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Tag: dance training

Manchester’s Centre of Advanced Training in Dance

Manchester’s Centre of Advanced Training in Dance

Centres of Advanced Training in dance, or CAT Scheme for short, specialises in helping young, gifted dancers the chance to benefit from world class teachers in a broad and well rounded dance curriculum. Their aim is to identify young people, from any background, who have the talent and drive, nurture them and help ready them for a sustainable career in dance. I was invited to the CAT Scheme at The Lowry, Salford Quays, to find out more.

The CAT Scheme was initially founded back in 2004, and are now held nationwide in 12 different locations! The Lowry in Salford Quays is home to Manchester and the North West CAT group. Aimed at preprofessional level, children aged between 10 and 18 receive up to 10 hours specialist dance training a week, working around school and other dance activities. Perfect for those wanting a non residential option to further dance studies. The scheme focuses on 5 key areas – technique, creative dance and choreography, performance, health and wellbeing and cultural activities. Each centre varies slightly, depending on it’s area and students, but the foundations of the scheme are based in contemporary dance, with tuition also in ballet, urban, South Asian dance and even circus skills. On top of their weekly scheduled classes, CAT students also gain access to weekend intensives, and visiting company workshops from the likes of Phoenix, Akram Khan, Wayne McGregor and Sir Matthew Bourne.

Entrance to CAT Scheme studies are by audition only, but the programme endeavours to make the process as relaxed and informal as possible, enabling the children to dance their very best and let their true potential shine through. Centres usually hold up to 8 open days throughout May/June time, which are free of charge. This creates a gateway through to the audition day, usually held in mid June, by invitation for the open classes, or by application process. The audition itself has been set up to feel more like a workshop day. CAT Scheme understand nerves can get the better or students, so they’ve created a very comfortable environment in which the students can relax and hopefully enjoy the process. The day usually entails technique work, creative sessions and group work. CAT look for students that are adaptable, potential over current technical ability. They look for passion. On the whole, CAT scheme accept around 53 grant places per annum’ similar to that of University grants, of those, 55% are full grants. Advice and additional funding is also available for those who are in need the most.

Upon acceptance, each student is provided with a uniform consisting of ballet tights, leotard, contemporary tights, ballet shoes, and CAT branded hoodie and t-shirt. They receive 1 to 1 tutorial support as well as IPT sessions (Individual Training Plans) This allows the tutors to access the needs of the individual dancers, their aspirations, and discuss career pathways. Once those things have been distinguished, a clear plan of action is devised. These sessions also include written corrections received from classes, with clear steps on how to achieve success in those areas, monthly and termly goals, and sections where the students complete with their own evaluations on their dancing. Students receive ITP sessions every term in groups and with their parents to ensure everyone is up to date and informed. In this respect, CAT also have private groups set up on social media channels, to help provide quick advice, sharing of vital information, as well as connecting everyone. If all that wasn’t enough, students also receive classes in body conditioning such as pilates and yoga based elements, nutrition, audition advice and appreciation sessions, where the students are free to share with the group their feelings and kind, encouraging words towards each other. They also have performance opportunities in participating in community projects as well as an end of year showcase.

Speak to anyone involved with CAT, students, parents, teachers, and they will all say that the CAT Scheme is like one big family, it is almost their ethos. Even after leaving CAT, past students regularly visit, to reconnect or even give a talk to current students on their time and how it has helped them achieve success. CAT is a wonderful example of building sound, solid foundations for our young dancers of today, after all, they will become the professionals of the future. To know that those dancers have been lovingly nurtured and provided with the skills and mindset to tackle all that career in dance and performance entails, is both refreshing and comforting.

This year, The Lowry are celebrating their 10 Anniversary of hosting the CAT Scheme, and are putting on a showcase to honour all past and present students, including works they have done with professional companies and talks to engage and inform more people in the scheme. tickets are already on sale, and can be purchased here https://thelowry.com/whats-on/cat-showcase/

More information on the CAT scheme at The Lowry can be found on their website using this link https://thelowry.com/get-creative/young-people/dance/

Dance Niche

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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