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Tag: Dance

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!

Dance Niche

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some Symptoms

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter: @counselingdance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BREAKFAST

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

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

LUNCH

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

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

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

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

DINNER

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

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

SNACKS

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

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

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

Some pointers to remember;

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

• AIM for 7 portions of fruit and veg per day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dance Niche.

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

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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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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.

Dance Niche.

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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.

Dance Niche

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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!

Dance Niche

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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!

Dance Niche

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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.

Dance Niche

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