keep the nerves at bay.

BE ORGANISED

If your have a tiny dancer, you’ll have to do the prep work for them. Make sure you make a check list and have everything ready the night before, including costume, footwear, music, make up and hair box etc. It’s a good idea to get them to help you in the preparations. It teaches them how to be organised and helps them understand what’s needed, as when they’re older, it’ll be their responsibility. If you have an older dancer, you can verbally check in with them to make sure they’ve got everything covered.

ITS NOT YOUR ROUTINE

This one applies to parents of the younger dancers mostly. I know they are small and look like a dot in the stage but it can be incredibly off putting for the adjudicator if you are doing every single step of the dance in the audience. Not only that, how will your child every learn how to take responsibility for their own dance and actually learn it, if they know they’ve always got you mirroring for them. If they have a blip and freeze, give them a small prompt of course, it happens all the time, but that should be enough to jog their memory. Let them get on with it. If they cannot remember the majority of a routine, you have to question if they are ready yet.

REMEMBER WHY YOU’RE THERE

You might feel feel like comps are the worst things in the world, and the added time, stress and pressure just isn’t worth it, but does your dancer think the same? I bet your child loves comps, thrives off them even. They love to perform, and not only does it give them more experience, but they wouldn’t even be doing them if they didn’t want to be up there dancing on their own, centre of attention! If you ask your dancer, they may feel a little nervous pre performance, but afterwards, they’ll be bouncing off the walls with adrenaline. You’re there to support you child, help them build confidence and make memories. If they don’t feel anxious about it, you shouldn’t either.

Being the parent of a comp dancer is often a thankless task, and it’s hard work too but just remember these few tips and it should be a whole lot less of a stressful thing. Don’t forget the other mums too! Competitions bring a real sense of togetherness and camaraderie, so there will always be a seasoned pro Mum there to hold your hand! You will find you might actually start to enjoy comps.

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Dance Mum Etiquette – How to be good parent.

Dance Mum Etiquette – How to be good parent.

Being a Dance Mum is hard, REAL hard and it’s a rollercoaster of high emotions and situations which can be tough to tackle week on week. I know this because I am a Dance Mum myself. Not only did I dance when I was younger, my eldest daughter is currently dancing, and I’m now also a dance teacher myself, so I’m in a unique position of seeing things from all sides. I’ve put together a few do’s and don’ts to hopefully make it a smoother ride.

DO make sure you are organised.

There are going to be so many dates to remember, exams, rehearsals, festivals, shows, workshops, fundraising, you name it. Get yourself a calendar specifically for ‘dance’. As soon as you get anything important through from the school or studio, write it down straight away. Even if the exact dates are not known until closer to the time, you can always mark with a star or TBC so you know roughly when or at least have those dates in the back of your mind if anything else were to crop up. When each event draws nearer, write a list of all the things that will be needed, costume, make up, accessories, food. If your child is older, you can give them some responsibility and compile the list together. Come the day, you can check everything off the list, and avoid a whole lot of stress.

DO make sure you pay fees on time.

This may not be your child’s calling in life, it may just be a flash in the pan hobby for them. For the studio owner and teaching staff, it’s a career, a livelihood. Blood, sweat and tears are literally invested into not only the studio, but the children. So by making sure all tuition fees are paid when they are due, you are thanking the staff for all their hard work and efforts, not just paying their wages. If you pay by direct debit, check that all details are up to date and correct to ensure a smooth transaction every month.

DO teach your child about responsibilities and commitment. Yes, they may only be young. No, the local studio is not a professional gig. Yes, your child may have exams coming up. It’s your job as a parent to teach your children some fundamental life lessons to prepare them for the real world. Ultimately if your child no longer wants to take dance lessons, wait until the end of that term. It disrupts the flow of the class to have children leaving mid term. You may have already pair the term upfront anyway, so notify the teacher beforehand that your child has requested to leave. Don’t worry, it’s not against the law, it just gives everyone time to adjust to the news before it happens and allows them to say their goodbyes. In particular, if there is a show or production coming up that your child is included in, please please wait till the end of the show before pulling out. It is every teacher’s nightmare to suddenly have bodies missing from a group dance, that may not be able to be replaced. Not only that, if your child has committed themselves to being part of that team, then they cannot let the rest of their team members down. Teach the the value of sticking it out until the end, for everyone’s sake. In the real world, they won’t have mummy or daddy to fall back on and give excuses out for them when they decide that they can no longer be bothered.

DON’T live your life through your child.

Perhaps you always wanted to dance but never got the opportunity. Perhaps you were destined for greatness but an injury ended your career before it started. It is plain to see when a child is being ‘pushed’ into dance more than they want to be. The passion is just not there. There is no sparkle behind their eyes. They grow to dislike dance more and more with every passing week that they are ushered to classes. Just because they have amazing ability or a general interest, does not mean they want the same things as you did. Dance may just be a fun hobby, or outlet for them. Don’t take that away from them by inadvertently placing your own dreams upon their shoulders. It’s heartbreaking to see, and not only will they resent taking classes, in the end the will resent you too. Listen, really listen to your child.

DON’T compare.With a mixture of different fortes and personalities, it’s easy to start comparing your child with someone else’s. So what if one child’s leg is higher than your child’s, or has an oversplit when leaping, or pirouettes like a spinning top. As soon as you start comparing one thing, you’ll soon find your picking at more and more things and the list suddenly begins to grow. One of my favourite quotes is “comparison is the theif of joy” ~ Theodore Roosevelt. When you compare your child to another, you are instantly sending a message to your child that they aren’t good enough. Not only will it kill the joy for you, but it will sap all of the joy out of dance for your child as well. Their confidence takes a huge nose dive. Think about it. It also works the other way around. No one likes someone who gloats. So what if your child has won 5 trophies last week, nailed her fouetté turns and been chosen to represent some brand. Everyone is happy for you, but it doesn’t make you any better than the rest. Stay grounded.

DON’T question teacher decisions.

As a parent, you can have a very blinkered view on your child and their ability. As teachers, we see them as an individual but as a whole group as well. We carefully consider every action and outcome before deciding upon anything, and it’s ALWAYS with the child’s welfare at heart. If your child isn’t on the front row for a particular number, if she didn’t make the cut at all, if she’s not yet been invited to pre pointe class, if she doesn’t have a solo, if she isn’t taking the exam, it’s because there’s a good reason. It may be your child has already been at the front and we want all the other children to have a fair chance. It may be your child’s feet are beautifully arched but not yet strong enough to meet the demands that pointe requires. It may be your child is a wonderful dancer as a team, but we’ve seen them struggle to cope on their own. It may be we genuinely don’t think they’re ready for that exam, when a couple more months hard work will have them ready and confident enough to achieve the marks we know they are capable of. If we make a decision it’s either based on health and safety or the wellbeing of your child. Please respect that and back us up.

Being a dance mum or Dad is a tough gig. The relentless taxi service you provide, the endless supply of money, family meals altogether a thing of the past, the stress and anxiousness you feel in their behalf. We, as teachers, are eternally grateful to you, as without you and the support you give your children, we would have nobody to teach, we wouldn’t have jobs! Just remember why. You do all of this because they don’t just love dance, they live it, and you love them, unconditionally. One day, when they’re grown and a family of their own, they will understand everything you did for them, and they will thank you for it. In the mean time, stay strong, and keep reminding yourself why you do it whilst opening a bottle, you’ve definitely earned it!

If you enjoyed reading this, you might like previous article on how to be a good student! http://danceniche.com/2017/05/30/class-etiquette-a-guide-to-good-class-manners/

Dance Niche

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Shrek the Musical

Shrek the Musical

As I sat waiting in trepidation, the green hues of the lights and the sea of ogre ear headbands had already begun to transport me to a land far, far, away. Even the stage curtain was that of a forest canopy. The scene was set! I wasn’t sure how one of the most loved computer animated movies was going to transpire to the stage. Would the writers and creative directors be able to pull it off?! Only time would tell.

In classic fairytale style, a gigantic story book magically opened before our eyes, with the characters seemingly appearing from nowhere. It told the story of a young Shrek, and how he came to be on his own in the swamp. Away with the book, it was time for the real story to begin.

Shrek in the film is such a loveable rogue, brought to life by the incredibly talented Mike Myers. His voice and mannerisms are the very fibres of the character, so how would it be to watch an actor? Would it feel like the actor was simply imitating?! I needn’t have worried. Steffan Harri plays a wonderful Shrek, making the character truly his own, almost, if not, more loveable than the animated version. His ogre game is strong.

Every hero needs a side kick, and boy do you get a kick out of Doneky! Marcus Aynton is the best ass ever to have tread the boards! His comedic timing and one liners make him an instant hit with the children, with the writers even throwing a few adult jokes in that are well over the little ones heads, they’ll be too captivated with Donkey’s slick dance moves!

Princess Fiona is played by non other than ‘Call the Midwife’ actress Laura Main. When we first meet her, she is every inch the traditional princess with her fiery long locks and emerald green dress, but as we get to know her more, she really comes out of herself. I guess having freedom after all that time locked in a tower will do funny things to you! Laura brings real grit and a toughness to Fiona that makes you warm to her instantly. Her voice packs a powerful punch, knocking sweet singing birds out of their nests no less and the campfire scene where she has a – let’s just say ‘windy’ competition with Shrek, is pure comedy gold. Toilet humour never fails to crack a smile!

That’s not even the funniest part. Lord Farquaaaaad, played by Samual Holmes, wins the funniest performance award hands down! What he is lacking in stature, he most certainly makes up for in laughs! With the help of some very clever wardrobe tricks and facial expressions to rival that of Jim Carey, you only need to look at him to be amused, and that’s all I’m going to say about it, I don’t want to spoil it for you!

As for the rest of the multitasking cast, I’m tired just watching them!They play various familiar story book characters as well as soldiers, village people, tap dancing rats and 3 particular mice one can only assume were blinded by their own sassiness. Some of their costume changes must have been similar to that of a magicians assistant who steps behind the curtain and out the other side with a completely different ensemble! Their signing, acting and dancing skills are put to the test with each number being so different in style and genre and to pull it off so well is a sign of a true professional.

What I especially liked, being a theatre geek, are all the tiny references to some of the other great musicals around – a trademark dance move here or there, familiar lyrics hidden within a song, and a certain flag flying high to mention a few. Watch closely and see how many you can spot!

All in all, it’s the most fun I’ve had at the theatre in a long time. The joy every single one of the cast is having whilst on that stage is almost tangible, and that transfers to the audience in a way similar to that of a panto – boo and hisses, cheers, cued laughter and up out of your seat dancing to the finale song to finish on a high! Whatever your age, young and old, children and adults alike will not fail to be entertained. It’s such a family affair, I can well see this becoming a tradition for many. Bonding, building fond memories and laughing – lots of laughing, crying with laughter, together. That’s what theatre is all about after all. So follow in the footsteps of Shrek and Fiona, Donkey and Dragon and all the story book folk, embrace your weirdness and find your happily ever after that begins with watching Shrek the Musical.

The show will be staying at the Manchester Palace Theatre untill 28th January. You can book your tickets using this link or telephone number below. https://atgtickets.com/manchester/

Tel:0844 871 3019

The rest of the tour dates can be found on the website https://shrekthemusical.co.uk/

Special thanks to the Palace Theatre Manchester and We Blog North for my first press night. I had a blast, but next time I’ll have my own novelty headband ready!

Dance Niche

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Dancing Icons – Dame Darcey Bussell

Dancing Icons – Dame Darcey Bussell

Darcey Bussell has become a household name of late, chasséing her way into our homes (and our hearts) every weekend, thanks to being one of 4 judges on the glitziest tv show around – Strictly Come Dancing. She judges fairly, with eloquence and always with constructive criticism, making sure she ends on a positive note as not to dishearten the dancing celebrities, keeping them encouraged. She has firmly taken the seat as not only one of the most likeable and sincere judges, but as one of the nations sweethearts. A rare accolade indeed. But many of the younger viewers may not know the Darcey that we, as dancers, know and adore. So let’s delve a little into her life story.

Darcey – born Marnie Mercedes Darcey Pemberton Crittle, joined the Royal Ballet lower school ages 13, where she progressed to through the upper school before joining the Sadlers Wells Royal Ballet (now known as Birmingham Royal Ballet) in 1987. Darcey was hailed for her clean and precise technique, so it’s not surprising that in 1988, she had a lead role written for her, which is when she moved to the Royal Ballet and promoted to principal dancer at the tender age of only 20, becoming their youngest principal dancer at the time.

Darcey danced many of the well known leading roles including Aurora in the Sleeping Beauty, and and the Swan princess in Swan Lake. My personal favourite role she played was that of the Sugar Plum Fairy from the Nutcracker – the qualities she brought to that role are exquisite! Another favourite was a sketch she did with comedienne Dawn French, where they danced the infamous ‘mirror dance’. It is hugely entertaining, and really shows Darcey’s wonderful personality and not taking herself too seriously! If you haven’t watched it, here’s a link, you’re welcome! https://youtu.be/UyIMLz_jRbI

In 2007, she retired from ballet, with her last performance of Song of the Earth, and received an 8 minute standing ovation! Dame Darcey is still very much involved in the dance world, despite her retirement. Not only is she one quarter of the Strictly judging panel, she is also President of the Royal Academy of Dance. Being quite the creative, she wrote a series of children’s books called ‘Magic Ballerina’ , about an aspiring ballerina who discovers her shoes are magical! She has also recently launched ‘DDMix’ Diverse Dance Mix, a dance based fitness regimes in which she pulls inspiration and moves from dances all over the world. She is passionate about getting people moving and enjoying dance!

Her most recent accolade, was being named in the Queen’s New Years Honours list, receiving an OBE and her title of Dame, which is hugely fitting. She said “I gratefully accept it on behalf of all the dance organisations that I am so fortunate to be part of. Dance is such a beautiful art form, it is inspiring and provides joy, social cohesion and wellbeing.” and we couldn’t agree more.

So here’s to Dame Darcey, congratulations, and long may you continue to enrich lives through inspiring others to dance.

Dance Niche

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TECHNIQUE vs PERFORMANCE – Are we losing the art of dancing?

TECHNIQUE vs PERFORMANCE – Are we losing the art of dancing?

This is something I’ve been wanting to write about for a while, and is a fairly controversial topic, as there will always be strong views for either side. Before I continue, I’d just like to say that I am in no way advocating poor technique, or the lack of, as we all know technique and good form help keep us as dancers safe and injury free. It’s more to do with current trends in the dance world and of course, personal opinions will always come into play.

With the rise of social media, National T.V competitions and reality shows, dance – and dancers, have been projected not only into the lime light, but into the lives of young aspiring dancers everywhere. They follow their favourite dancers week by week, voting for them to get through to the next stage. They follow their social media accounts with enthusiasm, marvelling at each new pose they post. Instagram has a particularly large and influential dance community, as t.v and professional dancers from all over the world display their craft. Professionals. People who have spent years upon years honing and perfecting their craft with complete and total dedication. And of course much like you and I, they only post the very best photos, the ones that are timed just right to get that perfect shot, the grande jete beyond 180 degrees, the developpe a la seconde by their ear, and the ever popular ‘crotch shot’ aka side tilt, which seems to be as common as leg warmers in the movie Fame! In fact, it’s that common, and some say distasteful, that it has its own hashtag ‘#stopthecrotchshot

We live in a world where how many ‘likes’ your photo receives, dictates how good you are as a dancer. So naturally, young dancers are wanting to emulate the idols they follow, and post the best dance pose they can, hoping to rack up the likes. This has also transpired into choreography. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. More and more I see dancers at festivals show off their acquired skills, one into another, into another, but it’s getting to the point where they are almost showing off. Yes, of course, that’s what they are aiming for. They want to wow the audience and adjudicators with the amazing tricks and displays of hyper flexibility, however these elements are beginning to roll into one another, BAM, BAM, BAM! Quite often, these are the dancers that are placed. The ones who thrill us with their continual display of talent. But is it that thrilling?!

For me, Dance has always been about telling a story, being able to dance with such emotion that the audience pick up on the vibrations, making the hairs on their arms stand on end. You know the exact feeling I’m talking about. A good dancer can move you to tears. It’s part of the magic. You feel like you’ve been let into a private moment. It’s intoxicating, and leaves you wanting more. Can this simply be achieved by a display of capability? I think not. Don’t get me wrong, a well placed trick or element can really add a spectacular highlight to the dance, but it’s more than that. What about the steps in between, the facial expressions to convey the feeling, a well placed pause, a moment of stillness can hold so much tension and captivate an audience so much so the atmosphere is almost tangible. This is the true art of dance surely. To be able to give yourself so fully to a piece, to bare your soul, that the audience are able to re tell the story back, as they live it with you. Martha Graham famously said “great dancers are not great because of their talent. They are great because of their passion” and I think that speaks volumes.

But this doesn’t stop at tricks, and here’s where I could become unpopular with my view, it can also be true of actual technique too. Let’s set the scene……….local dance festival, lots of competitors in a section. There’s that one girl who has been genetically blessed for Dance……..the almost flat turn out, legs for days with slight hyperextended knees giving beautiful lines, feet that arch like bananas, and all the grace and beauty of any prima ballerina that has passed. But she lacks something. That spark behind her eyes, the fire in her belly, the calling from deep within her soul. She dances because she is good at it, REALLY good, but what drives her? Does she perform and project? No, she is selfish with her performance, and has a face like she’s simply stood waiting for a bus. Dare I say it………perhaps slightly boring! Cue the girl that isn’t so genetically blessed. Her legs aren’t as long, she doesn’t have the best turn out but she works with what she’s got and she pointed her feet as much as they allow, but she has something special. She has that ‘X’ factor. She doesn’t want to dance, she needs to. Her face visibly comes alive as soon as she steps on the stage and the audience know instantly they’re in for a treat. She captivated them so much, you can hear a pin drop. It’s also visible when you watch a group dance. There will always be that one dancer who catches your eye whether they are at the front or back. They catch your eye because they perform! They use their face as well as their body. They dance with such passion that it oozes from ever pore. It’s what an audience want to see. They want to watch someone who is interesting and intriguing, who’s fire burns so brightly they too can feel the heat and they get that all over tingling sensation that brings tears to your eyes. Someone who moves them when they dance. It’s echoed very much in the computer animated film ‘Ballerina‘(or Leap if you’re in the U.S) Effectively a battle between a talented girl who’s danced all her life, but dances because that’s what she’s always done, and a girl who has dreamed of being a dancer but wasn’t given the same opportunities, but her passion and determination she’s her through. It makes such a good story, because it’s a true one, “nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion” – Georg Wilhelm Friedrich

So who would win? Ultimately, it’s down to the individual adjudicators, and again, this varies. Some favour perfect technique over performance, but I will always be swayed by that special something a dancer gives. In a perfect world, a dancer would have both, and these rare creatures are the ones that make it pro, all the way to the top, but they are just that, a rarity. Don’t let that stop you though, there is a growing trend in the dance world. Things are changing, slowly, but for the better. Companies are beginning to hire different dancers, differently by age, build race, but that’s a whole other blog post………

So what is your opinion? Which camp do you lie? Are you Team Felice or Team Camille? Content or creativity?

Dance Niche

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Ballet classics – The Nutcracker

Ballet classics – The Nutcracker

(Karla Doorbar as Clara; photo: Roy Smiljanic)

Nothing says Christmas more to dancers than The Nutcracker. Companies all over the world look forward to putting on their own production, with it being the highlight of the year. The Nutcracker is to ballet what Jack and the Beanstalk is to pantos – a deep set tradition, with just as much magic and adventure, that many look forward to every year. If you aren’t too familiar with the story, read on and you’ll be a Nutcracker pro in no time!

Premiering in 1892, it was adapted from E.T.A Hoffman’s “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lee Ivanov, with a score from the great Pyotr Tchaikovsky (who also composed music for Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake). Like most long standing productions, the details and the story differ slightly from place to place, but here’s the one that is most familiar.

(Karla Doorbar as Clara, Angela Paul as Clara’s Mother and Rory Mackay as Drosselmeyer; photo: Andrew Ross)

The scene is set on Christmas Eve in young girls family home, Clara, where the Christmas tree has been decorated and the children stand in awe of it. As the clock strikes 8pm, Drosselmeyer, Clara’s Godfather, local councilman and magician appears, with gifts for all the children. Clara particularly falls in love with a wooden Nutcracker carved in the shape of a solider. Fritz – Clara’s brother, breaks it, (typical sibling rivalry I’d say) and Clara is heartbroken.

(Rachael Gillespie as Clara curtesy of Northern Ballet)

During the night, Clara goes back downstairs to see the broken Nutcracker again (does she not know that Father Christmas only visits when all children are asleep?!) As she reaches for it, the clock strikes 12 midnight, mice flood the room, the tree begins to grow as does the Nutcracker! Suddenly Clara finds herself in the middle of a battle between gingerbread men soldiers led by the Nutcracker, and the army of mice led by the Mouse King.

(Jonathan Caguioa as the Nutcracker Doll and Yasuo Atsuji as King Rat with Artists of Birmingham Royal Ballet as Rats; photo: Andrew Ross)

The mice begin eating away at the gingerbread men (well they are super tasty). As it looks like the Mouse army are winning, Clara throws her slipper at the Mouse King, giving the Nutcracker an opportunity to stab him (always so violent, does it need a disclaimer?) The mice retreat and the Nutcracker transforms into a Prince, who takes Clara through a pine forest towards his kingdom. Magical snowflakes dance all around them

(Jenna Roberts as the Snow Fairy with Artists of Birmingham Royal Ballet; photo: Bill Cooper)

Act II sees the pair enter the magical Land of sweets, ruled by the Sugar Plum Fairy (perhaps this is where Willy Wonka got his inspiration from?) To celebrate the victory and to thank Clara for her help, the Sugar Plum Fairy enlists the help from sweets all over the world, who each perform for the pair, including the famous dance of the Plum Fairy.

(Yaoqian Shang as the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker; photo: Bill Copper)

As the celebrations draw to a close, Clara and the Nutcracker are lead to a sleigh pulled by reindeer. Everyone waves them off on their journey, much like wedding guests to newly wed couples, and this ends the production, although there are multiple alternative endings around.

(Company dancers photo curtesy of Northern Ballet)

With such a magical, enthralling story, enough sweets to send the kids climbing the walls on a sugar high, and a heroine little girls would dream to be, The Nutcracker is a wonderful way to introduce young children to the ballet world and the theatre, and would also make a wonderful family tradition to watch it year after year.

(Image courtesy of The Scottish Ballet company www.scottishballet.co.uk )

Disney must appreciate the magic of Nutcracker, as they are currently producing a live action adaptation – The Nutcracker and the Four Relms, due to be realised November 2018, just in time for the festive season (top marks Disney) which promises to be every bit as magical as the ballet, if not more. Definitely one to put on your calendars for next year! Watch the official trailer here https://www.facebook.com/DisneyUK/videos/654986464672105/

So, the little ones are tucked up in bed, while visions of sugar plums – hopefully not evil mice kings being stabbed to death – dance in their heads, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all for reading and supporting this blog, this is my dream coming to life and I’m hugely honoured and grateful to have you all share it with me. There’s only one thing left to say…….

“Merry Christmas to all, and to all goodnight!”

See you in the New Year,

Dance Niche

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Leap of faith.

Leap of faith.

I have some exciting news!

On Wednesday evening, I shall be teaching my first class! Little old me, a teacher! Eeeeeek! The class in question is our adult Urban class, so it’s full of very familiar faces, my dance friends. Does this make me more nervous? Hell yes! But I know it shouldn’t. They are all hugely supportive, and kind and funny and enthusiastic. We really are like a little family. So how did this come about you may ask? Our teacher/friend is expecting her first child. She teaches dance and fitness classes throughout the day, and now the time has come for her to start scaling back in preparation. Urban is one of those classes. We do have a particular ‘style’  and we have had a substitute teacher on a trial basis, but unfortunately, it was not what we were used to. Humans are creatures of habit! So the dilemma being, if we had no one to take the class, the class would have to be cancelled until after the baby arrives. We were all a little sad at that prospect. So it was proposed that I trail taking the class this week, after all, I should definitely know our style by now! 

This past week, I’ve been listening to the radio and chose a track, “levels” by Nick Jonas, it has a great beat to it, and started doing some choreography. I’ve actually really enjoyed it! Which surprised me as in my younger days, ‘own choreography’ was the worst section for me, that and impromptu’ but that’s a whole other blog! I’ve enjoyed it that much, that I’ve now taken steps to become a certified teacher! I’m going to be doing my IDTA Level 4 Diploma in ballet, and I can’t tell you how excited that makes me! This means, I will always have dance in my life, no matter how old I am! It means I can to really get to grips with my passion, ballet, and hopefully share and spread that passion to children and young adults! It’s a huge responsibility, but it’s one that I feel I can do justice to. Because dance is not just about technique. Yes it plays a huge part in dance and to be able to execute it safely, but for me, the most important aspect of dance, is feeling. It’s being able to express and portray emotions using your body as the medium. To be able to create that atmosphere that the audience can physically feel and makes their hairs stand on end. That’s a dancer’s true job. “dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion” – Martha Graham.

And this is what I hope to instil in my future students. I feel like this maybe some sort of life calling, that I hadn’t realised until now. Life works in funny ways like that. Things will materialise for you at precisely the right time in your life, it’s no coincidence.  It’s doesn’t matter if your 16 finishing school and have no idea where you see yourself heading. It doesn’t matter if you’re middle aged, stuck in a continuous ground hog day with no fulfilment. When you are ready, something amazing will come along, shake your soul and lead you to the right path, you just have to trust in it. If you’d have told me 3 years ago when I first returned to dance class, that I’d now be teaching a class and studying ballet, I would have laughed in your face! “If someone offers you an opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes and learn how to do it later” – Richard Branson. 

There will always be self doubt, but life is about taking chances, learning from mistakes and bettering ourselves. Be your own cheerleader. Believe in your qualities and have the courage to seek out new opportunities in life, you won’t regret it.

Alicia 💗

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A New Chapter………….

A New Chapter………….

Hello, me again! 👋🏻👋🏻👋🏻👋🏻

I bet you’ve forgotten who I am?! Sorry about that! You’ll be pleased to hear that I’ve been getting on with life! I still have ups and downs, who doesn’t?! Thus is true family life! And would the highs feel as enlightening as they do if we didn’t have the occasional low every now and again to contrast? I’m not sure they would.

I originally started this blog just for me, as a way to document and help make sense of my feelings and emotions at what was a difficult time in my life. I’m quite a closed person really, I wouldn’t feel comfortable talking to anyone about troubles, but writing it seemed to help me vent and process and mend. It worked, and I found the need to blog or vent, less and less and just got on with things.IMG_0566

One thing that really helped me, and still does, is exercise, particularly dance. One of my previous blog posts was about self love.  Self love Running, yoga and starting dance classes again really helped me to remember who I am, not just ‘mummy’. Which, of course, is THE most important job, but you cannot pour from an empty cup, and dance is what keeps my cup nice and full, like when you have the unlimited latte option at soft play centres ☕️☕️☕️☕️

We all need that unlimited top up option in our lives, whatever it may be for you. Exercise like running or going to the gym, taking up art classes, shopping, appearance, or simply having an hour to yourself with a good book or magazine. It’s whatever floats your boat so to speak. Find what keeps you buoyant, what makes you feel good, what gives you that spark in your belly and don’t let go. Indulge your new found hobby, not only will it make you feel good but in turn you’ll become a better mother, wife, partner, friend, as you’ll be able to give them the very best version of yourself, your cup will soon be overflowing! IMG_0671

So, here it is, my new chapter. I’m steering my blog boat to a new destination, a port that has given me a new purpose, new friends, and a renewed determination. Dance. My posts will be about my journey back to dance, which I feel is my swan song, my soul food. I find it so easy to talk, discuss and share all things dance, as I’m so passionate about it. I hope you will all continue with me on my journey, and maybe even find your own swan song along the way!

Much love from your aspiring Oddette,

Alicia 💗 FullSizeRender 2

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Self love

Self love

Last weekend, I went out to celebrate an engagement. Despite my initial knee jerk reaction to hide in bed and have an early night (parenting does that to you 😴😴😴😴) I gave myself a talking to, made an effort to have a shower and actually do my hair, and went to be social. And boy am I glad I did!! I had the most wonderful evening! Chatting to friends, who some I haven’t seen in years, and it wasn’t once awkward or stilted, but that may have had something to do with the free prosecco that was flowing a little too easily!!  

I was reminded of the woman I was pre children, the woman I still am today, but she quietly takes a back seat whilst I do the most important job I’ll ever do, taking care of my girls, being a mum.

Being a parent is the most rewarding job in the world, but it is also the most consuming and overwhelming. Sometimes I can be so busy, I realise I haven’t eaten yet, or I frequently put off having a shower purely because I don’t have the time. But it is so important to look after yourself. The grass is greener where you water it. In other words, if I have looked after myself, I am better and more able to be a better mother. More Mary Poppins and less the Incredible Hulk. Although after the 100th time of being asked the same question inside 5 minutes, the Hulk needs serious control!!!!

I went out and enjoyed myself. I didn’t feel guilty about it one bit. I received comments and lapped them up. Perticularly on my hair, which I refrained from replying that’s it’s actually because I’d washed and blow dried it. It hadn’t been that long had it?!

Jokes aside, I’m so glad I went. Not only to congratulate my friends on their commitment to each other, but because I feel I can give my all to the other aspects in my life, be a better mother, wife, friend. Please please don’t neglect yourself. Self love is not narcissistic or self indulgent, it’s imperative. So next time you feel like turning down a social event, whether it’s a daytime coffee or full blown night out, accept it, your inner self will thank you for it 💗

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Go go go!

Go go go!

So I haven’t blogged in a while??? Why??? Because life had simply got in the way! But you know what?? I’m OK with it. I’ve definitely noticed that my harder days are getting fewer and father between (not around that special time when Mother Nature calls, then I’m like a woman posesed) and the good days are more consistent and happy, and well, more like the old ME! The me before I had responsibilities, and 2 beautiful children who depend on me to wipe their bums when they can’t be bothered and laugh at their jokes they just made up in the spot that don’t even make sense!

I decided to invest in ME. My work/life balance was poo, my diet was poo, and I believe you get out what you put in, so I had to change. I LOVE going to my dance classes, but between mine and my husbands work schedule, I hadn’t been able to go as much as I wanted. It made me sad. It was my one thing that I did purely for me and I wasn’t even able to do it!  So I decided to take up running as I could fit it in whenever I had the time and it was easy to plan around the girls. I say running, at first it was more like a shuffle. I was a definite novice. I wouldn’t even run for a bus previously, never mind running in public! I had visions of my looking like Phoebe from Friends, arms and legs helplessly flailing around and getting no where fast! 

The hubby bought all my gear for me and helped plan my route for my first run, 2k, down by the river and back. I had to bite the bullet. I was very nervous of running when other people might see me. Would they judge? Laugh even?? I just went for it otherwise I was close to talking myself out of it! And you know what?! It wasn’t half as bad as I expected! Yes ami passed a dog walker and a few cars in the road, but they are concentrating on what THEY are doing. They don’t care what you’re doing, what you look like and how fast you’re going. I was pleasantly surprised! And what surprised me more was that I actually felt GOOD.  

 Over the last few weeks I’ve slowly built up my distance and pace. I’ve even signed up for my first 5k event! I can’t wait!! I’m actually really excited! And what’s more, running has really helped me focus on what’s important. Having that time to clear my head, be in the fresh air and just take in the world. It sounds corny I know, but it’s true. You have to open your eyes and appreciate what’s all around you, and in turn you feel better. Exercise has been proven to release endorphins, the little thingies that make us feel goo inside. And it really does!! You don’t have to run. Go out for a walk. Go to the park. Go fishing. Whatever you fancy. Just do it now, you’ll feel 100% better for it!! 

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Light at the end of the tunnel

Light at the end of the tunnel

Today I was so proud of myself!! My husband and brother in law were running in the Chester half Marathon. I was to drive in on my own with both the girls and meet up with my mother inlaw, sister in law and my lovely little niece who’s 1. I felt a bit anxious about it all. About finding somewhere to park, about the huge crowds of people, about pushing Amelia in the pushchair through those crowds whilst keeping Sofia safe beside me. I wasn’t looking forward to it at all.

I have to admit, I rarely venture out with the children by myself, unless it’s to the local park, or school run or generally somwhere where there’s not many other people around. I think of all the stressful things that could go wrong. I think of all the people who simply don’t have any spacial awareness and stop dead right in front of you, then proceed to give you disapproving looks when you inadvertently ram their heels with the pushchair. Well I’m not a mind reader and maybe I wish I’d rammed them a bit harder! I think of all the people who don’t look down and see my petite 4 year old struggling to hang on to the pushchair because everyone’s barging past her with enough force to move a bulldozer. And then I think of how easy it would be for someone to take advantage of my situation and take Sofia away from me. Slightly irrational, I know, but it DOES happen. The mothers always stating “she was right beside me then the next thing she was gone”. Gone into a sea of people that when ladened on my own with a pushchair full of shopping and my other precious child, I’d be powerless to do anything about. It scares me. So I completely avoid those situations if I can.

But today was different. Before today, I have tried going to the local market or modest shopping centre with the girls and physically have to psyche myself up. A big job. And every time, I survived but so glad to get home, that it was over and I didn’t have to experience that again for a while. Exactly what was different about today, I’m not sure. I went to bed last night with the familiar knots in my tummy, over thinking all the things that could go awry the next day. But when this morning came, I was surprisingly ok. Apart from the panic that I thought we were going to be late, it went fine. We parked at the park and ride, got on the bus, got off and walked to the finish line without a hitch. Managed to meet up with where the inlaws were and keep the girls happy. It helped I had cupcakes with me!

And then I surprised myself. It was fairly crowded where we were stood and I couldn’t get the pushchair near the barrier. Not wanting the girls to miss out on spotting their superhero daddy run past, I thought it be a good idea for me to go further up the road to see if I could find a better spot. So finally with adult support and I was willing to go it alone with the girls, into the sea of people to improve our view spot. And just a few yards down we managed to find a better spot and the family came to join us. I actually smiled to myself at my small accomplishment! It certainly helped the girls were good as gold today. Sofia was so complicent to everything I asked of her and Amelia was content at being in her pushchair, again, I had a copious amount of cupcakes!  

We spotted Glyn run past. I’ve never heard the girls shout so loudly or wave so enthusiastically!!! I could have cried! And then I did it again. I set off to find Glyn. Glyn’s mum came with me this time, which I’m always glad of, but I can honestly say that even if she hadn’t, I wouldn’t have minded.  

 I really feel like I’ve turned a corner today. That something’s changed inside me. I wasn’t stressed in the least little bit. Perhaps that’s why the girls were so good. Perhaps in the past they have picked up only anxieties which makes them act up. Perhaps it’s the fact that I have gone out with the girls on a few occasions so it all felt a little more familiar, a little more normal. I think that it was me that made the difference in today. I accepted the challenge and rose to it. 

There is light at the end of the tunnel. As today when so well, I feel filled with confidence for our next outing. I feel like I WANT to take them out only own again. That I can actually enjoy it instead of stressing over every little thing. This excites me. It broadens the range of places we can go, the things we can see and do. And this will surely enrich their lives and in turn, make me a better mummy for allowing them to have those experiences. All because I now feel I don’t have to wait until some else is free before we can go anywhere. The world is our oyster! Well maybe just stick to Chester for know. One step at a time! 

 

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Working girl

Working girl

Mondays are my usual working day as a mobile beautician and nail technician. My mum comes up to ours and looks after the girls for me until  Glyn arrives back from work to take over. I try and squeeze as many clients in on a Monday as I can, as I know I have the childcare. I also have another day in the week,  not as busy, just used for any appointments that couldn’t be fit into the Monday. The girls go off to Glyn’s parents house on that day.
Now, on a Monday, I usually have just enough time to drop Sofia off at school, come back, pack my bags and prepare my lunch, dinner and snacks for the day. Brings a whole meaning to meals on wheels! Then I’m out the door as soon as my mum arrives to take care of Amelia. I don’t return until late evening. My mum does a couple of jobs for me around the house during the day, but let’s face it, cleaning with children around is like brushing your teeth whilst eating Oreo biscuits! And Glyn does what he can when he gets in, but the girls usually have swimming practice on Monday evenings, and tea-bath-bed routine is the most hectic of them all.

I often come home and see a list of jobs that I have to do the next day before I’ve even gone to sleep! And not that it would be hugely noticeable to anyone else, it’s all I see and it’s consuming! Talk about  throwing the towel in before you’ve even started, but that would just add to the list!

Tuesdays are a double edge sword. I’m tied between doing all the jobs that need doing and spending some quality time with my girls, drawing, playing, snuggling, all the things that I missed out on the day before. I can’t win. There’s a meme with 3 choices; happy children, clean house, and sanity. You can only choose 2. This is me on a Tuesday. It’s a battle. If I do all the chores, I have satisfaction of a tidy house and clarity of mind that it brings, yet feel insanely guilty for letting the girls be babysat by the TV. On the other hand, if I spend the time with the girls, the house looks increasingly like a bomb site as the hours go by, and if visitors come by, I’ll feel like hiding in the bath as apposed to letting them in. That’s if they could get in over the sea of toys!

So I’m often left feeling completely flat and unmotivated, like today. And there’s only one thing for it, chocolate, snuggles and lots of Disney movies with the girls. The house can wait till tomorrow, I’m busy loving my girls. Just don’t come round to visit on a Tuesday, you won’t get past the door!

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Super Saturdays!

Super Saturdays!

Now that my girls are getting older 4 and 2 1/2 (and that 6 months makes ALL the difference to toddlers), I’ve been wanting to do something with the girls that they will remember in years to come. Something they can look back on and fondly remember the fun we all had together and perhaps, when they have their own children, want to do they same or something similar. I wanted to start our own little tradition.

Traditions are something that are important to me. For example, I love the fact that my mum waits for a day where my 2 sisters and I are all free to decorate the Christmas tree, even though we are 31,29 and 26 respectively and I live an hour away. But traditions aren’t just for Christmas or special times of the year, they can be anything at any time, and that’s the beauty of it. Doing something on a regular basis can become a tradition.

I am a girly girl by nature. I love pink and pastel colours, fluffy animals, make up and doing my nails (helps I’m a nail technician!) so I was delighted when as my girls personalities blossomed, it became apparent that they shared the same interests too. And I in now way forced it upon them. We bought trains and tool boxes as much as barbies and ponies, but the latter is what they preferred to play with the most. So this being their preference, I decided to indulge in it.

Weekdays are always pretty busy for us with school drop offs, hobbies and my work, so I picked a Saturday morning for our little tradition to happen. I felt like it would signify the end of the week and the beginning of the weekend for them. I also wanted to incorporate doing their nails into it. Partly because Sofia loves having her nails painted and partly because Amelia had started getting into the habit of biting her nails. And I don’t mean the odd nibble, I mean painfully short to the point the na bed was being exposed. So I thought I could encourage her to look after them by having them painted on a regular basis.

One evening, Sofia wanted to watch ‘The Little Mermaid’. It was almost bedtime so there was no chance that day, but I promised her we could in the morning, As it was Saturday and we didn’t have to be up and out early. For some reason, I decided to put French braids in her hair that night, so she could wake up the next morning with ‘mermaid’ hair.

She woke up the next morning and bounced through to our room. She squealed in delight at her now wavy hair and immediately went to dig out her mermaid costume. Poor Amelia doesn’t have one, so she had to settle for one of those poncho towels with a mermaids body on it. She wasn’t bothered! We went through to the lounge and I put the film on for them. We all snuggled on the sofa to watch it, only interrupted by the outburst of a song, or them wanting to act out a certain scene. Of course I had to oblige and join in! After, I painted their nails in suitable mermaid colours and we even had ‘starfish’ egg on toast for breakfast. It’s amazing what you can so when you’ve got a draw full of various cookie cutters!

And so it was born, our ‘Super Saytudays’. A morning around a theme of their choice, be that a film or book or character. A morning of dressing up and playing make believe. A morning of magic. And for me, a morning of escaping real life. It’s so much fun to be 4 and 2 1/2!  Of course, they won’t always be this age. Before I know it they will be teenagers with very different ideas of what fun is, but I hope our ‘Super Saturdays’ will always be that, whether that be pretending to be mermaids or a shopping trip and lunch. But for now, I’m more than happy to be Eric to their Ariel. I already know the words after all! 

       

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Bank Holiday Blues

Bank Holiday Blues

We all work hard all week, and count down to the weekend. A weekend of lazy morning cuddles in bed, leisurely breakfasts with the whole family and pjs till midday. Even more so when it’s a Bank Holiday weekend! Oh the excitement for what’s in store on the very special extra day off!!! Ours turned out to be a bit of a wash out, and it was nothing to do with the Great Britiah Weather!

Our family life is pretty busy day to day. Non more so then for my husband. Life as a successful Chartered Accountant is never ending. 3 days a week he’s in the local office and the other 2 are spent taking care of the office in Manchester, meaning in those days he doesn’t get to see the girls as he leaves before they get up and arrives back after bedtime. The drive itself must be mentally exhausting, and that’s before he has to sit at a screen with hundreds of figures in front of him, trying to save companies hundreds and thousands of pounds. Even when he gets home and on weekends, he is still answering work related emails that simply cannot wait. Not many make it to the level he is at purely because of the work load, deadlines and stress! What I do in a day is nothing compared to him, and he does it for us, to give us a better life.

We are currently in the middle of having an extension on our house, well more like half a house at the moment! When Glyn isn’t working, there’s physical jobs he has to get done. I mean, ladder climbing, tile placing, knocking down walls kind of jobs! Although give me a sledge hammer after a stressful day with the girls, and I’d have it down in a jiffy! When there’s a spare day that we’re not visiting someone, or don’t have commitments, it’s spent at home doing other vital jobs to get the house finished. Jon Snow knows that “winter is coming” and if our past summers are anything to go by, winter will be here before we know it!

This weekend, we had nothing specific organised. We had a do to go to on Saturday night but that was it. So after picking the girls up from their grandparents, we spent the rest of Sunday unpacking our overnight bags, doing little chores and trying to finish that Frozen jigsaw the girls for at Christmas only to find we were a piece missing!!! Dinner time came and went and before we knew it the girls were in bed and we were snuggled up on the sofa. Bank Holiday Monday was the topic of conversation. It didn’t go well. 

Glyn didn’t really fancy going anywhere special as there would undoubtably be traffic, and he was tired. He just wanted to relax at home and spend time with the girls. The thought of spending another day sat at home killed me, drove me insane! I spend 90% of my time in our little unfinished house, and not to sound ungrateful, but it really affects your mood! I just wanted to go out, spend quality time with my little family doing things that people do on Bank Holidays! Is that so selfish? But then I think of how hard Glyn works all of the time. I can’t begrudge him 1 day off to slouch around the house. Everyone needs a day like that, right? 

So it ended on a sour note. I hate it when we don’t get along. We just couldn’t agree on this topic. I felt guilty for trying to deny Gltn of some much needed down time. I felt guilty of the fact that we hadn’t taken the girls somewhere, to experience something, so they could tell the teacher about all about it the next day. I felt guilty for wasting a precious day of us all being together. Being a Mummy sure makes you feel guilty a lot!! And I felt angry. Angry withy self for feeling so guilty over everything andet it spoil the mood for the rest of the day. 

Do we put too much pressure on ourselves to do ‘something’ on days like Bank Holidays? To do something so awesome that the girls can’t wait to tell everyone in school about and will remember it for years to come. To compete with the other super mums, who take their children on day trips all over the country!! But I’ll tell you this, my girls are happy. They don’t care if they haven’t been to Lego Land, or Peppa Pig World. They care that their parents have spent time with them, regardless of wether that’s in some theme park miles away, or spent in the four walls that they call home. They care that we had special snuggles on the sofa, watching a Disney movie for the hundredth time. They care that we turned the whole house upside down and found the missing piece of jigsaw so they could finally complete it! Didn’t matter that I had to clean it all up again, it was worth it to see their delighted faces at finding Elsa’s hand and putting it in place. 

Next time we have a precious day off, I’m not going to beat myself up on the fact that we didn’t do something exciting, but be happy in the fact we spent it together as a little unit, as days like that in a busy family are few and far between. You can make memories anywhere, but all they will remember is that you were with them, and that’s what they will treasure the most. 💗

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The truth hurts

The truth hurts

Today I woke up not exactly in a good mood. You could say ‘I got out the wrong side of bed’, but truth is, I was so far from the “right side” that I could have been sleeping in the bath tub! And equally as uncomfortable. I made Grumpy look more like Little Miss Sunshine! And the worst thing is, I have no idea why! Nothing had happened that morning, I’d had an uninterrupted nights sleep, and it wasn’t time of the month. 

As a mummy, life goes on. No time for pep talks, or reassuring hugs from the hubby! I had 2 hungry beagles to feed who act every time like they haven’t eaten for weeks, 2 children to make breakfast for, trying to keep it together while they informed me they had the wrong bowl or they didnt like “magic hoops’ anymore, even though it was their favourite yesterday! And trying to coax them to get dressed is exhausting when you already have no patience! But the worst part is the anxiety of seeing someone you know at the school gates and have to pretend to be ok. To paint on a smile and hope they don’t see through your facade. THAT is what is most exhausting.

Before I had my 2 gorgeous, funny, creative, angelic, intelligent daughters (they get all that from me obvs) I was Little Miss Sunshine. I always had a smile on my face, a spring in my step and was the embodiment of optimism! I lived my life as if it was straight out of the pages from a Beatrix Potter book. I was everyone’s go to friend if they needed cheering up. My first daughter, Sofia came along, and nothing changed. When Amelia came along, everything changed. I found it hard to adjust to having two children, running a household, building up my mobile business and being the dutiful wife I thought (but wasn’t expected) to be. I was last on the list. 

After the first year, I hardly recognised myself. Hair and make up had made way for an extra 5 minutes in bed. I was irritable, fretful, short fused. The mamouth task of leaving the house and going out with a toddler and a baby filled me so much with dread, I didn’t bother. I’d only forget something anyway! But I had to keep this all under wraps, heavens forbid that my cheerful demener should slip. I was my own worst enemy. I was hard in myself for feeling like that when I had 2 very presciuos things that some people never get. I felt guilty for feeling that way, when I had no reason to, and that in itself made me feel worse! And all this without telling a sole. I didn’t want anyone to know that ‘the happy one’ of the group wasn’t so happy. So I carried on pretending. And I felt like a fraud, which again, added to my problems.

As they say “a problem shared, is a problem halved” and it’s so true. And that’s partly why I’ve written this blog today. It’s not for sympathy, or for anyone to change the way they are around me. Infact, it’s quite the opposite, as I’d be mortally embarrassed if any of my friends were to bring this up in conversation! I did it to lighten the load, the heaviness of keeping the secret, to halve the problem. And it’s already working. Writing this is like self therapy. The cat is well and truly out of the bag now, and as far as I’m concerned, it can find a river somewhere and drown. And I’m usually a big animal lover!

Jokes aside, I’m finally feeling more like my usual Beatrix Potter self these days. I’ve started to make an extra effort with my appearance again, hair make up, nails. It makes me feel good! And I don’t feel guilty for spending a little more time on myself rather than on the girls, as I’m a much better mummy to them now than I was last year in the midst of everything. Don’t get me wrong, I still have the odd day, like today, where I feel a bit flat, or “meh” as all the hip kids are saying, but I don’t give into it anymore. Instead of thinking of all the things I could and should be doing, I’m sat snuggling the girls on the sofa, watching a Disney movie. They are the best antidote I could ever wish for 💗

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Is there Room on the Broom for me?!

Is there Room on the Broom for me?!

Just got back from taking the girls to see ‘Room on the Broom’ live at our local theatre. There’s something special about going to a theatre, something magical. It’s one of my favourite things to do but don’t get that much time to fit in. I think it comes from studying drama at school and college, and attending a drama school before my dancing took over (but that’s another blog). So I really want to share this magical world with my girls. 

Room on the Broom is Amelia’s favourite book at the moment. We must read it a dozen times a day, so, fair to say, I felt more qualified to be up there narrating the story than perhaps some of the actors! She was totally mesmerised by it all. Sofia was joining in panto style, with great exuberance, as she does everything. Although she was obviously far too grown up to pretend that it was real, as she kept shouting “that man has for his hand inside the dogs head!” Thank goodness that’s where he put it! 

So today is a good day. I managed to get both myself and the girls ready on my own AND on time, which for anyone who knows me, knows this is a massive atchiement. Late for my own funeral springs to mind. I love when we can do these things together as our own little family of 4. It makes me warm and fuzzy and all the other cliches put together, when I look across and see my girls enjoying themselves so much.The hubby had a rare night out last night and stayed over with friends, so I’m not sure it would have been his activity of choice, but I’m sure he will get over it!

We are off to visit my family this afternoon for my sisters birthday. How well the day will go, will depend on my family’s inability to be normal. But that’s a blog I’m not ready to write about yet! I’d need some alcohol first!!!

Today, I am happy!

Enjoy your Sunday 

X

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And so it begins!

And so it begins!

Arrrrrgh!

My first ever blog post! What am I doing?!

I must ask that question to myself at least 10 times a day, and that’s before I’ve scraped the last of the cold mushy  weetabix from the table, and the carpet, and the fish tank, and the….. how on earth did it get inside her ear?! I thought they said it was “the best way to start your day” hmmm, questionable!

As any mother will tell you, as soon as that lovely little bundle of cells attaches itself  to your uterus, your brain brain becomes mush. “What am I doing?”  ” What did I come in this room for?” “What’s my name again?” Sound familiar?!

I’m a 31 year old mother of   2 beautiful daughters, Sofia is 4 and Amelia , 2 1/2.  21 months between them.  This is my blog about how I am mummy first, always.  I adore my children , my husband, my business as a mobile  beautician, which I have worked so hard to build up,, my dogs, my life, but it’s important to remember who YOU  are as a person. It can get easily lost  in busy day to day life, and I kind of feel that’s what happened to me, so I plan to rediscover myself (sounds so corny) and write about my experiences.  This is all very new to me, so be kind!

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